Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

The funny, silly, sad lesson for me probably won't ever become the stuff of Hollywood lore that I wish it would. You see, during preparations for On My Honor, my first short film, I called virtually everyone I had ever worked with to ask for help. To a person, no one would contribute a cent, but just about everyone offered help in some way, shape, or form. Notably, Steven Spielberg offered to let me use his editing suites at Amblin on the Universal lot. I'll never forget driving into Universal Studios with ten or so reels of film in cans in my hatchback. Those cans represented a thirty thousand dollar investment, and I had them cooking in the L.A. sun in my car! Regardless, here I was, a bona fide filmmaker heading for the sacred work space that Spielberg had so generously offered for my use. I found myself alone in the editing room with no idea how to load the 35 millimeter film into the Moviola in order to look at it. I was terrified that Steven would pop his head in, and I would be exposed for the neophyte/fraud/idiot that I had pretended not to be. I opened the first canister of film and picked it up incorrectly. The core of the film fell out, and there I was, sitting in a tangled ball of film. I hightailed it out of there and have only been back once, in a faded audition attempt for High Incident, Spielberg's television show about the LAPD. Ironically, Steven told everyone in the room that he'd seen my second short film, Kangaroo Court, and that I was an excellent filmmaker.

The point of this story is that I was too embarrassed to ask for help and too impatient to figure out a problem on my own. I believe that mistake cost me the possibility of having Steven check up on me and the untold benefit that might have come from the folks at Amblin seeing me as a familiar face around the shop. While I deeply regret my fallibility in this regard, I am grateful to Milton Justice for stepping into the breach and working with me despite my idiosyncrasies. I think today he stiff considers me someone he'd be willing to work with, and that thought makes me happy.

As it turned out, Mark Rocco, a young director, was paying for a big suite of offices adjacent to our "storeroom" office, and he was in the process of putting together a movie about homeless drug addicts. Mark, the son of actor Alex Rocco, went on to forge a reasonably successful career, highlighted by a critically acclaimed movie tided Murder in the First, which features Kevin Bacon giving perhaps the performance of his life as a prisoner on death row at Alcatraz. At the time, however, Mark was just a hungry young director, eagerly trying to make contacts and assemble projects. Judging from the traffic in and out of his office, it seemed that a key component of his strategy was to form friendships with young Hollywood actors. At first, I thought he seemed like a scurrilous individual, and I didn't have a lot of respect for what he was doing. I knew he was planning to make a movie about street kids, and he just seemed kind of creepy.

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