Victor Cruz. A pretty awesome guy I met while I lived in NYC. He rented an office across the hallway from the boutique spa where I worked. I’d go in and visit with him on my lunch breaks. A working actor in film and TV, taught acting classes, and he was getting ready to film a movie he wrote. He wrote it, acted in it, and directed it. The sound of that alone is intimidating enough for me to sort of bow a bit when I’d see him. This guy never looked stressed out. He always had a smile ready for me, a greeting hug, and some good laughs. When I learned I had to move back to CA I was sad I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see his film when it released. Turns out, I was able to go to the Los Angeles premiere, which incidentally was also the World Premiere. Needless to say, *I* felt pretty cool just getting to be there. And of course I felt even MORE special when I saw him and hugged him. “I know him!!”
The Stockroom was the last feature film of the LA Indie Film Festival to play. It was Sunday 9/20/2015, 5pm. I was accompanied by a good friend visiting from Florida, and a handsome guy-friend that lives in LA and works on his own projects, acting, writing, and editing. Basically this day was pretty great.
Joseph, a man that works in the stockroom of a store we never see is coming up on his 10th year working in the stockroom. “Legend says” if you hit ten years in the stockroom, you’ll never get out. The film starts with him excited about a promotion, which we quickly learn is not going to happen. –Calm down, there are no major spoilers here– “Corporate” as it were, was sending someone else over to shake things up. So not only does our hero, Joseph, not get his promotion, we start losing people that work there. Even though it’s someone’s first day, and this never really gets addressed, it’s unimportant as to why a new girl shows up, the same day the bad guy shows up and starts firing people. What we know is Joseph gets screwed out of a promotion and is basically left vulnerable because people that were above him and protecting him can’t help him now.. What we also know is he doesn’t want to be in the stockroom forever, he wants to do stand-up comedy. Of course, there’s a girl he wants, of course she doesn’t want him back until someone else shows interest, and of course he comes around on his own and it’s okay that the girl and he are not together. –All of this happens during a time clock that represents the one day he has until he hits that 10 year mark.
With moments of employees just living their own mild drama, we get to see the fun the stockroom-family makes with what they have. Including but not limited to a little dance party, bubble wrapping and taping people up for fun, and listening to the wisdom bestowed upon them all by a guy that’s been there 25 years. We like these people, I like these people. They are relatable, and funny in their own ways.
The moment that made this movie “a good one” for me was the same part that made my eyes water up. There’s something important about seeing the vulnerability of a character. You take the simplicity of what this movie offers at first, then see this scene and realize the movie is far more than the superficial pieces of everyday life and work. It’s doubt. A visual, conscious version of Doubt and he walks in with his words like hammers. We see him twice. The first time he walked in he sounded so mean. Hitting the sensitive spots like buttons, over and over, and watching the reaction…I was speechless. When a man reveals what he loves, he also reveals his weakness, almost. The places you could hit him to make him lower his head in defeat and sadness. And watching this happen, it was like I was interrupting a private moment and I wanted to reach out and hug him and tell him not to listen to this visual-version-of-doubt. Problem is, not only could I not do that–I’ve been there. I’ve been right there, listening to doubt remind me of my own issues. Telling me what I need to think is important vs. what I love and want to go after. I’ve been there when you want out of a situation so bad but feel a sense of responsibility to stay because it’s “safe.” I’ve been there listening to a voice that sounds just like mine…break me down and basically tell me I’m a failure and a fool if I try anything else. And that’s when I knew this was a good movie. Up until then, it was fun with bits of “uh-oh.” All of a sudden Joseph wasn’t just our hero for the movie, he represented anyone and everyone that wanted to DO something ELSE in life. He represented the struggle we have inside. The side we don’t let other people know exists because we don’t tell them about what’s really going on. He represented the moment the superficial behaviors shed when we stand in front of a mirror and question everything we are. And I loved it, and was scared of it all at the same time.
We come out of this moment and back into the stockroom with what’s going on outside of his own heart and mind. We come out and are reminded of the demons he faces now, on the outside, not just on the inside, and we want him to win. I want him to win. I want him to win over the outside and the inside, for all of us that were never strong enough to keep moving forward.
Nearing the end of the day of his 9th year, he sees that outside demon again. The one that marched in earlier in the day and started shaking things up, getting rid of employees and challenging his work ethic. It is a face off, and what we get to see is Doubt again, walking up. Reminding him of who and what he is, where he should be, the choice he should make. And Joseph says something that changed it all for me “I don’t need you to protect me anymore.” I never thought of that voice as a means of protection. Never. That voice was always just doubt for no reason. No reason other than to push me down. But here, we find that it very well could be something we create on our own, to protect ourselves. It’s a voice somewhere between Doubt and Reason.
And it’s there, between Doubt and Reason we all realize this isn’t just a stockroom, this isn’t about a promotion, or about a big head honcho coming in and shaking things up. This isn’t about the girl, or the new-girl. This is about who we are right now, who we want to be, where we want to be, and the sacrifices, the risks…. it takes to step out of that self-inflicted “comfort zone.” It’s inspiring and terrifying at the same time. It’s there I cried the second time.
It’s because of that realization and experience everyone should see it. If you’ve ever wanted something more, dreamt of something bigger…this movie is about you. This movie is about you and where you are right now, and it makes you question the places you’ve wanted to go.
My advice? Take a look at your personal inventory. Get rid of what you don’t need or use. If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. If there’s someone in your way, make them move. If you are in your way, take stock, turn the radio on and dance, hug someone, and fill the space between the “me and the me I’m supposed to be.”
You can start by watching this movie.
The Stockroom, by Victor Cruz;
Winner of the 2015 LA Indie Film Festival awards: Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Production