Today’s interview: I have been excited to share since I first spoke with Jim Thalman. Within only a few moments, I knew that I had, in my possession, an amazing interview. Jim was kind enough to speak with me for over an hour, and his knowledge of the industry and the craft of acting is impressive.
Since he shared so much of his experience and wisdom, I have chosen to publish the entire interview with minimal editing. I hope that you read this interview in its entirety, and enjoy it as much as I have.
Real People Success Stories
Jim Thalman is the President of HExTC: a Multimedia Co. Through the years, Jim has collaborated with HExTC on multiple Projects from the Award winning “History of Exile” Trilogy of play(s) to Executive Producing the Award winning films such as “The Secret Under The Rose” (4 International Awards) & “The Poker Lesson” (6 International Awards).
Jim is happily married to his long-time partner in crime, Production Designer Natasha Senko.
My questions/comments are in bold, Jim’s answers follow.
How did you get involved in film and acting?
Well, okay, so here’s the funny thing. The world goes full circle. My producing partner, Arian Blanco who is also the executive director of Hudson Exploited Theater Company. He and I grew up together, and senior year in high school, he was directing a play at the performing arts showcase.
The Lead writer of “West of the City” Adrian Rodriguez, who also went to high school with us, was supposed to act on it, and about a week before it goes up, he gets cold feet. He now hears that it’s going to be an auditorium full of a couple of thousand local teenagers, and it terrifies him.
So Arian’s looking around the classroom, and he’s trying to figure out … He’s like, “I need someone who can be kind of geeky but kind of cool,” and he looks … This is his version of the story. I don’t remember any of this, but we’ve been friends so long, I believe him.
He’s like, “I looked up and I looked over, and there’s Jimmy looking at the chalkboard, putting his glasses on and then quick taking them off so no one sees he has glasses. So all right, well that sounds like me.
So after class, he comes up, he’s like, “Hey, you want to be in a play?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Then he starts rattling off all the girls in the high school that were in the play. I’m like, “Yeah. I’m in. I’m in a thousand percent.” So we’ve a week of rehearsal to put this thing up, and I remember standing backstage by the curtain with another one of my oldest and dearest friends, Rigo Diaz who’s also on the board of directors of Hudson Exploited.
I’m backstage shaking like a leaf. I’m trembling. I’ve never felt this & I’m terrified… because I looked out in the audience, and it is jam packed with unruly Inner City teenagers.
I walked out and like the second or third line that I had in the play was, “You bitch.” And that’s all I remember saying, and the place went wild. Well, you know, of course, teenagers they hear someone curse, they think it’s the greatest thing in the world.
I don’t remember anything after that, other than having the time of my life. From that moment on, I was like, “I think I want to do this. I mean, I think I really want to do this.”
So off to college, and then started studying, and working, and exploring that whole realm. But it was just simply that one lucky turn of events that really changed the course of my life. Because up until then, the whole thought process was the military.
I had my Congressional recommendation for my Military Applications. My Uncle John, who was the father figure in our lives ran veteran affairs in our local government, so that was what I was being groomed to do. My brother Michael also, he’s a career military guy.
But I discovered acting, and from that moment on, there was no turning back. No turning back whatsoever, and I’m grateful for it, because it’s been a wonderful, interesting, and exciting life. We were talking earlier about living a life worth living. Leading a life, rather, worth living.
For me, this is a very big part of it, because not only the whole joy of the craft and the journey of that, but also a lot of movies I shoot are all over the country. So I’m literally … my daily conversation is with the diner waitress, the local sheriff, the crossing guard. It’s all the guys and gals in the community.
As a result, you get this “boots on the ground” perspective of different communities through America, and it’s great to touch base with everyone, because you see how varied we are in opinions, political beliefs, thought process, and systems.
But there’s always that same common denominator of humanity and patriotism, and just wanting to do good for the community, and touching your fellow man, and all of that. That gives me faith in these very trying times of political turmoil, let’s just phrase it that way.
Oh, that’s awesome. Prior to getting in the industry, probably like myself, you had some pre-conceived notions about what things were like. Once you got involved, what is one of the things you learned, looking back, that really surprised you about the industry?
Okay, what really surprises me is the most solid advice I ever got was from Jerry Orbach, who was a beautiful stage and television and feature film actor, who has now passed on. He was on “Law & Order” for many years. He was one of the Original Fantastics in the ’60s.
When I was in college, I used to work on the local television shows during the summer. I’d go in, be a non-union background actor, just to learn. I remember Mr. Orbach saying, “Listen kid, all you need to know is … Know your lines, show up on time, be polite. Everything else is everything else.”
But the funny thing is, for a 19 or 20 year old kid, the world cannot be that simple. Know your shit. Be punctual. Be nice. It can’t be that simple.
Yet, the older I get, the more brilliant that advice is. It’s poignant and it’s true and it is …
They always say, “Simplicity is the height of elegance,” right? It is. Just be simple. Don’t try and be anything that you’re not. Just show up, be pleasant to be around. Of course, do your homework. Show up on time, respect other people’s time. And it comes back at you.
I just landed a new television pilot called “Foreign National” the director Louis Guerra on that is a DGA, which is the Director’s Guild of America, He’s Also a 1stAD on really big shows like “The Americans” “Orange is the New Black” etc..( a 1stAD is like a Sgt. Major on set, they run the set and are the Directors right hand) .
At the audition process, I always show up 15 minutes early & make the joke, “Yeah, I was raised by a feral pack of ADs.” Well, Lou … the director … He turned to me. He looked at me. He just burst out laughing. He’s like, “Did you just say, ‘Feral pack of ADs?'” I’m like, “Yes, sir. I did.” He’s like, “Holy shit, you’re a fucking riot.”
So I had hopes I would get the job, and luckily I did. But it was the whole thing. For a first AD, they run the ship. They facilitate everything that the director needs to make the show happen. They run everything on a tight schedule. So to be on time is absolutely expected.
The old adage in the industry is, “To be 15 minutes early is to be on time.” Because you want to give your guys as much of a chance to get their jobs done, as much as they’re busting their hump to make sure your job’s a little easier. That reciprocity between departments helps the show flow so much more smoothly, and makes the work day that much more pleasant.
So hats off to Mr. Orbach for taking the time to talk to some little 19 year old kid that didn’t know anything, and give him that advice that I’ve taken with me my entire life.
Yeah, that’s awesome, and sometimes it just takes somebody giving a little advice like that, that sometimes it means a little more coming from somebody else, and it can really change your outlook on life.
Without a doubt.
You had a lot of successes, is there anything looking back that you kind of say, “You know what? If I knew what I knew now, I would have maybe done this thing, or I wish I didn’t do that,” of any kind of mistakes that people could learn from?
Well, I think … and this is something that I wish I would have had an adult instill in me when I was growing up. Most people don’t talk about this, but I assume it to be true in all industries, but I’m not in other industries, so I can’t really speak to those industries.
But in my industry, relationship building is the most important thing you can do. Build and foster relationships everywhere you can. Invest in them. Nurture them. Water them. Support other people. It comes that you never have to ask for shit. It comes back at you naturally, normally, effortlessly, but you have to put the time in.
Relationship building is the most important thing you can do. Build and foster relationships everywhere you can. Invest in them. Nurture them. Water them. Support other people. - Jim Thalman Click To Tweet
I didn’t really learn that until maybe 30, 32 or so. So my entire 20s, I was all over the place. Like maybe all 20 year olds, 20-somethings, are that way. I don’t know. But I was all over the place. I wanted it all. I couldn’t sit still
I hit my 30s, and then all of a sudden, I feel like I finally became a man, and understanding the things that really means being an adult and courtesy and respect and empathy and acknowledgment. All of those things kind of coincided with the light bulb going off of, “Holy shit. Really, the relationships are what matter.”
Because still to this day, that’s how you get jobs. This new pilot I’m doing, I didn’t submit for it. The producer of it Joel Quinones , who I did a feature with, back in 2012, 2013, emailed me.
He’s like, “Hey, I got a new show. I think you’d love it. Here’s the specs on it. Tell me if you want to come in.” I read it, and I’m like, “Holy shit, Joel, this is brilliant. Yes, I definitely want to come in.”
But had I not built my relationship with him while we were shooting that Feature Film together, not looking to get anything out of him, just two guys drinking coffee at Kraft service, talking shit, whether it’s about the Mets or current affairs, or whatever the hell the morning’s conversation was. Or job related. You build that relationship, and now here you are, five, six years later, and now we’re doing a television show together. Hopefully, we get picked up.
So that is the most important thing I think I’ve learned, and I wish someone would have taken the time to say, “Hey, just take your time. It’s a long journey. Do right by others. Build relationships. Nurture them. You’ll be good.” So the decade that I wasted not knowing that lesson, I would like to have back, but hey, whatever.
That’s great advice. How have you been able to use social media? Does that fit in with your building of relationships?
Well,… Yes and no. I think what social media does is allows us to support our colleagues and friends with much greater ease. There’s so many of the guys, guys and gals of course, that I’ve worked with through the years, that have now gone on to do their own things, to make that their own movies that are really successful, and all that fun stuff.
Now they’re doing their press junkets traveling the country. Normally, I would never know about that, unless I ran into them at a cocktail party, or at a film festival, or something like that.
Whereas now, especially … for me, it’s Instagram and Twitter that allow me to be like, “Oh, shit. Hey, we’re going to be at Windy City, too. Let’s meet up.” And it allows me to A, support, because any time a movie gets into a film festival, I’ll quick give them a retweet. I’ll definitely share their successes with my colleagues.
It just widens the net for everyone. Once again, if you do things from a place of just doing it because it’s the right thing, the nice thing to do, it comes back at you without ever having to ask. But if you do ask, people are much more likely to say, “Yes,” to whatever you’re requesting.
“I’ll know someone for five years before ever asking them for anything.” I’ll have fostered and built that relationship for years, so when I do ask for a favor, I want to say 99.9% of the time, people are like, “Yeah. You can count on me. I’m in. No problem.” Because I put the time in.
One of the things that irks me terribly is people that meet you, and then 35 seconds later, they’re asking you for favors. It’s like, “Hey, man. I don’t know you.
I haven’t had a chance … there’s no litmus test yet. Build it, and after I get to know you, then I’ll trust you with my contacts and colleagues. But not after meeting you for 35 seconds. You could be a serial killer for all I know.” Right?
Yeah, you’ve got to be careful. So you mentioned you use social media to support and lift up what other people are doing. Do you see any common mistakes you think people make on social media?
This is an opinion, and it’s strictly my opinion. I think too many people fall in love with pictures of themselves, and as a result, it then just becomes white noise. It’s like, “Oh, there’s another picture of yourself,” and you just scroll right past.
Tell me something. You could tell me more about you by showing me a picture of the world you see through your eyes, or the product you see through your eyes, or the moment how you see it, because it then allows me empathy.
I’m allowed to sit in your shoes now, and view this sunset, this beach, this new skateboard, whatever the hell it may be. Too many people go in, and it’s like another picture of me from the same angle … You know, that top angle coming down and … you know, people want to make themselves look skinnier and sexier.
And it’s like, “Now, Here’s me in a different shirt with the same angle”. I’m like, “Well, what are you doing?” I get if you want to do that once in a while, that’s fine. But when it’s continual, then all of a sudden, you blend away into nothing.
No one really cares. It’s the tree falls into a forest and no one hears it, etcetera, etcetera. That’s one thing that I’m like, “Hey, stop with this.” I don’t do Facebook, because Facebook feels like it has become a bully’s playground, where it’s two sides screaming about politics.
Then people saying really terrible things to each other, because they feel safe behind the screen of their own computer. They say things they would never say to another human being on the subway platform, that’s for sure.
So I deliberately stay off of FB, because of that. My wife’s on it, and I see the stuff that goes on. She gets genuinely upset. I’m like, “You might want to rethink this.” Instagram I love, because it’s images, and by and large, it’s a much happier, more positive supportive space.
I mean, I know the company’s owned by Facebook, and hey, maybe that’s the positive outlet, and that’s great. I think in today’s day and age, you want to stay as much from negative energy as possible, to keep your mind and your spirit focused on what matters.
Yeah, I’ve been blessed to do a few of these interviews, and everyone’s actually kind of telling me the same thing about Facebook. It seems like maybe the tide’s turning against it. People are getting turned off, by the politics of it. Maybe even too people are getting over-politicked to death.
Right. I agree. The only thing I will say is, Midterms are around the corner, and whatever side of the aisle you fall on, whatever ideology, that … We’re Americans. We’re free to believe and support whoever we want. But we have to get out to the polls.
That’s the extent of my politicizing, whether it’s in person, or on social media, or any conversation I find. This November, 435 seats are open in the House of Representatives, 18 Senatorial, 36 State & Territorial Gubernatorials. Get out and vote. I Don’t care who you vote for. Well, I do, but it’s none of my business. Just get out there. Show up to the Polls & let your voice be heard.
You’re involved in film and stage, and you already told me about how you have a pilot that hopefully gets picked up. I mean, how on Earth do you manage to do all this stuff?
Okay, so here’s the complete geek factor. I literally have a piece of paper with a timeline of every day taped on the inside flap of my desk. So I open my desk. I slide the computer out, flip open the lid, and I look to the left. Literally, it’s 7:45 to 8:15 Dialect Training, 8:15 to 8:45 On-Camera Training, etc…
Everything’s put together in half hour, 45 minute, or 60 minute increments. I get as much work done on whatever that moment is for that time. And whether I’m complete with the task or not, when the clock goes off, that’s it. I close it. I move on to the next.
Now it sounds counter-intuitive. But when it’s done repeatedly, on a daily basis, you get so much accomplished. You never become overwhelmed. There’s no time suck that happens.
It’s like, “Okay. I got 30 minutes to do this. Get as much done as I can.” Then I’ll have another 30 minutes tomorrow, and then Friday, and then the following Monday, and so on. Literally, my entire day is scheduled out that way.
Now, it changes of course when I’m on set. When I’m on set, I’m on set, and that’s my only job. I turn my phone off when I step on set, and don’t turn it on until lunch. Then turn it back off after Lunch, and Won’t turn it on until the ADs call a wrap for me.
Then I’ll check emails or whatever the hell may be. If someone needs to reach me, they have my manager’s number (available on IMDB). She knows where I am 24/7, what I’m doing, what job I’m on, etcetera, etcetera. Anyone can schedule appointments, meetings, anything & everything through her.
When I’m on someone’s set, I’m there 110%, and I don’t want to be distracted by the outside world. So I shut the phone down. I will read, but usually I’ll read a book that will keep me calm, meditative, and focused. Then when the ADs come and get me to go do my scene(s), then I’m there, and that’s the only world that exists.
So for me, the big thing about time management is literally just I create a schedule … I actually create two schedules. I create my daily routine, and then I create my yearly goals.
Then I look at them both, and I double check to make sure that my daily routine is working towards my yearly goals. Because I’m a firm believer … It’s a very Asian thought process or philosophy, the movement of a mountain one rock at a time. If you steadily do it, you can move this mountain.
The old adage is, like it’s a generational thing. Really in Eastern philosophy, it’s like, “Well, I didn’t finish it, but my son might. And if he doesn’t, his son will.” So the whole thought process is just a little bit each day, every single day, and you’ll get there.
It's a generational thing. Really in Eastern philosophy, it's like, Well, I didn't finish it, but my son might. And if he doesn't, his son will. So the whole thought process is just a little bit each day, every single day, and you'll… Click To Tweet
So for me, that was a big breakthrough. It was actually a business seminar I had done, about running my Acting career as a small business. I was like a lot of these tools that they were teaching us, I’m like, “This is perfect for an actor. This is perfect for anyone.”
I’ve got my wife on it now, doing the same thing. She’s flying through stuff, the way she’s getting things accomplished now, as opposed to, it used to be … and myself as well … used to be, it’s like I’ve got this on my plate, and I focus on nothing else until it’s done. And that’s just … it becomes a time suck that can lock you down, especially if it’s a really big project.
That’s really great advice. Do you recall the name of the workshop?
It was the Actors Business Breakthrough by Dallas Travers, who is a career coach and a small business coach, ran it. She was based out of L.A., but had done some seminars here in New York. I had attended the seminars & thought, “Oh, this is interesting stuff,” and then signed up for the class. I think it was a 10 or 12 week class, done virtually via Skype. If I remember correctly, it was like Wednesday nights, between 8 to 10 p.m. every night for 10 weeks, or something like that.
Do you know if she’s still doing that?
She’s no longer focusing on the Acting community but continues to do so for Business owners etc. Definitely speak with her, she’s a pioneer.
I imagine, also being that productive in time management, is that how you’re able to maintain the work-life balance?
My wife helps with the work-life balance in a very big way. The way I try … My days are usually 12 hour days. So I’ll start at 8. I’ll finish at about 8. Then after that, it’s time … either we go take a long walk or we’ll watch some TV, or go to the movies, or something that we can spend time with each other, and enjoy each other’s company.
My wife is also a freelancer. She’s a production designer, so she’s an artist in her own right, and an exceptional one. So for us as freelancers, the jobs come when the jobs come. The trick is, let’s try not to stress between the jobs, and let’s make sure we have time to live our lives. Weekends, we’re very strict about, “Okay, we have Saturdays and Sundays. Let’s go do something.”
We do a lot of day trips, whether it’s out to Lambertville, New Jersey, or upstate New York, or any of the small towns up on the Hudson, or … This past weekend, as silly as it sounds, we decided, “Oh, let’s go get the city bikes,” and we literally rode around the city all day.
Well, all evening, rather. We got the bikes around 6:00, and we rode until about midnight. Just rode and stopped, and grabbed an ice cream cone, and sat on a bench and BS’d for an hour, and got back on the bikes, rode some more. And just … We were complete tourists of New York City, even though we’ve been here our entire lives. Or for her, her entire adult life.
Sounds like you just naturally took to acting. Do you ever get nervous doing an interview, or maybe any stage work, or what advice might you have for people who do get nervous?
Okay, so here’s the thing. The studio I used to train at, the big joke was, “Never use that word, ‘nervous.'” Never. You’re not allowed to use that word. It’s a biological function in your body, okay. It goes back to when you were being chased by tigers and living in caves.
What happens is when your body is removed from its comfort zone, it goes into its fight, flight, or freeze. We’ve all heard this. What we don’t hear is the butterflies that most people equate with stage fright or nerves about public speaking, is that fight or flight, physiological reaction to your new stimulus.
The butterfly feeling is actually endorphins being soaked into the lining of your stomach. Okay? That’s what causes that feeling. So now that you’ve learned to identify what the feeling is, and that it’s a natural physiological function, you then can take it one step further.
What does this do for you? You were not created … evolution did not happen to give us something that turns us into a frozen, sweaty mess. What it actually does, is it gives you about 40 minutes of superhuman everything. You have better sight. You have a more acute hearing, sense of smell, sense of taste.
If you are in a violent situation, which is what it was originally created for, everything else slows down for you. Martial artists, boxers, wrestlers, all kind of athletes… they get this. They know this. There’s a much greater correlation between athletes and actors than anyone acknowledges. The vast majority of people have never made the equation. They think they’re two completely different worlds, when they’re not.
If you ever read … and I say this to everyone. As an Experiment, when the Vanity Fair comes out with their Oscar interviews, I want you to read all the nominee’s interviews. Then I want you to go and pick up an issue of that week’s Sports Illustrated, and I want you to read the interviews with the athletes of the week.
See how many of those same points they’re talking about. Specifically, I’m talking about being out of your head and in your body. Everyone, both sides of the equation, actor or athlete, talk about … it’s called being in the zone.
The zone quite really is, you understand what’s going on inside your body, and you’re thoughtless. Not thoughtless in the manner of how we usually use it as a thoughtless human being, but just in a manner of, “I’m so in my body, and muscle memory has taken over. There’s no need to do anything other than let my body control me”. Leave the mind out of the equation.
Now getting back to people that don’t do this for a living, who are forced to now give that PowerPoint presentation in front of 200 colleagues, and they’re scared shitless. Because I know my best friend, he’s an IT guy.
Public speaking is not his thing, but he has to do these presentations. You rehearse it. You get into muscle memory. You understand what’s going to happen to your body. You understand and recognize that physiological function is going to happen and you cannot control it. But if you stay extremely still, you realize that “Holy shit, I’m superhuman right now.”
You see and hear things that normally would fly right past you, you would not even pick up on. But now, all of a sudden, you can hear or see or even feel or taste everything in the world around you. So to those who are forced to do PowerPoint presentations, and they’re like, “Oh, public speaking sucks.”
Get some time, rehearse it five, six, seven times, to where it has dropped into your body. So then when you go out there on the day and are forced to now address 300 complete strangers, you understand, “Okay, those butterflies are just endorphins. This is giving me power. This is giving me strength. Let me fly.”
And you launch into it, and all of a sudden, you’re just in this flow state of absolute ease, and when you’re at ease, you’re that much more attractive. I don’t mean physically, but maybe on an intuitive level. But you’re more attractive to listen to and to absorb the energy that you’re emitting into your audience. They’re much more willing to soak up everything you give, because you’re in a relaxed flow state.
That flow state … I’m veering off a little bit, but Neil Young did a real interesting experiment back in the ’70s about flow states, where there’s a reciprocity that happens between, in his case musician and audience, where the energy he would put out would come back at him thousand-fold, because he was in this flow state.
It would create these moments, and he’s like, “There’s no way I could ever duplicate that.” And that, for an actor, when we can say, “There’s no way I could ever do that again,” that’s when your work is at its peak.
The worst thing an actor ever wants to hear is, “Do the exact same thing. Don’t change anything.” It’s like … that moment has passed. If you catch it on film, wonderful.
This moment is a new moment. I’ll keep the blocking the same, not change the way I move a prop or anything (for continuity), but the emotional vibrance, or vibrations rather, that are happening within my body over the dialogue, that’s going to change every single time. Great directors understand that. Not so great directors will learn to understand that as they go along their journey.
I’ve read, so many books about giving successful presentations, And I’ve never heard anything put together like that. So, thank you.
My pleasure. Can I just … Let me give a shout-out … There’s a gentleman … I did not come up with this information myself. So wish I did. My mentor, the most influential coach and teacher of my life, a gentleman by the name of Steve Eastin.
He’s the one who taught myself and a whole generation of actors about this. He’s a brilliant actor and a Loving teacher, as well, and he shared this knowledge. All he ever said to us is like, “Hey, now you have to carry the torch. Share that knowledge with the next generation of actor or artist coming up.” Let’s give him that shout-out, please.
Is he still teaching?
He is. Still working like a demon, too. I mean, everyone from Steven Spielberg to Ridley Scott to Brian DePalma have hired him to act in their movies. He’s a true journeyman Actor.
I find there’s a lot of parallels between success and fitness. How is fitness played into your success? Do you enjoy working out?
For me, it’s an absolute necessity. It’s the only way I can handle stress. So I literally, every morning, five days a week, I’m at the gym. Without hesitation, without … even on Mondays, and no one really likes Mondays in this world, but I’m there, and I enjoy the process of just …
Once again, slipping into my body. It’s there relieving the mind to just race freely and chase whatever oddball thoughts you’re having at the moment. Those oddball thoughts are interesting, and they’re your body processing things.
So for me, exercise is paramount. Listen, we all get hit with frustration, and stubborn people, and crazy and annoying situations, and selfish people, and all of that. You’re not going to change how other people behave, but you can change how you react to other people’s behavior. For me, it’s the exercise. I’ll go in, I’ll do cardio for 20, 25 minutes. After that, I do bag work or I’ll lift, and it alternates between those days.
Just literally punching the heavy bag for 25 minutes, jumping rope in between sets. It releases any tension you may have had from whatever, the day before, the week before, what’s coming up … it’s just gone.
So then when I get to the desk, and sit down, and I start my day, I’m starting from a neutral place. I’m not coming in with any preconceived filters, any animosity or anger for what had happened the day before or the week before. Now, this is easier said than done. When people really wrong you, it’s tougher to let go. But once you can let go, you move on, and that’s it.
They’re out of the equation, they’re out of the game, you don’t have to deal with them anymore. Move on to … and that’s easier for an actor to do, because we literally go from job to job to job.
It’s a little more difficult, I would imagine, for someone who has a steady job working in an office or corporation with the same people, day in, day out. There, when someone wrongs you, I don’t know how you would handle that, but I would say exercise will help you deal with the stress of the situation with much greater facility and ease.
Yeah, that’s great advice. Is there anything you wish everybody knew?
Other than the importance of these midterms? No. For me, I believe at the end of the day, we have a very legal revolution that happens every two years in this country, and we have the moral right and responsibility to get out there and vote. These midterms are more important than the majority of people anticipate. So I pray and hope that every American who’s an eligible voter gets out there and casts their vote.
Good advice. Is there anything you can think of that I should have asked, but haven’t?
Well, not should have asked, but there’s a couple of projects that I’d like to let you know about, and let your readers know about. “Black N’ Blue” will be screening at the Hell’s Kitchen Film Festival this September 7th through the 9th Then at the Urban Action Showcase on 42nd Street, sponsored by HBO & Cinemax, this November 9th &10th.
For people who aren’t familiar with Black and Blue, can you give us a little sneak peek?
“Black N’ Blue” is what we call a socially relevant drama that deals with post-traumatic stress in our returning veterans, and the rift that is between the black community and the blue community, which are police.
We spent a lot of time talking to Marine Corps psychologists on what post-traumatic stress is. The new science is showing us that post-traumatic stress is … Yes, it’s extremely prevalent amongst returning veterans, but they’re not the only ones that struggle with post-traumatic stress.
There are a couple of communities that are hit exceptionally hard with post-traumatic stress. So first responders, EMTs, firemen, police,that’s one sub-group that gets hit with post-traumatic stress in a very big way. But even more so, what we’re seeing is, post-traumatic stress is showing up as DNA markers that can be passed from father to child, mother to child. Within certain communities, it lingers for generations.
This is part and parcel with the reactive behavior of any time you’ll see both sides of the coin, whether it’s black or blue, interacting with each other. Because they’re both coming through the lenses of their own stresses. This is something that we thought would be important to discuss.
We don’t point fingers. We’re not standing on a soapbox and saying, “You’re bad and you’re wrong.” We’re not doing any of that bullshit, we tell a very thought-provoking story, with some lovely actors, and pose questions.
The thought process is to facilitate a conversation. So we premiered it at Big Apple in April here in New York City. Then we went to Cannes. We screened in Court Métrage, which is a sidebar high honor screening program at Cannes.
Then now we’re beginning our festival run, but in addition to playing festivals around the world, we’re now also playing colleges around the nation. All these universities and inviting us to come screen the film, and then hold talk-backs with their students.
This was … the writer and executive producer, B. Todd Johnston, this was his goal. It wasn’t about being famous, or any of that. It was, “Let’s start a conversation, and let’s keep the conversation going in an open, honest, and honorable manner.” The Director Julius B. Kelly (this was our 3rd Movie together) understood that dynamic immediately and that’s the direction we moved in.
We’ve seen all sides of the equation at our screenings Black & White and Blue and Green, and coming up to us, ” I’m a Vietnam vet. Thank you” You know, “I’m a Gulf War vet.” “I’m a local cop.” All of this. It’s interesting to see, and normally, you wouldn’t expect such an incredible feedback Q&A session.
I’ve been doing them for years, and usually the conversation’s like, “Oh, tell us what was filming about. What’s funny happened?” These Q&As of “Black N’ Blue” are completely different. So we’re excited about this festival run
Additionally, from that, “16MINS” will continue her festival run. I think we’re up to 28 cities We’ve screened in with 33 Nominations and 14 Awards in 2018. It’s cleaning up award-wise, and we’ll be distributing that film on the 13horrors.com platform this coming fall, which is a Horror Film platform.
“16MINS” is a really fun, surprising little horror film that has won us a lot of awards. But more importantly, we want to bring it to a much wider audience. Maybe 20 or 25 thousand people have seen the film so far. We want to turn that into a quarter of a million, 300 thousand, 400 thousand people seeing the film.
So it I’ll be on 13horror.com this fall, which will be fantastic. Then on DVD @ Walmart in time for Christmas.
“16MINS” is directed by Stephane Verzi and Produced by Jesse R. Tendler. And the joy of a successful run is we’re already in development for our next project, a pilot dealing with the “Montauk Project” run by the CIA in the early 80’s
Then lastly, “DIANE” which was directed by Michael Mongillo & Produced by Taylor Warren … another feature that I acted in and co-executive produced. We just got a distribution deal with Sony Pictures, and that will be opening in select theaters this October 5th. I believe it’s Friday, October 5th, 2018, is our opening. It’ll be major cities to start.
Hopefully, we catch enough wind behind our sails, or beneath our sails, whatever the saying is, to get to a much wider audience. But we’ll open up in I think L.A., New York, Miami, Chicago, and Dallas. I believe Dallas. So five major markets, and let’s see. Hopefully, Sony does right by us. That’d be fantastic.
That sounds awesome.
Yeah, it’s an … 2018 has been an exciting year with 6 Best Actor Nods on the international circuit. Lots of fun things happening. Also a lot of things that happened in the past handful of years are now all of a sudden coalescing into a … I hate the term, but the next level. It’s like everything has kind of matured and gelled to the point where it’s like, “Okay, we can use that now. That’s a platform to take the next big leap.”
They call it a quantum leap, if you will. You’re going much further and faster than anticipated, but it’s only because of the years of work that you had layered in. Prior that felt like not much was really going on, but truth of the matter is a lot of thing were all percolating underneath the surface.
I think that’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t appreciate. They kind of see the results of success, but they don’t see the sacrifices and the struggles that took … that prime the pump, if you will, to get to that point.
Every overnight success is 10 years, you know, wow. Everyone I know, every overnight success is like 20 years. But I see it in the colleagues of mine that are now really breaking out. We were doing No budget indie films together 20 years ago, and talking about the dreams, and everything.
Those are the few guys that stuck it out. They put the time, the effort, the energy, the tenacity, the sacrifice to get there. Now they’re at the top of the food chain, making bank, and doing what they love, that’s admirable and it’s well deserved.
That, I think, is part of the journey. Earning it. Earning it, because when things are handed to people, it usually slips right through their fingers. Whereas when someone fights and struggles and claws and scratches … We call it slugging it out through the mud and the blood. It’s a very dramatic statement for making a movie, but that’s really what it is.
You slug it out. It’s not … the shooting and making of a movie is not glorious, glamorous, in any way, shape, or form. It’s 14, sometimes 16 hour days of, “We’ve got to get the shot, guys. No one goes home until we get the shot. Sorry. Got to be done.” It’s like, “All right. You got it, boss.”
That’s something an industry outsider many not realized at first; is just how hard you work. It seems like everybody that’s successful in your industry is a workaholic.
You have to be. There’s too many guys, like literally one rung behind you, looking to get up, and if you’re not willing to do the work, then there are hundreds of proficient and skilled individuals that are willing to do the work.
You walk into an audition room, and it’s like everyone … At the auditions I go on, I walk into the room, it’s like you recognize every one of these guys from feature films, from television shows, from Broadway. Every guy in the room has the skill set to do the job. So what’s the difference?
The difference really is your approach to the work, and your willingness to do the heavy lifting. Those are the two things. And then having the tenacity to deal with the ebbs and flows and the insanity of the business itself.
That’s great. That’s great life advice. I mean, that would apply to blogging, to finance, to anything. You have to put the work in.
One last thing. I would just like to say, will you keep an eye out for “West of the City” Which is a passion project that I’ve been working on for the past two and a half years with Arian Blanco, who created this show.
Yes. That same guy I did my first play with and the Exec Producer of so many of the films I’ve worked on. We just finished the Amazon development competition, so out of 20,663 television shows on that development platform, we were fortunate and lucky enough to take first place overall.
First place, best drama, and first place, most popular show. So fingers crossed, we’ll be able to walk in, meet with them in the studio, and pitch them on why this should be part of the 2019 slate of original programming. So fingers crossed, make sure your people know about that, and keep an eye out for it, because it’s going to be one hell of a show.
Lastly but not leastly, We’ve got a great financial track record, so if any of your readers would like to learn more about Investment opportunities in Film & TV, please have them reach out to me directly at JThalman <@> HEXTC.Org
I just have one kind of last question, unless you have any wonderful more information to share with me. I always ask everybody a geeky question at the end of the interview. It’s just a way to have some fun, be silly, and maybe catch you off guard a little bit.
Okay. I’m game.
If you were going to play or produce a superhero movie or in theater, what would that movie be … what superhero would you play? what superhero would you want to produce?
Well, here’s the funny thing about that. I am such a big fan of only New York superheroes. I don’t know why. I think maybe just the New Yorker in me has to root … and I’m really a big fan of the Marvel world, but the Marvel world that takes place in Hell’s Kitchen.
So Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, the Punisher, Daredevil, all the New York guys. Luke Cage is the one that I absolutely love. I actually know Cheo Hodari Coker, who’s the creator of that show, and he’s a brilliant writer. Brilliant, brilliant guy.
What they were able to do, which for me was everything, is even though these guys are superheroes with incredible powers, they gave them New York lives and New York stories, and a very believable world that they reside in. So I’ve got to say, if I had the ability to produce anything, I definitely would want to be on Luke Cage. That’s the show.
Because I mean, the acting is lovely. I mean, and just the whole gentrification of the neighborhood, and the politics and all of that. It’s just brilliant, my wife turned me on to Jessica Jones, which is super-duper kick ass. So I’d be happy to jump into that world, as well. But anything that’s Hell’s Kitchen or Harlem related, I’m there.
Yeah, and that’s been kind of under-represented. You had … So far, the Avengers have been getting all the attention. They did that one Daredevil movie, and that was … I kind of liked it, but it didn’t do quite well… I don’t think it lived up to some people’s expectations.
Well, those graphic novels, you got to remember that there was almost two layers of graphic novels, or comic books, as we know them. The DC stuff all came out circa World War II, right? So the whole … the Batman, the Superman, Captain America, all of those things. It’s a very World War II era mentality, okay? The good guys are exceptionally good, and they’re very on the straight and narrow, this and that. Batman was a closest to being a little bit nuanced as they had. Everyone else was straight as an arrow.
The second iteration of comic books was when Stan Lee and all these guys started creating this whole new counter-culture world of the 1960s, and that’s a greater reflection of a country in flux, protesting the government, protesting, challenging the status quo. And now we’ve got the … what I find, and this is opinion only … more interesting superheroes like Black Panther and the Punisher and Daredevil. It’s like, this is … it’s reflective of what was going on in society when these were being … when the ink was still wet.
I find that extremely interesting, from just a sociological perspective of like … You could really kind of look into a country’s political history by looking at the artwork of that era. Comic books and graphic novels, in my eyes, are certainly artwork. And they’re artwork that will inform generations long after you and I are gone.
Yeah, they are, and I think they certainly get … The cool thing is … thank goodness, it’s becoming okay to be a geek.
It’s becoming a little more mainstream, which I’m tremendously thankful for. Back in the ’90s, things weren’t as good for us geeks, although there was a lot of great comic books and stuff for us to read.
And there was Dungeons and Dragons. Let’s not forget D&D, man.
Since you’re a producer, and you have a little more experience with it, what do you think it is about DC. I mean, the Marvel movies and everything, for the most part have all really kind of hit it off, but it seems like people have a real tough time producing a DC movie. Wonder Woman did great, but the rest of them have never quite got it. What do you think the issue is there?
The work. Marvel put in the work. Okay, understand this. That when Marvel cut the deal with Netflix, they cut the deal for six … I want to say I remember hearing 600 plus hours of content. So you’ve got all of these shows, right? Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil … So they’re one, two, three seasons on television, and then on the big screen. So Marvel took over a decade, because this goes back maybe 12 years. I think this goes back to 2006, of continually creating this brand, and then bringing it to the movie theater.
DC is trying to accomplish in 6-8 features everything Marvel has done with 600 hours of TV & Film Programming. It’s not that DC doesn’t have the track record, because DC has a long history of making movies. But the difference is, they don’t have the track record right now, because 25 years ago, most of your audience was not even born yet. Right?
25 years ago was what? When they did the first … maybe even 35 years ago. The first Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton. Released in 1989, Right? The Original Superman was released in 79.
So Marvel took the time and introduced all of these characters, all of their Origin stories, their entire history, to this new audience. Then after getting them hooked on binge watching it on television, they said, “Hey, now we’re going to reunite these guys on the big screen.” And that’s why they’re doing 600, 800, 900 million at the box office, over a billion dollars. Again, they put the work in.
Yeah, because I know like Suicide Squad, they just tried this … DC just kind of … they had to shove all the back stories into one movie, and it just … It didn’t give you enough about anybody, and it didn’t give you enough about everybody together.
Yeah, it’s so tough, and I think that’s part of how storytelling has changed. For so long, it was you had two hours to tell your story, and that’s it. If you were lucky enough to get a franchise, then maybe you’d get a sequel. Television … now you got 12 hours to tell the story, and if it’s good enough, you’ll get another 12 next season, and then another 12 the season after that.
So you get to be much more nuanced and detailed, and nothing is forced into the story. It’s like literally, they could layer in this clue in episode two and not even address it until episode seven. You’d never be able to do that with a feature film.
So that has changed how us, we, the audiences, digest stories. It’s changed so much, where for a guy like me, who used to see 140, 150 movies theatrically a year, to now seeing … the only movies I actually watch are at film festivals. I’ll still see 25 movies in a week, but it’ll be at a film festival, supporting indie film makers. My real media consumption comes from the television now, and I watch … My wife and I watch everything, and we enjoy it. We fall in love with a show, and literally over the course of a weekend, that’s it. We’ll watch the entire season.
So the platforms have changed how we digest content, and they’ve also, in a much more important way, changed how we tell stories.
Do you think that’s why … I know quite a few movies have come out, and everyone thought they would be these big kind of TENT POLE kind of productions, and do really well. I mean, do you think that’s just a trend with the consumer? They’d rather go on Netflix and binge watch Lost in Space, compared to going out to the movie theater?
I do. I do. Without a doubt. Movie pass has been a great thing, and it’s bringing people back to the movies, but for the most part, the millennial generation and generation Z consume media on their tablets or their smartphones. That has also changed the view of short films in America.
For the longest time, you did a short. This is my calling card, to show the industry what I can do. Whereas now … I was at a film festival, I don’t know, six weeks ago, two months ago. And Showtime executives were there, stating, “We’re aggressively buying short films.”
Everyone is aggressively buying short films, because those two generations, millennials and generation Z, I see them on the subway or on the bus or wherever … but they watch everything in 20 minute increments. they turn their phone sideways and they’ll watch a show. That is, I think, part and parcel … it’s almost like a feedback loop. The platform has changed it. The new generation took to it, and made it their own.
The platforms adjusted, and now it’s this continual loop. And that’s why the platforms have … I mean, I read an article yesterday that said Netflix has spent $30 billion, with a B, on content since 2014. CBS isn’t doing that. Neither is ABC. No other network even comes close.
The only network that spends on par would be ESPN, because of all the licensing rights that they need with the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, blah-blah-blah, major league baseball, etcetera, etcetera. No one else is coming close. Amazon’s starting to push the envelope, which is great to see. It’s an exciting time. I want to say it’s the golden era of storytelling, and it’s definitely the golden age for television.
Yeah, I think you’re right. It a lot of it’s the key to understanding millennials. I see that a lot with financial firms. I think a lot of business owners, particularly older CEOs, I don’t think they really understand how to read and connect with millennials.
Here’s the funny thing. It’s that old generational thing. Did the Baby Boomers really understand their kids? Does every generation understand the next generation? The vast majority of times, it’s, “No.” The next generation is doing their own thing, because it’s a completely new world. If you think about these … I’m assuming we’re around the same age, right?
We grew up without computers … we didn’t know computers and smartphones. You did your research papers by going to the library and card catalog, and looking up a book. It’s a completely new world now.
Now, that the entire Encyclopedia Britannica is accessible on your phone, and it’s fantastic because I find myself looking up things that normally I would not take the time, but it’s like, “Oh, it’s on the phone. Let me google this.” My wife and I make bets all day long. “I bet you know. I bet …” and we’ll look it up on the phone. It’s like, “Oh, you’re right.” Or, “Oh, I’m right this time.”
That is such a game changer, just for these recent generations, and I suspect … Once again this is opinion … It’s been that way for millennia. Parents see their kids, and it’s like, the next generation, what are they doing? Oh, they’re spoiled. Oh, my God. I had to walk to school up hill both ways, in blinding snow storms all year long.” It’s like, “No, you really didn’t, mom, but okay.”
So I think that it’s just a generational thing. Those of us who are willing to take the time to have the conversation with the next generation will be duly informed, and they’ll learn things that are truly incredible and enlightening. As long as you can get over your own ego, “How can a 19 year old teach me anything?” Well, believe it out, a 19 year old can, and so can a 12 year old, and so can a six year old. Just open your mind and listen.
They may not articulate in the manner of an adult, but they do have thoughts and opinions and beliefs that will inform you.
That’s great advice. Well, this is amazing you shared so much wonder information, and I am very thankful.
Oh, my pleasure. I enjoyed this very much.
If any of your readers would like to learn more about me or any upcoming projects please follow me at
Thank You Jim, for this amazing interview!
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