So far, I’ve been living in my own world and doing my own thing. But today, I didn’t have that choice. I had made a decision to have a meeting with Ron, that involved picking him up at Universal Studios. He had two pitch meetings, one of which was with a major player in the industry.
When I entered the area, I could feel the difference between that location and other studio locations. I saw tourists all around me—and the cattle-business of herding them back and forth across the so-called world of movies. But this was not the world of movies. And that is the mistake many people make. It is the world of tourism: of packaged fun. It’s good business, but that is not what the movie world is about.
I found the tourism aspect depressing. It killed my joy for what creativity is all about. It is like taking down the stars (from the sky) and bottling them up for mass consumption. Someone came up with the clever idea that this would “spread the love.” But instead, petrified it.
This banality of wonderment is an oxymoron.
I do not mean to sound like I’m on some kind of high horse when I say this. But I despise tourism of all kinds—except for “useful” kinds of course: like being shepherded in a foreign country to small remote or rare places; that’s different. That’s actually sacred. Why I despise tourism is not because I hate people, but I agree with my dear Nune when she says, “I hate happy people.” What she means is, she cannot tolerate anything inauthentic and fake. It is impossible that any world that is manicured to be perfectly cheerful can have life and authenticity to it. Soul likes variety. It likes individuality—it likes choice, and breaks free of any canned experience or canned procedures. It would rather commit suicide.
But I was delighted to meet with Ron, because I was excited for him. And I like that both he and I both often feel like we’re both living inside a movie—yet we can see ourselves in it; and it’s fun to talk about.
And such was the movie:
He asked me to meet him at the Sheraton Hotel. When I pulled up, I had to negotiate with valet to let me wait around the front without parking my car.
My car is far from fancy. In fact it was filthy; so filthy that I don’t think you can tell what the real paint color is.
One thing I learned in life—is how to talk to people—especially at their level; not up or down—but to meet them right where they are. So I did, and the guy let me park in the red zone.
So, I’m looking across this big ass water fountain, between the cool mist spraying and all the happy people going in and out of the hotel entrance—to see if I can catch Ron coming out.
A black fancy car pulls out ahead of me, a cool-looking dude with fancy shades gets out and says goodbye to the driver and for a split second, I realized I knew the guy.
“Hey Ron!” I yelled. He turned around and spotted my filthy car. So here he is, coming off a meeting with a billionaire and getting out a fancy blacked out car and heading over to jump into my go-cart with over 150,000 miles on it.
I felt a bit of excitement because he looked like some kind of Hollywood big shot—and wondered to myself, “Gee, I actually know him?” Haha. He was in wardrobe. I know a different Ron, so it didn’t bother me. And I knew also that coming out of high profile meetings like that—the energy of success has to rub off on him—your whole demeanor changes…and so he was still pumped from it. It was also this energy that made him look different.
On our way to the Valley, he talked about he felt like he was a character inside a movie at the pitch meeting. But I didn’t tell him that I felt like a character in a movie waiting for him outside that hotel. My whole scene could have been scripted as, “This was when Ji was a nobody.” Hahaahahaha.
Well, I want to retain a lot of that low-keyness because that’s what I like about Ron.
Initially, he had suggested having lunch in the area. But once I saw all the drones being carted back and forth in this hellhole that is supposed to be wonderland—I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out. I wanted relief. I longed for reality and sensibility. I like the ordinary—but not the super-conformed.
There are a lot of myths to dispel about this world, not just Hollywood, but about Life itself. We are all moving out of one illusion into another, and the goal for me—as a filmmaker—is to transcend those illusions, either in writing or with film. It is always depressing when you see through the veil. You see the details, in essence the “truth” of how things really appear. And it’s not subjective. Truth is total, it is real and it is the ultimate Reality. That is why I had difficulty being in that neighborhood—I know that this is not what Hollywood is about, even if people play here.
The movie business is a lot like how Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got started. When you read or see movies about their road to success—you can relate to how everything is basically invented in the garage.
NUNE is invented in the garage in that sense. That is the alchemy of filmmaking—that is the heart and soul. And in Hollywood, when you start to meet big people—you will see that a lot of the greats were making shit in their “garage.” That spirit has not changed. That is the real heart and soul of the movie business. Not the stuff that you see or read about.
I like to stay grounded. Where we get lost is when we fall into the illusion of what something is supposed to be. So, I don’t understand the struggle of people trying to make it in this business. It is a brainwashing that is so contagious that even I start saying stupid shit like, “When my big break comes.” There are no big breaks. There is only now, and now is always big. It has to be big. Because if I don’t see the bigness now—I will not be able to harness the tidal wave.
I want to take back my idiocy, I want to rewind the tape: NUNE is big. It is big for me and it feels big for everyone involved in it. When I’m collaborating with people, we are in the garage. We are dealing with what is—rather than what might be.
When Brianna and I were on set together, I believe it was at the tennis court that she confided in me that this project was extremely meaningful to her. You know, I was flattered to bits but I didn’t know what to say. My modesty is a motherfucker—it keeps me from receiving the gifts. I should have just said to her, “It’s an honor to work with you. It’s a dream to have you on this project too.” But I didn’t because I got shy. It was however, a clear indication that we weren’t trying to get anywhere: we were here, in the dream.
The feeling that is good about filmmaking is that you always want to be in the place of the garage. You don’t want to be anywhere else. You don’t want to think about that red carpet, that golden moments of perceived glory. None of that is what movies are really about. That’s a childish and selfish perception of what greatness is. That’s about personal gain that leads to taxidermy of one’s soul. What I mean is: there is no such thing as fame because time and death are the great equalizers. Fame has no longevity. It is a fleeting moment that leads to memorializing a name to be forgotten. It is a serial number among a series of preceding numbers. The only thing that has longevity is truth: so to live truthfully is better.
I am in the 1% of Hollywood. The rest is chasing a dream. Even the biggest stars are still chasing a dream even though they “made it.” The way I see is that if you never feel that you made it, you will never make it. And I have made it. Each day of my life, I remind myself that I have made it and I keeping making more of it.
If people think that getting an Oscar, a lifetime achievement award, or a green card in the Hollywood club with its guilds and exclusive memberships means “making it”—then cool, those are great benchmarks. Many people get very far and still never reach the destination. Although hitting those goals gives them cred as professionals—their attitude is of an amateur: like a child always saying, “When I grow up, I want to be” but they never become—even when they become adult, they still say, “When I grow up, I want to be.”
Although I’m probably the last person on earth that would be considered a Hollywood filmmaker—the funny part is, I am more Hollywood than I realize. This is because I want to be at the mantle of change. It’s not power that I love—but the power of change.
Modern corporate culture is in L-O-V-E, love with meetings (and any opportunity to engage in groupthink). But if you look back, history’s real intellectual heavyweights weren’t “team players.” Intellectual giants like DaVinci, Einstein, and even Steve Wozniak, all developed their best works in near solitude. Quiet, by Susan Cain, examines why the world’s best thinkers have usually been lone wolves.