Most real estate agents don’t start out their career paths as actors, but Jeff Fields is not your typical Realtor. Recently named to the 2017 class of 40 Under 40 for the Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors and (for the second year in a row) he’s been in the top 5% of production for the brokerage firm Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. How he became so successful was a process that took some career twists and turns.
An Arizona native, Jeff graduated from Sunnyslope High School and then attended college at the University of Arizona. He graduated early from U of A and taught acting for a semester. He enjoyed that experience and then decided to move to Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.
“During that time [in Hollywood] I did a little bit of everything,” explains Jeff. “Acting, casting, directing, producing – I had moved out there specifically for acting, but then I quickly realized in the industry that I had to be more than just an actor, because there is so much downtime in acting. If you are not constantly thinking and producing and developing, it’s a very boring, lonely road – it’s not as glamorous as Hollywood portrays it for the rest of the world.”
Jeff did work in films and his most-recognizable part came when he played the Jewish groom in the movie “Wedding Crashers.” The scene he shot with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn where they were toasting his “wedding” became the photograph used on the back of the DVD cover and in about 350 publications around the world!
Things were going well for Jeff in Hollywood, but his grandmother had fallen ill, and she was here in Arizona. He came to a crossroads and decided to move back in 2003. He was glad that he did because he was able to spend a couple of years with her before she passed.
When Jeff moved back, his employment options were going into real estate or teaching. He accepted a position at Moon Valley High School to be the head of their theater department. “It was a fantastic experience. We were a lot like “Glee” before “Glee” was ever invented,” he explains. “The theater program was the most relevant extracurricular program at that high school.” Jeff grew the program to 250 kids that ranged from band students to football players. “We put on these amazing Broadway shows and they would sell out. We would have to turn people away,” says Jeff.
While Jeff was teaching, he was also building up a production company, utilizing the skills he had learned in Hollywood. In 2010, he left his position at Moon Valley High School to devote his full attention to developing Rapid Productions, LLC, producing everything from commercials to wedding videos.
Later that same year, Jeff was at a dinner party with a family friend sharing stories of his production company. Long-time Valley Realtor Mark Moskowitz overheard Jeff and said that he had to have him in real estate. Jeff agreed as long as he could blend the two enterprises. “Mark offered to mentor me and bring me in and incorporate my videos,” explains Jeff. “That’s the path I took, and here I am six years later.”
Jeff’s unique approach of combining videos and photography for his listings in this competitive market definitely gives him an edge. “I create commercials for my properties. I try to do creative things that show the property without being over the top,” says Jeff. “I am always looking for different ways to connect with people and show it off. I liken home shopping to internet dating – instead of picking a spouse they are picking a house.”
As if his real estate business and family life with a 1-year-old and 4-year-old don’t keep him busy enough, Jeff carves out time each week to lend his talents to Teen Lifeline. Teen Lifeline is a 31-year-old nonprofit organization that provides confidential crisis services and outreach to teens including a peer-to-peer hotline. Jeff has been involved with Teen Lifeline for five years, and this is his second year serving as president of the board.
“Being a former teacher I was in the trenches with those kids, and I could recount of at least 12 of my students that I helped prevent them from suicide,” Jeff says soberly. Jeff was personally affected by suicide as a young adult, having given three eulogies at friend’s funerals by the time he was 21. “It’s such a life-shattering event that sends a ripple of sorrow, not just through the family, but through the community,” says Jeff. “One of the pieces that I quickly saw was if the education wasn’t brought to the forefront, it becomes embedded in the culture, and somehow that becomes an acceptable route for people to take.”
In 2016, Teen Lifeline received 19,000 phone calls. Of those calls, one in three were specifically regarding suicide. They connect the callers with whatever services they need, even if they just need to talk. “They are either embarrassed to talk to their parents, or afraid to get into trouble.
“Some kids just need one phone call. Others will call for months,” explains Jeff. “We try to do as much prevention as possible. We also do the postvention when tragedy does strike. The first rule of Teen Lifeline is to always talk about Teen Lifeline. It’s all about awareness and making that connection of hope.”
They are currently working on an initiative to get Teen Lifeline information printed on the backs of all student identification cards. “A simple message that says, ‘you are not alone,’ and for a ‘free and confidential call – call this number,’” says Jeff. This program is currently in 90 schools and the goal is to be in all schools in Arizona within the next two years.
Teen Lifeline is also working on presenting a seminar in conjunction with the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” that deals with the topic of suicide. “My biggest thing is that I believe – and I wholeheartedly believe this – that suicide is the most preventable death that exists,” says Jeff. “It’s all about outreach and grabbing people at their deepest and darkest hour and be able to right that ship and get them whatever help they need, so that they can go on to happiness, they can go on to family and success. That’s the message that I try to put out there.”
Teen Lifeline can be reached at 602-248-8336 (TEEN) or visit teenlifeline.org.