JUPITER J. MAKINS
Photo by John Gundy
“The greatest time machine ever invented was a good story.”
- Jupiter J. Makins
I am a storyteller. It’s bigger than me. Even in conversations I tell stories. Though I never thought being a storyteller was the path I would take in life. I love interior design and fashion. I had a desire to get into advertising when I was a teen. That’s what I went to school to become and swore I would be a creative director in advertising by the time I was thirty. I blew my profs away with a campaign I did for a project; I graduated with the award for the top of my class; I reached 30 and had never gone into advertising.
For me, the path I thought I’d take and the one that was forged were two very different roads. Oddly enough, it was my schooling in advertising that would send me down the other road that apparently had a sign on it, which read: No turning back. (For that story, go to The Story Behind the Story on the Books page under The King of Egypt).
When I left school, I went into TV production, climbing my way onwards and upwards with each new contract but brewing inside me was an overwhelming desire to tell a particular story. I finally listened to my heart, despite how frightened I felt. I quit working and wrote my first novel, The King of Egypt. I swore I’d only write that one book only because its pages were forcing themselves out of me. I was never going to be a writer. But, then again, never say never.
It definitely was bigger than me—telling stories. I realized, it was what I must do to be true to my heart. My thought of, “I’ll write this one book but I’m not going to be a writer!” couldn’t become true. As soon as I was done that one book, a flood of stories kept flowing to me beyond my control—it definitely was bigger than me.
Most of my stories are given to me through dreams. Others force themselves onto my path until I say “Okay.” I have more stories to tell than I have time to live. They wait as ideas in notebooks for their chance to behold my pen. I write longhand first. That’s how I connect to where they come from.
I give myself little credit because they flow to me with very little thought from my own mind. I see and hear them like a movie playing in my mind, my hand scribbling all that I see as if I’m just the scriber. When they come to me in dreams, I know I’m supposed to write the story because I am not even a character in my own dream. I’m watching it happen. All my stories come to me like movies in my mind so it was natural for me to move into filmmaking.
After selling the first screenplay I wrote, Unknown Caller, I decided I wanted to direct so that I could create the movie I saw in my mind as I wrote it. I had no experience directing anything but dove into directing with a feature film, Bigfoot and the Burtons.
Everyone thought I was crazy to start with a feature. “Do a short or a music video first!” their fears warned me. But, I’m not a person to allow fears and others to break me. So, despite being riddled with my own fear, I strengthened myself with my mantra “All or nothing” and I did it all. I put up the money with my boyfriend since no one but us would believe that I could make a good film with no directing or producing experience. Guess what? I did.
Bigfoot and the Burtons is selling around the world (to hear how that came to be, go to Discover More on the Film page under Bigfoot and the Burtons). My second film, Bully Fighters, which is a short, is also selling internationally and screening with critical acclaim (see Discover More on the Film page under Bully Fighters).
Today, I’m an author, screenwriter, director and producer. My passion truly is telling the story as a writer and I love seeing it into existence as a director. I produce because I’m always determined to make it happen and I’m great at motivating others to see things through to completion but I’m more of a creator than a producer. Thus, I’m on the hunt for a producer who loves the business challenge, getting the money and a project out to the world to team up with.
I’m not going to lie. The industry is a challenge. There are days when quitting seems like the smartest thing to do but I push forward nonetheless because I must stay true to my heart. I am a storyteller and a dreamer with a deep-seated belief that one day I’ll reach the height of success. And when I do, I aim to inspire others to be true to their hearts and do more to help make the world a better place. That’s the ultimate goal.
When I went to register the corporation, the woman in the office asked what kind of company it was. "Entertainment," I told her, a little puzzled because it's in the name. "What kind of entertainment?" she scrutinized. "Films and books," I answered.
She was disgusted with me, made a fuss and told me she wasn't going to let me register. I was confused and then I realized. "Not porn!" I gasped. If ever there was a time to use this line, "Don't judge a book by it's cover" it was then and I used it.
The Bully Fighters Story
Jupiter J. Makins wrote Bully Fighters because she felt she was called to do so. "It started from an email notification in my inbox regarding a film festival. I get a dozen of those a day and delete them out without looking at them. But for some reason, I couldn't delete this one. Every day I'd click all the "junk mail" around it, delete them from my inbox so I could go through pertinent emails. After two weeks of this, it bothered me that this email lingered so I opened it, skimmed through it and deleted it. The next day it showed back up in my inbox—forwarded from a friend’s husband who had only ever emailed me once before when he was organizing a birthday party for my friend. What were the chances? That had to be a sign. “Okay, Universe,” I conceded, “I’ll do it.”
The festival was the Forum on Law, Culture and Society Film Festival (FOLCS) and they required a short film (25 minutes or less) on law, justice and society.
Up until that moment I was determined to never let myself make a short. I never saw the purpose—they cost a lot of money, rarely make money and don’t really count in the film industry by comparison to making a feature. Yet once again, I learned the lesson of ‘never say never’ (truly a lesson I may not grasp in this lifetime). There I was poised to make a short. Now on what topic?
Apparently, the Divine knew exactly where it would direct me. For the next week, the topic of bullying kept landing on my path: I was in a line and heard some girls talking about a bullying incident; I went to a friend’s for dinner. “Why aren’t you wearing pink?” she asked. “It’s to show support to stop bullying LGBTQ.”; I logged onto Facebook and saw a video of teens who bullied a bus patrol, making the woman cry. It was so mean it broke my heart and made me cry. I looked up to the Universe and said, “I hear you. This needs to stop.”
I knew I didn’t want to make this film alone and sought out a woman who I had met with several times as she had expressed she had wanted to work with me on something. It was the end of April. The final deadline for the FOLCS Film Festival was July 31st at midnight. We met for coffee and I told her I wanted to write and direct a short to submit to FOLCS.
“There’s not enough time,” she said.
“I believe we can do it in time or at least do everything to try,” I defended.
“You still have to write the script, then cast it, pre-production, shoot it and finish post. There’s no way we can do this…”
I never heard what else she said. As she went on about why it was impossible, I remember her face becoming a blur as I put up an energetic wall between us and thought, “I will not plug into your defeatist beliefs.” I watched her talk, not hearing a word she said, and decided, “I need to find someone who thinks I CAN.” I quickly wrapped up our coffee meeting and left.
As I was heading home, I kept thinking about Patricia who had worked with me on my other films but had recently moved to Los Angeles. “I wish Patricia was here,” I thought. Then I heard a voice that was not my own enter my thoughts, “Get out of your own way,” it said. I thought about it for a moment and realized, I didn’t want to hear the limitations from the woman I had coffee with, yet here I was deciding the limitations about Patricia living in L.A. and my need to shoot the film in Toronto. Don’t decide on limitations without finding out! “Ask,” the voice whispered.
I went home and wrote the script in one night. Bully Fighters flowed onto the pages easily and passionately. The next day I edited the script and by nightfall I felt it was done.
I called Patricia. “Hey,” I said when she answered the phone. “I wrote a short film that I want you to star in.” I emailed her the script and in under an hour she called me back.
“I love it!” she exclaimed.
“Great!” I responded. “Do you want to produce it with me? I have a calling to get the film done for this FOLCS Film Festival. I don’t know why, but I feel like the Universe is pushing me to do so. The final deadline is July 31st.”
Now here’s the difference between the first woman and Patricia. Patricia responded, “That’s perfect. I’m back in Toronto in June and I can work from here until I get back.”
Time came and went; we were both busy and didn’t have time to look at the script again or get anything started. June arrived and Patricia was in Montreal acting in a TV show and was delayed getting to Toronto. She arrived the second week of July and we met on July 9th 2014 for a coffee. As we were leaving my place to go across the street to a coffee shop, I said, “Let’s take some books with us to read.” I grabbed two motivational books and we left.
We sat at the coffee shop, sipping our coffees, reading the books. I felt inspired. I looked up at Patricia and said, “We can do this,” referring to making Bully Fighters.
Patricia looked back at me and said, “Of course we can!”
“It’s us.” I added, “We can make anything happen!”
We grabbed our coffees and ran back to my condo, giggling with excitement and words of empowerment that we could do this, the whole way back. We turned my condo into a production office, posting ads for crew and production staff and sending out calls for actors to audition the next day. There was a revolving door on the auditions. Actors were responding to the postings and we would tell them, “Come now!” We had to cast thirty people in the film.
We had no money to make the film, but every roadblock we hit, it was as if the Universe delivered a solution. Through a Facebook posting an acquaintance of Patricia wanted to help because he had gone through bullying himself. I met with him and after our meeting he increased his donation significantly and championed his friends to help financially. We somehow suddenly had enough money for the things we couldn’t get contributed.. People had donated their buildings, homes, cars, computers and time to see this important story filmed. We had casted the actors, pulled together a crew and locked our locations in only a few days.
Every obstacle that threatened failure was miraculously lifted.
We had to make it an actor union shoot with Patricia being a member. “We won’t be able to get approved in such short time,” Patricia said, referring to Co-op-1 Agreement that allows her to work with actors and not have to pay.
“Of course you can!” I exclaimed with hopeful laughter.
Patricia worked her magic, explaining the goal of the film and the topic. Somehow she got those at ACTRA to rush our Coop-1 Agreement and we had it in a day.
We slept little and did nothing other than speedily prep everything for our fast approaching shoot days.
Patricia had deliberated on whether she should go out to an event she was invited to by a friend. “Go,” I urged. “You need a break from this.”
The universe had conspired for us again. Patricia had returned from the party with a invaluable contact. She was talking about our over-reaching goal of filming and delivering Bully Fighters in under three weeks at the party; the guy she was speaking to owned RED cameras and offered them to us to use for free. We now had the top of the line RED Dragon for our shoot. We had planned to shoot the 25 page script in four days, which had over a half a dozen location moves. Our editor picked the footage up each night and began assembling. I worked around the clock with him until I got it the best it could be. I added in temp score and the editor exported on the night of July 31st.
As I uploaded our submission on the eleventh hour before the festival entry closed at midnight, I prayed that green bar completed on time. It did. We were in.
Bully Fighters was one of the seven finalists at the FOLCS Short Film Competition. We were the fourth film to play at the screening night, surrounded by stellar works. As each film played, I was sure it was the one that would win--they were all so incredible and polished! Bully Fighters was the only film that was submitted as a work-in-progress. We didn’t have sound design, no colour correction, temp score… I slouched in my seat as Bully Fighters came onto the screen, embarrassed. It was the longest film submitted and I cringed for all 25 minutes of it, fixated on all the technical film blunders. But then a surprising thing happened when it ended… it wasn’t the clapping that stood out, it was the murmur of voices in the audience debating the final question Bully Fighters asks. The credits finished, the next film started and still the audience discussed. Bully Fighters had achieved its goal. I was sitting tall, proud with a realization that the people didn’t care about the technical correctness of the film, they cared about the message.
Bully Fighters won Audience Favorite Award that evening and when the night was over, I had a line of people waiting to speak to me about the film. I realized this is what Bully Fighters is meant to do--get people demanding change.
Of course, before we would show the film again we would polish it. We re-shot one of the scenes, got an award-winning composer as well as sound editor, had it colour corrected and I did a fine cut edit on it.
I believe the FOLCS competition was the catalyst that forced Bully Fighters into existence but the film is destined for much more… the Universe is aligning.