Once Upon a Time

Well I guess if I’m going to tell you about this. I should start from the beginning. I was born on July 29th—just kidding.

So I’m living in Los Angeles and I’m walking into the LA Film Market with my buddy, and just to give you a feel for us, we’re straight up Butch and Sundance. Crockett and Tubbs. Forrest and Bubba. Best buds in film school that moved across the country together. We’d been in LA for 3 years now and shared the same home-sickness and alienation that any normal person feels when leaving their roots. But it was kicking our asses. That year, however, something wonderful happened; we decided to shoot something. We wrote a movie, a 1980’s-themed action/comedy. But people in L.A. don’t like to read, so we raised money to shoot the first 9 minutes of the script as a pitch to get people’s attention. After paying rent and bills every month, I had $147 to spend on groceries, beer, toothpaste (I was making $10.50/hour) and Dan wasn’t much better off despite working for a major studio. Needless to say, pulling a miracle out of our asses to make this sucker had us on cloud 9. Most importantly, we loved what we’d made.

“Like a sack of bricks, I’m back on the floor. This was the beginning of the end of my time in LA.”

So there we are, notoriously underdressed and walking into the L.A. Film Market. Nothing screams Ohio like blue jeans and enthusiasm. Gary Busey stands in the lobby, shouting stories about his experience on “Point Break.” A good omen as that was our favorite movie. And then my knee buckles. I collapse to the ground.

“Holy shit, dude! You okay?” Dan scoops me up.

“Yeah, man. I’m fine.” I stand up. And like a sack of bricks, I’m back on the floor. This was the beginning of the end of my time in LA.

Following an X-Ray, I would find that my spinal chord looked like the Mississippi River’s stunt double. This was all due to a combination of countless “Watch this” decisions I’d made growing up as well as my current day job, lugging trees around for rich people like Ellen Degeneress, Joe Walsh, Ryan Seacrest and The Waitress from “Always Sunny,” a very sweet lady. But this is another story.

On crutches, without health insurance and unable to pay for rent or toothpaste, my loving parents happily booked me a plane ticket back to Ohio. Goodbye, California. Also, no one gave a rat’s ass about our ‘80s movie. The frustration and stress of seemingly watching my dreams crumble before my eyes literally felt like it was killing me. I’d get a physical soon after and the nurse looked like she’d seen a ghost when she read my vitals. It would take some time to realize, but leaving California was the best thing to happen to me in L.A.

I had a $1.47 in my bank account and was crutching around my house while my parents supported me and gently asked if I had “a plan.” The plan obviously being to move on to something else. I had no idea. I spent that year going to a miracle chiropractor who helped me go from Quasimodo to Beastmaster in 3 back breaking months. My friends all were getting houses and babies, you know, adulting. I was trying to get out of my parents basement. The only thing I wanted was something that seemed so out of reach that it seemed irresponsible to even try. Obviously I was wrong.

“Let’s make a movie.”

I  never claimed to be smart. It took a homeless drunk man in Mexico to smile and wave at me to realize, “Dude, that guy’s still living it up with water trickling on his head from the hole in his roof. What’s the worst that could happen to me?” Shit or get off the pot. Let’s make a movie.

“Mom, dad. I’m going to be staying longer than I thought.” Then mom said, “Oh, Ben.”