Eric Sherman is my mentor and consultant and guru and… well, he’s just like Yoda. Only real. I first met Eric when I was a student at CalArts in the mid 90s. Eric taught Film Directing and on the first day of class, as he arrived, I handed him my business card. My attendance was spotty, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning what he had to share.
At the end of the semester, I left CalArts for a few weeks to direct a feature version of Anne Rice’s novel THE VAMPIRE LESTAT. See, for another class, we were given an assignment to direct something with texture (or something about composition in general). The assignment was supposed to be a short film, but I never thought in short-storytelling format, so I instantly thought I’d adapt and direct LESTAT since I’d just finished reading the book and was really inspired. Anyway, I had to leave CalArts in order to get back to Kansas to make the movie.
When I returned, most of my instructors asked where in the world had I been and I replied, “I was doing the assignment!” Then I handed them a double VHS set of the finished and edited movie. (Yes, this was before DVDs were invented and the movie was longer than 2 hours, so I had to use a second VHS tape to hold the last part).
Eric gave me an INCOMPLETE on my report card. I didn’t know what that meant, so I went to see him. Evidently if a student doesn’t attend the class, there’s no way for him or her to learn what is being taught in the class. Of course he was right. But, no matter my plea, I still received an incomplete, and was forced to re-take the class in order to pass it. So I did.
In my memory, it’s hard to tell exactly how many times I re-took Eric’s FILM DIRECTING class. I’m pretty sure I only repeated it once, but it might have been three times. After my stint at CalArts, I set off to direct my debut feature film. To understand filmmaking as both a business and creative endeavor, I hired Eric as a film consultant to help me with my business plan and pre-production management. He taught me how important it is to be ultra-prepared.
Eric’s father was Vincent Sherman, the last of the great Golden Age Hollywood directors. Eric himself worked with everybody, including Orson Welles. I knew he had the knowledge I needed to learn. I was right. Later on, as my first film became a real project, I asked him to come on board as a co-producer. That film is PEP SQUAD. It would be the first film to predict the soon-to-be onslaught of American School Violence. Furthermore, it’s is a dark comedy and a subversive satire—an entertaining combination.
At one point, I decided against casting the actor I’d auditioned to play the sleazy principal who gets killed. Instantly I turned to Eric to see if he’d consider it. He eventually agreed to do it, and he’s just great portraying the wonderfully demented and evil character. On the day we were to kill off the character, I recalled getting an INCOMPLETE in his class, and I couldn’t recall if I ever did, in fact, pass it. Clearly, at this point, I didn’t need to worry about it.
Eric and I continue to work together and today I consider him more than a mentor and friend. He’s family. If any of you are in need of hiring someone with Yoda-like know-how on filmmaking, or in need of a mentor, or consultant, I’d be happy to put you in touch with Eric. He’s the best!