GAP 24 | Film Industry

 

Almost all of us grew up in a world of motion pictures. Be it movies or television shows, we have been and still are witnesses of cinema—an art that only continues to flourish and get better with time. As we watch, we not only get entertained; we also learn. In this episode, none other than Douglas Vermeeren takes us behind the scenes, into movie sets and the film and TV industries, and talks about attitude and how it relates to your life. He is an actor, stunt performer, filmmaker, and director. On top of that, he is also an author and creator of personal development films. Join Douglas as he shares his learning experiences—from auditioning as an actor to producing films—and the fascinating stories of the people he met. Don’t miss out on this conversation!

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The Attitude To Persevere In The Film Industry With Douglas Vermeeren

I’m going to tell you what. We have a guest that I very rarely get to have on this show. This guy is an actor, stunt performer, filmmaker, and director. He’s the author of three books in the Guerilla marketing series and one in the Dummies book series. He’s also the creator of the personal development films, The Opus, The Gratitude Experiment, and The Treasure Map. Enterprise Magazine calls him Canada’s Tony Robbins. Mr. Doug Vermeeren is somebody that’s going to take you into the movie set, into the film industry, and talk to you about attitude and how it relates to your life. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to bring on to our show, Mr. Doug Vermeeren.

Thank you for having me. Here’s the deal. I started as an actor. I started when I was seven and I didn’t have any knowledge of personal development or what have you. When I was seven, I started doing films up in Canada where I live. No kidding, through middle school and high school, I used to skip school so I could be on movie sets. It was kind of crazy. I started doing stunt work also at that younger age as well, whenever I could get an opportunity to do it.

The idea of personal development, I fell into while I was in college. Somebody asked me to start doing some interviews with top achievers for a project that I was doing. Ultimately, then I produced those personal development films and people asked me to speak about those things. What’s funny is all those accolades about speaking. That’s a very small part of my life. In the beginning, I was not known for that, and even now not known for it. It’s a chapter that honestly, some good PR people wrote to make me sound like I was important in personal development, but I didn’t spend much time there at all.

I did produce four of the top personal development films. When movies like The Secret came out, and they did well, I interviewed and met many of those people prior to doing those films. Obviously, with the success of The Secret and the importance of that message, I decided to make a couple of other films. My first one, The Opus, included many of the gang from The Secret. People like the creators of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

The movie did so well. Random House picked it up. They did 26 languages worldwide. I can’t even name the languages, let alone speak them all. That movie did so well that we continued, and I did a movie called The Gratitude Experiment. I brought people like Bob Proctor, John Gray who did Men Are from Mars, Mary Morrissey, and others.

We had such success with that, that I came back and I did a movie called The Treasure Map, which also was a personal development film, but on the power of abundance. We had one come at the beginning of the pandemic called How Thoughts Become Things. It’s funny because once the pandemic ended, I got back in front of the camera more as an actor, and that’s what I’m doing now.

Check out the LATEST episode of the Get Attitude Podcast with @GlennJbill and guest @DougVermeeren produced by @JasonAaronPro Share on X

It’s a crazy time for the film business. As you can imagine, everybody has been at home rather than in the theaters, so they’ve watched everything on streaming services. Now they’re desperate to get more content, and of course, everybody upgraded their home theaters. It’s easier for them to watch films at home. I’ve literally been off the hook.

To give you an example. In the first part of my life, from the age of 7 to probably mid-30s, I did close to about 20 or so movies. In 2022 alone, we’ve done probably over 10. In March 2023, I’ve done already 3. It’s the busiest time in the history of cinema because technology is accessible, the audiences are hungry and yearning, and the platforms for distribution are so accessible. Here’s one quick thing. If you got somebody tuning in that wants to be a filmmaker, for sure, now is your time.

Our producer is a filmmaker, so Jason, let’s harness that and get our films going.

I know. I’m pretty wrapped up in TV right now. I thought I’d go into a film a long time ago, but TV sucked me in back in 2008. I’m on my fourth TV show now, so maybe it’ll be an Emmy before an Oscar.

It’s awesome that he says that, too, because the funny thing is, in the 1950s, people were thinking that TV was going to knock cinema out and it was going to be gone. The reality is it’s only been recently and the pandemic that made that viable because if you think about it now, the cinemas are empty. It takes a big movie like Top Gun to even bring in people for a couple of weeks. Everybody is watching stuff on TV.

The quality of TV shows has now risen to the cinematic level. If you look at things like Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and a lot of these other shows, the quality is even surpassing what they’re able to do on feature films. Look at The Mandalorian, for example. Some of the innovative things they’re doing there. You can’t even do that for those budgets as you used to, so it’s crazy.

Are you Canadian or American?

I’m technically a dual citizen. I used to say bi, but that’s not the right thing to say.

People are so enamored. People don’t even understand how attracted they are to a celebrity. What is your whole thought on celebrity? What do you think the attitude of a celebrity is? What is the attitude of this whole thing called the filmmaking business?

I’ve been around this business for such a long time. I’m going to call them actors first. I’ve seen actors who embrace the celebrity and they crave it. That’s their number one goal. I will confess, there are moments I feel like I’m even doing that because it feels good to have your work recognized, appreciated, and loved. There are also a group of actors that do it for the art and passion. They do it for not just the challenge, but the ability to be and become. I’m more in that category.

You’ve heard the saying, “Like attracts like.” The majority of the people that I associate with film and TV are doing it for creative reasons. We’ve got stories to tell and we’re excited when people enjoy them, of course, but we’ve got things inside us. Speaking about attitude. If I couldn’t do this job, I would be empty because I don’t know how else I could get my freedom of expression out. Who I want to be and how I want to be in these films.

It’s maybe even a bit difficult to describe because the reality is I’ve got friends and family that are involved in other occupations. I could never do what they do. I say that as a kind thing. Honestly, they’re very smart and clever people. I don’t know if I’m that smart because as an artist, we’re very introverted in some ways. Even this idea of me talking and being extroverted, that’s a bit of a performance, too. It’s not who we are in our private moments. It’s one of these things where it’s the artistic nature of it. It’s like a painter. We do our best work in solitude. In an environment where we’re doing this, like in front of the camera with the crew, that’s who we are, but when the world enjoys it, we politely say, “Thanks.”

That’s deep. There are people that may not feel that sheer sense of fulfillment with what they do. The one thing that comes through to me is you seem incredibly fulfilled. You are like Ke Huy Quan, especially now with the number of movies that you’re appearing in and the action that’s going on in your life.

On that note, here’s also something that’s interesting because you’re talking about personal development. One of my favorite books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. You remember in that book that he says, “Private victories precede public victories.” The reality is, as a movie actor, a lot of people see the public life. They see me on the red carpets, premieres, fan expos, and Comic Cons all signing autographs, but that’s not how movies are made.

GAP 24 | Film Industry
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

The reality is the private moments when people don’t see me by myself at home learning scripts. Playing out characters in my mind, discovering who these people are, and doing the research. Of course, on a movie set, it’s not red carpets, but it’s porta-potties and food trucks. That’s what we’re dealing with. There’s that private side that the world doesn’t see, and I’m sure they’re intrigued by it, and it is fun.

For those who are involved in movies, you know what I’m talking about. It is your family there. It’s an addictive thing. This is the other group that gets you, all these people in a film. There are people, so we feel like we belong. Whereas, when we’re in public, sometimes we feel like we don’t fit at all. No kidding. Even as a kid going to acting classes in high school, I was the drama nerd. Nobody wanted to hang out with us drama nerds. When I’m playing hitman and cops, doing stunts, and hanging out of helicopters, now people think I’m cool. What they don’t see is how that all came together with the food truck and porta-parties.

Jokes on them.

Maybe.

Really quick, what we always like to ask. Attitude had a lot to do with you getting from where you were to where you are now. I’d love to know, what is your definition of attitude. Who were your first or your best attitude coaches?

Attitude is something that we can decide and something that also evokes a response. Attitude is a paradigm of how we want to see the world. We get to choose and respond. I’m a firm believer that we do need to decide our attitude before the situation shows up. A lot of times, most of us, when we run into something bad, we let that external force dictate who we’re going to become.

If you look at an industry like acting, and I’m sure that there are many other industries, I think right away professional athletics is another one, they are very highly competitive. There are so many people that I run into every day. It’s funny that I’ll even show up at the airport. As I’m crossing the border and he’s asking for my passport, he says, “Why are you coming here?” I say, “I’m working on a movie.” The next question is always inevitably, “I’ve got a cousin that wants to be involved in a movie.” He’s all of a sudden trying to pitch me a family member. Everybody wants to get their family, friends, or somebody they know involved in movies.

If you think about that competitive nature of it, that number one means that not everybody is going to make it. You’ve got to have the attitude that you want this more than anybody. Not just the attitude of what you want, but what you’re willing to do. You’ve heard that idea that your why power comes before your willpower. Unless you have this attitude of, “This is who I am,” not just, “I’d like to be,” we don’t have the strength or the fortitude to stay with it.

The other thing that’s tough that a lot of people don’t recognize, for every minute that I’ve spent on the red carpet, I’ve received at least 1,000 rejections. Every single minute that I’m walking that red carpet, I can count at least 1,000 rejections from people saying, “You’re not good enough. We don’t need your type. You don’t look the right part. You don’t have the right height. You’re not in the right section. You’re not the right ethnicity. Grow a mustache.” The list goes on and on. People are looking for ways to eliminate in my industry. It’s still very politically correct to do that, so it’s tough.

I know you’re getting ready to go audition for another major feature film. I’m a big believer in “The path of noes leads to the one yes.” I know that you haven’t had the key glory role yet, but do you feel, “I got to be getting closer? The odds are I’m going to walk in and they go, ‘That’s him.’”

Rarely do they walk in and say, “That’s him.” You walk in and they’re like, “Maybe. Let’s see what we can do with him.” Everybody’s got their idea. In fact, in film, I found that there’s no such thing as perfection. Everybody as a committee does their best. We create a project that we can be proud of. I don’t know this for certain, but someone once shared a quote with me attributed to Steven Spielberg. He says, “Movies are never completed, they’re just abandoned.”

In film, there's no such thing as perfection. Everybody as a committee does their best. Share on X

In the end, we can only do so much, so then we’ve got to put it to the public, we’ve got to share it. Do you know what’s interesting? On that comment about auditioning for big roles, I’m not allowed to say, but there were two big ones that I auditioned for. Both are from franchises that I have always loved as a kid. They haven’t said no yet, but it was a weird feeling like, “I love these guys. They’re part of my childhood. They’re part of my life. What if they say no?” How would that feel? It’s something that you loved forever, and all of a sudden, it’s taken away from you. You feel almost like you were born to do it because it’s part of why even got into movies. All of a sudden, if that gets taken away, that’s a weird feeling. You’ve got to find a way to separate yourself.

I love what Bryan Cranston said recently about auditioning. He said, “Your job isn’t to go there and you either get it or you don’t. If you don’t get it, your life is shattered. Your job is an actor. They’ve brought you in to see your interpretation. If you can deliver your interpretation, you’ve been successful. Whatever happens, from there is out of your control.” I like that idea. When they bring me in to play whether it’s a cop, a gunslinger, a hitman, a secret agent, or whatever it is, I have to deliver that. That’s my job. If they want to use that in their film, then obviously it’s delightful, but it is beyond my control.

What are the 2 or 3 biggest films that you’ve appeared in?

The next one. It’s always going to be the next one. I’ve had a lot of good experiences in a lot of films. That’s also a weird question because some of the films that I’ve done are big. Sometimes my part gets cut in the film. We thought it was going to be a big deal, and then it comes out, it disappears and nobody says anything. There are sometimes films that I never expected anything to happen and it’s been extremely successful. Also, there have been films that I’ve done that nobody cares about, but they were important to me.

One thing that I did and one that I loved working on is I worked on Open Range with Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, and Annette Benning. On that show, I was a stunt double, as one of Kevin Costner’s gunslingers. The actor that did that role primarily was hardly ever there. If you’re watching the movie, it’s 98% me, and then in a couple of things, it’s him. Of course, I’m not being recognized the same way he was, but the blessing was I was there for four months. I got to work with Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Michael Jeter, and a few others every single day. It was a massive learning experience.

Another one that was a big learning experience for me is, I produced a film in 2008 called The Opus. It’s a period piece, it’s a documentary with sorry on it. I went to film school, like other people in film, but the guy that I hired to be my camera guy had done work on Brokeback Mountain, Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights, Good Luck Chuck, and a variety of others. No kidding, even though I was the director, I learned more from that guy than almost anything I learned in film school.

He would set up the lights and get everything ready, and then he’d call me over and say, “Take a look at this shot. What do you think?” No kidding, I would go over and pretend to tweak something quickly. I’d put it right back where he had it and go, “Yeah, this looks good.” I’d sit back and shut up. The reality is, I don’t know if I deserve the credit that I got on that project because literally, he carried me.

I think that that’s maybe one of the big lessons, too. This can go for attitude as well. I find that my attitude is better when I surround myself with good people that know what they’re doing. Also, my attitude is even better when I approach that set understanding that I’m there as a learner, first and foremost. The reality is, there are so many amazing people that have done so much more than I’ll ever do. If I can be quiet and listen, it’s going to elevate my game, but it’s also going to give me blessings that I’ve never had.

The reality is, there are so many amazing people that have done so much more than you’ll ever do. If you can be quiet and listen, it's going to elevate your game. Share on X

There was another film. I know we’re going on all kinds of things. Tom Sizemore recently passed away as we know. I did a show with Tom. He and I became good friends on that set. I’ll never forget, we came in to do this scene where I was an FBI officer. I have just bucketed him and there’s a suspicion of a mafia-style murder that’s there.

He looked at the script in the morning. I don’t know if he was feeling it or whatever, but I had spent all this time memorizing it. He looks at the script and he goes, “Yeah, not so much.” He threw it away and said, “Can we improv this? Are you good to go? Would you be able to improv this with me?” I was like, “Yeah.” I’m not going to say no to Tom Sizemore. We did improv for the whole scene. Almost the whole afternoon and evening, we were improving this.

I learned so much from him about following cues, making it real and interactive, how to improv without stepping on each other’s lines, still having it coherent, and following a storyline. When they yell “cut,” how to pick it back up so we can give them something that will still work with what we’ve already got in the cam. It was such a neat experience.

Two of the cool experiences I’ll never forget about Tom, after we had shot that, we went out onto this balcony area and we were by ourselves while they were setting up the next shots. He congratulated me, but all of a sudden, his phone rang. On the phone, it said Bobby. I don’t know who this is, but he puts it on speaker and I hear this voice that’s faintly recognizable. He goes, “How’s the movie going?” Tom gave his opinion and he goes, “I’ll tell you what, I met this kid here. What’s your name again?” I go, “Doug.” He’s like, “This kid here, he can keep up with me on this improv and he’s making this fun for me. I’m loving it.”

He passed me the phone. I get the phone and the guy starts talking to me and it turns out it was De Niro. Remember, they worked together on Heat. All of a sudden, I don’t even know how to speak properly because this is Robert De Niro. Anyways, a little while later, we went to go do this Hitman movie. My last text to Tom was, “Here’s a picture from the film. This is what we’re doing. What do you think?” He’s like, “I like this. Count me in. I’d love to do this.” I said, “Sure. I’ll send you a script.” He sent me back the words in capital letters, “GREAT.” That was the last that I talked with Tom. It was tough, but what an amazing dude. Seriously, he was cool.

Obviously, you’ve been around some exceptional and well-known people, and you’ve given us some great stories of what they’ve meant to you and what they’ve taught you. Do you watch Yellowstone? What’s Kevin Costner’s attitude?

Yellowstone is a fantastic project. He’s got another western that he’s looking to do, too. I’m also looking forward to it. The reality is it’s sometimes tough to watch things when you know the people. One blessing about Kevin Costner is as much time as I spent with him, I still forget that I’m watching an actor. He’s that good.

I’m speaking on his behalf, so I might get this wrong. The attitude that I get from him is it’s 100% about the project. It’s not about him. No ego. No nothing. He’s like, “I’m going to be this character. I’m not playing for the camera. I’m not playing for whatever accolades are there. I’m going to be this person.” For me, that’s a strong attitude to have as an actor because when someone is playing for ulterior motives, it comes through. For lack of a better expression, I think Kevin Costner is very pure when he does things. That’s a blessing and it’s a rare thing.

Authenticity is a big one.

Authenticity is part of it, but even beyond that. When we say the word authenticity, what comes to mind is people say, “Be yourself. That’s being authentic.” I’m going to say that there are certain actors, Kevin included, who are not being themselves. They’re being above, so it’s bigger than them. They’re giving us something that is even more pure than bringing their best self to the game. I’m not sure if I can do that as an actor yet. I hope one day I can.

I have a feeling you can. Do you have trouble watching yourself in the three movies that you did? Is it tough for you to watch The Opus, The Treasure Map, or The Gratitude Experiment? You’re like, “That’s me. I can’t watch it again.”

Yes and no. The one thing that is certain when you’re involved in these projects, it’s always frustrating because movies are made by committee. I may think I’ve given my best performance in something and all of a sudden, the editor feels different and he picks something that I didn’t want. There it shows out. That sometimes is a bit of a challenge.

The other thing is I don’t watch a lot of me. The reason is when you’re on the other side of the camera and you’ve got the full script, you’ve got a different point of view of what the story is and how it’s going to play out. When you see it from the other side of the camera, sometimes you don’t recognize it. Here’s a funny story. No kidding. I was at a house party not too long ago with some friends. They had the TV running in the background with just ambient noise.

GAP 24 | Film Industry
Film Industry: When you’re on the other side of the camera and you’ve got the full script, you’ve got a different point of view of what the story is and how it’s going to play out. When you see it from the other side of the camera, sometimes you don’t recognize it.

 

All of a sudden, I looked over and there was an actor that I’d worked with. I was like, “I worked with that guy.” Right away, my friends were like, “How is he?” I’m like, “He’s totally awesome. He was incredible. I had such a good time with him.” As soon as this other actor walks on the screen, I’m like, “I work with that guy, too.” We chatted about that for a while, and then all of a sudden, I walked onto the screen. They all were like, “You knew.” I’m like, “I seriously did not know this was a show that I was in.” Sometimes seeing it from that perspective, and of course, when you’re doing lots of shows, you don’t remember. I had no idea. My mom jokes and says that I’m on TV more than I watch it. I don’t watch a lot of my own work.

How old are you now? If you’re allowed to tell, I understand it’s Hollywood.

This is how actors answer that. “I do an age range from 35 to 45. If you grade my hair, then I can go whatever you want.” Do you know what is funny about this? If you were to Google my age or my height, one of the heights has me as high as 5’10” and the other has me as 5’6”. I’m actually 5’8”. If you Google my age, they’ve got me as young as 36, but also, somebody said I was 52. That’s a little bit insulting, but thank you. We’ll keep the mystery out there because it’s kind of fun.

If you need a 52-year-old feature film leading man, he’s 52.

There you go. Easy-peasy.

Did you ever do commercials?

I’ve done a couple of radio commercials way back in the day. I was in a flyer for Walmart one time advertising a shirt. You can find that picture online, too. It’s pretty funny. It was $12.95 for this plaid-looking shirt. I can’t remember if I’ve done other commercials. I’ve done so much over the years. I’ll bet you I have. I just can’t remember.

I have been invited to do it again. I had another company ask me to do their men’s wear stuff, but I think that’s mostly going to be printed. I’m not sure. There may be some commercials. I had another friend of mine who’s a doctor who asked if I would do some endorsement for him. I don’t know where that’s going to go or if I’m even going to do it.

Have you ever interacted, acted with, or met somebody where you shit the bed and you were like, “I can’t believe it?” Did you ever feel unprepared? What’s the worst audition or gig you ever did? I’m looking for those fun stories.

How much time have you got? I’ve had lots of worst auditions.

The Doug Vermeeren Attitude part two.

There’s been a lot of those. I will tell you one that I met. I became good friends with him. When I first met him, I was terrified. Here’s the deal. Growing up, I’ve been the biggest James Bond fan that you’ve probably ever met. I’ve read all the books. I’ve had a chance to watch all the movies at least a dozen times. I could recite lines for you. If you go online, you’ll see there’s some interesting James Bond stuff in regard to me happening, too. You can steal those pictures and put them up later.

I happened to be walking along at an autographed show one time. All of a sudden, I saw Richard Kiel there, who is Jaws in the James Bond movies. I remember he’s 7.5 feet tall. That childhood boy in me came out and I was like, “I got to hide.” I didn’t want to hide because I wanted to go say hi. I went over. Richard and I did a picture. Every time he’s with somebody and he does a picture, they’d be crushing their head. He did one of those with me and we started chatting. We connected and became good friends.

So much so, we wrote a book together. We became close all the way up until his death in 2013. I have to admit, it wasn’t that he was Jaws and 7.5 feet tall that freaked me out. He was one of my childhood heroes. He was somebody that I totally admired. That was pretty awesome. I really enjoyed my experiences with him as a friend.

We used to chat for hours on the phone and he’d tell me all about the movies and TV shows that he’d done. He was on Gilligan’s Island. The Twilight Zone as an alien To Serve Man. He was on I Dream of Jeannie. He was on Gunsmoke. He was on Cannonball Run II with Jackie Chan. Force 10 from Navarone with Harrison Ford. He was on The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. The list goes on. People don’t realize this guy had a resume that was ten miles long. It was crazy.

As a tribute to him, talk to us about his attitude. What made his attitude so beautiful to you? What was it about the way he dedicated himself to the way he thinks?

There’s Richard and someone else I want to talk to about attitude. Here’s the deal with Richard. It’s something interesting a lot of people don’t know. When he was about sixteen, his family owned a furniture store. It was in California. They’d put a freeway near there so people couldn’t park for this furniture store anymore. The stress was so much that his dad had a heart attack and passed away when he was sixteen.

You got to remember, he was already well over 7 feet at 16 years old. He and his mom lost their business. They didn’t know what to do. The first job that he and his mom got, the two of them worked at a funeral home selling burial plots. Can you imagine? At sixteen, your dad dies and you’re selling burial plots. He told me that this was a tough time in his life. It was challenging.

You’ve got a choice. You can either roll over and die or step up and make something incredible happen. He had a family member one time come and say, “You should try movies. You could do the Jolly Green Giant or something like that for whatever it is.” He switched jobs and started loading Pepsi machines. Red West who was one of Elvis Presley’s bodyguards discovered him and said, “How do you like to come in and bounce at this club?” They did, and then they invited him to start doing some screen testing.

When faced with challenges, you've got a choice. You can either roll over and die, or step up and make something incredible happen. Share on X

His first screen test was for the bad guy in a pilot called The Phantom. Remember the one that Billy Zane did? It wasn’t Billy Zane’s show. This was long before Billy Zane did it. They started inviting Richard to come out and get involved in films. Obviously, it didn’t take off right away, but just like with my journey, perseverance.

I want to tell you about somebody else, though. Here’s the thing. I do a lot of fan expos where I go and I sign the autographs and stuff. There was one fan expo where I met this wonderful lady named Nichelle Nichols. You probably know her as Uhura in Star Trek, the original series. When I met her, she was already confined to a wheelchair most of the time. I pushed her wheelchair around, we sat at a table, and we signed autographs, so we became good friends.

You can find this picture online, too. Remember, she did the first interracial kiss on television. I’ve got a picture of her kissing me, and I love it. As we know, she just died summer of 2019. It’s sad to me. I was talking to her and she said that when she was doing Star Trek, near the beginning of her contract, they were still in the big area of the civil rights movement. There was a lot of prejudice, especially towards African-Americans.

Every day, she would have wisecracks made towards her as not the communication officer on the enterprise, but they were saying things like, “You should be the maid on the show. You should be the slave. You could be down rowing with the other slaves.” All these stupid remarks. There were days she would go home in tears literally saying, “I don’t want to do this Star Trek show anymore. This is stupid. It hurts. People are mean. They’re cruel.”

Keep in mind, it wasn’t everybody, but there was enough there that it was frustrating. She made a date and said, “I’m going to give my notice. I’m not going to fulfill my agreement. I’m not going to do any of the other episodes. I’m out.” She was going to come in and give everybody her notice. She told a couple of family members and some friends that, “I’m quitting Star Trek. It was great, but it was not enough.”

Anyways, she was ready to quit. The very next day she was going to go in, all of a sudden, the phone rang at her house. She picked up the phone. This is how she tells me the story. There was a voice on the other end that simply said, “Nichelle, you can’t quit.” She’s like, “Who is this telling me my business?” Again, the voice simply said, “Nichelle, you can’t quit.” She’s like, “Who is this?” The voice from the other end said, “It’s Martin Luther King Jr. I want you to know that you cannot quit because you will be an inspiration to not just Black women everywhere, but all women. In fact, you will change the perception of African-Americans on television forever. They will honor what you’ve done and you will be a hero to them forever.” She says to me, “When Martin said that, I can’t quit.”

The interesting thing about her is not only did she not quit, but most people don’t know that women came into the space program because of what Nichelle did. She was instrumental in getting them into that. In fact, here’s the story she told me once, too. She said she was also instrumental in getting the school teacher on the Challenger, and she’d always felt bad about that. We know what happened to the Challenger, but obviously, that had nothing to do with her.

She was such a courageous and inspiring woman. No kidding, sometimes I have to confess that when I’m having struggles as an actor, I think of some of my friends that would not quit or wouldn’t stop. I can’t do that either. Sometimes in our generation, we expect things to come a lot easier than they do. The reality is it comes back to that saying we’ve all heard that anything worth having is worth working for.

GAP 24 | Film Industry
Film Industry: Sometimes in our generation, we expect things to come a lot easier than they do. The reality is, anything worth having is worth working for.

 

Talking about rejection and being down, it’s hard. I’m a speaker and people guess I’ve always wanted to be a motivational speaker, but they don’t know what I have to do before I hit the stage.

We always want what we don’t have. The grass is always greener somewhere else. It’s funny I do mixed martial arts, jiujitsu, and all of these things, but I’ve got friends that are UFC fighters. That’s way above what I’m doing. It’s so crazy that they’re telling me also these people say, “I want to go in the ring of the UFC guys.” “Really? Wait until you see what it takes. That’s literal blood that’s left on the mat, and all the other things that go with it. You cannot do that as a part-time job. It must consume you.”

I think that that’s the same thing with any other success at a high level. There are too many people that wear a UFC shirt when their body says KFC. You can’t play both. You need to be super committed at a high level, regardless of what you’re going to do. I read this once. I thought this was very insightful. It said, “Mastery equals monopoly.” In other words, when you get so good at something, they can’t pick or won’t pick someone else because you are the best at what you do.

I wish, I hope, and I’m willing to work to become the best in my field, but I don’t know that I’m there yet. Every time I learn something, I recognize what I don’t learn. By the way, here’s something else about martial arts. I love this saying, too. Somebody once asked a black belt, “How long does it take for the average person to get a black belt?” His answer was, “Average people don’t get black belts because we must become extraordinary.” That’s the same with any field. You can’t have an extraordinary life by doing average things.

You can't have an extraordinary life by doing average things. Share on X

What is your attitude? How would you classify your attitude? Who would you consider to be your first attitude coach or the person that made you you?

I know this is going to be a trite answer. First of all, my attitude is unstoppable. I deserve to be here. Also, the idea that if some other human has done it, I can figure it out. It may not be easy and that’s fine, but I’m here to stay and I’m here to play, so let’s do it. The first attitude coach is probably my mom. Let me tell you why. Throughout growing up, she had four boys. We were all very active. It’s boys, so there’s a lot of energy there.

What’s interesting and where it all comes full circle is, once us boys got old enough to take care of ourselves and get ready to leave home, she went back to school, became a dental assistant, started running marathons, and started doing speed walking. She became a gold medalist for the worlds in speed walking. When she had an injury, she shifted again to another sport. The lady is unstoppable. That’s where I got my belief in myself. My immediate family, for the most part, they’ve always been entirely supportive and told me I could do whatever I wanted. I never had anybody in my immediate family tell me, “No, you can’t do that.” That’s an important thing.

I’m 1 of 4 boys as well. I’m the baby. How about you?

I’m the oldest and best-looking.

Of course, you are.

I don’t know. You guys have a picture of my brother up there. Chance is the best-looking. Do you know what’s funny? We all look so much alike that oftentimes people can’t tell us apart.

In 1 or 5 words, I’d love you to tell me all 3 of your brothers’ names. Let’s give them a little love. What attitude lesson has each one of those three taught you individually?

If we’re starting the one under me, I’ve got a brother that’s eleven months younger than me, and that’s Jamie. He’s also a non-stop kind of a guy and he will stay until the task is done. The other thing I like about Jamie is whether you like it or not, he’s going to tell you the truth.

What’s his profession?

He is a financial planner. He owns a company that does that.

Let’s go to number three.

Number three is Randy. He’s also a financial planner. The two of those guys worked together before. Randy is a very quiet, almost introverted guy until you get to know him, then he’s crazy funny. As the introverted guy, I noticed that he’s always very sensitive of people’s feelings. That’s interesting. He’s very emotionally connected to people. He’s a good networker. We will walk down any old street you could and he knows somebody on that street. He’ll remember their name, how many kids they got, when their birthday is, everything. He can tell you anything about it.

My youngest brother, Jeff, he’s creative like me. Very entrepreneurial. It’s funny because Jeff and I are the most alike and two middle brothers are the most alike. Remember I said I used to skip school? I would take Jeff to the theme parks during school. I’d pull him out of grade two and I would take him. I got in trouble for that. We would do that and we’d do that regularly. Obviously, he’s the baby of the family. My parents always pampered him a little bit and he got away with murder. I would do that all the time with him. It was funny.

I always believe that there’s so much to learn about attitude from our guests, but when we talk about their family or their parents, the lessons even get bigger. One of the things we always explore, and I’m not sure if this is in your case, but were you ever close to any 1 of the 4 of your grandparents? I’d love to know what they did. What was the attitude lesson your grandparents taught you if you were fortunate enough to be with them?

I was super close to all four of them. Even as their final years came and they were in the senior centers, I would visit regularly. I have videos of us singing Christmas carols with all the seniors there and all kinds of other things. Starting with one of my grandpas. In my very first movie set, he drove me there. He took me to a lot of the different movie sets. He waited on set because I needed an adult with me. He was there for a lot of that. In fact, I did a little bit of recording of music. That same grandpa also dropped me at all the radio stations to drop off the music. He took me around to do all that.

That same grandmother, his wife, took care of any of the needs that I had. I was the oldest grandson entirely for everybody. When I was a kid, she gave me a car and she’d always slip me money. Everything that I needed, my grandma took care of me. I was her number one. That was my father’s parents. Now on my mom’s side, they were all still super fun in that way, but a different kind of fun. My grandpa on that side used to be a professional wrestler. If you’ve heard of WWE or WWF, there’s a branch where The Hart Foundation came out called Stampede Wrestling, where I’m from. My grandpa was a wrestler in that and later a referee, and he was in tight with the Harts and all those people. That was my grandpa. He was one of the original Stampede Wrestlers way back in the 1960s or 1950s.

Anyway, funny story. I walked into this restaurant in Clearwater, Florida, and it was all Hulk Hogan oriented. It turned out it was Hulk Hogan’s restaurant. As I came in, this guy came up and he was introducing himself to different patrons. He says, “My name is Jimmy “The Hitman” Hart.” I didn’t follow wrestling very much, but I was like, “My grandpa talked about the Harts.” He’s like, “Who’s your grandpa?” He knew my grandpa, so he sat at my table all night and told me stories about my grandpa. Jimmy “The Hitman” Hart knew my grandpa well. He was awesome.

I think some of that performance flair came because of my grandpa. The other thing that I’ll never forget, my grandpa was also there for a lot of the performance stuff and film stuff I did, and other things. He always told me, “No matter what, I’m going to be somebody big.” I don’t know if that’s true, if it’s going to happen, or whatever. The fact that he kept telling me that was neat.

My grandma on that side, his wife, very much the same thing. She was always super supportive and believed in me. The thing that’s funny is I’m about 5’8” and she wasn’t even 5 feet tall. She’s my Jedi Master grandma. She’s that little. It was fun. How do you describe this? Some of my fondest memories are, when she got older and was in the senior center, we would literally sit on the edge of her bed. She’d flip through pictures and tell me about my past, my family, who they were, and stories about where I came from. That was interesting because sometimes, we don’t understand where we are or who we are until we understand where we came from. She had a mind that was an encyclopedia. She could tell me about ancestors I never knew existed, and it was crazy.

GAP 24 | Film Industry
Film Industry: Sometimes, we don’t understand where we are or who we are until we understand where we came from.

 

Those stories are amazing. That’s why we asked that on this show because invariably my guests tear up or they’re like, “I know who I am. They gave me my attention.” We’re with Doug Vermeeren. He is a Hollywood actor. He is a filmmaker. He has just dropped bombs, put us behind the scenes, put us on the stage or on the set, and has helped us identify the attitude that it takes or that it took him to continue to persevere. I know we haven’t heard the last of you. If I didn’t have another show on the other side, I’d be talking to you for another 30 minutes.

Doug, we always end our show by asking you to talk directly to the people that are tuning in. I’d love you to give them a message of hope that they can take with them to go through the rest of this year. They’d go, “Doug Vermeeren, I’ll never forget.” You’ve already given us some awesome lines, but just a quick message of hope for the ladies and gentlemen who are tuning in.

The biggest two things I’m going to say are you already know in your heart what you’re supposed to do and what you’ve been called to do. You need to listen to that. No matter what anybody else around you says, this is correct. We always must listen to that intuition gut. Our biggest regrets will come from not listening to that. Even if you don’t hit the home run that you think, that’s not the point. The point is you need to listen to this. This is destiny calling.

The other thing I’m going to suggest that is just as important is we need to learn how to be kind. There’s going to be more that comes to us through being kind to ourselves and others than any other gift that we can have. Gratitude is a form of kindness. The one thing that we learned when we were doing the movie, The Gratitude Experiment, is that gratitude expands everything it touches.

If you want to have better relationships, better abundance, better connection to self, better health, and better anything, you begin to be grateful for what you are. We treat it kindly and it expands. We must carry it out to other people because everything that we want is going to be achieved by a team, even when you show up on stage and you win an award. The reality is I never got this by myself. I didn’t run the lights, the scripts, the camera, the makeup, or the costumes. Everything that gets recognized in life is a team effort. Surround yourself with great people, treat them well, and be a good student and listener. You’ll find that’ll change everything.

Doug, I thank you for your kindness. We did some good. I know our GAPers are going to love this episode. We can’t wait to promote it. We’ll be sending you all of our social assets and things for you to share if you still feel inclined. We’re very grateful that you came to the show and delivered some attitude for us. This is Glenn Bill with the famous Doug Vermeeren. We will see you in the next episode.

 

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