“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu

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Losing Luke Brown and Seeking New Balance

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This Sunday has been a change for me. Balance is such a key to happiness and we all seem to strive for that balance daily. In filmmaking – my main artistic medium, it’s about giving your all to a story and after recharging. There is more time spent in development, pre-production and post-production after filming. How you spend that time can do much to influence your productivity. My family, friends and my furry pack have always helped give me peace and recharge

We proudly had the ‘Brady Bunch’ pack consisting of three cats and three dogs. Almost two years ago we lost our elder dog Joplin. She lived a long 15.5 years, longevity for a Rottweiler. Two months ago, we lost Jameson, our eldest cat who grew from a shy, scared cat to a chill-relaxed adventurer. He passed after a long life and was joined by his brother Dmitri, whom I affectionately call the gray rat.  Last Monday what we thought was a tooth infection turned out to be much worse. So Monday at the day’s end, he was laid to rest next to his brother.

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My life was/is changing. Some who know me well, know that our silly, funny, happy boy Luke (Our youngest dog) has fought various life threatening illnesses for the last three years. We gladly sacrificed many social outings and gatherings so we could tend to and enjoy our borrowed time with our buddy. Monday night Luke’s journey started to get harder with the onset of some more serious neurological issues from his tumor on his head. As we treated him over the last 5 months his quality of life was very good. His attitude was always happy and adventuresome. He loved his walks in the woods and his couch cuddles. He never feared the hospital and remarkably brought joy to everyone there.

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He was strong, brave and loyal, and I took lessons from him everyday. He had beat the odds so many times and after the second illness I prayed that his body would know health again, and for a while he did. But when in pre-production on MBF: Man’s Best Friend we discovered he had a cancerous tumor in his sinus. Here I was producing a story inspired by my ‘Mr. Brown,’ that showed the positive effects dogs can have on all of us, especially our wounded service men and my boy has what? I did love watching the incredible cast and crew work hard to capture our story, but my heart was breaking. It worked for my role of Paul, but with so much work to launch a film, it was an ironic shame that I could not fully enjoy it.

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Soccer season this year also brought my 1st ever bone injury to my right wrist. That slowed my roll with typing and all activities requiring my right hand. So at the homestead we’ve got the one-arm gimp and tumor-head, taking care of each other and getting by. The new script LOST HEART was going slow, but I worked it with my buddy beside me. I often read aloud to him and while his feedback was limited, it always helped me. I know that a Fall shoot means a last paycheck for all our cast and crew before the holidays. But while Luke’s decline in health was slowed by treatment, I could see the direction of it. We knew the battle was for time, not a total win. There was no way I could leave my loyal buddy to go off and film. I know it was selfish when I looked at the whole but it’s what I had to do. I hope others will understand. If you don’t understand, I feel bad for you, because you’re missing something.

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Luke had a wonderful past couple weeks that included walks at his favorite nature park, which was a Sat. morning ritual. A Sunday cookout with his grandma’s, which he loved so much.  Last Monday is when we lost our Dmitri, and that is also when Luke had his emerging issues intensify. The location of the tumor and the meds used to help were also likely hindering him. Vision and coordination loss started to develop, with episodes lasting longer, more often.  By Weds, the fight was real. So many times he had bounced back. His body was still so strong, so maybe – HOPE. His will was there to fight a bit longer but it was not meant to be. A great dinner of venison and rice followed by an unexpected walk to the park. (His idea) He had not wanted to go to the park, or perhaps could not, for weeks, but that night he did. He wanted to lay out in the warm breeze, listening and smelling the birds, squirrels, the wind in the pines, the softball game cheers and kids laughing. It was really nice.

What followed was a rough night and thankfully the next morning was the most beautiful Fall day. He was done fighting and was resting peacefully. We had a doctor come to the house and with cool breeze blowing in the windows, wrapped in his favorite blanket, head on his most beloved stuffed animal, he opened his good eye looking at his momma holding his head, daddy holding his paw – he put his head back down with full love and trust and left his broken body behind. He also left a huge hole in our hearts and daily life. Everyday was a smile, a tail wag and something silly that always reminded you not to take your setbacks to serious. He was an inspiration on how to live each day.

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I’m happy that his frustration over a body that no longer wanted to respond was very brief. At the end he had peace with his two remaining sisters and his momma and daddy with him. I will miss all of our furry pack that we’ve lost but Luke taught me so many lessons that I will hold onto.  My final polish on the ‘LOST HEART’ script as I read him each line, was almost done. I had stopped to devote my full time and attention to him. I slept with him on the floor for the last few nights because his vanishing sight made our brave boy nervous. I’m sad but filled with new motivation moving ahead. We never took any of his good days for granted. I will carry that into my future day-to-day where I do cherish each interaction, be it business, friendship or both.

I KNOW how bad many of you WANT it. What is IT to you? Expression of your art, words, craft? Fame, money and appreciation? I’m here to tell you, don’t sacrifice everything. I recall being tethered to a pager back in the day. It always came first. I see that behavior in the upstarts of today with cell phones. It’s like a self-imposed tether – like what people wore after legal trouble. It’s like people have forgotten that the phone is a tool that works for you, not the other way around. Gather a ‘TO DO’ list and do all your phone and/or computer work all at one time. Aspiring actors/filmmakers can get requests from all time zones often bringing the Hollywood pressure of dangling opportunities.  Whereas someone “needs something like yesterday” only to have something sit on a desk for weeks. What was sacrificed to get that summary to that desk to sit for weeks? A sports game of a sibling or child? Storytelling around a kitchen table with family? Hanging with lifelong friends?

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Since I was a young boy I loved telling stories. Upon discovering that a lucky few could actually create make-believe as a job, cemented by direction, gave me my dream. But I could never sacrifice everything else for that dream. I did not move to Hollywood, NYC or any of the other places that people always said I had to go to in order to MAKE IT. Why? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what I do as an artist but I did not love it more than the people in my life. So, a battle to compromise and do both was and IS a battle worth fighting for. I want to create memorable stories and characters in timeless movies but I don’t need to climb onto any A lists to feel accomplished. Many climb very high only to find themselves alone. Think on all this.

We’re adjusting to life whereas our past stories, memories and lessons are what we have left of Luke. Next week LOST HEART will get the final polish. The wrist is almost healed and getting stronger. I look back and feel like I did right by my buddy as he would have for us. I feel full of grace, compassion and appreciate for life and those we share it with. It’s again why you should examine your circle and remove negative, toxic elements and be the change you want to see. Lot of drama in life amplified by social media and 24/7 ‘Breaking News’ environment. Unplug. Listen. Communicate. Laugh. Be loyal like a DOG to those around you. Trust, is a learned behavior and if you’re a tribal leader of artists – take this role serious. Don’t let the lure of shortcuts hurt or kill what could be lifelong friendships. Ask anyone who has joined a team of CDI artists in telling a story and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Beyond making our days, I want to make lifelong memories for cast and crew. Laughter and Love.

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Next week I will have more updates on the films. THE CHRIST SLAYER, WILD FAITH, MBF all have amazing things happening. We’re focused on finishing these stories and bringing them to audiences. We’ll be moving into official development on ‘LOST HEART’ for Spring 2019 this month. I want to continue to try and move people’s human-emotional compass in a positive direction.  I’ll be making some great announcements moving forward but today I want to just sit on these words. I’m sorry if you’re here more for the film updates versus listening to my ramblings. Those updates will return next week. Thank you everyone for joining me here to share a coffee and listening.

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Be good to one another. Love one another.

DJ

 

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