I wanted to address the serious problem of verbal abuse interns and other crew persons face on film sets from directors, producers, or others in charge.
Why would I invite a CEO to discuss this topic? Well, Gerg’s company, Hemmings House Pictures creates content that inspires positive action. Their essence is to spread kindness and positivity within the work environment and through the content they produce.
One example is the heartfelt music film When You Are Wild: A Day in the Life of J. Willis Pratt, which shows the power of friendship and how a community rallied together to help one of their own.
The moral model of Hemmings House Pictures is one that many in the industry can learn from.
Hemmings has produced and directed countless documentaries, branded content, and commercials, featuring some of the most inspiring stories. One of which is his 2021 documentary, Sistema Revolution – a video case study that explores the impact that the Hemmings House Pictures documentary “Sistema Revolution” had on a community.
Besides film and commercial production, Hemmings Film Pictures also curates courses to employ other filmmakers to create positive social change.
Without further ado, let’s get into it. Enjoy my conversation with Greg Hemmings.
Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Greg Hemmings. Man. How you doing, Greg?
Greg Hemmings 0:18
So good. Thanks so much for having me on. This is fantastic, man.
Alex Ferrari 0:22
Thank you so much for being on the show, man. Thanks for reaching out a mutual friend of ours, Jimmy connected us. And, you know, you wanted to come on to talk about a bunch of things. And I think the main focus we're going to be doing today is abuse in the business, which is shocking, because I've never heard of any abuse in the business. It's been a very Pollyanna kind of world, the film industry, there is no abuse, there's no yelling, there's no
Greg Hemmings 0:44
oh, you know, it's the kind of place and you know, it's a, it's certainly not a shame based learning environment. It's a it's a place to thrive and blossom.
Alex Ferrari 0:54
I feel I feel so the same way. That's why I I'm bringing all my All My Children will be starting from scratch and great Hippocrates. Now, we're going to talk about something that really is a little bit more in the news. Now. I mean, Scott Rudin is now famously being basically thrown out of Hollywood because of the decades of abuse that he is giving people I didn't know he was the he was the source for the very famous film swimming with the sharks. He was. So there was a movie called swimming with the sharks with Kevin with Kevin Spacey as I mean, you can't write you can't write this stuff, man. I'm sorry. Kevin Spacey was playing the agent and I forgot who the I think it was Jon Cryer or not even john Carter was or another actor of that of that generation. I forgot who started as the assistant and the assistant was just getting a, I mean, just destroyed by this producer. And everybody in town knew who it was. But out in the world, nobody knew. And it was Scott Rudin. He was he was the producer. So it was a very quiet hush hush thing. But now it just started to come out. And like yeah, it was Scott Rudin, who was based the basis of that horrible human being, and, and the whole concept of the bullying and all that stuff we'll get we'll get into it. But at first, I want to know, how did you get started in this fantastically Pollyanna world that is Hollywood?
Greg Hemmings 2:24
Well, okay, so I've got a very long version of the story, which I will not go into, but I'm pretty sure I try my best to condense it. So high school, okay, we're going way back into the mid 90s. playing rock band. And like every kid playing drums in a rock band, you assume that's what you can do for a living and obviously, go into the career of touring and playing music. For me, it didn't quite pan out that way. That's okay. But in grade 11, I was in media studies class. And I was like, I got to make a music video for for my band. And a doc then of course, all we had was multiple VHS decks. And we had the Video Toaster. Classic classic piece of software, the best wipes the best stripper wipes you could ever imagine.
Alex Ferrari 3:14
They had like the oil like it was all we were talking about this before we started was like they had this, this woman dancing as a transition, which was obviously a stripper. There was a pole transition with like, I mean, did they actually just shot the footage of these the strap. So there was sheep falling, there was oil transitions, but it was literally physical things that they shot, and I guess they keyed and then read a transition for it. So it was it was revolutionary at the time. Like,
Greg Hemmings 3:43
as a quick aside, Alex, we should do a short film, trying to find the guys who design and go girls who designed those wipes. Like their epic and they don't exist anymore. Like he said, I figured farm sheep anymore.
Alex Ferrari 3:57
You know what I gotta tell you, I found that I found them. I actually did research and I found them. They are available. Because I wanted I wanted to put them out I like I'm like I want to just create the Video Toaster. Like who owns these things. And I found them. I think you can insert them somehow in in somewhere. But anyway, this is a side note, let's make into a Video Toaster. Okay, so it's a good digression for anybody in the in the 90s, who was who was in the in the in the industry at all. Anyhow, I
Greg Hemmings 4:26
made this music video. And I was like, this is really good. And so one thing I did in high school with video I was making and I was like, hey, putting images to music. That's really awesome. And I remember I was in my IB history class and we were doing a sing on Pompei. And I took Pink Floyd's live at Pompei music track, but then I started editing a whole bunch of other guys essentially rebuilding the film the pixel I did anyway but I did it my own way. And and that was my project. I was like, Huh, this is really cool. So for me it was all music and film. Can video and images coming together. And I never really thought about it again, but except for the fact that I'm a creative guy, I'm a musician. And that was a lot of fun playing with video. Fast forward to graduation, I go to arts university in my town, and I just felt like it was an extension of high school, nothing, no disrespect to the university itself, just all my same friends the same location, I was just going to arts because I didn't know what else to do. And then a buddy of mine at a Christmas party I was at. He was in Ontario, I hadn't seen him in years. And I asked him what he's doing. He goes, I'm going to film school. I said, that sounds way cooler. So it's literally out of boredom that I was like, that sounds way more cool. So I ended up applying to go to the same film school I got, I got accepted at Niagara College, and in Niagara Falls Ontario, and went there for three years to study broadcast, television and film. And that's when we're shooting with the Super 16 and editing everything on the screen back. And, you know, like, I loved becoming an editor with film, you know, like it really was a it was a gift to to learn on film. You know, were avid was starting to come onto the scene. But you know, early early days, it was 150 grand if you wanted to tap into that. So it was really, it was really cool to learn the art of storytelling. Even as a cinematographer, knowing full well how much that little real roll of film costs, you know, you're not taking 567 takes you're doing 567 rehearsals and don't take. And then when you make a cut, you better be sure it's the right cut. Because you're not you don't have the money to get it reprint. So I really think that learning in the film, film school environment was really cool for me to become an efficient, you know, cinematographer director and editor in the earlier years, and quick, fast forward into graduating into college, I immediately joined the union and started in the IRC, and I started in the camera department. And it is there that I really get to understand the the movie magic, you know, behind the scenes of how movies are made and working on big crews, you know, 100 200 people cruise and doing science fiction series and, you know, movies of the week, and I remember doing a Disney movie in my first or second year and just a lot, a lot of really interesting projects. And I thought at that point, my track was to become, you know, Director of photography. So, you know, the camera department was my was my angle. And, you know, I don't know if this is where we want to go into the into the crisis point. But I don't know about you, Alex. But if you're creative person working in what's supposed to be a creative industry, but it is like walking on eggshells, and you are you're in an environment where the stress is so high, there's so much money on the table. And, you know, poop rolls downhill as they say, my kids just walked in the door every time I say the SH words. So and I just remember feeling after, you know, working, you know, working through the ranks in the camera department, never being happy going to work. You know, I'm like, this is supposed to be movie magic. Like, is this supposed to be like the dream, you know? And I was like, people don't respect people here. Like, you're respected if you're up, but you're not respected if you're down. And, you know, I understood that concept of shame based learning, you know, like, if you screwed up brought the wrong lens, or if you didn't guess what the next lens Was that your first was calling out for, you know, that sort of thing. You got reprimanded publicly. And for me, I had the great blessing Alex have never been bullied him in my life as a kid. I was, I was one of those kids, that was friends with everybody, you know. And somehow I got saved from being picked on maybe I was picked on but I probably had thick enough skin that I didn't recognize it. I don't know. So being I think the sense of being bullied as an adult. After spending three years doing film school, telling all your friends and family that you're gonna be working in the film industry, and then a couple years into realizing that you don't want to do it anymore. And feeling that awful feeling of Am I going to quit this thing. My whole identity right now is tied up in this thing. Right? And but I had that sole issue of, I'm a creative person. And I wait, I wake up and go to set and I feel I feel like the creativity is being beat anatomy. And, you know, some people listening to this might might think, oh, Greg, you know, toughen up. That's the way it is. And you're right. It is the way it is. But that's not the way I am. Nor is the way I want to invest my precious life, you know, that, you know, go into any job where your soul gets sucked out. What's the point, you know?
So that's why I got into the film industry. And I'll pause there for a second because you might have another direction you want to go into, but the how, right after I quit like literally the day I said I'm done. It was the last day on a Sunday. A seven month series. I lived in a little motorhome behind the set. It was pretty cool. That part was neat. But I, I ended up going on this adventure that was completely life changing. Which I'll pause right now is every great storyteller will just leave you leave you hanging. But anyway, I just want to answer your question first about how I got into the industry. I fell in love with film at Film School, which is kind of a neat props to film school because I wasn't a film guy for that.
Alex Ferrari 10:28
So I so I mean, look, I You and I are of similar vintage. So you and I, it's vintages we'd like to say, in a nice way of saying we're both old. This. But, you know, we came up around the same time, maybe in different parts of the country, maybe in different industries around the time that you were in Canada doing what you were doing. I was down in Florida, going through that process as well. And my first my first meeting with that kind of environment was my first internship at a a very predominant commercial production house. And there were a couple of owners. One of them was the sweetest man in the world. And the other one was bipolar. He was bipolar in the days that he did not take his medicine. He was a monster. And they he took his medicine, he was the nicest human being on the planet. So it was you know, and that was the first time that I would get publicly yelled at for whatever if I did something wrong. It was and this is all office stuff. So in the office, I would be yelled, and everybody in the office kind of felt that energy like, Oh, he's here, kind of energy. And I was 20 whatever. I was like 2122 I was a young kid, and him yelling at me. But then like, the next day, it's show up, and we just freak you out. Because you were just like, hey, Alex, how you doing? I'm like, oh man, like it's like, what am I trips and he's Hey, man, you know, I want to watch this movie. I'm going to show you this movie. So like one day, he would be like a mentor. And the next day, he would literally just come in like a red like a rampaging bull. So that was the first experience of that. And then that kind of that kind of experience happened again and again, on sets. I did a lot of internships on a universals backlot in Orlando, when I was in film school, I worked on a lot of TV shows there and, and got hired as a PA and all that stuff. And I would see the same thing I was in a fox show. And and the producer would show up and everyone would be really quiet and it all like how is he feeling today? Is he is he gonna destroy somebody and you would, and I would see him. He never took it out on me because I was just so low on the totem pole that I didn't even matter. But he he would destroy like, you know, writers, right? There are other producers or other staff, and you want to talk about abuse. One day, he's like, hey, the the producer, Boris, his name was Boris, which of course, his name was Boris, Boris. Boris wants you to do a special run for him. I'm like, Oh, great. Oh, this is awesome. I'm gonna do a special run. So yeah, I guess meet him at his house. I'm like, great. So I drive out to the house with a couple other PhDs and you know, we're in the van. And we basically moved his house for him for free. So we basically we were his movers for the day. Yeah, we like he was moving f
Greg Hemmings 13:24
ar more scandalous. I don't know. I didn't know where you're going there. But
Alex Ferrari 13:28
I could have no I could have gotten real like, yeah, could have been, you know, the the I could have been Weinstein. But I wasn't. So no, but it was it was but it But still, that's a form of abuse. Because what do you say? Do you say no to that, because if you say no to that, then you risk your position in, in the prop and the production. And if you get fired from that production, your chances of moving up the scale is hard. So they understand that they have power that they can kind of twist and use and abuse, especially of the young, especially of the of people who are just starting out, you just eat it because you have no choice because the opportunities of our business are so minuscule sometimes especially at that era, there was no like, hey, grab your own iPhone and make your own movie like that, that that was a tough sell. To do that, like was it still cost obscene amounts of money, you know, 10s of 1000s even on the lower end, you know, clerks still cost 23 grand, you know, you know, you know clackers still cost money You know, these these movies still do cost money, and I was in no position to do anything like that. So in those are the kind of first stories that I first time I felt that kind of thing. And you're absolutely right with that love the term shame based learning because that's what it is on set. And I've been a director for years and I've been on set for years and I see it it's never when I'm on a set and I'm a director I'd never allow abuse, but that ribbing which sometimes can be, especially the camera and the grip department. Oh, Jesus, the camera, the grip department. They're brutal. They're just brutal. But a lot of times they won't do it publicly, they'll do it within their own own own hazing. Sidious right. Yeah, it's a hazing process. And some of that is kind of ribbing. And it's kind of fun. And you're like, you know, you gotta, you gotta toughen up, it's the business. And that's fine. And some of that stuff, you know, and we, it's a fun environment, as long as if the person doesn't feel like they're being abused. But even then, you've got you got to that balance that to kind of walk that line, you know,
Greg Hemmings 15:33
but then any other industry. So really good point is, this was so hard for me to quit because I was like it, it wasn't easy to get into the unit wasn't easy to go through film school. And once you get in, you're gonna wait for your next turn to get called back. And so you're right there is a there's a scarcity approach to the to the film industry, that makes us all want to do the right thing and say the right things and you know, make the right people happy. But unfortunately, if you've got the wrong people in positions of power, the abuses are so easy, right and paying it. And that's But like any other industrial Hey, it happens in every other industry, of course, but specifically in the film industry, because it's so scarce, and it's so special like that the film industry is so, so magical from the outside, right. It's just
Alex Ferrari 16:23
more it's just a marketing and branding tool. Like I always say Hollywood's great at the sizzle, but it sucks at the steak. You know, they I mean, and I always use the analogy of the Oscars. You know, when you see Oscar night, I don't know if you've been down to Hollywood Boulevard. But Oh, yeah. Yeah, if you go Oscar night, man, Oscar night, in a normal Oscar night situation, red carpets that Hollywood Boulevard looks like a magical place. You leave the next week. I mean, you can't walk. If you walk a block or two away from the Dolby theater. You know, the darker it gets, the more chances you're going to get stabbed or hit with a needle.
Greg Hemmings 17:00
Like it's a horrible, horrible place. But I was in Hollywood, just before the pandemic hit. So I think was November of 2019. Right? Yeah. And we're putting a film festival on at wanderlust. Yeah, really cool yoga yoga spot as an impact Film Festival. So I brought in, you know, films from Patagonia and, and from, you know, a bunch of different like B Corp companies that are doing like corporate, but like documentaries that are really making the world change and SoulPancake plays like that. It was a really cool event. But I remember one of the nights I was there. It was like nine o'clock at night, and everything was shot on Boulevard. There's no like there's one pizza place we found. I was like, I thought this place is rough. I was like the strip in Vegas. No, no, no.
Alex Ferrari 17:49
It's horrible. It's like, I'll tell you my first experience going to Hollywood Boulevard. This is what happens when anyone comes to LA who's visiting people who live in LA. So I was visiting someone who lived in LA and I first thing my wife and I said like, we got to go to Hollywood Boulevard and you see the face just go. Like, okay, it's not what you think it is. I'm like, No, no, I gotta go to Hollywood. Well, I want to, I want to see where the hands are in the prints in the Chinese Theater. So we drive there, and this is before Madame Tussaud's. That whole complex was just a parking lot. Right when I got there. So we parked right next to the Chinese Theater. We get out and the moment we get out some woman random woman walking by. She goes, Hey, and she just flashes us. He says like Hollywood and then and then my buddy turns to me goes Welcome to Hollywood. I was like, holy cow and like and then I just walked around. I'm like, this is horrible. Like, this is nasty. This is I don't want to be anytime I've ever had to go down to Hollywood Boulevard. It always I'm like, I have to go to the Chinese Theater for a film festival or something. I'm like, ah, God, I don't want to go down there. It's horrible. But that is the sizzle in the steak. That's what Hollywood is so brilliant that they are the best in propak. They're the best propaganda machine in history. Because Hollywood and movie stars and our culture here in America, in general, has been exported to the entire world and entire world buys it. But the at the end of the day, it's not real. Life is not like friends. You know, it's just not it's, it's not it wasn't when they were making it. They couldn't afford that damn apartment in New York in a real life. Like how the hell so? We're going on a tangent but that is the sizzle in the steak. You're absolutely right.
Greg Hemmings 19:34
Yeah, so the dots. I think it's like a little bit of a dream crusher to in a way when it's when young people get into the industry and and they're present and you don't want it's this doesn't happen everybody, you know, just happened to me. You know, other people thrive in that and they learn really great and that's and all that. I do remember feeling great responsibility as a camera trainee and as a second camera. camera system, holding that mega film that we, that we shot probably the last hour and a half with who knows what the payroll was for the actors that are on that one thing of film. And here's me the lowest paid guy on set going into the dark room or into the dark bag, changing it and if one ounce of light gets into that, like it was incredible. So I understand the pressure, I understand why it's so critical to be militant and precise. But there's ways of doing that, that help people be inspired and excited. And, you know, fast forward to where we are now. That's the film culture I've been trying to build surrounding my company. But, you know, going going back just to finish off my, my journey, I ended up a couple days after I quit the industry. And what to see one of my favorite bands play in a neighboring town. And this this lady came up to me and named Charlene I never met her before, but she had a flask of Jaeger Meister. She wants him Jaeger. I was like, Yes, I do. So I had a couple swigs. And she told me that her her rule man, her boyfriend was this Dutch captain who lives in a sailboat in the Caribbean. And he runs cargo like all over the place. And I was like, I used to sail when I was a kid. I'd love to do that. And literally this week before 911. So it was very easy to get a passport. I didn't have a passport yet. Just a number of days later, I have my passport. And I was on an airplane had no idea was getting myself into. And like I said earlier, we're like, this was a scandalous thing we're about to jump into. I was like, Am I gonna be running drugs on the sailboat? The gun says, what are we doing here? Because nobody told me there's like, here's your plane ticket. He needs crew. So I land I end up living on a sailboat on a massive 110 foot sailboat. And there's just Captain me and another guy named Tyrus from St. Lucia. And we delivered cargo we little crane, can we pick up trucks, it can be refrigerators, fish, whatever. Then we sail into little markets, I say markets like like Island markets where the big cargo ships wouldn't be able to get to efficiently. So we would get we'd fill up the supplies for shops, grocery stores, whatever, very quickly and efficiently all by the power of the wind. So like we would sail like 15 pickup trucks, to islands and stuff and the film industry and the sail, it comes from the sailing world, right. If you're a sailor, there's a good chance you're gonna be a good rigger and a good girl, you know, absolute all all that sort of thing. So it felt very natural. And I was smart enough to use a few dollars before I went on that trip to buy my first camera, which is the Canon g oh one. And I just documented that whole experience down there. And my time in the Caribbean, continued I after the sailing adventure that went on for a very long time, I jumped on a cruise ship as a theater guy. And quickly, they found that there was a film guy, and I opened up some of the broadcast departments on some of the ships, and they had avid, so like the $150,000 version of avid, where I'm like, Oh, this is nice. So I would come home in the summer. And I would make music documentaries. Do you know different music festivals and whatnot. Come back in the winter and do my job but also edit all my films on the average on the cruise ships?
Alex Ferrari 23:19
I did that every time off? Yeah, for time off. Isn't it funny though? Isn't it funny? What you're saying is because I've said this so many times when you get bit by the bug you can't it's it's it's it's an infection you can't get rid of it. It's it's done. It's in your bloodstream and I thought it was done but I wasn't right here. It comes back up wherever you are in life. Like I'm on a cruise ship I should maybe bring a camera like that's that's a sickness. It's not like I'm just gonna leave Oh yes, it is an illness because like you know when you like leave McDonald's from a job like I quit McDonald's I will never work in the fast food industry again, you don't go to another job and go You know what, we need burgers. Like it's not something you bring with you. But the film is this is such a thing. It's once you're in it's in you and you can't get rid of it and it can go dormant for years by the way a decade or two could go by it will always live underneath and I got 16 year old seven year olds seriously come to me like you know what I just retired I want to be a filmmaker now again and I got the money I'm going to go make my first movie and that's it just illness. That's name your next book Alex the illness the illness the illness no it's the the beautiful illness but it's not really depends on the illness. It could be beautiful. It could be horrible. But that's fascinating that that's the kind of route you went to like my route was more post I found my life in post because one I didn't have to deal with anybody. Generally the one person, maybe a producer. The abuse wasn't as much inside of a room one on one because there's a bravery that needs to be there from the person in power to yell at the person who has control of your entire there's nobody else around right right So so there wasn't as much abuse I don't think I was ever really yelled at in post. I can't remember if I did I've forgotten it over the years, but it wasn't as prevalent it is is on set because the egos are on set and you've got to show off and sometimes it's in there's politics involved and all that kind of stuff. I did have a fist fight start in my in my post sweet not me. I was between the client and and the agency who got fired the agency if the agency got fired, made at it. And there's a fistfight it's my it's my magic right there. It's my it's it's Miami, bro. It's it's Miami it happens. But you you when you reached out to me the first time you sent me this amazing article about your America. American Ninja or American American due to cuff. Yes, American Ninja, the American. The American Ninja Michael Duda cough onsets behavior. Can you please, please, please throw it out into the world?
Greg Hemmings 26:05
I'd love to tell the story because it's it. It really wasn't a hurtful experience. But it embodies everything we're talking about here. Okay. So it was my first film. So my buddy Andrew Tibi, and I he was my buddy, by the way that got me into film school, but the both of us we got on our very first feature film together. And Sidney fury was the director and Sidney fury did iron eagle and Superman for
Alex Ferrari 26:29
putting on the suit internal Superman for Okay, so look
Greg Hemmings 26:33
him up the Sidney fury is one of those guys that that directed a whole bunch of awesome films that were that were typically with numbers. But a really well respected director is a lovely man. I don't, I'm assuming he's still around. But he was he was older at the time. So the sort of late 90s. And I went with Toby, my buddy. And we, we said, Can we vote we're in film school right now second year, can we can we summertime? Can we get a gig and they said, Well, we don't have any budget, but you're welcome to come be a trainee volunteer trainee. And we're like, let's do it. You know, and it was it was a very quick shoot, it was like three weeks or something. And it was insane. Man, we've had like four cameras shooting at the same time because it's such a quick turnaround. So it was it was nutty. And so we started to learn a little bit of the ropes and it's totally different film school teaches you one thing, the real world thing is completely different. And hence where I learned immediately about the shame based learning thing, and we got bullied really bad I you know, and that's it was just a weird experience to to go through. But Michael due to cut off the American Ninja. I remember the scene, Marlee Matlin, you know Marlene mountain, of
Alex Ferrari 27:50
course, the Oscar winning actress from us Children of a Lesser gods,
Greg Hemmings 27:54
which was shot in my city, St. JOHN, New Brunswick.
Alex Ferrari 27:56
Yeah, I've always heard she's a very sweet. She's Irish.
Greg Hemmings 28:02
Interestingly, early mountains back, we were shooting that feature here in St. JOHN and the east coast of Canada. And this that would have been her second film here because she did Children of a Lesser God back in 80s here. So there was a scene and Michael duta coughs character was to come into the room. She was laying in bed. And he was coming in with a bunch of papers. It was setting up the scene, talking to his wife and so Michael comes in we do he doesn't come and we do this. Because we had multiple cameras in this scene. There's two cameras going on. So my buddy Andrew had one slate I had the other so camera a slate camera be slick, and then we would tuck around the door and then due to cough would come running through and seeing what start. So he came running through all right, and he tripped over Andrews leg. All the papers go everywhere. And of course the scene gets okay Cat Cat Cat. Michael Duda cough gets up in a rage. And I'm telling the story with laughing because it's just it's so bizarre and funny and awful at the same time. And he pulls his his leg back and wall loves to be right in the stomach kicks him. And the comedy of all of this is the American Ninja himself uses American Ninja leg to kick tibia in the gut. And you know, I talked to him to my buddy to be just inundated with the story. And we laughed so much because it's like Who else can say that they got kicked by the American Ninja, you know? What I recognize on that shoot that was so awful in so many different ways that nobody said anything. Nobody a thing. And it was the most inappropriate behavior. It was it was a little little rage that the guy had and he didn't hurt to be or anything you know, but it's just like symbolically as I call this is when the union isn't there, some union or something. So, here's an interesting thing. Just to tie that story up. Sidney theory The rap party came up to me and said, boys, you know, great work. Sorry, I saw a lot, a lot of people picking on you guys. Sorry, sorry about that. But I really appreciate all the effort you you put in to help me with my vision of my film. And then he found out that we were volunteers. And then as soon as we found out, we didn't get paid, he stopped the party there the band plan and everything stopped, the party, got up on the microphone and was so pissed off. And he was like, he did a big speech to the whole thing. The whole thing is that I just found out those two guys, that you guys have been so just disrespectful to throughout this whole film. We're not getting paid or volunteering on my film taught me to help make this a better film. And then he pulled out $100 bill and put it in his heart. And he goes everybody's putting money in here. So the hat went around the room, everybody put money in I bought it I bought my first motorbike without money. And and here's the interesting thing that he said, Remember, this feature was being shot here in my part of the country. So people that I would come to get to know this is our first my first film so this is all new people. He said you all of you have to watch out eventually all of you will be working for these two guys so be careful with who you who you push around and boy Now interestingly the the bullies on that set were the Toronto crew, not the local crew local crew are great. But that that prophecy came true because we did become producers both of us in our own companies and hired a lot of these guys and but I really liked what Sydney fury said there is be careful who you disrespect it just on the on the basis of is probably going to bite you in the butt down the road. Right. And I thought it was a really cool of him to do that. Also, I roll my eyes a bit. I was like, funny that if we were getting paid, it was okay to get kicked by the American Ninja. But
Alex Ferrari 31:50
to be honest, to be fair, I mean, many people would have been would have paid to get kicked by the American Ninja. So that way, I suppose we did know that we're laughing we're joking about it. But that is it's so on. That is so unacceptable. I've never seen physical violence from an actor to a an intern, or volunteer ever in my life, let alone to anybody else on set. Physical, I've never heard much many physical fights. Other than maybe amongst the higher ups like when the gods are fighting. That's one thing. But the gods generally don't fight with the with the mortals, if you will, in that hole. And even as I'm saying that it's ridiculous. They're human beings, just because they're at a higher level in the business doesn't give them more or less rights to hurt you or to abuse you. It's not right. Like we started off the conversation, Scott Rudin who is legendary for being a complete ass and, and literally torturing people throwing things at people physically attacking people. I mean, Harvey, Mr. Weinstein, and that he doesn't deserve the Mr. Weinstein, Harvey, the ass. He was the big one of the biggest bullies in Hollywood in a town full of bullies. And, and we're just talking about this kind of abuse. I mean, obviously, the whole me to movement.
Greg Hemmings 33:12
I mean, that's a whole other level of abuse, that you and I were guys in the in, like, like, the fact that we felt it, like if you're a minority, or if you're of a different, you know, sexual orientation, or a female, like the everything stacked against you are not old school way of doing films. And think about where, you know, Hollywood is the is the birthplace of, of this culture. in those early days, we weren't focusing on businesses that are focused on, you know, justice, equity, diversity, diversity and inclusion. We were trying to create equitable workplaces and safe places, it was run by men, that one make a lot of money. And that's that culture. Continue. It's very hard to break those patterns, you know, and no,
Alex Ferrari 34:04
no, no question at all. And I was, I was lucky in the sense because I came up in Miami, where I'm a man of color. I'm a Latino man. So it was there was like, that's the crew. So there was Latino people, there was part of the culture of sets in Miami, even on big movie sets when big like bad boys would show up or Miami Vice like there was, you know, there was Latinos everywhere. But anytime I rarely ever saw a female on set, unless it were in a certain department, whether it be costume or makeup or something like that. Occasionally, once in a blue moon, I would see a female grip. And that always blew my mind. I've had female groups work on my set, and it blew my mind because at the time, I'm like, man, she's got to be putting up with some, some stuff. Because I mean, if you're in the grip department, that's the arguably and I've been in the grip department. That's arguably the roughest place to be. And it is the carnies it is the carny They eat raw meat. I mean it is. I mean it is did I love them I By the way, I'd love my grandpa we love, love, love my grips, and I'll be the first to call them out in front to their face. And he's like, Guys, you know, you guys are crazy. Oh, the only the only group that's crazier than the grips is the stunt team. Like this stunt team guys, the stunt guys, and get out the stunt guys and gals, by the way, argue really interesting, female stunt women are more respected, and more. They are much more respected than any other area on the set for females. Because I remember having working with a stunt team and the female man, they the females were as respected if not more so for doing the stunts. And because I guess I don't know why. But it was. But the stunt people I've never met a stunt person who wasn't twisted, and we are whacked out in their head somewhere in the best, most beautiful way possible. Because this is kind of you get it. It's just like being an entrepreneur, you have to be something wire, you got to be wired differently. Because this is this is this is a conversation as a director to a stunt person and or stunt coordinator. I'll go Hey, okay, I'll need you to jump off that 10 foot beam that like great, can I do the 40 foot beam instead? Every time every time I needed to do one flip, can I do two flips and crash into the like, they always are amping it up to a brick and mortar, the mortar the screen they want to fit. But that's that's the beauty of the stuff of the stunt community. They always want to just and then sometimes us as directors and producers are like nah, dude, you're not jumping off the 50 storey building. I know you want to. We don't have the budget that No, no, I was kidding. And this is and then they'll always say no, no, I got a boy who's got the rig and the thing. And we could do that. And we could do that. I just wanted for my real me like, okay, dude, just, it's wonderful. It's it's absolutely wonderful. I love I love. I love my grapes. I love my son teams. But there's like, I have to ask you though, okay, so look, a lot of a lot of people listening. Now, a lot of people are young filmmakers coming up. Some of them are in film school, some of them are teenagers. Thinking about coming into the business, I put myself back into that mindset of where I was in that production company. When I was coming up. What do you do? Because if you call it out, or if you report it, or something, and this is the reality of what we do, if you are called out as someone who just calls it out or reports it or creates problems, chances are that other production companies, other people in that area might hear about them, like, Oh, we don't want that person because they're a problem. And that's happened. I've seen that happen. It's not right, but I seen it happen. So what are the options, in your opinion? For uh, you know, what do you do? Because you are in such a powerless situation, because you have something that they want. So unless you go off and do it yourself, like you did,
Greg Hemmings 37:59
I just feel like we're living in a time right now. Yeah, right now. And Black Lives Matter. And George George Floyd, me to movement, all the stuff, even going back to occupy wall street, like, like we're living in an era Arab Spring, like all of this happening, right, in the last decade. And I feel that COVID has been this amazing line in history of a lot of people saying, It's now or never to make the changes we need to make. And I gotta tell you, like, I'm involved with a lot of those changes, like really looking at how this white CEO of a very white company, in a very white town is working at anti black racism, like, Okay, well, we're how does that relate to your market? Well, we got to figure it out, you know, like, 10 years ago, we wouldn't be talking like that. But we are now I say we the business community, which is really exciting. I feel like in markets, like in our market, Atlantic Canada, where the union isn't that strong. It's strong in Nova Scotia, but certainly not here. The union wants to grow, right? It wants to grow. And so there's a little bit of influence in the non centralized markets, to say, hey, happy to join the union. But what what's the true repercussions of of cons shut out, you know, I think there's an opportunity right now to be bold. And if the union's doing what you're supposed to do supposed to be, what's members, fine. You're waiting for your Oh, you're up next. So theoretically, you shouldn't be losing your opportunity. Because you are, you know, following protocol, because as we know, there's always a union rep on site. The problem is, what if that union rep is the bully? very possible, right. So anyway, my sign of hope is as you join, if you're joining the union, I think it's really Europe. To become a leader yourself within it and, and letting other crew members understand your perspective of wanting to be treated fairly. And with respect, that's it, and you'll work your ass off to do it. So that's one thing. Another thing, which is my approach, and this only works for for people who've got the, you know, the ability to start their own businesses and make their own thing, but I feel like, what I did was I created a new company called Hemmings house. And we, we do TV shows documentaries, and a lot of commercial brands brand film work, too. And I've created a set culture, a filmmaking culture, that's, that you can thrive in and be safe, and we've had a few mishaps, and we dealt with it appropriately. And we've changed the culture of, of this, this world here. So if you're starting out, okay, and you think the only way to get in is by joining us and getting on the big feature sets, why not consider finding another company that's small like ours, right, really learning your trade really well, in a good culture, small company. And sure, it's not, you're not working with the big actors and the big producers and all this sort of thing. But you're, you're you're cutting your teeth in the process, and you're understanding how people should be treated. Now, it takes time to do that, of course, but consider going into smaller areas to really get your first your first. Because if you think that that bullshit culture is the way it should be, because your first experience in is like, all this must be the way it is okay. And if you accept that, you will also probably adopt it unless you're a rebel. You know, and, and for even if you're really good person, respectful yourself, you're gonna adopt it, you're not going to call it out when your colleagues do it to other people, because it's, but it's the status quo, but why we're creative people we shouldn't be, we shouldn't be living with the status quo, we need to be pushing it and, you know, sad to say, for some people, that old way of doing it is becoming archaic, and inelegant. So, give the industry 10 more years, those old, you know, I'm gonna generalize here, the the old guys that are whipping C stands and, and, and abusing other people in the culture, if you are like that, now, you just wait until the to the younger producers are growing up that are has been, you know, brought up in a world where we are discussing ways to be respectful on set and in business, you're not going to get hired. You know, it's just, and then once the union bosses become the ones who are have a little bit more of a conscience and understand how sets need to be. And, you know, I think the union, I think about it, because I was a union I was in it has the opportunity to actually lead the change. I don't know how long that would take. It's a big beast. Right. But the unit could be the solution. If enough people had the nerve to to chip away at it, you know. So anyway, those are a couple of my my ideas. And by the way, not all film sets and union experiences are awful. Like there's no absolutely respectful sets. I just personally was on a lot of B, B films, a lot of
Alex Ferrari 43:21
lower budget, no, the lower the budget, a lot of them the lower the budget, the less professionalism there is, on the left, and the less experienced there is and there's a lot more ego involved and a lot more insecurity involved. And all of that stuff. climbers got the climbers who I'm at any rate, yeah, yeah.
Greg Hemmings 43:40
So got to be aware of that. And that's, I guess, that's my advice. And their thing is to not take it personally, you know, but do something personal.
Alex Ferrari 43:51
Yeah, absolutely. I
Greg Hemmings 43:53
talk to the person because you're, you're, you're your key grip, told you your piece of junk. You know, that's,
Alex Ferrari 43:59
yeah, I know that. And I think that with, with what's going on with Scott Rudin, what happened with Harvey Weinstein, if these kinds of, you know juggernauts in our industry can be taken out. There's hope for the rest for the rest of the people go Wait a minute, there is opportunity here to get for change. there is opportunity that people are going to take me seriously if something happens, because I mean, look, you're talking about Oscar winning massive guys with billions like who've generated billions of dollars for the industry. And all of a sudden just you're gone. Like Scott Rudin is gone. Brett Ratner. Gone Bryan Singer gone. Kevin Spacey gone, they're gone. And there was a you know, I remember I remember when I was running. When I wrote my first book shooting for the mob, which is my experience of the ultimate abuse, which is a ultimate of physical, sexual physical abuse and psychological abuse. I think in my world, at least, of a mobster. I'm threatening me on a daily basis while I'm chasing my dream and meeting all these big high profile directors and and producers and actors and stuff like that. Going through that journey I I heard about the the story all when me to happen. This was really funny. When me to happen, my buddies would call me up in the industry, like, Who do you think is gonna have? What do you think is gonna happen to next? And I go, Oh, it's going to be Brett Ratner. It's going to be Bryan Singer, it's going to be Kevin Spacey. And they're like, how do you know I'm like, on 2001 I'll tell you the stories. So when I was running around in 2001, I remember we were going to meet with Kevin Spacey, these people. And in Kevin Spacey. And this is like, I literally I was meeting all the big stars in town at 2026 working with this mobster and making this movie about his life. So it's great. By the way, anyone who hasn't read that story, please. I will. It's It's It's a fascinating and listen to the audiobook is even better, because it's me doing voices and it's hilarious. So I go the agent at the time agent or manager or representatives, I'm sorry to go listen, when you meet Kevin, understand that. He just likes to grab guys balls, when they first meet him as a handshake. What? And I was like, I was 26 I'd already been in the business a while I've been directing a bit already. You're not you're not gonna put up with that. I know. And I was just like, I was like, is this is this real? And it's not like Kevin was in the other room. This is like we were setting up the meeting. And my mops are guys. If that guy grabbed my balls, I'm gonna kill him. And that was the end of the meeting. And that was the end of the potential of working with Kevin Spacey. But then we heard stories about Brian singer. I've heard many stories about Brett Ratner. He's legendary in that sense. So I saw all of this coming and and then I'd call it like five days later. And like they got Kevin Spacey. Like, how would you know? I'm like, dude, dude. It's just. And the funny thing is that everybody in the business knows. Everyone knew the Harvey Weinstein was a bully. Many people in the business knew that he was doing what he was doing. A lot of people knew what, what Scott Rudin is and who he was and how he did business. And there's a lot of other producers and directors out there who are shaking in their boots because like, oh, man, I'm screwed. I mean, do you know who Joe pika is? Right? Yep. Everybody, even me, the puny pa in Miami. Heard about pika stories. Joe pika was one of the most successful and I'm not sure if he's still doing it or not, but was one of the most successful commercial directors in history, he directed Space Jam the movie, because we could do it all Michael Jordan, thanks. He was the Nike stuff. He was a huge director. But his stories were legendary of the abuse that he would put his caste the agency, he would break people's arms playing basketball, cuz it was a really big, like six foot four, you know, imposing figure. And I would hear and that's like the that was like the boogeyman on some of these commercial sets, like, Joe pitka is gonna catch it. Like it was like, you work with your picker and like the grip were like, yeah, I work with Joe picker. He had me running. He had me running in the desert, I almost died of thirst. I'm like, how did this man do it? But that was the business. That was the way things were done. So consider a work consider world. In a world where water is wet and ice is cold.
Greg Hemmings 48:21
I'm not speaking to try to sound like I'm any more woke than anybody else. But consider a world where movie sets are more so run by women and people of color. Let's just consider that for a second. And trust me, there's lots of bullies in those two communities as well. There is i'm not i'm not pretending there isn't. But breaking that paradigm, that power shift. In, in typical cases, women run projects differently, you know? Absolutely. And like is think about the Oscars Now finally, starting to give nods to the you know, at least they're coming to the table. Right? And are we going to see that every year more and more and more women and people of color, starting to rock the scene. And what's going to happen to all these these Luddites if you will. Like, they're, if they're all driven by ego, it's going to crush them to know they're not gonna be relevant anymore. We think about that whole cancel culture thing. But it probably sucks to be Kevin Spacey to be canceled, you are no longer relevant in our pop culture. Thank you, john, about done. So I just I'm excited to see more diversity in our space. You know, coming from a very, very white guy right here. But it excites me to know how the seismic shifts that we will be able to see in all forms of this industry, as you know, as the old way starts to be hospice out.
Alex Ferrari 49:50
Yeah. And the funny thing is thinking back on my commercial sets, I almost exclusively used women producers, in is weird. I don't even think about that. I've always been just drawn to women producers, just like the way that they, that that that's I've had men producers as well, obviously. But I did a majority of my commercial work where I always worked with the same women producers, because they ran sets differently. It was a different energy about them. And I just I just identified with that kind of energy a lot more sometimes. And I've been I've had wonderful experiences with, you know, white, white men, producers and African American producers and Latino products.
Greg Hemmings 50:28
You're bringing people to the table? That's the thing. It's not about canceling white, white male talent,
Alex Ferrari 50:35
it's No, of course not.
Greg Hemmings 50:36
It's like, let's, let's, let's have a much more rounded my company we've got most of our producers are women. I'm going through some diversity training right now as we speak, with a really cool company out of California called hella impact. And it's gone through this Jedi training, which sounds so cool as I see Yoda behind you, of your eyes for justice, equity, diversity inclusion, in the context of leading business, you know, and we talked about this at the beginning. And it's just really cool to, you know, to be able to check our, you know, check my white privilege, if you will, on the back on the back burner for a second, and realize that we've been successful as a result of incredibly injustice, injustice systems, including racist systems, and I'm learning all this stuff, you know, and which means I'm really, really excited to now that we do have over gender parity, like at my company, there's more women than men. But most of the crew is guys. And I'm really excited to start getting more women into the training system in the crew side, and the camera department scripts, etc. and also people of color as we, as we, as we diversify, and really hack the system and see and prove that we can actually build a great storytelling company that's broken the mold of what you and I have been complaining about for the last hour.
Alex Ferrari 52:04
Yeah, absolutely. And I've, you know, anytime I have a chance to have a female director on to talk about their process and what they've gone through, I had a wonderful author and female director named Naomi Jones, McDougal Jones, who wrote a book all about women in Hollywood wrote the book about how they are treated, the numbers, the stats, whose It was fascinating conversation. But you know, and again, everyone listening, it's not about canceled culture, it's not about you know, just throwing people away, it's about trying to open open up the the inclusion of everybody's ideas, you know, the the white male, or that male story, perspective is not the only one. And in bringing all of those kind of people to the table, it just makes, it's like only cooking with pepper and salt. And that's all you cook with. There's so many other spices I and and there's so many other spices that you could throw in that make it a lot more flavorful and a lot, a lot better and so many ways. But, you know, we started this conversation as what can we do to change this abuse culture that is ingrained in our, in our business has been for decades. I think it started that way. I'm sure it was that way. From the days of Chaplin, you know, when anytime you have people in power, there's always abuse. Always, first, any place, any place, any industry, any, any society. If you have somebody in power, and someone that's not in power, there is always abuse. Unfortunately, that is part of the human condition that is part of this. But now, we're hopefully changing that, at least within our sets. And hopefully, you guys listening now, especially if you're young and coming up, understand that there are options, and you have opportunities. And I think you would agree they have kids coming up today have opportunities that you and I did not have like being able to buy your own gear, being able to start your own production company at 21. And just start shooting music videos or shooting docks or just going out there making content or building an online presence. Like none of that existed for us. We had to go through this system and navigate it. There are options now for people like yourself like you like you know what, I'm gonna screw it, I'm gonna make my own company. And you can do it and I could do it anywhere in the world that you that you're listening from. So I appreciate you coming on the show. But I'm going to ask you a couple questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Greg Hemmings 54:35
I love that question. Because I get that question all the time. I should parents. It's funny because in this generation of kids, it's never the kids call and call it's it's sometimes it is and I okay, there's a piece of advice right there. Don't get your parents to call us to say hey, what's what's that like in the film industry is is something that my kid can thrive and they want to make a movie if you're 12 years old, or 18 years old, To find a way to get in touch with a producer, or anybody in the place that you want to be, and just get some time on the phone, most people will be thrilled to speak to you. And you can do it yourself like you don't. And this is nothing against having your parents lobby for you. But I think it's a thing. It's almost it's very much an eye roller, we want to see initiative, you know, we want to see creativity, we want to see a personality, right? We want to see respect. Because when you're jumping into the, into the film industry, certainly in the way, Alex and I have, you're not necessarily being hired for your creative brilliance you're being hired because you can be a really trustworthy, reliable cog in a wheel. And
Alex Ferrari 55:46
you can earn a very nice, very nice way of saying that cog in the wheel that there's other ways that could be mule donkey, heavy lifters, you know, grunt, but the cog in the wheel,
Greg Hemmings 55:58
there's other names that are not going to repeat, because we're done with that culture. If you are, if you can work on a farm, you can work on a film set, you know, you if you can work, if you can join cadets and go, you know, work in the military, you can work on a film set. If you work in a janitorial. You know, at a hospital, you can work on a film set. Yeah, so it's not about the creative brilliance and producers aren't, they don't really care if about your last short film. They don't, they don't want to make sure that you're reliable. And that you're that you're going to be good for the culture. And perhaps that's the hack to get in, you know, the hack is, you know, we're living in a new generation where there are we're now becoming the old guys. Now, Alex, I hate to say it, where I'm learning so much about this new generation from my employees and my staff, what are you know, from young people, and I appreciate learning from them. Because I my ego was was kicked out of me years ago, right? So I'm a lifelong learner and culture changes, you know, and I'm supposedly making documentaries and films that an audience wants to see. And I don't understand them at all, because I decided not to care, but their language and the way they want to be respected and all this sort of thing. So many people make fun of millennials, and, you know, and the next generation and but you know, that's the audience, what are you doing, not trying to understand their culture or the way they speak and the way they want to be spoken to. So you as a young person, can actually come in and find those right bosses, if you will, and say this, I want to help you create a culture that that is rich, creative, efficient, and lean. And in a way, that's more people like me are gonna want to come work for your company, or work on your sets. And I'm speaking in the context of out of the Union, because the union has its own system, which is very efficient as well, you come in as a trainee, and then you work your way up. Awesome. So if that's if that's what you're going to do, I would say the exact same advice, find someone else's in the union has been at for a number of years, and pick their brain, you know, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. And if you're ready, it's Be prepared to volunteer a little bit. It might not have to be the case. But if we're working with smaller companies, or even like, part of a film, Co Op, or, you know, short film competition, you don't get paid on those, but you get great experience. So the more experience you get in some culture, as far as the mechanism of, of how culture Yeah, yeah. And set etiquette. When I was, in my early films, I used to stand in front of the light. And as the cameras training, I'd stand up, and I'd be like, Hey, guys, you need a lens. And so they'd call me flyboy or something, because I was like a fly track of a light all the time. Those are things that you learn that set out again, right, if somebody doesn't tell you, you learn the hard way.
Alex Ferrari 58:55
Right, right. And hopefully, it's not an abusive way. It's hopefully in a fun way, like calling you flyboy. Right?
Greg Hemmings 59:01
And exactly that like, talking to people, I don't call myself a veteran in that role, because I only spent a few years in it, but speak to veterans and say, Hey, what are some of the areas I will fail on my first year? You know, that's a good advice. That's good advice to ask, you know, and people will like you for that. Like, if you asked a key grip, hey, I want to get into grip and the grip department. But where will I fail? And then let me know like some of the hacks I can get around that. And then they're gonna love the fact that you showed initiative to you and ask the question in the first place. Now long answer for you, Alex. But
Alex Ferrari 59:36
Fair enough, good as a great answer. Great answer. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Greg Hemmings 59:46
Yeah, so many. One is just really important. And again, I'm coming talking right now from the entrepreneur perspective is surrounding yourself by people who are better than you. So and this is a really good lesson for directors first Firing directors and producers but it's okay. If your director and for you to hire a first ad, who is way more experienced than you. And it's okay if you happen to be the you know, the key of camera department and you and your hiring other people on your team who are actually way better DPS and you The more people you surround even the more you surround yourself with people who are better than you. And the less ego you've got less pride, the more you're going to learn and the quicker you're going to thrive. If you do this on your own and, and try to hack your way through being the best on earth, good chance is gonna fail. So I've surrounded myself by way better filmmakers in my company, way better DPS way better editors. And and I remember when it happened like I was I was the filmmaker at the beginning of the building this company for a good four or five years. And then once I realized that my my crew were becoming because they were doing it all the time. I was trying to grow business. I was like cheese. You guys are there now. Like you guys are now. The product, you know, I don't know, it was trippy for a minute. And I was like, Okay, well, a good advice. One of my young employees told me I thought was great he does. Greg, you're always gonna be a great creative director, a great filmmaker. But what this is, this is my employees saying this to me. What we need from you is to go out do what your do what you're best at, which is making friends and selling us more jobs. And hearing that was really it was tough on my ego. But he was right. Because if we wanted to continue growing this company and doing cool projects, we need an executive producer that was going to go go fishing. And that's and executive producers go fishing for money by creating solid relationships, trust relationships. So my job and my business is to create trusted relationships. That's that's what I do every single day.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:58
And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Sweet hereafter. Yeah, I remember that movie.
Greg Hemmings 1:02:06
Yeah, that's a beautiful Canadian film. And the soundtrack was great. So good. I would say I I have C firewalk. With me, David Lynch. Wow. Yeah. A huge Twin Peaks fan during during those times. And you see here, it's always tough. Absolutely love to turn on sunshine. Love Virgin Suicides. So I'm failing on answering because there's so many great films I love. But I got to give you one more David Lynch film, which is Elephant Man. It struck me it really did. Because Lynn Lynch is just weird. Usually, this is not a weird film. This is a sad, heartfelt emotional film. And if you haven't seen alpha, man, you get to see it. And so I give you those four or five films as kind of my inspirations, and each one of them have a reason why I absolutely love them. But yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:03:12
very cool. Great, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show and and helping us shed a little light on on a problem that needs to be discussed. It's not generally discussed in public very often. And you're doing yourself. I'm trying my friend. I'm trying to thanks again, my friend.
Greg Hemmings 1:03:27
All right, Alex. Cheers, man. Thanks.
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- Greg Hemmings – IMDB
- Greg Hemmings – Website
- Hemmings House Pictures Ltd. – Website
- Greg Hemmings – Linkedin