Sunday, April 24, 2011



JESSE: The newspaper article brought us a lot of attention. Now 90% of this attention was from family and friends and really didn't count (and not one chick wanted to have sex with me for being famous for a day; what a gyp!!!). Although we did get an offer that managed to intrigue us at the same time that it made us apprehensive.

I was hanging out with my sister one day while she was working at Hooks Drugstore (damn, I was cool). I was sitting on the counter, watching her tear covers off of books. I was quite disgusted by this action because, as you know, when a book is taken off the shelves the retailer is required to rip off the cover to prevent it from being sold. The books are then dumped in the trash bin. I was there to sneak into said trash bin and grab a few books I wouldn't mind reading, though my sister thought I was there to help her do some inventory (sorry Sis). I was bored by the whole book-butchering ritual so I decided to give Darren a call.

Darren answered the phone with his usual stone-like demeanor. We then had a long conversation about nothing in particular, at the end of which, just as I'm about to say goodbye, Darren decides to mention an important phone call he received earlier in the day. This is and always has been Darren's M.O. He will start talking about something trivial, like how his potato chips look like celebrities or something, going into great detail as if you are as interested in the subject as he is. Then, at the end of the conversation, he'll say something along the lines of, "Oh, by the way, I lost my left foot in a horrible accident", like it was an afterthought and not really worth mentioning.

Okay, now back to the phone call.

Dar mentioned that Shari Finnell had called him (at this point I was praying to God that this attractive African American woman hadn't bought into his charms and wanted to go out with him.). Apparantly she'd received a phone call from a local film producer who told her he would like to contact us with the possible offer of a business deal. Shari took his number and called Darren.

I asked if Darren had called the gentleman in question. Darren said yes and that a weird conversation had ensued. I asked him what he meant by 'weird'. Darren said that the guy had been very aggressive (he is a fucking producer, of course he was aggressive). He also mentioned that the gentleman wouldn't be distributing the movie in America. The movie would be made for the Japanese and the Asian market. He told Darren that he had already produced a movie in Indiana called Pushed Too Far. He told Darren to discuss the proposition with the rest of us and then call him back to set up a meeting.

Naturally, I was thrilled to hear this. Someone with a track record wanted to do business with us. This was like a dream come true. I say 'almost' because I have a problem with people just coming out of the blue and handing me something on a silver platter. I instantly grew suspicious. I asked Darren to give me the gentleman's number. Darren wanted to know why. The answer was simple, I wanted to talk to this man and get a feel for him myself.

I had a very good reason for doing this, and that reason was Darren.

Darren is, in a lot of ways, like Forrest Gump (no, not retarded, I'm saying this with affection). He just has this natural ability to become instant friends with people. He could walk into a bar full of bikers and exit a short time later with four new buddies. I don't know why this is but I have a few ideas.

For one, Darren talks to you in a questioning tone ("What do you think of the state of the world today? What would you do if a giant spider appeared right now? Are you going to eat your pickle?"). It makes you feel like you have to take care of him, as if you're the mentor and he your eager young student. Secondly, he is the most out-going son of a bitch in the world. If all of humanity were to die Darren would simply talk to the trees and be perfectly happy. The man has charm, I'll give him that. This charm, though, can sometimes lead him to bad people.

So, Darren gave me the number and I in turn gave this producer a call.

"Hello," a deep, rich voice said after four or five rings.

"Hi,” I said. "My name is Jesse Handlon and you talked to one of my associates in DIP Entertainment earlier." Associate hell, Darren always thought of Jeremy and me as his employees while we were a part of DIP.

"Jesse...oh, you're the fat guy in the picture."

Alright, a quick pause. I hate it when people describe me as the fat one. I had many other things going on in that picture. I had a crazy shirt on, my hair was combed, and I was the only one wearing sunglasses. However, this asshole decides to pick out my weight problem as a means of identification. I wanted to scream “fuck you” but was able to maintain my composure for the group's sake.

"Well, I do like to eat, can't lie about that," I politely responded.

"What can I do for you, Jesse?" He said, sounding bored.

"I was just calling to find out a little more about you, Mr. Rooney."

"Why, don't you trust me?" he angrily blurted out.

This was about the time I started to worry. The film business is famous for people fucking people over. Anyone worth their salt is going to do some research on the other person. This guy going on the defensive thirty seconds into the conversation wasn't a good sign.

"I can't say that I do or don't," I said. "After all, we just started talking. I just find its good business to get to know the other person before plunging head long into anything we might both come to regret later. You don't mind a few questions do you?"

There was a pause on the line. I waited for him to answer or hang up. Then, at last, "I guess I don't mind." You could hear the sarcasm in his voice.

"I was wondering what kind of movies you've made here in Indiana," I said.

With a hint of bitterness he said, "You ever heard of Herb Johnson?"

I had. Herb Johnson was semi-famous around the Midwest for starting one of the very first karate schools in Indianapolis. I also knew he’d starred in a movie called Pushed Too Far. The movie was made around 1988 and also starred Claude Atkins (Sheriff Lobo). I also knew of Herb because Dave Patrick was a student at one of his studios. Dave told me that he was a total dick. I told Rooney that I had heard of him (omitting the dick reference) and also mentioned the movie Pushed Too Far.

"Yeah, well I directed and produced it," he said, "do you trust me now?"

I gave him a bewildered look and then remembered I was on the phone. So I decided to ask some more questions pertaining to this new movie he was looking to make, like if it was going to a major distributor or what?

Rooney then went on a long tangent about Japan. You see, Japan buys everything that's American and American movies are no exception. His plan was to sell the movie to Japan for theatrical release and then work something out for the video market here. With the profits he would earn off this he would then make another movie.

I listened with interest and then asked what our roles on the production side of the film would be.

Rooney grew quiet for a moment and then said, "Maybe we should talk about all of this at the meeting."

The point was finally driven home. Rooney didn't want to talk to some dumb kid anymore. I politely said my goodbyes and hung up. I knew what we would be doing on the film, I just wanted to hear him say it. I could almost hear Rooney's voice now, directing us on the set: “Jesse, fix those lights; Joe, get me some coffee; Jeremy, find my actor; Darren, daddy needs some lovin'.”

We would be nothing more than gophers. This wasn't necessarily a problem, but the way Rooney was selling Darren on the idea he had him believing this would be our movie. This wasn't the feeling I got from my short conversation with him.

I called Darren back and told him what Rooney and I had discussed. He asked me to hold on the line and the next thing I knew Joe was on the line too. We discussed the situation, all of us feeling uneasy about it. I suggested we go through with the meeting; that it wasn't like we would be forced at gun-point to sign anything. I also said we should have an adult we trusted with us during it. I felt that no matter what happened it would be a good experience for us.

The meeting never happened. The reason why is up in the air. I was told that everyone was just too suspicious of this guy. He seemed to be misleading us and that was a problem. Then I heard that Darren could only borrow the car once a week. He had a choice between taking the car for a meeting or taking the car out on a date. Darren chose to get laid. Here's my problem with that excuse though: My Dad had a van and would have gladly driven us to the meeting had we asked him. Hell, he would have sat in with us as the adult at the meeting. We should have never given Darren that much control over our destinies.

Do I regret not going to the meeting? You bet your sweet ass I do. Even if it had been a bust we would've at least known what to expect for future encounters with producers. Not only that, this guy could have been on the level. He could have set us up with our first movie or provided an opportunity to work with someone else in the industry. You never know unless you try. But the only way to die without regret is to never have been born in the first place. So, I'd rather have the regret.

JEREMY: Joe was hanging out at my place when Dar stopped by and told us about his phone conversation with Jack Rooney. He said the guy had chewed him out, telling him he didn't know anything about the industry and that he better get his shit together if he wanted to succeed as a filmmaker. This put me on the defensive. Of course we were ignorant of the movie industry, I was the oldest member in the group at twenty and we had all spent our lives in bum-fuck Indiana. We were still in the process of going to Florida for the sole purpose of educating ourselves on the industry. Who the fuck was this guy to talk to one of us like that? As if he was some big shot Hollywood producer or something.

Dar, Joe and I immediately formed a plan in which Dar would call Rooney back and discuss the business proposal while Joe and I listened on separate lines. That way we could ambush him if he started to get out of line. So Dar called the guy back and began talking about the movie deal he'd supposedly offered us. I saw right away what the problem was. Dar was too damn tense, fumbling words and making himself out to be meek. Even at my young age I knew that producers were wolves and would go for the throat at the first sign of weakness.
Sure enough, one minute into the conversation Rooney said something along the lines of, "You really have no idea what you're doing, do you?"

"More than you know, bub," I said. There was silence on the other end, which I hoped was surprise and/or confusion (either that or the guy was repressing a yawn; hard to gage a person's reaction when you can't see them). "We're good. Real good."

I was putting on an act of confidence because it was what the guy wanted to hear. Sure, we were inexperienced; he was well aware of that, but faith in your abilities could go a long way. The guy was testing us, no doubt about it. It's a producer's job to be on the lookout for up and coming talent. All we had to do was play our cards close to our vests, show him that we were stand up guys with a passion for the film industry, and he would be sold.

"I'm sure you are," Rooney said, "you were in the newspaper, after all."

The ice was pretty much broken after that. We talked about movies in general and his 1986 Claude Akins vehicle, Pushed Too Far, in particular. He asked what our plans were for the industry. I don't know why, but I was picking up a bad vibe from this guy. There was something smarmy about him. It wasn't necessarily in the way he talked, but something else...something instinctual. I didn't trust him. Of course, I reasoned with myself that he was a producer and by the very nature of who they are and what they do they aren't to be trusted, but it seemed to go deeper than that. Eventually, we agreed to hold a meeting in person at a later date, said our goodbyes, and hung up.

I discussed my ill-feelings with Dar and Joe and they likewise expressed similar concerns. Still, we reasoned that if this deal turned out to be on the level it could be our ticket into the business. The only problem was that if we took Rooney up on his offer Florida would be out of the question. We would have to remain in Indiana for another year or more. It was a gamble with the mysterious producer who may or may not be on the level, working as grips for a movie we had no love for, as opposed to moving to Florida, acquiring an education, and making contacts through the school. It was a tough choice, and I was leaning more towards Florida for the single reason that it was an adventure, plain and simple.

It was Dar who eventually solved the dilemma for us. Since he was the only member of our group with a driver's license at the time we relied on him for transportation when we needed to go somewhere outside of the bus route. Well, Dar called us up the night before the meeting and told us that his mother had given him an option: he could either use her car to take us to see Rooney or he could use it for a date with, Ginny, whom he had an on-again/off-again relationship with at the time.
Dar had thought long and hard on this and had chosen the latter. In a way I was relieved that the decision had been taken out of my hands. But it isn’t fair for me to use Dar as a scapegoat.  If we had wanted to go to the meeting bad enough we would’ve found a way. I think that the whole Rooney thing was just too big for us at the time. We weren’t prepared yet on an emotional level to commit to an actual movie.  I know I was rather immature at the time and often looked to the others to make our group's decisions because I didn't think I was smart enough to do it myself.
Jesse says that his father would have taken us and, having gotten to know the man shortly before he passed away, I have no doubts that he would've done just that, but I wish Jesse had let one of us know in advance. Perhaps he too was having his doubts. I wish I had been a little more vocal around the guys in those days, but they were the first friends I'd ever had and I was afraid to speak my mind a lot of the time for fear of losing them. Hell, I don't know what I was worried about, these days I can't seem to shake them for a minute of peace.
All said though, we should have gone to the meeting. They say opportunity knocks only once, maybe that was it for us. But then, I'm a firm believer that one shapes his own destiny, so while I still have a breath of life in me I will hold on to my dreams.

JESSE: I too should have been more vocal about this. I was concerned over the matter but wanted to do it. I get the feeling nowadays that Jeremy and I are the only ones to regret the decision (I don't know about the others, they never mention it). I don't believe this was our only chance, though; especially since Jack's other movies haven't really been big hits. Besides, had we done it we would never have gone to Florida. You'll see our names yet in lights, I know it.

JOE: I wanted to go to the meeting with Rooney as well. I talked to my parents about it and they thought I should concentrate on Florida and going to school. I wasn't that bothered when the meeting didn't happen. I do wonder what could have come of it. Maybe if we had stayed in contact with him through school we could have worked with him later down the line. Who knows?

What if? What if? Onwards and upwards!



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