The guy who was very charming
throughout our day together now suddenly transformed into an
evil monster. Upset that the cards didn't work, he punched me
really hard in the head. "What are the f***ing pin numbers?
Give me the f***ing numbers," he kept saying.
Again, I tried to explain my
situation, but he didn't like my answer so he took his large
gold chain, wrapped it around my neck and started choking me.
Not knowing what to do, I gave him my phone number. This time,
when he returned from the bank empty handed, he had someone
else with him - the Godfather - not Marlon Brando, but his Peruvian
equivalent. While these other guys were in their 20s, this guy
was in his 40s, and he looked tough. Really tough.
"Pray to the Jesus picture
on the wall and prepare to die," he said softly. Being Jewish,
I was a bit torn about doing this. I almost mentioned this fact
to them, but I reconsidered thinking that they probably wouldn't
understand. I couldn't help but think what a funny scene it
would be in one of Woody Allen's movies.
But my thoughts of Woody Allen
quickly disappeared when they turned off the light, put a blanket
over my head, and shoved a gun in my skull. "Prepare to die,"
they repeated. The whole thing didn't feel like it was really
happening. It felt like some poorly dubbed Quentin Tarantino
movie. We have the build up of the bad guys. We have the talky
dialogue. The only difference is that this was real. It was
very real. And in that moment, I truly did feel like I was going
to die. I never was able to get out of traffic tickets, and
I didn't think I'd do any better getting out of my own death.
I thought they'd get away with it because they'd just dump my
body somewhere and no one would ever catch them.
"I guess this is what it means
to die for your art," I thought to myself. "It was that film
that caused those credit cards to be empty, thus bringing me
to this place." Then, I thought that maybe this was the way
it was meant to be. Maybe by sacrificing my own life, I'd actually
be saving the film because it would benefit from all the publicity.
The worst part was thinking
about my family. Having a dead son in Peru was probably not
on their to do list that day. "Why don't you just go to law
school?" my father's voice echoed into my head. Sitting in Peru
with a gun to my head in the darkness, I thought for the first
time, "Maybe he was right."
They say that Mozart would see
all of his symphonies in a split second before sitting down
and actually writing them all down. Well, in a split second,
it felt like all of the answers of the world were revealed to
me. I remember feeling how ignorant we all are, that we really
know nothing about anything. I was convinced at the time that
there was something else out there - a higher plane of some
But during those five seconds
when I thought my life would end, I basically surrendered. By
cutting up celluloid pieces of reality and putting them together
in the form of a film, I was, in essence trying to manipulate
reality - control it for my own benefit. Life, on the other
hand, had a mind of its own - no matter how hard I tried to
steer it in my favor. And what happens when you try to bend
a piece of metal in a direction it wasn't meant to go- it breaks.
I thought to myself, "OK, Evan,
so it didn't work out in this life. Maybe the next one will
work out better. Maybe there's a reason things turned out this
A few seconds later, the light
went on, and again they pestered me for the credit card numbers.
"Didn't we just go through this?" I felt like saying. "I was
just getting ready to die, here," but I didn't say a word. The
lights turned out, sheet over the head, and gun to my skull
scenario happened an additional two times. Somehow, it kind
of lost its impact, but each time, I was still unsure whether
or not they would actually pull the trigger.
Finally, they came back, and
the pin numbers did work - these numbers were the pin numbers
to my bank card - the only numbers I knew. They were still upset
though cause it was only $500. That's when I made a deal with
them. We'd go back to my hotel, and I would give them the rest
of my money. In return, they would give me back my driver's
license and passport. They agreed.
So the 19 year old, his buddy,
and me all headed out to the main street to catch a cab. His
gun was hidden under his shirt and pointed toward me. This time,
I actually initiated the conversation.
"So what's your name?"
"David," he said, "and this
is my friend, Mike". They looked as much like a David and Mike
as Tom Cruise looks like a Josh Bernstein.
"You should go to Machu Pichu.
It's one of the most beautiful places in Peru." I couldn't help
but find it a bit odd that these guys just tried to murder me,
and now they're promoting Peru's tourist attractions.
"Don't let this thing that happened
between us give you a bad impression of Peru. Peru is an incredible
country," they told me in a Spanish I could understand.
They made me promise about three
times in a row that I was not going to go to the police. I agreed
to this, and we got in the cab. David's gun was still underneath
his sweater, and he was pointing it at me without the cab driver
noticing. I thought to myself, "Is this what Kevin Smith had
to go through to make it to the top of the independent film
I tell the cab driver to take
us back to my hotel, but within a few blocks, the two hoodlums
asked to get out of the cab.
"Where are you going?" I ask.
"Goodbye, my friend," they say
as they step out of the car.
"But what about my passport
and drivers license?" They just wave both items in front of
my face as the cab driver drove away with me alone in the car.
I later found out that they could sell the passport and driver's
license for a good amount of money.
As I sat alone in the car, I
was partially relieved but still unsure if the cab driver was
in on the whole thing. I saw a picture of Jesus hanging on his
mirror. Then, unable to keep it a secret any longer, I told
him what happened. He looked at me and shook his head. He then
drove up this deserted dark alley and slowed down the car. Again,
I thought I was dead.
Luckily, it was my imagination.
He continued on and reassured me that everything would be all
right and that Jesus would take care of me. "Did this whole
thing happen so God would get me to convert?" I wondered, but
before I could answer myself, the cab driver told me "not to
blame Peru". This sentiment was later echoed at the hotel, the
embassy, and the police station. No one wanted Peru to look
The kidnappers had my hotel
room key so I was too afraid to stay there another night. By
this time, it was about 10pm, and most of the hotels were booked,
but we did manage to find one. I went there alone and totally
scared, while a Spanish speaking Conan O'Brien cheered me up
on television. The next day, I went to the embassy where I waited
most of the day to get a new passport and explain my story,
crying in the process. I didn't want to alarm my family, so
I only notified my brother and my fellow producer through email.
The first thing I did when I
got back to LA is go to the bank. "You smell," the cute bank
teller told me as she urged me to take a shower. After going
to the DMV to get a new driver's license, I took her advice,
and then, without calling or talking to anyone, I got in my
car and drove up to Vancouver to see my friend get married.
During that 14 hour road trip,
I actually wasn't sure whether or not I had died. I thought
maybe I wasn't able to face my death, so I fooled myself into
thinking I was alive. Little flashbacks would occur and weird
trippy things that I can't begin to explain here, but let's
just say it was surreal. I thought the universe couldn't completely
do away with me so it just sent me to Purgatory to learn a few
lessons. Unfortunately, those lessons took a while to learn.
Looking for answers, someone
told me, "The old wise man character you see in movies
simply doesn't exist anymore. What else could your generation
do but turn to the entities that were screaming the loudest
for your attention- magazines, movies, and McDonalds."
When I later brought up these
distractions to two spiritual men I met on the beach, they said,
"God never told you to look at those places."
"God never told me where to
look and that's the problem," I responded.
"We kind of like to think of
him as a puzzle maker, and it's up to us to put together the
pieces," they retorted.
"Yeah, well if he was a human
puzzle maker in the real world, he would be fired because his
puzzles suck. No one can figure them out." And with that, the
two men said, "good luck" to me with a smile on their face and
Someone later pointed out that
we are not fully equipped to completely figure out this puzzle,
and in fact, it's more of a blindfold. For me, that blindfold
made itself obvious in the form of a blanket over my head in
Peru, but it actually exists everywhere - especially in the
deceptive world of entertainment.
They said in film school, once
you put a frame around something, you are immediately deceiving
someone because they are not seeing the whole picture. You see
someone coughing, and you think they're sick, but when you zoom
out, you see a guy smoking off to the side. You see someone
crying and you assume they're sad, but when you pan over, you
see someone peeling an onion. I was in the deception business,
and perhaps now, I was getting a taste of my own medicine.
But taking it even one step
further, filmmaking's deception is really just a microcosm for
how the world deceives us every day through our five senses.
All the information is filtered through them, and we may think
we're getting a complete picture, but in that enlightening 5
second near death experience, I discovered that my picture was
far complete. Like a film existing on a two dimensional plane,
the world I was experiencing was merely a shadow - a 1% reflection
of true reality. We simply don't have the physical tools to
experience the other 99%.
Years later, I found myself
driving down Ocean Blvd. As I looked at the picture perfect
view of the beach and the artificial Los Angeles palm trees
flowing in the wind, l took out an old Joni Mitchell CD and
played one of my favorite songs of all time. "It's clouds illusions
I recall. I really don't know clouds at all." And for the first
time in my life, I understood what those words meant.
Shortlty after this incident, the finishing
funds for the film came in, and it was completed a year later.