I remember a specific moment when I was seventeen years old when I realized that my dreams of becoming a filmmaker would make it necessary for me to leave my religion. This inevitability was simply due to the fact that what I wished to express in artistic medium was in direct conflict with what was acceptable to express within my community. When one leaves Mormonism, one is branded with the “Scarlet Letter” title of “apostate” which necessitates abandonment from your friends and family. You are now a deviant and the only real chance to live your life is in fleeing Utah to make your own way in the world.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t expect myself to have artistic ambitions. I didn’t even know I was creative to be perfectly honest. I had always been math and science based in school, but I had fallen in love with the medium of film and it truly was my dream to express myself in this way. I just didn’t believe I was capable of it. The first year I was in Los Angeles, I attended film school and worked every single day writing draft after draft of a script called “Crimson” in which I tried to convey my feelings about leaving my religion. I wrote 29 drafts of this script and actually pulled off filming it on Super 16mm film. When I showed the film, no one said anything about it to me. No comments at all one way or the other with the exception of a single teacher who told me that my characters were not relatable. I can’t tell you how much this hurt. I had put my heart and soul into making this film and not receiving a reaction to it was a difficult thing for me to deal with.
A few years later I made a film called “Take it with You.” Unlike “Contrition,” I actually received some recognition for “Take it with You” in some minor film festivals. A few months later, I was contacted by a small distribution company that wanted to distribute my film. I was so excited that my film was finally going to be seen (and that I might possibly make a little bit of money back on it after I invested $60k of my own money). At that point I had no idea that these small distribution companies were basically predator companies that preyed upon first time filmmakers. They stole my film from me and I haven’t received a single penny for “Take it with You” to this day, despite the fact that it is them selling it on Amazon, Hulu, etc. at this very moment. In addition, the comments and reviews for “Take it with You” turned out to be predominantly negative- the most common complaint being: people didn’t like me personally.
A few years following “Take it with You,” after several disastrous attempts at making another film, I finally was able to produce “In Neon Lights.” I still feel that it is my finest piece of work. I was so sure that “In Neon Lights” would be a hit and that people would embrace the film and me for making it. In fact, I was so confident in the film that my business partner and I invested another $65k of our own money into it to make sure it was completed to perfection. But it wasn’t accepted at all and our investment led to bankruptcy. “In Neon Lights” was rejected by every film festival and distribution company out there. No one would take a chance on it. To this day it remains unreleased and even when I tried to promote it among friends and family by offering the film for free, only nine people (three of which I’m pretty sure was me testing it out on different platforms) pressed play and only two people actually finished it.
All of this brings me to “Megalo.” “Megalo” is the eighth book I’ve published. I love this story. I love writing it. I love reading it. I love where it’s going. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, pushes your consciousness to its limits, offers scathing social and spiritual criticism and embraces all of the best aspects of epic storytelling. I love this work so much that I decided to do a Christmas giveaway to help and bring it some much deserved excitement and hopefully have the chance to share it with people I considered to be my friends. When I checked to see who entered the giveaway today there are only two people that even cared to do so. In fact, out of all of the people supposedly “following me” only four of those people even bothered to like the photo, much less bought a book. In fact, out of all eight books that I’ve published, I’ve only sold one copy of any of them- and that was to the one person that has proven time and again in my life to be my true friend.
Now, if people don’t want to support me or my work, that is their prerogative. I don’t expect you to take any time away from your life to listen to me or what I have to say. But this is precisely the problem isn’t it? We all speak constantly about how we want to realize our dreams, how we wish the universe would support us in doing so, etc. But how often do we actually take the time to support anyone else in our own lives? Personally, I’m taking this as a lesson for myself. For the first time I’m actually engaging with people in a real way. I’m not hiding from you. I’m just letting you know what I actually think and what I actually feel- and what I feel right now is hurt. It hurts that my art and my expression (which is my heart and soul) has not been supported. It hurts that I was abandoned by my friends and family because I see the world a little different than they way they do. It hurts that I can’t seem to find my true place in this world. It hurts worse than anything that I could possibly describe.
And for this I want to thank you. The pain of rejection has been a poignant teacher upon my path. It has taught me to believe and trust in myself in a deep and significant way. It has taught me what is important to me. It has taught me the importance of trust. It has taught me to believe in the words that flow from my soul, regardless of how they are received. Perhaps my words will reach a distant individual in a future time and inspire them by my passion, or perhaps I am destined to be a New York Times Bestseller and I’m right on the cusp of enormous success, but regardless of the results that manifest in inherent phenomena I know something absolutely. I will never stop expressing myself. I will never stop writing. I will never water it down, cater to your tastes, or sugar coat the truth. I will inscribe every letter in ink and blood- the true characteristic of everything I have created, am creating and will create. For I know who I AM and through this very fact, I know my words are truly divine. To know is to dare. To dare is to will. To will is to be silent.
So where do we go from here? I have crossed the Rubicon. I’m leaving the past behind and I’m never looking back. I will not speak of it. I will not think of it. I am dropping it entirely. My story has served me to this point, but I do not need it anymore. If we were close in the past, that relationship is now absolved. If we were enemies in the past, that relation is now absolved. I know where I’m heading and you are welcome to join me on this journey. The choice is yours.
I now release these energies. I now release these relationships. I now release you and me.
From my favorite song growing up:
“Cause I feel so mad. I feel so angry. I feel so calloused. So lost, confused again. Feel so cheap. So used unfaithful. Let’s start over. Let’s start over.” -Boxcar Racer
Let’s start over.
Photo by Samira Morrar, @raising_windhorse