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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Working with and Learning from Danny Trejo

This is an older post from July of last year, but as I've recently revamped the Blue Paper Film Works website, all the blogs have been taken down. I'm reposting them here:

Anyhow, we’ve had the luck of working with Danny Trejo during the week of July 3rd and 4th.  He played the part of the Hermit in In the Shadow, a small but crucial role. I think both Jorge and I can say that we learned a lot by working with this man that has had a very long career in this crazy thing called the “Entertainment Business.”

We learned about something called giving back. What? GIVING? In the film business? Yes, it does exist. Danny has a very amazing open attitude about helping out those of us that are just beginning our careers. He knows his presence in a film can help it out immensely, as far as its life in the marketplace is concerned. And I believe, to hear him talk about the stories of his own life, that his desire to help out also benefits him a great deal. He is nearing 70, and more active than I am, and I am in my 30s.

I’ve seen and worked with people on the complete opposite of this spectrum, who put themselves and their career needs and egos first, who walk into a room and feel that everyone should kiss their feet and be awed by them. I’ve seen people feel that credits and their titles are more important than the actual work and community that is necessary in something as collaborative as indie filmmaking. I have seen these self-interested people continually dig their own grave, slowly alienating their professional connections, and then bring down their friends and family after.  This is usually a hole they will never ever get out of. They have destroyed the trust of too many.

I suppose in some ways, it is encouraging to me to see that the commonly-held idea that one should work in the film business with a each-out-for-his-own attitude doesn’t really hold up over time. It may give some a brief time of success, but I don’t believe this kind of perspective allows one to last very long. Something happens to the human psyche if you always believe people are out for you, and create or produce as if you are at war. At some point, you break down and stop doing what you used to like doing.  I still want to believe that common courtesy, kindness, and honesty still can matter in this business.  Luckily enough, it does.  Directing Danny Trejo, and producing scenes with him as a performer, have taught me that indeed, it’s possible, and actually necessary, to work in this business with reciprocity, gratitude, and respect.

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