~ Photo Credit: Aaron Torres
-- TURNING POINTS --
Jurri was born in Thermopolis, Wyoming in 1976. Growing up in the beauty of the Rockies and living a childhood full of awe, his family provided him with a rich context of many artistic influences. Jurri's father, Jeb, was his ultimate hero as a globe-trotting, high-altitude mountain climber. His father’s professional outdoor photography highly influenced Jurri where images of beautiful vistas and wild adventures painted amazing stories in Jurri's mind. His dad made slide shows of various expeditions, such as Cowboys on Everest. He used music to tell the stories. One particular time, his dad bought an album by Vangelis and, with a sparkle in his eye, told Jurri, "every song tells a story even if there are no words." Together they listened to songs and as they finished his dad asked him, “What story did you see?” This question inspired many creative musings of visual storytelling in years to come.
His uncle, Billy Schenck, also was a great influence through his Western hard-edge pop paintings. Billy introduced Jurri to classic films, especially Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. Through the use of composition and visual style, Billy impressed upon Jurri a sense of space and world and emotion. He also showed him the importance of excellence in craftsmanship and careful execution along each step of the way in the creation of his paintings. Jurri spent countless hours in his studio drawing and listening to a wide variety of music as Billy and his staff painted.
Also, lifelong family friend, Anne Coe, left deep impressions on Jurri through her paintings and fantastical designs. Anne recognized Jurri's budding passion for film and story and introduced him to Joseph Campbell and his book the Hero of a Thousand Faces and a DVD series of interviews. This powerfully confirmed in Jurri his vision as a storyteller and he and Anne spent considerable time discussing the importance of myth.
On a long road trip while listening to recorded books, Jurri’s mother, Gail, introduced him to the book How the Irish Saved Civilization and Celtic music. She showed him countless resources of mythical stories. She has always been his greatest supporter. Jurri saw how important history was to preserve various cultures and to pass on lineage to the next generation. He found the importance of research and how to draw upon the stories of generations past.
Jurri also learned his sense of humor from his mother. She introduced him at age six to Mel Brook's "Young Frankenstein." Jurri also fell in love with silly comedy and word play, especially puns at an early age. Jurri's dad introduced him to Monty Python's Flying Circus and especially their movie "The Search for the Holy Grail." Additionally, Looney Tunes, Rocky and Bulwinkle and other animated shows inspired his comedic tastes. One insightful person commented about Jurri's sense of humor and writing ability, "People try to picture you or project onto you this lighthearted cartoonish figure. But you are not just this carrot-biting silly rabbit like Buggs Bunny. You are the one who uses the carrot as a pen to help people see and to know the heart of a father."
With all these family influences in mind along with his all experiences, in 1988, at Jurri’s 12th birthday, he had his own 'Call to Adventure'. The afternoon light shone through his bedroom window and he had somewhat of a spiritual experience where a deep desire and vision was placed in his heart to make movies. This mystery and voice planted a seed and created a passion that has never left him.
Later that year some of the seeds of this destiny appeared. In junior high, Jurri wrote a short story “Shipwrecked” for the Young Authors competition and, though it didn’t win, his teacher Mrs. Snook said it seemed more like a screenplay than prose. Next, Ken Thomasma, a visiting children's author, came to his school and told the students to write a story in 30 minutes on the spot. Jurri blazed out a passionate tale with an amazing cliffhanger and won the creative writing competition.
Several difficult years went by where Jurri suffered from bullying and experienced various pains and abuse. This caused great trouble for Jurri and his family leaving deep wounds. Jurri graduated high school and enrolled at Central Wyoming College as a Theatre major. At the end of the year he became deathly ill with what seemed like a form of cancer and doctors told him he had to fight to live. He lost 40 pounds and couldn’t keep down water. The morning of his biopsy and surgery he was searching for help. He realized his life of rebellion and anger hurt many people, as well as his family. He cried out to God and returned to his calling. A few weeks later, on his 19th birthday, shocking news came from the doctors, “We can’t explain it. We don’t know how this happened, but the tissue doesn’t look like cancer anymore. Maybe an infection. You will live.” Jurri returned to CWC and changed his major to broadcasting and finished his associate's degree with several creative projects under his belt.
In 1998 Jurri continued to pursue his bachelor’s degrees in Broadcasting at the University of Wyoming. There he met his advisor, Mike Brown, who helped champion him in his schooling. Jurri also met William Missouri Downs from the Theater program who mentored him in writing.
Jurri wrote a full-length stage play, "A Sky Gone Satin," in a short amount of time. The play tells the story of a World War II hero who returns home to find both his wife and former lover want their previous lives back, but will he be able to tell the truth that he’s a changed man? It is a powerful story. Some people cried during a table reading.
Bill Downs then told Jurri he needed to make a short film for his senior project. That became a full production with a large cast and crew shooting on weekends, called Copyright. It’s about a film school student who steals a dead man’s screenplay and makes it big but.... will he get caught?
Through his work at the university and community college Jurri applied to various film schools and was accepted by the University of Southern California Graduate Production Program. In November 2001 Jurri moved to Los Angeles.
In his first semester Jurri made several short films. One was called "Seasons of Light". He wanted to tell a story only with shadows. In making it he gained a revelation and understanding of Shadow Language. Jurri had always lamented bad art and bad storytelling. He hates on-the-nose dialogue and forced preachy messages. He knew he had important things to say in his films but here he realized that “shadows” speak to the heart more deeply than direct messages. He learned to hide the treasure of the truth in the shadows of his art so that the audience would go hunting for it. He realized how to create emotional “aha” moments of revelation. He saw that this would make the film’s experience more impactful and reach everyone and not just a limited audience.
With this shadowed language storytelling in mind, he wrote his feature screenplay thesis, "The Kingdom of Antonym". It was inspired by his difficult relationship with his dad where Jurri asked one day, “How do I fix my dad?” This propelled Jurri to a journey of self-discovery into his own identity. He eventually collaborated with his dad in the writing and this led to the restoration of their relationship.
At USC, Jurri met his mentor Norman Hollyn. They quickly hit it off. Norman asked Jurri to TA several editing classes. Jurri was busy as a full time graduate student, editing two thesis films and writing. He even was fortunate to have two internships at DreamWorks Animation. Jurri’s passion for writing and editing awakened a desire to direct animation, as his Antonym script was an animated film. Jurri applied to the Pixar editing internship competition and made it to the final six applicants.
His time at USC seemed brimming with success but after returning from Christmas vacation in January 2005, Jurri’s life was almost taken. During a terrible downpour of rain, Jurri was a passenger in a major car wreck. The 80 mph impact and head injury left Jurri in terrible shape. His life that had been finally straightening out was once again a mess.
Upon graduation from USC, Jurri ended up working at Technicolor DVD and was laid off after 11 months. Six months passed by with no work and Jurri was about to return to Wyoming and give up. At the last minute Jurri got a job at Ascent Media. Here was the beginning of one of the longest hikes in his life.
Jurri got treatment for his accident and in two years he gained full recovery. He knew that he needed to write. Going back to his Antonym script and its mythical world, he realized it could be developed into a trilogy. He soon saw the vision of the second story "The Queen of the Couloir".
In 2007, while collaborating and discussing with his parents, he explored the rules of the mythical story: no popular culture. In a moment of deep inspiration Jurri asked, “You know, if I were to do something of popular culture, what would I really like to do?” This question made Jurri take the greatest unplanned detour in his writing. In that question Jurri had a vision and a thought: “The Muppet Reality Show, where the dream inside your heart is reality.” It was a sudden aha revelation and a breath of air seemed to enter into Jurri as he saw the whole thing in front of him.
Jurri took a break from the second Antonym script and wrote the Muppet Reality Show treatment for a feature film and a synopsis of a television series.
In 2008, while working on the Muppet idea, Jurri volunteered with some elementary school children and their teacher, Linda LaRue. The kids were dear to his heart and he started to write inspiring stories based on the kids in the class. He put them in their own myths and fairy tales and adventures using his shadowed language methods. He tapped into their lives in a deep way. The stories really affected their hearts and families. The stories were so impactful that adults wanted them too. Eventually there were 55 short stories, which collectively Jurri called Legends of the Wind.
In 2009 Jurri met Alisha Choi who was a concept artist trained at the Art Center. He saw her paintings were the same style and vision as what he saw in his imagination for his writing. They quickly became friends and started dating. They visited Disneyland many, many times.
In 2010, Jurri started to write The "Queen of the Couloir" and kept tinkering with the Muppets idea. Through a series of unfortunate events, Jurri entered into a disconnection journey. Various friends and others stepped away. It was pruning time and Jurri needed to grow. He deepened his relationship with Alisha and proposed to her. While she said “Yes,” Alisha’s parents were against the relationship and he almost lost her. Jurri wrote a story for her parents but they never got to hear it the night he was to meet them for the first time. However, later that night Alisha’s mother had a dream and it was the exact same vision of the story that Jurri had written. This gave Alisha and Jurri comfort they were meant to be together. Alisha’s father changed his mind and welcomed Jurri into the family.
In 2011, Jurri and Alisha married. In the next couple of years they went deeper in their journey of character development. They faced challenges but overcame them. Alisha supported Jurri’s vision of the Muppets and he decided to write his treatment into a full-length script. Years of hard work and rewriting and changes came but he never gave up on the vision even though he was tempted to quit many times. Close friends even told him to give up. Jurri tried several times to take steps to reconnect with the Muppet people but all were unfruitful.
In 2012-2013, Jurri met Bill Berry who held a variety of men’s retreats in the mountains. Bill taught about mythical restoration of the soul. Every retreat was incredibly powerful for Jurri. He gained such rapid healing in his heart from earlier years of trauma and suffering. As the grief left, power and might took its place. A sense of confidence and wholeness gradually came in. The retreats changed Jurri into a complete man.
In 2014, Alisha gave birth to Kylie after a difficult and dangerous labor. Kylie is the prize of her parents’ hearts. During the first year of Kylie’s life, Jurri took all of his writing, the Antonym Trilogy, Legends of the Wind, and his Muppets script and television series and came to a place of surrender. The desperation of his dreams and his urgency were gone. Peace had come. He didn’t give up but realized he had grown up instead. Jurri knows he has more to grow but now there seems to be a new season of re-connection to his dreams.