Creative success is a powerful once-in-a-lifetime experience that artists all over the world strive for, but unfortunately, they don’t always achieve their goals. But the powerful documentary, ‘Good Fortune,’ is the epitome of success stories within the creative field. The movie is the latest collaboration between the husband and wife directorial team of Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, who have triumphed in telling through-provoking stories in their documentaries. Their latest film chronicles the numerous successful businesses and achievements of businessman and philanthropist, John Paul DeJoria.
‘Good Fortune’ is available on demand and digital HD on August 1. The home release comes after the documentary was an Official Selection at the Austin Film Festival, and was the winner of the Best of Fest Award at the Sedona International Film Festival. The movie was then distributed in theaters on June 23 by Paladin.
‘Good Fortune,’ which is narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor, Dan Aykroyd, reveals the success secrets of DeJoria, who’s one of America’s most celebrated entrepreneurs. The co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and The Patrón Spirits Company is a self-made billionaire who was born into impoverished beginnings in East LA. The businessman, who was at times homeless and living in his car, spent his early adulthood in and out of motorcycle gangs, including the Satan Slaves and Hells Angels.
After losing his brother in a horrific motorcycle accident, DeJoria transformed his life, and built his wildly successful line of hair care products with artist Paul Mitchell. Proving his success wasn’t a just fluke, DeJoria then created Patron, the largest tequila brand in the world.
After achieving his professional successes, DeJoria decided to devote his life to charity. He has created back-to-work programs for the homeless, fought whale poachers in the Arctic and worked on over 100 other philanthropic ventures. DeJoria is a pioneer of conscious capitalism, which is also known as the triple bottom line, and focuses on people, planet and profit. The documentary tells the entrepreneur’s inspirational life story, and shows how he uses business to make the world a better place.
Tickell generously took the time recently to talk about co-directing ‘Good Fortune’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmaker revealed that he became interested in making a documentary about DeJoria, because the businessman has not only led an extraordinary life, but his professional practices have also helped shape the future of American capitalism. The helmer also praised the movie’s editor, Ryan Nichols, for putting together an compelling narrative that inspirationally chronicles the entrepreneur-philanthropist’s professional and personal achievements.
ShockYa (SY): You directed the new biographical film, ‘Good Fortune,’ which follows the life and career of philanthropist John Paul DeJoria. What inspired you to helm a documentary about JP’s life and career? Coming from a documentary filmmaking background, how would you describe your helming approaching on this movie?
Joshua Tickell (JT): Well, ‘Good Fortune’ is the fourth film that my wife, Rebecca, and I co-directed together, and it tells the story of John Paul DeJoria. He’s that ponytailed hair guy you’ve seen, who created Paul Mitchell and Patron.
But the film’s story is really about conscious capitalism, and a new way of doing business. It’s about the planet, people and profits, and how they work together to make the world a better place.
The interest for this story came from the first film that my wife and I made together, which is called ‘Fuel.’ It’s a movie that’s about stopping our dependence on oil, and instead using alternative energy. We premiered that movie back in 2008 at Sundance, and John Paul was in the audience at the premiere. He stood up and said, “This is important. Everyone in the world should see this movie.” We kind of knew that ponytail guy.
Then, over the next almost 10 years, we got to know JP, which is what his friends call him, on a number of projects. The more we got to know him, the more we thought that he was incredible. He has built these two amazing businesses, but he came from nothing. He lived in his car, and was in and out of gangs, when he was younger. He was poor, but now he really works to give back and make the world a better place. This is what business should be about.
We thought JP’s story was an important one to tell, but it was really Rebecca’s idea to make a movie about him. As we got going on it, he gave us permission to make the film. We then realized that there was a bigger story about what we see to be the future of American capitalism. That’s how the movie of ‘Good Fortune’ got started.
SY: What was the process of doing research into John Paul’s life during pre-production, and deciding what information from his life and career to include in the film?
JT: There were two trajectories for the research process as we started working on ‘Good Fortune.’ We followed the trajectory of JP’s life, which is the story of someone who grew up in East Los Angeles during the 1940s and ’50s. So we had to research that era, and see what life was like then. He started working as soon as he was able to as a boy, and is still working today. We had to recreate that era through archival footage and recreations.
But JP had almost no photos from his private life during that time. The poor weren’t able to take many pictures during the 1940s and ’50s, since they were so expensive. So we had to recreate that world.
The other trajectory we researched was conscious business practices. We had to look into what conscious capitalism and the triple bottom line meant. So we read some books and did some research. One standout book that we read was ‘Conscious Capitalism’ by John Mackey, who’s the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods. He also wrote the foreword for a book that I have coming out in November, which is called ‘Kiss the Ground.’ But overall, there’s very little information about the triple bottom line business.
So we had to create these two parallel pathways that teach the viewers about this historic, 70-year period of time, for which there’s a very small amount of pictures and videos, as well as what it means to have a triple bottom line business. Both subjects are fascinating, and they twist together throughout the movie.
SY: What was the process of working with your cinematographer, Simon Balderas, as you were deciding on how you wanted to visually present John Paul’s history and story?
JT: Simon’s an amazing cinematographer. We actually started working together out of chance. The cinematographer we were working with suddenly became unavailable. Simon was then referred to us by a friend. When we started working together, I think our first shoot was an interview with JP, which was a big deal. He only did about three or four sit-down interviews for the whole film, as his schedule is very packed.
Even though the interview with JP was the first time that Simon and I worked together, we clicked right away. From there, he and I worked well together. Rebecca would go with us when she could, but she often planned the shoots beforehand, and would help direct from the home office. So Simon and I traveled together for three years, in between our other jobs.
When we started the production, we didn’t have a vision of how we wanted the film to look. But as we went, we decided that we wanted the 1940s and ’50s to have a gritty feel. By the time we got to the ’60s and ’70s, we decided that it should have more of a tobacco feeling. We wanted those scenes to look as though there was smoke in the room, even when there wasn’t.
We also did recreations for those decades with actors. During that process, Simon introduced me to the right camera. I had never used the RED before, but I fell in love with it. The footage that we shot with it looks as though we were teleported back in time to film the actors. Everything looked amazing, even though they were recreations. They help take the viewers on an interesting journey. I think that’s one of the cool things about ‘Good Fortune.’
SY: ‘Good Fortune’ was narrated by Dan Aykroyd, and also features interviews with some of John Paul’s friends, including Arianna Huffington. What was the process of deciding who you wanted to interview and include in the documentary? How did you decide what you wanted to ask them about their relationship with JP?
JT: The fascinating thing about doing the interviews is that JP’s friends are very well known; they include Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Arianna Huffington and Danny Trejo. So we asked JP who he hangs out with, and we went to his house while he was spending time with them. We thought, wow, he has a really interesting group of friends!
While we were interviewing Danny, he spoke about how he’s been in and out of prison his entire life. He said, “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been to jail. Most of the people I know are on parole, or are currently in jail.” We thought, this guy’s a very accomplished film star, and yet he’s telling a story about how to get out of gangs, and how to find meaning in your life and be a better person. We interviewed him in front of his garage with his motorcycles and film posters, but I found him, like most of JP’s friends, to be a really beautiful person.
All of JP’s friends told a similar story about not only him, but also about how people who have success are always giving back. They’re looking for ways to make the world a better place.
I was able to go to all of these people’s homes, including Dan Aykroyd and Arianna Huffington, and see their worlds. Rebecca and I were then able to work with our editor, Ryan Nichols, and include them in JP’s story.
SY: Speaking of the editing process, once you finished principal photography, what was the process of working with your editor, Ryan Nichols, on deciding what footage to include in the final version of the documentary?
JT: Well, in a narrative film, you spend a tremendous amount of time writing the story, and you try to get the script right. You then shoot and edit it in a short period of time, and everything is based on a budget.
But with a documentary, the process’s almost the opposite. You create an outline, but then try to create the overall story as you’re filming it. With ‘Good Fortune,’ we ended up with hundreds of hours of footage. Trying to create a cohesive story that made sense to the viewer, and was true to John Paul’s life, was the most frustrating process. We also wanted to make sure that the viewers had more knowledge about JP than before they watched the movie. So that was a long and difficult journey. (laughs)
There were many cuts that we watched and thought, what have we gotten ourselves into? How are we going to do this? We always knew that we wanted to make the film correctly, because JP’s story is so inspirational. But eventually everything came together. So my hat goes off to Ryan, who did an incredible job.
It’s been a three-and-a-half year journey from start to finish, and I invite people to watch the finished film to get a little inspiration. We need more hope in our world today!
SY: ‘Good Fortune’ has received a theatrical and VOD release. Why do you think that receiving the joint theatrical and On Demand distribution is beneficial for documentaries like this one?
JT: I’ve been to some huge premieres with Rebecca in L.A. We’ve some some films that we’ve loved. We’ve also been to screenings where afterward, we thought, this movie was weird, but it has an audience that loves it. We walked away from those experiences thinking, it’s not about making the perfect film; it’s about making the perfect film for that audience.
JP has a massive following, including over 100,00 students and graduates of his school. You think, hair care school, cool, you learn how to do hair and make-up. But having gone to the educational seminars that they have, I learned that the school is just as much about being a great human being, and what it takes to be wonderful in the world, as it is about hair care.
There are nuggets of wisdom that JP has, which are posted all over the school, including the idea that success unshared is failure. They’re taught as his part of his philosophies in the school. You realize that his philosophies have a powerful following, and should be shared with the entire world.
So we realized that the film should have a theatrical release, since JP has fans and followers all over the country. We were lucky enough to work with Paladin to release the movie in theaters in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and Atlanta. We’re also releasing the film on iTunes, so millions more people can see it across the country. It’s exciting to be able to share the movie with everybody. Thank goodness Paladin and Lionsgate are releasing ‘Good Fortune,’ and allowing it to be available for everyone to see.