I learned hard lessons while I was making NUNE. You have no idea how many high schools I had to drive to find the right one. I went as far as the high desert of Canyon Country. That day at the desert was one of the darkness days of my life. I had gone through four schools in 110 degree weather and hit nothing. There was so much red tape and the administrators were immovable. I was one month into production and I had not found a high school.
And I had this journey to learn one thing: to respect everyone. During my high school location research I found out a very interesting thing: the janitor had more power to get me access to touring the school than the principal. So I’d walk up to the guy with a trashcan and broom and became friendly with him. They next thing I knew, I was on a tour on their go-cart and had access to whatever I wanted. They told me all the ins and outs of the school. They are like the butler that sees and knows everything. They saved me a lot of time because I was able to ask them whether any schools in the county had lockers. They flat out said “No.” I told them, “If I can’t film a high school scene with lockers then I may as well be filmming in a hospital corridor huh?” They knew the interior and facility of every single school—because they all knew one another.
I had to have that lesson. Not because I was doing spy-work. But I needed that journey to understand people and to understand life: that everyone is one step away from greatness. A janitor whom I’m friends with now has been around every major Hollywood movie filmed at the school. He can tell me every detail of everything that’s ever been done. He is no less great than the studios renting the space. So this idea of greatness has nothing to do with position.
When they say that you ought to be nice to everyone because you don’t know who they might know—it’s not to mean that you should be paranoid or disingenuous. It is a greater life lesson that goes deep into a spiritual core: which is that ultimately, many people look for “G’d” or “Truth” but then they turn away from it when it expresses itself and given to you in the most humble way. That’s where these lessons are heading. That is the lesson in greatness.