“Dad, I really like playing soccer and I wish you could come to more of my games.”
Those were the words our youngest daughter spoke to me one day after missing yet another of her games. She was about 6 years old at the time, the youngestof our three daughters. It caused me to step back and re-evaluate all that I had become.
During an amazing 25 year career in film and television, I had built some wonderful memories and experienced some amazing projects. Memories of fun times in production offices, crazy long days on set and in prep for another crazy long day tomorrow. And projects that stretched my dedication and perseverance in service to film producers and Los Angeles studio executives.
However, on this particular day, it dawned on me that I had few memories of my own family; and that none of the projects were building things for school assignments or the little things around the house that needed to be done. I had often joked that my wife was a married single parent and then one day it struck me that the joke was on me. I was a distant husband, an absent father and a mess of stress and frayed nerves. I recall one day, hanging out with neighbours in a backyard playing our beloved Washer Toss. I missed a shot and lost a game and I had a mini melt down. When had I become this self-obsessed stereotype of a man in crisis?
It was about that time our daughter made her statement about soccer and suddenly the world I knew started to implode around me. I began the process of being curious about what else can I do to provide for my family. The film industry income had been lucrative for many years andthis suddenly changed in the early 2000s. Systemic challenges began to erode the stable income and I watched as friends struggled to keep their homes and, worse, lose their marriages.
I had qualified for my Real Estate Salesperson designation originally in 1989 however choose at that time to remain in film. Fast forward to the early 2000s and I suddenly became aware of the opportunity that I could create for my family if I returned to traditional real estate. As a Location Manager in Film and Television, I found properties daily, negotiated contracts, and worked to ensure that my client was safe and outside of peril when filming on location. I would knock on doors to find that perfect kitchen to film in; I would cold call homes and business to find new opportunities for filming; I negotiated contracts to the benefit of my client; I and the Location Department did everything possible to create the perfect filming environment. I served my client’s goals and poured my life into making their vision a reality.
So if I can do that for a film producer why not take those same skills and serve my community and families at a similar level? Why not create a world where I can be in control of my own schedule? And rather than serve a producer’s goals and dreams at a level of incredible sacrifice I could simply re-focus that same effort to serve my family’s goals and dreams.
With incredible uncertainty yet a firm belief in my own persistence, I made a decision. Like the famous story of the explorer who would arrive on the shores of a new land and then immediately burn the ships, I terminated my membership in the Director’s Guild and closed the door to film production. Not right awayof course - now that would have been a bit reckless. But the plan was created. I completed the first two real estate courses on line while still working infilm. I spent the normal 12 – 14 hours a day away from my family while working on a show; and I invested my weekends and limited time off completing those courses as quickly as possible. In about 4 months, Course 1 and 2 were completed and I had registered for Course 3.
About now, I knew I needed to stockpile cash reserves. I had been told that it can take some time to get traction in Real Estate and by nature of the business and real estate closings, it could take even longer to get some money in the bank. Not that money is everything. It’s just the bills keep showing up and a bit of money is a good thing to help pay them.
So I did one last show as a Location Manager. It was tense; it was exhausting. Quite frankly, it felt like the hardest show I had ever done. I began to question my resolve. I began to second guess if I could be successful in Real Estate. That said, I had done the smartest thing possible – I had told everyone in film I was leaving. And once Michael says he is doing something, little can get in the way. When the ‘why’ is big enough, the ‘how’ is no longer important. I knew that my decision was the best for my family and their future.
And then, in May/June of 2009 I walked away from a Production Office and a Filmset for the very last time. No more white tractor trailers; no more orange roadcones. And more important, no more late night phone calls from set telling me that we had to change the next day’s schedule so I was expected back at the office to help make it happen – right away. No more calling my wife at about 8 to say I was on my way home and then having to call her again at 9:30 and say I would be closer to midnight.
More importantly, no more missed soccer games. I missed out on many events in the lives of our first two daughters and I would miss out no more on time with family. A bit naïve to assume at the time, what with Weekend Open Houses and evening showings. However, the possibility for control of my own schedule made those early sacrifices in my new Real Estate career well worth the price paid.
I never did miss another soccer game. In fact, I became my daughter’s coach and was able to be at every game and every practice. Reflecting back, I wish I had of done it sooner. However, sooner, I may not have been the right person for a career in Real Estate. Everything in it’s time and according to God’s plan. I firmly believe this and am grateful for the years in film. Those years of blood, sweat and tears helped prepare me for what my new career would pull out of me. It was not easy those first few years and there were many times I questioned the decision. Today, however, I recognize my decision to leave film as one of the most significant, and greatest, crossroads of my life. Those defining moments we can all look back on and recognize the importance of that precise moment in time.
I am grateful for those early clients who hopefully had no idea that I knew little of what I was doing! Grateful for those early clients who believed in me while I struggled with my own lack of belief. And I am especially grateful for my family who stuck with me through all the years of being an absentee husband and father. Your love and support has allowed me to dream bigger every year.