CHANGING THE WORLD ONE STORY AT A TIME
When I was a boy, Ray Bradbury's transformative novel, DANDELION WINE, changed my life. How? It made me want to become a writer. Unfortunately, I was a poor student living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, so becoming a writer seemed impossible. But the one thing my town did have was a movie theater, and every Saturday afternoon you could find me there clutching my dill pickle and Dr. Pepper, mesmerized by the magical images I saw unfolding on the screen.
Then one day I had an epiphany: I'll never write novels like Ray Bradbury, but perhaps I can make movies. All I needed was a camera and some actors, right?
So I started filming my own little "home movies," and this led me to film school where PBS awarded me grants to create films. One of these films, a documentary called MOTOCROSS, got me a job editing TV commercials after I graduated, and this led to me directing those commercials, which eventually led to me directing documentaries for television. Before I knew it, I was traveling the world, camera in hand, capturing some amazing stories...
I adored awakening every morning in some exotic locale not knowing what would happen that day. I was telling stories about real people, sometimes gritty, often raw, but always courageous. And the people I got to meet along the way were amazing...
Miep Gies who hid Anne Frank from the Nazis
Buzz Aldrin Apollo 11
Charlie Duke Apollo 16
Neil Armstrong Apollo 11
Ken Reightler STS 48 & 60
John Glenn Mercury 6 & STS 95
Sally Ride STS 7 & 41
Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gold Medalist
Bob Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic
Cal Ripkin, baseball player
Magic Johnson, basketball player
Chris Evert, one of the greatest tennis players of all time
Maya Angelou, activist and writer
Johnny Cash, legendary musician
John Williams, perhaps the greatest composer of our day
Joe Montana, football royalty
Billy Graham, minister to Presidents
Gordo Cooper, Mercury 9, Gemini 5, last American to fly solo in space
Joni Eareckson Tada, artist and champion of those with disabilities
Ray Bradbury, one of the 20th Century's greatest writers
George Plimpton, author and adventurer
Wayne Gretzky, winner of four Stanley Cup Championships
Forgive my shameless name-dropping, but I didn't spend all of my documentary career hanging out with fascinating people in interesting places. A lot of the places I traveled to were dangerous, as were the people, and a few close calls convinced me to hang up my passport and switch to writing and directing series television...
During this time I was honored to work on some of the most popular children's TV shows of all time...
It was an exciting time in my life, but as the years wore on my thoughts kept returning to DANDELION WINE and my desire to write novels. So one day I had another epiphany. What if I jump-started my literary career by writing screenplays? After all, I'd been writing teleplays. How hard could it be to write a screenplay? :-) So I wrote a spec script called FIREFLIES, and to my surprise, it was optioned by Jerry Molen, Academy Award-winning producer of SCHINDLER'S LIST. And before I knew it I was not only writing scripts, I was directing them as well...
And once again it was the people I met who made this experience truly special...
Prem Chopra, star of over 700 Bollywood movies
Divya Dutta, awarded the Indian version of an Oscar in 2009
Jerry Molen, Oscar-winning Producer of SCHINDLER'S LIST
Demi Lovato, actress and singer
Selena Gomez, actress and singer
Steven Spielberg, legendary director
Branko Lustig, Oscar-winning Producer of SCHINDLER'S LIST
Samuel Bronston, Golden Globe winning producer
Lou Diamond Phillips, star of stage, screen, and television
Chen Kaige, Chinese director and winner of the Palm d'Or
Producer Amarjeet Singh Chawla with Arnold Schwarzenegger
Dame Joan Plowright, winner of two Golden Globes and a Tony
Richard & Lili Zanuck, producers
Dean Jones, star of stage and screen
Martin Jurow, producer
Henry Winkler, actor
Bernie Pollack, costume designer
Fred Gwynne, actor
Arnon Milchan, producer
Then one day something amazing happened. I was meeting with Jerry Molen at Dreamworks and he told me Universal had asked him to produce the motion picture version of Ray Bradbury’s MARTIAN CHRONICLES. And who should walk in the door at that very moment?
Jerry introduced us, I gushed, and Ray blushed. Yes, I went absolutely bonkers telling him how DANDELION WINE had changed my life and made me want to become a novelist.
“So why aren’t you writing novels?” he asked.
And I heard myself reply, “I don’t know, Mr. Bradbury. I wish I could.”
"With all due respect, Fred," he said kindly, "you’re never going to know if you can write a novel until you do.”
So I did. I switched majors that very day and began writing novels.
*Oh, and he was kind enough to sign my well-worn copy of DANDELION WINE and draw me a dandelion on the inside cover.
So there you have it, Dear Friends. That’s my story. First, I was a documentary filmmaker, then I was a director of movies and TV shows, and now I'm writing novels. Who woulda thunk a kid from Lubbock, Texas would be cranking out prose? Certainly not me. And I don’t presume to think I'll ever be half the writer Ray Bradbury was, but more people die descending Mount Everest than ascending, so what do I have to lose?
*Yes, I know, my dignity, but let's not talk about that.
If you'd like to learn more about my journey so far, check out these links, and have a nice day!