Today on the show we have writer, director, author, actor, and all-around indie film pioneer Mark Polish. Mark and his brother Michael Polish (listen to his interview here) are well known for their films, [easyazon_link identifier=”B00002SSKW” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Twin Falls Idaho[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B00005RDRM” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Jackpot[/easyazon_link] (the world's first digital feature film, yes they beat George Lucas by a few months), [easyazon_link identifier=”B000TDXQY0″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Astronaut Farmer[/easyazon_link] starring Billy Bob Thornton and one of my favorite indie films ever For Lovers Only (Available on IFHTV).
His new film [easyazon_link identifier=”B07MKTCT9W” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Headlock[/easyazon_link] (aka Against the Clock, more on that later in the interview) is out in theaters and VOD.
Also, do yourself a favor and read his amazing filmmaking book [easyazon_link identifier=”0156029529″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking[/easyazon_link] which is easily one of my favorite filmmaking books of all time.
Mark and I discuss his career, the challenges of maintaining your creative vision and working within and out of the Hollywood system. We also discuss how Sundance has radically changed over the years and some of his horror stories when shooting and distributing his films.
Enjoy my epic conversation with Mark Polish.
Alex Ferrari 0:03
Now today on the show. We have film director, writer and actor, Mark Polish. Now Mark and his brother are famous for making a lot of amazing indie films like northfork, and jackpot, which was the very first digital feature film ever shot, he actually beat George Lucas by a couple of couple of months, Twin Falls, Idaho, one of my favorite films ever for lovers only. And and then they also got to do some studio work as well, like the astronaut farmer with a Billy Bob Thornton. And Mark has done some amazing work as an actor as a writer, and now as a director with his new film headlock with Andy Garcia. And I wanted to have him on the show to talk about his, you know, journey as an independent filmmaker, from the early days of Sundance, to working with the studio system to doing I think one of the first if not the first five D movie, which is for lovers only. And and all his adventures and also his book that he wrote with his brother called the declaration of independent filmmaking, which I promise you if you are an independent filmmaker, you need to read this book. It's one of my top 10 filmmaking books of all time. So let's get into it. Without any further ado, please enjoy my inspirational conversation with Mark Polish. I'd like to welcome the show Mark Polish brother, thank you so so much for taking the time out to come on the show.
Mark Polish 3:41
Hey, thank you so much for having us. Or having me here.
Alex Ferrari 3:45
I was about to say
Mark Polish 3:46
I would say us because my dog is right behind me.
Alex Ferrari 3:48
Fair enough. Fair enough. I've been a huge fan of your work for years. And specifically a few movies we're going to talk about later in the interview. But before for before we even get into it. Can you please tell the audience how you even got into the business and and who you are in general because a lot of people might not know your work?
Mark Polish 4:10
Well, we first probably known as the label, it's a Polish Brothers. That was probably the first that people got recognized who I was more as a duo as we did a film. Our first one we did a short film that kind of put us on the map. It was a Latino based film about boxing called bajada pero. And it started gaining some back then festivals are very much more of a cultivating of talent. I mean, you could read there was no other ways of seeing these movies. There was no distribution back then. So a short film can really get you on the map or get you I think it does as well today but back then it was if you got into a festival that's what your distribution you went from festival, the festival and the short film that might I made, started getting some attention and got some awards, put us in some nice places some nice rooms to start talking about some features that we had. And originally, we'd had northfork written and ready to go. It just looked too ambitious on paper. At this kind of bigger location thing shot Montana would didn't look like it was going to work for two young filmmakers who had no credit or you know, anything. Small 17 minute short film. And so john Grice, the actor I think everybody pretty much knows him as uncle Rico on an appointed diner. Yeah, neighbor. and introduce us to Rena Ronson, who was at Wayne Morris. Oh, prior to that she was at a foreign company called lake shore. She had a son and we would talk she'd read northfork loved it, but thought that it was again too ambitious. And we had something else. And I said, we're currently working on this movie, the script about Siamese twins. And that really intrigued her. And she's like, if you get that done, I think I could get that financed and made. And so that was our first kind of foray into the whole idea of getting something financed. It was independent, it was around $500,000. We did for 17 days, we got into the you know, the Super Bowl of Sundance kind of thing. Got a lot of attention.
Alex Ferrari 6:24
Can you get your going into Sundance, when Sundance was still like Sundance?
Mark Polish 6:28
Yeah, when it was when it really cultivated independent voices. And there was so many unique voices up on that mountain at that time, I think it was 99. And just remember how many great films of that year we had American Beauty you had been john malkovich, you had boys don't cry. I mean, you named Blair Witch, you had us, you get a lot of films that very unique voices that are coming out at the time. And it was a nice class to be around. And you traveled with those filmmakers, and you became friends with a lot of them. So it was a we got a lot of attention off of Sundance came off the mountain got a lot more recognition. Got into the studio system. And and they were very, you know, there was a one in particular by Jeff Robin, who was running, he was a junior exec at the time really responded to my plan, I and we set up a deal over there to do some to do some work over there. And that's how it kind of really started from there. And we always kept doing smaller movies while we are kind of cultivating these bigger ones that take took a while to get made. So we were always kind of try to do the smaller ones, though.
Alex Ferrari 7:36
That's awesome. And specifically, like you were saying that you guys were known as the Polish brothers, we literally played again, closer than that, you literally would fall by No, you have to be resourceful. Look, and that's, that was the way you know, you guys, obviously are extremely talented filmmakers. But that was a way to brand yourselves. Honestly,
Mark Polish 8:00
It was one of those things that because we had written northfork and it only had a small role of supporting more by me, you started going okay, no one's gonna make this for this price point. At that time, it was quite high. So you started looking at checking the boxes of what I couldn't do. Or we could play the twins. Oh, we can use our house. Oh, we can use john Grice. As an actor we can use Garrett Morris. We can use Patrick, we chose people that were around us at the time. Sure. So it was a very resourceful first time movie, and very unique at the time, because no one had had told that subject matter. correctly. I think there was sisters, but no one really saw saw the fusion of twins or the kind of intimacy that two conjoined twins had. So it was it was it was definitely eye catching, and allowed us to really make our mark.
Alex Ferrari 8:55
And then you know, I just I just love the pitch session about like, how could you walk into a well first of all, did the money come from Lakeshore or did it go
Mark Polish 9:03
It did not. She eventually left the lake shore before she became a sales agent, packaging agent William Morris, Rena was able to find an equity source. And it just happened to kind of it landed. We were having trouble doing it because like on paper, like we didn't act Siamese twins a hooker. You just keep saying these things. And it's just like, it's a no fly thing. You know, this is a whole, like, I suppose I say this is a horrible pitch. Nothing you could you know, we took pictures to show. I mean, at that time, you had to remember that wasn't the internet. There wasn't these photos. There wasn't any that you had chaning bunker and that was it. That was the image of Siamese twins. They coined the phrase, there was no kind of medical term conjoined was just barely coming to fruition. No one really used that term. And so we had to kind of figure out okay, what's the political correct way of saying this, this is and start telling people It's about conjoined twins. And then they get a prostitute that didn't do well
Alex Ferrari 10:05
Mark Polish 10:06
You lost a lot of interest that way. But financier who eventually funded the film had had had met me 20 heads, twin sisters. So she saw the intimacy just between the sisters and thought this was a good representation of what she knew about that relationship. And so she was very kind enough to finance the film. And we were very, very lucky to do it. I mean, at first when I remember we're taking it out. First we were going to all the normal places the Miramax is sure the new are fine lines. Remember, there was a lot of those those
Alex Ferrari 10:38
Yeah, many majors. Yeah,
Mark Polish 10:40
That was it. And it was challenging, because no one could see the fusion and no one could understand. I mean, it just looked like a big ticket item with the twins being fused, it was going to be expensive. Regardless, you know, no one thought like, How can you do this practical and make it look good, or believable. So that script inherently look like 510 million dollars. And so, you know, we eventually stripped it back down to make sure that it can stay within the room before war drama type thing, and then did a lot of testing within our own house of how we are going to be able to you know, it was canon, what camera angles, versus what you didn't see that could sell these twins walking was probably the hardest contraction had to do. But we only did it a few times, you know, and then you know, your weaknesses really became your strengths in that idea, because you couldn't they were in mobile. And we couldn't move a lot of sets, we couldn't do a lot of things. So it really added to the cost of phobia of these two brothers that couldn't be apart from each other. And that inherently was like the side effect of having a movie that was very closed set. You know, I think there was six sets all together.
Alex Ferrari 11:53
Yes, it's an insane story. And I always I always found it fascinating about how you guys got your start with that movie, because it is, again on paper, a horrible pitch. And and and also the other thing is to that you actually from at least from this point of view, and you could tell me if I'm wrong or not, but you actually it seemed like you guys had pretty much creative control over that point.
Mark Polish 12:15
Yeah, we did. We did up until I mean, up until the cut, we had a cut that we submitted to the financier and the producers, not Rena, there was another one that was kind of between the money and they didn't quite understand. They didn't quite digest the story as well as we thought they would. And they had a lot of questions. And they basically would wanted to recut it in a way that they thought was much more pleasing. And it was a it was a it was a very it was a very defining moment at the time. So we made a deal with them. That was like, Look, let's take it up the mountain. If it if it sells for a price, you know, I think just even sales, we get our cut. If not, you guys can take it and recut it. So there was a lot of pressure on that initial that that. Yeah, cuz we were riding on it that it was one of those things where, you know, you saw the twins. They just thought it was a little bit more, you know, slower than it should be. And I was like, but that's just inherently characters, you're not going to be able to jazz it up. You know,
Alex Ferrari 13:18
This is not this is not stuck on you.
Mark Polish 13:19
Yeah, exactly. It's very much it's a much more a, a tone piece about a relationship and you get into it understand it's like and so once it was really embraced by the Sundance community, and Roger Ebert came out all the fun pedestrians over the year, it pretty much quiet at all that quickly because the reviews were really were the next day type reviews. So he came out in the forefront immediately and was like, This is probably one of the best films of the year, then they followed up when it came out with that Janet Maslin came out with an amazing review, this is this is when you your film really depended on a review, I mean, it was make or break each city, depending on the head reviewer, you would march into that town, have a screening. And if that head reviewer did not like your film, you pretty much killed your box office, because it was all of that. And back then there were some really big name reviewers, you know, in each in each publication, so we're very fortunate to get right off the bat with and get on Rogers, good side, he was such a champion throughout until he passed away.
Alex Ferrari 14:23
I actually had the pleasure of he gave me the review of my very first short film, and he was one of the most gentle wonderful souls I've ever met and, and he was a champion. He really was. He was a champion.
Mark Polish 14:40
And he wasn't your, your, what you call it credit credit he was so he just wanted to believe in the good of everyone's work. And I rarely saw him go after something for the spite of going after he always felt and I'd always read what's good about this film or what's good about this story and then focus on that. It's okay maybe some things didn't come and satisfying the way he thought it would. But he never focused on it. And he was such a such a darling to my phone I and I miss him tremendously, because I think he would have still championed a lot of these things that we're doing.
Alex Ferrari 15:16
Yeah, without question. And he was, he was he's definitely a champion without question. And he had, for people who don't know it wasn't raised in that time period with Roger. He was the dude. Yeah, he was. Yeah, that was no, there was no one bigger than him at that time. It was that there's no one and there's no one has ever no critic ever won the Pulitzer on that
Mark Polish 15:36
Yeah, exactly. And so when he, you know, when he asked you? Yeah, and yeah, when he blasted it was it was, I remember the phone call he he'd seen the movie, and he wanted to meet with us. And I was like, this could either be really good or really bad. I had watched him. I grew up on PBS with Gene gene. And gene had passed away. Yeah. Prior to the screening, so we didn't get a gene review. And you know, I don't know if he would have liked it. Or assuming may have would have been a great argument. They would have been amazing to see the fight over it. You know.
Alex Ferrari 16:14
Now after after Twin Falls, Idaho, you got the juice to go make Norfolk north.
Mark Polish 16:20
Yeah, we made a small digital film jackpot in between, okay, with with john Bryce. That actually got a little bit more award and attention than Twin Falls is one of the Cassavetes awards spirit. It was it was a much smaller and it was actually the first digital movie to be released. It's on the timeline right before Star Wars, which is really fascinating. We we actually took that center altar right before he did it. Oh, you shot it with this in the altar? Yeah, we just saw out there before that. So you see a timeline you see little movie called jackpot right before Star Wars and like, so it was it was that's really that. And then we were able to get enough attention and put together North Fork that was up in Montana location up in Montana, which was the beginning of those stories, you hear of losing your money, and all that kind of we had, we hadn't had that experience yet. And that was kind of that bigger, we're moving forward. We're losing money type thing that happens to independent filmmakers,
Alex Ferrari 17:26
Without question, and I've actually studied northfolk a lot over the years, because I love the movie when it came out. And then that wonderful documentary on the DVD. Yes, that just told just showed the Hell yeah, the insanity of what you guys were attempting to do, I mean, building that that boat
Mark Polish 17:48
Out there in the plains of Montana. I mean, as well, as they're saying, you know, once you step foot in Montana, you're part of the food chain. You just, there's nothing, you know, there's nothing that's going to hold you back, you know, from the nature of Mother Nature knows nothing. Yeah. And then it didn't even make clothes that was warm enough. For Montana. It was and it was it was the flip side. It's not It's not the sexy side of Montana, which is Glacier Park, and the west side and all that whole thing everyone's familiar with it was the east side, which is more prairie. And the backdrop is the beginning of the Rockies. And it was a good, go ahead.
Alex Ferrari 18:23
No, no, no. But the thing was with Norfolk as well is that, you know, from what I saw, and I was and I might be mistaken, that like did your, their dad or your parents were happy.
Mark Polish 18:34
I know, my dad, my dad came up, he was a production designer, because we couldn't get anybody who knew the land as well as he did, right. And he built, you know, we built a lot of the houses we lived in or contributed to the building. We built the house that he currently lives in Montana, so we're familiar with his building qualities, what he could do. So we had these plans of this boat, he's actually he just, you know, he's former DEA, he doesn't, he's seen a lot of stuff. So he was like, Oh, let me see this. I'll build this. What do you want it kind of thing. And he knew that he could crack ground and a frozen ground. He just knew the terrain very well. Right. And so it was a very, it was amazing to see him. Take that position and take it head on and be like, Oh, no, he built the house and the church and he bought a few things. And so it was a very, it was a great moment for the Polish brothers and their father.
Alex Ferrari 19:23
That was such a beautiful film, though. I mean, honestly, northfolk was just if people listening to have not seen northfolk he gotta rent it or watch it.
Mark Polish 19:31
It's I mean, it's a it's a love letter to dying America. It's a love letter to dying in itself and what we've lost in our value, so it's very prevalent now.
Alex Ferrari 19:39
Oh, very much. So. Can you tell people who because the cast was insane?
Mark Polish 19:44
Yeah, the cast was, um, we started off with. We first got Jimmy Woods James Woods who played my father Walter O'Brien, and then we're able to wrangle in Nick nulty Daryl Hannah Anthony Edwards, Tony, who's a close friend of ours, and I was we were doing a To get some of these people, Jimmy was just a fan. So I'd known he liked our stuff. So I got to meet with him and got him aboard. But I'd known I was doing the good thief, the Neil Jordan film, and nice and I was out having a drink and Mike had to fly back to accept an award for jackpot. And that's how Nick got involved. He were drinking Mike called me and he said, hey, look, we just won the award. And he was like, what's going on? I said, Well, we wouldn't know where he was what movie and I said, Oh, we did this small karaoke country movie jackpot. He goes, am I the next one? I'm like, Damn, right. You are. He was like that kind of he was, you know, we I just loved them so much. And so he was so game for it. It just happened. We just ran up against the Incredible Hulk. He was shooting Incredible Hulk at the time. So we literally put a jet on on American Express to get them up there. You from angley set?
Alex Ferrari 20:56
Well, from what I heard was like what I saw on the documentary, I'm not sure if his documentary The book, but you guys literally didn't know if he was gonna be there.
Mark Polish 21:05
No, we only pushed to the final act days. I mean, it was it became it became this kind of slogan. is Nick showing up next show. Andy coughing who was our ad at the time? Yeah, it was just to boil it for us all the time was like rescheduling every night and thinking he's gonna show up. And then it's me on the phone talking to the producers of the incredible whole, getting him released, you know, and they're like, we're, we need them here. We need to there and Nick really wanted to do it. And you know, Nick throws themselves I don't know if you've seen that role, that he did an incredible force I did. Huge and big and he really spends himself. So he he was exhausted, just dead. You know, he comes off the plane pajamas, and he had some kind of sitar wrapped around his neck. And his assistant was, I'd come across the assistant and so he he helped Matt trauma's was the guy. He helped me a lot to navigate Nick up there. But once Nick was there, it was fantastic. You know? No, no, it was, it was a great set. And you just got to see I mean, we did Jimmy there the whole time. And they just, and Jimmy really wanted to work with Nick and never we never had an opportunity. So there was such as great bonding of I mean, extreme right and left. Yes. Your views very mad, you taking them to bowling. It was it was the kind of the, the kind of debate about things that they were for a lifetime. And also Peter coyote was in it. So he was there as well. So there was a lot of
Alex Ferrari 22:42
And Daryl Hannah, was there.
Mark Polish 22:44
I mean, it was it was one of those casts that and then when you're up there, and you're in such a remote area, you become you become so close, and everyone becomes a family. But oh, yeah, Ben Foster was in it. And Was that too. So it just kept going? It's just like, we just started, we'd accumulate these casts prior to the films that we made before. And those would either hit the market or people would hear and people would watch them. And they're like, what are the Polish brothers doing next? I want to work with them until we were able to get this reputation of doing these films that people read these actors really wanted to be in
Alex Ferrari 23:16
The it's it's an a remarkable story. And it's also chronicled in the amazing book, the declaration of independent filmmaking that you wrote with your brother and
Mark Polish 23:26
Jonathan Shelton, who was a producer was one of the producers on the astronaut, farmer and North work,
Alex Ferrari 23:33
It's an A, and I've recommended it's one of my top 10 recommended books for filmmaking. It's a great book, it's it. What I love about what you and Michael do in general. And what you've done is that you guys are independent filmmakers. Yeah,
Mark Polish 23:48
Yeah. You mean truly, this is the kind of the thing that was always confusing to me. Because without confusing, it was you. I mean, we're truly independent, since the money was never from anywhere, but outside the industry. Whereas a lot of these indie films were cultivated and made that many majors show and they had the support and the insurance and the help of corporations, you know, having smaller things. We've never had any of that. So I mean, truly, truly flying by the seat of our pants on these things, you know, mortgaging houses and cars and doing whatever we could. And so that, to me was always independent filmmaking, like you would do whatever you took. It doesn't look healthy. It looks really crazy. But that's what we did. And so we're always you know, the style became your mistakes type of thing, or the style became what you what you lacked in your filmmaking, or when you couldn't read you had to, it was less about storytelling and more about story engineering. How was I going to tell this thing about an art with no money? You know, where I wanted to tell the story about angels? How do you do this with no prosthetics are people like VFX?
Alex Ferrari 24:52
Or no? Yeah, no high end. VFX Right. Yeah. It's a magical film. And I do honestly think that if you had another $20 million, it wouldn't be the same movie.
Mark Polish 25:00
Wouldn't it wouldn't it would probably look like x men in the accent had one of the angels in it that I think Ben Foster was
Alex Ferrari 25:08
Faster. His agent is literally Angel. He was a low budget angel in our movie. He the high budget man wanted Bryan Singer. But apparently that's why he got that other part. You know, hollywood works. How he played an age before. Let's hire him to do an angel
Mark Polish 25:24
Yeah, exactly. In this in this day and age, yeah, rebranded, we're gonna rebrand that Angel.
Alex Ferrari 25:31
Now I want to definitely talk to you about how you transition from being an indie film darling. And you know Sundance and Ebert and all that to the studio system where you got a hefty budget for what kind of movie it is. And it's called the astronaut farmer with Billy Bob Thornton, which I do love as well. I always they're, they're such unique films. That unique voices. So how was it transitioning from? indie, indie, indie to, you've got to buy what was the about the budget was like 20 million for that round.
Mark Polish 26:04
It was 15. But hard. And then the incentive in Mexico made it rounded off at 15 or something like that
Alex Ferrari 26:11
Still, you know?
Mark Polish 26:12
So Oh, yeah, a lot more than we've ever had. You know, and I don't know about you,
Alex Ferrari 26:16
I don't know about you, but I pick up 12 million?
Mark Polish 26:18
Yeah, no, it was it was one of those things where, you know, we had, I remember walking on like that, well, we got a lot of trucks on this one. A lot and a lot of toys to play with on this one, I mean, even rocket build, we were able to do a lot of things that you weren't able to do with the with the lack of resources. So and you know, New Mexico is a very fun, magical place to shoot that as well. I mean, the experience was actually, I had a great time I didn't have I didn't run up against anything. I remember that, you know, specifically, this is a really funny story. I remember that talk about transition. I we we were doing a bigger movie, a bigger science fiction movie there that they weren't going to kind of work getting the head wrapped around. And Michael and I just finished astronaut farmer, we're like, we're gonna go do this while you guys make your decision. Paula Weinstein and let them motto. The producers said, You know what, wait, wait, before you go off and do another ended. Let me read this. And then they read it. And they're like, Well, I think Jeff would do this. And so they gave it to Jeff, it wasn't part of our deal. And Jeff was like, I'll make this this is this is great. I'll make it for a price. And so we sat down with him. And we were able to get Billy Bob immediately to it and sat with him. And he joined on. So he effectively made the show go really fast when he when he agreed to it, of course. But we were right before we left to New Mexico, Jeff, Robin off had called us up to his office and said, let's have a lunch. I want to paint a pep talk. This is a studio system I want to see, check you guys out and he's like, Look, just follow the script basically. Like just the headline was like, just follow what you wrote, don't go off and do something crazy. Like he was fearing like, this was a joke like this, this script was not what we were going to do is to get by, you know, like, we're gonna pull a fast one on him. So I was like, No, we're gonna do it. So tell me, the first thing we shoot is Billy Bob, on a horse in White Sands, New Mexico, the opening of the movie is the first thing we shot. And it's just bizarre as hell you have this guy in a spacesuit on a horse walking and this phone call I get is Jeff Rogoff screaming at me, like just live I'll keep the profanity out but you can imagine it was laced with profanity saying you're making these goddamn Fellini film aren't you? I let you guys do I said I'm so sorry Jeff. That's now what it's like it's a title sequence we can cut it you know, filmmakers when you transition, your first dailies should be very, very welcoming and not be something esoteric as a guy in a 60s patient of one on a horse that was the wrong thing. So you learn real quickly you know that you want to send you know things that they
Alex Ferrari 29:14
That they can palette palatable palatable. Yeah, that they understand that Oh yeah, they're gonna do that and they're gonna they're gonna follow the script and for people listening I mean when you do get if you if you're lucky enough to work within the studio system and have those toys to play with there is politics that you have to play there are so there is massive amounts of psychology
Mark Polish 29:34
Learned so I mean, the thing that I think I learned the most was probably in the post in the editorial of because there was so many notes that were there that were coming down the way of you send a cut it go up there at all, watch it and then you'd get a you know, what binder of notes, so many people and you know that in the Indian, the indie guy in me is just like, Hell no, I'm not doing that one. That one that one out now and I would end in what you're doing is going to create rate this massive conflict early on, rather than every time is games, a good really great guy who taught me was like, Look, just show them what they want. And then when they see it and they know it's not work, then they'll move off it. If you're going to be resistant upfront, it's just going to be a bigger fight. And that's probably what I learned early on is just show them how bad that note is. And then they'll move off of it. Yeah, kind of embarrassing, in a way. And then that's probably the biggest thing, but as the transition, the more money more time there was not much to worry about that. I mean, that I think that the children were our kids, and that that was a little bit at first was like, how how's it going to work? But the location the DP, everything? There was there was was like a family thing. It was very, very
Alex Ferrari 30:48
Small, but yet big. Yeah. And it was nice. It worked out very, very well. Very happy with that. And the movie and the movie did well didn't
Mark Polish 30:54
Yeah, it did. It did really well really opened up a lot of doors to be like, Oh, these boys brother just don't make these weird, esoteric films. They can do this story.
Alex Ferrari 31:04
And by the way, I mean, but but and that was released by Universal was Warner Warner, I'm sorry, Warner Brothers. I know, it was a big was one of the big guys. But but for us prefer studio film astronauts, farmers still definitely out there.
Mark Polish 31:19
Yeah, no, it's it's wild. And a lot of it came from the inspiration came from trying to get North work made, and then losing that, you know, losing the financing the night before, and anthesis. So there's certain scenes in that, that are really derived from our life, that was very much about like, Hey, you want to launch this dream or this rocket, and all the opposition and all the adversity you're going to go through and how you're going to overcome that who believes in you and your family versus, you know, all those things were, were inherent in that story that we could tell this story from a point of view of living it, you know, living of like, no one believes that I'm going to launch this thing. No one's gonna believe that we're gonna finish this thing. It coincided with the way our father raised us and the things that he did and showed us the certain ways to live and build things and do things with your hands and you know, do things your own way, do it yourself. And so there's a lot of homage to him as well.
Alex Ferrari 32:16
That's awesome. That's awesome. So as we continue down memory lane for a second. One of the films that really inspired me, I cannot tell you how inspirational this film is. for lovers only. Oh, yes. I it is the ultimate indie. The ultimate indie film, if I may, if I may be so bold to tell the audience and I've we've talked about it on the show before when we had your brother on Yeah, but for lovers only you literally get the five D had just come out. And you your brother? I think a sound guy and stain are the actors. Yeah. Just went to Paris and shot a movie. Yeah. That's a France. Yeah, like, top to bottom. I mean, it was. It's an insane story of how you made it. But I love the story. Because Michael said it in the, in the first interview, how I'm like, how did you get Stena in involved? And for people who don't know stain caidic, who is she was on a very long running hits show called castle. She was still pretty, you know, she's still at the time. I think it was the beginning of the second end of the second and yeah, end of the second end of the third like yeah, so she wasn't she was already on her way. And she had done a bunch of other stuff prior to that, you know, she's a wonderful actress. But the way I was told is that, that you guys just put a call out in your agency and just said, hey, look, we're gonna go make a movie. And we don't like it we're going to Paris Do you want to come is
Mark Polish 33:46
Basically it was like, we'd shared the same agent, stone and I didn't, I didn't know at the time that we'd share it. I went to the agent at the time that was representing me. I said, Look, these this is what we're going to do. This is the requirements. Do you know any actress that would be willing to do and it was like a little shortlist. And Donna was the first girl actress on the board. So we met with three I think and she was the one that was just like, let's do this. She had the she she was brave from the very beginning. And you could just read it. I mean, when you do these movies, like even like a headlock and these, you're casting a lot side outside the lines as well. You know, you're looking at what, what those moments are going to be like when they're there when you don't have a trailer. And you don't have a room to go back to how people are going to respond to that. And so we knew it was going to be running gun and tough that there was a lot of physicality involved in it. But we knew that, you know, your personality was in your character was definitely going to be tested and she was right up front. Besides just her ability, her ability to act was amazing.
Alex Ferrari 34:54
And you were the co star
Mark Polish 34:55
The co star. Yeah. And so it was there was a lot of preparation for it in the sense that it It probably looks a little bit more free handed than we were but we miss Donna will rehearse every night. They make we'll take it upon ourselves to be as fully prepared because they were live sets or life situations. Don't you don't want to mess up in the sense that I don't know my lines, you don't have your lines. So we rehearsed them the night before, backwards forwards different ways. Understand what the characters were the intimacy level what we wanted to show, and then we were we would just hit the street, we'd be able to do these things. So natural, and that really helped us out.
Alex Ferrari 35:32
Yeah. And then of course, whatever happened on the day, you kind of had to roll with it.
Mark Polish 35:35
Yeah, you had to roll with it. I mean, it was it was it was modular descriptors as modular as you can make it, it didn't necessarily be like, Well, you know, we had things that were in the bed would probably those are easy, but the thing that was on the boat or on the beach weren't necessarily written beach and bow, those were things that we were able to attain on our on our journey, or the motorbike was there, but not in knee. So it was it was very modular in the way that we had to be able to approach it, which is challenging, but sometimes freeing, because you would get these amazing things like the boat, like the beach, how about the cliff? Oh, the cliff was tough, because you don't have anybody scouting it, you have no one out there, you're actually looking at it the day you're going to shoot. And then there's no one jumping before you. You know, you really don't know what's underneath, like, oh, and so there was some there was some defining moments there. Where where you thought this is a little bit far this, you know, just trying to judge it from the top
Alex Ferrari 36:34
Oh, no, you can't do that.
Mark Polish 36:35
Yeah, it was tough. It was trying to have her do it. It was amazing. And yummy. At that point, you couldn't touch you couldn't turn around.
Alex Ferrari 36:42
No, no, of course not. But the funny thing is about like those and that the thing I love about that movie so much is the performances are so natural looking. And you guys are jumping off that cliff, you're jumping off that cliff, there's no acting involved. Now you're hitting that water heart, you know? Yeah, it's it's cold, it was cold at that point. And you look at the face, like I still remember her face. So clearly, just right before she jumps. Yeah,
Mark Polish 37:06
he was she was nervous, but she was into it, you know, it was it. That's the thing about that, particularly movie was trying to capture that, that feeling of alive, you know, like, it's hard to it's hard to articulate what you do. But, you know, it's nice to be an actor in an environment that is feeding your cue can feed off of it invigorates you, it does not like people coming up and touching you for your makeup or your showing action of cut, Michael is rolling all the time. So there was moments that were just so pure, that you can't really get because it's always like a starting gate, you know, it's always like action, boom, you're out of the gate, you know, cut, boom, you're done. This was so fluid, you know, and you're able to really harness the energy that was around us and the things that you would do and you know, the natural things that couples do put, you know, groom each other, put things around each other's you know, like, put the hair behind her ear, those types of things. Just became inherently natural, because you're with somebody for so long doing these things, so and so that kind of subversive kind of stuff. We really benefited from it, you know,
Alex Ferrari 38:16
it was? Yeah, it was it was my direct, one of my direct inspirations to make my first feature, which was very similar in that sense, because I was just kind of like, let's just kind of roll with it and see and minds was I didn't have a script, we had a script. But, but I had an insane actors, like I had really, really seasoned, you know, I just had been doing this for 20 years. I
Mark Polish 38:38
mean, you need you need to be that's the thing, when people watch it, I've met with a few people, you know, wanting to emulate whoever's on, they said, Look, that's like our eighth movie. That's not that wasn't our first one out of the gate. I don't know if we could have done that. I mean, we knew what not to do more than what to do. And that's probably more important. Right? And in that particular film, yeah, we knew what was in the parameters of what the story what you could do, you know,
Alex Ferrari 39:05
and that is something that is something I think that people listening is like, if they go see lovers only, and they go or if they see puffy chair, or something like that, like a lot of times, you know, when you made for lovers only that was your eighth film, you know, and when I made my movie I'd been directing for 20 years at that point, so there's like, you know, an in post production, and I kind of knew what I can get away with. You kind of can't jump into those films at first. You No, upfront.
Mark Polish 39:32
No, because I think you're concerned when the first time is you're concerned with much more things outside the lines than you are inside. You know what's happening and it's you know, it's the game is fast at that point, it slows down at each film you do and so it was much slower, to be able to know like, okay, we just need this shot. We need this shot. I'll be married, a lot of storytelling is made an editorial and so when you go through numerous films, you start to understand where the fat is, and what you can cut and what you don't need and what tells a story. Much faster, or how linear just how storytelling can be reduced through editorial and the way the language works. And it's I don't think if you are a first time filmmaker, you get to see those different methods are different ways of telling a story.
Alex Ferrari 40:17
And then another thing that was kind of revolutionary with fur lovers only is that you guys made a good amount of money off of it. Yeah, we did. Well, you did. Did what? And I don't be crass about talking the numbers. But on a distribution standpoint, you used iTunes, yeah,
Mark Polish 40:33
it was a thing. Yeah, before any of this kind of internet, or these kind of what they call distribute distribution. There was not a lot of platforms and deals out there. I remember when it got released the next day, fagged called, and they were like, you don't have a deal, as it were, there wasn't one existing for a digital platform. And so we had to go in and create this, this digital with the call new media IDM. So we consulted on that. But there wasn't a lot about that. And we just felt I mean, I think it's documented, we just felt that the intimacy level of the movie warranted that, you know, you can watch it on your phone, you can watch it in your iPad, it was much stronger and effective in that medium than it would have been projected. We'd project it a few times in Europe and a couple of them festival and it was great. We went in an audience award. And thing and things people really responded to it. But we felt overall, if people could discover it, on their own, the power was in that it was more about kind of a keyhole romance where you're kind of looking in on people rather than you know, hey, we're going to show you this love story because it's very intimate. It's very, very intense. Oh, it's
Alex Ferrari 41:39
it's it's it's there's an energy that comes off the screen for that film. It is. It is beautiful. It is it is a wonderful film and,
Mark Polish 41:46
and isn't black and white. Yeah, black one, five D really allowed us to get really close within centimeters of the actors. And it it just everything worked at that moment in time, you know, the equipment, the way we were able to move location up. I didn't not not very many people were on the street shooting this, you know, shooting this way. So it didn't look like we are shooting a movie. And so we didn't get we didn't get disrupted at all. We didn't get bothered at all on that shoot, whatsoever.
Alex Ferrari 42:17
Well, because because what kind of crazy people shoot a movie with a five d? I mean, sir, yeah,
Mark Polish 42:21
point. Nobody and and nobody had come before. I think there was a few people that were using a supplemental thing, you know, supplemental ways, in between shots, and some TV shows. I think we're using it when they had to get into tight spaces. But it was never meant for that. I mean, it was like a little digital card. I think they put in there for wedding photography. At the time, you know? And we're like, well, we'll exploit that. You know, maybe we'll make a big movie with that. And so our tried to and so it worked. I didn't we didn't have very many problems with it. You know? It she you know, the the when he brought it back, and it wasn't truly black and white, it was very sepia, there was a lot of yellow because it was a color card, you know. And so you find out quickly that black and white is you we had to really modify it like a white. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 43:11
we've definitely had to work with it,
Mark Polish 43:12
and work with it. And we were lucky enough to have like Warner Brothers, our contacts, be able to zip it in there and tweak it to suck all that. I mean, there was a tremendous amount of yellow in that camera.
Alex Ferrari 43:22
No, I'm just Oh, yeah, back. I mean, it was like first generation five.
Mark Polish 43:25
Yeah. Don't you think your ice is black and white, but it's actually warming it up with the yellows
Alex Ferrari 43:30
is insane. And you did create a an amazing documentary on the making of that film,
Mark Polish 43:36
which I did. I mean, there was so many questions, and it got a lot of, you know, hype, a lot of internet, a lot of film schools, a lot of talk about it. And I just felt like it'd been it's so much easier just to say, Hey, this is how we did it. I just didn't want to do it. It's only 20 minutes. And enjoy, enjoy how we did it. And I I saw it the other day. And I was like why we're we're crazy.
Alex Ferrari 44:00
No, no, no, I know the feeling
Mark Polish 44:02
like, wow, we do that. You're so focused on getting the film done and are doing it that way that you're not really seeing all the red flags of what could have went wrong?
Alex Ferrari 44:10
No, no, absolutely. And I'm hoping that we can get both the documentary and for lovers only on ifH. TV, we are working on it with the distributors as we speak, but I really do hope because I want to show the filmmakers you let me know. I will. I'll call you for sure. Now let's talk about your latest film. headlock. Or as it's known on the street
Mark Polish 44:39
Yeah, I'm so I'm so happy. I have a sense of humor about it. No, no. So just when someone to faces your work, you're just like, holy crap.
Alex Ferrari 44:47
I know. So I want to talk before we get into the movie. The movie has been it's now called against the clock because of I guess distribution decided to change the name. Yes. Can you tell me there was a funny story or
Mark Polish 44:59
actually Please tell me, it's really, really ridiculously silly. There is no clock in the movie, and there is no yes, apart from the movie.
Alex Ferrari 45:10
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Mark Polish 45:21
So that being said, you know, this, this distributor, you know, discovered the magic of the alphabet, basically, and was
Alex Ferrari 45:29
Oh, no, it's not the alphabet thing again. Yeah, it's
Mark Polish 45:32
a, it's on the top of a queue on anything. And most likely people, they have their research that say, they'll films do better with a and I was just like, it was such a non rotation, you know, like, I was like, You're kidding me. Like, I couldn't believe this was the conversation I was having. I didn't have usually when when, when I would sell a film or whatever, we'd have a meeting, we'd sit down, talk about the, how we got to this film, what we could do, what was our resources? What would our strengths, how we could market it, I basically got a phone call saying, We bought your film, this is the new name, data that hung up. And that was it. And I haven't had any communications with them since. I mean, it just tells you the faith that they had in it, which was zero, and it was like we're gonna monetize it, we're gonna try to get the money as much as we can. Because we don't think the film's worth anything. And so that's where that came from. And unfortunately, that's not the response. It's gotten from a lot of people. I mean, look, it's not It's a challenging narrative. But that said, The deceptive marketing behind it. And what they're doing is, you know, the backlash is, hopefully it's not as bad as I think it may be.
Alex Ferrari 46:45
Yeah, it's, it's, I've actually had that conversation as well, with distributors when I was working with them on the post side, where they're like, it was it was called, you know, the letter was, you know, the getting started with an S. So they just changed it to an A s, like so. And I was like, I can't believe that's a thing. But I
Mark Polish 47:03
mean, it would have been great to have a conversation about, you know, alternatives or whatever. But, but 80s or whatever, even numbers or whatever. But that wasn't, it wasn't even to be having
Alex Ferrari 47:14
a headline, or even a headline
Mark Polish 47:16
or anything it But first of all, we had numerous offers on the table from different distributors, if you're going to go to someone who's just going to deface it and butcher it and do whatever they're going to do it. I mean, there's other, there was other alternatives to be had. And so I'm not quite sure why the financer chose that I, when you're so focused on making the film finishing this film, which was just a tremendous, hard thing, challenging. I mean, we made 1,000,002. And so it was so hard to do, that I didn't protect myself properly, in the sense that I thought, look, I'll finish the film, I'll hold my end of the of the bargain, I'll want to present you with such an upscale kind of like, larger movie than you guys have ever had. Not knowing that this is what they would do. So it's just it's really unfortunate, because we didn't we didn't anticipate this was the finish line, not the creatives, not the actors, that anybody involved to put a lot of hard work into it. We just didn't anticipate this would be the ending. And it would it did it just fractured everybody. And it just fractured the support from the cast. Because that's not the movie they made. And that's not the movie that anybody wanted to promote. It's not exactly what that is. I mean, the the, the one sheet is misrepresentation, it's got the most has me holding a gun. I don't hold a gun. I mean, they're doing everything like it's the mid 90s. I mean, this is when this I don't read it off on a bike. No, do it. But, but it's like this country has changed so much, Japan, Germany, they're not changing our name is headlock. But in the United States, it's so different. Now, you know, that when the bottom line is the buck, they don't even they just don't care. And that's what's hard. As an artist trying to do work in the United States. Now, it's like you're dealing with with these kind of billionaire bullies that they don't even care, there wasn't even a conversation, which, that's the harder part of it all.
Alex Ferrari 49:09
That's Yeah, it's, it's unfortunate. It really is. And when were you and you were saying something like it's the mid 90s, for people to understand, in the mid 90s, you know, DVDs and, and video stores were still a thing, and they would just slap any cover on and I mean, we all we all rented movies in the 80s that had a cover that had nothing to do with.
Mark Polish 49:30
Yeah, I mean, look, it's it's the puppy mill mentality, isn't it? Yeah. It's like they don't really care about what they're doing. They just want to make money. And that's unfortunate when they do it to be some of these movies like mine and possibly just get get caught in the wash. Because there's a lot of these movies that they can do this to that. Don't have hoped. But surely headlock is not one of those movies. Not my pedigree, not where I'm from. The CAD never Yeah, I never made that kind of movie. And so to try to fit it in and put a bow on it and wrap it up to Be that to a crowd that is going to be very disappointed once they click it, and to see what they have. It's not what they cut. That's unfortunate. You shouldn't do that to consumers or the audience. That's just unfair.
Alex Ferrari 50:12
And that's why, like, there was a, there was a film recently that I saw called, I think it was called this is this is life. And the trailer looked wonderful. It has an amazing cast as Olivia Wilde in it. And Isaac. Africa has that from Oscar Oscar. Oscar Isaac. Yeah. And it you know, amazing cast. And the trailer made it look like it was this kind of like, really, you know, emotional, uplifting, you know, from the writer of Crazy Sexy love, you know, crazy love, whatever that movie was, it was so good with with Steve Carell. And my wife and I were like, Alright, let's watch it. And we started watching it. And it was the most depressing thing. I mean, literally, and I don't want to ruin it. I should ruin it for people. But there's something that happens, like 20 minutes in and you're like, you can't come back from that. Like, yeah, I'm like, you have not seen a movie in years that lied. So
Mark Polish 51:12
short sighted to the audience. And that's how they cater to it. You know, they cater to the lowest common denominator. Yes. I mean, anybody who's just going to scroll through VOD, and pick a movie by the letter is definitely not the crowd for this movie. And then then I thought start to think like, okay, we have a here. I mean, did they ever think about awkward man, like smashing us? That's gonna come up, that's gonna come before us. And I think I think more people are gonna hit Aquamarine, and then maybe Avengers after that. So I don't know if the a game that they're playing is even gonna work.
Alex Ferrari 51:46
But the funny thing is that people who are watching Aquaman and Avengers are generally not gonna be dead. Exactly. It's though it's like this deception they're playing is. It's old school mentality. It's all it is. It's old. Yeah, it's a traditional old school distribution mentality that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Mark Polish 52:03
No, it doesn't. So you know, I, you know, I have this sneaky suspicion that the way that it's going to play out and the way people we're going to, people are going to find it, people are gonna appreciate it will appreciate it. And you got to just find your grace in that because it's, it's, it's a horrible way to treat, there's only a headlock every couple of years. So it's not going to be it was such a unique way of making here. It's such a new new way of doing it, that it should be celebrated and be a trailblazer for other filmmakers not butchered and put in a package to sell, you know, rather than be like, you know, we can do something different. It does have legs, we do celebrate this stuff. You know, does it have a narrative in it like that they cut the trailer? Sure, they carved a narrative out of it, but it's just certainly not that.
Alex Ferrari 52:50
So how did you come up with the idea for the film? intellipaat tell everybody what the film is, is really about. So funny. It's about a clock. It's about a clock. Do you have to be against that clock transformer clock? Is there a chance? I thought I saw a transformer in
Mark Polish 53:06
it? Yeah, they probably would stick one in it would sell tickets. Basically, you know, the short end of it all. It's about intelligence trafficking in the future. Okay. And about these two intelligence traffickers, one played by the love of Diana Agon, and one played by me and, and how when you start messing with the kind of brain things start to go awry in the sense that the brain when I was was fascinating to me, what the kind of the seed of the idea was, the brain is such an amazing supercomputer that it does much more than anything we could ever kind of manufacture. And what was fascinating to me was like once you put something in your brain it's your choice to bring it out. It's It's such the safest of safes. You know, it was like there's nothing that you can lock that's more safer than the brain, you know, you put things you don't even know where things go, that they're that you know, like, scent goes one way fragrance goes on, you know, site goes one way so you actually split up the intelligence as well. And so I thought, wow, this would be a great kind of idea for a science fiction movie about you know, someone going over getting intelligence using their, their hard drive an organic way, and then bringing it back in them extracting it and then at that point, what what of that became viral, what if something were able to infect it and that's kind of the seed if at all. That was kind of the the premise that I had for a long time, but there was always a section of this travel section that was always much much larger canvas of the travel side of Kelley, and until I did four levers only did I realize I unlocked that I know how I can do this side of the story. That wouldn't cost us a lot of money, if anything, I think it was a little under 100 grand all those we did two and a half global trips. We did almost 20 countries. Yeah, and Though there was only four of us, so that one side of it, there's seven teen days shooting with Diana, and Andy and Justin and James Frain on this side, and then after that, it was pretty much abandoned. At that point, it was four of us going all over the world, the cinematographer, a drone operator, me and a producer that operated sound as well we did, we just globe trotted to all these countries, eight and then 15, and stuff like that, and we were able to accumulate very much of a lover's only style of running gun. You know, the motto was like this, this side of the film lives in pieces, because we knew we could plug it into a solid side. So we knew that Diana side was more of a spine, that whatever troubles we couldn't or could get on our foreign side, we could plug into her side of the story, because of the way we set it up. So basically, you know, her side was the launching pad for this kind of another narrative. So basically, I mean, to put it in kind of like a term, it was like, she's the heart, he's the head, and you're going to put them back. And they're going to fight all the way through the head of the story and the heart of the story, and kind of like weave it all the way through. So that's kind of the conceptual aspect of it.
Alex Ferrari 56:11
And then also on the the editing of the film is such is so unique, and rapid fire. I can imagine. I mean, it is such a unique style of shooting and editing. And I can now that you say that, because I wanted to kind of get like the fighting, the editing seems angry. Yeah. Oh, it was.
Mark Polish 56:35
The I mean, it's, there's multiple issues of what was happening, because there was no film to turn to that was doing that environmental editing, there was things that were samples out there, like but they would shoot it the same way, they would shoot the same subject and just switch the background. But the subject would be saying no one was doing the angles and changing. And so when we are going to these places, you are going to be able to cover the scenes, normally, you want to be able to say I'm going to get a close up a two shot, a three shot and then move on you were just going into these things running gun and being like, Hey, we had the typical run, roll and fall type thing. And we'd capture some of it in Hong Kong and then some of it Marrakech. And so we were just getting pieces of all of that in the train. And bringing that all back, you just had a bunch of pieces, you know, you had a bunch of get some things strung together really well. And yet some things that didn't, that didn't quite add up. And it wasn't because we didn't shoot it right, it was just, it's your eye versus what it can receive at the time. It's funny how editorial like if you cut from let's say sand, as as the texture to cement is a different kind of cutting and where you would cut it versus cement to cement or the environment of like times square we are in versus a sand dune, your eye and the level of how you will receive that information was really important to the cut. And that's something he didn't anticipate, because a lot of that stuff is green screen. And we did everything in cash. And so there was a lot of trial by fire and a lot of learning this. And at the point, you just couldn't get editors to do the work log of it all because it was 1000s of hours of like hands falling, feet falling, rolling, rolling, left, rolling, right running, right rolling, web, jumping, all these things. So I had to take it upon myself just to start logging all this stuff. And then ultimately, I started editing it because it took me to be like, Okay, this right. Roll works with this left roll. This drone shot works with this in Venice. This works with the Hong Kong, it's insane. And yeah, and then so and then. But that formula wouldn't carry over to the next segment of Kelly's story, because it was something else. And then so each so I think there's 2025 segments of his story each has a different type of way that we had to battle to make sure that to make that work. Yeah, it was it was challenging. I mean, there was many nights, like in the basement, in my boxers with my boxer. Oh, crap, this isn't working, you know, and, and then the financial aspect of it was on top of it, you know, so there was a lot of just problems like financial problems that came on top of trying to just figure it out as well. So that is adversities that you know, I'm still having trauma over
Alex Ferrari 59:32
you know, but the funny thing is, is that even after all the years and all the films that you've made, is that you you're willing to still take risks. Yeah and I think so many filmmakers once they get to a certain level like they do a studio movie and they like you know you did astronauts farmer, but then certainly thereafter you you went out and did for lovers only with your brother.
Mark Polish 59:53
Yeah. I mean, that's exciting to me is to try to tell narratives in a new way or push them appear in there because I always thought like, Look, even if you crash, it's still beautiful. It's like 100 miles an hour, everything still looks hot, you know? Like, you learn a lot from you. That's, you know, because even when evil Knievel crashed, people watch didn't matter, you know, I mean, right, it was the thrill of victory, you know, kind of thing. And so I always was like people like, are you really gonna be able to pull off these 20 countries and I was like, I don't know, it's just something I'm going to try to do. And we're gonna come back, and we're gonna try to piece this thing together. And if it doesn't work, you know, we know we tried to do something new and innovative. And it's exciting to try to always bring something you know, you can go to the, every weekend, you can go and see the same stuff over and over, why not try to bring something new to the marketplace where it's like, and that's where you're going to probably find a lot of people who it doesn't resonate with, because, you know, we're like, if you just go down to the psychology of it all, it's like, the patterns that people are very happy with patterns, you know. And so when they, why Hollywood is doing so well is because people are familiar with the movies that are out there. They know what they're going to get for that 20 bucks ticket. When you do a headlock, it's pushing blood to new parts of the brain. And it's like who I don't know if I like this, you know? And so that's the risk aversion you're going to have eventually, you can make it but are you going to people are going to accept it. And that's, that's the problem of why they're repackaging and trying to sell it to something else. Because they know once that clickbait it's basically clickbait. Now, once you hit it, you start to see that this thing is unraveling into a whole different thing. It's like, I didn't want to microdose I didn't want to do this. Why are they doing this to me? Because it's, it's it's forcing you out of a story pattern. You know, and I don't know if that's as comfortable as people. I don't think people like to be uncomfortable when I'm watching movies that much
Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
not the mass and not the mass audience. But there is a specific audience for that. Yeah. And I
Mark Polish 1:01:55
think you have to advance storytelling that way. There's no other way to do it. You have to like go and push it a little bit farther each time. I mean, I figured out the kind of the equation, I think people like they're crazy. And like 30%, I think, I think
Alex Ferrari 1:02:07
this is no, I think you're more about the 9090 to
Mark Polish 1:02:12
99.9. So I got a I got to rescale my formula and realize, okay, I got to do it. In smaller doses.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:19
Let me look at a movie like pulp fiction that came out that definitely pushed narrative, it was a
Mark Polish 1:02:24
2001 sheet. Yeah, it still holds. It still holds up. But it could you imagine watching it at 1968? That must have been so mind blowing to try to figure out what the hell is going on when he went to the black hole? And what was that whole, you know, the part when he's in the master bedroom?
Alex Ferrari 1:02:44
No, no, no, no. I mean,
Mark Polish 1:02:46
you think like, wow, got that changed a generation filmmaking and you hope that you can do stories that rival that or kind of get into that framework, or like, I don't understand it, but I respect it, you know, I don't get hung up. And that's what we're fighting against. Because there isn't support for that risk taking, when they do stuff like they did the headlock, people are going to be like, Oh, I need to cater to the masses, or I need to do and I said, we made it for such a small amount of money, that I didn't think we were susceptible to this treatment. And that's what is somewhat confusing, because they've already gained from foreign sales. They've made their money back, but I do think they see the shiny allure to it and they're like, well, we can we can have people swallow this up, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
you know, and and going back to to Stanley's work, especially in 2001. From because I'm a Stanley Kubrick everyone listening knows now I'm going to go on a Stanley Kubrick trip for a second. But that that movie when it came out, it didn't do well. No, it didn't do well. But what made it money was the new generation, the hippies, smoking the weed, taking LSD and going Can you imagine watching 2001
Mark Polish 1:04:03
hoping to use that formula with headlock it's gonna come with a few little micro doses. Buy it from my website, some some shrooms with you
Alex Ferrari 1:04:14
what it takes, but it takes it takes really courageous filmmakers to go out on the edge like that and do something a little bit different. And and the thing that I always tell people is like, Look, if you want to make art, that's fine. Do it for a price. And then identify the audience that you think that this film is for because there is an audience for this. This is not a mainstream movie. There's it's not you go to see Aquaman you're not going to enjoy adblock. But there is definitely a large audience. Well, well large enough to sustain this substantiate the budget that you had for it.
Mark Polish 1:04:47
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, I remember seeing movies all the way across the board from the big ones from jaws to close encounters, to all those but the one that probably was definitive was blue velvet saying, Oh, crap. What the hell is this? You know, I was from a small town, roots Montana. He's from Missoula, Dave. So see that really pivoted my idea of filmmaking. That's what you hope you do you hope you make a movie that you're like, okay? I have been cornfed these big budgets, but then I see a headlock, or I see something like Flex Zone, and I'm like, boom, I can do that. You know, and that's how you're gonna advance anything. Storytelling wise, you know, art wise, you're gonna have to have a few people who take those bullets, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:37
like, they say, the first one through the walls, always bloodiest. Yeah, and
Mark Polish 1:05:40
plus me, I mean, I busted my nose on this, I separated my shoulder Oh, opens. I mean, the list is long of the sacrifices. And that's probably what the, the the give, I probably wouldn't give us much of what they're doing. Because I'm really never been married to the success of anything or what its gonna do box office. But emotionally, I'm more attached to this movie because of the sacrifices of what everybody did of Diana and Andy and everybody who believed in this type of filmmaking. And that's what's disappointing is, right, is everybody buying into it? And then this happening? That's, that's what you just more emotional where this is such a business to them. And that's unfortunate.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:19
Now, what can filmmakers do to maintain creative freedom? Well, you know, in this process, what's like one piece of advice that you could
Mark Polish 1:06:26
give this budget? You know what I mean? Like you said before, it's if you keep your cost down, they're going to trust you know, and I think people can really sniff out if it's a creative decision, or a lack of education, there's a big difference. Right? Whereas like, you see things and mistakes become your style type thing, because you don't have the money to do it. Like the twins, like I was mentioning before, we didn't move on, because we couldn't, and it became kind of the style of the film. I think, you know, with with anything that the strong voice, people listen, I've never been in a place where you know, if you can articulate what you're trying to do, that they're not listening to that. It's when you bullshit and you're trying to talk a big game when you're trying to do that's when I think the sirens go off, and people are like, I don't know, you know, I mean, the I don't know if there's very many good storyteller filmmakers around there's a there's a lot, but I don't know if there's a lot so there's a I mean, it was like the number of knives. Everyone wanted to be lawyers. You know, in any movie filmmaker, of course, there's going to be a lot of people who love the idea of it, but not the Battle of it.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:33
Oh, yeah. The Rock and the rock and roll director style.
Mark Polish 1:07:36
Yeah, like, yeah, I'm doing this. I got a camera in my hand, and I'm shooting like john Cassavetes. That's not that sexy. Yeah, it looks like it. But it's not, you know? Boy, it is, it's really hard. Because like I said, it's not much more about storytelling is much more about engineering, because how am I going to pull this off? You know, the funny thing is, like, you know, the sequence when Kelly hits the car, and it starts to roll over, and it's going head over heels. I'm thinking, how am I going to pull this off, because there's no way I'm going to get a cage to pull this off. So I went to the fair, and got on the Hammerhead ride, and just film with me flipping up and down and then used and inserted it and it looks like a car. That's amazing. That's the kind of engineering you have to have for these movies. And it's less about, Hey, I'm going to sit back in a in a chair and eat a bagel and see this thing it's more like how am I going to figure out how to flip a car with absolutely zero money. And that's cost me the ticket of the of the fare out in Pomona. They might think it's weird, you know, the guy in a suit and a gray suit that looked like that with a camera. It was at that time it was reduced. I mean, I think we had I mean, there's a lot of supplemental iPhone stuff in there. Because at the time we just got into the 4k of it all and so we could use some of it and so there's GoPro iPhone 4k in there and then the some of the little tiny Sony point and shoot that shoot that we used as well.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:00
That's insane. And now Lastly, can you tell me the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on a film set?
Mark Polish 1:09:09
Now much on a film set, but filming, okay, you were arrested in Marrakech, filming headlock. We were detained for a long time. We now expect a little it was a little weird where you were in Marrakech in Morocco on a motorbike and and next thing you know you're arrested, detained, put into a detention center stuff and you know, was it movie midnight run? Or was it with the Midnight Express? Yeah, I mean, I express it was like it could have been the beginning of Midnight Express or I'm good dateline.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
Because all this was missing for
Mark Polish 1:09:45
Yeah. And it was at the time was a little bit hostile and nobody was really working with drones at that time and we had like a six prop drone so it was a little bit bigger than what they are now. And so we were filming some of that motorcycle sequences and
Alex Ferrari 1:09:58
you didn't have you didn't have a parent. It's not
Mark Polish 1:10:01
none of those places have bromance. Yeah, that's just not my style. No, I didn't either. I just didn't, you know, you didn't know when you're going to hit the ground. You didn't know when you're going to film you didn't know what you're going to use. I was like, it's this movie lives in pieces. I'm not going to close down streets or get everybody excited that I'm going to shoot here for more than five minutes, you know, right. So we get arrested, we get to chain we get thrown in into jail. And they're speaking this weird kind of pigeon, French. I don't know what it's a French. But it's, it's very weird. French. Someone will correct me over Twitter, probably. And it was no, it was a little bit scary. But you know, like with any filmmaking, especially filmmaking, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. So we sat there for a while. And I was like, okay, we go in. I mean, there was a moment I was like, holy crap, if that door cracks, I'm running. Oh, and one more level back. And we're not getting out. You know what I mean? Because we're in the room, that's a holding room, we go from one room desk to no room desk, even though no desk in a room. So what's the next one look like? And so the processing paperwork to arrest us for a whole mess of things that I don't know, if we did or didn't do. It happens, I get out the door open, I thought the ball, I think I'm going to bolt, the door opens and it's the guy who rented me, the motorbike coming to pick it up. And he's like, happened. And I said, Well, we were riding in the village with his camera. He's like, give me a second. And so he calls his brother who's at another precinct and God has released Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:11:36
yeah, he literally had a brother who was a cop.
Mark Polish 1:11:39
He had another precinct down the thing and he came, I was like, Look, is a mistake. They're filming or whatever. I mean, it was, it was there was moments that we were like, Oh, this is gonna go bad, really bad. Really bad. And, um, and so like, my wife, and even Diane, I think they were both aware of the journeys of what was going on at the time. So I'd be like, they were all worried like I went to off to war. So every time I'd be like, Oh, we were just arrested. And then they wouldn't hear from me. So it was this really crazy, like, dispatch going on between people here in the mainland and what we were doing, because it was just, I mean, it was the ultimate running gun from Hanoi, to Iceland to all these places, that we are not very little support in those places. I mean, we'd have a very, we'd have one or two people in Hanoi that would drive us around on Hong Kong, but we didn't have very much support, you know, when we got there.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:35
That's it. Same story. It's for lovers of Italy on steroids. You know, it pretty much it sounds like it was crazy. It's reflected, for sure. Now, do you want to tell people where they can see the movie? I don't even know where it's at. I mean, I know it's out tonight. It's out today. As we're as we're recording it, it's coming out today. Yeah, I think it's, it's gonna if you're looking for you have to
Mark Polish 1:13:00
look in the eyes. No, I did this really funny. There is being tweets that it's still under a headlock in some in some areas. That it's not under that. It's not that. Yeah, so the timing is, there was a fan who tweeted me and said, Look, I've been looking for against clock, I can't find it. But look, I found a headlock in the times. And I was like, ah, we won the forces with. So yeah, I don't know if she's on the East Coast or not. But I mean, I don't know. They're probably some dark dingy theaters that they put it in? I don't I'm not quite sure where it's a VOD as well. I think it's the same day.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:34
Yeah, yeah. So you'll be able to get it on iTunes and all that stuff. So either look up head lock or against the clock. And I'll put links to both of them. Yeah, in the show notes for people to watch. And I'm going to add Mike, I mean, Mark, I wanted to ask you a couple questions that ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
Mark Polish 1:13:57
Focus on your story and make that your star don't deviate from that, like that. Porn asset you will ever have your voice when that voice says Who you are is all in the page. I mean, you can dress it up with anything you want, you know, I got this person attached, or I got this thing attached or I'm talking to them. Doesn't matter when that story is your star when you're feeding that it jumps off the page. I mean, it's a difference between micronized careers having a story that no one had heard before, an insight no one has seen before Siamese twins have things that we could talk about. And so that that immediately separated us from us. We didn't need a name actor because this the twins were the star to Yeah, the story of this thing. And it's always been that way I've always found when we focused on your story and yet your star, nothing else more than likely you will generate enough interest if they get that made.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:51
Would you agree that and I tell this to everybody who asks me, they're like, What do I do? How do I make you know noise I'm like, be you yourself be courageous enough to be yourself and do what you want. Because that's the only thing that will make you stand out.
Mark Polish 1:15:08
Yeah. And that's and that's what's probably the most challenging of it all is because there's no one to look at, you know, like, scarier, it's scary. Because there's no one like that out there. It's your own voice. And so you're like, Am I telling the right story? Am I doing the right things? It's very risky. But I couldn't agree more that if you pay attention to your own voice, there's nothing like it. Even Michael and I are twins tell different stories, you know. And so it's so important, I think, to cultivate your own voice and understand how to communicate that sometimes you communicate it, and people hear you and sometimes they don't.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:43
Yeah, and if you look at any successful film director, or screenwriter, every big one, they all have their own thing.
Mark Polish 1:15:51
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's the biggest, or the largest collaborative art form, we have the most expensive as well, you're gonna have a lot of voices, and a lot of different ideas coming in your way. So it's really important for you to know what you want and invite those ideas in but understand, you know, what works for you and what doesn't work for your stories as well?
Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
No, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career? Man? Yeah, this was a movie thing. I just like divert to the Bible. I mean, we've had that answer before, but if you
Mark Polish 1:16:28
No that's fine, is an amazing story. It's they get to the sacrifice is amazing. And then the whole the whole Holy Ghost thing that ghost stories are amazing too
Alex Ferrari 1:16:42
It really, it really is a fantastic work.
Mark Polish 1:16:47
I mean, wouldn't have 32 authors, it better be at least, you know, there's a lot of there's a there's a lot of different books that I've read that I really like. I mean, I think one of the earlier ones was the making movies by
Alex Ferrari 1:17:05
Mark Polish 1:17:07
Yeah, that was pretty definitive. That's a great book. Yeah, it was one of those ones you picked up and it was real. You know, it was a real like, yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:17:15
I still remember it clearly. Yeah,
Mark Polish 1:17:16
Yeah. It was one of the earlier ones that we came out that I liked. You know, I've always liked you know, always like, although my films don't reflect that, I'd like to story about Robert McKee. I always think that's a good callback to understand some of the fundamentals of storytelling. I mean, it's there's such a formula to how films, stories and screenplays work. So it's always good to go back like, hey, how do I do this? Or how do I get from A to B to C? I mean, know the rules and then break them. You know, so he's a good he's good to set those rules up. I think that's a
Alex Ferrari 1:17:49
Mark Polish 1:17:50
Yeah.Two book I really like.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:51
Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Oh, these are some tips I'm talking about? I know. I know. I didn't know that. You're getting all like, you know. Please, please. Oprah.
Mark Polish 1:18:06
Dr. filmmaking Let me see what's the what's the thing? Patience. I think patience is a thing because you like to, you know, you like to, I think patients is the hardest thing is that when patients are free to type thing, that's always the hardest to, to. Because you want to get up and run and make it and you know that you have to cultivate a story and it takes time and everything that's worth the damage takes time. So I think patience is probably the thing and you know, not to be so serious, I think, to understand, like, be comfortable with what you're doing and not you know, be so serious about it. I think you can take your work serious, but you don't have to take yourself so serious. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:18:52
Very good. Yeah. Patience is one of the big ones. I get it. I get that answer a lot. Because it's true. Yeah, it's true. No, no, it's my answer to when people ask me that question. I go, it's patience. Took me 40 years to learn. I'm still learning. Yeah, I'd say it's still hard sometimes, especially when you just want to get up and go and like I want this movie done already.
Mark Polish 1:19:11
Yeah, I mean, that's what I mean, this film took four years so it was like one of those things where you're like, Alright, what am I going to do today to make sure that we try to get this thing done and understand that the pieces will will eventually come together or what we need
Alex Ferrari 1:19:27
Now and three of your favorite films of all time?
Mark Polish 1:19:32
They constantly changed because they crashed I mean, what's what time in America is pretty much up there all the time. sighs like that. Dog Day Afternoon. nother amaze. I'm here and let's throw one like two T two t is pretty good. I love to see Yeah, I just think it's underrated as a as a comedy. I thought that was really good. I mean, there's there's so many that are so influential. Why am Why would I do what I do you know? I mean, look, Petty Mark We just passed away I know perfect movies ever written beings amazing,
Alex Ferrari 1:20:06
Beautifully performed beautifully directed, and then also are arguably one of the best baseball movies ever made. Just leave it there. Yeah. It's the highest grossing I think, I think it might be.
Mark Polish 1:20:17
I mean, there's that there's so many movies that, you know, that are so influential that I grew up in a 70s, where they were just feeding Oh, yeah, Max. No, of course not definitive movie that made my why I'm a movie maker that we went Australian one with the before it was dubbed it was on HBO, you know, and they played it 10 times. It was
Alex Ferrari 1:20:39
It wasn't a lot of stuff out there.
Mark Polish 1:20:41
I mean, Sunday afternoon. I mean, did I just blow you away that it was like he was doing it for sex change for his lover? You know? I mean, I mean, I was seven years old, or eight years old, going, Wow. This is what we robbed banks for.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:01
This is what you know, can you imagine that movie coming? Like there's a lot of movies that came out in the 70s. You like, can't that could imagine taxi drivers showing up today?
Mark Polish 1:21:08
yeah. It just it just could it validated at the time and spaces is not there for that maybe one day, you know, we'll have those versions. Again, you know? Yeah. You know, we'll have to see. Well, I mean, it's all good. Exactly. But there's so many great filmmakers today that they're just,
Alex Ferrari 1:21:27
It's just it's just different stuff. Yeah. Now, where can people find you and the work that you do?
Mark Polish 1:21:34
Well, I'm both I'm obviously on Instagram under my name. I think that's a platform people use. I have my own my own website, which is just MarkPolish.com, that you can reach me there's things to reach me there. And then Twitter on both handles. You know, the headline, headline movie, and they don't have my name. Some Russian has my name on Twitter. his squadron is my Twitter. I'll put it I'll put it in the show notes. It's a it's a gold CBS member there. We'll see. Yeah. That was taken. banned. I wanted,you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:22:13
Mark, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you so much.
Mark Polish 1:22:17
Thank you for the support and reaching out and, and taking the time to talk about marketing my other work, I really appreciate that.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:25
I told you this would not disappoint. I want to thank Mark again for taking the time out and jumping on the drop some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And if you guys have a chance, please check out his new film headlock, or against the clock depending on where you are, you look at it, you'll see you find it, but it isn't very, very visually stunning and interesting film, especially for what he did and how he did it. It's quite remarkable, actually. And, you know, as filmmakers, like we said in the interview, you just got to kind of take some risks sometimes and, and you know, sometimes, you know, the first one through the wall is always the bloodiest and, and that's what these guys do. You know, that's what Mark and his brother do. So, so well, so definitely check them out. If you want to get links to Mark's book, any of the movies we're talking about, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/292 for the show notes and if you haven't done it already, guys, head over to shootingforthemob.com check out my new book about me almost making a $20 million film with a mobster and and my journeys through Hollyweird and who I met and all that kind of good stuff. While I was trying to get it made, it's one hell of a story. And if you want to sign up for the book launch, head over to shootingforthemob.com, you'll get a free copy of the book and see the behind the scenes on how I launch a book and do all the marketing and all that other kind of stuff, which can easily be translated into how to release a independent film. Then you get for listening, guys, as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- Mark Polish – IMDB
- Mark Polish – Official Website
- Mark Polish – Twitter
- [easyazon_link identifier=”0156029529″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B07MKTCT9W” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Headlock[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B005ADQVG4″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]For Lovers Only[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B00002SSKW” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Twin Falls Idaho[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B000TDXQY0″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Astronaut Farmer[/easyazon_link]
- Filmaka – $30,000 Web Series Competition
- Shooting for the Mob – Amazon Link
Where Hollywood Comes to Talk
Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)
Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)
Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)