I tend to go hard in everything to which I put my mind. Chances are if my mind is in it, it means my heart is, too. It’s my natural zeal. That’s just how I’ve gotten/still continue to “get down.” I guess you could say, “I’m about that life,” as it were. Call it passion. That same passion and the grace of God is what has sustained me for these three decades in show business. That’s what first put me on the map in the early 80’s. It’s what has kept me relevant (even if only modestly, in the larger scheme of things) in my industries of endeavor. It’s also what has provided me with some of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. At the end of the day, it’s the passion, my spirit of adventure, who I love, along with my creativity and my faith that define me.
It’s like that old European guy in the beer ads telling us, his friends, to “stay thirsty.” I know the term “thirsty” in an urban vernacular has a negative connotation. I’m not referring to that limited usage of the word. I’m talking about a lust for life. I know, I know, “lust” has a negative association, as well. But what I’m talking about is an emotion akin to extreme excitement, artistic fervor, passion. Okay. All right, already! Can I get a pass on the word “passion?” (Evocative images of illicit love affairs and the like notwithstanding?) I use it way too often. Thank you.
I’m in love with the arts – the performing arts in particular. I enjoy instructing in the arts and advocating for youth arts education. I enjoy patronizing the arts and supporting my fellow artists. Mostly, I love creating art. Film, music, poetry, theatre, literature – I love them all. The arts make me feel alive – really alive! When I wake up bright and early in the morning full of inspiration for telling a new story, or when an exciting idea for a project or plot twist or even a powerful lyric overtakes me during my morning run, that’s the genesis. That’s when the hard work and the love affair begin. Why? Because, since I fully love my work, the arts are a labor of love.
Take my 2013 film “Joke Thief.” It was a labor of love. Consider Nate Jackson’s 2014 crime web-series pilot – turned short film, “Marvin Road,” which I also directed. It was a labor of love, too. And then there was/still is BT Kingsley’s 2015 romantic comedy, “She Wins,” which I directed, as well. We just wrapped principal photography on it two weeks ago! (By the way, it is an incredibly funny movie!) All three projects were big labors of love – not just for me, Nate and BT but also for everybody involved. With modest budgets, scarce resources and crazy Hollywood schedules for both actors and crew, it had to be all love! The behind-the-scenes story of the making of She Wins is a movie in and of itself. The story is too long to tell you right now. Let it suffice to say, it was a great challenge, and an even greater adventure! We may not do a movie exactly like that again (it took 10 months to shoot) but I’d do that project again and would gladly get back in the trenches with those actors and that crew in a heartbeat!
“She Wins” had many more perks than mere adventure and a great crew. A bevy of beautiful actresses, a chance to work with DC Curry on our third feature, along with working again with BT, Nate and Tanjareen Martin made it real cool. I also got an opportunity to finally work with my friend, actor/producer Rick Irvin, DP Jamaal Williams and comedian/actor/writer Clayton Thomas. All of which added big time points to the fun score total. There was other good company on both sides of the camera and some very cool locations, too. Those things make the experience a permanent keeper on my “internal hard drive.” I was very pleased with the efforts of everyone. When I think about it, that film shoot may’ve been the definition of “Labor of love.” It was hard work and I loved it! I think we captured something special on film!
If She Wins wasn’t enough, next up in the queue is my teen crime drama, “A Hot Day In The Valley.” It’s an action-drama and a story within a story that came out of our summer youth arts program in LA’s San Fernando Valley. It has evolved into a full-length feature film. It will be an incredible ride! Everybody is pitching in. The kids are fired up! The grown folks are too – because everyone’s life is being enhanced. We all learn something on these cinematic journeys. The resources may once again be scarce but the talent, passion and the effort will be plentiful. The high adventure and overall experience will be life changing. This project promises to be the supreme labor of love!
A lot of you out there definitely know what I’m talking about when I say “Labor of love.” Others of you have inklings but have yet to find that passion. You see at least a glimpse into where mine is. Music is one of mine, too! Find yours. Having trouble? Then put yourself in a safe place where your passion can find you. It will alter your perspective, give you another reason to crawl out of bed in the morning and it’ll change your life! Try it and get back to me.
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Tony Spires is a filmmaker (writer/director/producer/actor), spoken word recording artist, musician, playwright, event producer, manager, and featured columnist for Humor Mill Magazine. He’s Producing Artistic Director of Full Vision Arts Foundation. Known as The Comedy Doctor in comedy circles, and “Coach Tony” to teens from The Bay to LA, he is perhaps best known as the founder of the nationally reputed Bay Area Black Comedy Competition & Festival: http://www.BlackComedyCompetition.com. Join him on Facebook at: http://www.Facebook.com/TonySpires and follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @phruishun.