SPECIAL SUNDANCE EDITION of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast
In our journeys through the Sundance Film Festival, we ran into the David to the Sundance Goliath, Slamdance Co-Founder Dan Mirvish. Dan has been a rebel, author, filmmaker, disruptor, festival creator, and true indie film hustler.
This interview is one of the most entertaining I’ve ever done. Dan Mirvish tells stories of how he challenged the Oscars, had Robert Redford call him “a parasite” and why the best deals are done in a hot tub. Here’s a bit on Dan Mirvish:
A co-founder of the upstart Slamdance Film Festival, Dan Mirvish is also an active director, screenwriter, and producer. Labeled a “cheerful subversive” by The New York Times, and “Hollywood’s Bad Boy” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mirvish has been named as one of Variety’s Top 50 Creatives to Watch, as well as one of Film Festival Today’s Top 25 Most Influential People in Independent Film.
Dan also has just written a new book: The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking: From Preproduction to Festivals and Distribution. Here’s a bit about the book.
In The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking, celebrated Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish offers a rich exploration of the process and culture of making low-budget, independent films.
Once labeled a “cheerful subversive” by The New York Times, Mirvish shares his unfiltered pragmatic approach to scriptwriting, casting, directing, producing, managing a crew, post-production, navigating the film festival circuit, distributing your film, dealing with piracy and building a career.
Readers will learn how to game the Hollywood system to their advantage, get their films accepted by respected festivals without going broke, and utilize a broad range of media and tactics to promote and distribute their work. A companion website features behind-the-scenes interviews and footage from Dan’s films, and much more.
- Learn everything you need to know to make, promote, and distribute your independent films, with time-tested lessons and practical advice on scriptwriting, casting and directing A-list actors, financing, producing, managing a crew, editing in post, creating visual effects on a budget, and successfully navigating the film festival circuit
- Find out what it takes to become a true “cheerful subversive” and adopt new and innovative approaches to producing your films, discover hidden loopholes in the Hollywood system and festival scene, take advantage of a broad range of media formats to promote and distribute your indie films, and generally make bold moves in service of your creative work, all while staying flexible enough to pivot at a moment’s notice
- An extensive companion website features in-depth interviews with filmmakers, more than an hour of behind-the-scenes footage from Dan Mirvish’s films, festival resources, and much more
Get ready for some very entertaining knowledge bombs with Dan Mirvish.
Alex Ferrari 0:53
So guys, in this episode you are in for a treat. This has been a special Sundance edition throughout this time, but today is a special slam dance edition of the podcast. I have one of the co founders of the slamdance Film Festival, Dan Mirvish. And Dan is by far one of the most entertaining guests I've ever had on the show. He is a wealth of knowledge. He tells the most amazing stories you can ever imagine. It's like sitting around a campfire, listening to how he disrupted the Oscars. How he disrupted this disrupted the Sundance Film Festival, how Robert Redford called him a parasite, and all sorts of craziness. He's he is a rebel, and an indie film hustler to say the least. And now this is special, because I got the opportunity to interview Dan twice. So in this episode, you're actually going to listen to my first interview with him, which I did a few weeks ago prior to going to the Sundance and slamdance film festivals. So that's this is an original podcast that I did a while ago, a few weeks ago. And then also in the show notes, which are at indie film, hustle, calm forward slash 135. And if you go to those show notes, you'll be able to see the actual interview that I did with him and Subash entornos in our special series that we did over a Park City this year. And that's a completely separate interview, which has new and unique and fun stories as well. So if you can't get enough of Dan, you got them twice. You get them once in this podcast, and then you get them again, in a live interview that I did with Sebastian. And again, thank you so much, Sebastian, for making those interviews as awesome as they are, and also want to give a big shout out to media circus PR, who helped with the recording, and helped us set up the entire interview series at their amazing pad in Park City right on Main Street. Adam and Terry, thank you so so much. And you can if you need some PR for your movies, guys, these guys are specialists in PR for independent films, and they're affordable and they work with filmmakers all the time. So you can hit them up at media circus pr.com. So without any further ado, here is my interview with the one the only Dan Mirvish. I like to welcome to the show Dan Mirvish, man Dan thanks so much for jumping on the hustle man appreciate it
Dan Mirvish 4:09
Happy Happy to be here Alex thanks for having me on
Alex Ferrari 4:11
you are as they say the definition of indie film hustle you're one of the OG OG indie film hustlers out there
Dan Mirvish 4:21
I appreciate that. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 4:23
So how I'm so obviously you're the co founder of slam dance and there's been a lot of myths around the creation of slam dance and i would i mean this like I've heard every story under the sun about how it happened and slammed and sent the Hitman after you and all this kind of stuff yeah Sundance yeah Sundance Hitman after you and all this guys. So can you please tell us well, first of all, why you started slam dance. And and what what the truth is about all these myths.
Dan Mirvish 4:53
Well, this was this is back in. I mean, the first time we did slam message, it was January. 95 but back in 94, I had I just finished my first feature, which is called Omaha the movie, which was set in Nebraska, which is where I'm from, but it also counted as my thesis film for USC film school. And it was just a fun, Goofy romantic comedy. But, um, but anyway, but it was, uh, you know, but back back then the kind of the way things would work was you would, you would show your film with the independent feature film market, which is now called iafp. Week. And, you know, because, you know, we all shot on film, and we had these big heavy prints to lug around. And then festival programmers especially would would show up and this was in New York at the end, they held it at the Angelika theater. And, and, and like, the year before, you know, Kevin Smith had shown clerks and the programmers from Sundance saw it, and they invited him and he turned into Kevin Smith. So it was like, all right, that was that was kind of the model if you finished around that time of year. And, and really the paradigm was at the time that if you didn't get into Sundance, you were screwed. You were dead in the water. I mean, I had one distributor who saw the film at that same market, and said, We love your film, we want to distribute it. And it was a big indie film distributor at the time. If it gets into Sundance, I'm like, wait, but you just said you liked it so much. And we're like, Well, yeah, but if we can't launch it at Sundance, what's the point? Why so I think everyone is very Matter of fact about it. That that was really, you know, where you had to be, you know, if you weren't at Sundance, you wouldn't get distribution wouldn't get an agent. You wouldn't get financier's on your next film you wouldn't get into, you wouldn't get invited into other regional festivals in the US or international festivals because they would just all kind of for their shorthand, just take the Sundance catalog and say, all right, well, I guess these are the indie films this year. Let's we'll that's our block of programming. So anyway, and then at the aifm, we met a lot of other I was there with my producing partner, Dana Altman, who lives in Omaha. And what's great was Robert Altman's grandson. And Dana was was particularly isolated living in Omaha, I lived in LA at the time, just come back, tell them how to shoot the movie. And he kind of had sort of an amorphous idea to sort of get a bunch of film. Because we were meeting a lot of great filmmakers from all over the country liked it has some kind of network to talk to one another. And this was around the time the internet was taking off.
Alex Ferrari 7:31
And it makes us I know what when you say something like that makes you sound like, you know, the internet was just starting.
Dan Mirvish 7:36
It was just starting. And and it was it was like a year before indie wire. And anyway, so so we actually had a big meeting with a bunch of other filmmakers there. And we're all like, yeah, let's all stay in touch because we you know, you're so isolated as a filmmaker, even to this day, like, you know, making your film. And then, you know, you don't start talking to other filmmakers until you're done with it, really. And so anyway, but we weren't quite sure how this idea would manifest itself. But then Meanwhile, we were also talking about like, how the year before, a couple filmmakers in in January 94, didn't get into Sundance, and did their own little Renegade screenings in Park City. And one of the group of filmmakers was Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the South Park, guys, but this is before South Park. They had their first film, which was their thesis project from University of Colorado, which was called cannibal cannibal. The musical Yes, as
Alex Ferrari 8:35
a trauma movie now. Well, eventually it would come.
Dan Mirvish 8:37
Yeah, exactly. At the time, it actually had a different title. Anyway, they didn't get in Sundance, they did their own little Renegade screening, and they'd gotten a little bit of attention for it. And I think we had the same lawyer as they did. So we'd heard about these guys. And then another filmmaker named named James Marin Dino had a film called the upstairs neighbor. He had done a similar kind of screening, like in a hotel room. Anyway, so we'd heard about these guys. And we were all kind of talking Fei Fei FM. But well, I guess our plan B is if we don't get into Sundance, let's just do what these guys did last year and just show up. And, but it wasn't until Sundance announced their their list of you know, filmmakers that year that we realized that of the 95 completed feature films that played at the IFM that year, Sundance didn't take a single one. And we're all kind of stunned because we thought at least some of us like we all thought our own films were gonna get in and these other or bastards would wouldn't get in, but you know, our own films, right. And I mean, I had a color poster. I was one of the only films of the color poster. That was a big deal. Yeah, so, um, but anyway, so we didn't none of us got in and if you think about it, I mean, 95 was really a pivotal year for independent film in general. It was kind of it was around that time that Miramax became part of Disney Fine Line became part of Warner Brothers Fox was launching Fox Searchlight at Sundance 95. And there was this kind of Hollywood isation of the independent film scene. And Sundance was kind of part of that scene and went along for the ride. And so they programmed a lot more second time directors, you know, great films, great directors, but a lot, but they kind of left behind the niche of the first time directors because we'd all been influenced by kind of that first generation the first wave of Sundance filmmakers is Soderbergh's and Rodriguez and Linklaters and, and we they left behind that niche, so we had no place to go. So we kind of took it was actually Shane Kuhn and other filmmaker that we'd met out there who, strangely enough had also lived in LA but shot his film, which was called redneck in, in Nebraska. He kind of had the idea to combine Dana's idea of this cooperative something at with his plan v idea, and he called me up he said, Why don't we do this thing where we all show up in Park City with and do a renegade festival? And I was like, Yeah, we got nothing to lose, literally. I mean, we've already had distributors tell us they're not going to pick up the film if it's not there. So, you know, we had a responsibility to ourselves and to our investors and our actors to show up. And then we got another guy named john Fitzgerald involved and, and pretty soon we had a dozen features and a dozen shorts. guy named Paul Rachman had the first short film that we decided to show and we realized that we each team of filmmakers had a little something x something to bring to the table you know, Paul's producing partner was a projection is great. We need projectionists You know, there's this this film called lo from New York with directed by Lisa Raven, but her her boyfriend at the time Frankie like he was a projectors were like, great, you're in, you know, and, and word kind of spread quickly among people that didn't get into Sundance that we had this thing going on. And
Alex Ferrari 11:58
not one day, was it? Was it up the hill at that time?
Dan Mirvish 12:01
Well, no, that was the funny thing is there? Initially we thought, Well, you know, none of us had really been there. Shane had been to Salt Lake. he'd spent a year at the university there. And he had some connections at the University of Utah. So initially, they agreed to screen our films at the University of Utah, which is which is in Salt Lake City, and we looked at the map and we're live well, yeah, that's just like a half inch away from Park City. problem for people to get back and forth. From Park City down to Salt Lake. Yeah. Well, the short version is that we showed up in at the University of Utah and like and nobody else did, you know, I mean, we had screenings there, but nobody was showing up from from Park City so so by the second day, these filmmakers behind low Lisa Raven and Frank kewtech they, I tagged along with them and we rented a 60 their film was in 16 millimeters so we rented a 16 millimeter projector in Salt Lake and then drove up in the middle of a blizzard. And I remember because we had a screen sticking out the back window that rental car and and I was sitting in the back with the screen, this snow pouring in my face, you know, and we go up to Park City at like 11 o'clock at night and like the second place we found was the prospector hotel. And like the local you know, pimply faced, hotel manager desk clerk. Regis agreed to rent us a room there are like a little tiny conference room there while the conference room was was literally 30 feet down the hall from Sundance's main venue or, which was that, you know, they had taken the prospectors like, you know, big conference room and turn it into a big screening venue. And so we we set up a screening room there and the next morning, we had screenings, like set up 15 minutes after every Sundance screening so that we got their overflow line, they would just pour into our screening room. And then and then a few days later, we figured out a way to do 35 millimeter films at the arrow hotel. And and by the end of the week, we were screening all of our films in Park City and actually kept screening the films in Salt Lake to we're obligated to and and that was that was how it all started.
Alex Ferrari 14:14
And and and what did some dads have to say about all this? Oh, well, they
Dan Mirvish 14:17
weren't happy at all. In fact, Shane, I think still somewhere has a voicemail message from from Jeff Gilmore. was running Sundance at the time, this angry rant about us. But and then and then before the festival even started because we've gotten some nice press in, in, well, everywhere, but front page variety, you know, hollywood reporter, I think New York Times you know, all kinds of places and, and we were kind of the darlings of the press because that was sort of the year that the press was turning on Sundance to because they noticed this kind of Hollywood sensation of indie film, Sundance kinda had gone from the darling to sort of, you know, these angry reporters, you know, talking about them. And we were sort of the fun little sidebar story in every article about Sundance, so Sundance wasn't too happy with us. The next year, Robert Redford call this parasites, which was kind of the best press. And actually, at one point, the University of Utah, they were afraid, they actually pulled the plug on us, like a couple weeks before we started, they said, Sorry, we're gonna cancel this thing. And we're like, why? And they were like, well, because we're too afraid that Sundance is going to get so pissed off that they're not going to let our professors have free tickets and do programs with us during the year. And then we think it was actually Sundance he sort of got back to them and said, No, no, you that's gonna make us look really, really bad. So you have to let them keep doing it. So in a weird way, Sundance sort of saved us in a bizarre way. But anyway, but then in the in the, in the first few years, they Sundance kept trying to outbid us for our venues out there and they kept chasing us from one venue to another. And by this point, Peter Baxter was involved he had produced one of the films of first year and he's still very much You know, it kind of runs a festival and you know, we would put down deposits at the aero hotel and things like that, and then Sundance would sort of muscle us for them. And then we were very lucky to develop a relationship with the folks who run the treasure mountain Inn which is a small kind of family run hotel at the top of Main Street anyway, and they really took a shine to us and we've been there for most of our 22 years now.
Alex Ferrari 16:37
Yeah, I've been I was there I've been slammed as probably about three times every time I've overcome Sundance I was gonna slam because there's always a lot of fun to go up there and the energy is a little different up there than it is it is the type of movies you guys play and just the kind of real rebel real in real indie honestly vibe is opposed to sometimes Sundance does does not have that and it's if you're ever if anyone listening if you guys go to Park City this year, definitely go up the hill it is a fucking trek especially when you're when you're not used to the altitude
Dan Mirvish 17:13
yeah those it's like those eight blocks
Alex Ferrari 17:16
yeah those four blocks man kill you. Yeah, but Lofa you also got you also discovered a bunch of people there like Chris Nolan I know is one who Shelton the Russo brothers Shelton.
Dan Mirvish 17:30
Yeah, the Russo brothers Ryan Johnson. benh Zeitlin. He did beast in southern wild. We showed his first couple shorts. Napoleon Dynamite. We showed the short that sort of turned into Napoleon Dynamite and I actually introduced Jared to his producers on a Polian base based on his screening up there the short Oren Peli was there with paranormal activity that was a slam dance film. Wow
Alex Ferrari 17:58
paranormal paranormal launch there.
Dan Mirvish 18:01
It did yeah, in fact it was it sold it sold to DreamWorks up there although it wasn't that big of an announcement because everyone just thought oh they're buying the remake rights like okay that's nice you know
Alex Ferrari 18:14
because he exactly who's gonna who's gonna put out on $1,000 horror movie theatrically?
Dan Mirvish 18:17
Yeah Then it was only like you know nine months later that they decided to put it out you know almost as is so so yeah, I mean it Sundance or sorry slam ants has really developed into you know, our motto has always been kind of your are the requirements for for competition films anyway has always been first time directors with with no distribution in place and, and limited budgets. And so because of that, we show a lot of great, you know, very talented first time directors, bong Joon ho Big South Korean director, we showed his first film too. And, and then what happens is a lot of these filmmakers, then their subsequent films or second film, or if they started with a short then their first feature will then play at Sundance and in subsequent years, and, you know, I was talking to Ben xilin a couple years ago, and he said and I said, you know, is it is it any coincidence that not only do slamdance filmmakers then play their next film at Sundance but when they do, they do really well there they win prizes they get the best press and he said now it's because we were kind of a training camp you know, once they've been to Park City once and was slammed and they know what condos to get what you know when to get their flu shots when to publicists to hire and so they really they hit the ground running when they do get to Sunday and I think that's made a big difference for people like Ben and and and Lynn Shelton, you know, that are really, you know, that did great, it's at slam dance, but once they got to Sundance, they really they like I said they hit the ground running and they they, you know, just take this the town by storm. So and I think it's taken a while for Sundance to figure out that Oh, that's where so many of their top filmmakers have come from they started at slam man like huh
Alex Ferrari 20:03
and they don't want to hear that but that's the way it is. You are You are the the David to to the to the Sundance Goliath and I think that's why everyone loves love slam downs because yeah
Dan Mirvish 20:15
and and also the way we do our programming is is different in that it's all alumni base so if you play to film at the festival then more likely than not you're going to be a programmer the next year. And so it's not it's not just a matter of you know these filmmakers have you know played at slamdance and then they've gone on to greater things is that they've also stayed really involved with the festival I mean Chris Nolan's wife, Emma Thomas, who's his producing partner, she was a programmer for two or three years the Russo brothers were programmers for three or four years and they've been back as jurors and you know, a bunch of times at Ryan Johnson was a programmer for a year. So these guys have all really stayed involved and it's much more a filmmaker community as much as it is a festival. So very cool.
Alex Ferrari 21:00
When when Nolan was there with with the following. Yeah, how was that? I mean, if you don't want to ask it, I mean, that must have been
Dan Mirvish 21:07
13 people in the audience at his first screening Yeah, it was kind of funny because he he had he had actually just sold the film right before the festival started like we programmed it and didn't have distribution and then based on getting into the festival, at least a little bit, got picked up by a small company called them xyc guys films out in New York, and they showed up as these two kind of pretentious ladies who were on it but and they showed up at the festival and they're like and saw us setting up the the you know the bleachers. Yeah. And they were like, oh, how quaint. Oh sama
Alex Ferrari 21:43
Dan Mirvish 21:45
and that was the last we ever saw them and then Chris and Emma showed up and they're like, Oh, so so I guess our distributor put up a bunch of posters and flyers and we're like, no, they did nothing. And that's why you only have 14 people at your screening so we're like get your ass down to Kinko's and make some flyers and hit the streets and pass some shit out and and they did and so they filled their next screening wow and it won an award at the festival and you know i mean he was already on his way towards making the mental at that point but you know and that would come shortly thereafter but it but that was you know, it was a perfect example it doesn't matter how good you are or how famous you're going to become if you don't promote your own film even at Sundance no one's gonna show up so it's there's just as you say, I mean the hike up the hill is so long and there's so many things going on in Park City I mean
Alex Ferrari 22:36
what's not and now it's all corporate everything like oh yeah the BMW suite and this suite and that that's it and I haven't honestly have not been this will be the first year I go back in probably a decade Oh wow. It's so it's cheap. I mean, even a decade ago was like oh my god, this is so much already. It was already getting back. It was rough back then. But so let me ask you so you wrote a book called The cheerful I love this title, the cheerful subversive subversives guide to independent filmmaking. Great title, by the way, it's really great. Why did you Why did you decide to kind of sit down and write this book?
Dan Mirvish 23:11
Yeah, I you know, I had been doing articles for mainly filmmaker magazine, but also some for film thread and indie wire and a couple in the Huffington Post. For the last few years, just kind of, as I've been making, you know, my own films. My last film was called between us with Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs. And especially after that, you know, I learned a lot of great valuable lessons that I just wanted to you know, write up in, in filmmaker magazine and and Scott McCauley is the editor filmmaker, he's he's, you know, I've known him for 20 years and he was happy to run those articles and a lot of them really yeah, their response was great like how to cast a list actors and low budget film and you know, what's an alternative method of you know, going to film festivals besides just going to Toronto or Sundance and and and a lot of other filmmakers really responded to those those articles and so I you know, I had some time and I was actually on my way to New York to getting ready to close the the option agreement I had on my on the film I just shot I'm Bernard and Huey, I've been working with Jules Feiffer is Oscar winning Pulitzer winning. You know, the legend, who had written the script 30 years ago and took us like a year and a half to find the script another year and a half to close the deal. And I was heading to New York to I had a couple days trip there and I was getting ready to and we were going to close a deal but there was there was some last minute hitches in the deal with with lawyers and stuff and I was like, Oh no, I'm not going to be able to like meet up with him and signed the deal. I'm like, how else do I justify two days in New York to my wife and my kids so I'm like, Alright, what else is in New York publishers are in New York. Why don't I pitch a book and and so I did I met with a couple of publishers on that trip and one of them was vocal press and they they you know, they said yeah that sounds great and they liked the articles that I'd already written and I could kind of structure a book around those articles you know and the end of the articles were only about you know probably 40% of the book The rest I had to actually right from scratch right um, but it was fine because by then we'd gotten the rights to the movie we'd done a Kickstarter campaign and and was was casting you know, spent several months casting and financing for that so in the midst of all that I had some time to you know, put a book together you know, it's amazing you think I'm not good at multitasking for the most part but this this was actually one where the timing of the book and the movie kind of worked out well you know, they kind of dovetail together nicely and honestly, it was you know, while I was writing some of this stuff about setting up an LLC and business plans and things like that I was doing it at the time so it was a good reminder for myself like oh yeah, this is how I do this stuff right? You know, write it down or you know, add a bunch of interns will be like researching sec regulations like Alright, well I guess I'll go on the book you know, I said what was it worked out pretty nicely. And you know, and I realized I'd written a bunch of articles over the years so and also you know, it's it's packed filled with poems I do every every year at slam dance, I do an opening night poem, which is usually relevant to some you know, element of indie filmmaking that year, you know, whether it's piracy or kick or crowdfunding or something like that. So I was like, Alright, I'll stick those poems in there you know in the margins and so those are those are in the book and two of my kids did some of the illustrations and so yeah, so it was a you know, a lot of this so it's a lot of stories about my own filmmaking But then I also have little sidebar articles called the order they call the name dropper. Yeah, as the name drops, right? Yeah. With like, with, you know, because no one's really heard of me or my film. So I talk about like, you know, like Ryan Johnson or Alexander Payne or john carpenter, or Robert Altman, like, you know, people that I've had sort of brushes with over the years and it's kind of lessons I've learned from, you know, or, or Steven Soderbergh has been involved with slam Manson, and, you know, or the Russo brothers or people like that
Alex Ferrari 27:27
did that suit this autobrake whatsoever. It was, his first movie was sex lies and videotape, right?
Dan Mirvish 27:32
Yeah. Yeah. So he, he got involved with us and slammin is because right after our first year, we did slim man's South by Southwest had their neck it was their first or second year. And I was showing my film, Omaha the movie there and I met Steven at a party there and I was kind of afraid to meet him. I thought I was Mr. Sundance, he's gonna hate me, you know. But it turned out he had had a big falling out with Robert Redford and with Sunday, well, and which I had no idea that but and so he really loved what we were doing with slam dance, and I met Linkletter that same weekend and and he loved what we're doing too. And so Soderbergh said, well, I've got I'm working on two films, because he was kind of souring on the sort of studios or studio films he was doing at the time. He's just done a film called The underneath, which I thought was a great film. They hated it or hated the experience of making it and so he was producing the daytrippers, Greg Mattel his first film, this is great it's gonna be great for for slam and I'm gonna bring it there so he brought it there the next year and 96 and then in 97, we showed skits opolis which Steven directed Yeah, and which was just this crazy app itself
Alex Ferrari 28:45
it's just not I saw it on criterion when it came out Yeah,
Dan Mirvish 28:48
yeah and it but it was really inspiring for slamdance filmmakers and and we introduced him to the Russo brothers that year in 97. He saw their first film pieces and he said hey, guys want to come out to Hollywood? I'm got this little company with my pal George, and we'll put you under our wing. And that launched the Russo brothers career Well, I
Alex Ferrari 29:07
mean not but the one thing about Soderbergh is that he has been quietly behind the scenes helping a lot of filmmakers I mean he Shepard in Chris Nolan for my understanding and now the Russo brothers i mean he's and and a lot of people don't know he also DPS all his own stuff is what keeps that he's just a very sauerberg is one of those interesting really interesting filmmakers because he just does his own thing and and he's quiet about it like I heard once that he's like, he drove up in his used like, you know, guy like him who's got obviously you know, he's a multimillionaire and all this kind of stuff, but he is he just shows up into his like used car or something like that. People were like that Steven Soderbergh scar like he's like, Yeah, what's the problem? I just, you know, he's really down to earth. He's just like, yeah, this is this is just the way it is guys. I really I really admired him a lot, but But anyway, so I was going to ask you, um, what would you tell a new filmmaker about? who's trying to get financing for the first film? Because there's so many filmmakers who need money?
Dan Mirvish 30:09
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Now you really, you need money to make a movie? I mean, there's no, it's an expensive, expensive art. Yeah, I mean, there are ways to make a movie for less money, ways to make a movie for more money, but one way or the other, you need something. So, I mean, I, I'm a big fan of crowds of crowdfunding. You know, I've used Kickstarter on my last two films, you know. And, and I think it's, it's great. I mean, I also think that it's, I mean, philosophically, I think people need to be realistic that, you know, looking at investing in movies is never going to help you get good return, you know, it's a lousy investment. So on most of my films, I've at least tried to do this. And it's worked nicely on this last film, where we, we team up with a fiscal sponsor, a 501, c three, in this case, used filmmaker collaborative, based in LA, and you can, and a lot of people don't know you can, you can meld that into your crowdfunding campaign, whether it's Indiegogo or Kickstarter, or whatever else are seeding Spark. And sort of, which means that anyone giving money to your crowdfunding campaign gets a tax deduction, which is really nice for them. If you're giving any if if, if someone rich is giving you money, chances are they want to get a tax deduction or more return on investment? Well, if you can't give them a return on investment, please give them a deduction. So right, at least anyway, so the point is, yeah, because I kind of, and I've written about this before, you know, I see, you know, film is more or indie film is really more akin to, you know, community theater, or opera, or Symphony or public radio, like you don't invest in your local public radio station, know, you donate money, and they give you a tote bag, it's like, Alright, why should we be any different than that, and so on. So I think crowdfunding in general, and and specifically tying it in with with non for profits, I think is a great way to raise money that way. But keep in mind, it's called Kickstarter. It's not called kick finisher. So you know, so I'm a big believer that you, you sort of you leverage a little bit of money, and then you use that to, you know, either hire a casting director or pay for the lawyer to get the rights or, you know, or whatever other development money. And then once you get an actor, you know, then you are in a much stronger position to raise more money through slightly more traditional means, you know, whether it's investors or foreign sales or something else.
Alex Ferrari 32:42
How do you, how do you connect with these nonprofits? Like, how is that how does that conversation come about? I'm just curious. Well,
Dan Mirvish 32:49
yeah, in documentaries, people have been doing it for 30 years, you know, it's a long established thing and documentaries, either through specific cause if you're, if it's a cause, based talk, or, or, or you do it through the international documentary Association, the IDA, which has a really great fiscal sponsor program, where people donate money to the IDA, they take a 5% fee, you get, you know, the rest of it. And they've been doing this for years. In the narrative space, there's not as many options filmmaker collaborative based in LA is one San Francisco Film Society, I think
Alex Ferrari 33:28
so then what do you do you literally just call them up like, Hey, I have a movie, and I'd like to work with you.
Dan Mirvish 33:33
Exactly. That's it?
Alex Ferrari 33:34
And then do you pitch them the story? Do they take everybody that calls them How are they
Dan Mirvish 33:39
I don't think they take everybody the San Francisco group is a bit more specific. You've got a you've got a you know, do a proposal even filmmaker collaborative, which takes I think, a lot of people I had to you know, do a pitch you know, proposal for them. There's, you know, there's a few arts organizations in New York. You know, if p in New York does it, but you can't, but I think with you have to be careful because some of them do it, but they but then they don't allow you to mix and match nonprofit money with equity investment money. I think filmmaker collaborative is pretty much the only one that lets you mix and match what you get through your nonprofit contributions with equity investment money. Now as far as the IRS is concerned, it's totally legal to do that. There's no there's no reason why these organizations can't be doing that. But I think filmmaker collaborative is the only one and then I introduced them to the folks at Kickstarter because they had never done a Kickstarter campaign through them and the Kickstarter folks were like yeah, there's no reason we can't do it with them. So so then it allows you to mix and match you know, small crowdfunding with nonprofits.
Alex Ferrari 34:52
So it's Kickstarter is Kickstarter associated now with film collaborative so of any Kickstarter campaign or no,
Dan Mirvish 34:58
not every kicks that no you have To be you have to go through film collaborative first and when you do all your paperwork with with Kickstarter then you say okay this actually the check goes to them not to me and you know kind of goes that that route. Now each time you do this you're losing a little bit of percentage on your donations but you know, so you have
Alex Ferrari 35:18
to perform collaborative takes a piece, of course Yeah, they
Dan Mirvish 35:21
take like 5% or something.
Alex Ferrari 35:23
It's not that bad for
Dan Mirvish 35:24
Yeah, but yeah, but it's also it's nice to it's been nice for me because like they have a little page up for my film that even beyond the 30 day Kickstarter campaign, like I can still tell people to donate to my film and they have, you know, that kind of indefinitely through filmmaker collaborative, so you don't you know, normally when you finish a Kickstarter campaign, like like, 30 minutes after you end you get all these people saying, Oh, that's too bad. I wish I could have given you money, but I just missed the deadline. Oh, well. Here's this other button, click here, you know, so, um, so anyway, the point, but the point is that, you know, that people want to, you know, Kickstarter and Indiegogo have really changed the paradigm of how people think about indie filmmaking from being this investment paradigm, like, you get investors, you don't pay them back, they break your kneecaps, and then they don't invest in another film again. And now people are, are thinking about film in terms of more like Public Radio, like, oh, okay, my buddy has a film, I'll give him 20 bucks, you know, or, you know, or my nephew has a film I'll give him 100 bucks. And it's, it's, it's more ingrained in the culture now, to do that, as compared to a few years ago, where it just it wasn't, there wasn't even a mechanism for that. And of course, now the interesting thing is that the SEC has now made it legal to do equity investment through crowdfunding. So Indiegogo just announced that they're going to be able to do that Kickstarter, still saying they're not, but we'll see if that changes. And there's a few other companies out there. I mean, it's very new, so people have to, you know, really pay attention to the rules and see if it's gonna work out. But it's interesting, you know,
Alex Ferrari 37:10
yeah, I mean, if you want, I mean, I guess it wouldn't work for $20. But I think if you're, if you're, you know, as far as an equity investor is concerned, but uh, but on a larger standard, if you're trying to raise 100 grand, and you're like, Look, we've got blocks, that, you know, for 10,000 bucks, you can become an equity investor or something like that, or 5000 bucks or something, they
Dan Mirvish 37:27
really and that, and it also loosen the restrictions. I mean, I remember the old days, like, you know, trying to raise money for my first film, like, we have to be really, really careful. Like, we couldn't even throw a party, because it broke sec violate, you know, really, you know, and so or you could throw a party, but not tell people what the investment was, it's like, well, why are we throwing a party? You know, it's just weird, all these bells and whistles to jump through, and which are there for a reason, you know, they didn't want to sucker every little old lady into giving money. I mean, these these rules, go back to the, you know, the crash in 1929. You know, so, so yeah, but it's, but look, I mean, as a filmmaker, you don't learn this stuff at Tisch,
Alex Ferrari 38:08
you've got no, you do not learn it at film school? There's no question. Yeah.
Dan Mirvish 38:11
I mean, you've got to get an MBA almost to figure out this stuff. or read my book. That was obvious, obviously. And I, you know, and hopefully, I mean, I put a lot of stuff in there and hopefully make it interesting to read to, you know, it's like, I mean, it's tough to write a chapter about about the, you know, about the automated, you know, registering system for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is called Edgar, you know, but strangely enough, I think I made that even an interesting little chapter, you know, because once you get into it, it's actually not that intimidating. And a lot of this stuff you can do yourself, you don't have to hire a lawyer and spend $5,000, just to register your LLC, which some people are charging, you know, you actually can do this stuff yourself and learn a lot so that you know how to do it the next time to
Alex Ferrari 38:57
now, on your movie between us, you had a pretty insane cast. How do you? How do you attach name cast to a budget, a project that has a low budget?
Dan Mirvish 39:06
Exactly? Well, that's, that is the trick. And I think, and I've been able to kind of figure out at least one way of doing it, or a couple ways of doing it. I mean, number one, you need the material, you need the the script that is going to attract cast. So then you have to think, Okay, what kinds of scripts do actors good actors want to do? Because there's so many actors that have they've made money in TV or they've made money in big features. They want to do something interesting and creative and, you know, show up at festivals. So what is it? What is it that attracts them? So there's a couple things one is if you have a drama, where they can really have big monologue scenes with actors can chew the scenery. They love that because they know at the very least they can put it on their real,
Alex Ferrari 39:54
you know, out of it or, or show them show another aspect of themselves.
Dan Mirvish 39:58
Exactly. Yeah. So especially They're a comedian. And again, you offer them a drama or their or their, you know, drama actor and offer them comedy. The other thing is if you make a musical actors love to sing and almost never get a chance to sing so true, actually, yeah, but almost every actor, at least in America got their start in musical theater in high school. So and they've never had a chance to sing on film. So I did my film open house. And originally it was just a straightforward comedy and then when I kind of realized that about actors, my writing partner and I, Larry Maddox and I, we turned it into a musical and sure enough, we got you know, Oscar nominee Sally Kellerman, because it turned out she was a cabaret singer but never hadn't sung in film musical since lost horizons in 1969. We got you know, Anthony Rapp from rent to be in it and we never would you know, we never would have got and that was a $20,000 budget you know, I mean, it was tiny. I know so first film shot on the DB x 100 and
Alex Ferrari 40:55
that's that workhorse back in the day Yeah.
Dan Mirvish 40:59
Yeah, so but but but you know, we got some great TV actors and some other great film actors and but it was literally because it was a musical and and we said they're gonna sing live on set which they also never, you know, very rarely get a chance to do you know, that got us that cast. In the case of between us it was the material I specifically looked for an off Broadway play, I look for a play and found a great Off Broadway play it had been successful play called between us by written by Joe Horta. And and I knew it had, you know, number one, it was production wise, it would be fairly simple to do because it was four people in two rooms kind of thing. I mean, it turns out it was a lot more complicated than that, but it always is. It always is, but but I knew that the roles were really, you know, strong, dramatic roles that would attract actors. And so we wound up getting David Harbor, now famous from Stranger Things and he'd been in the original play. Julia Stiles, Melissa George, Taye Diggs, you know and and also kind of being racially diverse helped you know, Tay wasn't getting offered sort of, you know, non racially specific parts and so and this was you know, that he could have been you know, the part could have been anything so I was like, yeah, let's let's, let's get an African American actor in there. And you know, and they loved it, you know, it was it was a real departure for him and from the TV work on private practice or something that he'd been doing for a few years it was a chance to kind of get back to his theater roots. So
Alex Ferrari 42:34
he got to work with Julia again. No,
Dan Mirvish 42:37
he'd never know
Alex Ferrari 42:38
I thought that then they work on what was that? No, that
Dan Mirvish 42:40
was a different black guy. Oh, sorry.
Alex Ferrari 42:42
Oh god that's horrible. I thought it was I swear to god it was a mistake
Dan Mirvish 42:45
That doesn't make you racist. Yeah, no, we think we got that a lot. Um The other thing though, is is to have really strong female roles because if you think about a two there are so many more actresses than actors in Hollywood and that and again go back to every high school drama program in America and it's always like 8020 you know women you know girls two boys and that carries through into Hollywood that there are a lot more famous actresses who rightly so complained that they never get good roles. Then there are actors and and because of that if you have some really good roles for women and especially slightly older women or you know older than 22 you will get you know, you will get some really great actresses I mean we had a lot of people who really wanted those parts in between us I mean, we they were fighting for those parts and same thing on between Bernard and Huey, which is to male leads. And in the end, we got Oscar winner, Jim Rash and David Kepner. But for our women parts we had you know, we had some great actresses. We wound up with Sasha Alexander from Rizzoli and Isles, but she'd been a lot of other fun things and, and Bellamy young and Nancy Travis and and it was, you know, but it and they were all amazing in the movie.
Alex Ferrari 44:10
Now do you go out to their agents directly? Do you have a casting director?
Dan Mirvish 44:13
Well, I've um, I always work with a casting director and I've had different ones kind of on all my films. And but I think it is very important at this level to for the director of the film the filmmaker to have their own relationships with talent agents. So you know, at ICM at UTA at Kirsch, what, wherever, wherever they are, and start early because I mean, I remember on open house, we were dealing with this, you know, assistant at Gersh named Alex Yarrow. She's now the head Talent Agent at Gersh, you know, so I can and I'm like, Hey Alex, how you doing? How are your kids? I'm fine, you know. So you want to build those relationships and sustain them over years because actors are going to come and go you know, you can be best for With an actor, and maybe they get famous, and maybe they're available to work the week you need them, but maybe, but more likely not. But an agent or a manager at some of these places, they are going to have a stable of actors for an entire career and grant you nice
Alex Ferrari 45:16
advice. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Dan Mirvish 45:29
So, you know, for all those filmmakers going to Park City, and they're busy chasing, trying to get their own agents, like ninna, you first of all, an agent in Hollywood is not going to care about an indie director because they can't make money off of you. But an eight but a talent agent who has actors, it behooves them to meet directors too, because you're always going to be giving their actors work, whether it's paid work or not paid well doesn't matter because agents are always trying to get good meeting material for their clients to because it keeps their clients happy. So said they loved developing relationships with directors just as much as we need them. And and so that that has really helped me in the long term and and and, and that's part of what I get into in the book and talking to people is that, you know, you're not just making a film you you want to, you don't want to just be a filmmaker, you want to be a film's maker, plural, you know, you're developing a career out of this. And so, you know, even if you meet an actor on one film, and you don't cast them, you know what, you may cast them on the next film, you know, or if you develop a relationship with it with an agent or manager, you know, on the talent side, and you don't cast their clients this time around, that's cool. You're going to need them, you know, next time around, and by then they may have been promoted from assistant or junior agent, they may be running the agency, and you know, but you're still the guy that had breakfast with them in Park City 10 years ago, and they're like, Hey, dude, I remember you, you know, so, um, but yeah, but at the end of the day, it's if you've got the material, you know, that you don't need the relationships if you've you know, if you've got the good parts for the for the right actor, it doesn't really matter if you have any money.
Alex Ferrari 47:14
Right? It's gonna work. It's gonna work. Yeah, exactly. Now, but now between us. It was I guess I was watching your, your video on the book. And I said it was sold in 144 countries.
Dan Mirvish 47:26
Yeah. Leaving North Korea and Iran. So how
Alex Ferrari 47:29
in the gods Well, first of all, what was the process of that? So for people listening, understand how you actually sell a movie? And then after that, how the how'd you get to North
Dan Mirvish 47:38
Korea? Right, right. So yeah, on that film, we got us foreign sales company, I mean, a lot of people, a lot of filmmakers, when they right out of the gate they get, there's a little bit of confusion about foreign sales agents, foreign sales companies versus producers rep and producers agents. But basically, for an American indie film you there's two big sets of rights, there's North America basically the US market and international and usually you're dealing with different people selling both sides of it. So for international, you get you get a sales agent, or foreign sales company, you can kind of be one there. Those words are a little bit interchangeable. And these are usually these kind of scruffy little companies just like two or three people each and they go to all the film markets like the AFM the American Film market in in Santa Monica, or they go to the Berlin market or the Cannes market festivals, but the markets and then they're dealing with, you know, oh, let's sell you know, pay per view to, you know, Sri Lanka or whatever. So the Sri Lankan pay per view guy goes to the market and they're buying films you know, so in my case, I dealt with a foreign sales company called premiere and entertainment I think was the name of them they change names a few times but the you know, nice guys, and I got along well with them and, and they were able to sell the film. I think they only sold it about 10 times, but each time was to a big market so like they sold Latin American rights and that meant every country in Latin America, they sold the Chinese rights and if you look carefully in the contract for the if you sell a film to China, nine times out of 10 that includes the rights to North Korea, whether it actually played in North Korea or not, I don't know but I know that I know from the contract over different days film Middle of Nowhere was sold was bundled with my film they bundled like nine films together sold them to a Chinese company. So both of us have our films available in North Korea. But But I know like and same with the Middle East It was like all non Israel Middle East was one company and that included around that included Syria that included her back and but sure enough, like I go to like these Persian pay per view sights and the film was available you know Persian subtitles for
Alex Ferrari 50:04
some so that's that really is interesting because you have a movie that's basically a character piece with for. For people who don't I'm assuming none of the cast have major draws overseas are huge not huge they're not like Vaughn Dom
Dan Mirvish 50:19
styles and Taye Diggs. I mean they're they're in their name and their faces yes is Melissa George you know she's big in Australia and England but honestly they haven't sold Australia in England yet so I don't know what's going on there.
Alex Ferrari 50:30
So just a generally speaking they're not it's so it goes against a lot of preconceived notions that Yeah, in order to sell an indie movie overseas, you have to have Steven Seagal john Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris
Dan Mirvish 50:43
genre film be a horror film right?
Alex Ferrari 50:45
This is an indie capture piece with basically four people talking about exactly yeah, so so that's really interesting. So have you seen other films go down because I've really haven't heard many American indies get this kind of distribution
Dan Mirvish 51:03
before they probably they probably have you just haven't heard about right? And it was literally like me looking very carefully at each contract and adding up the territories and I was like, Oh wow, that's 144 countries like holy cow. That's a lot of the world you know. And but it's out there you know, and that you know, and then we have a separate company separate distributor Monterey media, who did North America and they got it on to you know, we did a small theatrical release in like 50 cities, but then you know, more importantly really, it got out and they got it onto Netflix and Showtime and stars and, you know, plus all the, you know, iTunes and Amazon, Hulu and all those things, too. So, but yeah, I think it's really nice for your investors and your Kickstarter backers, and everyone and the actors, you know, in the crew to say, you know, by the way, our film is out there around the world, you know, you can I saw, I saw a pirated bootleg version of the film with Japanese, not necessarily not Japanese, German, not subtitles, but it was dubbed in German,
Alex Ferrari 52:07
so someone actually bootlegged it and
Dan Mirvish 52:11
well it was there was a German distributor got it in DVD distributor had had done the you know, the dubbing, but then it got that I saw on YouTube and I was like, this is kind of funny.
Alex Ferrari 52:26
Which makes which which brings me to another quick question. What's your philosophy on piracy and because I know a lot of filmmakers jump I mean obviously it's horrible but
Dan Mirvish 52:34
why don't you should say that I have a whole chapter in my book about it and and yeah, and again, this is based on a couple articles I had done about piracy and it's and I've been working with a couple piracy anti piracy organizations but it's my feeling is a little bit more nuanced than like sort of the standard Hollywood you know, you know, sue the bastards kind of thing because as an indie filmmaker yeah you're absolutely affected by it you know, I mean I when I see between us on all these websites I'm like, I'm not making any money off this. On the other hand, my distributors kind of stopped paying me anyway so it's like you know, as as an indie filmmaker you're always kind of torn on the one hand you want your art you know we're artists right? You're smaller you know you want your art to be out there you want your your films to be seen by the most number of people get the most clicks and the most hits and the most you know, whatever is shares on the other hand, you've got a fiduciary responsibility to your investors to say no, we actually need to make money and we can't make money if the film is pirated. So which kind of brings me back to the point that if you can raise your money through through donations either nonprofit donations or crowdfunding or whatever then you literally don't have an obligation to pay back your investors well if you don't have an obligation to pay back your investors then you don't then you're not really obligated to make money off your film then go ahead and have it pirated and then that way at least you're getting most number of people to see it now most filmmakers if you've got a feature that's not really where you're at but if you've got a short I did one short put it on youtube for free you know half a million people have seen it I'm like that's awesome you know, but I didn't I'm not obligated to anyone to put gave their money back on a feature though. It is different because you do usually have investors or or you know, residuals for yourself or your actors that you do want to make money. So that is that is the big challenge facing indie filmmakers and it's it's there's no easy solution because if you're a studio film, I don't make it sound like it's easy for the studios but they actually have a roomful of lawyers and interns and paralegals like that can send out cease and desist letters and takedown notices on to YouTube and things like that. Even any filmmaker For me to do that it's literally an hour out of my day every day if I really want to take down all the the copies of my film you know everywhere in the world on the other hand if I do that so much no one's gonna see the film ultimately you know so it's a it's it's not an easy there is no solution to it except to not pay your except to make your films as a nonprofit you know that it's really the only solution to it and then you don't have to worry about piracy. But you know, most people aren't in that situation so not to worry about it
Alex Ferrari 55:38
now in your book you you use that name dropping the name dropper right? With some very you know, legendary now filmmakers, can you can you maybe share a few truth bombs from like a Chris Nolan Russo brothers or Lynn Shelton?
Dan Mirvish 55:54
Yeah, well, the russos were great. They, you know, Joe Russo, a couple years ago, he was back at slam and so we were having our 20th anniversary and he said, Oh, Dan, you got to Mirvish. You got to get back in you got to get into TV man. That's where the real action is, of course, easy for him to say after doing years of Arrested Development Community, you know, the rest of us are now doing, you know,
Alex Ferrari 56:14
having an American Avengers and loving it.
Dan Mirvish 56:17
I mean, they're having a great time doing it. But um, so I said, Okay, Joe, I'll take you up on that. And so I spent like a concerted like three months trying to get myself hired as a TV director. And it was and literally for every day, for about three months, I got an A meeting with a studio or a network or production company, like just to talk about TV directing, and it was and I was, uh, you know, I wrote an article for filmmaker magazine about it at the time, which is now a chapter in the book. And, and I talked to Joe at the end of this whole process. And he said, so So what, what came out of this three months of meetings, I said, Well, he said, you know, did you get hired? I said, No, I didn't get hired. I said, but I but I got $250 for writing an article and filmmaker magazine. He's like, Alright, well, that's something you know. So you know, and eventually that that made its way into the book. So But yeah, I mean, you know, I think the thing too, about all these guys is that if you if you meet famous director, friends, you've got to also know what you can get out. At the end of the day, you know, Chris Nolan's not going to invest in my next film. But for example, in casting between Bernard and Hugh is a great example. You know, I was pitched Jim Rash, you know, who's from as an actor at dunk community, but as a screenwriter, he won an Oscar for co writing the dependence Alex paynesville. And so right before meeting with them, I, you know, texted or send a quick email to Joe Russo. And I was like, Joe, what's how's Jim to work with, because I knew he'd worked with him on community, and he wrote back right away, you know, he's great, he's awesome, you should have cast him and I did and he will enjoy was right. He was Jim was fantastic to work with, and is amazing in the film. So you know, I think that's the interesting thing is to realize is that, you know, as a filmmaker, you need to build this network of other filmmakers, because believe me, some of them will become famous, some of them will become, you know, powerful people in Hollywood. And it doesn't mean that they're going to do any direct favors for you. But when it comes to like, sharing information on actors and things like that, or on distributors or agents, that's where those friendships and those relationships are really going to be be helpful and useful to you. You know, it's it's not like it's not like Joe's gonna get me, you know, the next Marvel movie.
Alex Ferrari 58:40
Right? No, but but, but Joe could easily introduce you to somebody at a party that might be able to help you in their next project. Yeah, possibly, or just or,
Dan Mirvish 58:50
like, you have to know kind of what to ask and when to ask, you know, Oh, right. But, you know, I mean, you know, I was privileged enough to get to know Robert Altman when he was alive and I talked about you know, his advice in here you know, about casting you know, casting being 90% of directing, you know, but it's taken me you know, good 20 years to figure out what the other 10% is but you know, but we're getting into the nuts and bolts of like, Okay, how do you do you know, he was such a pioneer and using individual lavalier mics on different tracks, and mash mash in Nashville. And and really, I've taken that to heart with all my films. But But getting to know sort of the reasons why he did that, which really not a lot of people talked about, you know, is because he didn't want the lowest paid member of the crew, the boom operator, to be the one deciding who he's going to listen to. in the mix. He said, I'm the fucking artist. I want to make that decision. And the only way I can do it is if I record sound on everyone, and then in the mix, I'm the one listening to this person or that person. I was like, Wow, that is, you know, brilliant Actually, yeah, it's brilliant but it you know it but it also did so many other things too you get better performances from the actors because they always they never knew when they were being recorded when they weren't being recorded, you know, kind of dovetailed with his use of the long, you know, zoom lens is two. But it meant that he never had ADR, which again, meant that he always got better performances. So and it was, you know, so it was things like that, that you pick up from directors here and there, or, you know, I talked about, you know, working on a john Carpenter movie, where I shot the behind the scenes, the EP K footage, and I think that is a really great opportunity for filmmakers. If you're if you're between projects or something if you can shoot EP K footage on even if it's just your friends films, you will learn so much because you literally get to sit right next to the director and whether it's just your other fellow filmmaking friend or someone like john carpenter, you don't always get that access. So, um, you know, so it's things like that, like, Okay, what do you do between projects?
Alex Ferrari 1:01:06
And then you and then you can either see how it's done right? Or how it's done wrong either way, you're looking back?
Dan Mirvish 1:01:10
Yeah, either way. Yeah, either way, like, anytime you're on a set. I mean, I honestly, I, I survived by renting out my house to commercials, you know, we just had a, we just had a frozen broccoli commercial here, like, three days ago. Nice. Which is great that paid the mortgage as much. But um, but I was like, you know, I'm, I'm on set like, wow, what, you know, they use this kind of camera, this kind of lens and this kind of slider like, oh, I've never seen that slider before. Like, you know, how did they get steam to come out? You know, you learn so much just from just from the pace and the tempo of these things, even if it's completely different than what you're going to be doing, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:47
now, um, what are you? What's your feeling on the state of self distribution today? Because I know it's, it's a lot different than when you first started slam dance back in the day? Well,
Dan Mirvish 1:01:56
it isn't. It isn't. I mean, right after we did slam dance, I decided to do self distribution on my film. And we ended up playing it in 33 cities in all across the country. And it actually and we started in the Midwest, we started in Omaha and worked our way out to the coasts, and wound up with an 11 week run at LendLease. You know, here in LA, which is pretty remarkable on it, and included me wearing a sandwich board in front of the sunset five theater for most of those 11 weeks. And the interesting thing about it, I mean, is that it it, we didn't make money, but we didn't lose money. It was it was sort of a revenue neutral thing. But it was fun, it caught the film out there. And it got us a theatrical release where we wouldn't have had one otherwise. But the interesting thing is that the you don't necessarily have to lug a 35 printer around anymore. But a lot of the techniques really haven't changed at all, you know, for self distribution, you still have to do the same legwork as far as finding Booker's for your film and finding venues and then promoting and whether you were literally wearing a sandwich sandwich board or doing it on Twitter, and Facebook, and whatever else. It's the same amount of time and effort and shameless self promotion. Regardless of of what it is, I mean, I've thrown raw steak at audiences at screenings before I throw corncobs at audiences, you know, whatever it takes to get people, you know, in there, and, and so strangely enough, like I don't think anything has changed. I mean that Well, how
Alex Ferrari 1:03:29
about the digital, but the digital version of it, like all the all the options now that you have online? Like,
Dan Mirvish 1:03:35
it's still all about, like, Are you willing to put on a digital sandwich board and write more, you know, so it's a little less stressful on the shoulders in the back, but that's about it. But yeah, so I really, yeah, I mean, the techniques, the techniques change every year, you know, as far as which social media platforms do what and do this and you know, you've got the tug, and that this and that, but um, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to the same kind of thing. Do you have, you know, people on the ground in that city that can help you, you know, promote the film? Are you getting press, I mean, to get press for your own film, this, this really hasn't changed in 20 years or 25 years. You know, you can't get local newspapers to review your film, unless you have a theatrical release. And you can't get national media to review your film unless you at least start in New York, not even la counts. And even then, you really have to tell them it's in national release. Like just booking one Theater in New York isn't going to get the New York Times, even. I don't want that you reviewed the film. So it's funny like with all the talk about VOD, and day and date and all that, you know, the bottom line is you still can't get reviews unless you are a theatrical release in a signal. thing away. And that hasn't changed at all. It Be people kind of think it has, but it really hasn't, you're still screwed if you're the indie guy, and you're just booking one theater at a time. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
now now. So what advice would you give a filmmaker just starting out in the business?
Dan Mirvish 1:05:18
Well, Mary, well, that's for what I recommend either going to med school graduation ceremonies, or better yet, find an entertainment law student who is going to be a successful entertainment lawyer. And then that way you get a well, heeled spouse who is also can be your entertainment lawyer. And so you're kind of killing two birds with one stone. So I definitely recommend that don't don't date actors or actresses, if you plan to marry them. And certainly not other filmmakers, Jesus,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
I mean, that's just that's his death, I understand completely. Yeah.
Dan Mirvish 1:05:55
So, um, but yeah, people think I joke about that, but no,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:59
no, no, no, I
Dan Mirvish 1:05:59
know. Um, the other thing that I you know, I talked about this in booktube is the cheerful services guide to independent filmmaking available, wherever fine books
Alex Ferrari 1:06:09
are sold on, don't worry, we will promote the heck out of
Dan Mirvish 1:06:11
it. But, uh, is that the festival circuit, I mean, we just talked about theatrical self distribution. But really, even if you get a good theatrical release, not that many people are seeing your films in theaters anymore, so but what I really advocate is, is a volume approach to film festivals is that, you know, everybody's kind of so focused on where they're going to premiere and whether it's Sundance or Toronto or south by whatever it is. But there are so many really great festivals around the country and around the world. And festivals do a really good job of putting butts in the seats. Like most festivals, you don't have to promote your film that much. And you will get a pretty full house. And, and really, that's the one place where you can engage with an audience with your introductions with your Q and A's with talkback sessions or, or cocktail parties with with, with actual, you know, audiences that are real cinephile audiences that were that want to see films and want to meet filmmakers. And and if you've made a comedy you you you hear the laughter of an audience you know, if you've made a drama, you hear them crying, if you you know, if you've made a comedy and nobody's laughing, you tell people it's a drama, you know, so. But it is so the festival experience in and of itself as again as as artists, which such as we are, is I think a really richly rewarding experience. And on so many people, I see this wait so long to get this big premiere at this big industry festival. And meanwhile, they pass on so many other great festivals, even a smaller regional festivals. But you know, that regional isn't a dirty word if the region they're sending you to is the Bahamas or Athens or in Germany. Yes, I know, right? Who wouldn't want to go to all these places, you know, and then Meanwhile, you're meeting you're meeting other filmmakers, you're meeting actors you're meeting you know, potential investors, you're seeing the world you're getting laid, you know, whatever it takes, you know, there's a there's a I'm a big advocate of just the festival experience in and of itself, if you've got the time and inclination to do it, and haven't moved on to your next film because it certainly it does prevent you from doing that. But um, but yeah, that's it. So that's the other advice I have for filmmakers is that you know, the festival you know, festivals have the word festive in there. So you should go to them and have fun and, and make the most of them. And even if you don't get into, you know, especially this time of year, even if you didn't get into Sundance or you didn't get into slam and go to Park City, like it's sometimes you'll meet more people and have a better time if you don't have a film in a festival or, you know, or if you're in LA go to, you know, I mean, this week, there's the Culver City Film Festival, you know, go see films meet filmmakers, you know, just because your own film is in playing there doesn't mean you can't be a part of a festival or volunteer your local festival. Because also you see what other films are out there in a way that you really don't otherwise.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:07
Now, these last two questions are this the questions I ask all my guests, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,
Dan Mirvish 1:09:17
at least in the film business, it was that it took me 20 years to figure this out that it you're not going to get there's no incentive for agents or managers to sign you as an indie film director. Because literally if they take if you're spending five years between films, and it will take you five years, but at least between some of your films and and the at most, you're maybe making $100,000 if it's a really successful indie film, you know, an agent is making 10% of that and they've spent five years to get that there's no real incentive for them. There's a reason agents are called lit agents and they're not called dur agents, because they sell scripts because they can make a lot of money in a very short amount of time by selling scripts anyway so it's taken a long time to realize that like I wasted a lot of time in the early part of my career chasing the agencies and chasing agents and I think it's important if you're if you want to be TV director it's important if you want to write a script, but as an indie film director, chasing agents and managers is a waste of time to chase for for yourself what what is much much better use of your time is to chase those talent agents that we've talked about earlier because then you develop those relationships and then you're also not beholden to any one agency or one agent you can travel among all
Alex Ferrari 1:10:36
right so basically like you speak the truth my friend it's your truth and people don't understand that either they don't understand that that that it's a business and agents and agents are there to make money they might love you but it's about a business they got to make money so if they bring in an indie filmmaker a lot of times that I've seen my my indie filmmaker friends get you know get agents generally speaking is because the agencies that either they can package a new movie or they could throw them into TV exactly and those are that and if it's something that they could turn around quickly or they feel that they can make a decent amount of money with them they'll take them if not forget like if you're just like that you know my job is making $10,000 movies for the rest of my life you it's gonna be tough getting an agent but even look at look at someone like just weinsberg or Lynn Shelton you know Oh yeah. Lindsey, Lindsey and TV now and so it was jo
Dan Mirvish 1:11:27
jo jo shot a TV show across the street from my house a few months ago. Oh nice. Hey, Joe. What are you doing here? correcting for Netflix or HBO or whatever it was?
Alex Ferrari 1:11:37
Yeah, he's doing his Netflix show I think he's got like a couple Yeah, cuz now I think he got the taste of it. He's like oh, this is nice. I'm just gonna keep doing this.
Unknown Speaker 1:11:45
I'm very happy for him and jealous completely. But you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:11:49
the job or the job or go to slam dance. You know,
Dan Mirvish 1:11:51
he's been to slam dance. I don't think we've ever shown any of his films. I've seen him up there a bunch so yeah, of course you know, and there's a lot of overlap between some of his pals and are so yeah, so we've gotten to know him over the years but no, I don't I don't think we've ever shown any film that he directed which is remarkable because he's made like
Alex Ferrari 1:12:14
40 yeah 38
Dan Mirvish 1:12:18
you know but look I mean that's it's amazing. I mean, he just kept churning them out whether they were good bad thing Yeah, thank you doesn't matter you know, he just kept I mean that's a it's a whole different ethos. I can't I couldn't keep up with that pace. But you know, God bless him, you know, more power to him and and also working with other filmmakers and collaborators. You know, he was great about that. So he was essentially you build you know, and it's also a great lesson that it's not like any of his early films, like any one film really hit it, but he built a body of work. He built a career that then eventually you know, TV, people will be like, of course, why wouldn't we hire Joe Swanberg to be a director and you know, so
Alex Ferrari 1:12:58
but it took him a decade? Yeah, yeah, it took them a decade and that's what people don't understand that filmmakers are like, oh, wow, a decade You mean you mean you don't go show to go to slam dance or Sundance and just get a check from Fox Searchlight? Or Harvey's just shows up and gives you a check and you're on your way? doesn't work that way?
Dan Mirvish 1:13:15
Yeah, no, you just got to keep making more of them and and you know, and that means you can't get so precious about your first one that you're chasing it around the globe for years and years. You got to Okay, well,
Alex Ferrari 1:13:26
what's next next? And the last question is three of your favorite films of all time.
Dan Mirvish 1:13:32
Alex Ferrari 1:13:33
Dan Mirvish 1:13:35
Buckaroo Banzai Yes. and say oh failsafe
Alex Ferrari 1:13:44
failed Wow, did you know this the actually after speaking to you for a little bit over an hour now? They are they're perfect picks for you, sir. Yeah, the perfect fix man. What does this what can people find you by the way?
Dan Mirvish 1:13:58
My house I'm
Alex Ferrari 1:13:59
No I don't give you a personal address. I know. online where can people
Dan Mirvish 1:14:03
Go to DanMirvish.com that's they can reach to the DA nmi RBI sh calm and then that has links to the books to my movies to to everything. And then you know, in Park City, I'll be up at slam dance. I always host the I read a poem on opening night, but then I always host some of the Q and A's and then and then do the hot tub summit. We didn't talk about that. But that's a big thing I do every year. And we've been doing that for about 10 years. I think we'll be doing it this year. I'm not sure exactly when that is but basically it's a big panel discussion in a hot tub where we talk about everything we just talked about. So yeah, it's the wettest panel discussion in Park City. No pun intended. So yeah, so if you're in Park City, come to the top of Main Street. Treasure mountain in just look for me.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:50
Very cool. But Matt, Dan, thanks so much for taking the time to
Dan Mirvish 1:14:54
Alex Ferrari 1:14:56
Dan was an absolute pleasure and I had so much fun. I actually interviewed him again, like I said at slam dance at Park City this year. So please check out our show notes to check out that other interview that I did with Dan at indiefilmhustle.com/135. And if you want to get a link to his amazingly titled book, the cheerful subversives guide to independent filmmaking, from pre production to festivals to distribution, again, head over to the show notes and I'll have a link for it there. And again, guys with this special series, I am going out daily, so again, don't get used to it, but it will be I have another one out tomorrow. And I think we got maybe two more. I have to two to three more I'm not sure but at least got two more for sure. Coming out. And and I hope you've enjoyed this series, please let me know what you guys think of this. You know, I took a lot to go to Sundance bad it was a lot of work. So if you guys like this and want to see more of it, please give me a shout out. You can always email me at ifH [email protected]. Also, if you have any questions about the business, I will have an x ask Alex episode coming up soon. So you could just again email me at IF H [email protected]. If you have any questions about the business about my Sunday trip about anything, I'll pick it pick a few questions and answer them on the show. So also, we are less than a month away from the world premiere of this is mag It's incredible how I got started with this little movie and all of a sudden I'm going to be world premiering at an amazing festival Lexan request. So I will put links to if you're in the area if you want tickets, man I'd love for you guys to come out and support that would be amazing. So if you're going to be at cinequest this year, please hit me up with grab a coffee, do something it'd be awesome so also be adding some new lessons and new courses to the indie film syndicate at indie film syndicate comm so keep an eye out on that. And I'll be posting about those new lessons for this as Meg course, as well as some other stuff that I have in the works. So guys, thank you for everything as always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- Slamdance Film Festival
- Dan Mirvish – IMDB
- The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking: From Preproduction to Festivals and Distribution
- Sebastian Twardosz
- Savant Artists – Producers Rep