Ever wondered what happens to those directors who make a micro-budget feature film? Do they ever sell that film? Do they ever get to direct a feature film again? Today guest is filmmaker Joshua Caldwell, a rare returning filmmaker on the show.
He directed a $6000 feature film called Layover. Check out the trailer below. You can listen to his first episode in the links below.
I wanted to bring Joshua back to discuss how he leveraged that first micro-budget feature film to get a shot of directing his new $100,000 feature Negative.
We also discuss how he brought his micro-budget mentality to a larger budget film, how he used guerilla filmmaking techniques to get the biggest bang for his buck. Prepare for some knowledge bombs. Enjoy my conversation with Joshua Caldwell.
Alex Ferrari 1:23
So today on the show, we have a returning guest, his name is Joshua Caldwell. Now, his first episode, which was Episode 121 is one of the most popular podcast episodes in the history of indie film, hustle. And I wanted to bring him back because that episode was called the art of the $6,000 feature film. And he made an amazing film called The layover for 6000. And he really laid out how he did it and really was transparent in his entire process. But you know, I have a lot of times I have filmmakers. And you know, you hear stories of these filmmakers making a movie for six grand or five grand or 10 grand. But you never hear the story about what happens afterwards. What do you do after you make a $6,000 movie? Well, today, we have an opportunity to see what happened. Joshua then went on to make $100,000 movie. So we're going to talk about today how he was able to leverage his $6,000 movie and grow to $100,000 budget film, within a year or so of doing his first film, and his entire journey doing that and also now, how he was able to bring all the sensibilities and techniques that he did on a $6,000 film and apply that to $100,000 budget and how much more he was able to get as far as production value and just squeeze more juice out of his budget. So I really wanted to bring him back and and share this very unique perspective on the indie film hustle, if you will. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Joshua Caldwell. I'd like to welcome back to the show Joshua Caldwell, man Hey, thanks for coming back, brother.
Joshua Caldwell 3:08
Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 3:10
Your last episode, the the What did I call it the blueprint or the guide to a $6,000 feature film or something? Rethinking rethinking the $6,000 rethinking the $6,000 feature film, which was your film layover, which was I found awesome and inspiring. And I think a lot of the the tribe did as well. And then now you've got a new movie, and you've kind of just upped the game. So you basically took the model of a $6,000 movie and just added $100,000 to it, but stayed in the $6,000 spirit. Is that correct?
Joshua Caldwell 3:45
Right. Yeah, that's right. That's right.
Alex Ferrari 3:47
So tell me a little bit about negative and how did it come to be?
Joshua Caldwell 3:50
So negatives a spy thriller. It's It's the story of this. This guy named Hollis who takes a picture of this woman in downtown LA thinks nothing of it goes back to his apartment develops the film because he's a 35 millimeter type of guy. And next thing you know this woman is at his door demanding the film demanding the negative and takes it by force him before they can escape or before she can leave men with guns show up. And she's forced to take college with her on the run. As you discover that she's basically a former she's she's now a former British spy who's being chased by the one of the Mexican cartels. And for reasons that become clear in the film, and so it was this just kind of really fun, you know, spy thriller road movie that I'd wanted to make and it was so it was born out of this idea I had in college which was you know, I was gonna make it I wanted to make a short about a guy who goes into Central Park he takes a bunch of pictures with his you know, a still a 35 millimeter camera and goes and get some that the one hour develop, you know, one hour photo develop and takes him out and finds a photo.
Alex Ferrari 5:00
You're dating yourself?
Joshua Caldwell 5:02
Right, right. Which is weird because I don't feel bad. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 5:07
Yeah, same here. It's things have moved very quickly, sir,
Joshua Caldwell 5:09
Very quickly. And so anyway, so now you know why, like you couldn't make this movie today. But anyway, the idea was he finds one of the photos and it's just a photo of this woman like staring at him, like through the through the picture. And I was like, okay, that's interesting, no idea where it goes, never could figure it out. And, you know, a couple years ago, I met this young writer, Adam Gaines, who he reached out to me about being on a podcast I was doing to talk about this like book that he was writing. And I read some of his stuff. And I really, really liked it. And he had just such a great ear for dialogue. I mean, he had a real like Sorkin esque quality to to his writing. And I said, we should do something together and a couple months pascall you know, didn't find anything. But basically, I was like, you know, I've got this random idea. It's the story of this guy takes a picture of this woman. And I was like, maybe it could be a spy thriller. You know, maybe it could be like he wants shouldn't have taken this picture of the woman. And shit happens. I don't know what else happens, right? And I go, but they'd be cool, short, and I've got these two actors, Katia winter, Simon quarterman, who I'm attached to this other movie with. And I was thinking like, just as an exercise, just be fun to do a short write just to like, get our, you know, get our feet wet, and try something out. He said, Alright, let me work on it. So he wrote basically the first 10 minutes of the movie. And then scheduling didn't work out for whatever reason. But basically, I told him, Well listen, like if we're gonna go to all this effort to make a short. And this was definitely post layover. So it was like, we're gonna go to all this effort to make a short. Why don't we just make a feature? Like I already am Anders. Amen. And he was like, Okay, sure. So then he went away and started writing. And I went away and did a series for Hulu called South Beach. And then I did another movie called be somebody for a studio 71 and paramount. And then he came back with the script. And then we basically, I was like, Alright, let's make this our next movie. But I want to do it in a very specific way. And I want to do it for very little money.
Alex Ferrari 7:04
Very cool. Now, how did you get the money? Because it's 100. budget?
Joshua Caldwell 7:08
Yeah. So it was basically I went to a company called marvista, who are known for doing I mean, their bread and butter is doing lifetime movies, but they've really started putting their attention and focus on doing some of these under million dollar, really different, you know, exciting, unique edgey type of films. And I had a relationship over there because of layover, and they were interested in doing something with me. And we were having trouble finding the right thing. And I came in with negative and they were like, We don't know, and I said, Well, I only want $100,000 to do it. And they were like, oh, okay, well, we could probably do that. And I said, but the caveat is that I kind of I would like you to leave me alone. And I want to go away and make this from a production standpoint, in a in a very specific way. I don't want to I don't want to be dictated to in terms of how I set up the production of this. I said, that's fine, just come back to us with the movie. And, and so that's what we did. And this was born out of it. This was born out of the other two projects I had done. And what had happened was in making layover, because we were lighting very little, using natural light. We were a very small crew, there was like just a ton of freedom. And there was a ton of time, right? Would you go to location, we'd put a china ball up, we'd start shooting, we'd shoot for eight hours, wouldn't light be lighting for four hours and shooting for four, we would shoot for four hours or eight hours. And we just get a lot of takes and a lot of material. We got to try things and discover things. And it was just a really great way to make a film. And then I went and did these two other projects, which had much bigger budgets. I mean, you know, 150 times the budget of Laos. And yet I feel I felt significantly more constricted because I was I was told Well, you only have you know, in the case of the Hulu series, I only had 15 days to shoot 150 pages of material. In the case of the other movie, I had 12 days to shoot an 80 page script. And so you have you know, what happens is, when you started getting into these under million dollar million dollar $1.5 million scenarios, what everyone is doing is they're taking the sort of traditional production model that they know and love that, that you have on a $10 million movie. And they're scaling it down to your million dollar movie. But what happens is what what you don't lose are the trailers. What you don't lose are the crew, what you don't lose are the equipment and all this stuff, right? What you lose are your shooting days. And your shooting days and time is everything in making a movie as we as we know. And I just realized very quickly that when we were spending so long lighting so long moving so long going from place to place, trying to do so much in one day, that it just wasn't conducive to getting really really great material. You know, you just feel like you're a bit in a factory and you're doing the best you can and you're working Within those constraints, which can be eye opening, and a learning, you know, learning experience, for sure, and people are certainly capable of the year all the stories, but I shot my movie in 10 days, it's like, this is great, you know, and people can do that I really struggle with it, because I really like having time with the actors. And to get the best that we can get. And I'm not yet in a position of working with, you know, those actors that can come in, I mean, Katya and Simon are different, but like, you know, prior to negative, it was sort of like, you know, some, some people struggled with, like only having three takes you needed more time with them just to get great stuff. And it's not their fault, like, it's nothing wrong with them, you just, you really wanted to spend time playing, and trying things and letting them explore it, instead of being like, you just got to say these lines, and you got to do it a couple different times. And we got to go, you know, I just I felt like I was betraying them, the actors in a way. Sure. And I just didn't feel great about the work that I had done. And so when it came to doing negative, I was very specific and saying, we're going to do this a very different way. And I'm going to, I'm going to take away the things that I don't think we're going to need, I'm going to take away the crew, I'm going to take away the trailers, I'm going to take away all the trucks full of equipment, I'm going to take away all this stuff. And instead, I'm going to give us time. So in the case of negative for only $100,000, by the way that that includes posts, so it was about a $75,000 production budget, we shot for 38 days, over six months, over six,
Alex Ferrari 11:24
How did that work? So like, Did you just like on weekends? I mean, how did you do that.
Joshua Caldwell 11:28
So we just, we just sort of did it when we had the time. Like it wasn't so much we had the time because we had a deadline when we had to deliver the movie, but we basically. So prior in the fall of 2015, we started shooting, we started shooting, we hadn't yet gotten the money, we hadn't closed the deal with marvista. But I was like we got to start because I have this other thing I got to do. So like, I'm gonna start shooting all the things that aren't gonna cost us anything. So I'm going to shoot the opening chase scene, we're downtown LA, we don't have permits, so we don't have all the stuff I'm do all this stuff that I know isn't gonna cost us any money to do, or it's gonna cost us so little that I can like get finance it. So we did like, you know, we go, Okay, let's do a couple days stretch, and then we'll take a break. And then we'll do a couple days stretch, take a break. And then in January, we came back and we did like all the motel stuff, you know, and then we took a break. And then we did all that. And then we still we'd sort of like, we do these like week long production gaps or production schedules. And then in between, we'd pick off days here and there. So like, we go up and do a lot of the driving stuff, which driving takes forever, if you're trying to do it on a on a really tight schedule. Like it takes time. So it's like, oh, well just do that. On those days, we don't have anything else to do. And it was basically like, the, you know, our crew is essentially myself, our producer will Borthwick the two actors, and a sound guy, for the most part. And that was it. If we were shooting nighttime, or we were doing sort of sort of bigger scenes, we we'd scale up and we'd bring on a gaffer or we'd bring on, you know, makeup or something like that. But for the most part, we kept the crew really light. So like, all the people going out. I mean, we weren't really paying ourselves. So like everyone going out was basically we paid a sound guy. And that was our that was our cost for the day. You own the gear ready, you own the gear, the car was mine, the actors, you know, we already bought the wardrobe. So like we were renting it. And so a lot of those days were like $100 days, you know, or $200 days. And then we do the other stuff where we're going out and getting a house in Palm Springs and Airbnb seeing it and, you know, scale up and those are the $5,000
Alex Ferrari 13:32
So that so that was another question I wanted to ask you about Airbnb, do you actually just Airbnb a house and then just go shoot?
Joshua Caldwell 13:39
We did. But in this case, we we did get permission.
Alex Ferrari 13:44
Now do you have you've done that before? You're just Airbnb and then just shoot? Yes. And now what's the what's the issue? If you do that from a distribution issue? Because all of a sudden you Airbnb a house, you shoot it? And then you know, a year later, the owner sees his house on a movie? Is that a problem?
Joshua Caldwell 14:03
Is that an issue? It can be I would suggest talking to a lawyer about it. Really what it does, it comes down to a situation where you just don't have a location agreement. So you technically didn't have permission to shoot there. It is, in theory, private property. And, you know, is the owner gonna sue? He might, I don't know, like, that's where your your errors and omissions insurance is supposed to come into play. But they are taking the big taking the position that you know, they're taking the position that you have these agreements in hand and thus are free. So my feeling would be don't do it. either use Airbnb to find places. You know, like, that's great. It's actually a great thing and then contact the owner and say we're interested in filming. You know, we're going to be a small crew. Yeah, like it's going to be four or five people, like you know, and then see if they might charge you a little bit more. You No, in our case, our case he didn't. But you know, it's one of those things where I would if you have money, I would avoid trying to do it. sketch in a sketchy way.
Alex Ferrari 15:12
In a complete unreal way.
Joshua Caldwell 15:14
Yeah. I mean, listen on layover, we did it. You know, nothing's nothing's ever come up on it. You know, we figured the movie was so small that nobody would ever notice. And we've been right. But I would I can't recommend it. Sure. But it is certainly a way of doing it. But my feeling is most owners are cool. What they don't want are 50 people coming into the house, right? And all that stuff,
Alex Ferrari 15:35
Right! Of course, it will be if you have a look, look, I'm gonna shoot some stuff. It's non pornographic. Right? I'm sure. You have to tell them that it's not Oregon that it's non pornographic. And you know, we're shooting this movie. And here we are. And yeah, and if you have a little bit of a track record behind us, you can send it Look, this is my website. This is who I am. I'm a professional,
Joshua Caldwell 15:53
And you know, hop on the phone, like talk to them. Like usually they're, they're cool, you know, and especially if it's a chance to make a little extra money. They just don't want the place trashed,
Alex Ferrari 16:01
Right. That's all they care about. Exactly. Yeah. Now, I did see some scenes in the movie that you actually shot in, in that that message was that little not a little Mexico but that place downtown?
Joshua Caldwell 16:13
What does it call? Yeah, the well there's there's the Chinese market and the town in Chinatown. And then there's the Yeah, what's its square?
Alex Ferrari 16:20
I forget we have the Mexican square. Yes. Where it run right, right across the street from the train station. Union Station. Station. Right. So I you know, I've been there. I've been to both those locations. And when I saw it pop up. I'm like, son of a bitch shot there. And like, how did he and like, and then I'm like, he must have gone there early morning. And got some stuff but then I saw you going inside, like where there's other people other things. And now obviously you don't have you don't have any permits, because that's not cheap. Right? Especially in LA that's what I find your work so amazing. It from from another la perspective, because I know how difficult it is. This is not you know, you know, this is not Wyoming? Like you write it. Everyone's very savvy here. But if you keep a low profile, I'm just curious. How did you finagle that how did you shoot in the in the Mexicans were and also in Chinatown, and like you even went behind the scenes, some places? And you know what? Yeah, so how did you do it?
Joshua Caldwell 17:18
So you just have to be it's the same way we did a lot of stuff on layover, you just have you have to kind of scout everything and have an idea of what you're up against. Right. And so in the case of like, the little square, the Mexican square, we went up there and we had, like, you know, so we should so the first thing we did was we shot on the we shot this pretty much the whole movie on the Canon c 100. Mark two and, and I had basically the Canon camera lens and Shogun recorder, because so in addition to directing this I also defeated right. And, you know, I was I had decided to shoot with a lot as an overlay. And so with the recorder, I was able to see sort of what approximately what the final image was going to look like. Because the lead, I was using really crushed blacks. And I just, I couldn't do it on the fly, like I had to know what I was getting. So But that said, it was still a very small compact package. We're like, if somebody was standing in front of me, you'd never see the camera. So we have that going for us. So the ability to sort of run around LA and just kind of like pick stuff off. You know, was was key because we were moving so quickly that nobody had time to even pay attention to us. And we had such a small camera. And we did not have any boom guys or anything like that that like, you know your attention. But right. You did draw attention to it. Yeah, exactly. In the case of the square, we actually went there. And we we didn't we didn't know that you had to have a permit. We assumed it was just public space. It might be it might not be sure it's not. I've looked. Right. So we basically said, Okay, well, this is what we need. So let's just kind of like put the tripod down. And it was me the tripod, camera producer and the two actors. And we started rolling. And then a guy came up security guard came up. And he was like, Oh, you need to get a permit. Oh, we didn't know that. We're sorry. Hang on, like my producer, why don't you go find out what's going on? So like he what he's like, yeah, you go go talk to this guy. So I was like, Alright, well, we'll just stay here and you go do that. So like, he basically our producer went away to find out what the deal was with getting a permit. And in the meantime, we just kept shooting. Hmm, you know, I just kept saying, like, just keep doing it literally just walk in and go that like, you know, you have to be you have to have communication with your actors, you have to say like, you just need to keep repeating it, I will shoot it, but just keep doing when you get to the end, turn around, walk back and do it again. And I'll get all the coverage of it. You know, and by the time he came back and he said well, yeah, normally you need a permit, like, oh, we're sorry, we didn't know we're just like film students like fucking around. We don't really like, you know, we apologize. We're just doing some tests, you know, just whatever the sort of BS answer is. You know, and then and then you walk away and you got your footage. In the Chinese market. We just kind of walked through it and shot as we went and nobody really paid attention to us and we you know, Just sort of shot these pieces that I then cut together later. Now this into this chase now with that, how do you deal with other people's faces and stuff like that? You just, you either cut it out or you just stay so blurry and so moving base that, you know, you just kind of get away with it.
Alex Ferrari 20:15
Got it? Because Yeah, that's always a concern. If you're shooting in a public place, you got to get permission from people you put it in.
Joshua Caldwell 20:21
Yeah, I mean, that's what we did with layover was, you know, we basically just, I, I tried to keep it so that you didn't never really see people's faces, or I just cut it out. You know? So like, if you see people's faces, we have permission from them. If you don't, and we did
Alex Ferrari 20:35
The same thing for negative. Same thing for negative Yeah. Okay. So if we see, yeah, cuz I saw some guy walked behind you with some iPod and he looked directly into the camera. I'm like, I wonder if they got
Joshua Caldwell 20:46
Maybe, maybe, if you're in a public area, it's different.
Alex Ferrari 20:49
Okay, so if you're in a public area, you're, if you're in a pub? Well,
Joshua Caldwell 20:53
I, again, all these things are like a little sketchy, right? Like, yes, yes. Like, if you're in a public area, like, you know, filming on a public street, and you're like, a small crew, usually you can get away with stuff. And like, people assume that by being in a public area, you're being photographed. Like, it's just, it's just something that that you deal with, again, I'm not a lawyer, I shouldn't be like, you know, consult all this. But in our, in our case, we just, again, what we tried to do was remove obstacles that would put us in a position of not being able to make the movie, you know, got it. And so in this case, it was like, let's just go for it, you know, if we end up having to blur his face, fine, will blur his face? Like,
Alex Ferrari 21:28
Exactly where we crop it or something like that to just
Joshua Caldwell 21:30
Yeah, you know, exactly. You know, in terms of pieces that were like more private, we tried to avoid it if we could. But if we couldn't, then we just hope that like, you know, they're probably not gonna see the movie anyway.
Alex Ferrari 21:46
Now, how did you light scenes, because, you know, you move very quickly, and I'm assuming when you're out there, and you know, you know, shooting without allow a lot permits and things like that you're not really lighting anything. So how did you light scenes that you were having, you did have some control over.
Joshua Caldwell 22:02
So we basically just used very small sources, we have small lighting kit of like, kinos, one by one light panels, you know, we would get, we scale up and get a lighting package of like, you know, some airy 650s and, and things like that. But the goal, the goal for a lot of it especially. So pretty much during the daytime, we didn't, we didn't like we just use natural light. For any of the nighttime stuff, what we tried to really do, what I tried to really do was step into step into a location and say, because I usually would pick the locations for how they looked right, I wouldn't go into any place where like, we're redressing everything, because we didn't have a production designer. So like, for the most in the case of the motel, right? Like the motel we owned, like we went in there, and we got permission, and we own the entire motel during our during our shoot, but what we didn't do is go get a permit to do it. Right? You know, because we're up in the middle of the desert is paying attention. No one's like it. We're a small crew, we don't again, we don't have trucks, we don't have a big footprint. So nobody knows no, if you drove by the motel, you'd have no idea that anybody was shooting. Right? Right. So what we would do is literally just try and make use of what exists, what existed, you know, like, what was already there. And then what I did, and this was one of the reasons I also decided to dp, it was one of the reasons why. One of the things that I was always frustrated by was certainty peace, and I love the DPS I've worked with, but still is that they have a knack for refusing to shoot above 3200 ISO, right? Even on cameras that you know, can handle it. Sure. And I had a belief that we can push, certainly the Canon cameras, but then we could push them far beyond 3200 days, so and still be okay. And what that was going to get us back was time, because it was less time lighting, less time having a crew stand around doing stuff. So I would go into locations, and I would say okay, like it's a little dim at what ISO does this as it is, look work for exposure levels. So so then I've said it if it was like, you know, 15,000 is so it'd be like, Alright, no, we can't do that. But if it was 564 I would I would do that. And then I'd say what do what do we need to add? So I tried to basically make use of what already existed in the space. And then we did either enhance it or take it away depending on what the scene called for. But it was using a lot of practical lighting, a lot of existing licensed lighting, and then you know, is was enhancing it.
Alex Ferrari 24:29
Now when you think about practical lighting, are you adding photo like are you adding like photo bulbs in it, you know, color temperature, you know, corrected bulbs? Are you just using whatever bulbs are in the house?
Joshua Caldwell 24:41
Well, we brought our own bulbs because you know, you just don't know what works but, you know, for the most part you're using what's there. So in the case of like the house, that that they get to Robbie's house that was all just whatever was there. No and then we would bring in a lighter to just to help fill in or take care of whatever was there and You know, in the case of like the motels, like, oh, let's we have a lamp here, like, we'll just we'll just take the bolt out of here we'll put in a bowl that we know is going to be consistent and work. Okay? For our purposes, but you know, with with when you're shooting at a high ISO, you don't need that, you don't have to go back to the 250 watt bulbs anymore. No, you know, you can put in the 60 watts and the 40 watts, and be completely okay. And so it was really trying to just be as fast as possible. So I'd say like, in most cases, we had a couple of lights, just helping to fill stuff in. Okay, so like a lot of China balls a lot, not even a lot of China balls, like I actually kind of like some harder sources. So we found ourselves taking some like 650s and punching him through a window, you know, and also lighting space, like it was very, it's always very important to me, that we try and light as much of the space as we can, as opposed to lighting the actors on a mark, right? Because I just, I don't like confining my actors to a mark. So I like that I like to light a bigger space and let them move within it and have the freedom to explore and try things and then sometimes you're like, Okay, you got to basically stand here. But other times I tried to be very open to it. So it was it was trying to use practical lighting, it was shooting at high ISOs. And it was just trying because I just I I love for me personally, I love realism. I love having something be as gritty and as realistic as as as it can. And so that means mixing color temps that means having imperfect lighting, that means having shadows that means, you know, having all this stuff that normally try and get rid of because I find when you get rid of all that stuff. There's just an artificiality in my own work that I don't like, right, which just I like, feeling like we're there, you know. And that means shooting more handheld, shooting grittier, darker, using things that are messy. I just like messiness, in my own work
Alex Ferrari 26:49
Now with you basically handheld, a lot of the movie yourself. Yeah, I operated the whole movie. Okay, so then you were just holding, basically just holding the camera, did you have a handheld rig? How did you actually do it?
Joshua Caldwell 27:02
It depended. So if we were doing stuff on the down low, it would just be the stripped down version of the camera, no matte box, like nothing like that it was basically the lens. And I use that I would use the 24 to 105 lens, because I could use the autofocus capabilities of the C 100 mark two, so I didn't have to worry about pulling focus. So in that case, it was that in other cases where we were under control or weren't worried about you know, somebody seeing the camera, I have a handheld rig shoulder rig that I build up with follow focus bat box, like the whole nine yards. And then we'd usually operate off of that. And then occasionally we did some stuff on sticks. You know, and then I did one scene with steady cam, which I didn't ever do again, but not with steady camera with a gimbal or with sorry, with a Glock was with a glide cam. Okay, high that I operated. But it just it just was like how much harder than I thought. I mean, I've done it, but it was harder on this than I thought it was going to be done. Like I'm just going to handle this for the rest of the time.
Alex Ferrari 28:03
Got it. Got it. Now, how did you record audio, which is a big thing. I know sometimes it when you're out on the street, I noticed that most of that stuff is MLS or not sound
Joshua Caldwell 28:14
Right. So you know we would either just go MLS, you know and know that what my sound designers would fill it in later. Or we would have them labs. And then it would be like going to a like h4 n recorder that I would carry in a bag with me. So like the scene where they walk through Union Station, right? Like there's a dialogue scene there. That was that they were already lagged. And they basically just did I just told them as soon as we get in that great hall, you got to do your lines.
Alex Ferrari 28:45
And once How was it shooting at Union? Did they get any shit?
Joshua Caldwell 28:49
Oh, no. Because literally what you see in the movies, the one take that we did you just walk you just walking. We just walked Yeah, we basically the route that they take where they get on the train in Chinatown. They ride the train, they get off in Union Station, they get out, they walk through the tunnel, they walk through the great hall and they walk outside. Like that was literally me just filming the entire time. Like we just did the route. And then I just recorded it. And then No, I knew I was just going to cut it up. Right Of course I just kept the camera rolling to keep all this stuff and get all this great, you know, all this great material. And then we added stuff like the drone shots of the subway and things like that. Metro and so. So in that case, like No, I was just like, Listen, when we get into Union Station, you got to do your dialogue lines. They're like okay, and we had them lagged and we got when we got and I knew Okay, I'll stay on their back. So like if we have to will EDR it, you know, like all I can add it in later. So we do something like that. And then in other cases where we were under control or we weren't worried about anybody coming in, you know, getting pissed at us or finding us we basically had we hired a sound guy to come out and actually lab them correctly and boom it and do all that stuff. Now did you and did you actually just drop the recorders like in their pocket while they're walking or was it all wireless? It was wireless and then wireless labs out The recorder which was in my bag, and I was like always right behind them. And then, you know, they just had the lab sort of tucked into their pocket.
Alex Ferrari 30:08
Joshua Caldwell 30:09
Yeah, it's like, you know, you're just, you're just hiding it, you know, you're just they're just always miked. And you're just like you're subversively like, Okay, guys, I just need you to clap, like, just do a clap really quick, you know, and like, whatever. And I was, again, it's like, you get just get, you just get like, you're listening. You're taking a risk. I understand that. But like in low budget, I'm like, why not? Like, what do you have to lose? Like, you have to go reshoot the scene somewhere else? Like, all right, big deal. You know, like, people just don't care. Ultimately, they don't care. What they don't want you to do is messing up the space messing with customers, like, you know, or be blamed not
Alex Ferrari 30:41
They're being blatant about it.
Joshua Caldwell 30:43
Yeah, they're not out hunting you down after the movie has been made. Because like, frankly, they don't know. They know. Like, there was a movie negative that shot a parking garage and they had permission or not have permission. I don't know. Like, are the records of that? No, like, I mean, there might be permanent records, but I can't imagine they're totally complete. You know, and I can't imagine that somebody whose full time job is trapped, going and watching movies and saying, did we permit that scene?
Alex Ferrari 31:04
Right! Yeah, no one no one ever. Yeah, that never happens.
Joshua Caldwell 31:07
And also, frankly, like, you know, what I've learned is with a permit, a permit just gives you the right to be there at that moment. Hmm, it's not a binding contract. Like, you know, you have to have a location agreement. If it's a public thing, you can get away with it. You know, if it's not a public thing, like, like the highlight, track you down, they might not track you down. But again, it's like, you want to make your move. You're not, you know, like, amen.
Alex Ferrari 31:28
Joshua Caldwell 31:28
I mean, it's, to me, it's like the whole old, the old Werner Herzog thing of like, you know, learn to forge.
Alex Ferrari 31:33
Yeah, like, keefer. He used to forge his permit, like, Yeah, he's like a permit or something like that he forged literally, and he had, like, a military general in front of him or something.
Joshua Caldwell 31:43
Yeah, exactly. You know, and so, to me, really what this is, and, you know, it's sort of depends, you know, whatever your ultimate opinion of the movie, what I'm also trying to do is just provide a I'm sort of taking the lead on a different way of doing things that sort of creates, gets away from this idea of like, you don't have money, you can't make something scope. Yes, you know, and a lot of that involves breaking rules. And like, you know what, let's just do it. You know, they're not paying attention.
Alex Ferrari 32:10
No, I mean, I was I was when I was shooting a scene for my movie going up to the Hollywood sign. I was deathly afraid. I was like, it was just me and a camera and my two actors, and right, and I was, I was definitely afraid I was gonna get caught and then halfway up the hike. I'm like, hey, nobody coming. No, you literally could bring a steady camera up there. By the time they show up. You've got the shots, right?
Joshua Caldwell 32:34
Exactly. Yeah, by the way, like, it's weird because cameras nowadays are just so small over the place there. Yeah, so Well, everyone is filming. Right? Right. re one is filming vloggers everyone's got stickers. Yeah. So filming like people just it's just everywhere. And so it's just one of those things where people just have stopped paying attention. And you know, are you kidding me? Like you think like the bureaucracy of La has somebody like really trying to find out like if you had permission to shoot no exam, said that said it's frustrating the LA makes it so difficult. I have a buddy of mine who just did who just did shooting a web series good friend of mine college roommate, he lives in New York and he just shot a web series he was in Times Square with like a full airy rig sound guy no deal. No. And, and, and a guy in a mascot outfit. And I said How did you get away with that? He's like, Well, basically New York has now said that like if your handheld. And you're not putting any equipment down, down. You can shoot anywhere public in any public space. That's actually looting Time Square.
Alex Ferrari 33:33
That's actually the law in LA. I found it right. As long as
Joshua Caldwell 33:38
That's why I was able, that's why I was able to get away with a lot of stuff I got away with, right? As long as you don't put sticks down. Second, you
Alex Ferrari 33:43
Put stuff down, you're done, then Yep. And again, you're you're like
Joshua Caldwell 33:46
Under a certain amount of people. Like you can't have like 20 people around you. Right? Like so if you're like, if you're three, four people or some
Alex Ferrari 33:53
Yeah, if you got two or three people with you, and you're just walking around with a camera, you get away with a lot. And legally, legally, you can get away with a life illegally.
Joshua Caldwell 34:01
Exactly. And so but you know, and the funny part is about my friends experience because you think Times Square, it's like impossible, right? So they're not gonna lie. I was. That's an airy rig for God's sakes. I know, the biggest thing they got in trouble for was their mascot, who was like, you know, he was one of those like, furry characters. And they're like, they almost Yeah, he was not in the space that they were supposed to be in. Like, you know, mascots. The features in Time Square have to be in a certain space, right? So a cop came over and he's like, you're not allowed to be in here. And they're like, well, we were with the camera. And he's like, no, the furry guy, he's got to go into the green box. And so like basically, they just went over to the green box and they shot their movie. You know, so it's like so LA. Yeah, so I didn't know that but but even just the permitting process in LA is such a nightmare. We have a nightmare for another sequence that we actually did permit to shoot out of sequence and it was just such a headache.
Alex Ferrari 34:55
Did you and you shot but it was out in the desert.
Joshua Caldwell 34:58
It was out in the desert but what happened was It was within a certain number of feet from a neighborhood and has gone cuz we were going to be firing blanks in the middle of the night past a certain time, we had to go to the neighborhood, and we had to go around and do what's called a survey cheese, you have to get the it's not getting permission. It's just literally going around and saying, Hey, we're gonna be firing off weapons, like in dropping stuff at their door and saying, like, we just want to make you aware, don't acknowledge that you've been told this and don't call and they'll call the police. Right. And so the funny part was, first of all, you have to go do this. And we found this out the week before we were going to be shooting. So I'm driving up to this area, which is like an hour and a half outside of LA, and doing all these like surveys and you have to have like a 60% response rate. Right, like 60% of the neighborhood. You want all these half these homes are like derelict. Yeah, and like nobody lives there. Right. And then the other half, I'm getting them and they're like, Yeah, whatever. Like people are shooting guns up here all the time. Right, right. So they don't care. And then la goes la film goes up. And they they put the pert The, the notice of film Yeah. And everyone's boxes, and then they charge you for it.
Alex Ferrari 36:11
Of course they do.
Joshua Caldwell 36:12
And then we finally go to shoot and we had a sort of down the hill from where we were shooting, we're shooting up on this mountain top that was kind of this, like it was sort of in a bowl, bit of a bowl. And sort of on the mountain that was close to the neighborhood. I mean, as far away as like more than half a mile but like the we had an RV for actors and sort of base camp. And so as we started doing the weapons, we would we radio down and we're like do you guys hear any of this? They're like, No, we can't hear anything. So like just ended up becoming this massive headache and you know, la film, you know, it's just profiting for us. They are ridiculous, the ridiculousness, the high fees, so we're just like, fuck it, like why even bother? Like, it's like sag? You know, it's like, you don't have to go through them. Like, why go through them? Like, what's the incentive? Like, they're not helping you. They're not making your life easier. They're making it more difficult. And the only reason we did it was because we were doing playing fire weapons. So we just had to we owed a responsibility towards that process. But if you were shooting, we weren't gonna try and sure, but if it were just oh, we shot your songs are so much
Alex Ferrari 37:10
yeah, I'm gonna but if you're just gonna shoot like airsoft weapons that have no sound you could you could get away with it. Right? Right. Like if you have a nice recoil, put some, some VFX in and you're out the door.
Joshua Caldwell 37:20
Right. But you know what? I was like, we have money. We're gonna Oh, yeah, you
Alex Ferrari 37:23
Have $100,000? Like, yeah,
Joshua Caldwell 37:24
Do no take it personally. I personally wanted to, but a lot of the, by the way, a lot of that a lot of the other parts of the film, aside from that shootout, those are airsoft weapons. You know, so we went that route for sure. Yeah, I mean, I was doing that when we were doing things subversively. And we didn't have like time and we didn't want to hire sheriff. We want
Alex Ferrari 37:41
To hire all this. you imagine? And you had to hire? I'm assuming you had to hire police at that that night, or no,
Joshua Caldwell 37:47
We did that we Yeah, we had to have a sheriff come out. You know, and they, of course, like we had to dispute with them. Because like, you know, they were like, well, it's this much. And then he had to like drive back. And we're just like, but you like why you're telling us you're charging us more because you couldn't find a deputy within 60 minutes of like, the location? Like, why is that our problem? You know, and so it's like, it's just it's everybody's out with got their handout when you start doing stuff like that, which is why movies end up costing so much.
Alex Ferrari 38:13
Right! And then that's why filmmakers can't make money and then they stop making movies.
Joshua Caldwell 38:17
Yeah, so it's like, part of it's like, you know, what, what subvert the system a bit, you know, in order to get the movie made, and let's see, if we get what we could get away with can't get away with it, we'll put a little money into it. But it was just it ends up constricting you in ways that I understand. I get it, but at the same time, like, why not try some do something different?
Alex Ferrari 38:37
Now? You know, you got to have that kind of pirate attitude about it, you know, like, kind of think so I mean, low budget stuff, you've got to you know, and that's what I love about your story with negative is that you took that pirate attitude and added 100 because 100 that $400,000 movie $100,000 kind of action spy movie. And yeah, on top of that, though, if you would have tried to shoot this movie, in the traditional standpoint, with a regular crew, and regular everything, you would have never made it
Joshua Caldwell 39:07
Never never, it would have been wait one it would have been too expensive. You would have had to have way more of the budget. or two, it would have been the whole movie would have been in Ronnie's house. Right? Exactly. It just it just you because you end up paying for it. The problem is, like I said, go into that. But back to that production model. What you lose is the stuff that ends up appearing on screen, you don't lose the stuff that's like, surrounding the set, you know, the trucks, the trailers, the actors apps in their trailer and air conditioning and all this stuff. Like, you know, you end up losing all the time to get the really great stuff in the scope. You know, in this movie, like you saw, it's like a road movie. I mean, we we did the road trip, right? It's like a couple 100 bucks to drive to Arizona and back. And meanwhile, we got all this great stuff. We got them driving into Phoenix, like we were able to get all these things that like in a normal movie would have been way too much of a pain for somebody to figure out how to do that.
Alex Ferrari 39:55
And you also had a couple actors who were really gained for all this there. I mean, in your experience, working with actors are they all, you know that you've worked with? You know, you tell them right up about like, Look, this is what we're doing. We're doing this on the download. We're doing this on a pirate style guerilla style. Are you cool with it? Oh, yeah, for sure. Because then they all love it. They do, don't they? They all do love it, don't they?
Joshua Caldwell 40:16
They love so like, you know, I mean, you know, like with with Sebastian who plays Sebastian rochet plays Roddy. Like, we're like, Yeah, man, come out to Palm Springs. We'll shoot you for two days. And then you're done. He's like, awesome, you know, and it's a fun role. It's like a role he doesn't get to play gets to do a fight scene, you know, in the case of katene Simon, like, I mean, they were there from the beginning. They were there before we had a script, right? I was attached to do another movie with them. And it was taking forever. And I said, Would you guys like to do something kind of like layover, which is they both seen and loved. And that's what got me attached to the other movie we were doing. And which funny enough that other movie which couple million dollars, like, sadly didn't work out, you know, as most things do. But in the meantime, I got I got them. And I said, Would you like to do a sort of layover style movie, that's this spy thriller, you know, and I told Kati, I'm like, you're gonna get to play a character that you're not getting pitched for, and you're not getting cast for. And with Simon, it was like, you know, an opportunity to do a really different character to work with Katya. And I'm like, you know, we're just gonna, you guys will have ownership of the film. And we're just gonna go do it. And it's like, really pirate way. And like you said, and they were like, totally game for it. I mean, they were, they were awesome. never complain, never had problems, even when they're, when we're in the desert in the middle of like, you know, it's 30, it's 22 degrees and freezing in January, like they were out there like doing it, and they were loving it. Because what I said to them was, what you're not going to have is a trailer and you're not gonna have all these other things that you can get on the other shows you do, what I'm going to give you is time, and I'm giving give you an opportunity to really explore these characters to really like, be a part of this process. And to feel like you're gonna leave each day feeling like you didn't, never feeling like you didn't get it, you know, because they, they came from the world of CV, doing stuff, we're like, you know, khaki on Sleepy Hollow, they do three takes, and they're moving on, right? You know, and so I said, like, we're gonna, we're gonna take the time to do it. Because what I do with with way I the way I work, everything I do with in terms of like, you know, using existing lighting, not setting marks using a lot of handheld. What it's all designed for, beyond a certain stylistic approach is what it's designed for. It's designed to give the actors the freedom to do really great stuff. It's to not constrict them in any way. It's all about the actors. And then I step around the actors with the camera to figure out what the best thing is, for the camera to do. But it starts with the actors in the blocking in the scene, and giving them freedom to move and freedom to try things. And then I capture that. That's what I tried to do. That's the try to stage them for a camera, that may not be the place that gives them the most freedom, and then they're thinking too much about it. They're like, Am I hitting my marks? Am I doing this? Am I doing that? And of course, there's some of that, of course, yeah, it's all. It's all designed to allow actors to try and give the best performance that they possibly can. And that's, that was the Kubrick model,
Alex Ferrari 43:12
You know, did the exact same thing he would he's he never have a shot list. He would just show up on the day and go, alright, let's work it out. And that was the other thing that he really wanted time. Yeah, everyone always thought that he was this crazy man, but he wasn't he actually just stripped it down to what do I need. And that gives me the extra 60 days that I get to see and play.
Joshua Caldwell 43:33
Exactly, because that's what's the most valuable thing is that's what everybody's always fighting for. Right? Like everybody, you're always on a clock. And if you can just strip away some of those things like I, I don't think we ever shot a full 12 hour day on this movie. And except for the fight scene, the fight scene, because we did it all on one day. But I never left a day feeling like we didn't get it. Right. And I've left other projects feeling like we just didn't have time to really get it. You know, and I know that. And on this one, I was like, I don't want that to happen, which is why I approached it the way I did, and why I only went after $100,000 because I wanted enough money to actually make it like that. I knew we'd need to make it but I wanted so little that whoever gave it to me, they weren't going to be able to pay attention. You know, right, they weren't gonna have the time to devote to maintaining 100 you know, keeping an eye on $100,000 movie,
Alex Ferrari 44:19
Right! And they have the confidence based on your track record and what you've done right that you'll be able to deliver.
Joshua Caldwell 44:25
Right! In fact the funny part now is marvista comes back and they go Man, I wish we've given you a little bit more money. Write exactly like not because we didn't have anything but they were like what we what could you have done if you had an extra 50 grand or like you know, something like that? Well, let's
Alex Ferrari 44:39
Talk about the next movie then. Right? Yeah, exactly. Well, that's what we're doing. That's what we're doing. Now you you talk a little bit about sag Can you explain to the listeners how you dealt with sag because that can be a bit of a pain when it comes to filmmakers. You know, they're wonderful for actors, but they can be a little bit a little bit tough to deal with. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So what was how did you approach sag in this project?
Joshua Caldwell 45:16
So I mean, I've always had a great relationship with sag in the past, like, I've always, I've never really had any problems with them. I know people have, but I've never really suffered through issues accepted, like, I made a mistake. And I didn't pay the P and H. And I thought I did and like, whatever, you know, and then they then they come after you. But in terms of this, I did the same thing that I did on layover, which is I went through the sag new media agreement. And they are they're obviously getting, they're sort of cracking down because obviously people are taking advantage. But basically the premises if you're if your film is or project is going to premiere online, then you're allowed to go through the sag new media agreement. The reason why I go through is one, I don't know if this movie was ever going to get the utricle. Right, and it didn't. So good thing, I didn't bother going through the theatrical ultra low budget agreement, right? Because it would have been a waste of time. So I go through sag new media because one, you don't have to escrow your actors, fees, your actor fees, so so if you go through like ultra low budget theatrical, you have to take the same Yep, if you have to take 100% of your actor fees. And you have to reserve it to pay your actors. And then you have to take down that amount again, and you have to give it to sag and sag basically holds on to it to guarantee that your talent is going to get paid. You don't get that money back until you turn in all the paperwork, and you've executed all the documents that sag requires. In order to get that money back on an ultra low budget movie, there's a ton of paperwork they have to deal with. I made that mistake. On layover, I initially applied for ultra low budget because I was like, Well, what else do I do? And my buddy was like, No, do you sag new media. So say new media has very simple paperwork, it's very clear, it's easy to understand. They have a situation where you can negotiate your fees or defer the fees with the actors. Now what I do is I don't do that. Because one, we have money in the budget. So there's no reason not to pay your actors and not to pay your crew. And what we do is we basically pay the actors the minimum required by the next contract up, which is I believe, the ultra low budget or something like that, which is 100 or 125 a day, whatever it is. So that's what we pay our actors, even though we don't have to. And we do that. Because if the movie were to get the article, we don't then owe a bunch of money to actors in order to get that theatrical distribution. We basically can call sag, we can scale up to the next agreement. We don't have to do anything other than inform sag that we've now had a theatrical which changes how the residuals get doled out. The other thing is you don't have to bribe proof of insurance. You don't have to provide like all these other things. It's a much simpler process to getting your movie made. And if you do end up getting theatrical? Well, it's a very simple process of scaling up to the next the next contract provided that you pay the actors the minimum that that contract then requires.
Alex Ferrari 48:04
Now what what about with the new media? Is there a residual situation there or not?
Joshua Caldwell 48:10
Ah, that's a good question. I'm trying to remember if there is,
Alex Ferrari 48:13
I don't think there is
Joshua Caldwell 48:15
I don't think there is but I could be wrong. Sure. And trust my my opinion,
Alex Ferrari 48:19
They always check it out. Yeah.
Joshua Caldwell 48:21
Yeah, this the fortunate thing is like, you know, with, with new media, there's also minimums, like in terms of like, how much you're spending per minute, that's like, we never got close to a lot of money. It's a lot of money. And so you know, but I found that sag has always been very helpful. And I basically always start off with any project at this stage, you know, these types of films, saying, I don't know if it's gonna get the article, I'm just gonna go through new media. This is the project I log in, you know, I sign up for the project and provide the the company papers, whatever they need. And they get they basically, you know, give me the docs and say, send it in when you're done.
Alex Ferrari 48:56
And I and then you did you have opened up an LLC for this company.
Joshua Caldwell 49:00
I'm just curious. Yeah, this one we did. Yeah. So we opened up an LLC, but with a
Alex Ferrari 49:05
Layover, you did your own production company. layover. We did it through our own production company. Okay, my production company. Yeah. Got it. Now, though. Just Yeah, just for protection, as far as you know.
Joshua Caldwell 49:15
Yeah. Yeah. But this one, this one, this one, we had different ownership structures. So what I did on this was, you know, again, like myself, Adam games who wrote the movie, kaki and Simon, like, you know, we paid ourselves a little bit of money, but not a lot, you know. So and I knew that going in, I said, this is not a move. This is not a project where we're all making money. So, you know, just to make everything fair, here's what we're gonna do, we're all going to have a fifth ownership of whatever profit participation that we get out of marvista. You know, so whatever the money gets, that gets made by you know, by the film will split evenly five ways. So that also made it better for us to go through a different, you know, through go through a unique LLC, in order to just maintain that ownership structure, but that was also one one thing. We did was saying I can't pay any money but we all have equal shares.
Alex Ferrari 50:03
Right! And they're doing it because they want to do it. Exactly. Yeah. That they're working. I always Yeah, Mark Polish shoes.
Joshua Caldwell 50:10
No, you mine and has we talk every now and then he his whole thing is like if an actor asked how much they're getting paid, they don't actually want to do your project.
Alex Ferrari 50:20
That's a very good team. I'm friends with Michael polish. And yeah, and I talked to him about his movie. For lovers only, which was, you remember that one? Yep. Yeah, that is fire. That was an inspiration for layover. Yeah. And it's an inspiration. It was an inspiration for my movie. Meg, you know, this is Meg. And it was just like, these guys just went out and to Paris. Yeah, it's just not. And then Ty is shot an entire movie, basically just the two of them and her. Yeah. And occasionally the sound guy would show up. I was like, What? And they made half a million with it. Which is not which is that? No, it's not bad at all. I'd take it. Now you've got four, you said about four to five crew members. Were at the top, a top end as far as production can again, can you break down what those crew members were and what they did specifically? So people have an idea?
Joshua Caldwell 51:12
Yeah, so I like I said, so I directed it. And Cameron peated. IDP did as well and operated. So that's two roles that I then took on. We'd have a producer, you know, will who would show up and kind of help out and you do everything from slating a scene to, you know, wrangling things to helping light you know, I mean, it was an all in process for all of us. And then we had a sound guy who pretty much just focused on the sound, which is all I wanted to doing. And that was like the core group of us. And then I'd say that was like 60% of the time. That was that was the crew, you know, and Adam would come by set and he'd help out. And then we scale up to sort of the next level. And that would include like having a guy who was a gaffer, so he come out and like basically helped us like help take on some lighting for myself, so I could work with the actors. We'd have, we are a stunt guy, because we did a number of stunts. So we had this great, great stunt coordinator named Daniel Llosa, Sarah who's like, I mean, right now he's working with Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible six, like, awesome, awesome, dude. But he was trying to get into coordinating and he's a great fight coordinate. So like he ended up not only doing the fight coordination for the fight that's in the movie, but he also would come out and handle help with any stunts, you know, that we would do. And then we would on some of this stuff later in the movie when Kati is like all beat up and bruised. Like, you know, we have a makeup guy who would come up with a good job, by the way, that makeup look great. Great. Yeah, the makeup guy was so fantastic. And obviously did us a huge favor, coming out with some in doing some of that stuff. And then let's see. And then I think after that it was like our big shootout day where we'd have an armor and we had a couple gaffers and grips like to come out and help move lights. That was a big but today, that was the big budget day big budget weekend rather. Yeah. And but that was as big as it got. I mean, maybe 1015 people total on set on on the biggest days. And that was Yeah, because you were doing basically a full blown action sequence. Yeah, exactly.
Alex Ferrari 53:14
Now, can you give any, you know, tips like go two tips for shooting on locations without a permit? That you like you have to do this? You have to do this? You have to do this?
Joshua Caldwell 53:26
Yeah, okay, so you got to strip down the camera to as small as possible. You got to scout that location as much as you can different times of the day or at the time of day when you want to shoot. So you have to have a really I mean, you have to have a great understanding of of what the scenario is in that location right if you're in the middle of the desert, fine. But if you're trying to shoot downtown What's it look like? You know, they're cops around like if you try and walk in and start shooting at a central station, it's like a heist. You got a case to join. And and I begin an example of this right is, is the scene in layover where they're, they're looking out over the city, they're sitting on the lookout. That was shot at the lookout over Mulholland because that was the best point of view. Now what I knew was I knew a couple things from having gone up there. A couple of days in scouting, I knew that it was the last location on the Park Police route for when they close down the park. I knew that the sunset about eight o'clock. And they didn't close it until about 1030. So I knew I'd probably have about an hour hour and a half to shoot the scene, meaning I needed all the blue out of the sky. You know, so like I'd have an hour an hour and a half. I also knew that people were up there all the time. And they were taking pictures and they were talking and they were all that stuff. So what that led me to conclude was I knew I could pull this off. I knew that the way I had to do it was I could only shoot their backs. I couldn't shoot any of the actual performance because I I'd have talking and flashbulbs and all this stuff going on. And I'd have probably an hour to get it done. So that gave me a couple takes. And so I was able to go up there and shoot that because I had a very clear understanding of of what the location situation would be when I got there. Right. So like, when you're shooting gorilla, no permits, you just got to have a really great, it's funny, you've got a case to join, you got to have a great understanding of like, what the situation is going into it, especially if you're, if you're spending money to do it, meaning you got to rent a camera and you got to do whatever and you're paying actors, and you're actually spending money to like get out there. So that's also important. And I think it's it's also in the design of the film, which is which is don't try to do it with scenes that are six pages of dialogue. You know, you gotta go You gotta go back to the French New Wave.
Alex Ferrari 55:48
So no, no Sorkin no Sorkin walk and talk
Joshua Caldwell 55:51
No, sir. No, sir, can walk and talk unless you're going to do long lens, you know, when you're in a car, you know, trying to like shoot out onto the square and across the street, what you get, yeah, across the street. No, you need to you need to, you know, plan the scenes so that you're not having to do cakes, you're not having to do performance, like the chase scene that we did. I never went back and shot the same area twice. Like I get one shot of this section, one shot at this section, one shot of this section, we just kept moving, you know, just kept moving through it. And I knew I would cut it up. You know, and I knew at the at the least I had a quick little sequence, you know, that I could I had something that I could cut up. Same with layover in the club. You know, we went into a club scene where we had permission to be in the club, but we had no permission to turn music off. He had no permission to change the lights. We didn't have permission to do anything. So I knew that wouldn't that would be the case. So I wrote a scene that didn't require performance and didn't require takes. So reserved those things, those scenes, you know, the scenes where you're doing public stuff, try and just limit what you have to accomplish and then really know how you're going to accomplish it in a way that's not going to require you to do tons of coverage, multiple takes those things that are continued continuing to draw your draw attention to your scene. Also, another tip is don't have that like nonpermanent location be the only possible place that you can shoot that scene. Right. Right. So like in layover, like our negative, we have the parking garage, you know, which they go to to get the car. Well, I really love that parking garage because of the view of downtown LA and really wanted to use that one. But it could have been any parking garage. Sure.
Alex Ferrari 57:29
So not so no shootouts. So no shootouts at Union Station. Exactly. That's a Union Station.
Joshua Caldwell 57:33
Do not have your characters even carry fake weapons. Are you kidding me? You know, but the funny part is so like for you know, and then and then you got to kind of this is actually Well, I'll get into this after I finish the tips. But basically, it's like, you know, just don't don't have the location, the the physical location meaning like, the specific location be dependent, be the only place to shoot that, you know, have options, because if you get kicked out of one, you don't want your entire movie, your entire scene, dependent on on it being that specific place, right? You know, so it's, to me the biggest secret to like non permitted guerrilla shooting. It's all in the design of your script. And your story, you know, has very little to do with like production. I mean, because you're just taking a camera and hoping you get what you get. But you need to be in a position where you can shoot a scene that is just getting what you get. And that comes from how do you design the script? We're able to take advantage of that stuff.
Alex Ferrari 58:28
Yeah, it's the mariachi style of doing things like you know what you have access to a What do you know, you can control everything around it?
Joshua Caldwell 58:35
Right? Exactly. Like the car for example, in our film, like, you know, it's a Volvo station wagon. Why is it a Volvo station wagon? Because I own a Volvo station wagon. You know, like, that's why it was and I was just like, Oh, well, Katya is like Swedish. There'll be a fun nod to that. And it just feels like an odd choice. And I'm going to go with it. Because you know, play in the movie is like an odd choice. It's just kind of fun. You know, that it's like a very specific car. You know, but it's one of those things where it's like, it's certainly using what you have. Because if you own the camera, if you own the car, if you own the actors, so to speak, like you can go shoot whenever you want. We did we did the car scenes just on a whim, you know, we'd be like, Hey, what are you guys doing Thursday, you want to go up and get this? You know, scene 18 it's car scene. They're like, Yeah, sure. You know, and that's what allowed us to really go out and get that stuff without feeling constrained by schedule. Right, you know, and then and then we own the drone like part of our budget was we just bought an inspire one drone and that gave us the freedom to take that out and shoot whenever we needed.
Alex Ferrari 59:34
The drone shots really add a tremendous amount of production value.
Joshua Caldwell 59:38
Thank you. Yeah, that was I mean, again key right like your big helicopter shots with these drones now you can really take advantage of it and it's it's just being really smart with how you use it and the quality
Alex Ferrari 59:48
Of the image was really good.
Joshua Caldwell 59:50
Yeah, it's great. I mean, it was the standard you know, a couple of them we ended up having that Micro Four Thirds camera cuz Santiago Salvy che who plays one of the Hitman In the movie, he's also a filmmaker in his own right. And he has a whole production company. And he's like a, he's like a actually drone pilot. So he did, he did a number of the shots in there in the film. And then I also did some of my own with the with their own drone.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:12
So it seems that the the key to this is not to be afraid of dogma and not to be afraid of just trying to break the mold, because people are so caught up with the way they teach things in film school, that you have to do it this way, this way, this way, this way. And I remember when I told people that I was going to do my movie, that people in the industry, they just look at you like, what? Right? I'm sure I'm sure you get that dog in headlights, or that deer in headlights look all the time, like, what did it get it?
Joshua Caldwell 1:00:47
Well, it's funny, because like, I've had meetings where people have seen negative and then they go we you know, really, you know, we'd love to do something like negative but like, you know, obviously we have like protocols and, you know, stuff that we can't just like, go do it the way you did it. I'm like, what the permits, like, I don't care. Like if you guys need to protect yourselves get the permits, I didn't get permits, because I didn't have the money. Right? You know what I mean? Like pay for permits, like, I have no problem with that, like get location agreements, do it all legal? I have no problem against doing it like that. Just budgets gonna go. You know what I'm trying to find out figure out in my own head as I because the other thing too, right? Like is how do you scale up this model? And it's not necessarily possible, you know, to suddenly shoot for six months on and off, although that's pretty much like, well, Mission Impossible does. But it's it's that kind of thing, where, how do you scale it up? And what I'm less looking at, I'm looking at more is how do I bring this style and this approach to scenes where I do have closed sets, scenes where I do have extras walking around scenes where I do have control, and yet create a feeling of not having had control because that really speaks to me in a unique way. But it also puts me in a position where I can always go and make a movie, if I can get $100,000 to
Alex Ferrari 1:01:59
Write or if you know, and that's
Joshua Caldwell 1:02:01
What I've always wanted to protect. I never wanted to be really beholden to anybody else in order to go make a film, you know, because that's your key. That's how you get, that's how you move forward. You're always waiting on somebody else, then you're always in a position, you're never in a position
Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
Of power. Now. Okay, so anyway, you know, so like, so after layover, you know, you've got your agents at CAA. And you got a couple other jobs. How are you? You know, can you just kind of walk through the kind of blueprint of how your career has progressed from making a $6,000 movie up into where you are right now, just so people understand listening? That like this is, you know, it's not going to be for everybody, but at least people can have an idea of like, where you could go by just getting out doing something?
Joshua Caldwell 1:02:46
Yeah, you know, it's been a challenging path, because I made layover, and a lot of goodwill came out of layover, and I got a lot of meetings and a lot of, you know, again, like, negative came out of layover, the person, the executive at marvista had seen layover and wanted to make something with, you know, but it took took two years before I had that project. You know, so I then I got I got hired to do this here series for se series called South Beach on Hulu, which was like, again, like, million dollar budget, you know, like, I spent seven months in Miami, you know, I got paid, like, way more than the entire budget of layover, you know, like, go and direct this thing. And it was, you know, I put a lot into it. And I certainly made some mistakes, from my point of view, in terms of some choices I made stylistically that I feel, it wouldn't let me it would have made me feel better about the outcome of the project. But um, you know, I put my heart and soul into it and put a lot of work into it, I sort of, in the same time saw sort of the limitations of the approach that we were taking, not having control over the writing, not being a producer on it, not having, you know, a sort of a say in how the money gets spent,
Alex Ferrari 1:03:59
You're hired, hired hand
Joshua Caldwell 1:04:01
Over hired him, but it's a job. And I went into it going great, like it's going to be on a it's going to be on a major digital network, you know, it's going to have promotion behind it, like it's going to get out there. This is exciting. This is cool. And then it gets finished and comes out. And you know, there's a regime change at Hulu. They're not paying their they don't care about your project anymore. You're not promoting it. The guy that, you know, fun, sort of produced it dolphin entertainment, like he's already made his money. So he doesn't want to put more money into it to like promote it. And it basically dies. I mean, literally, it's like a black hole. I mean, nobody has heard of this show. Yeah. Which is, you know, for me a bit of a blessing in disguise because I'm really happy with my own work on it. But in a way or weird way, I've been able to fail without it having any kind of like, impact on me, right. But it was really disappointing to sort of see it, see nothing come of it and feel like I was no further along in my career than I was before I had made it except I have a little bit of money in my pocket, which didn't feel worth it. Which is easy to say when you have a little bit of money in your pocket. But like, from a artistic point of view, it was it was a bit soul crushing. And it really, it ended up sending me on a journey of introspection and meditation on my career and what I wanted to be doing. And, you know, what does success mean to me? You know, and, and I basically, then the following Later that year, that was June 20 2015, when it came out later that year, I got hired to do another sort of digital film called be somebody, which would be my second feature. And again, a job, you know, and took it because I, you know, to be frank, I needed money. And yet, you know, did the best I could with it. I mean, I, you know, I'm not phoning these in, I'm really trying to give myself to them and spend a lot of time rewriting it. But again, it did just, even though it got released by Paramount, it was one of those movies creatively where I feel like it was not set up for success. You know, it just wasn't online in LA, it was more about getting it done, you know, I 12 days to shoot the movie, you know, working with severe limitations, and kind of started to really go like, is this, what I want to be doing is this, what's the point of this, you know, like these things where you're just churning it out, and there's no real artistic nature behind it. And there's, they're not well, not that they didn't want that, but they weren't willing to provide the resources and the time to really do it. You know, and, and then, you know, and that really led me to doing negative and negative now, you know, it's interesting, I finished negative last year in June. And so it's been now more than a year waiting for it to come out. So I was still come out comes out September 19. Okay, so it gets released on digital HD and on demand, and the whole digital package. Netflix will come later. But yeah, it's available September 19. So it's finally out. So my hope is what is this turned into, but a lot of last year has been, you know, sort of development on some digital series, you know, working with CIA to sort of figure out the next feature, figure out the next thing me writing, I wrote a feature that we've taken out, I'm adapting a new, I'm adapting a graphic novel now. You know, and a lot of it has been me sort of stepping back from the sort of self imposed pressure to produce that I felt over the last couple years, I'm a guy who loves being on set, I love shooting, and I feel when I'm not shooting, that I'm not doing anything. And I get itchy, and I get unhappy, and I get frustrated. And I just want to go, go go. And I think that, that leads me to places of, of working on things that aren't quite ready to be gogogo. Got it. You know, it's a quality issue now, for me. And so what I'm trying to really do is now step back, find other sources of income. So I'm not beholden to just taking jobs to take them because I need the cash. And really thinking and working hard on those projects that I really want to be doing, like, what are those things that really speak to me? Right? And maybe it means taking more time and taking more, you know, and slowing things down and really finding those those projects and those stories that I want to tell. And meanwhile, by removing the income question, I don't feel pressured to just take whatever comes at me. You know, because I think I've done that twice now. And it feels like it's not panning out the way that it should have. Right? Like, you kind of go Okay, I'll take this for the money, but it's gonna launch.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:46
Oh, God. I mean, I made that mistake too many times.
Joshua Caldwell 1:08:48
Yeah, I mean, in in theory, like, be somebody got me my agents at CAA. So like that something did come with that. And I got to say, you know, my movie was released by Paramount, but it was a movie designed for a very specific audience of like, you know, teen girls Sure. And they love it. But it's not something where I'm like spreading you know, sharing that around going like let me make your next thriller.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:09
Joshua Caldwell 1:09:10
Yeah, so negative was also of course correct. Negative was me going okay. I mean, layover, which is not a thriller, I mean, South Beach, which has thriller elements. It's not a thriller, I maybe somebody's not a thriller. I wanted making thrillers and action movies, and like, you know, dramas. And so, you know, negative was, of course, correct in that way to, again, stepping down the ladder in order to make the thing that I really want to make because nobody else is offering up that opportunity. And sort of proving that I could do action that I could do fight scenes that I could do, you know, things like that, that I hadn't really done before. And not only that, but do it for a buck. And so now you know, so it's it's a layover, making these movies has led to other things and I can't say that it works. Again, the path isn't for everybody. But it is something where the fact is that with this industry it's about Whatever you're producing, it's always always producing what's your what's your output, and you just got to keep doing it. And I think the best thing to be doing is to remove the pressure of Hollywood to begin with, you know, don't worry about Hollywood, don't worry about all that stuff. Just be making it, you know, and see, it's easy to say that when you're not working five, nine to five, and you're not struggling, and you're not trying to get your career going. But I've been there, certainly. So I totally understand. In fact, I'm not that far away from it. And, you know, you're just not gonna you're you got to really take the time to think about the quality of the stuff you're doing. And are you doing something that's really gonna stand out? There's so much content being made nowadays, that you really it's really hard to be in the middle, you know? And, yeah, so that's kind of a long day.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:45
No problem at all. Now, I'm going to ask a few more questions. A couple of these actually last time, so I'm going to couple new ones for you. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today, now that you've moved along another year or so since last we spoke?
Joshua Caldwell 1:11:03
It might be the same thing I said last time, I don't remember. But I think like you got to make a feature.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:07
Joshua Caldwell 1:11:08
I just think that in less Listen, you can go away and make those like five minute proof of concept shorts. But very rarely, are you getting to then make the feature. Like how many of those have come out how many of those have gotten guys not a
Alex Ferrari 1:11:24
Lottery Ticket Lottery Ticket,
Joshua Caldwell 1:11:25
It's a lot, it's a lottery ticket, like you are far better off, putting your time and energy into a feature, even if it's a low budget one, then you are making shorts, or anything like that. Now, don't make a feature if you're not ready. Right? Like, have the experience, make some shorts, get that get your feet wet, like have an understanding of like, how not to cross the line, like the basics of it, right? But you're really, really making that first feature, even if it's a low budget one, even if it's made for $6,000 it's gonna put you into that club that you know, is somewhat exclusive of somebody that's made a feature film. And if it's if it's somewhat good, then somebody might ask you to make another one. But you shouldn't be waiting on that you should make a feature you should be thinking about how to make another one how to make another one how to make another one how to make another one for 10 grand how to make another one for 20 grand how to make another one for 50 grand, you know it's it's keep producing, you know, and if it's not that then be putting stuff up on YouTube. Now just keep keep making things and but I think that I made what I thought some were some really good shorts and really some high value, you know, high production value shorts, and they didn't give me anything like layover got me.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:40
Right, you know, and lay overs and not an action movie by by and he's not an actual movie, not even an English friend, you know, you really went against the grain on that. But it works for you.
Joshua Caldwell 1:12:51
The other thing I would say is that I think he got it, whatever you make, it's got to stand out. It's got to be almost so batshit crazy, that people can't not watch it.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:04
No, you man, you're preaching to the choir man, I completely and totally agree with you. It's it's so difficult for anyone to get anyone's attention nowadays. You know, because you can't compete with Hollywood, you're not gonna have $150 million PNA budget to get your movie out there. So you've got to do something different. And that baseballs?
Joshua Caldwell 1:13:24
Yeah, I mean, it's funny, because when I had talks with layover, or sorry, talks with marvista, sort of about the promotion of the film, I was like, Listen, like, have you guys sold it all? Like, have you sold it to everywhere you can sell it? Because they were like, Well, why? And I'm like, Well, I kind of think we need to be able to talk about the budget. Because you know, originally, it's like the whole idea of like, if you haven't sold your movie, you don't really want to talk about the budget because you don't want somebody to undercut you know, come in and go, Oh, you made 400 grand, great, we'll give you 50 right, you know, like because you're underselling yourself, if they assume you made it for a million, then they're, you know, even though you made 100,000, they might give you a high 500,000. And he made a $4,000 profit. So I was like, how can we sort of talk about this? Because I think the movie changes for people when they know how much was spent? Sure. You know, I'm not I'm not trying to undercut the movie, but I, you know, I think if you assume it's a $2 million movie, you're kind of like, Alright, I guess, you know, I mean, right, like you've seen it, like, but I think if you know, it was made for say under five, or you know that the budget was $100,000. Like, it changes your perception of that film. And I think that's important, you know, for me, for people understanding it, because I want I want people to be able to watch it, not only just to enjoy it, and I hopefully I made a great movie. But at the same time, I also want it to be a bit of a life lesson for people to be able to watch and say, okay, that's what $100,000 movie could look like.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:44
Right! Right. That's a very good point. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?
Joshua Caldwell 1:15:01
Let's see, well, okay, I'll give you the career one. So I read a book called, I might have already said this, I'm trying to remember, I read a book called the obstacles of the way by Ryan Holiday. And it really delves into sort of the principles of stoic philosophy. Yep. And which has been over the last couple years, basically, pretty much since after South Beach, came out and died on the vine has been a very serious pursuit of mine in terms of like, coming to understand a different way of looking at the world different way of looking at success. And the basic tenet of you know, what is up to us and what is not up to us. And it's, it's radically transformed sort of my mindset, and my perception of, of Hollywood in my own work, and where I'm putting my time and, and how I'm valuing myself versus others and how I'm defining success, that it's really sort of opened up a whole other world for you know, in terms of my approach to my career, that has also made me much more relaxed about it.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:07
Right. takes time to get there. It takes time to get relaxed.
Joshua Caldwell 1:16:11
Yeah, I mean, frankly, anything by Ryan Holiday is fantastic. He wrote a great new book that just came out called perennial seller, which is about why do you Why does a movie like Shawshank Redemption stick around, you know, 25 years later after it was made versus other things that just go kind of show up and go away? And, and he's got another book called ego is the and I'm a huge fan of his writing to begin with. But like that book, the obstacles away kind of really transformed. You know, sort of my approach to my career.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:39
Yeah, Tim Ferriss, I'm assuming you know, the Tim Ferriss. Yep. Yeah, he's big. Yeah, he's a he's very big into stoic philosophy.
Joshua Caldwell 1:16:46
Yeah, yep. He is. And in his nose, Ryan really well, like Ryan's always on his podcast and talking, talking about stuff with them. It was called obstacles on the way, an obstacle is the way the the obstacle is the way Yeah, it's very true. It is, it is. And it's, it's just a great sort of starter for for anybody looking to get into sort of the principles of stoic philosophy and, and how it can sort of relate. You know, I think stoic stoicism has a sort of bad connotation, but it's not, it's not that at all. And it's a really unique way of sort of like, again, like going back to Hollywood, like you're in LA, you're like, surrounded by billboards of people's movies, and, you know, friends that are having success, and you're having all this stuff, and, frankly, all that's out of your control. And if you're going to focus on all the things that you control, you're just going to drive yourself nuts, you know, which most people most people do. And frankly, I did, too, you know, I mean, it's, it's, it's a very hard thing to fight against. When you're, you're constantly surrounded by you know, like, and so it's really, really sort of philosophical change in in who I am, and led to me making some big changes in my life, like moving away from LA and moving to some property in New York State and sort of having a much more calling presence and, you know, just focusing on my career in a different way.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:04
And do you do you would you agree in the statement that generally speaking, when you are the most afraid of doing something, it's the it's the direction you should be going?
Joshua Caldwell 1:18:14
Oh, yeah. I mean, it because, but less so like, that is a great marker. It's a great marker, because I know it's gonna be a challenge, right? That's what it is. Right? Like, I know that it I knew lay I knew negative was going to be a challenge. You know, there's other things where I'm like, this is going to be easy. Like, I'll just show up in a lease. And that's what I'm always looking for is a challenge, because that's where you get your best ideas. That's where your focus so intently on it that, you know, you're so zoned into it, that that's where you get your best stuff. So, you know, absolutely. I think that if if it scares you, that means it's going to be challenging, which means it's going to be good for you.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:55
Absolutely. Now, where can people find you online?
Joshua Caldwell 1:18:59
So the best thing is Twitter. My handle is at Joshua underscore, Caldwell ca LD w e Ll, you can branch out from there and find all my other places. And yeah, and the negative is, like I said, it's being released on digital HD, iTunes, Amazon, all that stuff. And all on demand networks on September 19.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:24
Man, thank you so much for coming back on the show. Man. You're one of the rare guests that I've invited back. There's only been
Joshua Caldwell 1:19:30
Alex Ferrari 1:19:31
Oh, I think only two or three out of 181 podcasts so far.
Joshua Caldwell 1:19:37
You know why? Because all your guests go from like the indie mentality and they'll become huge big guys reachable.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:43
Exactly, exactly. And I'm not there yet, or there are they're huge big guys to begin.
Joshua Caldwell 1:19:51
I love I love talking shop. So it's always a pleasure to come on with somebody that gets that approach in that mentality.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:59
Thank you again, just So much for being on the show. Appreciate it.
Joshua Caldwell 1:20:01
Alex Ferrari 1:20:03
As promised, that was a fairly epic podcast an episode. And I want to thank Joshua, again for being on the show and explaining how you, you know, don't forget your roots of where you're coming from, even though you might have a bigger budget doesn't mean you have to think like a bigger budget film, because you will get more out of not thinking that way. So if you take a $6,000 film mentality, and put it into a $100,000 budget, you're able to get a spy thriller action movie that looks insane and has high production value. Because you're able to go out and do things that you just wouldn't be able to do if you went down the mentality of trying to make a half a million dollar movie for $100,000. You know, the film swingers, which is a very famous independent film starring john Favre and directed by Doug, Doug Lehman, is a perfect example. They had I think, 100 $150,000 and they said, Why are we going to try to make a movie that we have a budget of 100,000 100 $150,000 to make a movie, and we're going to try to make a million dollar movie with that budget and make it look like a million dollar movie? Why don't we take that $150,000 and make it look and try to make a $25,000 movie look insane, and go down as opposed to trying to go up, and you'll be able to get more out of it. And that's what they did. And it was, you know, it did fairly well, in its day as well. So just go down this mentality, guys, I think you'll be very, very helpful to you in your filmmaking journey. Now, this is Episode 199. And next episode is number 200, which is going to be a special episode I'm going to be giving you a little teaser about that episode is how you can sell your movie using Facebook ads, we're going to talk to a Facebook ninja. And we're gonna go deep down the rabbit hole on how filmmakers can use Facebook to market their films themselves, their projects, and how to do it affordably, and how to do it right and how to use the most powerful marketing tool on the planet. That is going to be the big Episode 200 because I wanted to do something really cool and exciting for you guys. And something I know people will go back to and check out Episode 200. And this was I just felt so important that filmmakers understand this process and learn what Facebook and and what marketing they can do on social media to help to get their message out. So stay tuned for that it should be coming out this week I'm working on as we speak. And if you want links to anything we spoke about in this episode, just head over to our show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/199. In guys, if you have not had a chance to go and leave a review for the show on iTunes, please take two minutes, go to iTunes and leave us a good review. It really helps us in the rankings, getting more people to listen to us and getting the message out on what we're trying to do at indie film hustle. And the movement that I'm trying to create and the tribe is helping us create. So just head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave us a good review. It means so so much to me, man. I really appreciate it. And thank you guys for listening. I hope this episode was a value to you. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you in Episode 200.
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- The Layover (Special Edition)
- IFH 121: Joshua Caldwell – The Art of the $6000 Feature Film
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B075356PW2” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Negative[/easyazon_link]
- Official Website
- Joshua Caldwell – IMDB
- Joshua Caldwell – Twitter
- Joshua Caldwell – Vimeo
- Be Somebody
- Michael Polish – How to Make Money Selling a No Budget DSLR Indie Film
- This is Meg – Feature Film