Almost fifteen years ago I wrote and directed a film called Adopt a Sailor, starring Emmy
winners Bebe Neuwirth, Peter Coyote and a recently discovered Ethan Peck. It did pretty well on the small festival circuit, premiered on Showtime and even had a small theatrical run. The fact that it found any eyeballs at all was miraculous, as the entire cost of the film was about the same as one days weed budget on a Seth Rogan movie.
The film, based on a play of mine, told the story of a young sailor who found himself the guest of an affluent, uppity Manhattan couple during New York City’s "Fleet Week" and the many ways in which their worlds clashed—as well as came together.
One of the highlights of getting to direct the film was that it reached an audience that was
philosophically diverse. It didn’t “preach to the converted” because, even though we were
limited budget wise, we weren’t limited in terms of the scope of the story we wanted to tell.
To this day, I still get letters from all over the world from people that love and appreciate the
film, and they range from determined progressives to hard core conservatives.
I think it’s because we found common ground.
“Common ground” is something in short supply the last few years. Lately it seems stories, films, TV shows, newscasts, podcasts, articles and rampant social media are determined to divide us.
It’s hard to find places in common. It seems easier to point out our differences. And it also seems to garner more clicks and ratings as well.
To counter that trend, and while I continue to search for more unifying stories to tell, I’ve been busy up in the hi-desert town of Flamingo Heights in Southern California---on two acres of rough but gorgeous land just outside Joshua Tree National Park. It’s there that my wife Jacqueline and I launched an arts residency for veterans and those who serve. With help from my son John Evered, daughter Margaret Evered and many devoted supporters, it’s been a labor of love and a challenge at the same time. So far, our residents have included a two time Purple Heart recipient who served in Vietnam and writes amazing plays, a former navy cryptologist who creates beautiful ceramic pieces, a talented memoirist who writes about her family’s experience in Uganda and a Filipino editor and content creator as well as other fascinating, inspirational artists. In the next few months we hope to host another Vietnam veteran and a composer from New York City who has been writing a series of musical pieces directly influenced by that city’s horrific experience with the pandemic.
The simple ranch house, located on two fenced acres with gorgeous twelve mile views was
founded on the sole idea of service. The house itself is dedicated to my late dad, Charles J.
Evered, who served in World War II. I myself served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and my son John served in the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Our idea with the Evered House was simple: People who serve, often create. So, we wanted to give them a place to do that. They may be writers, musicians, painters or journalists. Our job is to provide the place and the means for them to practice their art. It doesn’t cost them a dime to stay, and we even pitch in and provide them with a little travel and food money.
Like with my small movie years before, our little ranch house seems to be bringing people
together. Through our residencies or the many events we’ve had on site, people who normally might not go to the same parties, watch the same movies, read the same newspapers or log onto the same social media sites have forged genuine relationships and connections. They have this strange idea that you don’t need to agree with someone—in order to hear them. (Radical, I know). People are listening to each other up at the house.
They’re finding new friends and staying in touch.
Is it always perfect? Hardly. Like life, sometimes it's messy and kind of unwieldy, but regardless, it is always genuine and it’s always alive.
And that—is amazing to be around.
When the world gets back to some semblance of “normal," I certainly hope I’ll get the chance to direct another film—or, maybe even write another play. But if I don’t, that’ll be okay too. Because for me, finding that common ground—whether on a dusty two acres in the hi-desert, or on a blank white page— is two sides of the same coin. The canvas I’m working on may be different, but the story I need to tell— remains the same.