Top Filmmaking Podcasts: Oscar® Winners & Nominees

The Indie Film Hustle Podcast has been blessed to have the opportunity to speak to many Oscar® winners and nominees. These craftsmen and women had amazing insight into what it takes to make it to the top of the filmmaking craft. Enjoy these remarkable conversations, and we hope to see you at the Oscar®, too, one day.

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The Daniels

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as DANIELS, have been writing and directing together for over a decade, initially with a slew of viral music videos, commercials, and short films, then with feature films and TV directing.

They’ve developed a reputation for combining absurdity with heartfelt personal stories. Oftentimes they incorporate a unique brand of visual effects and visceral practical effects into their genre-blending projects.

They have directed music videos for Manchester Orchestra, Foster, the People, and won a VMA for their video for “Turn Down For What,” in which Scheinert bullied Kwan into being the lead actor. Kwan is a really good dancer.

They wrote and directed the feature film Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, which went on to win the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival, received multiple nominations, and gained a large cult following.

While they were writing & developing their Oscar® Winning movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, a kung fu sci-fi dramedy starring Michelle Yeoh, Scheinert went and directed a small redneck dramedy called The Death of Dick Long, also released by A24.

Oliver Stone

Today on the show, I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writers/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as a writer, director, and producer on various films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty-two Oscars® and have won twelve.

Richard Linklater

We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped launch the independent film movement we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will dive into not only the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much. 

Edward Zwick 

We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast, and this episode keeps that going in a big way. Today’s guest on the show is Oscar® Winning writer, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion for theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.

John Sayles

John Sayles is one of America’s best-known independent filmmakers, receiving critical acclaim for films including Eight Men Out (1988), Lone Star (1996), and Men with Guns (1997). He’s also written screenplays for mainstream films such as Passion Fish (1992), Limbo (1999), and The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) and did a draft of Jurassic Park (1993) for Steven Spielberg.

Neill Blomkamp

Ever since I saw District 9 and learned of all the mythical stories behind the short film becoming a feature, I have been a massive fan of today’s guest, Neill Blomkamp. Though Neill is here today to talk about his new sci-fi horror fiction film, Demonic, we also chatted up about his other films that have been successful over the years.

Taylor Hackford

Sitting down with one of the big names in this business this week was a really cool opportunity. I am honored to have on the show today, Oscar® winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Taylor Hackford.

Taylor’s has directed films like An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), White Nights (1985), Proof of Life (2000), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Against All Odds (1984), Parker (2013), the iconic Ray Charles biopic, Ray of 2004, and The Comedian (2016) just to name a few. He also has served as president of the Directors Guild of America and is married to the incomparable acting legend Helen Mirren.

Sean Baker

Sean Baker is a writer, director, producer, and editor who has made seven independent feature films over the course of the past two decades. His most recent film was the award-winning The Florida Project (2017) which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released by A24 in the U.S. Among the many accolades the film received — including an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor — Sean was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle.

His previous film, Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Independent Spirit and two Gotham Awards. Starlet (2012) was the winner of the Robert Altman Independent Spirit Award, and his previous two features, Take Out (2004) and Prince of Broadway (2008), were both nominated for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.

John Lee Hancock

I have an epic conversation in store for you all today. Our guest is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and filmmaker, John Lee Hancock. While working as a lawyer by day back in 1986, John moonlighted as a screenwriter, writing script after script. His spec script, A Perfect World, caught the eye of Steven Spielberg and was eventually directed by Clint Eastwood

Hancock’s famous five-year hiatus comeback film, The Blind Side, an adaptation of Micheal Lewis’s 2006 book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game yield and performed outstandingly. The film received countless major awards nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and a win for Best Actress for Sandra Bullock.

The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All-American football player and first-round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family. The Blind Side went on to make $309.2 million internationally on a $29 million budget. Not too bad.

Simon Kinberg

Today on the show, we have Oscar® and two-time Emmy® Nominee Simon KinbergHe has established himself as one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers, having written and produced projects for some of the most successful franchises in the modern era. His films have earned more than seven billion dollars worldwide.  

Kinberg graduated from Brown University and received his MFA from Columbia University Film School, where his thesis project was the original script, “Mr and Mrs Smith.” The film was released in 2005, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. 

Kevin MacDonald

On the show today is academy award-winning documentary and film director and producer Kevin Macdonald. He is one of few directors who seamlessly dance the line of film and documentary. He directed documentaries like Whitney (2018), the crowdsourced documentary – Life in a Day (2011), and Marley (2012), among others.

He is famously known for his 2006 drama film, The Last King of Scotland, starring Oscar-winning best actor Forest Whitaker. Kevin has made a huge name for himself and his work over his 27 years in the industry – dabbling in commercials, films, and documentaries.

As a boy, his granddad, Emeric Pressburger, a legendary filmmaker in the 1940s, lit his passion for filmmaking. When his grandfather passed, Kevin wrote a biography in 1994 about his grandad’s life journey, titled, ‘ The Life and Death of a Screenwriter’, which he later made into a documentary, ‘The Making of an Englishman’ (1995). This was the start of his becoming a documentary maker.

In 1999 he directed the Box office hit and Oscar-winning documentary, One Day in September, which is about the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre, featuring a lengthy interview with Jamal Al-Gashey, the last known survivor of the Munich terrorists.

This project catapulted his career big time. He then made the adventure-docudrama, Touching the Void, another critically acclaimed film that won Best British Film at the 2003 BAFTA. The true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

Reinaldo Marcus Green

Reinaldo Marcus Green is a writer, director, and producer. He most recently directed the critically acclaimed Warner Brothers film King Richard starring Will Smith. The film is nominated for Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards and was named one of the Top 10 Films of the Year by both AFI, the National Board of Review, and an Academy Award® nomination for Best Picture.


Eric Roth

This week, I sat down with one of Hollywood’s most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump. A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.

Jordan Peele

Get ready to have your mind blown! I’ll be releasing a 3-Part Limited Series of conversations between the legendary screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer of Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Tomb Raider, to name a few, and some of the top screenwriters in the game.

First up is the screenwriter that took the world by storm with his Oscar-Winning screenplay Get Out, Jordan Peele. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years, here is what the film is about.

This was recorded before Jordan’s next hit film, Us, was released. Listening to these two masters discuss character, plot, theme, and more is a rare treat. It’s like being a fly on the wall. When you are done listening to this conversation, you can read some of Jordan’s screenplay here.

Alan Ball

Academy and Emmy Award-winning writer/director/producer Alan Ball is among our generation’s most important creative voices. Born in Atlanta, Ball studied Theatre Arts at Florida State University. In March 2000, AMERICAN BEAUTY, Ball’s first screenplay to get produced, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Ball went on to create and executive produce the groundbreaking HBO drama SIX FEET UNDER. The series ran for five seasons and received two Golden Globes, six Emmys, and an Emmy and DGA Award for Ball’s direction of the pilot.

At age five, Bruce Joel Rubin had a spiritual experience playing in a sandbox in the middle of the afternoon. The sun disappeared, and a dense night sky appeared in its place. Infinite galaxies were swirling in the vastness of his own head, and he sensed the entire universe was contained within him.

He knew instantly he was one with all there was. In the years that followed, Bruce became an Oscar-winning screenwriter, a spiritual teacher, and, most recently, a photographer. Each aspect of his life has been a conscious effort to explore and reveal what he learned in that sandbox.

Damien Chazelle

Today on the show, we have Damien Chazelle, the Oscar® Winning director and screenwriter of La La Land. He burst onto the scene with his debut film, Whiplash. The film is about a young musician (Teller) struggling to become a top jazz drummer under a ruthless band conductor (Simmons).

James and Damien discuss how he wrote and structured La La Land and much more. Enjoy this rare conversation between James V. Hart and Damien Chazelle.


Jason Blum

I’m excited to talk to a fellow low-budget independent filmmaker today. Granted, he does low-budget films on a completely different level than I or most people do at this point. But if we are going to talk about budget filmmaking, it is only fitting to have expert horror film and television producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.

That is a testament to his company’s high-quality production. Blumhouse is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative television series. They have produced over 150 movies and television series with theatrical grosses amounting to over $4.8 billion.

Chris Moore

Every once in a while, I have a conversation on this show that blows my mind; this episode did just that. Today on the show, we have Oscar® Nominated producer Chris Moore. He produced films like Good Will Hunting, American Pie, Waiting, The Adjustment Bureau, and Manchester by the Sea. Chris’ profile grew from his appearance as the producer on the early 2000’s filmmaker reality show Project: Greenlight.

After graduating from college, Chris Moore moved to Los Angeles after working in a major agency’s mailroom; he got promoted to a literary agent. He championed projects like The Stoned Age, PCU, Airheads, Last Action Hero, and My Girl. 

When ICM acquired Chris’ agency, he left and became an indie film producer. With some friends, he raised the budget to produce the indie film Glory Daze, which starred an unknown Matt Damon. Damon turned down the leading role in favor of paid work on another paid project but introduced him to his friend Ben Affleck, who ultimately starred in Glory Daze.

Afterward, Affleck and Damon wrote the screenplay for what would become the Oscar® winning Good Will Hunting, and they asked Chris to help them produce the film that Gus Van Sant directed.

Chris and I had a remarkable conversation about how to produce films in today’s eco-system. We also discuss what it’s like working in the studio system, some of his issues with the system, how filmmakers are treated, and so much more. This an EPIC 2-hour conversation full of knowledge and truth bombs, so prepare to take some notes.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Moore.

Gary W. Goldstein

Today, we are hearing from one of the cultural influencers of the 90s film industry, and that’s non-other than Gary Goldstein, the Oscar Nominated producer of the iconic rom-com Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

Pretty Woman was most of your introduction to Gary’s work, but mine was Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. I know. After all these years, the title still makes me chuckle. Years later, I would reference the title to people. And in case you were curious, Gary goes into the movie title origin story in this interview.

Gary films have generated well over one billion dollars – consistent box office hits. Pretty Woman, for example, grossed $463.4 million – more than 30 times its budget. After the massive success of Pretty Woman, Gary collaborated once more with his filmmaking partner, writer Jonathan Lawton to produce the action thriller, Under Seige, in 1992. Like Pretty Woman, this too performed successfully at the box office and critically – including an Academy Award nomination. An ex-Navy Seal turned cook is the only person who can stop a group of terrorists when they seize control of a U.S. battleship.

In 2013 he authored Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success, which is a compilation of strategies to help anyone, whether looking to sell a spec script, option a screenplay, land a writing assignment, and get hired, attract an agent or manager of your dreams…or get a producer to take a meeting with you. Gary blessed us with knowledge bombs in this interview, including tips on entrepreneurship and film as a business. Enjoy my conversation with Gary Goldstein.

Cassian Elwes

Cassian Elwes began his producing career with 1984’s Oxford Blues, starring Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy, and has enjoyed continuing success in film. His earlier roles include Men at Work with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, The Chase with Charlie Sheen, Kristy Swanson, and Henry Rollins, and The Dark Backward with Judd Nelson, Bill Paxton, and Rob Lowe. In 1989 he produced the independent film Never on Tuesday, which featured a cast of cameos including Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Nicolas Cage, and Cary Elwes.

The Hollywood Reporter has said that Elwes was “involved in a virtual who’s who of every great independent film of the last ten years.” with films such as Thank You for Smoking, Half Nelson, and Frozen River (the last two of which garnered Oscar nominations for Ryan Gosling and Melissa Leo, respectively).

David Permut

The first interviewee in my Sundance Film Festival Interview Series is legendary producer David Permut. David has produced almost 40 feature films in the course of his career. From Blind Date and Dragnet to Face/Off and the Oscar® Nominated Hacksaw Ridge. His new film, The Polka King starring Jack Black,  just got released on Netflix.

Enjoy my interview with David Permut.

Marshall Herskovitz

Our guest today is producer, director, and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick, whose films he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.


Billy Crystal 

Some performers impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas of the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.

Edward James Olmos

Our guest today is 80s star, multiple-award film and theater actor, and activist Edward James Olmos. Olmos’s roles in films or TV shows like Stand and DeliverBattlestar Galactica, broadway musical and film Zoot SuitBlade Runner as detective Gaff, and many others are some of the most memorable of all time, and he’s still dominating our screens. While I could not resist discussing his iconic roles over several decades, we mainly discussed Olmos’s new must-see film, Chasing Wonders.

Robert Forster

This week we are joined by legendary actor Robert Forster. Robert has been a working actor for decades, appearing in classic films like Medium Cool, the iconic John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye80’s action classic Delta Force (love me a good 80’s action flix), and Disney’s The Black Hole (one of my favorite films growing up).

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which he credits with reviving his career. Since then, Robert has been on fire in the second half of his career, appearing in The DescendantsLike Mike; Mulholland Drive; Me, Myself, & Irene; Lucky Number Slevin, and Firewall, to name a few.


Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C.

Today on the show, we have Oscar® nominee Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C. 

Cronenweth worked as a loader and 2nd assistant before graduating high school and then enrolled in film school at USC, where he studied cinematography. Among his classmates were John Schwartzman and Robert Brinkmann, as well as director Philip Joanou.

After graduation, Cronenweth resumed working with his father, joining a core camera team that included operators John Toll and Dan Lerner and 1st assistants Bing Sokolsky and Art Schwab.

Jeff worked with their father, Jordan Cronenweth (cinematographer most notable for Blade Runner), as a camera loader and second assistant camera during high school, working his way up to the first assistant camera and then camera operator until the mid-1990s.

Moving up to the first assistant, Cronenweth began working with Toll, who was beginning his work as a cameraman, and veteran Sven Nykvist.

David Fincher’s masterpiece Fight Club was the first major motion picture where he acted as a DP. Other notable feature films on which he worked as a DP are One Hour Photo, K-19: The Widowmaker, Down With Love, The Social Network, Hitchcock, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

Dean Cundey A.S.C

Today, my guest is Oscar® nominated prolific cinematographer, accomplished photographer, and member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Dean Cundey A.S.C.

Dean rose to fame for extraordinary cinematography in the 1980s and 1990s. His early start was working on the set of Halloween.  Dean is credited as director of photography on five Back To The Future films and Jurassic Park.

Cundey holds over one hundred and fifty cinematography & photography credits for movies, television, and short films. That is no small feat in this business. The man has stayed busy and booked since graduation from film school. That kind of consistency in Hollywood is only doable with extreme persistence and excellence.

One of the many things he did to stay prepared and on top of his craft was investing in building himself a ‘super van’ or one couple call it a cinematographer’s heaven that contained every equipment (cameras, editings tools, etc.) required to help him get work get and do work easily.
We also talk more about Dean joining The Book of Boba and The Mandalorian crew.

Russell Carpenter A.S.C

I can’t tell you how excited I am about today’s guest. I sat down with the legendary and Oscar® Winning Cinematographer Russell Carpenter A.S.C. Russell has been shooting blockbusters for over 40 years and has shot films like Ant-Man,  xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Charlie’s Angels, The Negotiator, True Lies, Monster-in-Law and classic 90’s action flicks like Hard Target, The Perfect Weapon, and Death Warrant. He just finished Avatar 2: The Way of Water.

He won the Oscar® for his cinematography on the second highest-grossing film of all time, Titanic. We go down the rabbit hole on shooting Titanic, working with James Cameron, crazy Hollywood stories, how he approaches each project, and much more. This episode is a treasure chest of behind-the-scenes stories and cinematic techniques from the highest levels of Hollywood.

Erik Messerschmidt A.S.C

Award-winning director of photography Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, has a natural eye for arresting and spellbinding images, thriving in a role that allows him to combine his love of art, craft, and science. Recently, he lensed Devotion for director J.D. Dillard, based on the real-life story of a Black naval officer who befriends a white naval officer during the Korean War, with both becoming heroes for their selfless acts of bravery.

He also is currently shooting Michael Mann’s biographical film Ferrari, starring Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, and Penélope Cruz, and recently completed shooting David Fincher’s The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton.

Janty Yates

Today on the show, we have Oscar® winning costume designer Janty Yates. Janty Yates has had a collaborative relationship with Ridley Scott since the great success of Gladiator in 2000, for which she won an Academy Award®, one of the eight Oscars® garnered by the film.

Christopher Nolan’s Micro-Budget Short Films: Doodlebug

In our ongoing series of spotlighting famous director’s first micro-budget outings, we present Christopher Nolan’s Doodlebug. Doodlebug was shot in 1997 and created the film during his university days using 16mm film.

This psychological short-film has gained a cult following, especially given the heights which Christopher Nolan’s now climbed since making it. The film concerns a grungy man, in a filthy apartment. He is anxious and paranoid, trying to kill a small bug-like creature that is scurrying on the floor. It is revealed that the bug resembles a miniature version of himself.

He squashes the bug with his shoe. However, every movement the “doodlebug” makes is later matched by the man himself, and he is later squashed by a larger version of himself.

Download Chris Nolan’s Screenplay Collection in PDF


Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?

Our collection has short films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Chris Nolan, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg & more.

Film Production Books You Need to Read – Top 11 List 2023

1) Rise of the Filmtrepreneur: How to Turn Your Independent Film into a Profitable Business

It’s harder today than ever before for independent filmmakers to make money with their films. From predatory film distributors ripping them off to huckster film aggregators who prey upon them, the odds are stacked against the indie filmmaker. The old distribution model for making money with indie film is broken and there needs to be a change. The future of independent filmmaking is the entrepreneurial filmmaker or the Filmtrepreneur.

In Rise of the Filmtrepreneur author and filmmaker Alex Ferrari breaks down how to actually make money with independent film projects and shows filmmakers how to turn their indie films into profitable businesses. This is not all theory, Alex uses multiple real-world case studies to illustrate each part of his method. This book shows you the step by step way to turn your filmmaking passion into a profitable career. If you are making a feature film, series or any kind of video content, The Filmtrepreneur Method will set you up for success. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

2) Indie Film Production: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking

Indie Film Production explains the simple, basic, clear cut role of the independent film producer. Raising funds to do your dream project, producing award-winning films with a low budget, putting name actors on your indie film-it’s all doable, and this book guides you through the entire process of being a successful producer with bonus tips on how to effortlessly maneuver through the sphere of social media marketing and fundraising tactics. One of the best film production books I’ve read. Also check out: Suzanne Lyon’s Film Producing – Podcast Interview

3) The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film

The Reel Truth details the pitfalls, snares, and roadblocks that aspiring filmmakers encounter. Reed Martin interviewed more than one hundred luminaries from the independent film world to discuss the near misses that almost derailed their first and second films and identify the close shaves that could have cut their careers short. Other books may tell you the best way to make your independent film or online short, but no other book describes so candidly how to spot and avoid such issues and obstacles as equipment problems, shooting-day snafus, and dozens of other commonly made missteps, including the top fifty mistakes every filmmaker makes. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

4) So You Want to Be a Producer

Few jobs in Hollywood are as shrouded in mystery as the role of the producer. What goes into film producing, how does one get started, and what on earth does one actually do? In So You Want to Be a Producer Lawrence Turman, the producer of more than forty films, including The GraduateThe River WildShort Circuit, and American History X, and Endowed Chair of the famed Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California, answers these questions and many more. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Produce Your Own Damn Movie by Lloyd Kaufman

When it comes to producing, no one speaks with more authority than Lloyd Kaufman, founder of the longest-running independent film studio, Troma Entertainment. He reveals the best ways to seek out investors, scout locations, hire the film crew and cast talent, navigate legalities, and stay within your budget. One of the most entertaining film production books out there.

Also check out: Lloyd Kaufman’s Interview Podcast

6) Independent Film Producing: How to Produce a Low-Budget Feature Film

The number of independent films produced each year has almost doubled in the past decade, yet only a fraction will succeed. If, like many filmmakers, you have no industry connections, little to no experience, and a low or ultra-low budget, this outsider’s guide will teach you what you need to know to produce a standout, high-quality film and get it into the right hands. Written by an entertainment lawyer and experienced director and producer, this handbook covers all the most essential business, legal, and practical aspects of indie film production. One of the best film production books on the market. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)


7) The Producer’s Business Handbook: The Roadmap for the Balanced Film Producer

With The Producer’s Business Handbook as a film production guide, you’ll learn to create the relationships that the most successful producers have with the various participants in the motion picture industry-this guide provides a global view of how producers direct their relationships with domestic and foreign studios, agencies, attorneys, talent, completion guarantors, banks, and private investors. You’ll also become familiar with the team roles needed to operate these companies and learn how to attach and direct them. For those outside the US, also included is information on how to produce successful films without government funding. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

8) Producing for Profit: A Practical Guide to Making Independent and Studio Films

In Producing for Profit: A Practical Guide to Making Independent and Studio Films, Andrew Stevens provides real-world examples and his own proven techniques for success that can turn passion into profit. Far more than just theory, the book outlines practical applications that filmmakers of all levels can use to succeed in today’s ever-changing marketplace. Readers will learn how to develop screenplays that are commercial, and how to negotiate, finance, cast, produce, sell, distribute, and market a film that will make a profit. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

9) The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking by Michael Polish

Less than a decade since they began working in the movies, Mark and Michael Polish have established themselves as critically acclaimed, award-winning independent filmmakers. Their innovative approach to art direction, use of digital photography, and ability to attract stellar talent to their modestly budgeted films sprang from necessity; now these aesthetics have become admired trademarks of their work.  Also check out: Michael Polish’s Podcast Interview

10) The Complete Film Production Handbook

This book is for working film/TV professionals and students alike. If you’re a line producer, production manager, production supervisor, assistant director or production coordinator–the book has everything you’ll need (including all the forms, contracts, releases and checklists) to set up and run a production–from finding a production office to turning over delivery elements. Even if you know what you’re doing, you will be thrilled to find everything you need in one place. If you’re not already working in film production, but think you’d like to be, read the book — and then decide. One of the best film production books out there.

11) Producer to Producer: A Step-By-Step Guide to Low Budgets Independent Film Production

Maureen Ryan’s Producer to Producer is a clear, concise, and complete guide to independent film production, full of excellent practical advice for both newcomers and experienced producers. I have produced ten independent features, and have often been asked to recommend a book to teach people about what I do. This book will now be my immediate first choice. So many how-to guides to producing get far more details wrong than right– Producer to Producer is as accurate a guide to the current independent producing process as I have seen to date. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

IFH 670: How I Made $193M Off My Micro-Budget Film with Oren Peli

Oren Peli, an Israeli-American film producer, director, and screenwriter, is the creative genius behind the horror sensation Paranormal Activity. The movie single-handedly revolutionized the found-footage genre and spawned a successful franchise, all while being produced on a shoestring budget. In this article, we explore Peli’s background, the making of Paranormal Activity, and its immense impact on the horror film industry.

Oren had always been fascinated by the world of movies. After moving to the United States in his early twenties, Peli initially worked as a software programmer. However, his passion for films remained undiminished, and he soon turned his attention to filmmaking. With no prior experience, Peli embarked on an ambitious journey and created a movie that would leave a lasting impact on the horror genre.

The Making of Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity was born out of Peli’s desire to craft an unconventional horror movie that relied on psychological terror rather than blood and gore. Drawing inspiration from his own experiences with strange noises in his new home, Peli developed the idea of a couple experiencing unexplained supernatural occurrences in their house.

Made on a budget of just $15,000, Paranormal Activity was filmed over the course of a week in Peli’s own home. He assembled a small crew and cast, primarily comprised of unknown actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, who played the protagonists, Katie and Micah. Peli used a handheld video camera to create the found-footage aesthetic, enhancing the film’s realism and keeping production costs low.

To create the film’s eerie atmosphere, Peli relied on a minimalistic approach, eschewing fancy special effects and relying on practical effects and sound design. The actors were given general guidelines and encouraged to improvise their dialogue, which lent authenticity to the film and made the characters more relatable. Peli’s careful editing and manipulation of tension throughout the movie allowed him to build suspense and fear without resorting to cheap jump scares.

Paranormal Activity premiered at the Screamfest Film Festival in 2007, where it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Its success caught the attention of DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, who acquired the film and gave it a limited theatrical release in 2009. Paranormal Activity’s unique marketing campaign urged viewers to “demand” the film in their cities, creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity.

The movie became a sleeper hit, grossing over $193 million worldwide and spawning several sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. It also paved the way for a resurgence in the found-footage genre, inspiring similar films such as The Last Exorcism and The Blair Witch Project‘s sequel, Blair Witch.

Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity has left a lasting legacy in the world of horror cinema. The film’s creative approach to storytelling, innovative marketing, and use of technology has profoundly impacted how horror movies are made and consumed. Peli himself continues to be involved in the genre as a producer, working on projects like the Insidious series and the television show The River.

Paranormal Activity remains a testament to the power of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and the sheer passion for filmmaking. The movie’s success is not only a personal triumph for Peli but also a reminder that a strong concept and creative execution can leave a lasting impact on the cinematic landscape. Paranormal Activity will forever be remembered as the little horror film that could, and the man behind it, Oren Peli, as the visionary who changed the face of horror cinema.

As the found-footage genre continues to evolve, Peli’s influence is apparent in numerous films that employ this style. His ability to create a believable and immersive experience by stripping away Hollywood glamour and relying on genuine emotions has become a hallmark of the genre. Furthermore, Paranormal Activity’s success has encouraged aspiring filmmakers to experiment with unconventional storytelling techniques, pushing the boundaries of horror and cinema itself.

In addition to his work in the horror genre, Peli has also ventured into science fiction with his directorial effort, Area 51. Although it did not achieve the same level of success as Paranormal Activity, it demonstrates Peli’s willingness to explore new territories and challenge himself creatively.

For fans of the horror genre and aspiring filmmakers alike, Oren Peli’s journey serves as an inspiration. His dedication, innovative thinking, and unwavering belief in his ideas led to the creation of a cultural phenomenon that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide. As Paranormal Activity remains a staple in horror cinema, so too will Oren Peli’s name remain synonymous with the genre he helped redefine.

Oren Peli’s impact on the horror film industry, particularly in the found-footage subgenre, is undeniable. Through his passion for filmmaking, resourcefulness, and creative vision, he has carved a unique space for himself in the cinematic world. As the creator of Paranormal Activity, Peli will forever be remembered for his contributions to the horror genre, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of filmmakers.

Enjoy our conversation with Oren Peli.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Hey guys, so I wanted to let you know what we're going to be doing now on the show. Moving forward for a little while, I wanted to kind of bring in some amazing episodes from the indie film hustle podcast network with guest hosts. And you might recognize some of these guests hopes we'll have Dave bullous, Jason buff, and Scott McMahon guest hosting some of these episodes every week. Now we're going to be doing still our regular episodes on once a week and then we're going to be doing these guests episodes, the second part of the week, and that way we can get you guys more amazing content, and help you move forward on your filmmaking or screenwriting journey. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this amazing episode with my buddy Scott McMahon.

Scott Mcmahon 2:43
Today's episode is a rebroadcast of a past episode in which I interview the creator of paranormal activity. Oren Peli, Halloween is around the corner. So I thought I polish this interview off and share with you again. But what I love about this interview is how we're able to go step by step of what had to happen in order to make parallel more activity to success, it became, you've probably heard the story how oran made parallel more activity for $15,000 and then sold it to Paramount and how it became a massive hit. What you probably don't know is all the emotions that went into this roller coaster ride and so many things having to line up in order for it to become a global phenomenon. You know, sometimes luck plays a factor. And you're going to hear that in this episode. And I'm titling this episode. Imagine making $193 million off your micro budget film. Just let that sit with you for a moment. Yeah, it's the dream. I'm sure we've all had a dream scenario like that. Now you get to hear the blow by blow steps of what that actually feels like when Oren shares his story with us. Now, I'm not sure if this will ever happen again. But who knows it could happen to you. I mean, you your film could be the next paranormal activity. Anything's possible. So sit back and enjoy this rebroadcast of my interview with Oren Peli here on the film Trooper podcast. Well, it's been a very long time since we you and I bumped into each other. Yeah, quite a bit. Yeah, I think honestly. Gosh, you know, I think it really honestly last time, we kind of just, I mean, we always would see each other at like the events or the parties. But we really only worked together briefly on like one of the basketball games at Sony and you were the owner. I'm gonna say this is really interesting because you were the only person that would help us because I was working in the cinematics department. And we're having problems with the video player, I think for PlayStation two because it was fairly new. You know how Sony would have like their proprietary code on top of whatever code was normal. But they we were having a really difficult time trying to get a movie player to work on PlayStation two, and we were trying to figure out the specs that we had to create the prerender movies for and you were the only person the only programmer that He was so kind enough and willing enough to like work out all the kinks and made the major breakthrough for us. So I just want to say, hey, way back then I just want to say thank you.

Oren Peli 5:14
No problem. But to be honest, I don't even really remember that I'm not even sure when you show it was me and not maybe a mirror. Well, I mean, it could have been, it could have been me, it was we're talking probably like 15 to 20 years ago, right?

Scott Mcmahon 5:27
Is it been that long? To God? I mean, it's, I was I was there in 96 When I started, and so this year, right, we're 15 years, I think, almost.

Oren Peli 5:39
Yeah, I started in 97. And then I started with a NFL extreme with a mirror. So it probably was for one of those in either in 97 or 98. So a long time ago.

Scott Mcmahon 5:51
Oh, my God. I feel old now. Yeah. Well, you know what's interesting? Yeah, because both you and Amir were very kind to spend time helping us out. And that was really cool. And it's interesting that the reason I'm kind of brought this little story up is sort of just to also get reacquainted. But for this particular podcast that I do fulfillments Trooper, which is the whole resources designed to try to help filmmakers become entrepreneurs. In this new day and age, you know, of people just basically living like The Four Hour Workweek type thing. And just try to apply online entrepreneurship, marketing and business and try to give that information over to independent filmmakers. As as everything keeps changing so rapidly. But anyhow, what I like to do is take people through sort of the general hero's journey, and what you just gave, or what we just shared, there was what I call your save the cat moment, you know, little Blake Snyder, screenwriting book. And you know, that concept like your character has to have like a save the cat moment within like the first five minutes or something. So the audience can say, Yes, I like this character, or I can relate to this character. And I will follow this character all the way through the end. Well, that was to me, that's, that's me sharing your save the cat moment, which is just showing that during a time where nobody else was helping us you did, so thank you.

Oren Peli 7:21
No problem.

Scott Mcmahon 7:22
So let me ask you. So another book that I like to pair it up the classic story book or story by Robert McKee. He talks about the inciting incident. And do you remember, like, one movie when you were younger, that made that had an effect on you, that doesn't have to be related to paranormal activity, or a horror film, it could be something completely different. But do you have like a, like a memory like that?

Oren Peli 7:51
I mean, there have been a lot of movies that have had, you know, a tremendous impact on me, specifically related to part of my activity, I would say, as a kid, it was the exorcist that, you know, totally traumatized me. And later on Blair Witch Project, which we can talk about later, when it comes to, you know, the mechanics of low budget, but there'll be a lot of movie events that are, you know, kind of ingrained in my movie memory as a kid, like, you know, going to see Star Wars for the first time. And at Indiana Jones, you know, all those kind of movies that defined the, our childhoods had a tremendous impact. But also, you know, I would like to watch as soon as the video rental became available in Israel, which was more probably in the mid to late 80s, then I just watched massive quantities of movies, then. And I believe that I got something, a little something out of every movie, whether good or bad. So it's kind of like sometimes just being exposed to the sheer volume of, of movies and cinemas and different styles of directing and storytelling, sort of like, you know, gives you a massive amount of knowledge. Or, you know, stuff like second hand experience, sort of, as you're watching a movie and you're trying to figure out, like, why would the director do such and such and such, why would they cut here or there sort of kind of like in programming terms, reverse engineering something, which is how I learned programming by looking at other people code and, and you know, then tweaking it and learning from it. So that was, in a way my approach to filmmaking just watching as many movies as I can. And of course, later when DVDs became available, I would watch you know, the director commentaries and behind the scenes and just try to get into the head of the filmmaker and figure out you know why they did what they did?

Scott Mcmahon 9:43
Yeah, definitely. Hey, so let me ask you, what was it? This is a really weird question. But do you remember the day that you your family got a VCR? And what that was like to be able to rent movies in your own home? Was it an exciting event?

Alex Ferrari 10:00
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Oren Peli 10:10
It was more gradual than that. We got a VCR really early on. And we were one of the first or block we actually, when I was a kid, we won the lottery in Israel, not the big prize of millions of dollars, it was more like, five numbers out of six or something like that. So it was a probably, I'm guessing, in today's dollars, the equivalent of you know, 20, or $30,000, which was not life changing, but very nice. So we splurged on a few things, and one of them was a VCR. But we were ahead of the time back then there were no, you know, video rental places in Israel. So we could use it to record shows of TV. But it wasn't until many years later that slowly, you know, video rental places became available, and it would have very limited selection. And you know, over the years, it kind of grew. So, it wasn't like one day, we have a VCR. And suddenly, we have access to hundreds of movies. It was a multi year process.

Scott Mcmahon 11:06
Interesting. Yeah. I just I'm just fascinated. Because, you know, I grew up in San Diego, actually. So my experience was suburbia, and the first VCR and the camera like the the camera that was a detached from the VCR. And that was like our first gig. And, you know, obviously, the first thing that we did was, you know, my younger brother, my older brother, we would make a film of backing like we're punching each other. That was like our first film. It's a good way to start. Oh, yeah, I got some good little footage of Adam when he's little.

Oren Peli 11:41
Yeah, but in our case, a I mean, I even before VCR, a, you know, before video rental, I would still go to the movies, probably like every Friday, that would be like the thing that you know, me and my friends would do almost every Friday, we would go in, you know, check out the latest film. So even even before a rental, you know, it was still a, you know, a large part of my life.

Scott Mcmahon 12:05
Very cool. Very cool. So yeah, so we have your save the cat moment, we have your inciting incident. Let me ask you. So when you start making normal activity, I know that I'm not going to rehash the of all the details that you've gone over before. Because I'm going to actually point everybody to a lot of these past interviews that we've done, so everybody can get the full story. I am actually interested Did you? Have you always thought that you wanted to become a filmmaker, when you started doing paranormal activity? Or was this something more like, kind of like a shits and giggles, like, you know, I don't know, I kind of just want to make something.

Oren Peli 12:41
It was a little different. It was, as I said, you know, I always loved you know, movies. But growing up in Israel, making film was not something that seemed like, you know, within my grasp, there was no real filmmaking industry in Israel. And so I always imagined to be a filmmaker, you need to go to film school, and then you know, spend many years there and work your way up through the industry. And maybe then one day, you lucky and you'll be able to beg a studio to give you millions of dollars, and you can make a film, or maybe you need to have connections. So I didn't even entertain the thought of becoming involved in filmmaking, I thought I will just be a film fan. And then I got into programming, and it was doing pretty well. So I had a comfortable, you know, living and I wasn't gonna throw it all away to start, you know, being an intern in you know, in a in the film industry. Then I saw the Blair Witch Project, which totally changed my my concept and my thoughts, because, you know, it's like, Well, anyone can just buy a video camera and run around and make a film. And then I started looking into other filmmakers that started the way that were like, you know, Robert Rodriguez, and they're in our no ski and Christopher Nolan. And all of these filmmakers started by making a no budget or you know, like a $10,000 film. In most of these cases, their first film wasn't a huge hit. But it's definitely opened the door for them to get to bigger and bigger films. So after I saw the Blair Witch Project, and I kind of realized there may be another way I can get into the industry through the backdoor. And you know, through a shortcut, I said to myself, well, if I ever have an idea for a film, and I think that I have the ability to make it, you know, sure, why not. So when I made the decision to make paranormal activity, I was thinking, first of all, who knows, maybe it will become the next Blair Witch Project. And if that will be the case that will change my life, I can quit my job that by then I really, really hated. And I figured, you know, at least during the time that I'm working on the movie, I'll have the hope that that will keep me going that maybe something will happen that they'll keep advising me and if have, you know, worst case scenario, the movie turns out horrible, and I never sell it, then you know what, then I made a shitty movie that's still clinical how many people can say to make a city movie. And I figured I'll allocate a budget of $10,000. And, you know, I can live with losing $10,000 for, you know, having a hobby, you know, for a year or two, a lot of people spend much more than that on hobbies that don't have any, you know, prospects of generating any income. So if you get a $10,000 Gamble, it ended up being 15,000. Because, you know, like many movies, it went over budget. But I figured out for $10,000, either, I kept myself busy for a year or two and made a movie, or who knows if if the stars align, and with some luck and timing, and you know, if the movie turns out, right, who knows, maybe, maybe it will be a life changing event. So it was a little bit of both, I kind of had to keep myself balanced and realistic that the odds are against me, but can't lose sight of, you know, the big dream.

Scott Mcmahon 16:05
So you definitely there, you've always had this sort of artistic spirit, then because most artists or filmmakers, or anybody who has a need to express artistically, they're almost like cursed, like, you know what I mean, they're always going to need to do something creative, expressive, no matter what. So you've, I'm assuming that you've always had that itch. So like you like you were calculating it. But you're also saying, You know what, I'm going to have to just do this anyway.

Oren Peli 16:32
That's a part of it. And I think part of it might have been a with where I was career wise, because at the early stages of my career, there's been a lot of room for a, when I'm talking about career, I'm talking about programming, there was a lot of room for creativity, that would be small, efficient teams. And lucky, like we mentioned before, the first projects that I worked on at Sony with a mirror and fell extreme. And then there was another project that ended up not being released. It was just me and Amir, and then later on with Omar, so we were small team, and each one of us had a large self responsibility, but also a large share of creativity. And then in the later years, it's only a, you know, you are one of 20 to 30 programmers, and your responsibility is very limited. And you're basically just like, you know, a code monkey. And there just wasn't any real satisfaction in doing what I was doing. So in that sense, you probably right that making the film's satisfied in need that ahead that could not fulfill in my boring day job.

Scott Mcmahon 17:43
It's interesting that you said that. I mean, our days at Sony, when we first started, it was sort of like a mini startup. We were away from the main headquarters up in Foster City and being in San Diego. And I can attest as well, it was fun. I mean, I was being able to I was just making videos, and then working with the semantic group at that point. But things just got big, like, by time, PlayStation two, halfway through by the sort of the urgency and rush of PlayStation three, kind of imploded the company because it's just got so big and corporate, that did become stifling for sure. Which was interesting. I was over at the cinematic department across the way from you guys in the building across the street. And we had access to like, all this amazing equipment. And all these people that I worked with, were always talking about, like, how are we going to make a movie, we got to make food, we got all this stuff, we can make a movie. I think I was laughing like I have all this access, and I don't have a story to tell. And like, and then I would, I would like write a bunch of scripts, but knowing production wise, I'm like, I just made a fucking 100 million dollar film. Like go. Like, it's it was like this creative block of like, I have not been able to like come up with a story that I could just make like you did what you did a great job of just reverse engineering and saying, You know what, I can make this I can take the 10,000 You know, invested into this project. Because Can I ask you what, like 10,000 In general, what did that cover? Obviously the you paid the actors, which is fantastic.

Oren Peli 19:15
Yeah, that was a didn't really get much that wasn't a significant part of the project of the budget. Most of it was just equipment. The camera was you know, over $2,000 I bought is state of the art editing PC and some software. I think the PC alone was over $3,000 And then all these accessories for the for the camera that was still you know when when high def cameras use tapes. So I bought I don't like 70 tapes or even more and extra batteries and lenses and microphone. So all this stuff ended up and that there was a lot of little miscellaneous stuff like you know, when I did the casting auditions, I had to pay a few 100 I was here and there for the, for the theater that I would rent. So there was a lot of little things here and there that ended up. To be honest, I didn't really keep a very meticulous budget, I didn't really keep track off many of the smaller things. So when I say $10,000, it's an estimate, it will be way more or less, I think my original estimate was about 11,000. And then after we did some more research, it went up to 15,000. So it would be in that area, maybe it's 16, maybe it's 13. I'm not really sure, but it's around there.

Alex Ferrari 20:42
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Scott Mcmahon 20:52
That makes sense, because at the time, I remember like, when all the editing equipment became down, because we were using like Avid, we were using MIDI 100. We were using these, you know, 20 $500,000 machines over at the cinematic department. And then final cut came in. And then Sony Vegas came in after that, which is the software base that just plummet, the cost of DV cameras came out of nowhere. And I remember just freaking out going, I can't believe you can actually buy all this gear for 10 grand, which is pretty much what you bought what you paid for at that particular time. And in the state of things. So you finish, I'm gonna just cross over like really quick gloss over the making up paranormal activity. Like I said, I'll point other people to other links that you interviews that you've done that give a bit more detail. So you finish paranormal activity, like sort of your first cut, who did you show it to who was like the first like friends and family, they got a chance to see it?

Oren Peli 21:49
Well, the first people who saw a really, really rough assembly, which had like missing scenes and visual effects weren't completely done in audio means that just the rough throwing together of sin to just show yeah, we have somewhere in there. We have a movie that was a mirror and my girlfriend at the time, Tony, who were part of the crew. So there were the first people who saw the first cut. And then shortly after a when it was a little bit more polished, but not much. I showed it to my next door neighbor's who, who not the whole family setup, but it was the Father Tom and his son, Brian, and his son was 17 at the time. And he's like, he's a wrestler right now. I mean, this was back then. Now he's a fighter pilots. So not like wimpy guy. And he told me later that he had nightmares for days. So I'm like, maybe maybe I'm onto something.

Scott Mcmahon 22:52
That is so cool. You know what's so cool is the knowing that Amir, they are working with you at Sony was also sort of in on this. And I assume you kind of kept this under wraps, like, because I don't think nobody knew at Sony, this is just something private, right?

Oren Peli 23:06
Yeah, I didn't steal a single person. I mean, my neighbors didn't know, a none of my friends. No one. It's funny that really the only people who knew were the people that were directly involved in the making of the film, I didn't tell a single person, hey, guess what, I'm going to make a film, it's going to be so cool. And all the other people that I knew were my parents. And again, not because I wanted to tell them, I would have kept them in the dark as well. But they came to visit me like a month before a we were shooting. So there was no way for me to hide the fact that you know, the house looks different than we were doing, you know, tests and dealing with all that stuff. So I had no choice and I had to tell them.

Scott Mcmahon 23:46
That's amazing. Love it. So, okay, so we're gonna fast forward. So you finish the film gets polished, it gets finished. And you have a small group of close friends and neighbors and family. You You've seen it and it kind of gives you I'm assuming what was that emotion like just getting like sort of that first pass or going holy? Did you get like a moment of like, holy shit, I just made something.

Oren Peli 24:07
It was more. Again, it was it was more gradual death. Because at every point when I would saw the movie that I started showing it to as it gets more polish to larger groups of people in the beginning, they were just friends. And it also sorry, to Katie and Mica. And all the feedback that I got was pretty positive. I would say probably Katie and Nico were the most critical. They were never happy with their own performances. And it was I would say, you know, do better. And I'm not talking about this is great. So they were like very self critical. And then I would say to friends, and you know, they would say Oh, this is great. This is really scary. And I wouldn't be like, are they really thinking that or they're just being polite, right? So so then I started holding screenings. Through a friend of mine, Alex, and I asked him to invite his friends that don't know me. And we didn't say that I directed the movie, I would I just said, I'm one of the producers. So you know, I don't care if you like it or not to be honest. And I actually give them questionnaires that they can fill anonymously. So there would be groups of, you know, 1015, maybe 20 people who would watch the movie. And first of all, I would watch their honest reactions, when there was like a scary moment. And I would see, you know, like a guy and a girl holding their hands really tight and getting totally into it, and jumping with something scary happens. I know that something is working. If I see people just sitting there kind of bored and disengaged, I know, you know, this part of the movie as a problem. And then I would also listen to the feedback. And when the feedback stayed mostly positive, I kind of slowly after every screening, I started feeling more and more confident. But I would say if you're looking for like one moment where I say to myself, holy shit, this could be the real deal, then that would be at the scream fest screening, when I watched the movie in an audience of, you know, 100 people and hearing them scream, like, you know, and react in a way that Evanson people reacted before. And seeing, you know, the reviews that came out, there were just a few, a few reviews, but they were very encouraging. So from that point on, I'm like, okay, maybe this is the real deal. And maybe I should get serious about, you know, a releasing it, you know, theatrically,

Scott Mcmahon 26:29
Okay, I'm gonna back up just a little bit before we get this screen fast. So your friend, Alex was just like, local San Diego theaters that you were just like, was a theater or just I guess somebody's home? If somebody's home. Okay, so you just did that? And that was really cool. Yeah. How cool was that? For anybody who was part of that just hanging out? They were part of cinematic history saying, you know, I was there at the house when they showed that anyway. So you got some confidence. Just I don't want to skip over how you got the screen fast. Because I understand. From what I gathered, you did your homework, you said I gotta get sales agents, producers reps, and then you start cold mailing to a directory of like, agencies, and sales agents. And or did you? Did you go that route? First, before you did a sort of your own film festival submissions?

Oren Peli 27:19
Yes, because I realized that, you know, I know my strengths and weaknesses. And I knew that I know nothing about the film industry and how it works. So I started just, you know, reading on the, on the internet, how to sell your movie, and you know, just trying to get information. And what people were saying is that, you know, if you're going to try to do it on your own, you're going to make a lot of irreversible mistakes. So you need someone to guide you through the shark infested waters of Hollywood, and you need a lawyer or producers representative or an agency, like, Okay, sounds good. To me. That's exactly what I'm what I'm looking for someone experienced to guide me through this. So I tried contacting a few agencies. And it's basically like, you know, you call them and they're like, you get the main switchboard. And I would be like, Yeah, I'd like to talk to someone at your fuel cell department. They're like, Are you a client? Like, no, we'll refer to your bike lane? No, well, then there's no one for you to talk to thank you. Bye. And then I tried contacting a few. I saw I found some article from Sundance or something about, you know, the top players in the indie film themselves world or something like that. So I just started contacting a few of them. And in a few cases, they were nice enough to return my emails and return my calls and actually said, Yes, we're gonna send your DVD we'll check it out. In most cases, I never heard back from them. In one or two cases, people said, yeah, that's, that's an interesting little movie, but we just think it'd be really hard to sell it, so we're not interested. So that point, I'm like, Okay, well, I gotta figure out a different strategy.

Scott Mcmahon 29:01
How long did this take? Was this over a couple of months? You know this because it's not like no, because, you know, when you started to submit it, you know, this is still your full time job. So I'm assuming that you were just you know, like you said gradually piecemealing this out?

Oren Peli 29:15
Yeah, it was awful process of a few months, but I kind of fairly quickly got the idea that it's not going to be too easy. So I already in parallel, started researching festivals and and started submitting to a few of them. But I figured you know, I'll still prefer to have the because you know, you can submit to festival and if you get accepted, you can still back out of it later on. So I wanted to kind of I didn't want it to just sit around and do nothing while I'm waiting to the potential producers reps to contact me. So at the same time, I was conducting some festivals and doing a lot of research about which of the upcoming festivals could be the best fit and would have the best odds of getting a getting accepted in. And so, so both were doing both things were happening at about the same time.

Scott Mcmahon 30:06
I see. So the story goes that somehow somebody in the CAA mailroom I don't, I forgot his name was eager, ambitious, found your film and brought it to the scream fest, or he was working at the scream fest festival. I don't know all the details of that. But what was like sort of that that first main break after you were submitting everything.

Alex Ferrari 30:31
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Oren Peli 30:41
Yeah, so I submitted the film to many festivals, including the San Diego Film Festival, which I thought you know, that I'm definitely gonna get into that one here. I'm a local San Diego filmmaker, and the movie was shot in San Diego and they want to promote local filmmakers. Nope.

Scott Mcmahon 30:55
Oh my god. Oh my god.

Oren Peli 30:58
Yeah. And basically all the other festivals that I tried, I don't even remember which ones were they may be Mill Valley. And they, you know, not necessarily like the bigger ones. Maybe I tried Toronto and got rejected. But yeah, there was a guy that was working for screamfest. And at the mailroom of CAA, his name is Kirill, baru, weird name, but very cool guy. And he saw the movie at Scream fest when I submitted it. And he brought it to the attention of Rachel Bill offski, the head of screamfest. And at the same time to the attention of agents at CAA. From what I understand no one at CAA actually watched it until after the movie, won an award at scoring fest. But he was sort of like responsible for both, you know, introducing the movie to CAA and to screamfest. So if it weren't for him, you know, who knows where we're I would be.

Scott Mcmahon 31:56
So that was just like completely, because you did submit it to scream fest, and he was just there. So that was almost like, so what kind of call did you get like an email or call or at the scream fest after you want like you won the award? did? Did a chorale come up to?

Oren Peli 32:13
I don't even remember exactly. Maybe Maybe I'm mixing because once the movie was selected into scripts, so then it became a, you know, much more involved with him in as far as how to promote the film. So I spent a lot of time dealing with him. I think I kind of think at that point, he might have not been as involved with scream fest. I think he might have been more involved in the screening process. And then he was more full time at CAA. So I don't remember exactly when it was but at some point, yeah, we met and, and he told me that, you know, he saw the movie and he loved it. And he gave it to CIA into into Rachel. So, but I honestly don't remember exactly when it was.

Scott Mcmahon 32:56
Okay. So this is amazing. So you you're going through your emotions, you're working full time job you're you're doing and I believe that I know what the climate was like at Sony, where you're just like, I gotta get out. But anyway, the so so you're doing this and you're and you're submitting you're getting rejected, you're like this is crazy because it never wavered because you're obviously you're you're still paying the 50 $40 you know submission fees, just hoping that something breaks. You get in at screamfest What was that feeling like when you got was that the first and only exception to a festival that you got into?

Oren Peli 33:35
A Yes, Rufus was the first one. And until we got some heat as result of screamfest after that, when I signed with CAA then later on a I think a few other festivals a accepted as a or maybe I'm wrong, because then we got accepted a couple of months later to Slamdance after it was announced that word slammed and then suddenly I'm flooded with requests from festivals all over the country and all over the world to you know, be part of, to submit to their festival or something that they would even say you don't need to submit your just aim, if you want to. And at that point, I was thinking hey, we're gonna make it sell it. So I'm done. So I don't need any more festivals. But yeah, at this point is screamfest was was the first and only one that showed any interest.

Scott Mcmahon 34:29
That's fascinating. Okay, so what was your emotions? Like when you got a call from ca? And because that's sort of that's a really a big piece of the puzzle here. So what what was going on? Or did you get like, did you have like a little celebration with your girlfriend and friends at the time?

Oren Peli 34:45
Well, this was a weird experience. I remember the exact a well actually, I don't remember the exact date but I think it was like October 22 of 2007 or something like that. And That was the that was the day that's the last real big fires happening in San Diego. So so just to put it in context the night before I come back from LA after the movie won a you know, on an honorary mentioned and Katy one Best Actress and I'm making a lot of contacts and all these distributors are giving me their business cards, and people telling me this is going to be a next blur. Wait, I'm on cloud nine. I'm like, holy crap, this this. This is really happening. The next morning at 6am I get a call from my neighbor. We're getting evacuated their fires get out of here. And I only took one thing with me. I didn't take toothbrush even though everything was already packed because I had you know, my overnight bag for from LA the day before. I only took one thing. My external hard drive just had a backup of all the footage.

Scott Mcmahon 36:02
So that is crazy.

Oren Peli 36:04
So yeah, and then I think you're like, holy shit, I hope the house doesn't burn down. Because then if I want to do research, that's going to be a big problem.

Scott Mcmahon 36:12
Oh, my God, all these things are running through your head. I remember that. Those were gnarly fires. I remember us getting evacuated like four in the morning. We were living over and Black Mountain near a forest ranch. And we had to get down to my brother's house in Encinitas. And then it's the smoke and stuff was just getting intense. So we make calls and actually jetted up to Marina del Rey, where we had friends that we stayed with for two to three days, like two days, I think. And then we'll just yeah, you know, it looked like the entire Southern California, which is burning right to the coast. And we had no, you had no idea for two or three days whether your house was up or not.

Oren Peli 36:52
Yeah, yeah. So So at the same time, I'm beginning to get a flood of emails from different distributors who are telling me hey, please send us a screener. I'm like, wow, an actual real distributor wants to see my movie. And I can't burn the DVD because I'm not by my computer. I mean, I have all the footage for backup, but it's not set up to actually, you know, burn a copy. So I'm not getting really stressed. But anyway, that's day later on, I get a call from Martin Spencer at CAA. So I get a call. Hi, Martin Spencer from CAA would like to talk to you. And at this point, I'm already like, Okay, this is a good news. If he is calling me, it's not telling me, hey, we just wanted to call you to let you know, Your Movie Sucks. So I'm not playing it cool. And if a you know, guy with the, you know, British accent like this, you know, very gentlemanly guy is asking me all the time I saw your movie, and it's awesome. And it scared the shit out of me and telling you how did you do this? And tell him how did you do that? And telling him? What was your budget? And I say it was 15 15,015,000. And he's and he keeps asking me all these questions. And then he goes, there's a long wait, and he's like, Who are you from? And I laughed, and you know, I told him, You know, I'm just a video game programmer. I'm trying to do this on the side. And he's like, Well, why don't you come up to Elaine? And let's meet. So I think that we can. Yeah, I think I couldn't, you couldn't really drive up. I think roads were closed. And I was south of the fires a thing with a mirror. So there wasn't really an easy way to go. No, I'm like, I'm kind of stuck in San Diego until the fires are done. So we went to a I went to see him a over the weekend after the whole fire situation was cleared. And he's like, Yeah, would you like to sign up with AAA? Like, yeah. That is amazing. Which is, by the way, is it? You know, I now have a lot of people asking me question like, you know, how do I find an agent? How do I sign up with an agency and from my experience, usually you don't find them they find you if you just cold call an agency, you're not gonna find anyone to talk to but when you make something a, you know, worthy, they'll they'll find you.

Scott Mcmahon 39:17
Yeah, I mean, obviously. So you're, you know, you're floored if I'm guessing right. So the fires kind of took everything out a commission you drive up now. So what I gather is that the agencies started to submit or represent news so they they were the became your voice piece for all these distribution companies and production companies. That's correct.

Oren Peli 39:42
Yes, no. This is where it gets a little leaner. The whole process of brain activity head looks so many ups and downs. So this is where I'm thinking like, you know, awesome, you know, this is the next logical step on the wave to theatrical distribution. And we're not not getting any offers for theatrical distribution, we're getting a decent offers for direct video and VOD, for amounts that, you know, at the time would have been very nice for me, you know, which would be like, you know, 234 $100,000 nothing to do that.

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Oren Peli 40:27
But at that point, it's already kind of set in my mind that no, you know, this has to be theatrical distribution or nothing. So keep rejecting these offers, and CIA is telling me, Listen, you know, it's great effort, and you know, we're gonna get you nicer directing jobs, and you're going to be, you know, we're going to work on getting you in a great career. This will be your business card that will open doors for you. But this kind of movie doesn't really, you know, doesn't really work. If what you're effectively submission once every 10 or 20 years, there's something like a Blair Witch Project, but you know, the odds are against you. So take one of these direct video deals, and let's move on. And I'm just being stubborn. And it keeps saying, Nope, nope, nope. And, and no, and then we get accepted into Slamdance. So I'm thinking, well, maybe that's the missing piece. Maybe it's Slamdance. The real buyers will be there, the real studios, and we'll make a sale then. So I'm saying definitely no deal. until after we see what happens at Slamdance.

Scott Mcmahon 41:30
Oh, my God. So let me ask you emotionally or just your conviction. What was it that made you feel like, no, no, no. Something about this tells me I can make it happen on a theatrical release. Because like I, like you said, a lot of people in the position will be like, Hey, I can't believe I just made this for me. I'd be like, Oh, you just made this little film and you want to buy it for 240,000? Okay, done, whatever, you know. But something about it. What was it that that held your conviction?

Oren Peli 42:00
I mean, it was many things. It was like, you know, some of the reviews that we got at screamfest. When people when people would say, you know, this is one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. And different reviewers, like Steve Barton, who's a local San Diego guy who runs the red central kept telling me this is going to be the next blur, we'd Mark my words, that image of your bedroom is going to be in this cinematic lexicon of, of history. Like, you know, he's like, this is gonna be theatrical don't but, and and you know, the thing the audience's reaction, it's the scream fest screening. And then when I came back to scream fest a week later for the award ceremony, a lot of people that saw the movie a week earlier, would come up to me and say, you know, I've had nightmares this entire week, no other movie affected me this way. And I'm like, Are they just trying to kiss mess for no reason? Because there was no real reason to kiss my ass. I mean, nobody, or are they being sincere, but you know, you hear it so many times you start believing in it. And ultimately, it was, I would never forgive myself, if I took one of those deals for 300 $400,000 and moved on. And then found out later that some big studio that just never get the opportunity to see the film. Before I made a deal would have said, Hey, we would have loved to distribute this movie and make it the next blur. We'd stupid you already went to the DVD route, now it's too late. And if that happened, I would have never forgiven myself for for not seeing the the through.

Scott Mcmahon 43:36
That is amazing, to have the foresight to and maybe something deep down inside you and to just hold your ground as well as listening to your audience, which is what everybody's, you know, teaching in the any type of business startup space, which is like, you know, really, really listened to your audience. And then and then move accordingly from that. So all the stuff happens. Did you submit to slam dance on your own? Or was that something that was submitted? After you signed CA?

Oren Peli 44:10
I submitted it on my own I submit it to Slamdance and Sundance and then probably few others, right after or maybe even right before a scream fest? I don't remember the exact timeline. But I believe I submitted it on my own.

Scott Mcmahon 44:28
So if I'm, if I'm dealing with the timing, correct is that so it gets accepted to scream Fest in Los Angeles, September, October, and then, you know, slam dance has got to make their decision well before January. So did you get noticed like in November or something?

Oren Peli 44:47
Yes, it was probably around in November.

Scott Mcmahon 44:52
So I'm guessing. Do you think screamfest had something to do with it or was it total coincidence?

Oren Peli 44:59
It's might have, if I remember correctly. A I hope I'm not messing up the timeline. But I think that I submitted to Slamdance. Right after screen fest, and because I kind of remember, that's when that's when I submitted it to them. I included like a printed piece of paper with quotes from some of the reviews. So if that was the case, it probably was after screamfest. And I think that the fact that there was some sort of prior, you know, like when you when you get one of 10,000 submissions, and one of them has already won an award and already has great reviews, maybe there's a higher likelihood that the screen the festival screeners will pay more attention to it. So yes, I think it will probably was right after screamfest.

Scott Mcmahon 45:55
It's kind of funny, because you're at this point, yeah. Like an agent, like, like the top agency, and you're still doing all this stuff yourself. And you get in, and they're like, Oh, hey, good job.

Oren Peli 46:06
I mean, at the end of the day, you have to do that. I mean, you can't count on anyone else. No, no one's gonna care about you. Like, like you. I mean, a week before that was actually before FCA. But, you know, to promote the movie for screamfest, I actually cut a 32nd trailer and ran it on TV, you know, on the time warner cable stations in LA, you know, come see the movie, and you know, put a little trailer with the date. So just for that one screening, because I wanted to make sure that people hear about it, and that the theater is going to be full. And I stood on your street corners in a layer with drive up to LA with flyers that I designed and printed, and with the right of the people in the street? Do you like horror movies, come check out this movie, and we'll give them a little, you know, postcards, with the date, and you know, a little screenshot from the movie. So at the end of the day, I mean, you can't, you know, you need to delegate as much as you can. But, you know, you need to do some of the work yourself, because some things will not get done unless you do that.

Scott Mcmahon 47:13
Now you do you have any help? Or were you running solo when you were driving up? Prior to scream fest happening? I was doing this on my own, okay. And by the way, genius idea, buying local ads, because they're not that expensive. I think at the time.

Oren Peli 47:30
It costs me I think about 1000 or $1,500, to run like 60 spots,

Scott Mcmahon 47:37
You know, amazing, just amazing. And, well, ERD. So you get all this stuff. Cohen, and you had your meeting. Now, I'm guessing you're still working full time, where you just like taking personal days, as you're driving up from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Oren Peli 47:55
Yes, as I'm sure you know, we used to get like a lot of time off, you'll never had a chance to use any of it. Taking a few days here and there was no big deal. And it didn't really take a lot of time off for vacations. So a you know, I was still probably maxed out on my my PTO times.

Scott Mcmahon 48:12
Right. Right. God, I remember that. So okay, so this is all happening. So you get into slam dance. What was your strategy plan? Or did you have a team at this particular time that scene ca help you develop a team of some sort, to like, what was the marketing strategy, the promotional strategy to take full advantage of the slam dance opportunity.

Oren Peli 48:34
So by then there was a guy specifically I had, you know, my agent that was kind of like my agent for my career for me personally. And there was another agent that was kind of the sales agent for the movie. So it was his responsibility to sell the try to sell the film. At that point, I also hooked up with two producers that had access to the kind of the higher level people then the VP of acquisitions, that could get directly to the, you know, presidents of studios and, and, you know, directly get the DVDs to the hands of Harvey Weinstein, and those kinds of people

Scott Mcmahon 49:13
Was just Jason and Steven.

Oren Peli 49:17
So, at that point, I was confident that you know, what, at least one person I don't need a bidding war, just need one person to see the movie and recognize the potential and, you know, like, you always hear the stories about people who go to Sundance and sell the movie for a million bucks, and the movie gets out there and becomes the hate. So that's what, you know, I was convinced was going to happen.

Scott Mcmahon 49:40
Wow, that's amazing. Now, the producers that you had, was this at this particular time was this Jason Blum and Steven blank in his last name?

Oren Peli 49:51
Yeah, yeah. Those were the guys.

Scott Mcmahon 49:54
So they had come in at pretty much the same time ca came in, is that correct around the same time

Oren Peli 49:59
No a little bit later, my agent would send the DVD because they didn't really believe at the time that it's worth spending too much effort trying to get set equal distribution for it. They said, hey, you know, we tried, we got rejected by the studio. So let's get one of those VOD deals or DVD deals, and try to get you your next gig. So they sent out the DVD of paranormal activity as a, as a directing sample to producer to say, Hey, there's this new kid in town, check out his movie. And if you have another project that you think he might be a good candidate to direct them, you know, keeping me in mind. So when we get to Steven and Jason, they, they love the movie, they saw the potential. And then I met them and decided they wanted to come on board to help sell the film.

Alex Ferrari 50:50
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Scott Mcmahon 51:00
So we're the only ones who contacted you. Yep. Now at what point was it? Was it like, immediately you're like, I get you guys or they get you? Because I've heard the story about how Jason when he was working, I think artisan at the time or something, he he missed the opportunity to be part of Blair Witch and he never wanted to miss that opportunity again, or that's the sort of the legend that's out there.

Oren Peli 51:25
Yeah, he was working for for a for Harvey Weinstein at the time.

Scott Mcmahon 51:29
Okay, so he's now he's on his own. And he's working with Steven. He's got those old connections. They come on board, Jason sees what you have. And you guys are lining up, because they're like, you both see the potential of this being the next player which and so now you're at slam dance, and he's able to, you know, reach out to his his connections and like you said, get above the VP of acquisitions, and go from there. So did they help develop a strategy of how you're going to tackle slam dance?

Oren Peli 52:00
Well, the first strategy was that we're going to read, we're going to tweak the movie a little bit, get it a little leaner, cut No, seven, eight minutes from it. And then we can reintroduce it even before Slamdance. Until, you know, tell all the studios in town. We have a new version, we know that you saw performativity. Now we have a new, better, leaner, scarier version of paranormal activity. Come check it out. So around Christmas, I think it was a CAA organised a couple of screenings. And we invited a lot of the upper level maybe not necessarily studio heads, some of them, but the upper level executives to watch the new version of the film. And some didn't show up some digital app, but there were no sales. So we're like, Okay, well, that was a good try. Let's let's you know, wait for Slamdance and then we'll really go for the for the top dogs. Each video.

Scott Mcmahon 52:59
I see. So then, so was the Paramount deal DreamWorks deal like almost after slam dance after the response and stuff.

Oren Peli 53:11
It was a on the table before this is kind of like how it played out. The very first time that Jason saw the film after Steven site first until Jason, you got to check it out. So Jason organized a little movie nights at his place, and invited a friend of his Ashley Brooks, who was then working at DreamWorks. Just because he loves horror movies. DreamWorks doesn't really do acquisitions, they only develop their own original material. So there wasn't any. And he hasn't even seen the movie himself. So it wasn't trying to sell or anything. But it was just like, hey, come check out this weird little horror film because you like horror movies. So she saw the movie and she becomes obsessed with it. And she gave a copy to her boss, Adam Goodman, who was the president of productions at DreamWorks. And she kept bugging him, you got to see it, you got to see it. And I think it took a while before he eventually saw it probably few weeks. But then when he saw it, he loved it. And then they were like, okay, so what do we do with it, we're not going to fight and release it. And you know, we don't do acquisitions in general, we definitely not going to release this crappy little, you know, weird looking home video thing. So they came up with a proposal of a doing a remake with real quote unquote actors, and with their real budget, and they're gonna let me direct it. And I said, I'm not interested. You know, I love this version of the movie. I don't want to do a new version. I don't need a bigger budget. I didn't feel I was constrained by the budget for the film. And I definitely don't want recognizable actors because it will take away from the whole authenticity of different footage premise. So in this version of the film works for whatever reason You know, it kind of hit that magic formula. And if you do a remake, you don't know if it's gonna work or not. So I'm like, No, this is this is it, this is the movie if you like it, let's, let's talk about releasing it, but I don't want to do a new version. So they kind of kept becoming more and more interested in the film in the remake idea. And as we went to Slamdance, and got rejected, for the third time, by every studio in town, really, the only options we had was either taking one of those direct to DVD options, or going with DreamWorks and doing the remake thing.

Scott Mcmahon 55:35
Interesting. So let me ask you, so you're there. You're, you're holding strong in your line and your conviction was Jason and Stephen, behind you on your decision of like, a your vision of making sure that like, let's do this, or was everybody looking at you? Like, are you crazy? Like, you're this is your first film, you're up here, people are giving you these, this is an offer, this is an opportunity, that type of thing, or how, how alone were you? Or how supportive were you on this decision of like, let's just hold our let's hold hold our ground and try to get that theatrical release as is.

Oren Peli 56:10
Well, I think in Slamdance, everyone was kind of hopeful that something will happen maybe me more than everyone else. But I think we were all kind of hoping that you know, we will be able to make a sale. And I think the rest of my team was less dismissive of the DreamWorks offered, and I was I just wouldn't even entertain the thought of doing a remake. And everyone else was like, Well, it's, you know, directing movie for Steven Spielberg is not the worst thing in the world. You know, some people were to look down for that kind of an opportunity. But I'm like, not not doing a remake. So I wasn't, I wasn't even entertaining, entertaining the idea. I was just like, rejecting it without even thinking about it. So we all said, Okay, let's let's wait until Slamdance. And then we'll regroup. And so you know, what's the next move? And I'm like, cool, because, you know, I was certain we're gonna sell it. It's London. So I didn't think the dream works same offer will even become irrelevant.

Scott Mcmahon 57:14
That's amazing. So then you have your you regroup after slam dance, at what point did like Paramount come in? Or because I know that DreamWorks and Paramount, like you said, they were paramount was handling distribution for DreamWorks. But then the economy was really at this point. This is 22,008. Right? So that's when it started to implode, just you know, worldwide the economy. At what point did they get involved, right, like right after Sam dance?

Oren Peli 57:44
Well, basically on my airport ride from this after I flew back from Salt Lake City, to San Diego with no sail on the right from from the airport to my house, I had one of those reality check phone calls with my entire team, my attorney, my agents, my producers, and they're like, look, we tried three times to sell the movie, three times everyone in town passed on it. The only real option that we have is DreamWorks. And we know that you don't like the idea of remake, but it's really the best deal that we have. And ultimately, there were a couple of things that convinced me to consider a DreamWorks deal. One is that we really didn't have any, any other rare opportunity. And the one other reason, by the way that I didn't want to consider the DreamWorks deal at all, is I didn't want to replace the actress because Katie and mica did a fantastic job there. They're the reason that the movie worked. And I thought it would be extraordinarily unfair for them to just get dismissed and replaced by you know, other actors. And and it would be really unfair if people didn't get to see you know, what a great job they did. So the deal with DreamWorks was that on the if the movie gets done and gets made, and then is released on a DVD, part of the DVD release will include the original version with Katie and Mica. So I thought you know if Karen mica are okay with that, I'll consider that. And the other thing was that before we move forward on the remake, we can make the deal but before we actually get started with pre production, and we had we make it a screening for DreamWorks, and all day, you know, top executives of Dreamworks, everyone, basically, except for for Steven Spielberg, will have to be there. And we saw that, you know, maybe if the cause, you know, the executives are doing worse. They've seen the movie, you know, on a DVD player in their office or at home, and we wanted them to see it within audience. So I Even though I made the deal for the remake, I still haven't given up on the option. I haven't even really attended any meetings to talk with potential writers or anything like that I'm still I'm still on the track of the fiasco, which is probably still going to happen, because they're going to watch the movie, how it plays with a real audience, and then they're going to change their mind.

Scott Mcmahon 1:00:21
So who who got that going? Like said, Okay, let's, we got some time here. Let's let's set up a screening for the executives, I'm assuming was in Los Angeles, and how did you round up the kids or the midnight, you know, college kids or something like that to be part of that audience.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:39
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Oren Peli 1:00:50
It was part of the deal. So there was a lot of time we weren't going to start shooting right away. So you start developing the movie and interview writers. So the deal was that before we find a writer, we have to do a test screening. So I think it was in, let's say, Slamdance. Was it the middle of January? I think the test screen was in March, probably the March or April or so a couple months later. And it was just a regular test screening, I think NRG, you know, did their standard recruitment. And you know, when people stand up sort of theatres and say, Hey, would you like to come to a free movie screening? So it was exactly one of those and I think it was in either Pasadena or Glendale? And then yes, and that's when when he called saying,

Scott Mcmahon 1:01:38
Okay, so and then they saw the reaction, because it's the proofs in the pudding. There it is the audience reacting. So this is March and stuff, and like, so I'm assuming, again, you are bouncing from San Diego to Los Angeles all the time. And I'm assuming that sometimes this was like, last moment, like last minute. So you would have to arrange not being at work once in a while?

Oren Peli 1:02:01
Usually is not a problem. The really tricky one was Slamdance. Because that's in January. And that's when, you know, we're in crunch mode for the MLB game, right? So I was current on my task I wasn't behind. And I told by my superiors there that I need some time off. And they were like, Oh, is it like a medical emergency that family emergency? I'm like, no, they're like, Well, is it? Well, when what is it I'm like, none of your business is because I didn't want to lie to them and invent some sort of, you know, family medical emergency, but I didn't want to tell them. And I told them, Look, I know what I need to do. And I know that I can get it done in them ahead of schedule. And I'm only going to take a few days off. So don't give me a hard time. And they were really, really pissed by the day ended up giving me you know, a few days off. But yeah, there was a time it wasn't a problem to take, you know, a few days here and there.

Scott Mcmahon 1:02:55
It's interesting. Yeah, I remember hearing this. Back then I now you know, Amir, is there still right? So he, he's the only one knows. Me, right? That's awesome. Okay, so you're bouncing back and forth. You're, you're managing your full time job. The pressures of game development, definitely, when we talk about crunch time, which is almost like, like, you know, 17 hour locked down until like, the game gets pushed out. Which is insane about the video game industry in the video, visual effects industry or anything. So now you're up there. And it's going going well. So I'm going to kind of fast for a little bit to what point does the strategy of like Les released this at a few cities in the midnight screening to to generate the buzz like, Were you involved with those meetings? Or how did the marketing department come into all that stuff?

Oren Peli 1:03:50
So we skipped I didn't finish answering the previous question. How am I becoming involved? So we make a deal with DreamWorks to release the movie in the fall of 2008. And we have a deal like, holy shit, this is it. We made it I have a studio releasing my movie. And that's when DreamWorks and parrots started having problems at a much much higher level. I know some personality conflicts between Sumner Redstone. And Jeffrey Katzenberg, I don't even know what it was. But whatever it was, they said, You know what, we're not only we're going to we're going to be working together. We are no longer going to be distributing your movies. And then some people are selling the executives at DreamWorks left to work at Paramount, including Adam Goodman in Estabrooks, who were kind of like the champions for the movie. And there was sort of like a custody split a DreamWorks and Paramount I'm imagining them sitting all in one big conference room with a list of you know, all the movies that they have in development and think okay, you We'll take this you can have this one, we'll take this one, you can have this one. And they kind of divided the loot of, you know which projects they had about to be released during development and add them in athlete to paranormal activity with them to Paramount. So now we're basically starting from square one because it's paramount. No one gives a crap about my, you know, little home video looking film. They're dealing with Mission Impossible and transformers and Star Trek, you know, who is stuff from my movie? So it was probably about a year of nothing happening. I think, a year. Yeah. Yeah, it was from the summer of 2008 until the summer of 2009, where I'm just sitting and wondering what's going to happen. And I kept bugging my Ethernet ca and they were like, well, there's going to be a meeting at Paramount in two weeks when they're going to talk about the movie, like okay, okay, good. Excellent. Two weeks, I can wait two weeks, two weeks go by, I checked with my agent. Well, well, what happened at the meeting, the meeting was cancelled, but they're gonna have it in two weeks. Okay, I can wait two more weeks, two more weeks go by, well, the meeting happened and they talked about it, and they haven't reached the conclusion. They're going to talk about it again in a month, and just month after month. And you know, I'm just going insane. There was a lot of heat on the movie. But now we're kind of stuck at Parramatta can stick it anywhere else. So I'm just sitting there and the movies is, you know, held in limbo. And, you know, there's like this sense of helplessness, there's nothing I can do. Just sit and wait.

Scott Mcmahon 1:06:32
Yeah, I was curious, if you are from a high, like, this is like, march 2008, or something, you're with DreamWorks, you're gonna get the distribution deal. I'm sure you're celebrating with friends and family. Just something like, you know, almost like an out of body experience. I can't believe this actually happening. And then, like you said, a year, almost a year later, I mean, watching this thing sort of slowly erode when you hear about the split. And so at what point I mean, you're still working at Sony then right? And you're still just, you know, doing this. You know, I don't know where your headspace is your emotional space? How did you manage all that stuff within the year of limbo like that?

Oren Peli 1:07:17
I mean, it sucked. It's like, a big time because they, you know, it sounds like, you know, something was dangled right in front of me. And now it's kind of yanked away. And I couldn't lose faith that we've done this far and got this close, and it's not going to happen. So I knew it was going to happen one way or another. But it was it was pretty maddening to have to, you know, wait for it. And, and, you know, that definitely, you know, still working at Sony at the time was becoming less and less exciting.

Scott Mcmahon 1:07:48
Yeah, I can imagine, I'm sure your heart, you're, you're mentally, you've already almost sort of checked out. Because I give something as dangled in front of you. I mean, this is like, this is the dream. This is like the ultimate dream of any filmmaker, like what what happened to you. And what you what's transpired is, is what everybody young, young and old filmmaker dreams of, and to hear this, you know, more detailed and emotional ride of this journey is just revealing to say, okay, so you have this month, I'm sorry, this year. So what point did it when did the light happen? When did something just break where you were able to, you know, finally, know that, you know, maybe you got the check in the mail or something that happened?

Oren Peli 1:08:34
Well, there were several stages. The first one was a on my birthday in 2009. And I keep joking with my agent, and my, my producer was like, Okay, today's my birthday, this will be good time for some good news. And it was a Friday, and nothing happens. And at the very end of the day, it's like 630 or seven. I get forwarded an email from an article on deadline, be the subject, happy birthday. And the article is that a couple of the higher ups at Paramount, just got fired. And Adam Goodman just got promoted from President of production to President Of paramount.

Scott Mcmahon 1:09:14
Oh my God.

Oren Peli 1:09:17
And the next day, the next morning on Saturday, my agent forwarded me an email that he got from Adam Goodman, and the email says, towards paranormal activity. I'm like, Okay, this is all good. No, no things can you know, pick up again,

Scott Mcmahon 1:09:34
I have I'm living through this with you right now. I mean, I can I'm just hearing your stories but I can imagine like your birthday and hearing that Anyway, keep going. This is fat fabulous.

Oren Peli 1:09:43
So after this thing has happened really quickly, the next week, we set up a test screening for the you know, everyone is paramount, their marketing department, the vice chairman, and again, that is that, you know, once everyone sees how the movie plays with an audience, they'll get I'm bored. And so a week or two later, we had the test screening. It went great. You know, and then Paramount is like, okay, awesome, we'll release it, we're not gonna put any money behind it.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:15
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Oren Peli 1:10:24
So basically, you have to figure out what to release it for free. The good news was that the Paramount didn't have any movie coming out that fall at all, I don't remember what it was, but from June, until like November, or something like that, they didn't have a single film or their sleep. So the entire marketing department could focus just on paranormal activity, and how to come up with a cheap and smart and creative ideas to get publicity for the film. Without actually spending any money. I think the original PNA budget was about 700k. So which is like nothing for a release of film, usually, it's you know, more like 20 or 30 million. So that's how they come up with the ideas of, you know, the demand dates, and the limited the midnight screenings and all that kind of stuff where they could get a lot of free publicity, and a lot of mileage out of, you know, very little cash. And it wasn't until after the film started by becoming successful into the screenings that they agreed, okay, now we can pour a, you know, real resources into the marketing.

Scott Mcmahon 1:11:40
This is this is fat fascinating, because this is talking like you said, it's like going to stars and lining up. But like, what were those sorts of meetings like when now you have almost like all apparent mounts, marketing, brain power, but no money power behind it. So you just have this brain power, creative power to go, Okay, let's do in the same spirit of paranormal activity, the movie, which is that's made for you know, nothing using the resources in front of you. Now, the marketing has to be done the same way. How involved or how creative does like your producing partners, Jason Blum and, and forgive me again, Stevens last name. How do you a Schneider Schneider? Thank you. I wrote it. I scribbled it here and I, I can't even read my own handwriting. So How involved was that group with sort of, like the marketing's decisions or in contributions and things like that?

Oren Peli 1:12:35
I mean, I wish I could take more credit for a, you know, the marketing, but I would say that that was all a paramount, specifically the Paramount interactive marketing, headed by Amy Powell at a time, and a lot of other great people there. But it was really them. I mean, they kept us involved in what's going on, but the mandate and the Bennett screenings and all that kind of stuff that came from them. And you know, we might have had some ideas here and there to add, but it was really all them so I can't take any credit for it. But everything that they presented, we loved we thought it made perfect sense to not make it feel it, we felt like this approach could actually work to our advantage. It's a very similar approach to what exactly worked for Blair Witch Project starts small. And at that point, I had confidence that the word of mouth will, you know, help get the movie, a lot of awareness and recognition. And to kind of keep a sense of, you know, the fans are discovering this film, it's not pushed on them by a big studio. It's just being discovered a, you know, by the ground roots level. So we when Tamar told us, you know, this is what we're planning on doing. We're like, we love it. That's genius. You know, keep going.

Scott Mcmahon 1:13:53
Amazing. So what what are you doing during this time? I mean, you know, you're not like living paranormal activity. 24/7 obviously, you have a job. Were Were you already at what point did they have you start working on other projects or or you know, creatively what, what are you doing spending your time or you know, on in the year that this was on this roller coaster?

Oren Peli 1:14:15
Well, during that time, it was a until a until right about the time that we did a test screening, I was still working at Sony. And then I actually ended up getting fired right before the test screening.

Scott Mcmahon 1:14:30
I didn't want to go there. If I wanted to get there eventually when I heard the story was like, okay, so yeah, Oren just kept taking personal days, left and right, left to right. And he wouldn't tell anybody what was going but just kept, you know, just not being there. And they were during crunch crunch time. And then and then somehow they found out exactly what he was doing. Like he had this movie and he was doing all these festivals or screenings, and then they fired them. And then like the next day, Paranormal Activity blows up and your Hollywood lead gin. And so hearing that story from like, my brother and some other people, I was just like, amazing. I was just like, just because I was like Leko from Sony fired in the beginning of oh seven when, like everybody was getting fired. So anyway, I vicariously live through you going, thank you thank you for doing being able to succeed in that way.

Oren Peli 1:15:27
It wasn't as a is this as you described it, they found out about the movie in soon, I'm sorry, in January, and I wasn't fired until June, to fire someone, you have to go through the process. First of all, they wanted me to finish, you know, at the release of MLB. So they weren't going to, you know, even mentioned the possibility of firing me when they still needed me. But after we released the movie, then they put me on the peak performance improvement plan, which is their way of getting you fired. So I knew I was, I knew I was on the way out anyways, they gave me a six tasks to do in two months, and five of them were reasonable. And I guess most of them run right away. The other one was totally unreasonable. And there was a one program or the spent several months trying to implement that. And it failed. And there were there was a team, that technology group, several people there tried to implement it over a course of a few months, and they couldn't do it. So they will try to get me to do it and tell them this is unreasonable. It can't be done. No one's been able to do it. And by the way, now, with the benefit of hindsight, even five years after I've been no six years, however long it's been since I've been fired, and no one has still implemented it. So it's obviously they just set me up to fail. So during the time, I took some time off, I still had probably 40 or 45, vacation days accumulated. So it's not like I didn't have time off. But then they started playing games with me and didn't want to give me time off. I'm like, Well, I'm gonna take it off anyways. And then they fired me.

Scott Mcmahon 1:17:06
Oh, my gosh, so did was Did you get a deal already in place from your team? Like, I mean, did you have already there give like some cash in the bank? Or did you not see anything from paranormal activity until it was released or something? I don't want to get in details, but I'm just curious for just kind of living again, vicariously saying, like, I've got this whole time job, I gotta keep going until I know that steel was set in place.

Oren Peli 1:17:28
Or I didn't get anything from Paramount until after the movie was released theatrically and blew up. But I don't remember the exact timeline. I don't remember if it was while I was still at Sony. I'm pretty sure it wasn't, I'm sure it was after it was already done with Sony. But money started trickling in from the foreign sales deals that we did. So there was a little bit coming in, before the movie was released theatrically in the US.

Scott Mcmahon 1:17:57
Okay, so how was it emotionally being fired? Was like, almost like a relief? Like, like, Okay, I'm free. So you can focus on the movie? Or was it still stressful?

Oren Peli 1:18:10
There wasn't much to focus on at this point, it was out of my hands. And, you know, it was all up to Paramount. So there wasn't much for me to do. But to some points was the sense of relief. I mean, I knew I knew they were firing me one way or another. So it was like, okay, you know, I knew it was coming, you know, so I just hit the, you know, figured I'll have a long vacation until the movie gets out.

Scott Mcmahon 1:18:34
So again, like, during this time, where there's this discussions about other projects, they wanted to work on like, the JSON and Steven wanted you to work on or was it just all 100% Paranormal Activity?

Oren Peli 1:18:47
Well, let's, let's put for this particular interview. Let's limit the discussion on two prominent paranormal activity.

Scott Mcmahon 1:18:54
Oh, yeah. Sorry, I, I didn't mean to get you into any other projects. Not nothing specific. Because I know that your policy about talking about stuff that you're working on, you don't get into. And I didn't mean to get into that. I was just mostly I was supposed to be keenly aware like that there was projects like that there was other stuff you didn't you don't have to tell me specifically. I was just curious, like, you know, how you deal with your time off between these, you know, waiting for that big release?

Oren Peli 1:19:18
Yeah, there was definitely discussions and you know, my agent would send me scripts every once in a while to read. So yeah, I would try to find ways to keep myself occupied.

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:30
Okay. Okay. Cool. That's all I needed to know. Sorry, buddy. No problem. So yeah, so then parallel activity happens. I mean, it wasn't too much longer after being let go at Sony that thing blows up. Right. I remember kind of trying to see the timeframe here.

Oren Peli 1:19:47
Yes, it could. The first screenings started in mid to late September and it kind of blew up in October from what I remember.

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:58
Yeah. Casas October. row nine or 10.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:03
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:20:12
Oh nine. Okay, well, nine. So there it is Christmas. So Halloween time fall. And then you're still in San Diego, you're standing to base your experience living in San Diego and always driving to La Did you always feel like you can decompress from the LA bubble? Because you know, LA is like this weird vortex of like, like hype on a machine, like on the highest level. And then you know, getting out of the city kind of mentally you're able to get a perspective. I don't know, if you had that same experience or feeling

Oren Peli 1:20:46
I know exactly what you're talking about. I feel that way. No, now I spend most of my time in LA. And when I go down to San Diego, part of is to kind of mentally check out and relax because San Diego is even though it's only you know, 100 miles away, it could be you know, a world away from from Hollywood, it's a very different atmosphere, it's very mellow, very chill, you know, very cool vibe to it, as opposed to kind of the craziness of the League, which is both good and bad. At the time, though, I'm feeling like Okay, so now I'm pretty much transitioning from my old life in San Diego, and I needed to be in LA more to, you know, be involved with, even though, you know, it was out of my hands, and Paramount was a in charge of things, there would still be occasional reasons for me to come up too late for meetings, that kind of stuff. So it felt a little, like a little bit of a handicap that every time I have to drive up and drive down and figure out where to stay. And, you know, a lot of them I would stay at Jason's a guesthouse with, you know, saved money on hotel bills, but it was still a hassle. I didn't have like my own place. So after a while, I ended up renting a place in Italy, so I can just be there. And because otherwise, I always felt like I'm out of the loop, you know, being in San Diego.

Scott Mcmahon 1:22:05
Interesting. So I'm gonna kind of fast forward so you see the stuff developing and, you know, it's becoming a hit. And it's you're getting press, I'm assuming you're gonna you're getting calls and doing the interviews and all this stuff starts happening? Do you even have time to catch your breath of like, when it's when it's all just like, all this heat comes on you?

Oren Peli 1:22:29
Not much, it was a pretty crazy period of time. And you know, I'm doing publicity when the movie gets released. And I'm getting flown around the world, which is both, you know, exhausting and in fun. So it was definitely a crazy insane the period of my life

Scott Mcmahon 1:22:47
in how long did it last like, so we're talking about like, October to,

Oren Peli 1:22:53
Probably like in January.

Scott Mcmahon 1:22:55
So we were talking about so you've had this dis your world when your life just got flipped, flipped around with the success and seeing it for real that the movies out in the theaters, and you're being whipped around to city and interviews and, and all this type of stuff? What was the support system, like with your friends and family? Just you know, was? Was there like a moment of like, just a private like, oh, my gosh, you know, this is it, this is happening, it's happening. And then all of a sudden, then this is work?

Oren Peli 1:23:27
No, it was all good. I mean, everyone was, you know, stoked for me. And you know, my parents are proud of me. And you know, it's all good. And I'm financially secured. So I don't have to worry about working at Sony or anywhere else ever again. So I'm like, This is good. Awesome. I made it, you know, I won the lottery,

Scott Mcmahon 1:23:47
You did a for the second time you got your VCR. And the second time, let me ask you, at what point, I don't want the details, but just sort of the emotional ride when you I don't know, maybe like a large sum of payout was given to you where you realize, oh, my gosh, like you said that you now you're at this place where I don't have to worry about working at Sony and doing crunch time anymore. I am a Hollywood director and I have this chunk of change that my life has changed. Like, was there like a moment like that or a private moment? Or did it happen gradually?

Oren Peli 1:24:22
Again, I mean, it's gradually because I knew how much I was going to make based on the performance of the movie in the box office. So every week that it does better and better. I'm thinking you know, in my head, you know, touching and then you know, later we actually get the check so I knew how much money was was gonna be due. And but yeah, I mean, it was definitely nice to actually have it in my hand and in my bank account, but I knew throughout the process that you know, I knew exactly what I was gonna get.

Scott Mcmahon 1:24:56
Amazing. And now that this is Raiders. So now you had this moment and it's here and you are part you, you're part of Hollywood history. I mean, this is historic, and everything now for the last seven years, so we'll we'll reference back to, you know, Blair Witch paranormal activity. And with the franchise, and I don't necessarily, you know, we have to get into all that stuff, I just have to wrap it up here. Because you've, you've taken us to this journey, which is something that I know myself and my audience would love to hear. And I thank you so much for sharing that with us. So just kind of wrap it up of like, this is your hero's journey, you know, you went from a kid from Israel, and then all the way, you know, worked your way through in the video game world and America and then became a film director and the legendary one in that respect, and a successful one. But even with all that set, that kind of stuff. Now, what is sort of like, the one important thing that you realize just about life, like no matter, like all this kind of stuff, like is there like an advice I can give somebody, no matter where they are in their in their life of just, you know, if you were like some kid walking by like to give them this one bit of bit of advice.

Oren Peli 1:26:19
I mean, I took a very specific route that that worked for me, it may not work for everyone else. And there are definitely many other ways of doing well in the industry. So I'm not saying that, you know, my advice is good for everyone. But I've always been kind of a do it yourself, kind of guy, I never really liked schools, I don't think going to school is a plus, for me, it's not an efficient way of learning things. I learn things much better on my own, or with friends, at my own pace. And I believe in doing things yourself, I don't know if you know, the story of the first entrepreneurial thing that I've done, which was when I was 16, I quit high school and wrote a paint program for the Commodore Amiga, and then got it sold in the US and made a pretty nice money for, you know, a 16 year old musical. So I kind of already had that. A confidence when I depend on my activity this year, it can be done because when I told you know, everyone in in Israel when I was 16, I'm quitting High School, because I'm gonna write this piece of software. Everyone was telling me that I'm crazy. And who are you this 16 year old kid gonna sit in your bedroom apartment, a new apartment, bedroom, and write, you know, software to compete with the big help with the big companies in the US? And I'm like, yeah, why not. And everyone's kept telling me that I'm crazy. And I'm wasting my time. And I'm throwing my life away, which is one of the reasons that it's when I did paranormal activity, I didn't tell anyone that I was doing it, because I didn't need to hear anyone, everyone telling me that I'm crazy. And for you to, you know, film the movie, you've never filmed anything before. So what makes you think you'll be able to compete with the studios. So I'll say that it's better to just not tell anyone. But that has kind of worked for me the idea of, you know, you have an idea in your head, you figure out how to do it, what you don't know how to do you either learn or delegates to someone who does. There was, you know, I try to do almost everything in paranormal activity on my own with the Emir and my girlfriends. But as an example, one thing that I couldn't figure out how to do was makeup, I tried to do it on my own, because I wanted to do everything on my own. So I went online and bought all these makeup kits, and I tried to apply it on myself, and I just couldn't get it done. So I'm like, You know what, I'm gonna have to, you know, get a makeup artist. So I found the makeup artist and hired her for a day and she did a great job. So the point is you need to do you need to know what you can do and what you can't do, and kind of recognize your own weakness and strength. But at the end of the day, you need to really be stubborn and really have perseverance. And then it also takes a lot of luck and timing if it weren't for, you know, all the different things that happen the right way with Curiel baru, watching the movie at Scream Fest and giving it to CAA and Ashley Brooks being there, you know, during the screening at Jason's house, and all the different, you know, things that had to happen at the right moment in time, doesn't matter how great the movie would have been. It still wouldn't have happened. And sometimes even if all the things are, you know, fully in the right place, there might be another reason that, you know, things can get ahead. So, there's never any guarantee and you know, the best thing you can do is just keep trying and you know, be really diligent about the way you do things. Make sure you're doing things as best as you can. And hope for the best but there is no real you know, formula. I can only say you know this one a I got lucky with

Scott Mcmahon 1:30:04
Yeah, it's but still well deserved, I had no idea that you were actually, it mentioned in your bio that you worked on, like the Amiga paint program. And I think actually, my dad and I actually worked on that program years ago. But but I had no idea that that's the entrepreneurial spirit you've had since 16. That's, that's fascinating, that actually shows quite a bit of character and makeup of why, you know, paranormal activity is such a success. And it is a really fun, fun film. So congratulations on that. And thank you for the job, job well done.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:39
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:30:50
I'm gonna wrap it up, just because I've taken up way too much of your time, and I just can't thank you enough. There's so many other questions. I know. Like, you know, I didn't really get into like, just what that meeting was like with Spielberg. And, you know, when you first finally met him, you know, in person, and whether or not he you, and he discussed about anything about your, your experience living in Israel or not just because I know how involved he is with his Jewish faith and so on and in the plant of Israel. So I was curious about that kind of stuff, too. And then I know that I have fans that would want to know, just like, kind of what your thoughts are about the future of the industry, especially with Spielberg and Lucas coming out talking a couple months ago about the implosion of the industry. But it sounds to me being that out, you're in ingrained with an entrepreneurial spirit, no matter what happens, you will figure it out. So yeah,

Oren Peli 1:31:49
I left the real festival about Spielberg just because it was a pretty surreal experience. I was probably like, the first really surreal experience was, if we rewind back to the test screening that DreamWorks did when we were still talking about the remake. So after the test screening, Adam Goodman and Stacy Snyder, who was the chairman of the works, you know, we're at the lobby hanging out and they're saying, yes, you know, we'll release this movie, and forget about the remake. We just need to get the okay from Spielberg because, you know, any movie that gets relisted with remorse he needs to personally okay. So I'm like, Oh, shit, okay. Back to sitting and waiting. And a couple of days later, I get a call directly from Adam Goodman, which is already very unusual. Usually, I would talk, you know, to everyone through my agents for my producers, I would never get calls from any executives, much less the head of DreamWorks. And he's some already kind of nervous on the call. And he's like, Well, Oren, I want to let you know that we love the movie. And as you know, we wanted to have a okay from Spielberg. So he started watching the movie last night. And he stopped halfway through. And like, in my heart sinks. And then he continues after a deliberate pause, because he got too scared. And we finished watching the movie today. And he loved it, and we want to release it. So that was like the first surreal, really surreal moment that I'm like, oh my god, Steven Spielberg, watch my movie. And I was like, instead of sock sock for a few hours after that, and immediately called Katie and mica, and you know everyone else to tell them. So. And then later when I met him, which was while paranormal activity was in relief, he couldn't have been nicer. He was just like, this sweet, nice guy that loves movies. And we talked about movies. You know, we talked about paranormal activity, and we talked about his movies. And we did actually spend a lot of time talking about Israel and politics, and we're just having a friendly conversation. And everyone's going, well, I need to like a pinch myself, like, holy shit. I'm talking to Steven Spielberg. Because, you know, he was like, so friendly, that we're just having, you know, a nice flowing conversation about a whole bunch of stuff. So it was definitely a great meeting.

Scott Mcmahon 1:34:13
Good God, how long was the meeting like an hour? Or

Oren Peli 1:34:17
A more, probably more or less? No and a half to two over lunch?

Scott Mcmahon 1:34:22
Good for you how I can I'm just I just want to scream go. Orange. Congratulations. It's, it's been a pleasure having an opportunity to work with you so many years ago, and you showing us kindness and support and just enthusiasm for what we wanted to try to do. And then to see your story develop is inspirational. It's, it's it was like when I heard about it when I was following it. And you know, I know that my younger brothers was closer to you. So he was just filming in these things. I'm just and it was just so I don't know, it's just it's, it's, it's an uplifting. So, all the successes, duty and keep going and maybe I'll get an opportunity to do like a follow up interview, as you know, maybe another project comes up or something, but I can't thank you enough for your time today. And just really kind of, I honestly, I'm a fan of all these types of interviews, but I never hear anybody get into the nitty gritty like this, which is why I wanted to kind of go through it kind of step by step and get into the emotion stuff. Because you never hear about you always hear like the gloss over, like, like to hear your gloss over, like, oh, you know, he worked on this Amiga program. And then he then he made this little film, and then he got this distribution deal and in there, and they got this huge franchise, like, that's kind of like the gist of it, but like, hearing what you had to go through and the emotional ride of it. It's just impressive. Anyway,

Oren Peli 1:35:43
Maybe in a few years, I can give you even more, you know, juicy details that, you know, still can't talk about but yeah, I'm definitely glad to help. Like I said, you know, I, my experience at Sony, especially the last year was was very miserable. There was so many douchey people there, you know, like when the watch shows, like, office space or Silicon Valley, you know, the new ones from like, judge or the office, they were like, so many nasty characters that I recognize from you know, my own life. And I definitely remember you know, you and your brother being the good guys, so very happy to help

Scott Mcmahon 1:36:22
Thank you so much. And I agree like it's weird in the corporate world because when it gets stinky and and and illness like it's weird, like just true colors of everybody sort of just reveals themselves. And it's you can you can feel the stench, and it's a terrible place to go into when, you know, sort of like that death of like, eventually somebody or everybody or half the people are getting Blekko, you know. Anyway, but hey, well, thank you so much. Have a great Friday and a great, you know, just weekend and I I'll ping you when this is up, and I'll just clean it up a little bit. But thank you.

Oren Peli 1:37:01
No problem. Have a good weekend.

Scott Mcmahon 1:37:02
Okay. Thanks for watching. Bye bye.

Alex Ferrari 1:37:06
I want to thank Scott so much for doing such a great job with this episode. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at Indie film hustle.com forward slash 670. Thank you for listening guys. As always, keep that also going keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.



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What is Auteur Theory? – Definition and Examples

What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important?

Auteur Theory is a way of looking at films that state that the director is the “author” of a film. The Auteur theory argues that a film is a reflection of the director’s artistic vision; so, a movie directed by a given filmmaker will have recognizable, recurring themes and visual queues that inform the audience who the director is (think a Hitchcock or Tarantino film) and shows a consistent artistic identity throughout that director’s filmography.

The term “Auteur theory” is credited to the critics of the French film journal Cahiers du cinéma, many of which became the directors of the French New Wave. However, according to New York University professor Julian Cornell, the concept had been around for a while prior. The Cahiers critics simply refined the theory.

“In the French New Wave, people developed the notion of the filmmaker as an artist. They didn’t invent the idea, but they did popularize it. A German filmmaker who started as a German theatre director, Max Reinhardt, came up with the idea of the auteur – the author in films. He came up with that around the teens….So, [director François] Truffaut and the French New Wave popularized it, or they revived it.” – New York University Professor Julian Cornell

A filmmaker singled out by the Cahiers critics who was the definition of the idea of the auteur is Alfred Hitchcock. By many Hitchcock was viewed primarily as a “vulgar showman” who made commercial thrillers.

“I liked almost anybody that made you realize who the devil was making the picture.” – Howard Hawks

However, his obsessions that showed up repeatedly in his films and the distinct imprint of his personality that appeared in all of his works made him a prime candidate for critical focus within the context of a theory that fetishizes the idea of a singular, distinctive vision that can be seen clearly throughout an entire career.

In all of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, the audience can see certain ideas and images that pop up again and again. This is where the term the “Hitchcock Blonde” came from.

Think of Spielberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola, Fincher, Nolan, PT Anderson, Burton, Tarantino, Wes Anderson or Cassevettes, they all have such of unique style all onto themselves. Many of them have such a strong visual style that you can recognize one of their films from a few frames of the film.

Check out the videos below to go deeper into Auteur Theory.


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The Origins of Auteur Theory

Auteur – it’s a favorite term of cinephiles around the world. But what exactly is Auteur Theory? In this Filmmaker IQ course we peel back pages of time and explore the origins of Auteur Theory from the economically tumultuous adolescence of French Cinema to the culture war waged in the columns of competing American movie critics.

Auteur Theory in Hitchcock’s Work


Film Crew Positions: Ultimate Guide to Everyone on a Film Set

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Unlike many other art forms, filmmaking needs a film crew of collaborators to bring the art to life. A film’s success or failure depends on the ability of the film crew to make good decisions.

If you are new to filmmaking, you might find it helpful to take some time to learn about the roles of the various members of a film crew and how they can contribute to making a successful film. This article will briefly discuss the film crew positions in a typical production.

Please note: We have added a couple of ridiculous easter eggs for the film and tv professionals in the audience. Enjoy!   

Table of Content (click to jump to the department of your choice)

Above the Line vs. Below the Line

“Above the line” film crew positions are usually found at the very top of a production hierarchy chart. Above-the-line crew members are those who carry the most creative or financial responsibility for a given project and usually work from pre-production to post-production.

They are the ones who make major decisions and are often directly responsible for securing financing.

Most of the crew on a film set is “below the line.” Their job descriptions are varied from department to department. This large collection of film set jobs would be broken down into separate departments. A film crew hierarchy is contained within each of the individual departments and starts with a department head.

Above-the-Line Crew

Film Director

The term “director” usually refers to someone who directs actors on stage, in a movie, on television, or even in video games. However, a film director also directs the other people involved in the production. This includes casting, scriptwriting, and even the special effects and music in the film.

Many directors like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and David Fincher are considered “Auteurs.” Auteur Theory is a way of looking at films that state that the director is the “author” of a film.

Film Producer

film Producer is often responsible for ensuring all the details fall into place for the production of a movie. One key thing to know is that the majority of projects have multiple producers.  Another key thing to know is that there are different types of producers. 

Some focus predominantly on securing funding and/or distribution and/or attaching special assets early on in the development process, in the independent world, while some focus on story and creative aspects of the project, while some focus on specific stages of filmmaking such as development or post-production.

This can include but is not limited to setting the tone of the production (i.e., what tone should the production be set at), picking a director, and finding a cast and crew.

producer also handles casting (finding the actors and actresses, usually in conjunction with the director), organizing the budget, and hiring the staff needed to make a film happen. A film producer usually hires all the professionals needed to create a movie. More commonly, they hire the department heads, which in turn bring the rest of the crew on board.

They make sure that everything’s going according to plan. They might also work closely with directors and screenwriters, especially when making decisions about cost. They typically have the final say on any decisions affecting the final output of the film, for example, the final edit, unless someone like the director is contractually entitled to this.

There are many types of producers. Some producers only deal with the financing of the film, others are development/creative, and some producers are connectors and only find money and/or talent.

Executive Producer

The executive producer is the person who sources and secures the financing for film production. The executive producer’s top priority is ensuring enough money for the project.

Below the Line Crew – Production

Line Producer

During preproduction, often, it is the line producer who generates the full production (sometimes called a line item) budget, as well as breaks down the script and generates a preliminary shooting schedule. The line producer ensures that the movie is shot according to the production schedule and budget.

On the production side, the line producer’s main task is to make sure that the movie is delivered on time and under budget. If it doesn’t meet these goals, he or she will make sure to change things up until the filming is completed.

It’s not a creative role. Typically, it’s all about project management. The line producer hires most of the “below the line” talent and craftspeople. Sometimes they are required to get approval from the producer and/or director for choices in department heads. The best ones make the budget and ensure the project doesn’t go over.

Unit Production Manager (UPM)

On very low-budget movies, this position is often combined with that of a line producer. A UPM or unit production manager manages the day-to-day operations of the film production team (film crew) and ensures that they are well-supported and equipped to complete their tasks.

In other words, a UPM ensures the cast and crew’s safety during production and that the final footage meets expectations. More often than not, this is done in conjunction with one or more of the producers. The job requires great attention to detail.

A unit production manager might also ensure that safety rules are followed during filming. This is because it is vital that the safety of actors and crew is the number one priority, especially when shooting on location.

Production Coordinator

In lower-budget production, this role is often combined with UPM. Production Coordinators are essential for making sure that all the little things happen on a set or in a movie studio. They keep everything in sync and organized on a film set. They ensure that there’s enough food and drinks on set. They check in with various departments to avoid and/or solve minor to medium-level problems.

They ensure that the actors are prepared and managed. They make sure everyone is where they need to be before they begin filming each day on set.

Assistant Production Coordinator

The Assistant Production Coordinator is involved in all aspects of production, from solving problems on the set and distributing scripts to handling everything on set’s logistics.

Set Accountant

The Set Accountant monitors the film production’s finances, making sure that he or she keeps track of expenses and that the production stays on budget. It requires specialized knowledge of how the various departments of a production function on their own, both physically and financially.

Office Production Assistant

Office production assistants’ duties typically include: assisting with answering phones, filing paperwork, and data entry; organizing lunches, dinners, and transportation reservations; photocopying; general office administration; and distributing production paperwork.

Assistant Directors

1st Assistant Director

A 1st Assistant Director (first or 1st AD) is one of many crew members responsible for keeping the set running smoothly. They are debatably the most important crew position that handles this. A 1st AD coordinates various functions on set with the rest of the crew.

They manage the day-to-day operations of the film production, from scheduling cast, crew, and equipment to coordinating with certain department heads as it pertains to shoot schedule. They are typically in charge of safety on set and supervising the shooting of each take.

2nd Assistant Director

A second assistant director creates daily call sheets from the production schedule. The “second” also serves as the “backstage manager”.  They liaise with actors, put them through their make-up and wardrobe, and relieve the “first” of these duties. They report to the 1st AD.

2nd 2nd Assistant Director

The 2nd 2nd AD (often referred to as the 3rd AD outside the U.S.) is the primary assistant to the first assistant director and is responsible for coordinating the work of all the background actors, certain crew, production assistants, and sometimes talent.

Key Production Assistant

This is the lead production assistant on production. Many times they will help the first assistant director and line producer coordinate the other production assistants on a film set.

Production Assistants

A production assistant (PA) helps keep a film or television project’s cast, crew, and production staff organized and on track.

This can include: setting up aspects of the set, taking out the trash, helping cast and crew find their stations, running errands for various departments, making sure that there are enough food and drinks available, and most importantly, taking care of the actors and crew.

Production Assistants, while critical to a well-run set, are not involved in any decision-making of any kind for the film.  It is often considered the lowest rung on the production ladder and hierarchy.  Having said that, it is still important. For someone without formal departmental training, this is a perfect starting position for someone who wants a career in film production.

Having qualified technicians handle equipment helps keep everyone safe.


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Location Manager

The location manager is responsible for managing shooting locations to be used in a film. This can (occasionally include scouting for locations) include dealing with permits, settling location contracts, coordinating with other departments, and more.

Location managers are also responsible for making sure that the production company, the cast, and the crew all have the best experience possible on set. If the location manager is not properly prepared and knowledgeable, the entire production may fail to meet the director’s vision for the film.

Location Scouts

The location scout’s job is to find the perfect place to shoot. He or she will study the space, read the script, and make sure there are no major obstacles in the way. The location scout will most likely meet with the director and producers to determine if the space suits their needs.

The location scout should also have a keen eye for cost. Because the location scout will be doing a lot of scouting for free, he or she must be able to find good locations for a fee that fits within the production budget. On low-budget productions, this position may be absorbed by one or more of the producers.


Transportation Captain

The Transport Captains in your film transport the cast and crew from one location to another by private cars, mini-buses, or coaches. If you’re a low-budget film, you may only have one Transport Captain who makes sure that everyone arrives on time.

Transportation Coordinator

The transportation coordination person will coordinate all transportation needs for the production. Transporting equipment and crew to the filming locations and any other necessary areas relative to the shoot is included.

Picture Car Coordinator

The picture car coordinator is responsible for everything relating to vehicle usage, repair, modification, and movement on the set. They are also responsible for ensuring that the cars are always in good shape so that unforeseen accidents will not interrupt the rigid movie production schedule.

However, this position often only exists are very large-budget films.  Otherwise, this job may be handled by either the head of the transportation department, a member of the art department, or a producer.


Production Sound Mixer

A production sound mixer typically works with audio engineers and directors to ensure that the soundtrack of a film production is in sync and properly balanced.

Depending on the type of film being made, this could involve working with sound engineers on location, working with a studio to produce the sounds in post-production, or any combination thereof. Often in low-budget production, the mixer manages all sound recording on the set and any on-site real-time mixing.  They also typically manage any wireless personal microphones.

Boom Operator

Boom operators work in conjunction with the production sound mixer. The boom operator holds a microphone on a pole, which is often the primary audio source. The Boom operator is also responsible for yelling ACTION into the boom mic before each take…we are just joking on that last one. That would be insane = )

Sound Utility

The sound utility assists the sound department and acts as a liaison between the department and set to problem-solve any issues that arise in the production that could jeopardize sound quality. This position is far more common on larger-budget productions.

They support the production sound mixer and boom operators by setting up and maintaining audio hardware, keeping the set quiet for capture, and helping resolve any audio problems that might come up.


Script Supervisor

A script supervisor is primarily responsible for ensuring the script dialog and shots are adhered to, notating each take, and notating the actors’ improvisations. Their log is often passed to the editor to make editing the film significantly easier.

On a lower budget set, they are in charge of the continuity of the motion picture, including wardrobe, props, set dressing, hair, makeup, and the actions of the actors during a scene. However, a separate person performs these functions on medium and larger budget productions.

Camera Department

Director of Photography

director of photography (Cinematographer, DP, DOP) is responsible for establishing the movie’s visual look. They are typically the ones who will be in charge of the camera and will set the camera’s lighting, as well as use different lenses to capture the images, film stock (if you are shooting film), camera selection, shot selection, camera operation, and other elements.

Generally, they tell production the cost of the camera and lighting packages that will be needed to shoot the production. It is important to note that their decision-making power is still usually superseded by the director and sometimes the producer(s). 

Camera Operator

The camera operator captures the film’s footage as dictated by the script, director, and cinematographer. They shoot what’s happening. On lower-budget film productions, the cinematographer will be his or her own cameraman. The person responsible for creating the look of a film is also known as the director of photography.

1st Assistant Camera (aka Focus Puller)

The first assistant camera (also called the 1st assistant camera, 1st AC, first AC, or focus puller) has one main job: to keep the right subject in focus throughout each scene.

Many people just think 1st ACs just pull focus, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. They are thinking ahead 25 steps to ensure that the department runs smoothly while their hand is on the focus wheel, keeping the shot in focus.

2nd Assistant Camera

The second assistant camera (2nd AC) or clapper loader is a member of a film crew whose main function is to load film magazines (if you are shooting on film), loading hard drive or cards for recording on digital film cameras, operate the slate, creating camera reports, and keep records and paperwork. 2nd ACs are needed in every production; they are essential to every single project.

Steadicam Operator

A Steadicam operator is responsible for setting up and operating a Steadicam camera system for recording a live-action video or animation sequence. This includes:

  • Setting up the Steadicam rig
  • Testing and calibrating the Steadicam rig

Steadicam operators are responsible for monitoring the cameras during filming, but the 1st AC is responsible for making sure the camera remains in working order while also helping the director achieve his or her vision. The job requires strong communication skills and the ability to multitask, as well as the ability to make quick decisions and work in a dynamic environment. A comfortable pair of shoes is also a must.

They answer directly to the director of photography.

Drone Operator

Any person or organization that rents or owns a drone is a drone operator. If you are also the person who actually flies the drones, you can be both a drone operator and a remote pilot.

DIT/Media Management

A Digital Imaging Technician or DIT is the person on the camera department crew who works with the director of photography to ensure that the camera settings, signal integrity, on-set preliminary color correction, and other image manipulation are perfect.

They often create LUTs with the director of photography, so the colorist has a starting point when the project gets to color grading. A DIT is a liaison between production and post-production teams on feature films, handling data management from set to editorial suite.

Still Photographer

The still photographer contributes daily to the filming process by creating set stills, while the on-set still photographer creates photographs for the promotion of a film. All the details of the cast’s wardrobe, appearance, and background are recorded by the photographer with these.


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Grip Department

Key Grip

The key grip is the person in charge of the grip crew on a film or television production. The men and women are in charge of positioning the production’s nonelectrical lighting gear. The people who position this equipment are also under their supervision.

He’s also responsible for all the keys on a film set…again just kidding on that last one. = )

Best Boy Grip

The best boy is the first assistant to the grip crew or the lighting department and usually fills a number of roles on a television or film set. The best boys take care of everything in the grip department to ensure a seamless production and work directly with the gaffer and the director of photography.

The best boy grip’s most important job is handling payroll for the grip department. They do the timecards and make sure everyone is getting paid what they are due. The best boy grip is the point of contact for all the other departments.

Dolly Grip

The dolly grip is used to operate the camera dolly. This technician places, levels, and moves the dolly track, then pushes and pulls the dolly while the camera operator and camera assistant ride.

Rigging Grip

Rigging Grips (aka Riggers) are a type of Grip. They assist with set up, production moves, and setting up and dismantling sets, equipment, and scenery.

Electrical Department


A Gaffer is in charge of running the crew and overseeing all the lighting equipment. The Chief Lighting Technician, also known as the Gaffer, works directly with the cinematographer to provide the lights and electricity needed for a given set-up.

To execute the lighting plan for production, the gaffer has to run a team of lighting technicians.

Best Boy Electric

The Best Boy Electric is the head assistant to the gaffer. While managing and scheduling the rest of the electricians and lighting technicians, they are the second in charge, typically watching over the electric truck and rentals. The best boy electric’s most important job is handling payroll for the electrical department.

They do the timecards and make sure everyone is getting paid what they are due. The best boy, electric, is the point of contact for all the other departments.

Rigging Electricians

Rigging electricians are a separate crew who work in advance of and after the shooting crew. They pre-rig stages and locations with cable and lighting equipment, along with the rigging grips, so the shooting crew spends more time shooting and less time waiting for lighting. They will also wrap locations and stages after the shooting crew is done.

Set Electricians

Set electricians will set up and focus lights for each shot of the shooting day. They will provide power to other departments as needed during the shoot day.

Shop Electricians

Shop Electricians work with the art and set dressing departments and construction crews to wire up lights and equipment that are part of the set. They also provide work lights and portable generators at locations that are being prepped.

Basecamp Electricians

Base Camp electricians provide power for campers and other vehicles away from set.

Generator Operator

Generator Operators (aka Genny Operator) are responsible for loading the generator, transporting it to the film shoot location, and ensuring that it is operational before production begins.

Art Department

Production Designer

A production designer is responsible for the art direction, design, and execution of visual elements in film production. A Production Designer’s primary job is to create environments and design key props and set dressing that helps tell the story and advance the plot in the most cinematic way possible.

He or she needs to work closely with certain other departments to ensure that the visual elements they’ve created are consistent with the rest of the film. This may include wardrobe, make-up, special make-up effects, and digital effects departments, and sometimes even the location scout.

A production designer must be organized and detail-oriented and able to multi-task in the fast-paced world of film production. They must also be a creative problem solver, able to think outside of the box.


  • Collaborate with the Director and Producer to determine what type of sets and props will be needed.
  • Work with the Art Director and Set Decorator to decide how to design the set best and ensure it is completed in time for filming.
  • Create and oversee the construction of sets and props that are part of the story being told.

Art Director

Art Directors are responsible for executing the vision and instructions of the production designer on the set. This person helps set the tone for each shot and scene. She is in charge of the visual palette (color palette, lighting, etc.) and shapes the shots in such a way that they fit into the overall flow of the story and the overall feel of the film. They are, in many ways, a production designer’s second in command.

The director may assign specific tasks to the art director, but it’s ultimately up to them to interpret those instructions and create something unique. They also have to balance their style with that of other departments, like costume designers and sound editors, and ultimately answer to production designers.

Art Department Coordinator

The art department coordinator is a position on the production crew that is in charge of overseeing the entire art department. They are concerned with the execution of visual artistry on set. They monitor the budget for the department, keep everything in order, and ensure information flows smoothly between fields.

Construction Coordinator

Construction Managers are in charge of constructing sets and stages for film productions. From initial planning through to the final coat of paint on the finished sets, they coordinate the entire process of set building.


The Production Carpenter builds, installs, and removes wooden structures on the film set and location. Several construction team members carry out the producer and director’s design and creative vision.

Key Scenic

The key scenic is an artist, supervisor, and organizer responsible for making the surroundings and sets of a film look realistic within the world is established on screen. This often is in the form of paint and texturing of surfaces. Sometimes it includes sculptural elements and even molding and casting.

Scenic Artists

The scenic artist is in charge of laying out, painting, sculpting, priming, detailing, and the rest of the backdrops and hard scenic items.

Set Decorator

Set decorators add interest to the drama by creating the background of the action and explaining the context. While prop masters deal with placing objects an actor holds, set decorators are concerned with the walls, floors, vehicles, and furniture.

Set decoration is a multi-disciplinary art form. A set decorator must be well-versed in the technical aspects of production, lighting, and camera movement and be able to interface with the Special Effects department where relevant.


A leadman is a set decoration department member who is in charge of the props and swing gang. The swing gang does the set dressing and removal.

Set Dressers

Before rolling the camera, the set dressers arranged objects on the film set. They are working under the direction of a Production Designer and the Set Decorator. Placing furniture, hanging pictures, and putting out decorative items is done by the set dressers.


A Greenman (aka greensperson, nurseryman, greenskeeper) is responsible for taking care of anything “green” or naturally used in the production of the film. Plants, bushes, trees, flowers, etc.

Art Department Production Assistants

The assistant to the art director helps the entire art department. In many ways, they are like standard production assistants by supporting the art department exclusively. 

Their responsibilities can be everything from running paperwork back and forth, to retrieving props and set decoration items from and returning props and set decoration items to rental houses, to any general departmental errands during preproduction, production, and the earliest stages of post-production as it pertains to the art department.


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Property Master

Property Masters are responsible for all props in the production, including acquiring them, keeping them organized, and making sure they’re used safely. The props master reports to the production designer and leads a team of prop makers or props-department runners.

Assistant Property Master

The assistant property masters help the prop masters with anything on set. Once a scene is wrapped, they ensure the correct props are prepared, on hand for the shoot, and archived.

Prop Maker

Any props that aren’t bought in, or hired, are made by prop makers in the properties department of feature films. Prop makers use a wide variety of materials, techniques, and tools.

Prop Assistants

The prop assistant aids the assistant props master where needed. An outside props person may be assigned to purchase props, and an inside props person may be assigned to oversee the use and maintenance of props. They report to the prop master.

Food Stylists

A food stylist is a person who prepares food for photography, video, film and even lives events. The best promotional pictures and videos of a dish can be achieved with the help of a food stylist who has an artistic and technical background.

Animal Wranglers

The animal wrangler ensures that animals or other hazardous animals don’t interfere with filming. He or she may handle and train animals for on-screen roles in movies or television shows.

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer

Costume designers design and create the wardrobe, both in terms of style and functionality, which gives the actors the outfits they wear on screen. 

The main responsibility of a costume designer is to create the look of a character, whether it is a superhero, an action hero or a villain, a princess, a pirate, a cowboy, a police officer or a nurse.

He or she can dress a character in any color, and they can be of any ethnicity. The designer’s goal is to create a look that reflects the character’s role and personality. Sometimes the costume designer must work in conjunction with the make-up designer to help create a seamless character design.

Assistant Costume Designer

The assistant costume designers help the costume designers with looks for actors. They plan, create, organize, and help maintain clothing.

Key Costumers

The costume designer’s artistic vision is maintained by the key costumer, who is responsible for managing personnel and on-set activities. He or she should be aware of each scene’s needs and the costumes’ evolution.

Set Costumers

Set costumers keep track of the costumes so they don’t get damaged or dirty when unloaded. After each use for dirt, tears, and other problems, they establish guidelines for actors to check their costumes and where to put them.

Wardrobe Supervisor

The wardrobe supervisor is responsible for all the costumes. In consultation with the production manager, costume designer, and sometimes the director, the wardrobe supervisor can help coordinate and assign dressers to specific performers.


In addition to supporting the filmmaker’s vision through their work, seamstresses, tailors, stitchers, and sewers help actors move around comfortably in their clothes. Alterations to outfits are one of their responsibilities.

Agers and Dyers

These technicians are responsible for taking freshly made costumes and adjusting them, through distressing and painting, to look (lived in).  Sometimes this work is very subtle (a chip on a button, fray of a thread, a little wrinkling), and sometimes, it can be extreme (massive dirt and sweat, tearing, and heavy fraying).


If show demands do not require a separate buyer, the duties are to do basic shopping, buying, and returns, assist with research and phoning, can do costume breakdown and aging, can do laundry, ironing, sewing skills, and costume maintenance may assist with fittings and alterations.

Hair and Makeup

Hair Department Head

A hair department head designs all of the hairstyles for the show and manages a team of hairdressers that help implement and maintain the design vision for the principal cast, background actors, stunt performers, photo doubles, and any other hairstyles that will appear on camera.

The hair designer works with the director to discuss the story and the characters’ needs. The hair designer is also responsible for sourcing or creating all of the wigs that appear in the show, and their design is closely tied to the hairstyles that are being worn.

This can be seen in the fact that it takes the longest amount of time for a hairstyle to be designed and that the hairstyles are very detailed and unique to each character.

Makeup Department Head

The head of the makeup department is NOT to be confused with the key makeup artist, who is, in fact, the makeup department’s second in command. The Department Head oversees the makeup design for the entire production and ensures continuity throughout filming.

They will often apply makeup to lead and other principal actors for special or hard-to-produce looks.

Special Makeup Effects

Special makeup effects artists use makeup and prosthetics to recreate wounds, defects, and supernatural features. Basic film makeup can be combined with knowledge of advanced makeup techniques for more dramatic effects.

The makeup effects artist usually works in conjunction with the hair stylist, standard makeup artist, special effects coordinator, and/or costume designer. Makeup Effects artists are also responsible for proper skin care before and after the removal of special cosmetic products and prosthetics.


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Stunt Coordinator

Stunt coordinators are responsible for making sure that actors perform their stunts safely and without injury. They work closely with the stunt team and the director to ensure that the stunt work looks good on screen.

The more stunts an actor has to do, the more likely it is for something to go wrong. Because of this, stunt coordinators must have excellent communication skills and knowledge of how to handle actors who get injured on set.

Stunts are often dangerous and require careful planning. They can be as simple as a person jumping from a moving car or as complicated as a person being shot by an arrow or bullet.

It’s important for stunt coordinators to know what their actors can and cannot do and how to safely work with them in order to keep the production going smoothly.

Stunt Performer

A stuntman performs stunts to be used in a film or television show. Car crashes, falling from a great height, dragging behind a horse, and explosions are some stunts in films and television.

Stunt performers are often referred to as stuntmen or stuntwomen, although the gender-neutral term stunt performer may be used.

Stunt Rigger

The ropes and pulleys that allow stunt doubles and actors to fly off cliffs or under speeding cars without actually falling or getting run over are designed and implemented by stunt riggers. They set up hoists, scaffolding, lifts, and booms needed on film and television sets.

Visual Effects

Visual Effects Supervisor

Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisors supervise all visual effects shots on a film project. All of the VFX artists that work in the process are managed by the VFX Supervisor. They make a decision on what is needed for every shot of the film.

The visual effects supervisors and the visual effects artists sometimes create previsualization materials to help plan everything from specific VFX shots to digital elements like digitally rendered creatures or full backgrounds.

Afterward, they discuss the details of each shot and present the final VFX materials to the director, producer, and other members of the filmmaking team. In a movie scene, VFX supervisors have the ability to tell the VFX artists what kind of effects to use for any given shot.

VFX Coordinator

The VFX Coordinator organizes all the VFX for the show. This includes: Working on all aspects of the visual effects in the post-production process – Being able to understand the workflows for the visual effects – Managing schedules and resources – Scheduling and managing shots – Coordinating visual effects – Assisting with the post-production workflow of the film.

Special Effects (Practical Effects)

Special Effects Coordinator

The Director wants explosions, natural disasters, or general destruction on a movie or television show set, and that’s where the Special Effects coordinators come in. Special effects can include everything from a gas explosion in a movie to a car crash in a movie.

These are one form of practical effect. However, these days it is more and more common to include special makeup effects under the header of the term “practical effects.”

The special effects coordinator is responsible for coordinating the work of several other departments, which may include make-up, stunts, costume, and art departments, to create the desired result.

This includes everything from hiring the right people to get the job done to ensure the equipment and materials is in place when needed.

Special Effects Foreman

The Special Effects Foreman (aka SFX Forman) is the supervisor of the mechanical effects used to create non-digital optical illusions. He or she is responsible for overseeing the creation and execution of special effects on films.

The SFX Foreman is in charge of all special effects created in the visual effects industry. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that all aspects of the effects are well executed and delivered on time.

Special Effects Technicians

Special effects technicians assist the SFX supervisor and foreman in executing all necessary wind, rain, explosions, fire, and other special effects.


The armorers’ responsibility is to transport, store, and safely use of all weaponry and firearms on film sets. Unless a licensed armorer is present, it is not permissible to use firearms on set.
The weapons master, also known as the armorer, weapons specialist, weapons handler, weapons wrangler, or weapons coordinator, is a film crew specialist that works with the property master, director, actors, stunt coordinators, and script supervisor.
If you are looking for a a safe and realistic alternative to blank-firing movie guns, we recommend airsoft guns or digital VFX.


This is a specific branch of Special Effects. A Pyrotechnician is responsible for designing and orchestrating all the explosions in the movies. The work that goes into setting off explosions that end up on the big screen is much more methodical than the explosions themselves.

The explosion of fireworks is a delicate process, requiring precision, skill, and a lot of practice. And while there are plenty of ways to create explosions, there are very few ways to create the explosions that you see on the big screen.

Catering and Food Services

Production Caterer

The production caterer is responsible for providing the crew with healthy foods in order to keep them happy and satisfied so they can do their job without interruption. Otherwise, if the production crew has to work very long hours, they will not be able to eat or have to leave the set to go to restaurants or to get food brought to the set.

In order to deliver the right food for the shoot, the production caterer needs to have a deep understanding of the shooting schedule and a good working knowledge of the production budget.

The production caterer should be knowledgeable about the film’s script, production team, production schedule, and other logistical details that are critical to the success of the shoot.

Key Craft Services

Craft services (aka: Crafty) is a film production position tasked with providing snacks and drinks to all crew members of a film set. Craft service typically provides a spread of coffee, water, and prepackaged snacks at a designated food and drink area.
The best thing about craft service is that it provides an outlet for film crews to eat, rest, and refresh throughout the duration of a long day of filming.

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Set Medic

A set medic is someone who provides emergency medical assistance to people on TV or in film productions. You work as a set medic on set. You have responsibilities for waiting on medical issues during shooting.

Advising the production team on safety issues is one of the other duties. When working as a set medic, you travel a lot. They work in water, at heights, in studios, or anywhere a production takes place.

Intimacy Coordinator

The well-being of actors who participate in sex scenes or other intimate scenes in theater, film, and television production is ensured by an Intimacy Coordinator. When nudity/hyper-exposed work, simulating sex acts, and intimate physical contact are needed on set, the Intimacy Coordinator acts as a liaison between the actors or performers and the production.

Covid Compliance Officer (CCO)

A Covid Compliance Officer works directly with the production to ensure the protocols and guidelines are followed. A CCO is either a stand-alone position or supported by a covid compliance supervisor on longer productions of 1-2 weeks when more planning is needed.

These individuals serve enforcement of Covid Compliance. The Health and Safety Department usually supports CCOs on longer shoots. Covid Compliance Officers (CCOs) will work with Production/Production Management (PM), Production Assistant (PA), and Production Supervisor (PS) to ensure that the cast and crew follow COVID-19 protocols.

CCOs will be in constant contact with Production during the shoot to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are being followed and enforced; if you want to learn more about filming during COVID, check out our webinar: How to Shoot a Feature Film in a COVID World.

Honey Wagon Operator

The Honey Wagon Operator is in charge of the “honey wagon.” The honey wagon is a trailer that has a number of staircases leading off of it. There will be staircases to restrooms that the cast and crew use. They will usually will not be clearly labeled “men and women” restrooms. This is probably to discourage non-production crew from using them.

Some of the staircases lead to small dressing rooms for the actors. One of the staircases may lead to a room that PAs and ADs operate out of.


How to Get Professional & Safe Looking Prop Guns for Your Film

When my team and I were making my first short film, BROKENwe really wanted to have functional and professional-looking guns for the project. Obviously, we weren’t going to use real guns, and getting our hands on working prop guns was too cost-prohibited. We also wanted to ensure that everyone on set was safe, which was our main priority.

We knew we could create some badass muzzle flashes in visual effects, but I wanted to have some realistic-looking guns on-set that had blowback to enhance the VFX and ultimately make the gunfights look real.

After doing a ton of research, we discovered Airsoft Guns or “Air Guns”(our prop guns). These are basically jacked-up BB guns. They range in price from $12-$50 for good-looking plastic replica pistols (excellent for wide shots) and $20-$95 for metal replica pistols with realistic blowback (great for close-ups).

You can also get some remarkable-looking replica rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and even a grenade launcher. Crazy!

These Airsoft guns added so much realism to the film. The combination of practical blowback with high-end visual effects was a great combo.

Safety First

When using Airsoft guns or any firearm prop on set, you MUST assign someone to be responsible for all the weaponry. These guns might not be real, but they can hurt people. By law, if you use professional prop guns, you need an armorer on set at all times. Everyone on a film crew must act professionally, even if you are using Airsoft weapons on a low-budget independent film.

The late actor Brandon Lee was infamously killed on the set of The Crow by a misfiring prop gun. (Brandon Lee Death)

More recently, a terrible incident on a professional film set in New Mexico occurred where actor Alec Baldwin accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza with a misfiring prop gun. Prop guns, even Airsoft BB guns, are no joke and NEED to be respected as if they were real.

Also, please check your local state and city laws in regard to owning or using Airsoft guns. Always be careful, responsible, and above all, safe. Getting some cool shots in an indie film is not worth getting people hurt or worse.


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Where to Find the Guns?

This is the way to go if you want to have real-looking guns in your film. We purchased most of our guns through a local Airsoft or Air Gun reseller, Amazon.com.

We even asked the local reseller if he had any broken Airsoft guns in the back. He gave most of them to us for FREE and charged $5-$10 for $100 pistols. They didn’t work, but they look great on camera.

Click on any of the links below to get some examples of Airsoft weapons.

Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols Metal Pistols (with Blow Back):

Airsoft Green Gas (Fuel for Blow Back)

Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols (Non-Blow Back):
Good for background and nonfiring shots

Airsoft Prop Gun – Shotguns:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Rifles:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Grenade Launcher:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Sniper Rifle:

BONUS: Realistic Prop Knives & Prop Weapons

If I may quote one of my favorite Christmas films:

“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.” – A Christmas Story

It may be funny, but it’s true. Have fun and be very careful.  Good luck and happy filming.

What is Deus Ex Machina? (Definition and Examples)

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina (Latin for “god from the machine” or “god out of the machine”) is a literary device in which a character, usually a god or goddess, intervenes in an action to resolve a problem. It is often used by authors to resolve plot problems and can be seen as a solution to the problem without considering all the implications.

Deus ex machina is a term used in drama, comedy and other fictional works to describe a plot device that is introduced at the last minute to explain or resolve a problem. What is it good for? The term can be used in many different ways, depending on the context and genre.

The term itself was coined by Horace Walpole to describe the use of a stage effect in The Castle of Otranto, which he wrote in 1764 and 1765. In this story, the hero finds himself in a castle surrounded by enemies, and he is saved from his predicament by the arrival of a mysterious man with a magic wand.

It was used to describe the use of a sudden and unexpected solution to a problem, as opposed to one that was expected but not seen coming. In this article we’ll look at some of the more common uses of deus ex machina in fiction.

The term may have originated from the Greek mythology of Zeus. When the gods were going to decide whether to give man free will, Zeus was challenged by Athena to make a test. If he would be able to make someone do something they did not want to do, he would be declared the winner and given free will.

Why is Deus Ex Machina bad?

Deus Ex Machina is a term used in literature to refer to the use of a “god-like” character who acts in a way that makes a problem or conflict seem insoluble, and thus forces the story into an unsatisfactory resolution. It can also be used to describe the character who has no explanation for their actions other than to say “I’m a god”.

This can be a trope used by authors who do not want to write a book that would otherwise have a happy ending. A common technique is to make the main character believe something which is later proven to be false, and then having the character struggle with the consequences of believing that lie.

In his first novel, The Time Machine, H.G. Wells introduces the protagonist, Professor Robert Morley, as an ordinary man who just happens to have been born with the ability to travel through time.

Throughout the book, Morley struggles with the paradoxes and moral implications of this ability, until he decides to use it to save the world from an impending nuclear holocaust. The novel ends with a twist in which Morley’s actions have caused the nuclear war, but the time machine has somehow transported him and his friends back to the time period before the war began.

In the novel The Time Traveller’s Wife, H.G. Wells introduces his protagonist, H.G. Wells, as an ordinary man whose wife has died and who, at the age of thirty-six, is living with a much younger woman whom he does not love.

Why is it called Deus Ex Machina?

It comes from a Greek myth about a god who was wounded by a bolt of lightning. Zeus, the king of the gods, was in a hurry to heal him and asked his son Hermes to bring him a wooden horse that would fly, so he could be carried to a place where the god could receive medical attention.

The story goes that after finding the horse, Hermes took it to the place where the god had been wounded and asked him what he wanted to do with it. The god replied that he needed it to transport him to the temple of Asclepius (the god of healing). Hermes was horrified and asked the god what he meant by this.

The god said that he was going to go to the temple to be healed of his wound. Hermes hurried to the temple and was able to get there just in time to see Death remove the final bandage from the wound. As the bandage came off, life returned to the god’s body.

He then said that he was going to use the horse to take himself to the temple, and so Hermes built a wooden horse, which was named “deus ex machina”.

When Deus Ex Machina works

The exceptions to the rule are everywhere, and nothing’s completely black and white. There are some instances where deus ex machina completely change the outcome of a story and don’t just make us care but it’s why we keep coming back for more. This usually happens when the twist makes sense within the world and context of the story.

Everyone who watches James Bond movies gets excited every time 007 finds himself in a seemingly desperate, inescapable situation. They just sit on the edge of their seat and wonder which handy gadget James Bond will pull from his sleeve.

Another brilliant use of Deus Ex Machina is in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. The premise of the movie is that when you dream, you only dream. When you dream of an action in your dreams, it will be that action when you are awake.

Then the film takes this concept and turns it upside down, so that you think your dreams have come true, but when you wake up, you find you’ve been tricked into believing that everything in your dreams was real, even though it was all just a dream.

This movie works because of its narrative surprise. Audiences have bought into the premise from the very beginning. They didn’t question why or how the machine was so effective. Instead, they trusted the machine.

If you feel like your world is crazy enough that a Deus ex Machina would actually add something to the script, then maybe it’s time to give it a try. But you never want to rely on a deus ex machina or have the story fall apart because you can’t think of anything better. To use a deus ex machina effectively, it should be a choice, and it must work within the world of your story. In general, a deus ex machina should be used sparingly.

It doesn’t have to be the biggest or most outrageous plot device to work, and it often serves as the best way to introduce a character, particularly if the character doesn’t show up again until later in the film.

Top 101 Filmmaking Quotes to Inspire

Top 101 Filmmaking Quotes to Inspire

Anyone who has ever listen to the IFH Podcasts knows that I start off every episode with a filmmaking quote. I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite filmmaking quotes from some of the masters of the medium. Without further ado enjoy the inspiration.

Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.
James Cameron


When given an opportunity, deliver excellence and never quit.
― Robert Rodriguez


The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a f@@king tourist.
― Guillermo del Toro


We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.
– Walt Disney

Film is, to me, just unimportant. But people are very important.
― John Cassavetes


Let me just pause a minute and drink in this moment. And if you film it, I’ll be able to get free refills for life.
― Jarod Kintz


Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.
― Martin Scorsese


There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.
– Frank Capra


The characters in my films try to live honestly and make the most of the lives they’ve been given. I believe you must live honestly and develop your abilities to the full. People who do this are the real heroes.
– Akira Kurosawa


If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.
– Kathryn Bigelow


A storyshould have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.
– Jean-Luc Godard


A film is – or should be – more like musicthan like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.
Stanley Kubrick


The Biggest Mistake in Student Films is That They Are Usually Cast So Badly, With Friends and People the Directors Know.
– Brian De Palma


Although I Write Screenplays, I Don’t Think I’m a Good Writer.
George Lucas


A lot of times you get credit for stuff in your movie that you didn’t intend to be there.
– Spike Lee


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People say I pay too much attention to the look of a movie but for God’s sake, I’m not producinga Radio 4 Play for Today, I’m making a movie that people are going to look at.
Ridley Scott


I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today’s movies. They believe everything they’re hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.
Christopher Nolan


For me, filmmaking combines everything. That’s the reason I’ve made cinema my life’s work. In films, painting and literature, theatre and music come together. But a film is still a film.
Akira Kurosawa


A Film is a Petrified Fountain of Thought.
– Jean Cocteau


My idea of professionalism is probably a lot of people’s idea of obsessive.
David Fincher


If you have to have a job in this world, a high-priced movie star is a pretty good gig.
– Tom Hanks


I like unformed characters. This may be because, no matter how old I get, I am still unformed myself.
– Akira Kurosawa


If a million people see my movie, I hope they see a million different movies.
Quentin Tarantino


The only safe thing is to take a chance.
– Mike Nichols


I Am Certain There is Too Much Certainty in the World.
– Michael Crichton


First cuts are a bitch for a director, because it’s been so many months and you put your trust in your editor and you’re going to see your film assembled for the first time. You look at it and go, This is terrible. I hate it.
– Richard Donner


I Hate Television. I Hate It As Much As Peanuts. But I Can’t Stop Eating Peanuts.
– Orson Welles


Casting is 65 percent of directing.
– John Frankenheimer


You see so many movies… the younger people who are coming from MTV or who are coming from commercialsand there’s no sense of film grammar. There’s no real sense of how to tell a story visually. It’s just cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, you know, which is pretty easy.
– Peter Bogdanovich


I couldn’t sleep one night and I was sitting in my office and I realized that I was an independent filmmaker.
Darren Aronofsky


Hollywood is great. I also think it’s stupid and small-minded and shortsighted.
– David Fincher


Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.
– Akira Kurosawa


A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.

– Billy Wilder


In the future, everybody is going to be a director. Somebody’s got to live a real life so we have something to make a movie about.
– Cameron Crowe


People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
Steven Spielberg


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Film is a battleground.
–  Sam Fuller


Our feeling is that the most important thing on a set is that actors have enough confidence to try different things. If there’s stress or tension, they won’t go out on a limb because they won’t want to embarrass themselves if they don’t feel completely comfortable.
– Peter Farrelly


All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.
– Charlie Chaplin


Why Pay a Dollar for a Bookmark? Why Not Use the Dollar for a Bookmark?
– Steven Spielberg


Eighty Percent of Success is Turning Up.
– Woody Allen


Human beings share the same common problems. A film can only be understood if it depicts these properly.
– Akira Kurosawa


If My Film Makes One More Person Miserable, I’ve Done My Job.
– Woody Allen


The first monster you have to scare the audience with is yourself.
– Wes Craven


We tend to do period stuff because it helps make it one step removed from boring everyday reality.
Ethan Coen


Movement should be a counter, whether in action scenes or dialogue or whatever. It counters where your eye is going. This style thing, for me it’s all fitted to the action, to the script, to the characters.
– Samuel Fuller


It is the power of memory that gives rise to the power of imagination.
– Akira Kurosawa


But having a really good understanding of history, literature, psychology, sciences – is very, very important to actually being able to make movies.
– George Lucas


Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.
– Roman Polanski


I’ve reached a place that many directors and filmmakers get to, and I’m grateful for that, and I can work within those boundaries. If something comes along that is totally outside of horror, fine, but I find there’s an immense amount of freedom within the genre.
– Wes Craven


In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things. You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.
– Akira Kurosawa


“I just want to tell good stories in ways that will shine a light on lives rarely seen on screen,  because stories can push humanity forward.”
– Nia Dacosta


“It sounds kind of flighty, filmmaker-y, but I believe films are a piece of art. They are meant to be what they’re meant to be, and sometimes the artist is informed by the film of what it needs to be.”
– Ava DuVernay


“Truly creative things happen when one thinks differently, yet nobody wants to think differently.”
– Shonda Rhimes


“The challenge with this kind of work is in trying to make it everyone’s story. That can quickly make it no one’s story, and so I like projects that are risky and scary and that aren’t sure-shots.” – Dee Rees


“I don’t really wanna think about themes, I wanna just think about the experience of the movie. I feel like, as soon as I reduce it to a theme, once I write that sentence, it won’t be that great […] there’s more potential for it to mean something interesting if I’m not forcing it to mean something I’ve already decided.” – Wes Anderson


“In film, we sculpt time, we sculpt behavior and we sculpt light.”
– David Fincher


“There is no free lunch, so if you’re playing with the big train set – on big movies – it’s a lot of money they’re entrusting you with, and you have to get that money back for them. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
– Jon Favreau


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“It’s one thing having, for instance, nice images on your studio wall that influence you when you’re just beginning as an artist or filmmaker, but when you go about getting into a situation where you begin to make work yourself, it’s a different kettle of fish altogether. It’s all about doing it—the physicality of making films. What you see at the end is never the same as the situation of how it was done, yet that process is very important. It’s all about making a lot of mistakes and being brave.”
– Steve McQueen


“Don’t show it to somebody until you’re ready to show it to somebody. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. Put your strongest foot forward.”
– Kasi Lemmons


“When you’re doing films, just with friends, with no money, on a shoestring. You have to be able to do all the jobs… And it’s a wonderful way to learn everything.”
– Christopher Nolan


“To me, no matter who you’re casting for what role, if something’s authentic, usually you can mine something good there.”
– Barry Jenkins


“We want to see drama told in a cathartic way, with power, with emotion, where you empathize and then you’re frightened. All those feelings charge up in you and you feel for the story.”
– Danny Boyle


“I am not here to bring trauma into people’s life so, my job as a director is to conjure the best out of other people within what they have already to work with.”
– Patty Jenkins


“People will forgive pretty much every technical thing before they will forgive bad sound. Your movie could look amazing, but if on every cut, the audio track is popping and making them aware of the cuts, it will pull them out.”
– Ryan Coogler


I’ve been obsessed with doomsday for a long time – the idea that different cultures respond to it differently, and religions will change people’s outlook on it.”
– Lorene Scafaria


“When you work for other people you’ll find … that they do know what’s best for them, and for the company. And you should listen to them and be respectful, but they don’t know what’s best for you.”
– Mike Judge


“I’ve been very fortunate. Some people might call me a hard head, but I’m not going to let other people dictate to me who I should be or the stories I should tell. That doesn’t register with me.”
– Spike Lee


“If you wanna do a film where you have a big scope, you’ve got to make your characters relatable and genuine.”
– Jennifer Lee


Screenwriting is like ironing. You move forward a little bit and go back and smooth things out.”
– Paul Thomas Anderson


“If I could boil it down to one thing… never ask permission to make movies. There’s no reason why you have to be asking permission to do your work.”
– Chris McQuarrie


“The advice I would give to any director is that you should act. A lot of directors spend a lot of time getting very good at technical things and imagining things visually, but they’ve never really learned how to direct a scene… It doesn’t matter how good a shot looks, the lifeblood, the thing that people will connect to, is these people.”
– Greta Gerwig


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“You hear it said time and time again by successful directors: You have to make a movie for yourself. Don’t make it for anyone else.”
– Jordan Peele


“I’m quite optimistic, but I feel we do need more female producers, more female cinematographers and such, just to make a better working environment among predominantly male film crews.”
– Mary Harron


“Every actor comes with their own experience, method, methodology.”
– Todd Haynes


“We need Storytelling. Otherwise, life just goes on and on like the number Pi.”
– Ang Lee


“The movie is not only about what story you’re telling and who you’re looking at. It’s mostly about how you’re telling it and how you’re looking at it.”
– Celine Sciamma


“My favorite genre lies inside myself, and as I follow my favorite stories, characters, and images, it sums up to a certain genre. So at times even I have to try to guess which genre a film will be after I’ve made it.”
– Bong Joon-ho


“A documentary filmmaker can’t help but use poetry to tell the story. I bring truth to my fiction. These things go hand in hand.”
– Chloe Zhao


“The lies are in the dialogue, the truth is in the visuals.”
– Kelly Reichardt


“When I started writing the script, I realized that I hadn’t really seen any film with a black couple that was worthy of Romeo and Juliet…And through Ada and Souleiman I wanted to relate a similar kind of tragic love, in the age of rampant capitalism.”
– Mati Diop


“So I feel a responsibility to help first-time filmmakers in Brazil, but also to increase the dialogue between film cultures which are really wonderful and so much closer to us than what we do see on our screens.”
– Walter Salles


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“My advice for anyone wanting to direct is that nobody is going to hand you an opportunity. You have to create your own opportunities and not take no for an answer.”
– Marielle Heller


“The questions I want to ask will revolve around humans, connection, relationships, family, and stories – what are the stories we tell ourselves and each other?”
– Lulu Wang


“I feel like there’s more of a need to tell more optimistic stories.”
– Eliza Hittman


“If you have the opportunity for your art to meet activism, you shouldn’t pass that up when it comes your way.”
– Regina King


“I started making films for myself and embracing the craft of filmmaking again. Consequently, my work got so much better.”
– Chinonye Chukwu


“There’s still a 1950s view of cinema, that there’s one audience and they all want to see the same thing.”
– Michael Winterbottom


“I would tell filmmakers: ‘Don’t just be seduced by the same old, same old. There are interesting things you can explore that may get your film out there to audiences better than the traditional distribution mechanisms.”
– Alex Gibney


“In a kid’s film, you go through the full range of human emotions…You’re scared, you’re excited, you laugh, you’re joyous, you’re sad. It’s exactly what she aims to capture.”
– Josephine Decker


“As independent filmmakers, we are actually deeply dependent on each other. The Spirit Awards are a public expression of those bonds, the intricate set of relationships and histories that we filmmakers depend on to make our most personal work.”
– Ira Sachs


“Storytelling was a way to see the world bigger than the one you were looking at, and that had great appeal for me.”
– Robert Redford


“I feel that as a writer and as a performer too. I never really thought about the backstory for characters. It was much more of a musical approach: You learn a melody, and then you sing it, I suppose, or you find a rhythm or a cadence that works for the material. And then it’s sort of about hitting that note correctly and finding those beats.”
– Brady Corbet

“Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and make a movie of any kind at all.”
– Stanley Kubrick

“You’re learning as you’re going, as a director, and each movie is its own entity.”
– Chris Buck


“Cinema is not only about making people dream. It’s about changing things and making people think.”
–  Nadine Labaki


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“I wanted to make gritty independent films that explored the same issues the movies that I looked up to when I was a teenager: coming of age, trauma, what it meant to live in really confusing situations. Of course, you try to figure out your world narratively.”
– Bing Liu


“I think what you need to search for in films is the integrity of the image. I wanted to make films with solid images that confront the spectator.”
– Alice Rohrwacher


“Movies don’t have to impress everyone the moment that it drops. Stuff can take its time to find its audience.”
– Cathy Yan


“The one thing that helps me construct the film […] is the places, actually, […] places have a soul [..]and I don’t even know what’s going to be in the scenes, I just know I want them to be here, and it gives me a frame.”
– Mia Hansen-Love


“Making films is about having absolute and foolish confidence; the challenge for all of us is to have the heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant.”
– Mira Nair ​​


“Movies don’t look hard, but figuring it out, getting the shape of it, getting everybody’s character right, and having it be funny, make sense and be romantic, it’s creating a puzzle.” – Nancy Meyers


Star Wars Holiday Special: Watch it in All its Glory!

So as an early Christmas gift to all of the Indie Film Hustlers and Star Wars fans out there I decide to give a home to the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special on Indie Film Hustle.

I have to admit I have never been able to watch it all the way through, it’s just too painful. The Star Wars Holiday Special is basically a tragedy set to film. It defies all attempts at logic and all methods of explanation. It’s like watching a train wreck…you can’t look away.

Related: Star Wars – The Power of Myth: Creating Star Wars’ Mythos with Joseph Campbell

It’s fascinating how a tiny handful of Betamax and VHS recorders (kids Google Betamax if you want to laugh) back in 1978 apparently managed to record a television special that has never again been officially released within the U.S.

Is the Star Wars Holiday Special (some know it as the Star Wars Christmas Special) the most duplicated home video recording of all time? Probably.

Considering the technical limitations inherent in a 30-year-old home video master, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of surprisingly high-quality versions of this program floating around.

Now The Star Wars Holiday Special even lives on Youtube for all to watch and cringe! Enjoy my Jedi Junkies with the classic that George Lucas wants to go away but never will.

BONUS: 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special Commercials — all 19 minutes of them!

The Hypothetical Star Wars Holiday Special 2015

The good folks over at Funny or Die did this AMAZING Hypothetical Star Wars Holiday Special. Too funny for words and actually better than the original, depending on how you look at it. Starring Jason Alexander, Lydia Hearst, Keith David, Train, and DJ Qualls,

Before you see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, find out if BB8 makes it home for Droid Day in the only holiday special based solely on rumor and conjecture about the upcoming film. Featuring a cavalcade of stars and a very special performance from “Train.”