I feel like the only kid left on the playground not asked to play. “It’s good to be humble; it’s good to be humble!” I keep reminding myself.
Lord knows I try to be humble each and every day and when I think about it further — who better then Tyler Perry to remind me to be humble. Mr. Perry’s humble beginnings are well known by now and the story of his success and net worth, I would assume are also very well know. Looking out my window a few weeks ago I caught a glimpse of Mr. Tyler Perry. Very tall and dressed in an oxford and dress pants he looked quite proper. He was looking straight ahead, his head held high, maybe a bit pensive. His popular Madiera character quickly came to mind and I smiled. I like her. I am a huge fan of her (his?) feisty nature and no-sass attitude. She’s the kind of Aunt you want on your side on all occasions.
My neighborhood and the house next door to mine served as a film set for the feature film I, Alex Cross, a retelling of one of James Patterson’s crime novels. It was an exciting six days (plus weeks of prep) and yet all I can think of is how humble I need to be. In the back of my head it might even be in Madiera’s voice I keep hearing these phrases of humble attitude. You see, I’m a filmmaker too, and although I tried to get onto the film crew, I didn’t make it. That’s how it goes and I understand the dynamics. Filmmaking is competitive, from the crew hiring to the ticket sales in the theatre; and though my films have not grossed more than $500 million like Mr. Perry’s impressive roster of films, I am trying. And this past week I’m remembering the virtue of humility.
Choosing to become a filmmaker is really an odd career choice, though on the outside it might seem a bit glamorous — it is quite different. Taking a step back these past few weeks and not having to work on the set next door I’ve been reminded how much it’s like manufacturing. And they said that manufacturing died in Cleveland, well maybe not, maybe it’s coming back in another form. Making bread or building a house also comes to mind randomly. (I just had a vision of On The Rise’s chocolate cherry bread. Is it Wednesday yet?) But on a film each person has a very specific job and slowly each piece is put into place to produce a valuable commodity — a film. Often there are huge egos involved but luckily I’ve worked with a lot of humble people, each wanting to do their best and let others shine as well.
Films these days seem to be fundamentally entertainment. One could say a great deal of documentaries also have that goal in mind. For me, I always hope there are some subplots or subtext of possible morality or a thread of hidden truths, but very possibly there is not. I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed in Mr. Perry’s present film shooting next door. It deals with a detective (Mr. Perry’s character) tracking down a serial killer who might have murdered his (the detective’s) pregnant wife years before. I’ll pass on seeing this one and I doubt there are any hidden truths here. Alas, that’s entertainment.
When I think back to being a kid I recall always wanting to be the person everyone listened to around the camp fire and that being able to tell a good story was something just out of my reach. There are many things we dream of when we are young and I am amazed that I ended up in filmmaking. I realize now that my degree in Studio Art with a minor in U.S. History was perfectly in line with my desire to be a visual storyteller: A filmmaker. But Mr. Perry’s story from rags to riches all based on his dream of being a storyteller is one that I hold dear to my heart and one that encourages me to keep striving to become a better storyteller. I am amazed and feel lucky that for just a few moments I got to see Mr. Perry walking down my neighbor’s driveway. I realize I have a long way to go in my filmmaking endeavors. But looking up and seeing him so clearly made me realize the beauty in being humble and looking straight ahead to whatever the future might bring, to whatever challenges it might bring. I have a script, do you want to invest?
Tiffany Laufer is a filmmaker and author.