Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Five Hardest-Working People I Know in Hollywood

I work really hard at being a filmmaker.  Really, really, ridiculously hard.  But I have my limits.  This is a post dedicated to the five people I know for whom the word "limit" is meaningless.  Their seemingly endless devotion to their craft and their industry is exhausting.  However, it is also inspiring, and if you're a filmmaker in need of a direction or a role model, you'd do well to pick any one of these five people.  No, I'm not listing them in any specific order.
James Duval of Continuum PicturesJames Duval Jim is a producer I met while I was waiting tables at Mel's Diner in Berkeley during the summer between my junior and senior year at Cal. Since then he has become one of my mentors, as well as one of my business partners.  Jim's innate knowledge and understanding of the film industry is, for lack of a better word, ridiculous.  He has done every job one could ever do on a set, either in front of camera or behind it.  He has also done every job you can ever do related to filmmaking off set.  And he doesn't just do all these things, he's never NOT doing these things.  There is not a moment where I have ever seen Jim awake and NOT somehow working on moving his career forward.  And not just his career, but the careers of everyone he works with.  Jim is one of those people for whom his own success is unimportant if it doesn't also include the success of people he cares about.  So naturally, he does the work of about fifteen people.  And he just never stops.
Danny Torres of Continuum PicturesDanny Torres I met Danny Torres when I was a sophomore at Cal, through one of my dorm mates who had gone to high school with him.  Long story short, I pulled Danny into "Wrestling Days", originally as a featured bit part member of the wrestling team.  But it was clear from Day One that his destiny lay on the other side of the camera.  When I had to step away from my producer duties so I could focus on my role in the film, Danny picked up the slack without anyone even asking him to, and he more than made up the difference.  From that point on, he was doing anything and everything to become a better writer, director and producer.  He even wrote his senior history thesis on "Steven Spielberg and World War II."  He is constantly observing industry trends and working them into his career plan.  He is also continually reviewing, evaluating and revising his technique as a writer, director, and cinematographer.  The only times I ever see him NOT thinking about filmmaking, or the film industry, or improving a film he is specifically working on, is when he's watching sports.  And even then, he's subconsciously thinking about how to work what he's watching into his film career.  Somehow.
Picture of Jason Durdon taken from some random website.Jason Durdon I have not known Jason nearly as long as I have known Danny or James, since the first time I ever worked with him was on "The Absents", which he directed and in which I had a bit part. But since then, I've had the honor of working with him on several projects, from pre-production through post-production.  He has a huge wealth of knowledge when it comes to equipment and other technical things, but that doesn't get in the way of his youthful exuberance for creativity in filmmaking.  I always hear him talking about this new idea he has for something really cool and really fun, be it a story idea or a post concept or a special effect, and he always seems eager to explore that idea as soon as he can.  All this while working a full time job at a post house, and doing other random production jobs on the side.
Picture of Liz Saydah from her website.Liz Saydah I don't have a whole lot to say about Liz, since I've only worked with her once, and I only ever see her when I'm at Jason's for some work-related somethingorother.  But I will say this much: I have never seen her NOT working.  Except once, when she was watching a tennis match.  But aside from that one time, I only ever see her promoting herself via some online method, looking for gigs everywhere you can possibly look for gigs, submitting to gigs, editing photos, making voice-over demo tapes, etc.  It's as if her motor has no "off" switch.  If she's not doing one thing to promote herself as an actor, she's doing something else, or practicing, or doing research.  Sometimes, when I'm out of ideas on what to do next in my career, I just think back to something I saw Liz doing, and it gives me some sort of new direction.
Picture of Chelese Belmont taken from her website.Chelese Belmont I've had the good fortune to work with Chelese on multiple occasions.  My first experience working with her was on "Troubadours", when the girl who was going to play the female lead bailed last minute, and Chelese, who had been cast as the female lead's best friend, stepped up and the production didn't miss a beat.  She already had all the lines memorized, she had already done the character work, and, most importantly, she was already prepared to deal with acting opposite me...  Since then, I have never seen another actor get nearly as involved in their roles as I have seen Chelese get.  I've seen her put together not just pages, but BOOKs of character study work.  The only time I ever see Chelese NOT doing something to make herself a better, more versatile actress, she's watching a movie.  Which, knowing her, is simply just studying for some other character she's playing, or will play someday.

If the term "raise the bar" had a corporeal form, it would be these five people.  Look for them at the Oscars someday.


  1. Very much appreciated. Continuum Pictures has always been a group effort. It is fortunate that we work with such wonderful people such as you yourself, Danny Torres, Chelese Belmont, Liz Saydah and Jason Durdon. it is an every day thing. It is a no matter what you think thing. In all cases the whole team you Scott Hayman, Mark Lillig, Tyler Ross and Richards Scott make what we do possible.

  2. Now that Continuum Pictures has made it to the lot. I would have to say that there should have been a section in this specifically mentioning Scott Hayman himself.

    He has been doing an amazing job producing on Taught in Cold Blood.

    james duval