In 2001 I lived in Tupelo, OK. It’s a small town with basically no industry outside of ranching, and my family felt like the poorest family in town. My dad was a single father, and he had five kids. He decided to be home and present with his children was better than working non-stop to make a little extra money, so we grew up on welfare (I should point out that my father has cerebral palsy and, despite his disability, worked until he and my mother got divorced). I didn’t realize at the time that although we didn’t have the monetary wealth of many of the other families, there was a stability in my father’s presence that many homes didn’t have.
Along the way, we had hardships pressed upon us that made me angry, including foster care and group homes for reasons I would later learn might have been illegal and against our constitutional rights to believe and practice our religion. We were “Mormons” (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). In South Central Oklahoma, the Bible thumping authorities thought my father must be a polygamist (our church stopped this practice in the 1800s, and those who continue to practice it are not members of our faith). Therefore we needed to be “saved.” At one point, my father was even told, “if you change your religion, we’ll give your kids back.”
As a near thirty-five-year-old man now, I have the knowledge and backbone to know legal action should have been taken, but my father toed the line because he didn’t have the resources and perhaps lacked the understanding of the law to know that this was illegal. Instead, he did what he had to do, and within a year, he won full-custody of all five of us. I don’t resent my father in the slightest. Having climbed the socioeconomic ladder myself, I have come to understand that you learn to respect authority when you grow up in poverty because you feel powerless to combat it. You are a victim to anyone with more power than you, and you do as you’re told because you lack the resources and understanding to defend yourself otherwise.
Part of this process meant seeing councilor’s and therapists, and most of them, I can honestly say, looked down on us as well. One therapist was particularly cruel to me and even recommended I be sent to a high-risk center in Norman, OK, to be observed because he thought I was suicidal. I was pulled out of school and sent away for two weeks. I spent time around gang members, pregnant teens, and other kids with real behavioral problems. I was the only one on good behavior.
When I returned home, things got worse for me. The other students knew I’d been sent away. They thought I was crazy. I felt picked on. I felt ostracized. I felt misunderstood. I felt looked down upon. Kids started picking on me. The coach at our school picked on me. I started fighting to defend myself. I lost every fight I was in and have the broken nose to prove it. All of this made for a very angry teenage Phil Hudson. I resented the people around me. It grew to the point that in 2001 I told my father I didn’t want to live there anymore. I just knew I wanted out.
Utah: My Birth State
At 15-years old, I moved away from my home in Oklahoma to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Utah for a month. That turned into multiple years as I was finally in a place that didn’t have any preconceived notions of who I was. I had the opportunity to reinvent myself and become whomever I wanted to be. I joined the wrestling team. I was in yearbook and got to express my writing and artistic side through photography. I had jobs. I worked. I even got robbed at gunpoint during my senior year of high school while working at Wendy’s (but that’s another story for another time).
As part of my faith, young men and women are given the opportunity to serve a full-time mission somewhere in the world. We prepare for this and are assigned a location. At 20, I was assigned to Tucson, AZ, Spanish speaking. I loved every moment of that experience. I fell in love with the Latin culture, the people, and definitely the food. I saw the heartache. I saw extreme poverty. I saw redemption and joy. I saw people’s hearts change, and families healed. It remains to this day one of the few times in my life that I was exactly where I needed to be. But two years fly by, and in 2008 I found myself coming home.
The moment you are asked to remove your name tag and are released from serving as a missionary is one of the most heartwrenching moments of your life. The moment I heard the plastic of my nametag clack together as I pulled it from my shirt pocket caused me to break down in tears. Then, again, I was on my own.
I thought I was coming home to a job installing WiFi on beaches in resort towns worldwide. That didn’t pan out. Instead, I took a job managing a New York-style deli chain in Utah. I’m sure that sounds odd, but I promise you: it’s delicious. That job was fine, but I knew I wanted more. I had a hunger for business and entrepreneurship after a man I consider to be my first mentor (Josh Martin, a commercial real estate agent in Utah County, UT) handed me a copy of Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I read it in a day, and it taught me I wasn’t stuck in my old life, and I could generate as much wealth as I wanted.
I followed a friend’s lead and pursued insurance. I got my license and started selling. Things were going great. I worked days at the deli and evenings selling term life insurance (seriously, this doesn’t belong here but only by term. If there is a savings plan attached to your savings plan, you’re being ripped off wholesale). Then the recession hit. People wanted out of their contracts. I owed back commissions to the company I was selling for. Things started to get really bad. One day my roommate answered the door. It was for me. There was a collection agent there to repossess my car. I’d made arrangements with the bank to get caught up by the end of the month. They decided to renege on our agreement.
I called my boss, Brian Irwin, and let him know what happened, and I was working on the way to get transportation to work to open the deli the next morning. He offered to help me out. He got my car out and gave me a loan to catch up on any other payments I was behind on. He just took payments out of my check to make up for it.
This was the “dark night of the soul” they talk about in storytelling. I remember picking up a copy of Good Will Hunting. I’d never seen it, but I’d heard it was amazing. I put it in the DVD player and found myself connecting so deeply with that film. “It’s not your fault,” Robin William’s character tells Matt Damon. “It’s not your fault.” I broke. I sobbed. I needed to hear those words so badly. When you give life your all and find yourself being knocked down over and over again, you start to internalize those setbacks as a personal flaw in your character. The words of that film healed a part of my soul that day, and it has helped push me down the path my life has followed now these last 11 years.
I took a second job at a call center and worked 14 hour days for six months. Then I was offered a job in Inside Sales that covered my salary from both jobs. I took it. I sucked. I mean it. I sucked. I’ll dive into sales skills in another post, but I knew something needed to change.
I had to study. I had to make thousands of bad calls. Then I figured it out. I became the number one sales rep at the company. I took the extra time from not working two jobs and applied it to mastering the skills we sold as a business: eCommerce and SEO. I took the DVD’s we sold and did as I was instructed. Soon I was generating an extra $700 a month in income online.
In 5th grade, while I was living in foster care, I was given one of the greatest gifts of my life. The State of Oklahoma requires mandatory creative writing tests in the 5th and 8th grades. This was my first real introduction to the fact that I could be a writer. It made so much sense to me. It felt right. I buried myself in writing and loved that process. Over the next three years, I would write two “novels” (really just a bunch of bad fan fiction). Then, one day, while I was watching Star Trek: First Contact, I saw a credit for “written by.” That’s when something clicked inside me: someone has to write the movies and TV shows that help me escape from reality. Someone wrote the stories that provided a way out from any negative situation I was in. I could do that. That’s when I knew what I wanted to be.
When I moved to Utah, that part of me disappeared for a while. My Aunt and Uncle didn’t have computers, let alone the Internet, and that in and of itself was also a blessing in disguise: it let me learn social skills. I can’t imagine the weirdo I’d be right now if I’d continued down the Internet Troll world (I was an administrator in a chat room when I was 14 years old and was actively learning how to code my own chat scripts).
When I was a missionary, I had the pleasure of spending six weeks with Shaun Fisher, who would later go on to be an author in his own right. He told me about a high school project; he wrote a screenplay. That cracked open something inside me that had lain dormant for almost five years. I remembered that call to become a screenwriter when I was 12. I questioned him about it, how he learned, etc.
In 2008, when I had returned from my mission, I was rooming with my friend Mike Hall, and he told me he was taking a screenwriting class. He and I had always talked about the film and becoming filmmakers, but this was the first step in that path. I went to my local bookstore and bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Screenwriting by Skip Press. That led me to WordPlayer by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, which ultimately led me to John August’s website.
When I wasn’t working, I was writing. I was taking online screenwriting courses. I was doing everything I could to do both work, but I knew I needed to move to LA if I was going to make it work. That’s where I had to make a plan:
- Learn Sales to fix my income issues now
- Learn eCommerce to provide passive income on going
- Move to LA and write and network to become a screenwriter.
- Volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival to feel involved in film
That was my five-year plan. It was 2010. I had to make it happen. I put my XBOX in my roommate’s room and dove headfirst into a sales book my boss Dave McCoy had given me. Within the first week, I made $700 in commissions. “Holy Crap!” I thought, “this stuff works!” I honed my skills and became the number one sales rep at the company.
In the time I used to spending between both jobs, I started applying the teachings we sold as a company. I would watch the training DVD’s we sold for $6,000 and then implement what they said. That’s how I generated that extra monthly income in online sales. I went on to partner with some guys on a website that ended up doing $69,000 in sales in one month. Later, I found out that they’d also taken $400k in sales from us.
I had to start all over. This was now the fourth year of my plan. I’d moved to Phoenix to the corporate office (halfway to LA). I had been volunteering at Sundance for four years. During that time, I’d met Robert Redford’s assistant Kathleen. She was a very kind woman, but she was so busy I didn’t go out of my way to bother her. One day, after making everyone waiting to try to get into a film play “Simon Says” and lose (they wouldn’t get out of line when Simon said), she asked me why I volunteered. I told her my story. She asked if I’d been to college. I let her know I’d dropped out. Then, she offered me a scholarship to go to film school in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I wasn’t sure what the plan was, but in September 2013 I drove out to Santa Fe to tour the school. It was small, but they had active film productions being filmed in the stages on our campus. I realized this was my opportunity to better prepare myself for LA, so I went. I became a Robert Redford Scholar in Screenwriting and I finished a four-year degree in two-and-a-half years. In 2016, I moved to LA.
I now have my own business that generates enough money for me to focus on my writing career. Over the last year and some odd months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on Tacoma FD on TruTV (not in small part to my second mentor Michael Jamin who continues to help me learn what it means to be a writer). I have the pleasure of working with amazing and honest men I’ve looked up to since I was 17 years old in Kevin Heffernan & Steve Lemme and Paul Soter of Super Troopers’ fame. They’ve even been kind enough to put me in a few episodes and give me a shoutout on their talk show Talkoma FD.
I’m a long way from being the screenwriter I set out to be, but I’m actively chasing that dream.
Life is not a straight path. When I was twelve years old I knew what I wanted to be. I did not sell my first screenplay despite thinking I would be the one guy who would do it. I did not become a prodigy filmmaker and win an Oscar in my twenties. I did not sell a pilot and cash in a big fat check that made it so I’d never have to work again. But, I lived life and that has made my writing deeper and more interesting.
During the last ten years, I’ve experienced heartache, death, sickness, and pain. I’ve seen people suffer from drug addiction, sexual abuse, and bigotry. I’ve had to explore my own understanding of what it means to be a man in a world that is swinging toward equality that I thought always existed because it benefited me. I’m married with a child on the way. I’ve worked with world-class performance coaches like Tony Robbins and Simone Bienne to unblock limiting beliefs and apply Neuro-Linguistic Programming to help me overcome childhood traumas that have held me back.
At the end of the day “The Obstacle is The Way” and as long as we can learn from our path, then we have taken exactly what we need from the life we’ve been given. I will continue to grow. I will continue to learn. I’m looking forward to the next five years.