Mother’s Day

As I sit here on Mother’s Day thinking about how wonderful my own momma is, how wonderful my wife is to our boys, how wonderful my grandmothers are- as I sit here today and give thanks for the blessings of mothers know without a doubt I would not be the artist I am today if it were not for my own mother!

Mom you taught me to create, to get messy and make things out of nothing.  You taught me how to love unconditionally, how to cuddle with the best of them.  You encouraged me, convinces me that my joy of entertaining you and dad could one day turn into a career of entertaining others!  You taught me to color outside of the lines!  You did all of these great and wonderful and life molding things.

But- it’s the little things that often get overlooked that I’d like to now thank you for.  Thank you for your spaghetti.  Thank you for introducing me to cream of chicken over toast.  Thank you for my nose.  Thank you for my courage.  Thank you for my soft spots.  Thank you for sending me to camp, and for promising to pick me up if I hated it.  Thank you for picking up the phone at all hours of the day.  Thank you for knowing when I need space, and when I need a hug.  Thank you for helping me draw that poster of Ozzie Smith backflipping in the 5th grade.  Thank you for that surprise bday party for me at Pizza Hut even though I complained all the way there not knowing why we were going.  Thank you for always being the first to “love” my work even if it is not always my best.

This post has nothing to do with The Grace of Jake- wait a minute.  Of course it does.  This blog would not exist if it were not for Marilyn Cullum!  Happy Mother’s Day mom!!

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Seeds . . .


As we near our premiere next week at the Little Rock Film Festival, I figured it may be a good time to talk a bit about the beginnings of The Grace of Jake. Where did the script come from? What inspired the story? When did I start writing it? What was that process like?  How did it all come to be?

I have been fascinated with crop dusters for about as long as I have been fascinated with movies. One of my dad’s best buds Donnie Guthrie was a crop duster pilot and I used to bug him all the time with questions about his profession. At one point, after my first move back from LA (I lived in LA ’97-98, then moved back to FC to catch my breath) I had decided that I may pursue a career as a crop duster pilot. Much to my family’s dismay I started investigating, looking into the path to become a pilot. It was Donnie who talked me out of it. We all know it is a dangerous sport, but to hear it from a man who lived in a crop plane, well let’s just say he was very convincing. So I think right there and then I told myself that if I was not going to become a crop duster then maybe I could make a movie about the industry. Or in the very least write a character into a movie who is a crop duster pilot.

Bright yellow planes zooming just a few feet above wavering crops- that is the image that inspired the initial rumblings of this story. I knew 2 things early on, one I wanted to make a movie in and around the place I grew up, and two- there had to be crop dusters involved in the story!

Cut to LA, I moved back, started working my way from production assistant to director (a long and winding path with many dead ends, surprises, happy accidents, rejections, blessings, you name it), at some point in my journey, I think it was around 2000, I started writing an action script about a crop duster pilot caught up in a drug smuggling scheme. No where near the movie The Grace of Jake came to be, this script was awful. It was my way of getting out the junk before getting to the good stuff. After a year or so I decided to focus on other things and set the script aside, by the way it was called Fast to Nowhere. Good title, shit script.

Then a couple years later I met Jake La Botz at a bar one Wedneday night. My good buddy Scoot McNairy and I with others went out to hear some live music. I walked into the bar, one of our regular spots, and the first thing I heard was Jake’s voice as he sang. I was blown away. It was a rootys blues sound that took me back home. I could not see Jake I could only hear him, and as I rounded the corner and caught my first glimpse of Jake- well I was blown away. He did not look at all like he sounded. He was white, with a boyish face and a hint of silver in his smile. I could have sworn he was black and at least twice his age given the powerful and authentic sounds that came out of him. I sat glued to his set and as soon as he finished I went up to him and nervously told him that he and were going to do big things together. I had no idea at the time what those things were, nor did he. But that right then and there was the moment I knew I had to dig back into my crop duster idea and create a story that took Jake’s music as its guide. Thank you Amber Engebretson for inviting us out that night and introducing us to Jake! And also for contributing to our Kickstarter campaign!!!

I went home that night with my new Jake La Botz cd and listened and wrote. Again more bad writing as I was learning my voice at the time, but I wrote and I thought and I dreamed.  Jake and I became friends, Scoot and I even started following him around with cameras in an attempt to document Jake’s story. More on that in another post. One Sunday morning we went with Jake to south central Los Angeles to a gospel church. Jake was singing that day and it was life changing experience for me.  Jake played and sang the Dixie Nightengales “It’s Gonna Rain” to a packed house. (the song which is now the centerpiece piece of music of The Grace of Jake!)

It was hands down one of the most spiritual and emotional experiences I had had to date. It was for me what church is meant to be. I was overwhelmed, I think I may have even teared up a little. I was excited, I knew that not only would Jake’s music be a part of my crop duster music, Jake himself was going to play the lead role! Honest to God that is the day the real beginning of The Grace of Jake happened. I can narrow it down to a time and place.  I can narrow it down to a moment.

I went home and immediately started in on what was to become The Grace of Jake. Little did I know then that I was launching what would become a decade long journey. A venture that would take me through relationships and the loss of loved ones; through my marriage and the birth of my boys through many career ups and downs; through 10 plus years of life. And “The Grace of Jake” was something I thought of at least once everyday since that day in church. I now had my lead actor/character, I now had my music, I now had my desire- I just had no idea what the story was yet. 2003 that was the year I wrote the first of what would become the script we had as cameras rolled in October of 2013. That was when the seeds broke through the soil and started their upward journey towards the sun!

More on the script in the next post. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, I am going to take my boys dirt bike riding. Cheers!

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An introduction

Hello all, being that this is my first blog I guess a little about myself would be the way to start.  I’m a native Arkansan currently living in souther Cali.  I moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago in pursuit of a career as a “director.”  Since then I have found my way into just that position, starting first with small EPK type productions which led to work in the music video field.  I have had the honor of directing music videos for artists including Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood- notice a trend??  Yes these are all nashville based musicians.  Keith Urban was my first major client, and since then the majority of my music video work has been in and around Nashville, which is a great fit with my southern roots!  My music video work has taken me far and wide, from New York City to Sydney Australia.  I’ve been Grammy nominated and some of the videos I have been fortunate to work on have won various awards.  I work with incredible crew people that have become like family.  I have cut my teeth as a director in awesome fashion.

Feature films and television work have always been my main passion and goal.  I love movies, always have.  From as far back as I can remember I have wanted to write and direct narrative driven medium.  I was never sure how I was going to accomplish that as there is no direct road map within creative professional endeavors.  I just knew I wanted to be a part of the “magic.”

What I hope to accomplish with this blog is to give an inside look at my journey.  I have some successes, but I would say more “no’s” as opposed to “yes’s” at this juncture.  My various accolades point to the fact that I may be on the right path, but as of now I sometimes feel further away from the end goal as I did before I even started.  I feel as if that is very normal in life, it’s much more about the journey than the destination, and often times we feel further away from the spot we are headed towards than we started.  Any pursuit worth it’s weight I’m certain comes with this type of fluctuation.

I digress, and forgive me as I am new to blogging and do not know the slang just yet, give me some time.  Using my debut feature film The Grace of Jake, which was Kickstarter funded for the most part- using that experience as my guide, I hope to walk with you through the entire process.  Partly in an attempt at transparency for anyone interested in a similar passion project, and partly to keep a record of days I wish I had been better at journaling in the moment.

At times I will get technical as I love the craft side of filmmaking.  The gear we use, the terms we employ, the various crew members we work with.  I want to get into as it is such a huge part of our trade.  At other times I may wax philosophical or rather sentimentally about my youth and life long love affair with movies.  I reckon being that it is my blog I can do whatever I please with it!  If you enjoy our little chats please share with others, I want to start a conversation.  I want to connect and hopefully inspire as well as learn.  Says I have 579 words left, but I feel as if I have said enough for now.  Don’t worry, I will be back very soon and you will soon learn that I have a tendency to be quite long-winded on the keyboard.  Thanks for reading, and I look forward to this journey together.  And much to the chagrin (sp?) of my amazing english teacher in high school Dr. Gist, I will not be editing my own entires.  I like mistakes, they are what make us who we are.    -Hicky

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