ROGUE GRAY ONE by Justin Warren

The other day, I was minding my own business, applying a healthy gob of Mitchum’s mountain breeze extra-strength deodorant, when I noticed something that stopped me cold.

A gray hair. It was not on my head. But in my armpit.

For a few moments, I could only stare. My first instinct was to grab and pull, but the Bible says if you yank out a hair, it’ll grow back twice as long and twice as strong. Industrial strength underarm whiskers are a no-go. So I did what any sensible person would do. I grabbed a black Sharpie, pulled the offending hair taught, and tried to ink over that sombitch. But did you know it’s almost physically impossible to color your own armpit hair? My arms just don’t bend that way.

The clouds parted and a bone-chilling thought entered my head: This rogue pit-hair is a WARNING SIGN.

Confession: I’m turning thirty next month. Is this the beginning of the end of me? Could my heart give out soon? I mean, it’s been beating constantly for twenty-nine straight years, refusing to abide by the fifteen minute rest periods mandated by California labor laws. This tiny, barely noticeable hair overwhelmed me to haul ass to my laptop and bang out a will, clarifying which of my lucky unborn children will be gifted with my crushing student loan debt and which will receive my mint condition I Love Lucy DVD box set. I was thinking of my legacy.

I’m terrified of getting older, because I still struggle with the most basic adult skills. It was only recently I discovered that the shortest distance between “hangry” and mildly satisfied is simply eating a full bag of Italian-style croutons. If you clamp your eyes shut and down a gallon of Sunny D, it’s almost like eating real food.

If I haven’t acquired vital survival skills age twenty-nine, then surely it’s all downhill from here right? Can you teach a man-child new tricks?

Oddly, our culture throws gas on the “don’t ever age” fire. Women are bombarded with images saying you gotta always look like you’re Jennifer Aniston during her Friends hayday, dudes are pressured to trade their spare-tires for chiseled abs that have abs inside of those abs, and I’m always pretending that twenty-nine year old right hip joint doesn’t hurt “it’s just how all the cool black millennials strut in California.” Constant comparison sucks. It only leaves us feeling empty, longing for the days when Facebook didn’t exist.

I guess when I was thirty I thought I’d have more of my life figured out. But I still struggle with the same issues I had at fifteen. I want people to like me. I want people to notice when I’m gone and to invite me over. And now that I’m turning thirty, I still struggle to embrace the simple concept that I’m worthy of good things.

My wonderful mother, who has been politely kicking ass all her life, is sixty-seven. Whenever we hang, I’m always struck by how vibrant she is. She has a youth about her that is magnetic, and she reminds me that your life is what you define it to be. If you give up and watch life pass by from a LazyBoy, then it’s time to break out the Metamucil. But embracing that life is a constant adventure will only make every day feel like one. And that’s what keeps you young.

When the anxiety settled, I took another peek at my gray pit-whisker and saluted it. I accept it fully and welcome more. Because age is not something to fear. We’re all “in progress,” and every day I get on this earth is a chance to let the bad fall away and embrace more of the good.

I URGE YOU AMERICA: DO THE DISHES by Justin Warren

I’m not proud of it, but sometimes the mere thought of doing the dishes makes me shudder with unease.

I could be enjoying my favorite physical activity -- devouring a 12 oz ribeye steak -- and if anyone so much as utters a word that rhymes with “dishes,” I’ll stop mid-chew, push away from the table, break into a cold sweat, and stare off into the void.

It’s worth repeating: I’m not proud of this.

In an age where our civil liberties are under assault, nuclear weapons are proliferating in militant countries, and the Backstreet Boys are touring again, “doing the dishes” is, without a doubt, a first-world problem. But hear me out!

It all started last year, while I was away in Arkansas directing my first feature film, Then There Was Joe. While I was not around to argue, my wife seized the opportunity to move us from downtown Los Angeles to the suburbs. I’m fortunate because the place is really nice-- two bedroom, marble countertops, crown molding. Everything you could want in an apartment. But when I discovered there was NO DISHWASHER, I slowly lowered myself to my knees, raised open palms to the sky, and wept. Bitterly. Snot-sicles forming in my uneven beard, I shrieked, “Landlord, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Over the next few days (confession: it was a year), I stumbled around in a daze, staring at the sink, as an Everest-sized pile of dishes stretched into the sky. I thought, surely my sweet parents will be arriving any minute now, on a red-eye from Arkansas to take care of those...right? Right!?!

I thought humanity solved this problem. Aren’t dishwashers guaranteed to all Americans in the Bill of Rights? One with high temperature wash and air dry settings? What the hell are our politicians even doing in Washington?!

As the dishes continued to procreate like porcelain rabbits, I started to notice my home life was coming apart at the seams. My lack of action was building a gulf in my marriage-- and it was all my fault. Reality smacked me: I suddenly realized I was being a big baby. By“reality,” what I mean is “my therapist”. I glanced at her notes when she wasn’t looking and saw scribbled in the corner:

“Possessed by an evil two-year-old. Recommended solutions: Exorcism. Or divine intervention.”

Real Talk: Just because you’re almost thirty, pay taxes, and somehow don’t die on the 110, despite a dangerous need to compulsively check Instagram while simultaneously piloting a two-ton hunk of metal, barreling through traffic at 75 miles per hour, does NOT mean you’re an adult.

I was operating under the flawed logic that one should wait until you had three or four days worth of those motherfuckers, and THEN do them all at once. More efficient that way. But, as I soon learned, they’re 365 million times harder to wash, ‘cause that old Sriracha sauce from last Tuesday has now petrified into a brand-new element on the Periodic Table capable of withstanding the most gnarly of impacts from Thor’s mighty hammer. Live by the dish, die by the dish.

I realized, as I waited for things to pile up, I was inviting procrastination into every aspect of my life: my marriage, my career, and even my spiritual life. So, I took one small step towards becoming an adult (or at least the competency of an eleven year old)-- I do the dishes immediately after I use them. Life has literally changed radically. It’s made me more mindful of clutter. I think more clearly. I’m more willing to jump in and get my hands dirty. I’ve stopped pretending that reality doesn’t exist. It has done wonders for my marriage!

So, America. Do. the. dishes.

2016: Sit in the corner. Think about what you’ve done. by Justin Warren

According to social media, 2016 was the most horriblest year since the dawn of man. And for a second, I believed it. Based on what I was reading, you’d think we just lived through slavery or another Holocaust. Or the year Troll 2 came out.

We was jetting outta 2016 like...

2016 did suck. But not as bad as we think.

From an emotional standpoint, this past year was the hardest I’ve ever lived through. When Trump was elected, It felt like the world ended. Same when Prince died. But what I’m realizing is when we feel like the Earth is imploding, yet it continues to spin, we emerge stronger and with new resolve. 2016 was weird AF. But we’re still here. We’re still standing. And South Park is STILL on TV. Think about that...

Even though we (as Earth) collectively shat our pants last year, we should use that as fuel to live fuller, more intentional lives in 2017. As Erwin McManus says, the President can’t stop us from doing good deeds. We have more power to affect positive change in our communities than any government institution or some billionaire megalomaniac Russian loving serial liar with bad hair.

Change starts with us. I’m making a commitment to be more vigilant and aware of any -ism or form of bigotry in my community. I will support REAL news sources (via paid subscriptions and downloads) and seek for more understanding with others that don’t understand me.

In the words of the great Michael Jackson says, I’m starting with the nigga in the mirror.

Then There Was Joe: Behind the Screams by Justin Warren

THEN THERE WAS JOE VIDEO DIARY: EPISODE ONE.  Now Playing. 

Watch episode one here right now: http://bit.ly/2fVGSEu

Do you remember those old, shiny, roundish things? You'd put them in that dust covered box under your TV and magically a movie would appear? I forgot the name of them.

 Alright, I just googled it. They were called "Digital Video Discs."  

The DVDs are slowly dying from crippling blow from the new kid on the block -- video on demand. I'm not sad about it, but I do miss one critical thing from DVDs that VOD has yet to fill: Cool behind the scenes shit.  

As we finish my first feature film "Then There Was Joe," I thought it'd be cool to release little peeks into our process through the final stages of post production. Just like the BTS features on a DVD, except you get them before the movie comes out. How cool is that!!?!?

So, we just released the first episode. You can watch it and follow along with us in real time by getting on our list. Episode one is playing now: http://bit.ly/2fVGSEu

You can also follow along here: 

http://www.thentherewasjoe.com

http://www.instagram.com/thentherewasjoe

http://www.twitter.com/TTWJtheMovie

http://www.facebook.com/thentherewasjoe

"Then There Was Joe" Principal Photography Completed by Justin Warren

It's hard to believe, but after 24 days of shooting, we have finished principal photography on "Then There Was Joe." 

Wowza! It was one of the most thrilling, satisfying experiences of our lives! It's hard to sum up the experience in an email, so we've attached some photos and a video to give you a peek into the process along with a local news story done on the film! (the photos were taken by Andy Johnson). 

Click here to watch a news story about the making of "Then There Was Joe!"

We are absolutely thrilled with the footage we shot. Now, we are moving into post-production, where the film will be edited, color graded, sound designed and mixed. We plan to have the film completed before the end of next year in time for film festival submissions. 

To follow the film through post production, please likes us on facebook!

Click on the photo below to see a slideshow of production stills!



American Beauty and the Power of Gratitude by Justin Warren

This clip from American Beauty (one of my all time favorite films) always affects me because it reminds me of the powerful impact of gratitude. 

The dictionary describes gratitude as the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It's a word that gets tossed around a lot, but rarely do we stop and really consider its meanings and implications. When I'm unhappiest, it's usually because I'm just running through life like a over-caffeinated squirrel, jumping from tree to tree without really knowing why. 

When I walk my dog, Piper, I'm always amazed at how often he wants to stop and just smell the grass.  He enjoys taking in every detail and in those moments, nothing else matters to him.  I stop for a moment, get impatient, and pull him along. But you know what? Piper is a lot happier than I am most of the time. To him, every day is a new opportunity. Every stranger is a potential new best friend. And he holds no grudges. He's grateful for every moment he's in and is open for every moment about to come.  

For the past few months I've really tried to make a concerted effort to write down three things that I'm grateful for every single day. Because if you don't bring it to the front of your mind, it's easy to forget how fortunate most of us are. Most of us (especially me) take a lot of things for granted. If you're reading this you are likely breathing. You're likely in a free society where we have access to more information that we could ever consume in a lifetime. You are probably not in captivity or worried for your immediate safety. And if you are, I'm honored and you're totally brave for reading this far with your life on the line! 

So I'm reminding myself to smell the grass. To notice the beauty behind a floating plastic bag. And remember that there is no reason to be afraid. Ever. If you've read this far, I invite you to write three very specific things that you are thankful for. I'll go first. 

1. I'm thankful for a loving community of friends and complete strangers that are donating their hard earned cash to help me realize my dreams. 
2. I'm thankful for my wife and my family for always encouraging and loving me. 
3. I'm thankful for my loving dog that reminds me how to love.


A TO-DO LIST ON 'ROIDS by Justin Warren

I'm sort of hyper obsessed with productivity. Checking things off my to-do list is like popping those skittles jelly beans (and oh my gosh have you had skittles jelly beans!?!). I'm constantly searching for the most efficient way to complete a task or "get the most bang for my buck" if you will. So, I wanted to share with you another thing that radically changed my life. It was a book called "Getting Things Done" by David Allen or simply put "GTD".

Now, beware. This is some seriously nerdy stuff. Proceed with caution. 


The title of the book is deceptively simple, but it's power is a force to be reckoned with. In a nutshell, the idea is to "clear" your brain of every thought pulling at your attention, and put them into a trusted "system" that acts as your external brain. It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but "system" can mean paper and pencil or a task management application. It's like a to-do list on 'roids. With everything out of your head, you free up mental space to use your brain for more creative thinking.


It's such a powerful way to manage your life, Joss Whedon claims he couldn't have directed The Avengers and his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing in the same year without a lot of GTD principles. Another GTD staple is the simple question: What is the next action required to move this project forward? Simple huh? But often in my life I'm procrastinating and not totally sure why, I realize it's because I haven't clarified the very next step required to take action? It's crazy simple but crazy effective. If you're into this sort of thing, check out this TED talk from Mr. Allen himself. It's worth the watch if you've read this far.

 


Believing in the Impossible by Justin Warren

In my opinion, the bike chase sequence from E.T. is perhaps one of the highest points in cinema in the last 50 years. Spielberg is a true living master of the filmmaking craft. Watch how he stages all of the elements (the kids, the police cars, camera placement) and pay attention to how each shot is put together, carefully  building its brilliant climax. You never once lose your sense of geography and the pacing is fantastic. This film means so much to me because it is a love letter to the young child inside of us. Beckoning us to return to that purer more idyllic child still alive in all of us. That child that once believed in the impossible...before the harsh world tried to stomp the dreams out of us. 

For my friends who are believers, this is the ultimate cinematic metaphor for God's grace. Watch when Elliot is hurling full speed for the police cars with no way to escape from his captors. And right when it appears all is lost, he closes his eyes and the impossible occurs -- he flies. He is saved by a benevolent higher being because of his belief in what many would label "impossible." He's saved by grace. It never ceases to bring tears to my eyes. I hope it brightens your day. #27daysofawesome

#FIRSTDRAFTPROBLEMS by Justin Warren

Right now, I'm feeling pure, unadulterated joy coupled with crushing despair at the exact same time. Why ? Because, I just finished a rough draft of my new screenplay.  I literally just typed "The end" on the damn thing...BUT OH WHAT A FILTHY LIE.

My writer friends know the feeling. When you "finish" its like hitting the lottery. You're frolicking in the streets, dropping it like its hot with complete strangers and then, within moments, it all comes crashing down.  You find yourself dazed and confused, standing in the middle of your kitchen, eating from a bag of croutons, wondering, "HOW COME WHY MY EYES ARE CRYING?" 

That's because the real work is about to begin. That faithful work of shaping a formless piece of clay into what you hope will be a timeless work of art that will inspire humanity for ages. Or, more likely, a sort of coherent movie that you pray people might watch if they finally take Snowpiercer off Netflix.