Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate these various personalities with us.
Bruce B. Gordon is a man of many talents. He is a voice over artist, actor, screenwriter, director, producer, editor and songwriter. His company (Bruce Gordon Media) has multiple film projects in various stages of development.
Bruce moved to Los Angeles from Detroit, Michigan. He played keyboards on recording sessions and a TV awards show, co-wrote an independent feature film theme song, then worked on a music video directed by recording artist, “Prince.” Bruce interned at Columbia Pictures Studios (Sony) in the Story, Music, Post-Production, Publicity, Promotion and Sales
Departments. He’s written scripts and comedy material, selling to stars such as Joan Rivers.
After graduating from UCLA with a BA in Economics, Bruce worked inProduction Accounting at Aaron Spelling Productions, where he studied the creative and financial processes for primetime network, cable TV and feature production.
Bruce worked for an international subtitle/dubbing post-production house and for Warner Bros. Entertainment as a feature film and TV digital media technician, creating iTunes VOD conversions of Warner Bros. Pictures new releases and classics.
Bruce has written, directed, produced, photographed and/or edited many shorts, TV projects, commercials and Web promos. He recently updated his filmmaking skills with state-of-the-art techniques and processes at The Los Angeles Film School.
His film, Whole ‘Nother Level, was selected for the Festival de Cannes Court Métrage (Short Film Corner), screened at other international festivals (France and India), won two awards at the Hollywood & Vine Film Festival and is on Amazon Prime Video and other international distribution platforms with French and Spanish subtitles. Meet Bruce.
ALSO READ: Morgan Cooper, Writer, Director, Visionary
What did You Originally Want to be When You Grow Up? When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a doctor because I wanted to help people. My parents bought me educational toys (besides the popular regular ones), and I loved to play with my chemistry set to see how substances worked in the world. But I spent a couple of weeks in the hospital during high school and quickly came to realize that I didn’t like being around sickness and suffering.
Around that same time, I had become more interested in becoming like an audio engineer or something more related to the music business.
How did You Get into Filmmaking? I got into the entertainment industry first by being the leader of a band as a keyboard player in Detroit during junior high school. When my fraternal twin brother Horatio (who’s a sax player) and I were babies, our parents played radios and record players near our cribs and the music got into both of us!
My parents both played the piano and organ after coming home from work, mostly church and classical music. But being Jamaican immigrants, my father loved his Harry Belafonte calypso and reggae from Bob Marley and the Wailers. I grew up listening to everything: classical to Motown & other R&B/Soul… Jazz to Rock… and even country music from watching “Hee Haw” on TV.
I would go door to door at local businesses, asking if they needed a band for events. We got paid to play parties, high school proms, college fraternity bashes and what we called “cabarets,” which were like “pop-up” nightclub dances in Detroit’s grandest ballrooms. It was fun, and it was great making our own money… most of which we put back into getting better musical equipment and making our shows better.
Moving to Los Angeles as a college teen led to a recording studio and TV show work, a movie studio internship, set work, years working at a TV production company and an acting gig in a Prince video. Most of this was obtained by seeking, asking, knocking on doors and similar forms of “beating the bushes” for survival
Who Were Your Mentors? I mentioned that my parents were my mentors, but some of my aunts and uncles, who also were educators and played musical instruments were helpful in shaping my music interests, too. Also, my Pony League Baseball coaches were NBA Hall of Famer, Dave Bing (Detroit Pistons) and NFL Hall of Famer Lem Barney (Detroit Lions)… and they helped give our neighborhood’s kids the sense that we could do ANYTHING WE SET OUR MINDS TO… AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF ANY GAME!
But because of the serendipitous nature of my film and TV journey, I cite “Providence from The Universe” as my biggest influence. I’ve watched and learned from the greatest TV and film directors as viewer/fan/student. But Providence has granted me unique opportunities.
During college, I was one of out of six students chosen from 500 nationwide applicants for a Columbia Pictures Studios internship during summer break. I had full access to the lot, spending scores of hours on TV and film sets, soaking in the creative and logistical processes.
After UCLA, I worked a production accounting/studio payroll job at Aaron Spelling Productions, where I was afforded the favor to be an independent production observer. I also performed independent talent scouting, resulting in day-player casting on three ABC-TV network primetime shows.
But most importantly, I was granted permission to spend hundreds of hours of my free time watching and shadowing the TV directors (before work, on lunch and after work). Lots of directors allowed me to shadow them day after day over the years. And various writers and producers would read my spec scripts and coach my screenwriting craft.
Providence also led me to work as an actor in a Prince video and to study the director/actor relationship via Meisner and Nina Foch courses. Then I was guided via the Screenwriting Expo convention to directing coach James Pasternak, who taught me about analyzing the screenplay and preparing a dramatic workbook, visualizing the movie, staging and blocking action for the camera (including lens selection), preparing storyboards and blocking diagrams, rehearsing and getting great performances out of actors, strategizing and collaborating with the cinematographer, production designer and editor, as well as other crew members.
Because he taught at The Los Angeles Film School, I enrolled there and began making short film projects.
Finally, Providence granted my work a Festival de Cannes Short Film Corner selection and current streaming on Amazon Prime Video and other VOD distribution platforms.
What is Your Biggest Achievement? Besides working with some of the best of the best of film, TV, stage and music, my biggest PERSONAL achievement so far is that I had a film that was selected by the Festival de Cannes Short Film Corner and numerous other international festivals which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and other VOD/OTT platforms worldwide.
It was even selected as course work and placed in the catalogs of public libraries in multiple states. This has kickstarted my own media company, Bruce Gordon Media, as I seek strategic alliances and investors to develop film, TV and music properties.
What is Your Biggest Disappointment? My biggest disappointment is that the music business has changed in such a negative way for songwriters, in that recorded music no longer pays living wages for the majority of music creators. Because most people can get their music for free over the Internet, the income stream for music creators has been virtually cut off.
Now, even genius music creators have to do other things to pay bills… which makes the whole idea of sacrificing financially for excellence not the best investment of one’s time and resources. And I know the quantity of quality music will decline as a result. Why suffer if there’s no future payoff to compensate for it?
Delayed gratification is the best motive for creators… but if that gratification is not just delayed… but DENIED…? There’ll always still be some good stuff though, since I guess there’s still the love-of-the-music “hobby factor,” regardless.
Name Your Biggest Pet Peeves? One of my biggest pet peeves is when people just meet you… especially on social media… and immediately try to get you to do work for them or sell you something when they haven’t spent any time getting to know you as a person first.
“Hi, my name is Joe. I know we just met but…. Could you please stop everything in your already swamped, busy and overwhelmed life to work on my project with me for free? I’ll even buy you a cup of coffee for abandoning your life for a day to focus on mine!”
Predictions for the Film Industry Over the Next Decade: I sort of hinted at this before, but I predict that the quality of music will decline because talented people will have less and less of an incentive to sacrifice for the sake of creating, since the system no longer repays creators with life-sustaining full-time income the way it used to do.
Name a Job You had that Would Surprise People: One job I had that might surprise people was counting screws and nuts and putting them into small plastic containers for sales in hardware stores– which a temp job agency told me was an “accounting” job!
What Marvel or DC Superhero do You Get to Play? I can’t help but see myself as “T’Challa” from Marvel’s Black Panther. But when I was a kid, I was Thor… with a wooden hammer I made, along with a uniform and cape made by one of my childhood friends’ mothers. My brother was Captain America with a garbage can shield (with the top handle removed and soldered onto the inside).
What do You Wish You had More Time for? I wish I had more time to spend doing auditions for both my voice over career and on-camera work. I hope to do that one day when “day job” work isn’t required anymore. I also REALLY wish I had more time to write, practice my piano, swim and learn advanced photography.
What Drives You to Create? I like to see the healing and recovery that stories, songs and other mass media can bring to millions of people around the world and across generations. As I state on my Web site, I have an enduring passion for sharing ideas and telling stories of healing & recovery that entertain international audiences, win critical awards, and have blockbuster success at the worldwide box office.
My entrepreneurial drive is to have my company design its ideas, filmed content and social media presence to bring people together via the unifying sensibilities of moderation and by focusing on our commonality as humans, as opposed to our individual differences. Telling stories and sharing ideas to help individuals discover and achieve the best versions of themselves is also a prime directive.
That’s what I want to create– and leave behind– in this world.
Congratulations, You Built a Time Machine! What do You Go Back and Tell Your 15-Year-Old Self? If I had a time machine and could go back and tell my 15-year-old self something, I’d say: “Follow your heart and don’t make career or job decisions in fear… because NOTHING is guaranteed, so there’s no guaranteed “safe route” to success. When I was young and should maybe have focused more on music, I was trying to have “something to fall back on” by studying Engineering.
My first job when I moved to L.A. as a teenager was as a college summer co-op job with an aerospace engineering company. Two weeks after I moved, all 40,000 employees were laid off when the government scrapped their biggest fighter jet manufacturing contract.
Being broke with a car led me to being free in the days to give rides to my music friends to studios for gas money. Within weeks, I was working on an A-list record company album as a production assistant and synthesizer consulant. But I still didn’t learn the lesson… and I continued to put way too much time into advanced mathematics and science classes in college– instead of music and creative writing.
Knowing what I know now, I would have spent all that time and energy studying music and other entertainment crafts!
Instagram: @Bruce Gordon Media