“I Remember Thinking” says #Filmmaker @DannyCorey “I Want to Tell this Guy’s Story” on #SignSpinner @JohnnyAarrow
SIGNS OF LIFE - a short doc featuring sign spinner Justin Brown
I won’t ever forget the first time I saw Justin Brown.
Heather and I had moved to Los Angeles in February of 2011. I was trying to make ends meet working as a freelance production assistant on various commercial sets. My work brought me to Hollywood quite often, and multiple times a day I’d find myself crossing through the La Brea-Melrose intersection.
That’s where he was.
I had never seen anyone spin a sign like this. His movements were wild but based in method. This wasn’t just sign spinning, it was art in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Hollywood. He looked like a maniac, and I was captivated. At that time in my life, I felt shackled to my responsibilities, and a rush of envy swelled inside me when I saw him. This guy is alive, I thought. For me, an East Coast boy, he represented everything I imagined about the Wild West—a sun-soaked, hardworking renegade living his dream.
I remember thinking, “I want to tell this guy’s story.”
But life got the best of me. I moved onto more exciting work in film and Heather and I were able to establish a more comfortable life here in Los Angeles. The sign spinner fell off my radar. Every now then I’d make a detour on my way home with a pizza or bring houseguests to the corner to show them “the real weird side of Hollywood.” (No one on the East Coast has seen a sign spinner like Justin.)
Heather and Danny
In hindsight, it feels like fate. On the week of Christmas in 2012, Heather and I were walking home from the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Santa Monica might as well be Egypt in terms of Los Angeles geography, but there, on the corner of Wilshire and 4th St, was my renegade sign spinner. I stopped immediately and turned to Heather. She gave me an approving nod. On far too many occasions, she’d heard me pitch my grand sign-spinning documentary idea. And then there we were. Delivered almost to my front door was Justin Brown from North Carolina, the self-proclaimed Godfather of the Sign Spinning Trick-tionary.
I think with any project there are challenges that arise that no one could have predicted. I knew going into this project, here's a great character that I want to tell his story. I didn't dream that I would follow him for almost a year capturing loads of footage. And of course, just because I have a multitude of content does not mean I have a good project. I still needed to shape a story out of it all. But it was also important that I remain highly adaptable because the story could change at any moment. For me, that unknown was probably the biggest challenge of making this piece. But that same unknown is really why I do this for a living. It's a challenge to find these stories, but it's also very exciting to chase them.
That’s how the adventure began. The next year or so would be an eye-opening experience for me, in terms of filmmaking and life in general. Justin taught me a lot about loving what you do and inspiring others. And I want to thank him for that. I found many things in Justin, but I’m most proud to say that I found a friend.
Danny Corey is a freelance director, shooter, and editor. Originally from Philadelphia, he now lives in Los Angeles.
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