David G. Simmons
Born June 9 1968
New Orleans, Louisiana
Being from New Orleans was a major influence on my life. It is a beautiful dirty sexy romantic modern port city with deep roots in the old world, spiced up with foreign accents, ladled with exquisite food, punctuated by imminent destruction, surrounded by dangerous nature, and suffused with a jazz groove.
What I gained from this point of origin was an appreciation of lives lived in many shapes and colors.
I also feel very fortunate to have been brought up in the 70's and 80's, which I consider to be a sort of crossroads of our modern culture.
Counter culture magazines and short-run novels from independent publishers were widely available at great small book shops. Cinema was peaking (perhaps peaked in many ways in the 70's), and Television had certainly reached it's hey day with three major networks commanding the field and HBO and home video on the rise. There were even a number of independent radio stations left. Dr. Demento still had a national show and DJ's played what they wanted, to wide audiences. The internet was just beginning to emerge from the primordial soup of DARPA and academia.
At this crossroads the catalogue of available media material relative to today's standards, was limited, and so it was augmented by material from bygone decades. People raised at this time were just as likely to encounter "Indiana Jones" , "Terms of Endearment" , "M*A*S*H" or "The Cosby Show" as they were to discover "I Love Lucy", Bob Ross, "Brideshead Revisited" or "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".
I remember one time the local PBS station aired Wagner's entire Ring Cycle. Try to find that on mass media now. This was at a time when there weren't that many other choices on what to watch so people actually watched this kind of thing, voluntarily, no kidding. This might have been followed closely by a Saturday morning Ultra-Man double feature which itself followed a Tex-Avery retrospective. Mad Magazine was at it's rip roaring best, and H. P. Lovecraft had a whole shelf at the local bookstore.
Living now in a time when hipness and relevance is measured in nanoseconds it is nice to have had my formative years during a time with connections to both the early modern world and the current modern world.
What I gained from this upbringing was at least a modicum of perspective.
Though amicable, my parent's divorce when I was young certainly had an effect on me. Among other things I think it contributed to making me an independent thinker who doesn't take accepted wisdom for granted. I tend to want to look at things from many angles, which is a great asset when working on a story or a movie.
In grade school two key things happened. My father got our first VCR and I discovered his noisy old Kodak 8mm camera. Between the bootlegged copies of sci-fi films and the simple effects and stop-motion laden movies my friends and I made in our back yards, I began to realize that filmmaking was not a great secret. It COULD be done. It could be a tangible thing I cold hold in my hands, rather than just something I visited at the theater.
Discovering the films of Kurosawa was another major breakthrough for me. Though I could probably have garnered this elsewhere I learned one of my most valuable lessons in filmmaking from watching Kurosawa's work. I believe you are watching good filmmaking when you can truly see what a character is thinking or feeling independent of the dialogue, and you believe it.
In high school I became a voracious reader, consumed with encyclopedias and novels of all stripes. I loved the infinite possibilities which good science fiction offered to an author in terms of turning a dramatic situation on its head and seeing how human nature would attempt to right itself.
In college I took every writing course I could fit into my schedule, in spite of the advice of my counselors. I learned a great deal from this time in my life, mostly that you are never as infallible as you think you are, and that there is always another way to convey your ideas.
Most importantly I refined my tool and discovered how to get "out of the way" of inspiration, and then to polish it later.
What I took away from this crucible was a connection to my creative muse.
Though I did some Video for the university it would still be some time before digital video technology got to the place where I could own and control the means of production. In the meantime I continued studying and consuming an even broader array of film content, as my video rental late fees would attest. Movies and books became a vital part of my development. I truly believe that a good story can be life changing. I know there are a great many stories which have been so for me.
When we have this visceral sense of belief in a character's situation it allows us to measure ourselves against those situations, evaluating how we might react, or what we might do. In this way a good film can be almost like a personal life experience which helps us see where we are in our lives, and plot new directions for where we'd like to be.
But for much of my early adult life my exploration of story and film was a private avocation. By day I pursued much more secular and practical enterprises. I was able to travel the world and sate my cultural curiousity and wanderlust. Sometimes I could even bring my incredible, supportive, and inspiring wife. And while we had fantastic experiences I came to realize that creativly I was starved. I was just working to pay bills.
Then I was diagnosed with cancer. The whole bit. surgery, chemo, radiation, etc. I'll spare the details. Suffice it to say that I was blessed and lucky. I was at the nexus of a double whammy of medicine and divinity. And I came out on the other side as a survivor. But my world had been altered permanently.
It took me some time to recover but the gift I received from this trial was appreciation. I learned to appreciate that which is truly important in my life, and to serve those things first above those which may be screaming more loudly.
Recently in my own life I found myself with an intricate knowledge of computers and some fairly extensive experience doing industrial video work. I also had the concept very fresh in my mind that tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
With the tools of the trade within my grasp and at least partially mastered, the only thing which remained was to bring to fruition that same seed which inspired me to make 8mm films in my backyard.
Budget prevented me from being able to produce most of the work I had written, so with a target amount in mind I wrote a script specifically to be shot independently with a small crew, in my "backyard" of Nashville, Tennessee.
That story was PRISM, a dark and intriguing psychological thriller with a supernatural twist. The making of that first movie was at once the most exhausting and invigorating endeavor of my life. I've never had less sleep, and still felt so alive than during that long labyrinthine process.
We were fortunate enough to win some festival awards and to garner wide distribution for PRISM so I am extremely proud of the project. It is a very enjoyable film and a fine first step towards my greater goals.
The process also introduced me to a manager in LA and several very supportive producers. I am currently working on two scripts for people I met as a result of beginning this journey.
If I'd like to share one thing from my life journey so far it would be to say to anyone, with absolute conviction, not to let the sun go down even one more day without doing something, anything towards those dreams you have harbored and protected for so long. The journey IS the reward.