Get actors and crew to sign contracts before you film anything. In the beginning I directed a movie and I couldn’t get a distribution deal, because the lead actor held out on signing his contract. He wanted unnecessary parts of him edited out the movie. I just didn’t have the money to go back and edit. So, that movie never got a deal.
As part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jillian Bullock, CEO/President of Jillian Bullock Enterprises, LLC, an entertainment and film production company based in Pennsylvania. While Jillian attended college, she worked as a reporter for “The Wall Street Journal” newspaper. After graduation with a degree in Communications from La Salle University, Jillian got her start in filmmaking as an intern on Spike Lee’s movie “Malcolm X.” From there, she has worked on her own, and other people’s movies as an actor, writer, producer, director, and fight choreographer. Jillian got that last title due to her extensive background in boxing and martial arts.
Jillian took off from filmmaking for a number of years in order to focus on writing her memoir, “HERE I STAND,” which was published in 2012. The story tells of Jillian’s upbringing with her African-American mother and her white stepfather, who was a member of the Philadelphia Italian Mafia.
Jillian wrote and directed the documentary “A Filmmaker’s Personal Journey.” She went on to write, direct and produce the drama “Spirit.” Jillian recently completed “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives,” a feature film that focuses on veterans, PTSD and military sexual assault. She won several awards for the movie and the film is available on Amazon Prime.
In the summer of 2019, Jillian wrote, directed and produced the short film “Touch With Your Eyes.” The film is currently making the film festival rounds. She was recently hired by a Hollywood production company, Orenda Entertainment, to direct a 5 million dollars movie entitled “22.” Production begins in March 2021. As the writer and director, Jillian is also in pre-production on the movie “A Cup Full of Crazy,” a psychological thriller. Production will begin in June 2021.
Over the years, Jillian has continued her education by taking Master courses in screenwriting, acting and directing. As a screenwriter, Jillian has sold two scripts in her career so far — “The Champion Inside” and “Scar Across My Heart.” Since 2007, Jillian has been a screenwriting judge for the Set In Philadelphia Screenwriting Contest, which is sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. She also teaches screenwriting classes in Philadelphia and works as a script consultant.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up with my African-American mother, brother and sister, and my white stepfather, who was a member of the Philadelphia Italian Mafia.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My stepfather was a major film buff. Every Sunday he would take me to the movies. We’d stay until all the credits rolled. He kept telling me one day my name would be in lights, on the big screen, as a filmmaker. It was his dream, and as I got older it became my dream, especially after he died.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, I had to interview Sylvester Stallone, who was in Philadelphia filming one of the Rocky movies. He was very nice and we got to talking about his life story. How he never sold his first Rocky script, and why he had to star in it. He had a rough upbringing, so Rocky was him in a sense. Then we got to talking about my life. How I also had it rough, being raised by a Mafia stepfather, homeless at 15, enduring rape, drug addiction, and prostitution. He told me my story would be an amazing movie. I told him I was writing my memoir. Sylvester’s advice to me — “Don’t sell your story. Do it your way. Make sure you get with producers/director who understand the vision of your story and won’t screw it up.” I held on to that advice to this day. My life story is now in development as a movie.
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?
It wasn’t really funny, but a very important lesson. On my very first film, I learned that your actors and crew may be working on deferment and if that is the case, feed them, and feed them well. They get really cranky when they only have donuts to eat on set. I guess that is funny. I just didn’t have money to feed them. That never happened again.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I was hired by two Hollywood producers to direct a 5.5 million dollars movie in March/April, in LA. I am also in pre-production on a movie entitled “A Cup Full of Crazy,” a psychological thriller that I wrote, and will direct and produce in June 2021.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
When you think about the world, it’s made up of people of all colors, religions, cultures, various sexual orientations, etc. The look of movies and TV should represent all people. By doing this more often, culture and society will be much better. We all get to see how other people live and this would have a profound effect on people and help erase many stereotypes, biases, and racist attitudes.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) That show business, has the word business in it for a reason. Creatives need to learn the business side.
2) Get actors and crew to sign contracts before you film anything. In the beginning I directed a movie and I couldn’t get a distribution deal, because the lead actor held out on signing his contract. He wanted unnecessary parts of him edited out the movie. I just didn’t have the money to go back and edit. So, that movie never got a deal.
3) Hire people who know more about your industry than you do. You don’t know everything in the beginning, even if you went to college for filmmaking. Real life experience is what counts. Work with others who have more experience. Learn from them.
4) Get a mentor. Having a mentor in your field will help you tremendously. They will help shape, groom, and guide you, teach you things, kick you in the butt when necessary, give you a shoulder to cry on when necessary. Also, be of service to your mentor. Don’t just take, take, take.
5) Work on projects you love because you’ll be working on it for years from beginning, when the script is written, to the end when you get a distribution deal. I read that Ryan Coogler, who directed Black Panther, was working on and off that movie for ten years before it was finally given the green light to get made. Sometimes it takes a long time.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I believe self-care is so important. Take care of you mind, body and spirit. Eat healthy, exercise, do yoga and meditation, spend time with loved ones, take a ME day. This is where you do nothing all day and just focus on you, having fun. Don’t let any project overwhelm you to the point that you hate what you’re doing or you get depressed, burned out.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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 a transformation speaker and mind-body-spirit coach, I started a program called “All Things Sexy w/Jillian” that teaches people how to get healthy and in the best shape of their lives in order to live more productive, fulfilled, happy life and enjoy better sex through self-love, self-care and self-healing.
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?
Years ago when I was an intern at The Wall Street Journal newspaper, Frank Allen, was the bureau chief for the Philadelphia location. He became my mentor. Not only did Frank teach me how to be a good journalist, but how to speak and communicate well. How to carry myself and dress in a professional manner. At this time, I was off the streets and off drugs for only a few years. I was still so rough. Frank saw something in me and he worked with me for five years. I went from an intern, to a news assistant, to a reporter. He never let me quit, even when it was hard, and it was. I was going to college, working at the newspaper, and I had three kids at home, raising them as a single mother. Frank even helped me with my kids. I was living in a bad part of Philadelphia and Frank didn’t want anything to happen to them, so he helped me, and the kids, move to the suburbs. To this day, I appreciate and I’m grateful for all Frank did for me when he didn’t have to and he never asked for anything in return.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I always say, “Your past doesn’t dictate what your future will be.”
I am living proof of that. By society’s standards I should not be successful due to how I grew up and all the horrible things I had to endure. I had a baby when I was 16, who was born two months premature due to my drug use when I was homeless. So, I was written off by many, including some family members, who believed that I, and my son, would not amount to anything. Today, I am a college educated businesswoman, an award winning filmmaker, author, life coach, transformation speaker, and fitness expert. My son is now Dr. Clinton Bullock, who speaks four languages fluently, and is currently working on his second Master’s degree in Psychology.
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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oprah. She had such a rough upbringing to become one of the wealthiest women in the world. The amazing things she does for people all around the world is fantastic. How she carries herself as a businesswoman, that’s what I would most be interested in learning from her. My goal is to one day build my own film studio in Philadelphia. A big undertaking and advice from her would be great and very helpful.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!