…It affects our culture by telling stories brought for by all cultures. It educates to help remove discrimination and worse. It educates. It enriches personal viewpoints learning about other ways of life. Diversity is incredibly important. I say that as a white male director. I say that understanding some opportunities will pass me by currently as inclusion is being embraced by many if not all studios, production companies and networks. It is long overdue and for me, I’m excited by all of the new storytelling voices coming to the table.
…Art reflects life. Good art should be a clear reflection of who we are as a society. The world is diverse, so it only seems natural that the content that we see on TV or in movies reflect sour world. The most important thing that will occur is to familiarize people with different cultures and beliefs. I love to travel, and I feel like it is a wonderful way to experience different cultures and you realize almost immediately that we are all more alike than we are different. When we see others as equals and not different, we allow ourselves to put fear aside and get to know one another.
I had the pleasure to interview Gavin Michael Booth, and Daved Wilkins, the creators of “Last Call,” a single-shot, split screen feature film premiering at Dances With Films festival in Los Angeles. Director, Gavin Michael Booth is an award-winning filmmaker known for NBCUniversal’s The Scarehouse, winner of Best Feature at the New York City Horror Film Festival. In 2015 Booth broke new filmmaking ground with Blumhouse’s Fifteen, teaming up with producer Jason Blum (The Purge, Get Out) to create the world’s first movie broadcast live using Twitter’s Periscope App. Daved is the co-writer and star of the award-winning Doritos Super Bowl commercial, “Time Machine.” He co-produced, with Emmy Award Winner Jill Soloway, the short film “Cuddle Party,” in which he stars alongside Rob Huebel and Yvette Nicole Brown. “Cuddle Party” is currently streaming on Amazon. He has written and directed a number of short films that have been shown at festivals globally. He can be seen in the final season of “The Mindy Project” on Hulu.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
GMB I grew up outside Windsor, Ontario, Canada in the small town of Amherstburg. I was allowed to roam free with my friends on our bicycles until after the street lights came on. We played sports, built treehouses, had adventures of all sorts. It was the Canadian equivalent of small-town American living. With money from my paper route, I bought my first VHS camcorder to make movies with my friends. When I entered General Amherst High School, I was introduced to the communications program where I could learn proper video editing, cinematography and the basics of TV and film production. I was hooked immediately and spent all of my free time filming or in the school’s editing room. My communications teacher Keith Harrick was my Mr. Keating (“Dead Poets Society”) — a teacher who inspired and pushed me to follow my creative dreams. He’s since passed and didn’t get to see any of my professional career pursuits, but I think of him often and fondly. Matching Mr. Harrick was my mother and father who constantly took me to see movies and rented films for me at home. I was obsessed with movies and it was definitely my favorite pass-time.
DW I grew up in a lower middle class, religious household. We moved around a lot, so I developed the ability to make fast friends and lose them just as fast. I was never around long so I really just had good acquaintances. I was also bullied a lot, always being the new kid, and I learned quickly that people don’t hit you (as hard) if they’re laughing so I leaned hard on comedy as a buffer between me and other people.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
GMB In high school I discovered I had a knack for creating entertaining movies or telling stories with video. That and a love for creative writing, which started in the third grade. I still have a story I wrote called “My Life As An Easter Egg” that I think is perfect Pixar material and would be an excellent children’s movie! I started saving up to go to film school by working a fulltime job at my local Walmart. I managed to injure myself and had to leave so to make money I started producing local tv commercials, filming people’s weddings. Eventually I decided I didn’t want to go to film school at all and would rather learn by failing. Which I did producing my first few feature films. Not failing creatively but failing to understand the business and how to get a film out into the world. Since then it has been striving to improve little by little with each project.
DW I tried to do something else. A lot of something else…s. I was good with people, so sales was a natural fit. When I met my wife, who was getting her doctorate from the University of Arizona and told her my biggest regret was not really giving my dream an honest chance, she told me she didn’t want me to wake up when I’m 40 regretting my whole life so she encouraged me to quit my job and pursue my dream of being an actor. The next week I was working at a little melodrama dinner theatre in Tucson for $25 a show. I had never been so happy going to work. I soon started booking local and regional commercials and it just made sense to pack up and move to LA.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
GMB I snuck into a concert in Detroit, which is next to Windsor, with fake credentials. I wanted to interview the band and watch the concert. I managed to film both. The band was Third Eye Blind. They liked what I did and hired me for further video production. That took me out to Los Angeles for the first time ever. That turned into more band documentary production and music video directing. I don’t know where my career would be without having snuck into the concert that night. That combined with Stephan Jenkins from the band identifying a talent and work ethic in me I don’t think I even fully realized at the time.
DW Things didn’t take off immediately after I arrived in Hollywood. I was auditioning for a lot of commercials but not booking any of the big national ones that everyone sees on TV. Doritos at the time was doing a contest where people could make and submit their own commercial and the winner would be chosen to air during the Super Bowl. And also be awarded a cool $1 Million. A buddy I had met shooting a commercial back in Arizona said they wanted to enter and had a great idea, so he, a filmmaker friend of his, and I wrote a script and I drove out to Phoenix to shoot our masterpiece. It not only became the first big national commercial I ever did, but my share of the winnings allowed me to put a down payment on a house in Los Angeles, which is no easy feat. That was five years ago and the commercial still airs today.
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?
GMB It still hurts. I edited my entire first feature film, and my office was hit by lighting or a massive power surge, no one knows for sure to this day. The hard drive storing the film was fried. We had a backup like you’re supposed to… only I had given permission to my producing partner at the time to erase the back-up to use to film a wedding. We were struggling artists and still paying the bills with side gigs. That meant there was no backup and the film had to be re-edited from the very beginning. Now I am paranoid and always make sure there are more than enough backups of footage and a project at each step of production. It haunts me all these years later.
DW I had been told that this town is all about who you know. One afternoon when I was visiting a bartender friend at the way-too-hip-for-me Chateau Marmont, I overheard a conversation about film financing at the table next to me. They needed a pen. I was set up with a couple scenes for an acting class and making notes on the pages, so I offered my pen. when they were done, the woman asked if I was an actor and gave me her card. She ran a PR and Management firm and said to give her a call. I followed up and she suggested meeting at Chateau Marmont again. When I arrived, it was packed with recognizable faces all having dinner. She started asking about my career and what brought me to LA, and I was about twenty minutes in to talking about myself when I had the horrible realization that I was not meeting a manager. I was on a date. It’s hilarious to me now but at the time I was so embarrassed. And so married. I’m still married, thank God, and the important lesson I learned is that you should always try to know where you stand with people. Keep putting yourself out there but know your boundaries. And also, that the most embarrassing thing that happened today will be the most interesting story later.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
GMB “Last Call”. It is my most recent feature film. It is a film that was shot in a single take (no edits) and split screen for the entire movie. I’m very happy with what the cast and crew were able to pull off with this film.
DW Gavin and I are working on a very ambitious musical comedy about a bank heist as well as a couple of thriller concepts. We’re definitely hoping to make a mark for ourselves with Last Call and make movies until we die.
I’m 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?
GMB It affects our culture by telling stories brought for by all cultures. It educates to help remove discrimination and worse. It educates. It enriches personal viewpoints learning about other ways of life. Diversity is incredibly important. I say that as a white male director. I say that understanding some opportunities will pass me by currently as inclusion is being embraced by many if not all studios, production companies and networks. It is long overdue and for me, I’m excited by all of the new storytelling voices coming to the table.
DW Art reflects life. Good art should be a clear reflection of who we are as a society. The world is diverse, so it only seems natural that the content that we see on TV or in movies reflect sour world. The most important thing that will occur is to familiarize people with different cultures and beliefs. I love to travel, and I feel like it is a wonderful way to experience different cultures and you realize almost immediately that we are all more alike than we are different. When we see others as equals and not different, we allow ourselves to put fear aside and get to know one another.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
GMB You always want the best person for a role or a job on a production, but it is very important to proactively look to bring that diversity into your own projects as a producer. Support diverse productions by buying a ticket or watching the finished product in one form or another. Stop anyone talking negatively about diversity. Big and small, there are many ways to contribute even as we all strive towards our own individual and often selfish career goals.
DW One thing I learned very early on is that if you aren’t creating your own content then you just end up working for the people that do. I’ve now written around a dozen screenplays and am learning more about this business with each one. No one has to wait for permission to create. If you feel underrepresented, go write a short film and shoot it with your friends. Most people have a smart phone and those things are basically tiny movie studios in your pocket. Pay attention to the diverse aspects of the world around us. Especially in melting pots like Los Angeles and New York, there are representatives of nearly every race and religion. Learning more about them will make them seem less foreign.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
GMB Patience — Technically Yoda told me over and over on VHS to have patience but I wish I had known a movie producer when I was starting out that could say “Hey, in 20 years you still won’t be at the top of the top Hollywood mountain. You will have a very fulfilling career and that is the goal. Enjoy the journey and have extreme patience in all of the long waiting periods between film projects are greenlit or released.”
Thicken your skin — The entertainment industry is ripe with self-doubt, cruel rejection, and harsh reviews. You have to learn to take it all in stride. Make the art you are happy with and hope that others like it. If they don’t that’s fine if you are speaking through a true voice with which you wanted to speak.
Intern for professionals/Get a mentor — I didn’t. I slugged it all out on my own in a city that has nothing to do with filmmaking. Maybe it was part lack of knowledge, maybe it was part ego, maybe it is many factors, but looking back and what advice I offer to young filmmakers all the time is to learn from people who are already doing it and absorb everything you can. It will save you years in your own pursuits.
Don’t worry about money — getting paid is nice but building a network and all of your future collaborators is far more important in my opinion. Get projects on your resume. Do any job on set to be involved. Do all that you can to be in your local filmmaking scene and build strong working relationships with people.
Put your work out there — Youtube, festivals, whatever you have available. Don’t be ashamed you missed the mark or didn’t have enough money. Get it out there. Show the world. Embrace the criticism and praise equally so you can learn from it and move on. Art is to be shared.
DW Everything takes time. Sometimes it’s a long time and sometimes it’s sudden.
Everyone’s path is unique to them. You can try and follow others’ paths but remember you are the only you in the world.
You can choose to let your frustration ignite passion or despair. Choose passion.
Don’t complain. No one really wants to hear it and eventually you’ll find that you’ve surrounded yourself with other complainers.
Just do it. Write a script. Shoot a scene. Put on a play. You’ll learn more and be more fulfilled by doing than you ever will be by waiting.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
GMB Find peers at your level. Don’t be afraid to discuss your fears and concerns and upsets with the industry. Shared experiences help you take the edge off of burning out. Find meaningful hobbies or sport or something other than your entertainment pursuit so that you don’t become too obsessed or focused. A mental and emotional break is necessary from time to time.
DW If you’re not happy, find out why. It’s usually because our expectations don’t match our reality. The entertainment industry can be a brutal barrage of “No.” Surround yourself with people who help build you up and will remind you why you belong here. And also take time to build up those around you.
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. 🙂
GMB A system where established artists spotlight up and coming artists once a month. Sure, you’re creating your own competition but that hand up is such a massive influence. Imagine how many more musicians, authors, actors and filmmakers we would know if the biggest stars in the world shone a monthly spotlight on the new artists they respect and enjoy. It would be Oprah’s Book Club for the entire entertainment industry.
DW For a couple years I hosted a weekly meeting called “Positive Coffee Talk.” It was for people in the industry and the rule was you could only talk about good things going on in your life or career. It grew pretty quickly. It forced everyone to start looking at their week differently because they wanted to have a good thing to share over coffee. The real science behind it is that we can train our mind to think positively without even knowing it. Our brain has gaps between the synapses called synaptic clefts and the more you have a particular thought the smaller those clefts become so it is easier to have that same thought. By forcing yourself to look at the positive you train your brain to shorten the clefts between those synapses, so those thoughts come faster and easier.
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?
GMB As I mentioned earlier, my parents and my teacher, Keith Harrick. It is hard to pinpoint each and every person that has been influential to me, but I really feel what I should say is the community in my home city Windsor. From this new film “Last Call” right back to the first music video and film I ever attempted to make the city its people have opened their arms to me in every way. From helping with means to make the films to supporting them through the local media to showing up to be extras for a day on set. Name it and the city has made it possible. I would not have the career I have today or half the memories I cherish if not for so many people, businesses and city officials being in my corner. I’m indebted to them all.
DW When I first came out to LA, an actor by the name of Chris Marrs was like an encyclopedia of acting know-how for me. I had met him shooting a commercial in Arizona, but he lived and worked in LA. He was so kind and generous giving me guidance and warnings that I really got to skip the rough learning years. I hope I’ve been able to be that same help to others who have made the leap out here.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
GMB “Why is it that people who always know the least, always know it the loudest.” Talkers talk, doers do. Learn to identity when people think that volume equals correctness and don’t waste your time arguing with people that don’t share your passion or career goals. Surround yourself with motivated people that get the job done and don’t just loudly talk about all the things they claim to know or want to do someday.
DW “It’s only crazy until you do it.” I think that was a quote on a commercial starring Serena Williams, but it rings so true for me. Every amazing and enviable accomplishment was a thing that everyone else said wasn’t possible. Until one person did it. They said no one would ever run a mile in under 4 minutes. Then one guy did it and that year like a dazed other people did too. Once you realize what is possible you realize everything is.
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. 🙂
GMB Richard Linklater. He is my favorite filmmaker. I am curious if we share anything in the approach to filmmaking, by which I mean, I wonder if any of his filmmaking style and storytelling traits have rubbed off on me as a lifetime fan. He makes very different and interesting films like Boyhood and the Before trilogy. They are the kinds of experimental films I have dabbled with and feel more drawn too. At the same time, he’s made School of Rock and Dazed and Confused, much more mainstream crowd pleasers. I’m fascinated by him keeping his Austin roots and generally keeping a very low profile in the media. So, tag away!
DW Judd Apatow. He’s done such a fascinating job of creating a unique roster of comedy with a heart. That’s the sort of stories I love to watch and ultimately the sort I want to tell. I would love to bounce ideas off of him and hear all the stories he must have to tell.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Website — http://www.gavinmichaelbooth
Facebook — Gavin Michael Booth
Instagram — @gavinmichaelbooth
DW You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @yougotdaved
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!