Today on the show we have writer/director Josh Stifter. Josh was chosen as one of the directors to attempt to make a $7000 feature film using the El Mariachi style made famous by legendary filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. The show was called Rebel Without a Crew: The Series and it premiered on Robert’s network El Rey. If you’ve been following me at all over the past three years you’ll know how much of a fan I am of Robert Rodriguez (check out How to Make Rodriguez’s Guacamole Gun). Here’s some info on the show.
Armed with a ridiculously low budget and just 14 days to shoot his movie, Robert Rodriguez created El Mariachi an award-winning film that changed independent filmmaking. The 12-part “Rebel Without a Crew: The Series” follows Scarlet Moreno, Alejandro Montoya Marin, Bola Ogun, Josh Stifter, and Bonnie-Kathleen “BK” Ryan as they shoot their own feature-length film in 2 weeks with a budget of only $7,000.
At the age of 11, Josh knew he wanted to do one thing with his life: make cartoons. After convincing his dad to let him use the family video camera, he learned how to create simple, homemade stop motion animations. That was the beginning of it all. He started taking classes and learning everything he could about animation.
Cut to a few years later: Josh graduated on the Dean’s List from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Media Arts and Animation. While working a series of boring, overnight jobs, Josh continued to animate and eventually began working with Kevin Smith and Smodco creating cartoons based on the Smodcast podcast. It was only time before Josh started creating and pitching his own cartoons. His company Flush Studios has created multiple short films, animations, pilots, and even created a scene for the movie “TUSK“.
Josh’s film is called The Good Exorcist. Here’s the skinny on the movie.
A socially awkward but reliable exorcist attempts to remove a difficult demon from a ranch owned by an eccentric family in Texas. However, the demon proves to be more difficult than the priest assumed it would be.
The Good Exorcist is a feature shot in 14 days with $7k, the same way Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi. The film will be premiering at the SXSW Film Festival! I thought what Josh did was so cool that I have made, not only the film but behind the scenes and director commentary available on Indie Film Hustle TV. You can rent, purchase or watch it as part of your IFHTV subscription. Click here to check it out.
His new film is called Greywood’s Plot. It’s about two friends go into the woods hunting for El Chupacabra, only to find that the land they are on might be more sinister than they ever knew.
Josh and I talk indie film shop, what it was like working with Robert Rodriguez and his adventures making a $7000 indie film while cameras were capturing every single second of on-set action.
Enjoy my conversation with Josh Stifter.
Alex Ferrari 3:35
So today, we have an awesome guest to celebrate our 375th episode, Josh Stifter. And Josh is a writer director and was featured on the show, Rebel Without a crew the series on El Rey network. Now many of you know that Robert Rodriguez owns El Rey network. And his the series is actually based off of his book Rebel Without a crew, the legendary independent film book on his exploits when he was coming up with El Mariachi. And Robert decided to put together a show to have filmmakers use his techniques and methods on the mariachi style of making movies and giving filmmakers 14 days and $7,000 to make their feature film and Josh was one of those filmmakers and he made the movie The good Exorcist, which obviously it's a romantic comedy. No, I'm joking. But it was I love the movie. It was so much fun to watch. And it premiered at the South by South West Film Festival and I wanted to talk shop with Josh about how He did it, how he used his visual effects skills, his practical effects skills on set, kind of the crazy stories of what happened behind the scenes of the show what it was like to work with. Robert Rodriguez talked to him how them as a mentor during this process, which I think is a dream of many independent filmmakers out there. And I was so impressed by the movie and the making of the movie that I am now offering it on Indie Film Hustle TV, So Josh, allowed me to put it up on IFH TV, and you will be able to get exclusive content, like the director's commentary of how he made it, including behind the scenes tutorials, and all that is available on IFH TV, all you got to do is go to indiefilmhustle.com/goodexorcist. But before you watch the movie, you got to listen to this epic episode. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Josh Stifter. I'd like to welcome the show Josh Stifter. Man, how you doing, brother?
Josh Stifter 6:00
I'm doing great. I'm so excited to be on the show.
Alex Ferrari 6:02
Oh, man. I mean, it's the least I could do. You had me on your show. You're amazing shows. So I appreciate I appreciate you coming on man. And we I've been wanting to talk to you a little bit about obviously your experience on Rebel Without a crew and all these other cool things that you've been doing as well, your unique filmmaker and the way you do things. So we're gonna get into all of that. But first, man, how did you get into the business?
Josh Stifter 6:28
Yeah, so this is kind of crazy. So I thought I was like a big film geek as a kid. Like we all all of us filmmakers are, but it came down to like, I love to steal my dad's camera and run around with it. So I've been making little movies with my friends. Since I was younger, that six, five, I don't even know when I first grabbed the camera and dad was like, bring it back. Um, but it was always a challenge of finding friends to work with finding the right equipment to make it look like a real movie. So I ended up going into animation. I took the Tim Burton route. And I just thought, you know, if I can learn to draw pictures, and at the time, South Park was huge. So I was kind of just aping that cell Park style and stealing like what they did, and trying to do my own little cut out things and whatever. You know, kids getting hit by cars or whatever gross thing I could do. And from there, I after I graduated a whole bunch of shorts in high school and stuff like that. And then I went to animation school, and they push they push kids towards 3d. Right now, it's all about video game design, because there's so much work in video games, right? And it just wasn't for me. I graduated with a degree in animation. But all of the jobs that they were trying to place me in were video game design, just did nothing for me. I can't tell stories in video games as an animator, like there's other people telling those stories. So what I did was I just hit the internet, I started sending things out via Twitter, the early days of Twitter and Facebook, there was no Instagram at the time, you know, there's probably still a MySpace at that point. And I just started sending it to anyone who I've respected in the industry. And Kevin Smith picked up my animations and dug them. And I started working for Kevin Smith, like right out of college.
Alex Ferrari 8:11
That's that, that that amazing
Josh Stifter 8:16
Sounds of just putting myself out there and not being afraid that what I made wasn't good enough. Because it wasn't it wasn't great. It was it like if I look at it now I'm like, Oh my god, how did Kevin Smith pick up this garbage. But I think there was just something about the the drive that I had to just show it and then he was able to like go okay, I can do something with this. I can figure something out. And I did some automations for a while then I worked on his movie task. I did like four animations all altogether for task. I helped out with some website stuff and just a bunch of random projects. And after that was on my resume, then I was able to get jobs working for other animation companies. I worked for CNN I work for troma I and that is how I got the animation done that ended up getting getting me in front of Robert Rodriguez.
Alex Ferrari 9:01
Yeah, so that was the so yeah, how did you get you know, how did you get involved with whole Rebel Without a crew and explain to people who have not heard the other episodes? I've done a rebel group. What is Rebel Without a crew? What was the whole thing?
Josh Stifter 9:13
Yeah, so I always wanted to be a filmmaker, not an animator. Like that was never my plan. It was just the only thing I could do by myself that I could get out there to people and seemed monetizable you know, filmmaking. It's awesome. Great to tell stories, but when you've done hundreds of episodes on distribution alone, like it's not an easy game, where you gotta hustle your ass off and I I struggled to figure out how I could make something that would be good enough to show to people and also and also monetizable that I would make money off of because I knew my little no budget movies weren't gonna get distribution right off the bat. So I did the animation for that. And but I was a filmmaker at heart. I wanted to tell stories and Roberts book Rebel Without a crew was my Bible every most of the time. Listen to this have probably read the book but if you haven't, just read it every day, just read it. I it. It really is like my Bible. I've gone through four copies like my grandma went through the Bible like I just constantly I'll flip the pages at night before bed and like I need some inspiration, telling me something Robert, and read it. So I I did an animation with my buddy Josh Roush. It was this weird little art house animation called other fish. It's available on YouTube, and a bunch of other stuff. But Josh Roush was assistant to Michael Parkes on tosk. And he asked Michael to do a voiceover for the animation or for this animation. And he we barely knew each other at the time, but he got this voiceover. And Josh and I started talking and we were talking about animations. And I got this voiceover we should do an animation with Michael Parkes. So we had a couple of the voice actors come in and do their voices. And then Michael Parkes passed away. And we finished the animation. And then I had Michael Parkes is essentially his last performance. And I felt like people needed to see that because Michael Parkes was a legend. Yes, and yeah. And I thought of Robert and I, you know, I, we showed it to Kevin and we showed it to people who would work with Michael. But the only way I could get it to Robert was through El Rey network. So I just I sent it to El Rey network. And they were like, Hey, we really enjoyed this. But it doesn't fit on our programming at all. But we're running the show called The People's network, where we're going to show short films. And we saw your Tim the terrible animation as well can we use that will buy it from you for a year and we'll put it on our network, we'll fly you out to LA and you'll come on the show, and do a little introduction or whatever. And then you'll you'll be a part of this people's network thing that Robert wants to do. So I flew out to LA. And while I was there, sitting in waiting, I opened my backpack because they wanted me to put on a different shirt. I was wearing some death metal shirt or some shit like that. So they wanted me to put on a different shirt. And while I opened my backpack, they saw that I had like two copies of Rebel Without a crew. And they're like, Whoa, you are dedicated to it. I'm like, Oh my god, I am so dedicated to it. You guys don't even know. This is not a rare thing for me to have this book in my bag. I'm not doing this because I'm here for Robert, or because this is Roberts network. I've always got this with me. And the showrunner of that show was like well, we're working on this other show called Rebel Without a crew. Have you ever done any live action stuff? I have. But it's all like shorts with my buddies and stuff like that are literally shorts I've done by myself. I've done a whole bunch of shorts where I set up cameras on rigs with tripods with wheels, and I use fishing line to make the camera move and stuff like that. So I showed it to them. And they're like, Oh, we got to get this for Robert. So they sent it and they they sent my little pitch that I put together. I literally sent this page that I put together on the bus going to work. Like I did my three act structure of the good Exorcist. I put down a couple scenes and a couple characters, and I snapped a photo of a bunch of random items I had laying around my house. And I put it on this little table, this little artsy table that my wife has. I put it on there snapped a picture made a quick logo. That poster was the poster that still got used for El Rey network. The logo is still the logo for the good Exorcist like everything. The outline still plays pretty close to what the movie turned out being. But yeah, they then they just asked me to send a script and Rebel Without a crew was a series that was based on that book where Robert hired or hired had for have me and four other filmmakers come out and make a feature film for $7,000 and shot in 14 days. And then we had like, two and a half, three months to edit, do visual effects, do sound design, do everything.
Alex Ferrari 13:35
Nice. And then you were in part, you were part of that.
Josh Stifter 13:39
Yep, I was one of the four filmmakers and I made a feature called the good Exorcist a silly little horror comedy. That you know, I I went into it going like, I think on reality TV is probably going to be miserable. I am not a reality TV guy. I'm I'm a dad from Minnesota, like I do not fit the mold of reality TV. And I know they're gonna be like trying to work in these stories for me, and there's going to be a script, there really wasn't a script at all. I was blown away. This was not this was way more like a docu series than a reality show.
Alex Ferrari 14:09
Yeah, so the thing, the thing I love about the show, because it was someone who sent me a link to it. I'm not gonna say who, but there was a someone who sent me a link to the show. Oh, really? I really like handsome, smart man, with maybe glasses and a goatee, but I actually watched the entire thing. I just binged it because I had been dying to watch it and I didn't get la at the time. And I watched the entire series. I mean, literally, I was like between I knocked the whole thing out in a day like I remember you messaged me I was like I'm done. This is amazing. Because I was so addicted to it. And and knowing some of the players knowing you and knowing 100 in it as well. Was was fascinating to watch that I called you up I'm like, so really what happened here? It really would have it here. And so what was the thing happened here, but what I love About the show, honestly, is because I was a part of the process of Project Greenlight. I made it into Season Two just in the opening credits. Very, very horrible experience. But I did go through Project Greenlight, and then I also got to the very end of the Steven Spielberg reality show called on the lot. Oh, yeah, you did. I didn't know that. I watched it. My buddy Andy Hunt was on it. Yeah, well, I got to the i was i was the final I was one of the final guys that, you know, they, you know, I flew in, and I did the interviews and everything like that. So and that was, so I had always, I've always Dad, you know, kind of like, passed by the reality show thing. I would have killed to be on something like this back in the day. But what I loved about it, it was there was no drama there. I mean, there was a little drama, because it's filmmaking. But there was no drama for the most part. Yeah, it was not. It wasn't like designed or like, Oh, I'm gonna backstab you or this or that. You know, there was there was a little bit of storytelling, but generally speaking, it is a love letter to filmmakers. It was a wonderfully, wonderfully put together show. And you guys were awesome. And you could just see that just stress on your face.
Josh Stifter 16:09
Yeah, it's funny, because like some of the things that like the things that are shown aren't maybe necessarily exactly how it played out. It's still reality TV, they're still like coming up with concepts. I thought it was really funny that my sort of story element was Josh's cast is having too much fun. And he's getting mad about all the fun that they're having, which is like, okay, I don't that's not really how it went down. There wasn't like a split second where I'm like, you guys, we got to go to lunch in five minutes because of union rules. So let's just get this knocked out of the park. But there was no like face that I'm making. Right? Like, that was just a random face.
Alex Ferrari 16:45
Yes. Because Because the film is called a good exercise. But yet we can't have any fun. So it doesn't really play. But generally speaking was a very well put together show and
Josh Stifter 16:54
Oh my god, and I still love it. I love when people watch it because I think it's a blast to watch. I didn't it is a love letter to that in the process of just running and gunning and getting shipped.
Alex Ferrari 17:03
And it's so fun. Because when you watch it and like when Robert shows up, it's literally like God, like you know, it's like it's like a god from Mount Hollywood. Indie, indie Hollywood, if you will, shows up and it's like, he's so chilled. He's so mellow. He's because he's seen it all. He's been through it all. And he was he really cares at least at least that's the perception that we got. I got from watching it that there was oh yeah, he cares about you guys, and cared about the process. And anybody who's listened to the show knows that I'm a I'm a fairly big Robert Rodriguez fan. And I'm a bit older than you so I was around. What How old? Are you? 34 Yeah, so um, yeah, so let's just say I'm a little bit older. Let's say that I was around when mariachi hit. I have I have the first edition of Rebel Without a crew. And I and I studied Robert constantly. I even mentioned him in my book, The shooting for the mob book I actually do a whole Robert Rodriguez story of how I called him when he was at Columbia. Nice as a Columbia Columbia Pictures and pitch and pitch and pitch myself as a result do anything for you. But anyway, that's an embarrassing story. But I'm a huge Robert fan. So just watching that and I'm watching how you guys interact with the boys Just so
Josh Stifter 18:21
You know, he was a guru and as much as he still is like no he's the thing about Robert Is he really is like the sweetest dude in the world and really cares about filmmaking and indie filmmaking and trying things and just going for it he doesn't want to play it safe ever and he pushed that on us like don't play it safe go for it go for it. Um, but I do love the scene where he comes into my my sat as I'm shooting and you can just see on my face where I'm like, oh man, I'm really trying to get done today.
Alex Ferrari 18:51
Like I can't I love you Robert. I just can't I don't have the time for this right now.
Josh Stifter 18:57
I love it and I hate it and you can hear in my eyes someday I'll release this but in my footage as I'm filming I go I guess we'll cut and then under my breath you hear me just go why fucking now. I wanted to hang out with Robert I love talking to Robert and one of the one of the beautiful things about the behind this or the one thing I can say about the behind the scenes that you don't see on the show is Robert is a film geek and he and I would sit and talk about like the nerdiest stuff Yeah, they had an eight they were running a drone on an a 60 or with an a 6300 which is what I shot my second featured Ray Woods plot with and or 6500 whatever the Sony with the amazing you know the the amazing autofocus so that other drone, it does look amazing. And Robert asked what it was and I was like Oh, I know. I know. I know. And I just like went on this tangent about the a 6300 and how I used it to film gray Woods plot and all this other stuff which I had started filming before we went to Rebel Without a crew failed miserably at and then as soon as Rebel Without a crew ended. The first thing I said to Daniel was, dude we've got and he goes, Yeah, I know we got to finish great ones plot. And we've right as soon as the good Exorcist came out we were waiting for to get the rights back and waiting for everything to go down. We just went made another movie for $2,000.
Alex Ferrari 20:17
Yeah, so so that and then for everybody listening, he made his movie the good exorcise for seven grand, which was the, that was the part of the show because Robert Rodriguez, you know, legendarily are almost a mythology. It's a myth at this point. It's like mythology. He's like, was is that Bunyan, the guy who's shut down, cut down trees, and he's become a mythical person. He made his female mariachi was 7000. That's what the show was based around. So what did you learn from making a $7,000 feature film, and it was a true $7,000 feature wasn't like, oh, and they kind of helped you here. And they kind of helped you there. There were rules to this engagement, if I'm not mistaken, correct?
Josh Stifter 20:52
Yeah. So we had a credit card with $7,000 on it, like we could only spend that much. Now, I will say that the seven $7,000 now is very different than when Robert did it. And it's very different than what we have for equipment. Now what you can do with very little and, and the the world that has opened up to independent filmmaking, for better or worse, where there is so much independent filmmaking that you have to be a little more conscious about who your audience is, you know, making a $7,000 movie now people will instantly go like, okay, so you didn't have a budget? Who cares? You know what I mean? Like, it can be a challenge. Now, what impresses people is when you show them something, and you go, I always have my trailer on my phone, so I can go check this out. I made this for $7,000. I made this for $2,000, because they see the trailer and they go, Oh, I'd watch that. That's you made that for $7,000. That trailer cost you $7,000 I'm gonna movie cost me $7,000. Um, so one of the big things I learned is, number one, no, no one cares that it's $7,000 until they care at $7,000. So until they see it and go, how did you do that? For $7,000? they don't they don't know. They don't care budgets mean nothing. So. So trying to sell your movie on the budget means nothing until you get eyes on it. It's a great story for your q&a afterwards. It's a great thing to build towards. But it isn't your sales pitch your sales pitches, I made this kick ass thing. Now. That's what Robert did back in the day. It's not really any different. Robert didn't go to the studios and go when he was going door to door in Hollywood over Christmas. And go, Hey, I made a $7,000 movie. Do you want to buy it? He went there. And he told them he made a $30,000 movie or a $20,000 movie, he tested the waters. He's showed them his trailer and hope in hopes of getting more money for his next movie. It's the same thing. Now.
Alex Ferrari 22:45
It's a whole it's a whole different world when he did it. No one had ever done anything like that at least and they actually use that $7,000 price tag as the marketing campaign back in 91. Because in 91 videos, the studio didn't that Robert No, because nobody would show up to a studio meeting go, I made my movie 7000 he was a I made a movie for 50,000. I made 60,000, which is still an obscene number back in 1991. Because it was shot on film and everything. But then later the studio is like wait a minute, we've got something here and they marketed it as $7,000 film. And nowadays a lot of filmmakers, I've talked to them all the time. They're like, Hey, we shot on an iPhone, like I don't care, hey, we shot this movie, you know, for three grand I don't care. Like it's not no one cares. It only they only care once they care, which means they watch it and they go wait a minute you made this person. Now all of a sudden it means something. But to lead with that, like, you know, there's filmmakers that I'm like, Oh, we shot a movie in two days. No one cares. I shot like, I know somebody who shot a movie in 90 minutes. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It's all about the story. But back then different conversation. You could use that as a marketing ploy.
Josh Stifter 23:54
Yeah. And then seven grand, he spent like six grand a little over six grand on film stock. Like in the actual movie. If he says he put the key tells this to like I was just talking to him the other day because he saw Gray was it was talking about the fact that he was impressed it was done for $2,000 or whatever. I mean, he asked and then I told them up. It's a bogus number. I have no idea. Because I did the editing, I did the directing, I ran the camera I did the visual effects, there's a visual effect in almost every single shot of the movie. If I paid myself, this is a $300,000 movie, but I'm not paying myself same thing so that that number is just a bogus number. Because I would never do that for someone else's movie. I'd make them pay me for their movie. So if I really want to boil down the budget, I don't I don't count my computer. But on a normal budget, you would count the computers that you bought for said film. There's all this stuff in
Alex Ferrari 24:49
Gear and stuff like that. Yeah, of course.
Josh Stifter 24:51
I own all the gear. It's all stuff that I bought over the last 20 years of filmmaking and you know, upgraded as I went and whatever but I just you don't count that Unless you're not, you know, putting in a Hollywood film, like in a big production, they come to all of that they rent it all or they buy it all the studio house has it all, but all goes towards a budget. So the big thing that I learned from, like, the biggest thing I learned was just shut up about the budget. No one cares, make a good movie and show them your good movie. And the other thing I learned is, there is no such thing as a good movie or a bad movie, there is just a movie, and you need to put yourself on the screen and get it to the right people. Because the right people will care about it. And every movie is someone's favorite movie and the Li and someone else's least favorite movie so sitting and pontificating about how you're going to make your masterpieces your first movie who's quit it, just go make a couple movies, figure it out and find your audience that's going to dig it.
Alex Ferrari 25:47
Yeah, no, there's there's no question about it. Like I anytime I ever got a negative review, I would always just go and look up. A Star Wars, Star Wars negative review or a Shawshank Redemption a good review or a godfather negative review. Because there were people, people that wrote bad reviews and you read them and you're just like, oh my like, Rick, let's just type in anyone listening right now go to Google type in Shawshank Redemption, bad review. They're hilarious to read. They're just epically hilarious to read. I remember I saw a picture with George Lucas. He had a T shirt with his bad review. On the T shirt. It was like this long block of text about how bad Star Wars was. I was like, that's meta. That's so awesome.
Josh Stifter 26:31
And the thing was panned by most critics when it dropped the movie tanked. I think the thing might be the only like, flawless movie that I wouldn't change a single frame of wouldn't add a minute wouldn't cut a minute. It's a perfect horror, psychological thriller in my book, like, there will be a panda when it came out. Some of the reviews are hilarious. And with especially with indie filmmaking, you're definitely going to split the audience, you're you're you're making something that is intentionally not made for everyone. If you're making a movie, that's for everyone, as an indie, no budget filmmaker, you were doing a totally wrong and you are going to fail. You need to find your market niche and figure out and figure out who you are, who you are as a person and what kind of films you can do that are different than anyone else that are going to build that audience and you're just going to improve treat it like film school, treat your first movie, like a learning experience might not make the best thing you can make. Don't go out and try to make a piece of crap. One of the things Daniel and I really pushed Daniel was on the good on the good exercise set with me. We were allowed to bring one person
Alex Ferrari 27:36
He's the he's the giant man next to you.
Josh Stifter 27:39
He is a very, very he's a very short man. And he is a very tall man.
Alex Ferrari 27:43
I'm not a short man, but I'm still not as tall as he is. He is a giant, he's a big
Josh Stifter 27:47
He's. And he we've always been like this. So I am screen. Watch it.
Alex Ferrari 27:52
It's great watching you two together. It's just funny as hell.
Josh Stifter 27:55
I'm five, four on a tall day. And Daniel is six, seven. So the two of us are he's he's a fee over me. 6667 something like that. He just towers over me. And that's honestly that's one of the light things. So our friendship is based. We became friends in kindergarten, literally the same year, literally the same year that Robert made El Mariachi Daniel and I were meeting in kindergarten I kid you not crazy.
Alex Ferrari 28:22
I was in high school. Oh, okay, go ahead. Sorry.
Josh Stifter 28:26
So yeah, Daniel and I were in kindergarten meeting and Robert was filming that. And then 25 years later, we were out making a movie with Robert Rodriguez. Isn't that mind blowing? It is ridiculous. And so Daniel came out with me as my bus one, even though technically he wasn't a plus one. Because he was an actor, and we could have actors work on our set as well. And he's in every scene of the movie except for one. And he even whistles in that scene. So he's in every scene in the movie basically. Um, and one of the reasons why I think we we became such good friends and continued to be friends is we both love filmmaking, but he was so tall and I was so small, he always just look epic in every shot. I filmed them in because I was always getting that as low angle.
Alex Ferrari 29:11
And that's not by design. That's just by necessity. necessity, right.
Josh Stifter 29:17
In fact, in the good exorcise there's a scene where the priests gets sent to hell. And I wanted Daniel to number one, we filmed it on troublemaker studio at the same spot where they filmed planet terror. I wanted Daniel to be kneeling in hell in the same spot that Bruce Willis stood. Now I removed everything from the shot like I've digitally changed everything, so you would never know that, but I just thought that'd be a cool story to have Daniel be kneeling and how where Bruce Willis stood for planet terror. And then on top of that, one of the reasons I wanted him to be kneeling in hell was in hopes that I could finally fill it filled him from a tall angle from like my normal angle and get a shot of him and I could not I had to stand on a bunch of chairs and get the tripod off. high up, he's that tall that he was kneeling and I still couldn't get a low angle or a high angle down on him.
Alex Ferrari 30:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So I want to I'm gonna geek out here for a second because there's been a lot of talk about Tyler Perry's amazing sound, you know, facility, soundstages production, epic Mecca that he's built in Georgia. But talk to us a little bit about troublemaker studios because that was kind of like the first indie. You know, he had like, again, we and I'll say it again, Robert to God. And you know, he's a mythical guy. And what he was able to do with creating what he's created over in Austin is pretty mind blowing. So can you tell? Can you tell us a little bit about what troublemaker studios is like, and how it's worked in with El Rey and everything. I just want you to tell the story because I really want filmmakers to understand that it is it's a possibility you can take your your your stuff to the next level.
Josh Stifter 31:09
You can so here's that was one of the things I wanted to bring up is you can dream big. Like, legitimately. I have no dreams are the kind of filmmaker I am a $250 million movie doesn't sound fun to me to be a part of that sounds really, really, really, really hard and a lot of pressure. Sitting on the alita set, editing my $7,000 movie in a $7 million, like, area. So this this like section of the alita set cost $7 million. I don't know if I'm supposed to say this, but I'm going to anyway. So I snuck onto it a few times with a director's chair and would edit my movie on the alita set, even though I wasn't supposed to be back there. Because I thought it would be cool to have this memory of making a $7,000 movie on a $7 million set. But what Robert has is it's it's an old airport, you can look this up. You can see it on Google Maps or whatever. It's this big airport that he's turned into a giant green screen. He has all the studio space. He's got everything there. He makes his movies there. They shot predators there. If you look at the behind the scenes on predators, you can see predators Yeah, that's what it's called. Right. Okay, and they they set up instead of filming, you know, in the rain forest, they created a rain forest in his back lot and there was still pieces of it while we were there. In fact, I was hoping to get that lot for predators in the background of the good Exorcist, but I was just too far away and too dark. Um, they filmed planet terror sequences there they film the green screen is where they filmed all of Sin City. Alito, you know, as they had the big soundstage there for alita. And you can actually go and watch a behind the scenes. I think it's on maybe on l Ray's YouTube page, or maybe Roberts YouTube page. It's on someone's YouTube page. But there's this really, really great behind the scenes that Steve Joyner put together Steve joiners, like Roberts. He's his prop maker, but he's also just, I never felt even talking to Robert. You know, I talked to Kevin Smith, I talked to Robert I never felt like I was in the presence of someone that was bigger than me. Like not not like, everyone's bigger than me. But like, that was doing things more important. I always feel like we're all just kind of filmmakers doing film stuff. There's a moment where I was talking to Steve joiner in his office will making the good Exorcist and I was holding a hood. And talking about how you
Alex Ferrari 33:37
I'm sorry, you were holding what you broke up for sending you were holding What?
Josh Stifter 33:40
A Hattori Hanzo sword from Kill Bill, literally holding a hatari Toronto sword because because Joyner made them so I'm holding one they're all over the troublemaker studio holding one of those eating a salad while Steve joiner is telling me how they use methylcellulose in the alien movies and how I could use that on my monsters. And I was like, this is the most insane I'm in presence of someone who has done things that I have never trumped up like it was just a crazy moment. Um, but that's the kind of stuff that troublemaker studios are the Steve joiners, the the people that you just are like, Oh my god, Robert surrounds himself with the Masters like the best people in the world who can do things where you're just like Nina Proctor who is the his costume designer, she was in the show. She's the one who kind of walked us through wardrobe and folks the one the other thing you'll learn is when you go into make a feature film and you're under pressure to make a feature film, there are things that you do not know and you will rely on anyone who can help you in any way. I do not know wardrobe at all. I literally wrote the movie The good exorcise because I could put my best friend in a priest costume and he'd never have to change I have wardrobe every day, it'll end up stinking after two weeks, but I don't have to change him out of it at all. And Nina helped me through all the other characters and what they could wear. Um, and I relied on the, the actors, they'll they will read the script, they'll figure out what their character would were better than I could because I just did not have the time or the patience to sit down and go like what shoes would Stanley wear? And Avery figured it out and showed up to set Stanley is kind of a goofball in the movie showed up the set one day with one pant leg rolled up. And I was like, That's funny. Why? Why do you have one pant leg rolled up thinking he was just going like, I don't know, I figured a character in Dumb and Dumber would do it. And he's like, Well, here's the thing. I figured Stanley works on a ranch. Okay, he'd probably ride like a little motorized bike around the ranch to get around. So he'd roll up his pant leg. And then he'd have it up so it wouldn't get caught in the chain. Right? And I'm like, No one is ever going to get that every no one is ever going to think about that. He's like, I know. It just looks stupid. But at least we have an excuse for why I would look stupid when I wear this like Dude, dead on go. Do you? Do you, man? You do. Exactly. I did that. And it looks awesome. I've only had one person ever watched the movie and go like, why was his pant leg rolled up. But it that one person caught it and then thought it was funny when I told the story. Now,
Alex Ferrari 36:16
you've made your first you made a good exercise for 7000. But now you've decided to go down and budget on your next films. Why is that? Because most people go up. I'm a proponent of going down my second film I went down. I love doing that. I think you get more control and all those other things. But I'm curious why you did.
Josh Stifter 36:33
So and it wasn't like we ever thought about it. So we again, we wrote around what we had, and most of my budget for the good exorcise went to paying my cast. It went to I paid my cast enough for gas and for dinner every day, like just enough to make up something Yeah, make it worth coming out. Like for real. I didn't want them to go go away with nothing. So I think I paid everyone everyone who was like more than a day player. I paid a couple $100 you know, just something and then day players I'd get $50 um, and and then they'd get lunch While they were there as well. I didn't give anything to Daniel, Daniel got nothing, because he's a friend friends work for free. That's not true. At the end, I had 400 extra dollars and I gave Daniel 400 extra dollars. That's why my budget says $7,000 but I was like dude flew himself out. He came out left his newborn boys. He had two newborn twins at the time. They were like three months old. He left for three weeks to come to Austin to help me on my silly movie. Um, so I paid them we had to rent our camera equipment. You see that on the show, we had to rent the location we had to pay for, you know, just a bunch of things that all added up. So when it was I rented a slider a $500. I saw I saw how stupid It's so stupid. But I just in my head. I was like, I'm never gonna be able to afford to rent a $500 slider. So if Roberts gonna pay for it, you know what I'm going to go for it was the best thing I ever did. That saved my that $500 slider was used in every shot and it made my movie looks so much bigger budget than it was because I could constantly have the camera moving. So get a slider. Now with that being said you can get I have a $70 slider that I use that does that work. It works totally fine. Yeah. Um, so when we came back and we went to do Gray was plot we just started writing around things we had and I already had a camera and at the rent any equipment we wrote around locations we had we filmed it on the fly, most of my budget went to getting a hotel room for a couple days, booze, I put boobs in my budget, because keep my friends happy. But I didn't pay my cast. So because they were all my friends, I cast my two best friends. And then a guy that just kind of showed up one day who was a friend of Daniels and then he and I became best friends and he ended up there's a dog man mask. There's a bunch of practical effects ones from monster effects that we learn how to make ourselves. And we just learned from YouTube and we made this mask that we were quoted to have someone a professional make it they quoted us $6,000 and then I got them down to like $3,000. And then I was like, What if we just do it ourselves. I don't have it costing us a couple 100 bucks to make it work. And it worked. It was a lot of work. And it looks gorgeous in the movie. It's totally fun to look at. and it cost us next to nothing and it works. It tells the story. So it wasn't it wasn't a matter of going like let's go down and budget. I honestly don't know what we spent. When is all said and done. Because it just it was $100 here that we just 200
Alex Ferrari 39:36
is there 500 bucks there it just it's not it's not enough to take a hit. You don't. You're not feeling it. In other words,
Josh Stifter 39:42
it cost as much as a vacation would have cost, right? That's what I say like it cost as much as a vacation and that's what it was. It was a vacation for me and my buddies to go in the woods, me to get down in my underwear and film a scene with my friends. And like I said, we just had fun.
Alex Ferrari 39:58
So one thing I am seeing That you that you're doing. And I'm asking certain questions very specifically, because I'm leading up to this, you are, you're very, you understand who your audience is. So you're creating product for that audience, you're doing it at a budget that that is doable, and that is accepted for that audience. So you're basically creating an MVP or minimum viable product for your audience. So if that budgets low, great, the lower the budget, the better you're gonna chances you're gonna have a making your money back. And in the genre that you've chosen, which is kind of horror and in my Am I wrong because I
Josh Stifter 40:34
sort of, I'm kind of like in the comedy horror, right? Okay, so I'm kind of like falling into this weird place of the Evil Dead tos and stuff like that, where it's But still, Horry
Alex Ferrari 40:46
still say, and you could sell it to a horror fan all day.
Josh Stifter 40:51
I can sell it. So it's fun, because I can sell it to horror fans. And I can sell it to people who want to get someone into horror, because modern horror is very, very gory, or very, very scary. And modern horror fans like that. And that's great. I like that I am a horror fan. But my wife isn't. So I've set out to make things that I can watch with my wife, or you can watch with friends, or you can put on in the background at Halloween. Or you can you know, it's it's sort of its light genre. But also, you know, I'm a big fan of like, drag me to hell, I'm a big fan of these movies that are like they're fun. No, watch their goofy horrors Ghostbusters. Like, it's Ghostbusters. While it is more of a comedy has a lot of fun horror elements to it still. And I have a lot of people who watch the good extra assist and go like, I can't wait till my kid is 12 because this is the movie that I'm going to show them when he or she is 12. Because it's our but it's a light R and it's a fun r it's not too bad, right? And then you're creating this kind of portfolio of films that you're putting under your company name and you're starting to build a brand. And you know, and you've LED is that is that fair to say? 100%. And part of the brand is the data down and dirty. Go into cons and selling my own movie directly to the audience talking to people about it not being afraid to talk about what it is not being able to talk about the negatives of the film and the positives and hear people out on their opinions and have people talk about it. I make these these first three features that I'm working on. I call them my Rebel Without a crew features because they're literally just taking what Robert taught in the Bible of filmmaking and putting them to practice and seeing what happens in this era, which is it's very similar to what the duplass brothers did in the 2000s. It's very similar to like, there's a lot of indie filmmakers, they're just finding this way to build off of it. And there are a lot of horror movies coming out right now. And they're very, very, very good. I never I can't do that with no budget. So what I have to do is find a specific audience for that this type of horror movie. The good Exorcist is a comedy horror. It's more comedy than it is horror. It's a very watch. Gray was plot is more of a body horror, mixed with comedy, but it's still it's fun for the independent film audience to watch. It's black and white. It does weird stuff. It's the kind of movie you can watch and go. You'd never call it an arthouse movie but you never you'd never go you know this is a blockbuster hoarder, right it fits into this weird mold of not quite David Lynch in but not for you know, it's something you really want to you know, you wouldn't show your mom this you you kind of if you're a filmmaker, you'll get it more than anyone else. Um, or if you're interested in film, especially older films, it's sort of that thing and then scumbag my third movie that I literally went into production this morning on is I mean it's I've been in pre production for a year now I'm finally getting going on it but it's a movie I'm making 100% by myself, I've set up camera rigs all over my basement so that I can have cameras on you know, motion sliders that are like timed and stuff like that. So and this is kind of more in the it's more of a horror straight a horror movie, but it's it's very still very strange. Obviously I'm making it by myself. So it's gonna be strange, but it is these three are Rebel Without a crew movies that I I know my audience and my audiences the people who want passion.
Alex Ferrari 44:27
Yeah, and the one thing but and you're also I've saw some pictures I don't think you posted or something on Facebook, where you're at the Comic Cons. You're at the condo, Hong Kong, right and yours and you're selling your wares you're selling what are the products that you have for these for these films other than just the films or do or is it just the films
Josh Stifter 44:45
on so I like to make stuff I love selling t shirts, I love selling everything because people like to be a part of the brand. They like to be in on something and I'm not making something that is going to go out to Walmarts and red boxes, necessarily You know, I'm going through Different film distribution many of which I owe to you, man, you have helped me more than any you've helped me probably in post production more way more than Robert Rodriguez did in post production or in post post production, like your podcast, the things you talk about, like learning about AI Dude, it's been so helpful hearing your talks with with Linda and all these other people. It's just it's been crazy helpful. And so I, I've been able to take that and sort of figure out what my way of selling it is. And I realized I love marketing it. But most filmmakers hate that part of the do my favorite part is sitting behind a booth and having someone going up to me and going like, dude, I love this art, what's the good Exorcist and then walking away and tweeting at me the next day, dude, I watched the good Exorcist. It was everything you said it was or it was, you know, I, we loved it. My wife and I sat down and we cannot believe what you were able to make. That's amazing. Or the people who go on IMDB and are like, what a piece of garbage. I love that too. Because they just they sat down and watched it. And I tell them, if you you buy the movie, if you like it, amazing. Show your friends. If you don't like it amazing. Give it to your friends. Like just give it away, like do something with it. Like, I don't care. Like just put it out in your in your garage sale and sell it to someone else find a way to get it around. Because that's, to me, the fun of it is hearing what people think of it later. So I didn't specifically own the rights to an exorcist for about a year.
Alex Ferrari 46:29
Yeah, exactly. Because I'll read it was l rated?
Josh Stifter 46:32
Yeah, there was this weird middle ground where no one was really saying who owned it. And the paperwork was kind of fuzzy, because, you know, they've made the reality show, but they never really thought that much about what the movies would do. When it was all said and done. That's a weird thing to make for someone else. And whenever we knew to err on El Rey, the whole point was to have it on go 90. Like we thought it would be out for free for the world to see. And we can market ourselves and whatever. Go 90 went out of business. And that never happened. So then it was like, well, what's going to happen? Where does this go? So I went and just made bootlegs of my own damn movie. And I just made DVDs. I put a audio commentary with Daniel and I on it some behind the scenes that I made out of footage that I had, and you were selling them at the cons. And I was just selling bootlegs of my own movie at the cons. Well, at first, it was very, like, people who were interested in the movie, I was like, Hey, man, I got I'm selling it here if you want it, because I didn't know what was gonna happen. I went to galaxy con this last week. It's a Minneapolis, Minneapolis con. And I just I put them out on the table, because now I have the rights back and I can sell it however I want. So I'm like, I made 100 of these bootlegs. If anyone wants to buy it, this is your one chance to buy this version of the movie, I'm I'm going back and I'm cleaning it up now that I have the rights. And I'm going to put it out on you know, the CD on VHS. Although I am I'm doing we got to do the VHS to VHS and you know, film hub. And with you know, we talked to indie film rights and trauma now. And we've talked to all these people that you've sort of kind of put me in contact with, because I never would have heard of indie film rights, I probably wouldn't have heard of film hub, I had worked with distributor. We all know how that went. So now, I haven't heard what's going on. That's literally that's the only person that's the only group I've ever worked with was dis reverse. So and that was a pain in the ass to get the stuff that I had done with other companies now off of it. So you've helped me with that as well. Great. But so you know, we've got filmhub at our at our disposal, we've got these other things. So everything's sort of, I don't want to say like, you can see, I don't know when this episode's coming out, but I don't want to say you can see it on Amazon Prime yet because we're in QC processes and all this stuff. And you never know when things are going to come out but hopefully very very, very soon. Okay. And that the good Exorcist is there but I put this 100 copies of the DVD out on the table and it was like, anyone want to buy this thing I made like I had the Rebel Without a crew poster. But I
Alex Ferrari 49:03
saw and I saw the pictures. And I'm gonna I'm gonna have you send that picture to me. I'm gonna put it on the on the show notes. I want to put I want people to see this. Dude, I sold out of 100 copies for sure. How much did you
Josh Stifter 49:12
sell these for? bottom. So I was selling them for just $10 which is a DVD $10 is not it's a lot but it's not.
Alex Ferrari 49:19
It's obviously you made a grand off that
Josh Stifter 49:21
I made a grand off of it. And here's the thing as people bought it, they ended up buying t shirts. They ended up buying patches and stickers. They end up tipping me they were just like $10 is too little man. You should this is a limited edition thing. If you autographed it I signed the DVD was just like literally a white DVD. So I draw a little picture on it and sign it and stuff like that for everyone. So they'd give me a little extra. I ended up making a little bit of money that I didn't spend anything on the movie like it. The movie is a $7,000 movie out of Roberts pocket, not mine.
Alex Ferrari 49:52
So he's not but he's already monetized it through. Yeah, yeah. He's already monetized it. He's Robert It's not in the business of holding down the five $7,000 films and locking him up and distribution. Hell, I don't think that's really what he's about. So I was assuming at one point or another those rights, I mean, I understood that there was probably a windowing, it had to be on air, and they still probably own it for life to be able to be broadcast with which makes five fabric sense. But if you can explain,
Josh Stifter 50:23
it was my student film, that I get to make money on my student film anything. If I make 20 bucks, that's better than most students, I want a student film and I want
Alex Ferrari 50:33
I want, I really want people to understand this, because this is what I'm preaching in my new book, The rise of the film shoprunner, I'm really preaching your You are everything you just said, as a film intrapreneur method without question, you identified your niche, you've made the product for low, low money, you're actually leveraging press and attention that you would have not gotten in a normal $7,000 movie. So you're still you're leveraging that you've created multiple ancillary product lines that you can sell at these places. And now you're actually exploiting the rights of that film and exploiting that product and other multiple avenues that are non exclusive. So you can continue to spread those revenue streams, hopefully passive revenue streams that you'll keep coming in for years to come Is that a fair statement that covers everything
Josh Stifter 51:15
is 100% a fair statement. And on top of that, because I've done all non exclusives, after, you know, a year here and a year there, and whatever, I get to go back to it and see where it's at. So it's the long game of like, well, if the good Exorcist builds an audience great. But I can always just keep going with this sort of self distribution or with these little non exclusives that will help me get more and more eyes on it throughout the years. So that's the beauty of this movie is and I still retain the rights to sequels, I still retain the rights to do an animated merge, I plant March lunch boxes, you dude, I'm literally doing a lunchbox Of course,
Alex Ferrari 51:54
I literally do it dude, in my dude, in my book, I talk all about the horror niche, because it's such a lucrative niche for for independent filmmakers, and they love physical media, they love merge. And if you love what you're doing, I mean, they can smell a money grab. So don't try to do that. But so you really do not love what you're doing. But if you do that, as an audience that can sustain you, if you want to put the work in, if you want to go and hustle, the cons, and also build up a brand and do all you can make a living at it. And you can actually, I was gonna ask you, like you have three movies and two movies, now you're making your third now. So in three or four years, you might have four or five, six of these movies that were done at a very low budget, that you control the 110%, you have complete creative control. And now you have multiple revenue streams coming in from all of these. So every time you go to a con, all of a sudden you don't have one movie, you have multiple movies, and multiple merchandisers. And then of course, you could be selling this online, you could be doing other different ways to create more. And I'm assuming this should be an online course somewhere coming online, where you're teaching people how to do all these things. Because you know, you've established yourself as an expert or thought leader in this space based in the horror, horror movie space and show them how you're doing it. So that's another revenue stream, you can create all of this stuff, but you're not look, the thing is I'm trying to make a point here is that you're not going to become a millionaire right now off this, you might, that's great. But you're doing what you love to do. You're putting food on the table, a roof over your head, and you get to be an artist to do whatever the hell you want while you're still providing a service to an audience. And that to me is the dream. Sure, Robert does that on a much larger scale that both you and I put together, but that's okay. It doesn't have to be all don't have to be multimillionaires, working in that sandbox, we can work at smaller sandboxes my sandbox is different than your sandbox. You know, we all are creating different worlds for ourselves. And the tools are around today that we can do that. So I first of all, I applaud you, sir. I play golf, golf. A golf clubs are a golf club.
Josh Stifter 53:56
I love the golf club. Yeah, and I mean, and with animation and stuff like that. I've also found out that, you know, one of the things that I use these movies to do is build up. Number one my skills as a director to learn, like, I put myself in the movie in the second movie, because I wanted to learn what it's like to, you know, be covered in fake blood or wear a mask or have that process done. So when I'm asking a actress or actor to do that, it's not weird for me. I've lived through the process and I get it. So I've tried to build myself as a director, but then also finding like, I've gotten good at visual effects. I've done visual effects on Roberts movies, I've done visual effects on trauma movies. Now I've done visual effects on all sorts of movies coming in and you've talked about Jeremy wanek. Before a few times, right Jeremy wanek. Is has like he has been a total inspiration to me and as much as dude is one of the hardest working people you'll ever meet in your life. He is so hard working and we worked at a full time job together for like 10 years. So we've been we've worked together for a while just branched off from that to start our own businesses. I literally had lunch with him this morning and We talked about the movies I'm working on. And we talked about some of the things I'm doing with trauma and full moon features. And all of these other kind of like be movie companies full moons still around is phones. I'm literally working with full moon this Tuesday. So our next two on one
Alex Ferrari 55:15
On Puppet Master 75, which one of you were
Josh Stifter 55:18
There, they're they're doing a puppet master movie, there's this thing called the dead, they're doing this thing called the deadly 10, where they're showing the behind the scenes of 10 feature films being made. So there's all these feature films being made. And they're like, live streaming the process, and I think it's deadly ten.com or something like that. And I'm gonna be filming the behind the scenes for one of these movies. And just because I love doing behind the scenes stuff, and because of Rebel Without a crew, I've kind of worked on the reality stuff, so. But I learned from these small companies like these big movie companies, and they're kind of like, where my mind is going as well, because they've done the they did the Empire thing that got them into making a whole bunch of crappy movies at the time in the 90s. They built this thing, this empire of it, and they're still able to do it today and make a ton of money off of it because of, you know, building all building this empire in their own way in their time. Um, anyway, long story short,
Alex Ferrari 56:11
Like trauma, like Robert like all these guys.
Josh Stifter 56:15
And talking to Jeremy, I, we he taught me sort of this work ethic. And we were talking about how visual effects has been able to wait and been a way for us to both build our brands and build our companies. And I've used animation, visual effects and just learned over the last 10 years. And now Yeah, now I'm getting to the point where I can direct my own movies and tell my own stories. And in five years, who knows where I'll be as long as you don't rest too long. take breaks, meditate. Figure out how you can survive on getting, you know, kicking ass and hustling. But you need to find your way to do it that specifically works that doesn't let you be lazy and lets you continue to just kick ass and work hard.
Alex Ferrari 56:58
Yeah, and just so everybody knows, Jeremy worked on both This is Meg and on the corner of ego and desire doing visual effects. For me. He's a great, great guy and did some amazing work on both those films for me. And he just reached out to me, he like he was just like, I really was like, Hey, man, if you ever need any help, let me know. And I'm like, Well, I you know what, I need something. And
Josh Stifter 57:18
Calling back to the beginning of this episode where I said, I just reached out to Kevin Smith and was like, Hey, man, I did this animation I like, you know, I like your stuff. If you ever need animation, I'm around the same thing. Jeremy does that with people as well, part of it is just being in the right place at the right time and not afraid to say that your services are available, and proving that you have services that they're going to want.
Alex Ferrari 57:39
Yeah, and you also you've also not been able to, and you did, I did this too. For a long time, I've used most of my career where I was able to build a post production company to be able to sustain my filmmaking habit. So it's kind of like you in that's how and by building that company up, I was able to put a lot of tools in my toolbox that allows me to make a $5,000 movie or a $3,000 movie, because I've had all that education and experience over the years, and you've done the same thing. So you're, if you're not making a movie, you're not making your money off movies you are making off, you're making money off the filmmaking process in one way, shape, or form.
Josh Stifter 58:19
And you're learning every day, that's the biggest thing is you got to take, you know, when you get that job and where you're like, Oh, I do not want to work on this project, but you need it, you need to take it to pay the bills. Don't think about it like that. Take it in and be like what can I What can I actually learn from this? What's something that in this process that is going to help me in the future, because you're going to have to take in a lot of jobs that you probably don't want to take it's just a fact like that's that's it that's three and a filmmaker that's part of the life is you're gonna have to do stuff that you don't want to do, and use that to make the stuff that you do want to do have so sweet. Oh, it's so much better than the days like today. In for this movie. scumbag I'm doing I'm turning my whole basement into a it's about a guy who's trapped in a basement during a mutant apocalypse. It's my omega man. And so it's me at a gas mask the whole movie folks, it is going to be a weird movie. And there are mutants that I play and there are stop motion monsters and my hand monsters and all sorts of weird stuff. So
Alex Ferrari 59:20
200 $250,000, right. As much as the class.
Josh Stifter 59:22
Yeah, it's like, well, no, we're like, we went over and we're at like one, we're just under 1.5 mil.
Alex Ferrari 59:30
And that's a that's a we laugh. But that is a lesson that everyone needs to understand. That movie you just pitched me. There is a budget threshold. That makes sense. If you're paying for it yourself, because there's a limited audience for that film. I'm not saying it can't blow up and turn into Napoleon Dynamite or a big huge monster hits. sure everyone could win a lottery. But the point is, this is a small film that's experimental. I look I shot him 100% I shot a movie at the Sundance Film Festival.
Josh Stifter 59:56
You know that's experiments I version of ego and desire man. What I saw Ego I was just like, Okay, what how can I do this for MMA fans that I've built and push myself to the limit. And the limit I realized is, every time I said Rebel Without a crew, every time I say that, that thing Rebel Without a crew, it feels tainted because your your cast is your crew, your friends become your crew and my like, friends are better than any crew I've ever worked with. I've worked on some relatively big projects, you know, especially corporate stuff where you're like, how, how the hell do they get a budget for this is big.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:36
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Josh Stifter 1:00:46
For a Best Buy commercial, you're just like, Oh, my God, this is my next seven movies in this budget, and the crew is massive. And so working with my friends, they become a better crew than any of those productions. They're just amazing. So my only real way of making a movie without a crew is to get rid of everyone. I just have to work by myself. And I know that I'm not going to have a big I'm not going to have an audience like a Star Wars would have. That's just not going to happen. But what I will have are filmmakers who are interested in the process. People who are going into going like he net there's no way he accomplish something. He couldn't do it. The naysayers, the people who just want to see a fun, weird little no budget horror movie, and people
Alex Ferrari 1:01:32
who know who you are and want to follow you.
Josh Stifter 1:01:34
And people who see the trailer and go, Oh, that looks cool. Because in the end, I hope that the movie is able to just be watched on its own. I want to make something that if you don't know what you're going into, you'll watch the trailer and you'll be like, Oh, this looks interesting. I'll check it out. So if I can get to a con and get the trailer in front of people and sell it to them, I'm gonna make money off of it. Yesterday I was at Home Depot. What I assume Home Depot is all around the US but
Alex Ferrari 1:02:01
I don't know. Yes, it is.
Josh Stifter 1:02:03
I was at a Home Depot. And I was like, oh man, I'm I'm my basement has like this little window at the top that I wanted it to look like it got, you know, metal sheet metal over the top with wood planks, like he's locked himself in. And I was looking at this sheet metal, I'm just like, oh, man, $12 Oh, like, that's I'm keeping this budget as low as I can. Like, I just want it to be nothing I spent, you know, a few bucks on sliders that are on there, they're up time to sliders. And you know, they're like, I think they're like 400, I think I spent 400 bucks.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
For your iPhone, you can use that iPhone to connect to exactly
Josh Stifter 1:02:41
that's the kind I got the iPhone kind. And so you know, I spent when all is when as I'm going I've spent maybe $1,000 on new stuff, which then I can use on my next movie, so it's justifiable in that way. And if this movie ends up being a $3,000, movie, great, like I can make $3,000 back on this idea. But it's, it's a matter of getting out there and getting that $3,000 back. And then after that finding a bigger way to you know, more money to make. But with that being said, it's also a tax write off, because it's my movie for my company, it's a passion project, I could go on vacation for 3000 bucks, or I could do this
Alex Ferrari 1:03:22
and you're gonna invest in something that can generate revenue for you moving forward. And once you build out these systems, though, once you build out the systems of like, I can go to the cons, I can set up, you know, my website, I can set up an email list to get and just it's it you can build a business this is you're building a business, you're building a business around your art around your films. And that's what we all should strive for is to do that. I mean, look, again, I'll bring Robert backup, Robert built a business off of his art. It's a massive business and he was many, many ways he was at the right place at the right time at night in the 90s when El Mariachi showed up when the opportunity for El Rey network showed up he was at the right place at the right time and had the right you know, it was everything fell into place. But he's been able to leverage those great opportunities and his great talent and business savvy to be able to build an entire business around what he does and also helps other filmmakers do the same thing through his through troublemaker.
Josh Stifter 1:04:21
He also doesn't say no, like that's the beautiful thing about Robert is when an idea pops up or when something comes to be he's his reaction is just do it. And I learned that from him when I would ask him questions and I'd be like, do you think I could and he's like yeah, you could if you think you can you can you just start with the idea don't make it happen. Like stop questioning it, just do it. And that is the Robert mentality is like someone could go man, should I make a PG Spy Kids movie after I've made Desperado and all of this other stuff and Robert he easily could have said no to spike it it's I still think it's his highest grossing film. Oh
Alex Ferrari 1:04:56
no my kids, the again being a Robert Rodriguez you know, Robert file he his empire was built on the back of spike it Yeah, well, I mean that that's what built troublemaker that's what built the studios all of it it wasn't you know later on Sin City showed up but it was spike it exploded him into a stratosphere
Josh Stifter 1:05:22
and Spy Kids 3d was massive people don't remember that that was like the first 3d project that was the first thing shot on those 3d cameras, because essentially they gave him the technology to just mess around with and he just had a blast with it. He still loved like when you talk to him about Spy Kids, his eyes light up.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
There's so much fun. There's so much my kids have seen all the Spy Kids, they love them and they're so powerful. And they're they made he made so much money Spy Kids. I think it's Spy Kids wonder Spy Kids three is his highest grossing film. I don't know, maybe at bat, maybe alita alita. Might have
Josh Stifter 1:05:59
i don't know i'm not sure if Alito passed it up. But as far as like grossing, like, return on investment Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:05
no, no ROI, ROI spike, he made the first one for 30 million, if I'm not mistaken, was like 27 million or 27 million, something along those lines and then grossed just domestically like 140 or 150 million, but then the merchandising, as as Mel Brooks says, and Spaceballs merchandising It was so much the tie ins with McDonald's. So much money, so much money.
Josh Stifter 1:06:30
I know we got to wrap up, but I got to tell one quick story. Yeah, go ahead. So Rebel Without a crew. I, we, we were like doing between the making our movie, the reality shows stuff, everything that happened. We were just like, working 22 hours a day. Like we weren't sleeping. It was just so much. And I was trying to edit my movie as we went as well. So it was just like crazy stressful. And after we wrapped we had this Sunday where they put us up in a hotel and they were like, shut your brains off, like, do nothing. And I had bronchitis. I was dying. There was a moment on the show where Robert light gives me the fist bump because I got sick two days before the movie was both before we were supposed to wrap the good Exorcist and I quit. They didn't show this on the show. I quit. I I called my wife and I'm like, I'm done. I can't do this. I was like, I hopped up blood in the shower. And I was just like, I'm done. I am done. I am sick. I can't move on. I cannot finish this movie. And I had scheduled all of the fun stuff, all of the bloody stuff in the movie, all of the stuff that makes a movie mine in the last two days because I'm like, well, we'll get through all of the story. And then in the last two days, we're just gonna spray gallons of blood we're just gonna go for it and I was so sick. I didn't want to do any of that. So I was dying and they put us up in this hotel on a Sunday and I walked into the hotel and I just like crashed on the bed and they brought us food they brought us Pete Harry's which is the best burger I've ever eaten in my entire life. Pete Aires and Austin Texas get it they're not I'm not I'm not getting any money back from them for saying this Irish mom used to be there is and they brought it to the door and I sat down at lay down in the bed and I'm like, I think I cried. I honestly think I laid in the bed and I just like tears you know that cry when you're so tired that it's just like tears is like rolling down my face. I just laid there looking up at the ceiling feeling miserable. And I got the strength to grab my P Terry's and turn on the TV and I am not joking. I this is 100% swear to God. I turned on the TV. Spy Kids was on. I just turned it on and Spy Kids popped on. I didn't move I set down the remote. I watched Spy Kids and AP Terry's in my underwear.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:42
Nice great image by the way. It's fantastic. Is it that
Josh Stifter 1:08:44
it just oh I loved I probably I it was easiest I've ever been and I'm a skin guy to begin with. Because I've been working so hard. I hadn't eaten because I was so stressed. I had I just laid in that bed in my underwear. And when like the film gods are smiling down at me with Spy Kids right now and I just laid in bed and watched it and felt like a child like 100% like a kid on a Saturday morning in my undies eaten food that I like like it's like the equivalent to my bowl of cereal and just watched by kids. It was amazing. That's That's awesome.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:17
And I'm assuming you finished. Oh, I did. I watched the whole thing I did. No, no, you finished. You finished the show.
Josh Stifter 1:09:24
Oh, yeah, I did. Yeah, this was this was after we had wrapped in everything. Honestly, the second we wrapped the movie or the Rebel Without a crew, the good Exorcist. I walked into the front door of the mansion that they had put us up in and one of the producers was like, What's wrong with him? And everyone was like, he's been like this for two days. She had been on a music video shoot and came back and she was like, he needs to go to the hospital. You guys. This isn't Josh. This isn't the guy that we had on the show. My face was green. My skin was nasty. I was just like, well then she Get me to the hospital. So I literally wrapped my movie and instead of like celebrating I went to the hospital
Alex Ferrari 1:10:05
as a true indie filmmaker sir
Josh Stifter 1:10:08
it's finished it and you guys can see the good Exorcist I don't know when this episode is coming up, but it will be on Amazon Prime soon it will be on trohman now it'll, it's on iTunes, but it's kind of a different version that El Rey network put out. It will be if you want to, you can subscribe to my Patreon, I run a Patreon where I show it's my like, I like the Patreon because I loved the behind the scenes on DVDs back in the day layer number Kevin Smith put out that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back like three disc edition that was just filled with fun behind the scenes stuff. That's what my Patreon is. It's my like, second DVD for everything I post behind the scenes for everything. Um, and I just constantly am making new stuff when I see something that I'm like, Oh, I never posted this or someone asked me like how did you blow up the teddy bear and the good Exorcist or kill the teddy bear, I just make a behind the scenes on like how I talk about it. So you could subscribe to my Patreon right now, anytime that this is coming out and you will get the good exercises sent to you immediately a screener of it.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:11
That's awesome, dude. Now, before I end the show, man, I wanted to ask you one question. You brought this up in our pre pre show interview, if you will, your attitude change. I thought that that was extremely important for you to talk about how did you know your attitude change from being the angry, bitter negative filmmaker, which we all like I always say, we all know an angry, bitter filmmaker. And if you don't know when you are the angry and bitter filmmaker, how your attitude change has affected not only your life, but your career and everything you're trying to do.
Josh Stifter 1:11:43
Yeah, so I, I was the pessimist. Like I was the negative guy. My wife still says I'm the pessimist because I am the guy who, you know, when I walk out the door, I'm thinking about what we didn't bring or what could go wrong or what like it's there's like a skill. It's a skill. there's a there's a pessimistic attitude in me that's not looking at what positive could happen, hey, we're gonna have fun on this vacation. I'm like, What did we forget? And but I was that to the ultimate degree, I used to look at stuff and I would get a job. And I would instantly just be like, God, I got to do this work, or I this is not going to be fun, or no one's ever going to like what I make, or I'm always gonna be a failure. And like, just everything was pessimistic, everything was pessimistic. And three years ago. So I'm, I'm 34. Now. So it was four years ago at this point, you know, I kind of just turned 34, though. So it was basically when I turned 31. So it was like three years ago, more or less. I'm in my 30s I or my whole life, I have one thing on my bucket list, make a feature film, that was literally the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life. I didn't care about anything else. And I had kids, I own a house, I have all of this stuff that is stuff that people would consider positive things. But I never finished my feature film. And it like always dragged me down. And this was like, a few weeks. But before I turned 31 in, or before I turned 30 and I turned 30. And I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna make a feature film. That's the only thing I'm going to do. And I turned 31. And I was like, dude, you're never going to do it. Like if you don't just think positive, change your mindset and go, let's go make a movie. Let's have fun with it. Let's do this thing. You're always going to look at things negatively. And Daniel, me, Keith and Strauss went out in the woods, and something flipped in my brain where I'm like, we can have fun doing this. And you can be happy about every project you bring in. And you can think positively about stuff. These last three years have been the best three years of my life. waking up in the morning. And the first thing it's it's a challenge for me, I have to wake up in the morning and not go, what's gonna go wrong today. I have to literally think to myself in the shower. This is going to be a good day. Let's do this thing. I'm like that little girl who's like, You are good, you are great. This is going to be a positive day. That's me every day and I have to think positive. Every day is amazing. Now, now I've had my bad days just like everyone else. But at the end of the day when the bad day ends, and I lay down in bed I'm like, Yeah, but you made it through it. And actually, you know what, you finished this animation. You did a podcast, you you know, even if even if it's something small like you relax today, you had a bad day. Now tomorrow gets to be the good one because you got the bad one out of the way like that thinking positive has made my business flourish. It's made my films flourish. It's made everything I do feel like it's all kind of worth it. And it's about thinking that way being positive and not going alright, this is going to be a crappy project or today is going to be a bad day on set. Oh, that guy showed up late on Rebel Without a crew like there was one day where one of the cast members was like, Hey man, I'm my son came into downtown today early and I'm not going to be able to show up today. Set today, I wasn't paying them much. So I couldn't be like, No, you are going to show up to set. Instead I just went, Okay, we're going to write around him today. And then when he's here tomorrow, we'll just film him up against the wall in the corner. And it's like he's angrily standing in the corner. Totally fine and totally worked. And no one ever has noticed it in the movie that he wasn't on set that day, because I found a work around
Alex Ferrari 1:15:21
And you could have lost and you could have lost your every month, you could have lost your mind and ruined your entire day and ruined the shoot that day.
Josh Stifter 1:15:29
If my attitude had changed based on him not showing up, it would have been a terrible day. So I told the story about how I called my wife and I was like, I'm not filming. I'm not like that was the day that pessimistic. angry, Josh showed up. And Daniel said, Daniel, I called Daniel and he said, Actually, I talked to one of my pa on from the reality crew. And he was like, all you need to do is get to Daniel, and you'll change your attitude. And I was like, yeah, Daniel can't show up for another two hours. And I am going, I'm leaving you guys, can't I there's no way. He's like, well, what would make you happy? What? Like, what could you do? Like what would turn your attitude around? He's like, I see that you don't want to be here. What would change your attitude. And I'm like, you know what, I want to go to the Halloween store. And this was the day after Halloween. So it was like the 90% off day. So I went to the Halloween store. And I just bought like six gallons of blood and just walked out of there with like, 90% off gallons of blood. I'm like, Alright, today is going to be an okay day. And I just found that thing to turn it around. And then I got to set and Daniel was there. And he was like, Alright, you want me to roll around on the phone with it on the floor with the telephone. And I was like, Oh, that sounds like fun. Yeah, I guess I'll stay. Let's do that. And that's when we filmed the scene where Daniel rolls around on the floor of the telephone.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:41
That's awesome. Dude, that's awesome.
Josh Stifter 1:16:43
Well, I'm all about, it's all about that positivity. Man. I think there's so many people who don't make anything because they think about what bad could come from it, or the fact that someone's not going to like it or the fact that, you know, it maybe didn't turn out the way they wanted it to or whatever. Get rid of that
Alex Ferrari 1:16:58
That's got to go, you just got to go.
Josh Stifter 1:17:01
That's gonna hold you back every day of your life. Think about the one person who's gonna like it. Think about the fact that you finish something that no one else will ever finish. Think about the fact that, you know, tomorrow's another day and you never know what's going to happen. So keep pushing forward. Fantastic advice, sir. And I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:19
What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Josh Stifter 1:17:24
Just start right now start. Like right now you you are sitting here thinking as young filmmaker, you don't think how can I break into the business? You're never gonna break into the business. If you're sitting there thinking, stop thinking and go make a cartoon or go shoot something in your backyard? No one has to see it. Just go do it right now. The End, show it to your friends show it to your significant other, like, so many people that I talked to I did a high school, like a q&a at a high school for this like film, all these film students or these students made films that they showed on the big screen. And there's one girl asked like almost this exact question. And she was like, now that I made my short film, I don't know what to do next. Because I don't think I can do a feature or I don't think I can. I was just like, why? Like, I'm no better than you are like, you've got you can get a camera from your school. That's better than the camera I had at the time filming this, like you have equipment. I know that schools have them. Like, just go do it. And if film school is your route, go for it. Like that's great. If you feel like you'll learn more in film school. Totally Go for it. If you feel like you'll learn more just going out and making a feature film. Go do that. Do what you feel is right for you. I wasted years because I tried to listen to what people told me I should do. You know, I asked my dad every day, right? ask other people who have no idea how to get into the film industry. They know how to do something else. That was the worst advice I could give worst advice to myself I could give is listen to other people. Because it didn't work for me. What worked for me is the day I got up and I just went Screw it. You and your buddies are going in the woods and we're making a movie.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:03
Good for you, man. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Josh Stifter 1:19:10
Um, be positive. That was the hardest part. I mean, I like looking back at my 20s I can't believe how angry I was about everything. I bought a house. I had kids. I did all this amazing stuff that you know, is very cool. I've worked with Kevin Smith. The irony being I was working with Kevin Smith and I would sit there and go like, Kevin isn't gonna like this. He liked everything. Except for one animation he thought was too dark, which I find now I look back I'm like, that's so funny that I was too dark. I think that's amazing. And I just had to change a few things and then he was kind of cool with it, but I just I like bloody gory stuff. And Kevin didn't like bloody gory stuff. So we found a happy workaround for it. Um, but my my the thing that took me the longest to learn was just be positive. Stop worrying about what other people think. And be self aware of what you think of yourself. Like, got a look, take take yourself outside of your body and just look at like, would you be proud of you? Or would what would you do? What would you tell yourself? I saw this, there's this meme going around. That's like, be the be the person. How hot fuck I mean, I totally am screwing it up. But it's like, be the person to your stoop to others that you would have wanted to be screwing it up.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:34
I know, I understand what you're saying.
Josh Stifter 1:20:36
And but I think that same thing goes for yourself. Now think about yourself in the future and what that future self would say to you at this moment, like, if you are the if you can get to the place that you want to be, like 10 years from now, I hope to have five films done five features down that I can have on a table little little mini Empire now. I'm shooting realistic and small with that. I think I think I can do more than that in 10 years. But what would that guy say to me now? And he would say go make scumbag go make that movie that you're gonna make by yourself in your basement? Don't be afraid to do that. Because every day I wake up and I'm like, I can't do this. This is how am I going to keep things in focus? How am I going to get good audio? How am I going to do this with a gas mask on? But that guy would say go do it. I know he would like because I wish I could tell myself 10 years ago to go do that movie right now.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:28
Oh, God, I would have said that so many times, Jesus, I wasted 20 years waiting to make my first feature because it was an idiot. But anyway, that's another story for another day. Three of your favorite films of all time, sir. I'm gonna go with American movie. Have you seen that documentary American movie, or it's one of the greatest filmmaking movies of all time?
Josh Stifter 1:21:48
I seriously put it out in the background while I'm working. And I get so inspired by Mark Burchard. Now I know he's, they're playing it up. Like this dude is kind of, you know, Goofy Mark Burchard. He's talking about all this crazy stuff. And he's, you know, frantic and you know, he can't finish his feature film and makes a short film instead. But I watch it. And I'm just like, this guy is the most passionate dude I've ever seen. He wakes up every day thinking about filmmaking, he can't get his future going. So he goes back and makes a short film and finishes it and gets it seen. How many people would have just let that short film die? I mean, it's not even that short. It's like a 30 minute short film. And like, he could have easily just been like, I can't finish this. And he's working on 16 millimeter, which instantly I'm just like, oh my god, I can't imagine working on 16 millimeter like that in your basement in your house. Going to the school days. I love that movies, too.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:43
Yes. It's like, it's like watching Ed Wood. Like when you watch it would people like Oh, he's crazy. I'm like, no, it brings a tear to my eye every time I see it.
Josh Stifter 1:22:52
Oh, he it's exactly that. It's like a it's a documentary being able to see that kind of meant tality I love it. So American movies, my number one. Number two, I'm going to have to go with the shining. Saudi got me some hard times like I when I was in that pessimistic mood, and
Alex Ferrari 1:23:11
she turn the shining on to raise your spirits or I would,
Josh Stifter 1:23:15
I would turn it on because I'd be like, well, at least I'm not as crazy as jack homeruns like wow, I was working like 50 hour weeks and then coming home and animating for Kevin Smith, which was also taking me like 40 hours so I was working like 90 hour weeks. I was so tired. I wasn't sleeping I was losing my mind and I wasn't able to work on any of my own stuff. So while I would work on Kevin's the animation for for SMA automation or for tosk I would put on the shining and I would put on the shining in the background and just feel like okay, just don't go full jack Torrance, you can make it and it really helped me a lot. I'm a third and the thing The thing is just it's a masterpiece. It's it's horror. It's fun to watch. The characters are amazing. It it's just gorgeously amazing. I love it. And where can people who are not putting Beetlejuice on that list Beetlejuice is my fourth. I gotta just shout it out Beetlejuice.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:11
I had I had the guy who wrote Beetlejuice on a while ago and it was great to hear the how that Did you hear that episode? I don't think I have you missed it. You go to button bulletproof screenwriting. So it just sits there. And he just talks about how it came just how it came along. And the whole the whole concept how it was originally going to be something else. And then Tim Burton showed up and it was just Oh, it's a great it's a great, great episode. I can't believe I missed this. And where can people find you and your wares, sir?
Josh Stifter 1:24:46
Yeah, so I'm I'm right now in the process of updating my website, because plush studios.com is basically just two trailers right now but you can find me on all the social medias. I love social media. I'm a total. I'm addicted. I said So I don't, I don't even feel bad about it. I love it because I love talking to people. So being able to like, get on social media and chat with people and use it as like the modern like the old Greek forums. I love that idea of the forum. And each social media has its own little way of being that. So I'm on Twitter at Josh stifter. I'm on Facebook. It's just me, come find me. And there's a four studios, Facebook, Instagram is at flush studios. You can find the good Exorcist on father guild calm, gray Woods plot is out and about hitting up festivals and stuff like that. I'm gonna have a panel at there's a long ways out, but I'll be at South by Southwest. I just found out today doing a panel for Rebel Without a crew and some other fun stuff. And I'm all over the place. I yeah. And on my podcast is the flush studios podcast. I also have a podcast called the escalator pitch that I do with john brennan from trauma and yeah, all over
Alex Ferrari 1:25:57
That's awesome. Dude, Josh, man, thank you so much for coming on, brother. I truly appreciate it. Man. It's you're an inspiration, sir. to too many indie filmmakers out there, myself included. So thank you so much, my friend.
Josh Stifter 1:26:08
Thank you for everything I said earlier, you have been a guru to me over the past few months, they'll probably the reason why I missed that bill's use episode is because I'm too busy listening to all your episodes with indie filmmakers where I'm learning so much. It's so awesome. Being able to learn this part of the process that they don't teach in film school. They don't teach anywhere. The film sharpeners stuff just helps me like all of the distribution stuff has been amazing. So thank you, sir.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:35
I want to thank Josh for coming on and inspiring the tribe and dropping those knowledge bombs. Thank you so much, Josh. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including the link to watch the Good Exorcist on indie film, hustle TV, just head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/375. Now really quickly, guys, I know a lot of you have seen on the corner of ego and desire and I've gotten a lot of great response on it, if you happen to have watched it on Amazon, or have watched it somewhere else. But can you just please go to Amazon and leave a review. And also head over to IMDb and leave a review there not even a review but just like give us 10 stars or nine stars or whatever you'd like. But give us a review. It does help us out with the algorithm and helps get the movies seen by more and more people. So to leave a review for Amazon just head over to egoanddesirefilm.com click on Amazon and leave the review. I really really appreciate it guys. Thank you so much for listening 375 episodes, that is insane. I cannot wait for Episode 400 which is just around the corner. Thank you guys so much for making this possible. Thank you so much for listening, and spreading the word about what we do at indie film hustle. I truly, truly, truly appreciate everything you guys do in the tribe does for me, and for what we're trying to do the mission that we're trying to have here and help as many filmmakers as humanly possible. Thanks again guys. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- WATCH: The Good Exorcist on Indie Film Hustle TV
- Josh Stifter – Official Site
- Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player