Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Full Story: The Death of My Second Cousin, Actress/Producer Lisa Blount

My Full Story: The Death of My Second Cousin, Actress/Producer Lisa Blount

You've heard the news by now, my second cousin, Academy Award Winner Lisa Blount has died. I'll include a newspaper article link to give the details about her and her career. That is not what this article is about. This is my story about a lost opportunity to have a close family relationship with someone who I had so much in common with - a lost opportunity to work as a teammate with someone whom I idolized.

I did not grow up in the same town as Lisa. Her side of the family was not that close to mine. There was no feud- just no closeness. For years, I only knew of her through our shared family history, for it is through the Blounts that we are related to W.M. Blount, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and also to the first Norman King of England, William the Conqueror.

Lisa was attaining success as an actress when I was in grade school; during the time when my primary focus was on a future career as a fighter pilot and astronaut hopeful. I was allowed to fly my first plane at age 12; a Cessna 150. The first takeoff and first landing hooked me hard on being airborne. (I must scan those pictures before they get too faded). I had the same genetic line of talent as Lisa, and had a love for writing sci-fi stories and dreaming of one day being an actor / author. That creative entity had gained full momentum by the time I had reached high school, however, and actor/author/director/film producer was added to my top priority list in careers. But I couldn't shake my love for flying, so I decided to go for it all.   LOL- needless to say, I was spread way too thin- and have not even mentioned being an inventor, a patriot, and politically active.  But, that is another story….

About the time I knew acting was a solid focus, Lisa co-starred in "an Officer and a Gentleman".  I started looking into her career and wanted to see her other movies now that we had some things in common. A few years later, I met her in person for the first time at a Blount Family reunion during the time when the "Officer and a Gentleman" movie had given her national fame. It was there that the only picture was taken of her and me together. That picture was – and still is- a cherished possession. It is another must scan item, for it too is fading. I had pinned that picture on every cork board of every dorm room I lived in during college in the 80's and told the story of meeting her to many friends and girlfriends.

When I had my first break into the movies shortly thereafter as an extra in "A Man Outside" with Kathleen Quinlan, I knew that I was on the same path as Lisa, but trailed far behind. It was then that I made a choice that now regret. I decided that I wanted to build my own filmmaking career before I sought to connect with Lisa again so that when I approached her, we could be peers instead of appearing to want favors in the form of help getting a better acting job. I did not want to grow up in her shadow; I wanted to cast my own. I did not want my career to be "in tow" by hers.

I do not regret that decision based on principle; I feel that is solid enough. This is different than networking. Networking is supposed to work both ways as a mutual benefit. I resist the approach of people who want to use me, and therefore, I do not use others in this industry.  I have been somewhat secretive about my friendship with another Academy Award winning actress because of this same principle.

Six years ago, I thought I was going to attain the level in my own career as a producer and actor to be able to approach Cousin Lisa, without feeling like a leech. However, my first feature, "Culture Wars the movie", was sabotaged so badly that it is unfixable.

Early this year, when I was finally able to get another feature film project off the ground, I made connections with an equity finance company that would fund the second half of a film budget. The special thing about this company was that it may be the only one that will fund independent films that have a budget under one million dollars as well as projects of over five million dollars.  With Lisa's success producing "the Accountant", and her desire to live in Arkansas and produce projects here, I knew I had something that would worthwhile to her in networking. I started trying to contact her again. No luck on my side of the family; their side had grown apart from us; there were no current phone numbers or email addresses, so I attempted to network through my contacts in the local film community. I contacted two filmmaking friends and discovered that they had met her at the Arkansas Film Festival the day before, but did not get a current means of contact. Time went by, and the urgency to contact her left.

My film project, "HEARTLAND PRECINCT: Missing Girls" had temporarily attained enough professional  status twice in its development to warrant contact with Lisa, but the connection was unable. Also, the setbacks common to early preproduction had changed my mind about making contact yet…… I wanted to be ready…. I wanted to be standing on my own two filmmaking feet when I approached her again… and now, I'll never get the chance.

So, yes, I mourn for her. Not so much because of anything we had- but because of what could have been. Like her, I am an advocate for Arkansas made films. Like her, I want to operate my career without leaving this wonderful state. Like her, I have the same genetic material that gives us that almost obsessive passion about making movies and acting…. It was a brother/sister-like relationship that could have been, should have been….. but will never be.

I have a very detailed plan for developing an Arkansas centered, film-based economy. She was to be part of that plan. I am the founder and co-president of the Arkansas Move Makers Organization; a group that was close to being established enough to invite her to join… There is real pain in this lost opportunity.

If you have a networking relationship that needs to be developed; please don't wait. I can't go back and fix this.

Cody G. Carson

film producer, director, actor, author, inventor

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