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Meet Marcus Henderson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marcus Henderson.

Marcus, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Hmmm… how I STARTED… boy. That’s a doozy. Well, I can’t say I’m an expert on the reproductive system but from my understanding, there’s like a hundred million determined little swimmers that have the same unlikely goal of fertilizing the egg of life… and when I of all sperm made it, I knew that I had a shot in Hollywood.

Honestly, though, it all started when I made a decision in my child brain that I wanted a cool job. I remember sometime in middle school filling out a questionnaire that determined what future career might appeal to me, given my personality and general interests. All the students in my class were instructed to research their potential careers via this strange educational portal that was packed with information regarding everything from being a career plumber to a fireman, doctor, trapeze artist, etc. It was probably that day that I decided what I wanted to do.

I vaguely remember going over the list of duties one would do as an accountant, or someone with a desk job, or a real estate agent, and thinking to myself how boring all of that shit sounded, and how I just wanted to have fun for a living. That was a pretty cool step for me. Realizing that jobs suck and that I want a fun one. That same year the school required its students to participate in a reading program (Accelerated Reader) that gauged your reading level and provided you with a reading goal. Then you’d pick a book that you enjoyed and were tested after finishing it. This exposed me to very interesting fictional texts which lead me to believe that what I wanted to do was tell stories.

I could go on and on about the evolution of my creative interests and how they lead me to where I am today, but we could do a coffee or something if you are craving more of my childhood stories. 🙂 ANYWAY, so what really happened was… after reading a shit ton of books, I decided, “Oh fuck! I should be an author! That sounds so fulfilling and fun!” but then I saw a movie of this old, balding, depressed man doing a live reading of his novel to an audience of 1… and I was like “Oh fuck! That looks horrible!” and THEN, EVENTUALLY, I put two-and-two together.

I was big into skateboarding at the time, constantly filming and editing my own skater flicks with my friends, and I’d always been really into movies. And BAM! The lightning struck. I should be a fucking FILM DIRECTOR. Those guys are cool! Those guys aren’t depressed! Those guys have fun at work! Those guys make millions of dollars! NAILED IT. DOING IT. BYE MOM. I’m moving far, far away. And I’m gonna be a goddamn star. So I moved west, not right to LA, but to Santa Barbara. I attended city college for almost two years before dropping out. I decided that work and school full time was just not something I could handle. Some people have the noggin for it. I absolutely do not.

Not long after quitting school, I found my degree-less self-working at a sunglasses store without any film projects on my desk, wondering what the hell is actually going on. The only films I’d worked on that point were the silly videos I made in high school, skateboard montages, and the one project I made in college that I got a D on. I realized that I needed to do something to fix this predicament. That my life couldn’t be this bland for long. So from then on, whenever I got the opportunity to tell someone about my aspirations, I did. I started jabbering to anyone with open ears about my Hollywood dreams. The sunglasses shop became a launching pad for my creative endeavors.

I think what I’m about to write next goes to show that regardless of your level of experience if you want to work in this industry you can make it happen by being respectful, vocal, and determined as all hell… and maybe drizzle on a little bit of that good old fake-it-til-you-make-it syrup. One sunny afternoon at the shop I sold a pair of Oakleys to a Finnish race car driver, Markus Niemela, who got to talking film with me. I told him I was a filmmaker. Not that I wanted to be one, that I AM one. That’s the key right there. Don’t want to be something, be it. Anyway, he mentioned that Sony was going to charge him some outrageous amount of money to produce a pilot episode for his reality series. He was making a show about his life as a foreign racecar driver chasing the American dream: NASCAR.

I told him, “Pfft, twenty thousand? They’re over-charging you, dude. Big time.” He goes, “Oh, you think you can shoot it for cheaper?” Hell yes, I did. And I did, kinda. For the record, I don’t think you should go into your first big boy film job as blindly as I did, because I really didn’t know shit about making a TV show. I’d never used a professional audio recorder of any sort at that point. I had a tripod I might have used once. I knew how to edit. I knew how to shoot, but my camera was new and I still was watching YouTube tutorials on how to best operate it. Regardless, I booked the gig. Sometimes you get lucky.

Markus let me cruise to the race car track with him on a monthly basis, and I shot the shit out of those race cars. Definitely almost got ran over plenty of times. Definitely had big chunks of dirt hit me in the head. Definitely had the time of my life. We rigged the race car with cameras, we shot interviews, I got to hang out at a super cool big-ass house in Santa Barbara where he lived. It was really awesome. My life was the shit out of nowhere.

Before long, we had an incredible amount of footage, and he and I worked diligently to edit a sizzle reel that we could pitch to networks. We had no idea really how we were going to get into a room to pitch it, but we knew that was the plan. He had a producer friend who was working on getting us in touch with ESPN or something, but that never really came along. So, what happened next? More schmoozing at the sunglasses shop, that’s what.

I’m not gonna drop any names, but I’ll just say that if I was to drop one, it would get recognized… by your parents. Long story short, I met a successful Hollywood producer who was in the market for sunglasses. He was also in the market for a cool show about race cars. BOOM. NAILED IT. I HAVE THAT. Emails exchanged. No receipt needed. Let’s do this. Soon after, we were in business with a couple producers helping us pitch the show. I found myself at a big TV network’s office, barely 20 years old, a college dropout, feeling like an overnight success. No degree no problem. Not sure how I got there, but happy as hell that I was. Well, to get right to it, they didn’t buy it. No one bought it. I quit my job too soon.

Lots of life lessons were learned. Luckily, I didn’t put a down payment on that Ferrari. 😉

The experience I got out of working on that project was probably the most pivotal point of my life in Santa Barbara, and I am forever grateful for that. Fast forward to LA, a year or so after. What I really wanted to do was work on comedic films, but all I had on my resume was an action sports docu-series flop. So I started writing comedy. More specifically, sketch comedy that I would go on to produce as digital shorts. Like a lot of young creatives who move to LA without a pot to piss in, I found myself struggling to stay afloat financially. I think I had 4 different jobs that year.

Eventually, I found a decent gig and I was able to produce several sketches which I kept on a hard drive until I had a few videos stacked up. That was my master plan. Have a bunch of content, blast it out, the videos get a bunch of views and I’m an overnight success. Oh, to be young… well, they are still online for your viewing pleasure under the name Zamboni Highway.

After pumping out 10 videos or so without going viral or making any significant progress, I took a few months to just focus on acting and writing. I was craving results. And results I would get. One day after acting class, my friend Michael Murray told me he had “a shitty scene” he wrote for class, which ended up being a script that I fell in love with. A script that would be easy to produce and maybe one that we could just make ourselves without even having a crew or anything. I’ve done that kind of thing before. I’ve filmed myself in a scene with other people, no cameraman needed. I could do it again.

However, I began to shop the idea around my creative network and was able to attach my good friend Stephen Mastrocola as director and fellow producer. Stephen brought on an amazing director of photography, and now a good buddy of mine, Casey Stolberg. It turned out that Michael used to work at a fabric flameproofing warehouse, which ended up being perfect for the torture scene we wanted to shoot, and he also brought on an amazing composer, Michael J Lloyd, who has worked on some huge movies and shows. What started as a casual conversation turned into the short film that could.

I’m delighted to say that this movie, THE TRUTH SEEKER, recently played at Dances With Films at the Chinese Theatre this past June, and will be gracing the screen at other festivals soon. It’s a super fun example of what you can do with a tight crew, and only a week’s worth of work, from selecting the script to having picture lock. This brings me to the present day. I’m currently developing a few short films that I’ll be producing over the summer and collaborating with my amazingly talented friends in short films, features, web series, etc.

I’m looking forward to all of the triumphant moments as well as all the bad that comes along with being a filmmaker and actor. Bring it the fuck on. I’m ready, and I’m excited. Stay hungry!

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has had lots of smooth parts and lots of rough. I can’t believe I’ve been out of the nest for 8 years and that so much has happened so fast. I was a really, really naive kid when I drove my car across the country to pursue this crazy dream. I’m still naive in many ways, and I’m still learning every day, but I feel like I’m a fully-formed version of myself at this point. I have a much more clear and realistic vision of what I’d like to accomplish, how I want to get there, and I have more opportunities than ever to do so.

Most of which I owe to my fantastic friends who are also my creative colleagues. The struggles are necessary, and the smooth parts are a gift. We all struggle every day for different reasons, every one of us fragile human beings. There’s no avoiding that.

Embrace the struggle, and enjoy the blissful moments. That’s what I’m trying to do now more than ever is enjoy the life I’ve been gifted. I come from an area where drugs destroy a lot of people’s’ lives. I could’ve easily followed a path that leads me to a similar fate. I could be in a lot worse position.

But as luck would have it, I’m in sunny Los Angeles, California, not struggling to fight the urge to get high, but struggling to make the next groundbreaking project for my career as a filmmaker. My struggle is a gift.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Marcus Henderson – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’m an independent filmmaker and an actor. I would say I specialize in comedy due to being a goofball in general and spearheading Zamboni Highway, but I’ve recently been exploring projects that will allow me to use my comedic abilities in a format that also adheres to great dramatic storytelling. I’m putting all of my energies into short films at the moment.

I consider myself pretty versatile, wearing lots of hats all the time so that I can get projects on their feet and see them to the finish line. Sometimes it doesn’t always work that way. If it’s a bigger scale project I have to relieve myself of some duties… which I am very happy to do. I usually write with the intent to produce what I write, and anything that gets produced I usually edit, too. Whenever I’m acting in something, I will attach a great director pal of mine so that I can focus solely on acting and not spread myself too thin. But if I’m not going to act in something, I direct.

Though, for Zamboni Highway, I directed mostly every video and appeared in most of them as well. I think what I’m most proud of is that I’ve consistently executed what I’ve set out to do. Whenever I want to make something that is within my means, I will do it. And I will do my best with it.

A lot of people who have this same mentality and work ethic notice how many people in this town are all talk and no do. I’m a doer! And that makes me proud.

I think what sets me apart from the others would be that I started out as a writer, taught myself the basics (and more) of shooting and editing, then moved onto producing and directing, and now I’m an actor. It’s my assumption that lots of people move out here wanting to be the star actor first and foremost, and then when they realize they aren’t getting auditions and need to make their own stuff they have to learn how to be a filmmaker. For me, it’s the exact opposite. I essentially discovered that I was always an actor, and I’m finally getting my reps in.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What I like best about Los Angeles is that it is an incredible place to be an artist. It may feel lonely at times, but when it comes to being creative you are never alone, and the possibilities are absolutely endless. You never know who you’re going to run into next that will create a shift in your artistic trajectory. You’re constantly brushing shoulders with people who will one day change your life.

Constantly forming new relationships with collaborators and people who will greatly affect the way you perceive your craft. There are so many different types of artists, filmmakers aside, who are changing the way that I feel about art, life, society, myself… I could go on and on. I am so affected by everyone all the time, and because of the people here, I am able to grow to be a better person and artist every day. And for that, LA, I thank you. And I love you.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jean-Pierre Vanhoegaerden, Jeff Lorch, Joanna Degeneres, Jacques Lorch, Casey Stolberg, Jeffrey Prosser, Jeff Lorch

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Maria Rhodes

    July 31, 2018 at 23:21

    Marcus,

    We love you!

    -biggest fan.

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