Terry Spears is a singer/songwriter, professional musician and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Under the mentorship of acclaimed producer Gray Frederickson, he would go on to create five feature films with several more slated for release after 2023. His internationally distributed works include Hell’s Belle, Agent Jade Black and his most recent, Jovi & Lou.
Can you tell us about where you grew up and how that influenced your career path.
I grew up in Oklahoma, where there were very few music or film opportunities. While this could be stifling at times, I can now appreciate that it forced me to find my own opportunities and not to rely on others who didn’t understand that “dreams” are not the same as “goals”.
You were a music producer and a studio musician, then left for a different industry, only to come back a filmmaker. How did this process play out?
I was a studio musician, music producer and touring musician most of my life. After many years, I decided to try some other industries, working in big energy and doing real estate investing for a couple of years. Around that time my young daughter wanted to get into acting so, of course, I wanted to help her out and guide her through the business part of it. After a couple of years, she decided that it wasn’t for her, but by then I was hooked. I haven’t stopped making movies since for the last eight years now.
Do you see any overlap in your affinity for music and filmmaking? What kind of edge do you feel this background gives you?
Both are satisfying artistically, but in different ways. I think at the moment film satiates my artistic cravings more because I haven’t been doing it as long, and because it’s a much more complicated process, whereas music is more immediate. The crossovers are that they both rely on rhythm and pacing to match the human energy, and a big part of both, is helping the others involved find their personal best as well. And of course, the business aspects are similar.
What was your relationship like with the late Oscar-winning producer Gray Frederickson? In what ways did he help you discover your style of filmmaking?
Gray was a sometimes business partner, but first and foremost, my friend and mentor. We had lunch together every couple of weeks for years, until I left for LA, and we would sit for hours. The stories he had to tell about his experiences in this business were encyclopedias of knowledge. He co-produced my fourth film and helped immensely on my second and third. The greatest influence he had on me was to give me the confidence to not cater to the opinions of others. He always said “nobody knows anything”, and prepared me for the fact that friends and other filmmakers are going to hate your success and talk behind your back. So you might as well make the movies you want.
Would you say you have a calling card as a filmmaker? If so what would it be? What can people expect from a Terry Spears film?
First off, I am not a social justice warrior by any stretch of the imagination. I will occasionally try to shine a light into a dark corner but I try not to pontificate about it. I make an effort to bring a gritty realism to all the films, whether they are action, simple horror, mystery or comedy.
How would you compare your first time making a film to a more recent experience, such as Jovi & Lou?
I had no idea what I was doing on the first film or two! An acquaintance told me to just make a bad film on purpose because it was going to suck anyway. I always felt like that was a chickenshit attitude, hiding mistakes behind the name of “artistic license” or saying it was meant as a joke. Of course this was from a “director” that has been in the business 15 years and never released a feature, lol. But the Jovi & Lou experience was quite different from the others, as we filmed during the downtime of Covid. So we had a lot of time on our hands and were able to make up for some of the budget issues by pouring more hours in. Usually there’s a deadline and it’s always looming on the horizon.
Jovi & Lou has a lot going on, what themes were you trying to explore with the movie and what topics interest you in general?
I wasn’t trying to preach to anyone, nor represent the “Great Unwashed”. It’s just a comedy, just a movie. I think every person should be able to laugh at themselves, at least a little. I’m not trying to make fun of anyone’s God, or Prophet, or Deity, or whatever. If anyone is truly offended by this film, then they are probably the ones I’m poking fun at. God has a sense of humor, why can’t we?
What was the casting process like for Jovi & Lou?
I usually try to utilize actors that I’ve worked with before. I already know their strengths and weaknesses, working style, how they deliver lines and move, etc. For this film, Victoria Strange had already done a film with us in a smaller role. I knew she was perfect for the role of God. There were also a couple of other actors that had auditioned for a previous film but weren’t quite right for the role, but when we started this one we remembered them. And, of course, there were a few casting calls for a few roles as well.
Were there any challenges pertaining to the production of the film? How did the pandemic affect filming?
There were not many productions going on in LA so everyone was anxious to do something and had pretty open schedules. The only big issue that came up was that Trevor Van Uden, who plays “Lou” got picked up for another film about halfway through the film and shipped out to Bulgaria for seven months. Kinda put a dent in our momentum.
What is the backstory behind your company 19 Artists Development and its ultimate goal?
19 Artists Development began as exactly what it sounds like. It was intended to help beginning artists define their goals and develop their skills, whether they were actors, composers, camera ops, or whatever. Everything from their actual craft, to understanding the business side, promoting themselves, networking, and whatever else they needed help with. We have slowly morphed out of that and into more of a straight ahead production company.
What can you tell us about your upcoming project Beauty, Grace, Malice or any other project currently in development?
Beauty, Grace, Malice is the next film we have scheduled to shoot. It’s a female-led urban crime drama about betrayal and revenge. It’s more human substance and a bit less flashy than some of the previous films. We are doing one more draft of the script and then as soon as we nail down the logistics, we will begin principal photography (probably toward the end of June). We also have A Dangerous Prey starring a new discovery Taja Brittaney “in the can” (being edited as we speak) due for release this year. And we worked with a new producer/actor Jonathon Smith on his first film earlier this year which will also come out this fall.