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“I’ve started a movement called Fit 2 Fight 2 Have a Safe Life”

With Director Jillian Bullock


As someone who was raped when I was ten, I know the emotional impact being a survivor of a violent assault has on people. I’ve started a movement called Fit 2 Fight 2 Have a Safe Life. I teach girls and women why it’s important to be physically fit in order to help reduce their chances of becoming a victim of rape, sexual assault, bullying, or domestic violence. I am working on growing the movement. In 2019, I plan to tour the country teaching my fitness for self-defense program at corporations, businesses, women’s non-profit organizations, events, colleges. I also give speeches and lectures on safety and preventive measures for females. In the new year, I’m going to start my fitness for self-defense Youtube channel so I can reach millions of females. In the climate we’re in today with the #metoo and #timesup movement, my program is definitely needed.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Jillian Bullock. Jillian is the CEO/President of Jillian Bullock Enterprises, LLC, a film production company based in PA. She is an award winning writer, director and producer, who often times also wears the hats of actor and fight choreographer. Jillian recently completed a feature film entitled A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives, which deals with veterans, PTSD and military sexual assault.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up with my African-American mother and stepfather, who was a white man, and also a member of the Philadelphia Italian Mafia. He was a film buff and every Sunday he would take me to see a movie and we’d stay to the end, watch the credits. He was the first person who told me I was going to be a filmmaker one day. At first I thought he was crazy because during the 70’s I had never seen a black director and definitely not a female director. Before he died, he made me promise him that I would one day fulfill his dream. My mother married a new man who was physically abusive to her. Shortly after we moved from Philadelphia to Orlando, FL, he started beating on her. By this time I was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do so I jumped in to protect her and I ended up breaking his nose. Instead of my mother being grateful I defended her, she kicked me out. At 15, I was homeless and knew no one in Florida. To survive the streets, I got involved in criminal activity, drugs and prostitution. When I got pregnant I tried to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills. In my crazed state of mind I saw a vision of my stepfather who said, “what happened to my dream?” I didn’t die, so I figured that was God giving me a second chance. I figured I had to get off the streets, kick drugs and get back in high school. I made my way back to Philadelphia, had my son, and got back in school. Upon graduation I went to college and got a degree in Communications, which included several courses in film and screenwriting. After graduation, I got an internship on the set of Spike Lee’s movie “Malcolm X.” Now I was on my way to fulfilling my stepfather’s dream, which now had become my own.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Years ago, when I was directing a movie called “Spirit,” it involved wrestling. I, and my two lead actors, were training at the Wild Samoan Training Facility in Allentown, PA. This school was run by Afa Anoai, who is the uncle of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Afa, used to wrestle in the WWE as a tag team partner with his brother, Sika. They were call The Wild Samoans. So I spent a lot of time with Afa and his whole family. All the males were wrestlers, Rikiski, Samu, Yokozuna, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, and so many others. I slept at Afa’s home with his wife and daughter. I learned so much about the family, the Samoan culture. Dwayne’s mother Ata, showed me photos of him when he was a baby throughout his college years, and she shared many stories about him; some stories I’m sure Dwayne would be embarrassed by. So, I learned how to wrestle and it’s not fake. The matches are predetermined, but the pain is real. I broke my ribs during one wrestling move when I got “Rock Bottomed.” When I was being driven to the hospital in an ambulance the paramedic asked me, “Can you get me The Rock’s autograph?” I could barely breathe, but I thought that was funny. Learning how to wrestle and spending a year with the family was such a great experience and I got a great movie out of it, too.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my early projects, there was a scene where the actors were drinking alcohol. I should have given them grape juice or something, but I gave them real alcohol, just wine. However, I didn’t think about the fact that we had to do rehearsal and then shoot the scene with several takes. All this time the actors were drinking the wine. Eventually, they started slurring their words and couldn’t get the scene down right. I, and the crew, were laughing. It was one for the blooper reel. I never did that again.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I recently completed a feature film entitled “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives.” I’m doing the film festival circuit now, working to get some eyes on it for a distribution deal. I’m also in pre-production on my next movie, “A Cup Full of Crazy,” a thriller. I plan to begin filming summer of 2019 in Philadelphia.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

While I was in college I worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal newspaper. I did a story on Sylvester Stallone when he was filming Rocky 3 in Philadelphia. He was nice enough to listen to me as I shared a little about my upbringing. He told me how he held onto the Rocky script he wrote and why he had to star in it, and why it meant so much to him. He also told me never to sell my life rights away, write the script myself, and get the movie done with producers who understand my story. In 2012, I published my memoir, HERE I STAND, which tells of my upbringing with my mobster stepfather and all the other challenges I endured. Over the years, I have gotten interest from a few Hollywood producers who were interested in turning my book into a feature film, but I felt none of them understood my story and the special bond I had with my stepfather, who raised me since I was two. So, I took Stallone’s advice and didn’t sell my story. I’ll wait until I find that “right” producer(s).

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Work hard at your craft, continue to learn not just about the creative process, but the business side, too. But most important, don’t take things serious or think that you being passed over for something means you’re not good enough. Know that it just takes one big ‘yes’ to change your life. Also, have a good support system in place, even if that means just spending time by yourself meditating or catching a good movie. Enjoy the pleasures of life so you’ll remain sane because this is a crazy business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

As someone who was raped when I was ten, I know the emotional impact being a survivor of a violent assault has on people. I’ve started a movement called Fit 2 Fight 2 Have a Safe Life. I teach girls and women why it’s important to be physically fit in order to help reduce their chances of becoming a victim of rape, sexual assault, bullying, or domestic violence. I am working on growing the movement. In 2019, I plan to tour the country teaching my fitness for self-defense program at corporations, businesses, women’s non-profit organizations, events, colleges. I also give speeches and lectures on safety and preventive measures for females. In the new year, I’m going to start my fitness for self-defense Youtube channel so I can reach millions of females. In the climate we’re in today with the #metoo and #timesup movement, my program is definitely needed.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

First — “Be nice to everyone on set.” I won’t name names, but when I was working on one set early in my career the director was so mean to everyone if they weren’t the lead actors or key crew, like the DP. One crew member cried practically every day because the director would treat her so bad. I quit because I couldn’t stand how terrible this director was. No one actually told me this, but I knew within myself that being nice to everyone made a much better working environment. When I started directing I remembered that.

Second — “It’s going to be hard, but you can’t quit.” When I was near graduating from La Salle University, I was working at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter. I was so overwhelmed with last semester, ROTC, my kids, and work that I missed a deadline for the newspaper. Frank Allen, the bureau chief, was so disappointed in me because you are never supposed to miss a deadline. The look on his face, I knew I had let him down. I went home with the intention to quit everything, school and work. After a few days, Frank came knocking on my door. I told him what I was going through, the stress and all. He had no compassion for me whatsoever. He told me that when I wrote him a letter years ago asking for an internship my life had been far worse than anything I was dealing with now. He told me “it’s going to be hard, but you can’t quit.” He said I was too close to stop now. I went back to school and back to work and I graduated and I never missed another deadline.

Third- “You’re a female and a woman of color. You have to be 100 times better.” I was on set of a movie and one of the crew pulled me to the side one day. He told me I had what it took to make it in the business, but because I was a woman of color that put me at a disadvantage. It was unfair, the sexism and racism I had to deal with, but I worked hard to be 100 times better. I wasn’t going to use anything as an excuse for me not to succeed.

Fourth — “Don’t wait for people to hand you an opportunity.” I went to an empowerment seminar when I was just getting into the film industry. I don’t remember anything that speaker said except that one line. Too often people wait until an opportunity unfolds, but I didn’t. I knew I had to jump start my film career by doing things my way. I have worked on movies as a writer, director, producer, actor, and fight choreographer. I wear these hats so I can make my own opportunities by doing my own film projects.

Fifth — “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” When my middle son was young, he got so sick he had to be hospitalized. I was studying for finals in History in college and I had a deadline to submit an essay to Spike Lee’s company to get an internship on “Malcolm X”. I was under so much pressure worrying about my son’s health and trying to graduate. I fell asleep at the hospital one night with my History book was on my lap. A nurse woke me up and said, “don’t be so hard on yourself.” She went on to tell me I can only do so much before my body broke down. She told me to go home and get some sleep so I can be fresh to tackle whatever was coming at me. I always remembered that, especially when I’m on a film set and things aren’t going as planned. I make sure I get enough sleep and relax my mind. I can only do the best I can do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Your past doesn’t dictate what your future will be.” This is my quote and I say it all the time when I give speeches. I know many people in the audience believe because they messed up in their past or they may be messing up presently that they can’t turn their lives around. I am living proof that isn’t the case. Anyone who is willing to put in the hard work necessary to transform their life can have a healthier, happier, and more successful future.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Frank Allen was the bureau chief of the Philadelphia branch of the Wall Street Journal. When I was about to graduate from high school I mailed a letter to all the newspapers in Philadelphia asking for an internship. Frank was the only one who replied. When we met he said he was impressed with my bravery to send a letter to the Wall Street Journal. At the time I didn’t know it was one of the top newspapers in the country. Frank said he was moved by my story, how I got off the streets, kicked drugs, focused on raising my son while I went to school and worked. However, he also said my English sucked. I was in community college when we met but Frank said I was on a ninth grade English level. Even though I wasn’t reporter material at that moment, Frank said he would be my mentor. It took me a few years just to become skilled enough to write my first article. Eventually I became a reporter. If it wasn’t for Frank giving me a chance, I don’t know where I would be today. He not only helped me become an excellent writer, but a great oral communicator. I had to learn how to put my street ways and talk away and interview business people, corporate executives, celebrities, etc. He also supported me, sometimes financially, as I transferred from community college to La Salle University. It took me 11 years to graduate from college, because I added two more children to my life. So, I was going to school, working at the newspaper and raising three young children as a single mother. Frank gave me the tough love I needed at times and he also help uplift me emotionally when I wanted to quit because life was so hard. I will always be grateful to him for being my mentor and taking a chance on me.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Oprah. She said speak it (whatever you desire) into existence. Each day I speak out to the universe that she will one day read my memoir, HERE I STAND. She will call me and we will have breakfast or lunch and talk about the best way to bring my story to the big screen. I envision this each and every day. Now the thing is, this may not happen, not with Oprah. Another producer, who read the book and who understands my story, may contact me. The thing is to get my life story done in a way that will empower, inspire and uplift people. Whoever that producer is that will help me get that done, I would love to sit with him or her and discuss. I think back to what Stallone told me, “find the right person.”

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jillian-bullock-08317b8/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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