To be able to watch someone as professional and highly thought of as Brian Frankish work in a role as unit production manager in the office you normally wouldn't be exposed to if you were spending all of your time on set, was very valuable to me. It allowed me to see exactly how a unit production manager and production office staff supports a film from the inside out. Since I wanted to produce and direct films, I saw it as an amazing learning tool. I firmly believe I could not have had a better person to learn from than Brian. If are going to learn, you might as well learn from the best. From how he ran the company, dealt with the different departments, to how he treated people - it was impressive. A bit of trivia, he also played the umpire behind home plate in the film. I was able to take what I learned from Brian, Randy, and others so I could apply it on a smaller scale to the films I would be making as a independent filmmaker. Most importantly, what I learned from these talented individuals was how to be a professional.
My involvement on the film Field Of Dreams came out through a series of events. When I heard the film was being shot in Iowa, I sent in my resume and was called in for a job interview with Brian Frankish, the production manager/Executive Producer on the film.
After the interview, by coincidence, I was talking to a long time friend Chris Young and I happened to bring up the fact that I had just interviewed for a crew position on a film. When I told Chris who I had interviewed with, he informed me that Brian was also the producer on the Max Headroom TV series which Chris starred in. Much to my surprise and to his credit as friend who believes in me, Chris called Brian and recommended me for the job. (Thanks again Chris!) A few days later, I was called back in for a last interview with the final 20 or so people who were being considered for about 10 positions. That interview again involved Brian Frankish along with some of the other department heads including Transportation Coordinator Randy Peters (who also knew Chris).
I remember at the end of the interview they asked if I had any questions and I think to their surprise I asked who was the distributor on the film? And they said Universal Pictures. I got goose bumps. That was the studio I went to as a child with my parents and became interested in filmmaking. To me, as a child, the Universal Studios tour was a big of a thrill as going to Disneyland. After we spent a day there, I wanted to go back and retake the tour. Of all the studios in Hollywood, I was really fascinated by Universal and especially their back lot. Later when I was in college and attended the School of Cinematic Arts at the University Of Southern California, their summer internship program was primarily at one studio - Universal Studios. And once again, here I was at the door of my first major job and it was a Universal Picture. Who says dreams don't come true.
By the time I had driven 2 hours back home, there was a message on my answering machine that informed me that I had the job. Brian and Randy would both later joke with me that I had the job due to nepotism. They were apparently impressed that Chris, who was only 16 at the time, would take the time to call and recommend me for the film - That if Chris trusted me that they could as well with their million dollar stars - I was hired into the Transportation Department as a Driver. Randy Peters, the Transportation Coordinator was my immediate boss.
It was great to have such a respected role model like Randy Peters to work for and to learn from due to his wealth of experience (Top Gun / Transformers series of films / Gladiator / Spider-Man and many more). At one point, they needed someone to spend a few days in the production office so I volunteered as most of the drivers did not want to be off set. I wanted the chance to see how a professional film production office handles it's day to day duties in supporting a film company including observing the role of the production manager first hand.
Be sure to scroll down to see exclusive behind the scenes photos and video footage that I took on set while working in Field Of Dreams.
"Field Of Dreams" was one of the rare instances in the movie industry where a film is successful not only with critics but with audiences at the box office. The film was a huge success with grosses over $100 million worldwide on a budget of only $15 million.
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Another fun memory was one day, I was sitting in the car with the writer/director Phil Alden Robinson and we were literally waiting for the rain to stop so filming could resume at the farm location. At one point he looked at me and jokingly said, "Jeff, I'll give you $1000 if you take me to the airport right now." I said "No." He said, "Alright, $1500." I laughed and told him he had better finish his film as it was too good not to finish. He smiled. When I first read his script I thought it would be a great movie. The story and characters were so memorable and touching. The Field Of Dreams script, which in script form was actually called Shoeless Joe, reminded me of the films Hollywood use to make. If Frank Capra was alive, he would be making a film like this is what was in my mind.
As for any set memories - I have far too many to write here. I recall one day when I had to pick up actor James Earl Jones because he had a flat tire. He is one of the most pleasant people you could ever meet or work with. On the way to the film set, he made me stop at a convenience store where he went in and purchased some lottery tickets which he gave me for what he called "your trouble of picking me up." Whose going to argue with the voice of Darth Vader? I ended ending up winning $50. Thanks Mr. Jones! A few weeks later my father was visiting and we were walking through a local mall on my day off when we heard a booming voice call out my name. It was James Earl Jones who was out shopping and simply came over and said hello. I was able to introduce him to my father.
One memorable experience was some torture I had to endure at the hands of two crew members when we were driving to the location for filming. I was taking Industrial Light and Magic's Dennis Muren (Visual Effects Supervisor) and Kim Marks (Camera Operator) to the farm for creating the back ground plates for the ghost players disappearing into the cornfield shot and the baseball field vision appearing over the corn early in the film. Both were from George Lucas's visual effects company ILM who had created the special effects for the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Parks films to name just a handful of their Oscar winning work. They had just received a script for a upcoming film and proceeded to purposely read me the first page out loud during the drive before closing it - the script was Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Both were really nice and did their usual outstanding effects work on the film. To be able to see how ILM shoots background plates for their effects work on a film was very useful insight for me to tuck away in my filmmaking experience tool box.
I had enjoyed the director Phil Alden Robinson's and Producer Charles Gordon's work for several years so it was another chance to gain some knowledge from getting first hand experience at watching real professionals at their craft. A first class production team - stressing first class and team. Working on Field Of Dreams was a great experience - from the production to the people I worked with. It was simply outstanding and I have many long lasting friendships to this day from the film.
I also recall when I was made an assistant/driver to Timoty Busfield (Emmy Award winning actor from Thirtysomething, Sleepy Hollow, Revenge Of The Nerds) during the last couple weeks he was on the film.He was a lot of fun to be around and I enjoyed getting to know him on the film.