Rising Star Filmmaker CJ Goodwyn: “A team is everything”

Find your community, put great people around you, people that will go to battle for you and you will do the same for them. In my opinion without a strong team, you are nothing. A team is everything and if you have a great team they will be there to pick you up when you […]

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Find your community, put great people around you, people that will go to battle for you and you will do the same for them. In my opinion without a strong team, you are nothing. A team is everything and if you have a great team they will be there to pick you up when you fall and it’s ok to fall by the way cause it’s going to happen and it’s ok to let the people around you help you, it’s called a team for a reason, let them help you. It’s not a sign of weakness it’s a learning experience, no matter what it is learned from it, this will make you so much stronger.

Ihad the distinct pleasure of interviewing CJ Goodwyn, owner of TriGoodwynProductions (Indie Film Company), Director, Writer, Editor and Actor. He has directed and written one short film and two feature films. His latest film, Jackson, is now out on Amazon Prime since October 2019. CJ is a huge believer in bringing teamwork, compassion, drive and love to all his film projects and to find people with the same outlook in the industry to join the productions.

Outside of being a film director, he has a full-time job at a resort in San Antonio as a Recreation Manager. He has also been married for 15 years to his beautiful wife and they have two wonderful children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us CJ! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up traveling a lot in the south west of the US. Living in many different towns and cities from the states of Texas, Arizona, California and then back to Texas where we settled down in the town of Kerrville when I was about ten. I lived in Kerrville the rest of my childhood and teen years. I played many different sports, while also enjoying the outdoor life of the hill country.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I, like so many others, always had a dream of being in films and for a while, that dream got put on hold for many reasons but it all changed when my mother and I went to see a horror film at the theaters about eight years ago. After watching the film we went into a discussion about the movie, as we all do, and I told her that I was getting more and more disappointed in the style of horror that was being played on the big screen. Long story short she told me then why don’t you make a horror film and I replied, well maybe I will and that was what sparked me to go for it and the rest is history. My life was also in a good place financially and with family. But as we all know your only here once and I didn’t want this opportunity to pass me bye and live with any regrets.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Since beginning making films, the most interesting story would have to be when a sheriff was called out to the set of GH5. The Sheriff actually arrived at the property one-hour after the cast/crew left but talked to the owner of the property about a disturbance of some religious sacrifices taking place. The owner had to walk the property with the Sheriff and show him the wooden catches and fake blood everywhere on the ground and explain it to him that we were doing a horror film. That had to be an awkward conversation to have, haha but it was a great scene and it must have done its job as we scared the neighbors pretty bad apparently.

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?

Not sure it’s a funny mistake but the worst mistake by far that I’ve made making films was the very first day of filming on my first film GH5. Filming was supposed to end at 11 pm we went till 4 am, now obviously I got the ok from everyone that was out there filming but I did get an ear full from my wife about the safety factor that I put everyone in to drive home after a long day of filming. She was right, it made me feel horrible and still does to this day. I did call everyone the next day and apologized and promised it would never happen again and to this day it has not. I feel a lot of us have been there, you have this location for one day, your pushing and pushing, time is your enemy and before you know it you’re over your call time. Happens to the best of us but this is an area where I now try my absolute hardest to keep. Which, I believe makes me a stronger filmmaker, requires much more pre-production planning and it keeps your cast/crew in better moods and keeps everyone safe!

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

My next project Eyes of a Roman is a feature film, now in pre-production, that I wrote the script for and will also be acting and directing the film but what makes me very excited about the film is the team that I have involved with the movie. I have fantastic people on this film filled with passion, love, drive and the willingness to go that extra mile to make the best film possible while doing it all together as a team. It’s such a beautiful project to be a part of because of all the elements I just mentioned, everyone truly wants to see each individual succeed and we all know for that to happen is for us to come together as a team and we have. I keep preaching to my team that before this film is over we will all come out of it different people in a good way, this journey we are on is more than a film, it truly is and I couldn’t be more proud and happy with the team we have for the film Eyes of a Roman.

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?

Diversity in film is everything! That diversity enhances creativity, it gives you a greater range of talent and makes you see the story or how you run your production with a different perspective of others for the better. Why would you not want to see it from all angles and different people’s opinions to me that makes the film so much stronger and gives you an opportunity to explore other avenues that you may not even realize existed? Being diverse not just in the filming community but in all aspects of life would make the world a better place no doubt. It’s something I believe in and try to showcase as much as I possibly can to help my career and the career of others.

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

I don’t really have an answer for that, I knew going in it was going to be really hard. No one was going to give me anything or feel sympathy for me and I wasn’t looking for that. I was always taught if you want to be successful or achieve what you want then go to work. Actions will always speak louder than words, put your head down and start grinding. In fact, what I thought would happen, happened a lot, I got the negative speech of, you’ll never make it, people laughing at me when reaching out to see if they wanted to join me, don’t quit your day job, etc. And those were the PG comments haha but you know there are a lot of people out there just like me and if you look hard enough you will find them and they will find you. Then you become a part of something more powerful than any film can give, a community, a film family, a diverse group of people that do wish you nothing but the best, they encourage you, they root for you, they pick you up when you fall and that to me is more powerful than any film could ever give me. The journey and the love everyone has for everyone is powerful, sure there will still be some of the ones that are still negative and are looking for quick fame but the majority, the majority of the Indie Film world is special and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’ve developed so many friends and great working relationships with many people in the industry and I’ve watched all of them continue to grow and become successful in their own ways and it couldn’t make me happier. In my eyes a lot of us Indie filmmakers are underdogs and that’s ok, cause we embrace it, we can handle it and we always will, cause it’s in are blood to never give up and to continue to share with the world our love of film.

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

Find your community, put great people around you, people that will go to battle for you and you will do the same for them. In my opinion without a strong team, you are nothing. A team is everything and if you have a great team they will be there to pick you up when you fall and it’s ok to fall by the way cause it’s going to happen and it’s ok to let the people around you help you, it’s called a team for a reason, let them help you. It’s not a sign of weakness it’s a learning experience, no matter what it is learned from it, this will make you so much stronger.

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. 😊

On a small scale, I feel like I’m doing that by making films and giving the majority of my cast/crew an opportunity, that others may not have given them. Giving someone an opportunity to for fill their dream and seeing the positive impact it has on those individuals I believe is very inspirational and my hope is that it would then inspire that same individual that got the same opportunity I gave them to another, which in turn would bring around a positive movement of helping each other achieve their goals or dreams.

On a bigger scale if I was someone with enormous influence talking about filmmaking only. I would create a better platform for Indie filmmakers of all levels. Meaning no budget up to budget Indie films. A true place where you can make a decent return on your investment for you and the platform. Giving Indie Filmmakers a stable position to continue to make films. Obviously there are a lot of logistics that go involved into something like this and a few platforms have tried and some were not bad for a while but in the end it always seems to come down to the filmmakers that put-on average three years of their life into a feature film getting the short end of the stick or no stick at all haha. I would work really hard to make this a more stable reality for Indie filmmakers. The business side of Indie filmmaking is a very tough road to travel on and it can lead to scams, scandals or corruption unfortunately when you’re trying to find a home for your film. The business side needs to be much stronger; I have a lot of other Indie filmmakers ask me what do I do? How do I know you to trust? Who should I go to with my film? These questions continue to get different answers daily. So if I had the influence, I would be that person to help the Indie filmmaker, to protect them, to give them a platform to show their film and if it did well reward them accordingly without greed, scams or corruption. It would be a safe haven I suppose for indie filmmakers.

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?

Well, you’re correct and it definitely takes more than just one person that helps you along the way in my experience to help get you where you are today. It starts with my parents, then my wife and kids, then my brothers, then my close friends then a lot of the great people in the industry that have been with me since the beginning and truly believe in me. It’s hard to pick just one because I would hate to leave anyone out so I’m not going to do that haha. I would hate to hurt anyone’s feelings and besides everyone that has helped me they know who they are, I tell them often and thank them monthly, weekly and sometimes daily haha. They know who they are and they will always hold a special place in my heart, CW.

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

I’ll stay with a Movie Quote

(Either we heal, now! as a team or we will die, as individuals) Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday

I always enjoyed this quote because it relates to teams, making films, the U.S. the World
It’s relatable to a lot of different subjects or areas in life.

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. 😊

Movie World would be James Wan, I’ve followed James Wan’s work since he came onto the scene with the film Saw and the way he came up as an Indie filmmaker making films with his friend Leigh Whannell and doing it together reminds me of my friendship with Chris Wager. My friend that’s been with me since the beginning of my film career and we’ve done a lot of work together. James cares about his team, he works with his teams. It’s something that I admire about James. What’s great is that it passes over into his films. Take the two conjuring films James did, they both have strong family aspects to the film, from the families that are being haunted to the love he showed between Ed and Lorraine Warren. Although these were horror films in a lot of ways it was also a drama/love story which is awesome to watch, it makes you care about the characters so much more and it’s something that I like to implement into my films as well. He did the same with the two Insidious films he directed, centered around family and love with horror in the background. I also enjoy his outside of the box thinking he does, if you haven’t seen the behind the scenes of conjuring or Insidious films, I recommend you watch them. You don’t always have to have this high-tech machinery or devices to make a great scene or shot and James implements this in his filmmaking as well. One scene I like is in the second Conjuring film Lorraine is sitting at the table and the light is on her eyes, the light begins to get brighter and the background gets darker. The background gets darker by his crew blowing out the candles in the background. Simple but effective and Indie movie magic at its finest. So overall in the movie world, I would love to have a talk with James Wan. In my eyes, he seems to try and do everything the right way and treat everyone that he works with, with great respect and a team-oriented atmosphere. Then of course I love his work and the eye he has behind the camera is very special. How he moves from one scene to the next and the flow he has especially with the Conjuring film is fantastic. In my opinion, he brought back the horror genre and he is the Hitchcock of our time.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best way to follow me at the moment is through my Facebook pages at CJ Goodwyn, TriGoodwynProductions, and my film pages GH5, Jackson and now Eyes of a Roman. You can view my latest film Jackson on Amazon Prime.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank You for having me and I wish all the filmmakers out there nothing but the best!

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