Lessons Learned From Producing Six Feature Films by John Paul Rice [FULL INTERVIEW]
Film Courage: John, we’ve known you for I think ten years?
John Paul Rice, Producer: Yes.
Film Courage: Okay, a long time and I know you’ve come up with some great analogies which I would like to go into later. You talk about the ‘Red Carpet Producer’ which I still love that term…anyway.
One thing I want to ask you about and I heard you say somewhere else “Being in Hollywood and staying here for a length of time will not so much change you, it will just make you more of what you already are.” Is this right?
John: Yes. That was the advice that was given to me any years ago before I moved out here by a person who worked in Hollywood with Jerry Bruckheimer and he said “John, you want to take a really good stock of yourself…here…now because everything that you do here, because everything that you think, everything that you believe, everything that you indulge in (good or bad) it will be available to you out here at a much greater level and degree and things you don’t even know about are abundant.” And he said “You will become more of who you are. Rather than it changing you, you’ll actually be able to fulfill all of those things that are both inside of you and how you feel and how you see the world and the kind of friends that you hang out with and things you go and do in your spare time.”
And so I took that to heart. I didn’t understand it other than in the observable “Okay, he’s telling me to think about myself and to think about who I am deeply.” I wasn’t worried in that regard but in my 18 years out here I would say that that statement is still very true today. Not just for myself but for any of us. I think it’s…Hollywood affords you a lot of things (not just the film industry) but Los Angeles it’s abundant. It’s abundant everywhere you want to go. There are several Starbucks within walking distance, there are multiple places and things that you can do and there’s also a variety of people that may be in your small town (there were only one or two) there are now dozens if not hundreds and a lot of them have money.
And taking that into perspective and looking at these last several years of growth, it can challenge you, too. The only answer that I have for that is really to look deeper within yourself and some of those things that you have to look deeper within can be painful. They can cause you to feel disappointed about when you don’t get what you want, that when you create something that is not received well, when you don’t win the approval of certain people that you maybe want to work with or have access to or get to “the next level.”
But fundamentally I think what it teaches you that discipline of introspection is one where you become more fulfilled and happy because of what you are actually doing that is true to yourself as opposed to trying to worry about what others outside expect of you. You have to start with your own internal expectations and those things may evolve but they can only evolve because of you. Not because of someone else giving you an opportunity or not or someone else approving of you or not. Ultimately at the end of the day how you feel about yourself is the person that is up in here and what’s in here. And that personal commitment was the one that I found in my journey to go through Hollywood which is who is really…who am I? Who am I truly inside and what do I really believe about this world looking at things with new eyes, being critical of myself, not to the point where you put yourself down (I think that’s an external issue) but really one where you go Okay, what do I want to do with my life? What are the things that I believe about this world? Do I believe in the bad things about the world? Do I also believe in the beauty of the world and what holds it all together and how am I going to grow up and how do I affect (through art) what I see and know to be true and give something to that that inspires how I feel in me to others. And so it comes from a personal place where we all have journeys as artists, we’re sensitive, we’re very open people but I guess you could say that if you’re going to use that sensitivity to tell stories or say things, do it truthfully. Do it through the vehicle of art and your personal commitment is one that is an evolution in yourself.
So what I knew ten years ago and what I know today is very different but that doesn’t mean that what I knew ten years ago was wrong. It’s just all I was able to do at the time (what I was capable of).
And so drawing from those experiences, those hardships, even the times where you feel really down, you know maybe even depressed in some cases, is not always at the time that you see that as a real opportunity. But it is in those moments that you’re challenged the most that shows you not only what you’re capable of but what you’re also really good at because you don’t have everything going for you the way you expected it to or hoped to or wanted it to and so you have to dig deeper. But if your digging deep is to blame or attack or get frustrated and say these people over here are causing me to…they don’t know you. They can do whatever they want to do but it’s about yourself and the journey through that process of becoming your truest self is the one that gives you the greatest success (at least I believe that) because looking back between where I started on ONE HOUR FANTASY GIRL to now with A CHILD’S VOICE and six movies later in ten years, I am so grateful for that process because it had its ups and downs and the only way that I can measure it is that I’m happier than I ever have been in my entire life and I want to keep getting happier and I want to keep doing stories that are not talked about. I want to do things that help inspire the good in people because it inspires the good in me.
So the truest part of those statements about people who…that it [living in Hollywood] doesn’t change you it’s really that you do fulfill more of who you are if you allow yourself to commit to that rather than trying to chase after things and make it so that somebody in Hollywood will “pay attention” to your work.
But really go out there for the reason that you want to touch audiences, you want to touch people.
I also said something years ago that I didn’t really understand at the time. I think it was more of the digital world that we were emerging in ten years ago after the financial crash and how everything was going digital and online. Obviously it has played itself out quite well. It’s still evolving but I said something that Hollywood is not the audience, it never has been and I would say that irregardless of what Hollywood does as an industry in its executives and all of those things I think there really great people working in there. And I have no doubt that there are people who really want to make a different and do good things in their work. But at the same time, chasing after those agendas and and modeling yourself after them I think really in art you can become bold and unique and different and stand out and the only way I see people doing that is by commitment, full commitment to the belief in what they’re doing such to the point that it’s not an issue for them about who’s getting involved and not. They’re determined to make the film at whatever level they have to do it with the capacity and the capabilities…they’re not waiting on someone else to come in there and just say “It’s okay. We’ve got you.”
It’s really more so what’s up in here and in here and trying to create that vision and align people who feel the same way you do and are joining you on this journey and going through it because there is a commitment from within them.
I think as a producer there is a responsibility there to set that kind of tone which is not an authoritarian one. It’s one of your own self and attracting those kind of people and that’s how we’ve been able to do the movies that we’ve done because we didn’t have big funders. We did crowdsourced. We did our own personal funds. We brought other people into the mix that were kind fo like silent investors. They just wanted us to do well. And I can’t wait for what we do next. I really can’t…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).