Scott Pryor: Stranger Than Fiction
From U.S. Marine Corps to lawyer to actor and director, Scott Pryor is someone with a story to tell. His latest, Tulsa, is a tale of hope and redemption, and one he believes we need in the grips of a pandemic.
As a kid, Scott Pryor watched Stanley Kubrick’s movie, Full Metal Jacket. It’s a film that highlights the military mindset during the Vietnam War, but for Pryor, its portrayal of boot camp inspired him to join the United States Marine Corps, at the young age of just 17. “I graduated from high school on a Friday night, and on Monday night we flew in,” he says. “I did a total of 10 years in the Marine Corps … I’m very fortunate to have gone into leadership roles at a young age and make big mistakes as a young leader, but also learn from those and grow.”
Today, he’s leading a rather different life. As well as running his own law firm of Scott Pryor Law, which is listed in the top one per cent of trial attorneys in the U.S. by the Litigator Awards, he’s a director and actor with three feature-length movies under his belt.
“They Say Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, And If You Were A Fly On The Wall For Some Of The Calls I Get And Scenarios, Situations And Obstacles I See, It’s All Over The Map”
Tulsa is his third and most recent movie. Currently in select theatres across the U.S., it follows the story of Tommy Colston (played by Pryor), a biker and addict who discovers he has a daughter, Tulsa. After reluctantly opening his life to Tulsa, her strong personality pushes Colston to face his demons. It’s a story that’s serious, but interspersed with moments of comedy that make it a tale that’s also positive and uplifting.
“Tulsa Is Inspired By A Conversation I Had With A Family When We Were Preparing For Trial”
Releasing any movie during a pandemic is risky, but as a risk-taker by nature, it’s the film’s subject matter that pushed Pryor to go ahead with it. “We’ve had messages from people who have quarantined and Tulsa is literally the first thing they’ve come out to, and they’ve responded by saying thank you so much,” Pryor says. “It’s a story of hope, redemption and love, and they really needed that because, right now, the country and the world, the uncertainty with the pandemic and presidential election year […] people need a story of love, hope, and redemption. They need to reconnect with themselves emotionally and not be living off feelings of fear, anger and unrest.”
Still practising professionally as a trial lawyer, Pryor’s route to film isn’t one that’s conventional. He traces his first experience of acting back to high school, where he had a teacher who would have students perform skits in class. “It was something I was really drawn to, but I decided to go to law school career-wise.”
When you speak with Pryor and understand the creative process he undertakes when putting a film together, you see there’s more parallels between film and law than you might have thought. In the same way his success in law has been driven by sitting down with clients to really understand how a life-changing injury has affected them or their family, Pryor takes the same approach when developing his characters. For Tulsa, a movie based on true events, that was particularly important.
“Tulsa is inspired by a conversation I had with a family when we were preparing for trial. Before the tragedy, the father and daughter would go to a father-daughter dance and dance all night, but afterwards, it was a 10-minute thing,” he explains. “The characters are fictionalized, and certainly parts of the story are fictionalized, but they were inspired by several conversations I had and cases I worked on. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and if you were a fly on the wall for some of the calls I get and scenarios, situations and obstacles I see, it’s all over the map. It’s fertile ground for inspiration and really grounds you as a person.”
Look back at Pryor’s previous works, and you’ll see a similar correlation. His first movie, The List, tells the story of a successful lawyer who looks to God after an unfortunate turn of events, and his second movie, Blackbear, centres on two marines who escape an ISIS interrogation; one struggles to survive while the other fights his way back into the mixed martial arts (MMA) ring. Though they are all stories that are different, they all draw from Pryor’s personal experiences with all different kinds of people.
Looking to the future, it’s a personal approach that’s going to continue, and Pryor shares plans of working on a mental heath drama that seeks to educate, inspire and entertain by telling a story via an average family, among others.
“Be an open book,” Pryor says after being asked, with a life as eventful as his, how he lives la dolce vita. “Reach out and help people. Never miss an opportunity to help someone. I don’t think we’re blessed when we’re trying to hold everything in. The more you help people, the bigger your life gets.”