Ep. 40: Antwone Fisher, teaches us how to turn imagination & forgiveness into a dream life.
Antwone Fisher is an award winning writer and director whose life story was captured in the film Antwone Fisher which was directed by Denzel Washington who also costarred in the film with actor Derek Luke in the title role. Antwone's life inspired a Hollywood movie because he was born in prison to a single mother and spent most of his childhood with the foster care family where he was physically, sexually and emotionally abused. And yet Antoine managed to overcome the many traumas he suffered when he joined the Navy where he met Lieutenant Commander Williams a psychiatrist who helped Antoine turn his life around.
In today's podcast we are going to talk to Antwone about resilience, dreams, forgiveness, gratitude and community.
He was homeless on the streets at age 17 after being released from school. Antwone then joined the Navy and found he could travel the world, work with people from all different backgrounds, and hone his inner confidence.
He shows us how he was able to turn a life of terrible circumstances into a life of forgiveness and self empowerment. He used his childhood imagination and survival skills to create a life of his dreams. We hear the incredible story of how he turned a security job at 20th Century Fox, into a quarter million dollar screenplay, Antwone Fisher, and a long career as a professional screenwriter.
He is now directing his first feature film called Lincoln Perry.
More From Antwone Fisher
Official Website https://antwonefisher.net/
IMDB Credits Antwone Fisher
Film Antwone Fisher
NY Times Best Selling Book: Finding Fish by Antwone Fisher
Facebook @Antwone Fisher
[01:48] I was born in a prison and my mother was 17. She couldn't keep me there so they put me in an orphanage in Cleveland where I grew up. I went to one foster home then another one where I was abused for like 12 years.
[02:00] I stayed at an orphanage for seven months and then they couldn't find me anyone who would take a teenage boy. So they put me in a reform school in western Pennsylvania where I stayed until I graduated from high school. Then they made me an emancipated minor. I was 17. I was living on the streets there in Cleveland didn't have a family so I was just living on the streets until two days before Christmas. I saw the sign and said join the Navy and see the world that I have anything else to do.
[02:33] Next thing I went inside and that night I was in Great Lakes Hill and in bootcamp and I graduated from bootcamp and stayed in the Navy for 11 years. I wanted to take care of myself so I got out and became a federal corrections officer. And I did that for three years. It didn't suit my personality to be a corrections officer so I heard that Sony Pictures was higher security guys and I went over there and they hired me and I started thinking about my real family and I remember this Navy psychiatrist had told me that one day I should look for them and I thought about him a lot. I decided to start looking for them and I found them using an Ohio Bell Telephone. And I went to meet them. And when I came back to Sony they said that they thought that my story would make for a great film. I kept insisting on writing it. They kept saying no because I had never went to college. I don't have any writing experience and I never went to film school.
[03:44] About three weeks later he told me that I had writing talent and he said that I needed to learn how to write a screenplay and he would teach me. And if I wanted to leave that job security that they had an office for me on the 20th Century Fox lot.
[04:15] I thought it was two thousand five hundred dollars but it was actually a quarter of a million dollars.
[04:22] I guess by the time I got to the bank I was so nervous about the checkout ahead. It was like are they going to was mine. But anyway that's basically my story and I've been a writer for 26 years working here.
[05:09] I never let go of a kind of innocence or belief that things could be different.
[05:24] I learned that my imagination was a way to escape.
[05:43] I went to school I had a teacher who had me for the fourth, fifth and the sixth grade and kept the same students. So it was like a family forming and inside of that world where I spent a lot of the day.
[07:11] Music was a big distraction - something that really helped me get through the day and I learned that crying helped me. Sometimes I would go behind the garage and I would think about things and I would just cry - sometimes a half an hour sometimes I sit there for a couple of hours -- not just crying the whole time -- but on and off -- but when I was done it always gave me a feeling of relief. I always felt like it was the one thing that I could do to relieve the pressure.
[07:46] I think back on a childhood full of longing for belonging. And see my life now is what I have created out of my dreams.
[09:35] Oftentimes we talk about people living from the story in their head and it's sometimes negative. But in your case you were able to tell yourself a story that was a dream. And then live from that story.
[10:49] I was a really reflective kid. You know I didn't just live through the day and let the day pass without thinking about it if I was too distracted they would always come a time when I would think about the things that bothered me the most or the things that made me feel really good.
[00:11:17] I came to describe it this way if I was a building and I was made of bricks and some of the bricks represented the unhappy memories and times that I had and some of the bricks were the good memories and good times that I had I have to remember all of the grit and keep them all together because they are the bricks that make me as the person. The building of my life.
[12:27] I wish that people could just see people are people. When I was in the Navy they jam us all together. They didn't care about race or if you liked country music or soul music or rock n roll - they just put you all together you have to work together.
[12:50] You do forget about race and forget about the differences.
[13:20] I just feel that people should give one another chance.
[13:24] One of the best things I ever did was join the Navy as it did open my eyes to see that people are just people and people should give others a chance.
[15:45] Lieutenant Commander Williams wanted you to find your birth mother and forgive her for the pain she put you through.
[18:51] He told me, “Don't feel sorry for yourself because it doesn't do any good.” And I got even more angry. But I thought about what he said and I had told someone later on my story and they didn't care at all. And I remembered him and I thought maybe he's right. It doesn't do any good. So I had to work on that. It took a bit because I felt that I had a right to feel sorry for myself. But he was right. It doesn't do any good.
[19:18] I remember you saying those first days when you were out on the street and homeless you would sit in front of a home that had a family and you would imagine what it was like to be with that family.
[23:59] It does take other people to help you raise your kids. You can have all the money in the world. You could have all the help around the house but someone who really cares about just kids in general and have the patience.
[25:18] This is my luck. I'm dyslexic and I get a job as a writer.
[25:30] In those days the Cleveland public school system it was like going to private school because the teachers were respected. We love the teachers you know the teachers lived in the neighborhood. So did the police officers and it was because of segregation basically because in those days you could move away from the Eastside. Really. So what it did was make a really whole community. All the preachers who lived in the neighborhood were there. The plumbers the firemen, who were black. The police obviously were if you got in trouble a parent just walking down the street to the police officer had to sit on the porch they take you to the police athletic league around the corner was like a tight knit community.
29:18] The world fathered me, but I had to pick and choose. It was my job to choose the right example.
[31:24] You have to stick with everything that you really want to.
Thank you for joining us on HealthGig. We loved having you with us. We hope you'll tune in again next week. In the meantime, be sure to like and subscribe to this podcast, and follow us on healthgigpod.com.
“I never let go of a kind of innocence or belief that things could be different.” – Antwone Fisher
“Music was a big distraction - something that really helped me get through the day and I learned that crying helped me. Sometimes I would go behind the garage and I would think about things and I would just cry - sometimes a half an hour sometimes I sit there for a couple of hours -- not just crying the whole time -- but on and off -- but when I was done it always gave me a feeling of relief. I always felt like it was the one thing that I could do to relieve the pressure. ” – Antwone Fisher
“I think back on a childhood full of longing for belonging. And see my life now is what I have created out of my dreams. ” – Antwone Fisher
“One of the best things I ever did was join the Navy as it did open my eyes to see that people are just people and people should give others a chance.” – Antwone Fisher
“The world fathered me, but I had to pick and choose. It was my job to choose the right example. ” – Antwone Fisher
“You have to stick with everything that you really want to do.” – Antwone Fisher
Lieutenant Commander Williams, Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, resilience, dreams, forgiveness, gratitude, Navy, Celebration of reading, Writers Guild of American West