The New Hollywood Amazing Men Series
The New Hollywood is all about creating community, support and partnership. More importantly TNH wants to inspire all men and women to Rise Higher, Shine Brighter and to Give Back! As a group of shepherds, not sheep, we feel it’s important want to also highlight men we respect who consistently add tremendous value to the world. Welcome to TNH Amazing Men Series. We are honored to have them share their wisdom with all of us.
Our first man featured in the TNH Amazing Men Series is filmmaker Brett Leonard. Enjoy!
1. Who you are and what you do? Who was/is the most profound male influence in your life and why ?
My name is Brett Leonard, and I am a film producer/director/writer who has been working in the Hollywood industry for over 25 years.
The most profound male influence on my life has definitely been my father, Sidney Leonard. He worked as an educator in the mid-west for his entire career, and has always been a seeker of knowledge and truth, but most importantly taught me by example what being an honest man of integrity is all about. I expressed my dream of being a filmmaker very early on, and even though that was something completely outside his life experience, he always supported me in pursuing that dream. From my earliest memories, he taught me that any kind of prejudice or inequity were abhorrent and the height of ignorance, something I feel viscerally to this day.
2. What other amazing men would you nominate? Why?
My good friend Jack Thompson, the legendary Australian actor (Breaker Morant, countless other great films). He is a true renaissance man who has lived an amazing life of adventure, and someone who has inspired me with his incredible intelligence and passion for the arts and living, and for his support and involvement with the Aboriginal people of Australia- see: http://www.jackthompsonfoundation.com
3. Who is the most influential woman in your life and why?
There are two women I must mention, both of whom have passed on into the great mystery.
The first was my mother, Rachel, who is really the person who, apart from loving me unconditionally, instilled in me my love of cinema. When I was a young boy, she would regularly come whisper to me before I got out of bed in the morning for school that I should “fake like I had a fever” that day so I could stay home and watch a favorite old movie of hers that was going to be shown on an afternoon movie show on tv - We watched together and would laugh, cry, and be thrilled by these incredible movies from the golden age of Hollywood. She loved Hitchcock films more than any other, and this definitely influenced my sensibilities from the very beginning of my development.
The second was my first filmmaking partner, Gimel Everett, who not only was the first true love of my life, but also was the first person who believed in me as a filmmaker. She was an incredibly talented storyteller in her own right, and she really kicked my ass to do the work of developing myself as a film director. She was my co-writer and producer on my first movies, including Lawnmower Man, so we cracked into Hollywood together. Wild times, but she always kept me grounded and focused on the work. Gimel was an incredible being, and I miss her very much.
I always feel that both of these wonderful souls are working with me from the other side of the veil - I really do.
4. What is your personal motto/mantra?
Discovery through collaboration and partnership- that’s the joy of making films for me. I try to come to each new project with “zen beginner’s mind” so I won’t miss something because of what I think I know.
5. What advice would you give young men and women?
To focus on the process of living a creative life, and not become distracted by all the trappings of any given “lifestyle”. It turns out that those of us who are blessed to do this kind of work live most of our lives in the process of the work, and the end product is really for everyone else.
Of course the business is completely focused on that end product, and its success or failure, and I’m not saying that isn’t important- it’s just that it can’t be the most important thing if you want to keep growing as an artist living the creative life. It becomes a bit of a paradox actually, but finding balance and your own truth in that paradox becomes essential to staying sane and moving forward, especially in an art-form and business like this!
6. What causes are you passionate about and why?
I’m passionate about cinema, not only as a beautiful compelling art-form, but more importantly as a visual language that can transcend all barriers of spoken or written language and culture. I truly believe cinema is the global language that can save us from the tower of Babel- it speaks directly to our shared experience as humanity, not just as tribes, nations, or individuals. Cinema is my religion - if it fully matures, it will be the language that tells the story of what Joseph Campbell called the myth of the Global Human- something we must evolve to embrace or perish.
7. How do you contribute to your community and why?
I now spend a good part of my time mentoring young people, primarily filmmakers from elementary school age to college, through speaking, teaching, and helping produce projects. I have also become involved with documentary filmmaking over the past decade, on projects that I feel tell important stories. These projects aren’t about money or prestige for me, but about using my skills to give back as a storyteller.
8. What is your definition of being man versus being a boy?
A boy is ruled by his ego, a man learns to use it as a tool, and not allow it to be master. A man can get out of his head, and love from his heart without constraint or condition, and allows gratitude and forgiveness to be his center, not ambition.
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of the “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.