Where are you from, where are you located now, and what are your ties to WV?
I am originally from Washington DC and currently live in Charlottesville, VA. My wife is from Keyser, WV (Mineral County) and still owns property there, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time in that area, as well as the Eastern Panhandle when I lived in northern VA. Over the past 20 years, I’ve traveled extensively throughout West Virginia, scouting for both film and television projects, as well as in my own travels. My grandfather also traveled extensively throughout coal country in southern WV while working for the UMW directly under John L. Lewis, organizing mine workers back in the 1930s. More than once, I’ve felt his invisible presence while driving those back roads and talking with locals.
What was your first job in film production and what was the experience like?
My first job was as an Assistant Location Manager in Washington DC on the TV series, “Lime Street,” starring Robert Wagner. Here’s how I got that gig – Mike Wallace, the Location Manager (no, not the 60 Minutes guy!), was doing another show called “Bridges to Cross” starring Roddy McDowell. He and the director were driving down Pennsylvania Avenue scouting and spotted the rooftop garden of the office building where I was working as a maintenance man, and decided to film a scene up there. The whole permission and access process was a mess because Mike was unable to make the arrangements himself. They wouldn’t hire an assistant for him so he had to hand it off to someone in the production office. I was the guy with the keys that day, and I made damn sure they got their shots. Two weeks later, Mike returned the favor in the biggest way by hiring me as his assistant on “Lime Street.” I will always be grateful to him for giving me my start in show biz.
What was your last job and what were you responsible for?
My most recent assignment was scouting locations in Pittsburgh for the Starz network’s upcoming series, “The One Percent,” to be directed by Alejandro Itarritu.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the film industry?
Don’t hesitate. Don’t languish as I did, believe in yourself. I had the chance to get into film production when I was a young college student in southern California. I rejected the opportunity because I was convinced I would flop, and because I considered it to be a distraction to my main purpose at the time, which was to become either a geographer or anthropologist. Because I had blinders on, it never occurred to me that I could have still pursued my studies while also giving film production a try. I quit college shortly after because life intervened. Five years later, when a film crew happened to stop by the office building where I was working, I jumped at the opportunity. You can say I was lucky to get a second chance. On one level I was, but it was no cakewalk. I still went back to working building maintenance for a while to pay the bills. After a few years, I could comfortably say this is what I do for a living. If a door opens, great! Be sure to jam your foot in there to keep it open.