Digging a Little Deeper with Celebrated Filmmaker, Del Shores

Gone are the days of three network domination. Some of us even missed early episodes of “The Brady Bunch” while waiting for ABC to come to town. Today, it’s print vs. digital, radio vs. podcast, and Animal Planet vs. ESPN. #PleaseLoveMeTheMost

Nowadays, the world seems to be subdivided into an unlimited number of niche markets. But every organization that lacks a Super Bowl-sized ad budget must climb an analytics and marketing mountain to spot the best vertical valleys and environmental enclaves to target its sales message — each must find its niche.

Still, everyone wants some sort of universal appeal and acceptance. For example, manufacturers of nuts and bolts would likely love to expand beyond the construction industry and DIY enthusiasts.

For others, the exploration of nuts is their stock in trade. Take Del Shores…

True, my mantra is to look for the BEST in people. By comparison, Shores’ raison d’être is the examination of the damaged, the deranged, the forgotten and the (new noun alert!) sordid in hopes of resurrecting or inspiring the best. By exposing the philosophical underbelly of humanity, Del Shores hopes to help the universal we rise to a new level of understanding.

Shores has written, directed and produced for film, network, cable television and theatre. With a cast including Beau Bridges, Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Bedelia, Ann Walker and Leslie Jordan, a film version of Shores’ popular play, “Sordid Lives,” was released in 2000. Its subsequent rise to cult status led to “Sordid Lives: The Series” starring Rue McClanahan on Viacom’s LOGO network in 2008.

Most recently, Shores’ beloved, yet markedly evolved characters, have returned in the new film, “A Very Sordid Wedding,” featuring mainstays Bedelia, Walker and Jordan alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Caroline Rhea.

In large part, Shores’ various Sordid iterations tackle the universal topics of love and acceptance juxtaposed against bigotry and religion gone awry. Ironically, take Shores and his characters completely out of the picture and few would argue that our me-first world, combined with a decline in common courtesy, has left the public with an increasingly unhealthy appetite for everyone’s sordid lives. “I just wish people would ask me how I’m doing before they ask me to do something for them,” laments Shores.

More than that, is there a person alive today who is open to the possibility that his or her personal beliefs have “gone awry?”

Although many altruists advise to be present in our own lives, storyteller Shores seems content being respectfully omnipresent in the lives of others. “What makes me the happiest is to sit in the audience for the first time to view my work through someone else’s eyes,” he says.

In fact, due to his love of people-watching and existential eavesdropping, Shores often jokes: “I’m really not a writer, I’m just a thief.”

Why? Del Shores’ business is the brutally honest examination of the human condition — laughter included. “I don’t do it with judgment; I try to paint a picture, to find the humanity.”

With his eye on universal appeal, Del Shores appreciates the respect due his niche, the LGBT community. Rule No. 1: Demonstrating an understanding of and respect for one’s customer has no equal.

Taken at face value, a “niche” is often viewed as small. Nevertheless, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay-owned businesses contribute an astounding $1.7 billion annually to the U.S. economy. What’s more, the combined purchasing power of America’s LGBT community has been estimated at nearly $1 trillion per year.

Despite the huge economic impact of the LGBT population, Shores would likely argue that the community is often treated as “small.” In response, he literally and figuratively celebrates the big picture and subtle nuances of those he represents as well as those he wants to reach. Rule No. 2: Demonstrating an understanding of and respect for one’s customer as well as those we want to reach has no equal.

Yes, activist Shores admits to having a “big mouth” when fighting on behalf of the LGBT community. Then again, don’t all our customers want us to rally around them — to view their values as (at least) equal to their bank accounts?

Conversely, Shores is more content to let his work speak for itself. As actor Leslie Jordan — using Shores’ prophetic words — exclaims so passionately at the beginning of “A Very Sordid Wedding:” “Make all the ugly in the world go away!”

Randall Kenneth Jones, Ann Walker and Del Shores. (photo by Derek Wakefield)

But it is Shores’ view of the creative process that has the most widespread appeal. He urges his actors to emotionally “Go a little deeper. Dig a little deeper.” When exploring the complexities of character development and storytelling, this process requires little explanation. And what is Customer Relationship Management if not an investigation of the various characters living deep inside our customer databases?

However, Shores gets more personal and goes much deeper than most. Because he cares so deeply for those he represents, he digs deep in search of the truth. Though sometimes concealed by wisecracks and one-liners, depth is Del Shores’ greatest gift.

If any of us feels we can create our best work without deep thought, we have likely dug ourselves into a hole where no one will find us.

Although some may accuse Shores and other niche marketers of preaching to their own respective choirs, Shores takes a more global view: “I always say the choir needs a good sermon every now and then, and if my film offers a little healing of damaged hearts and souls, then that’s amazing. But I also find that ‘the choir’ takes my films and plays to those who are BEYOND the ‘choir’. Namely, their friends and family. So, if a little enlightening — changing of hearts and minds — happens, that’s a bonus.”

Friends, that’s about as universal as you can get.

For more on Del Shores, visit AVerySordidWedding.com.

For more on creative consultant, writer and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones, visit ShowMeJones.com. Jones’ book, “Show Me,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.