“My Gutsy Story” by Duke Marsh

I was interviewed once by a film school graduate for a film magazine, who had the attitude of who was I to think I can make feature film without an expensive film school, and without working for years as an intern.

Who am I?  I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania.  The first house I remember as a child was a log cabin without electricity out in the woods on Mason Hill.  Later we lived in an oil boom town that had gone bust.  It was a small town with limited opportunities.

As a kid I decided that I needed to do things differently from the people around me if I was going to be a winner.  I heard the famous coach Vince Lombardi say “Victory doesn’t just go to the strongest and the fastest it goes to the one who thinks he can win.”  I came to four important conclusions.

If I don’t try I don’t win.

  1. Winning doesn’t require that I to be better than everyone else.
  2. Bad habits and bad assumptions are my worst enemies.
  3. Teaching others teaches me.

As a kid I read classic books because no matter how difficult they were to read, there was a reason that they had become classics.  I remembered a quote from Aristotle who said “We are what we do.  Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

After the real estate bust in the 1980s I realized that economic security is a necessity, so I decided to become the first person in my family to become an attorney.

I had no role model, but I realized that I could only be defeated by my own doubts.

I worked full time at a maximum security prison in a disciplinary unit at night to get through law school.  All my workers were murderers.  I went to law school full time in the day time even when I had to stand up in the class to stay awake.  I discovered that if I trained my mind to win, success would follow.

I passed the bar, worked hard for 25 years, raised my family, put the kids through college.  But that’s not who I am either.  Not all of me anyway.

When I was a kid I wrote poems and stories.  I wanted to make films, but we had no money.  Filmmaking is a risky proposition.  It was better for me to put my nose to the grindstone, but I always wanted more.  I wanted a change and I viewed myself as a winner.

I learned several things about life while working in the prison.  Life will keep you on your knees if you let it and excuses don’t count so don’t bother making them.

Rocky Balboa said something like “Winning is about how much you can take and still keep moving forward” and I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.

Duke Marsh Directing

Young people are fun to be around because they are the opposite.  They radiate potential.  Unfortunately that doesn’t last long as they are continually told they aren’t good enough, aren’t smart enough or don’t have the background to reach their dreams.  Eventually they believe the criticism.

I want to tell each of them to “Dare to be great!”  “Live your life with a purpose!”  “It’s not where you came from, it’s about your desire to do something!”

The first thing I do every morning is the hardest thing for me to do that day, so I’ll have no excuses. I focus on doing one small thing at a time and do it the best I can do it.  Doing things right the first time gives you more free time!

The happiest times of my life are when I am making progress on my projects.  Don’t do it by force of will power.  Create an inspiring goal to fuel your desire.  By creating this vision I create an intense positive emotional reason to succeed.

I do little steps every day, and consistent problem solving.  There are no sudden successes or failures.  The old joke is that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success.  Remember to meet people, to read books and write a nice notes.

Tony Robbins says “We act consistent with who we think we are.”  If you think of yourself as a smoker, even if you quit smoking you’ll eventually return to smoking.

When did you define yourself?  Did you decide what you were capable of doing as an undeveloped kid?  Is that fair to who you are now?  What is the tipping point to decide it’s time to redefine who we are?

Athletes find the time to work out.  People who make money find a way to make more money.  We are the actions we do consistently.  I know who I am and I’m taking action.

I continue to work at improving my script writing, editing and camera work.  I don’t have a Masters degree in filmmaking, so I draw upon the unconventional.  I find that if I work with people with a high standard for filmmaking that I raise the bar for my own standards.

I won’t let my filmmaking associates down.  I won’t let my filmmaking friends fail. Age, experience and education will not stop me. I will not know the meaning of defeat!  I’ve made three feature length movies and this year I’m going to (AFM) American Film Market, October 31st-November 7th, 2012.  (like Cannes for the west coast.)

My latest movie, based on a novel by Linnea Sinclair is for women who like romance in a sci-fi setting. Watch the trailer here and photos here.

The Down Home Alien Blues movie details are on IMDb.  Some fun production shots here. Be sure to ask for The Down Home Alien Blues at your local theater.

Nathalie Biermanns

By the way, that film school graduate that told me I would never make it in movies, to this day has never completed a feature film of his own.


Jay Mitsch

I am Duke Marsh, a feature film maker, and I am a winner!

Please Like my Facebook page and join me on Twitter: @GreenSignMedia

Duke Marsh Bio:

C. Duke Marsh – Director, Cinematographer, Writer, Producer (and attorney)

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in California.  Duke has a doctorate in law as well as degrees in business and real estate. While married, raising his three sons and practicing law he also wanted to learn about filmmaking.

The time spent practicing law would not allow him to intern on movies or gain experience in other traditional ways.

He never believed anyone was going to just give him a chance to work on films.  But, when the video revolution began he saw it as opening to create digital movies, and built his own video camera and video monitor from parts.

Then he spent years learning about lighting, sound, lenses, cameras, writing, directing, and movie production in order to do it on his own.

Back in the VHS days video wasn’t good enough to produce a feature film, but the second video revolution of digital cinema slowly made filmmaking broadly available to those with the knowledge to use it properly.

The equipment was soon upgraded to increasingly better equipment as he gained experience and connections while writing, producing, direction and shooting various movies.  He has won a Telly Award and a Videographer’s award.

Sonia Marsh Says: Yes, Duke is my husband. You may already know about our family from my book, Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of gutsy Living on a Tropical Island.

I am so proud of Duke, but confess that I had no idea about his childhood passion and dream to make movies until I heard his emotional speech at a recent SCWA event, where he shared his story with the audience.


Check out the wonderful bloggers who interviewed me around the world.

You can check out all the interviews here, and I’m so happy to be a guest on Linda Austin’s blog 9-30-12

Do you have a “My Gutsy Story” you’d like to share?

To submit your own, “My Gutsy Story” you can find all the information, and our sponsors on the “My Gutsy Story” contest page. (VIDEO) Submission guidelines here.

Please vote for your favorite September, “My Gutsy Story” on the sidebar. The winner will be announced on October 11th.

Comments (26)

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  1. Sonia Marsh says:

    Duke, I am so proud of you. Not only do you have a full-time job, but you are also producing “The Down Home Alien Blues,” and will be attending AFM in Los Angeles, this October. Good luck to you and all the actors, and crew. Sonia.xxx

  2. Lady Fi says:

    You dream big, Duke – such a good example for everyone defined by others and who are told that they can’t do it.

    Thank you for this inspiring post!
    Lady Fi recently posted..That honeyed lightMy Profile

  3. Hey Duke, great story. Had a few parallels with my own. It’s not often someone gets me fired up, (I’m usually the one motivating others), but you did it. The man was right, it’s all about how much you can take and still move forward. May you always keep moving forward.
    Prudence MacLeod recently posted..The Nap!My Profile

  4. Doreen Cox says:

    Reading your Gutsy Story, Duke, is like having another chapter to read in FREEWAYS TO FLIP-FLOPS!Now I have even more admiration for the man who agreed with his wife and chucked everything to move a family to Belize. I shall take many pieces of your advice to heart. Thanks so very much…so nice to ‘meet you!’
    Doreen Cox recently posted..LOVE NEVER DIESMy Profile

    • Lauren says:

      I love the line: “If I don’t try I don’t win.” That’s so true. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s very inspirational. Also, I think it’s funny that the discouraging guy hasn’t made his own feature-film yet.

    • Duke says:

      My Dad said he’d do it when he retired, but he passed away at 64. I’m doing it now.

    • Duke says:

      A life needs to be lived, so I’m sure we’ll have other chapters.

    • Sonia Marsh says:


      This is Duke’s response to your comment. For some reason it wouldn’t post, so I’m reposting it here.
      “A life needs to be lived, so I’m sure we’ll have other chapters.”

  5. Liz Burgess says:

    I am in awe of you, Duke! Kudos to you for not only chasing your dream, but catching it! I think the world of Sonia, and now that I’ve met you, I feel the same about you. Congrats and best wishes on your films now and in the future!
    Liz Burgess recently posted..Bendy WendyMy Profile

    • Duke says:

      We couldn’t have done the move without each other, and we will not be defined by the expectations of others. The world is full of adventure waiting to be discovered, some of it in your own neighborhood.

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      Liz, Thanks for your positive comment and remind me where you live now? I’m a procrastinator as well. Tend to wait until the last minute to write articles.

  6. Sylvia Morice says:

    Inspiring story, Duke. Goes to show that we can be like “The Little Engine Who Could” when we have enough drive!

    And Sonia..if Duke wins the October readers’ poll, will he get something extra special from you? LOL
    Sylvia Morice recently posted..As You Wish: Little-Known Facts About The Princess Bride on Its 25th Anniversary | Tor.comMy Profile

  7. Duke says:

    Ohhh. I could name my prize. 😉

    But only if I’m voted in.

  8. Well done, Duke – you look very impressive behind that big camera! I remember when I did my life coach training, our trainer did not tolerate the word ‘try.’ He said ‘trying’ implies obstacle and keeps you stuck, whereas ‘doing’ is the only way forward, no matter the results. So, well done on taking action to change your life.

  9. Duke says:

    Thank you Belinda. We are all capable of doing much more than we think we are if we are willing to do the work.

    In most things in life, if we are willing we are able. We never know where our true potential lies until we strive for a goal.

    Never worry about being the best. I’m happy that I’m picking what I want to do.

    My new trailer is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoDs6l5N7XE

  10. […] October stories are up, both men for a change. So far we have Duke Marsh “My Gutsy Story” and Don Darkes “My Gutsy […]

  11. Penelope J. says:

    Duke, You’re a gutsy man with a gutsy story. Your words are so inspiring that you could also be a great motivational speaker. As it is, I’m keeping this post to read as often as I can. I’ve been a winner in my life but I’ve also been a loser and I don’t like it.

    Good luck with your movie. I’m glad that you’re following your youthful ambition. Too many people let theirs become “It might have been” or “If only I’d done this or that.” I’m sure we’ll hear more from you.

    Sonia, this is another aspect of Duke than in “Freeways to Flip-Flops.” However, you both seem to be an adventurous, indomitable couple.
    Penelope J. recently posted..Never Give Up on Your DreamMy Profile

    • Duke says:

      Thank you Penelope J. Right now I’m at the American Film Market, the biggest film industry event in North America, trying for multiple market distribution.

      I commute home each night and edit new screeners and highlight reels. We’ll see if I can get by on four hours sleep each night.

      “Never give up, never surrender.” (Buzz Lightyear. LOL)

  12. […] October stories are up, both men for a change. So far we have Duke Marsh “My Gutsy Story” and Don Darkes “My Gutsy Story,” and Kim Brower’s “My Gutsy […]

  13. […] other October stories are up. So far we have Duke Marsh “My Gutsy Story” and Don Darkes “My Gutsy Story,” and Kim Brower’s “My Gutsy […]

  14. […] other October stories are up. So far we have Duke Marsh “My Gutsy Story” and Don Darkes “My Gutsy Story,” and Kim Brower’s “My Gutsy […]

  15. carol says:

    Your story impressed me so much that I can’t stop repeating as a mantra the words: “don’t take “no” for an answer”! That means change towards being more gutsy, surely!
    Thanks so much for sharing, we learn so much from everyone’s experiences.