We had the good fortune of connecting with Taron Lexton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Taron, how has the public health crisis affected your views on work-life balance?
Honestly, when you’re in any sort of entertainment industry or artistic endeavor, work-life balance is a tricky subject. There’s not really a 9am-5pm approach to what I do as a director and there’s never a clear-cut balance between the two, it’s always a matter of blending them and seeking to make them as seamless as possible. I’m always juggling numerous projects, my beautiful daughter Rain, my friends, etc., and figuring out new and better ways to integrate them all when I can. You’ll usually find me awake into the early morning hours reviewing edits, scripting, doing rewrites, and creating storyboards and shot lists, on top of the thousands of hours I’ve spent on set. Sometimes, when I’m deep in the creative process, it can feel like the current project is the most important thing in the world. The Covid-19 crisis has shifted my focus to some basic human priorities, but has also reminded me of how fortunate I am with my team at TXL Films. We all have talents, strengths and weaknesses that seem to perfectly complement each other. We’ve been conducting meetings via Zoom and FaceTime to stay coordinated and continue to move projects forward. For the most part, we’ve managed to keep a 9am-5pm type schedule while we all work from home. Although this crisis has forced us all to slow down a bit, re-evaluate importances and, honestly, to heal on many levels, we’ve still been able to prep future projects and complete existing ones. While not being able to film at the present is of course challenging, it’s also a bit strange to visualize where our industry will be at the end of this. With theaters being closed for so long, studio release schedules being pushed, the abundance of streaming services and content, the small businesses that are struggling, and schools being shut down, there’s no clear vision yet of how our industry will emerge, but I have certainty that we will figure it out and settle into a new and exciting “normal”. At the beginning of this crisis we were actually mid filming in Vancouver for our feature film Nomad (IG: @nomadthefilm). We were at the tail end of a six month shoot in over 20 countries and had to shut down production early to get everyone home safely as we had crew from the US and talent from the UK and Australia. Once home, it was surreal to watch the news and see these countries we’d just filmed in close their borders. We’ve been fortunate to experience so many different cultures and with this crisis affecting us all worldwide, it really makes me feel closer to humanity as a whole, but it also raises this new question of when we’ll be able to film internationally again, when will it be safe to travel, and will the travel industry continue their new methods of health and cleanliness to continue keeping us all as safe as possible. I envision a new era of work-life balance post Covid-19: we’ll all continue to focus on our health and overall well-being while making sure we’re all decently prepped at home for any future pandemics or crises, exercising, getting enough sleep, spending lots of time with our families and friends whom we’ve missed interacting with, while still dreaming, designing and continuing to put a future there we can all look forward to. I think we’ll find that balance again, and we’ll be healthier and happier about our choices having learned some very valuable lessons during this time. Balances can be thrown off, time can be mis-managed, efficiencies can be hindered, projects can fall behind, deadlines can get pushed, projects can go on hold… but it’s how we handle these and learn from them that means the difference in what we will continue to achieve. No matter what is happening in the world, I truly believe that.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I was 16 my mother founded a human rights organization that happened to need a series of videos right as I was finishing film school, so I simply volunteered for that and used it as a launching point. Even though I made no money from filmmaking for over a year, I worked several thousand hours and made sure to always do my best work, and when the videos were released they were a surprise hit, and I started getting lots of phone calls. That’s been my guiding principle: no matter how small or insignificant the project, always do your best work. In film school I majored in cinematography and editing, because I quickly realized that directing is more of an art than a science. If you ask 10 directors how to direct, you’ll get 10 completely different answers. Camera and editing on the other hand are extremely technical, so I used my film school experience to learn that. Both jobs—and really, all jobs in filmmaking—are still very creative, but directing is the most technically forgiving. You don’t have to learn all the jobs below you in order to direct them, but in my experience, it’s still a very good idea to learn them if you can. The things that challenge you are always more helpful, in the end. Anytime I’ve gotten too comfortable or complacent, I’ve tried to change things up and find a way to challenge myself and take new risks. As a creative person, it’s important to keep yourself fully engaged. That takes work. It takes being willing to be uncomfortable and to possibly fail. The best things I’ve ever done in my life were the biggest risks. I’m the most excited about the risks we took on the feature film we’re working on now, Nomad. It has been just incredible. It’s been the toughest experience of my life, extremely demanding and physically exhausting, but hugely rewarding creatively. Also, I’m working with my best friends full-time, so even at the worst of times, it’s still been an absolute blast. That’s become our brand really… epic independent filmmaking that takes risks and pushes boundaries.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It’s such an interesting time to try and answer this during the Covid-19 crisis, but honestly if everything was open and safe again, I’d probably take them to some movie marathons at the Arclight Hollywood theaters, numerous meals at MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza in Sherman Oaks and Olive & Thyme in Burbank, a trip to the Getty Museum, concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and maybe some epic escape rooms, hikes and beach trips.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shout out to my team at TXL Films and the cast and crew of Nomad the film. This group of artists and professionals trusted me enough to embark on the biggest, craziest, most fantastical project we’ve ever attempted. Now, more than ever, I am so thankful that they believed in me and this film, traveling across all 7 continents, filming in over 20 countries (something we may not be doing now for quite a long time), and all on an indie budget. They’ve helped me turn dreams into reality and I’m grateful to have such an incredible team of artists to work with every day.
Ray Kachatorian K. Spencer Jones Kevin Garrison Richard Brien Nicole Pase Ian Rosloniec