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IFH 069: How to Make $500,000 Selling a No Budget DSLR Indie Film with Michael Polish

I’m always looking for indie filmmaking models to study. I like to analyze how other filmmakers make successful indie films while doing through a new DIY method, self-distributing their film or achieving critical and fan respect for their work.

Well, I found a film that checks all the boxes, For Lovers Only create by the Polish Brothers, Michael and Mark Polish (more on that film later). These filmmakers have been making films, on their terms, for over a decade now.

Since premiering at Sundance with their debut feature, 1999’s Twin Falls Idahothe brothers have remained steadfast in their commitment to creating personal, character-driven films.

Michael Polish, mark polish, the polish brothers, for lovers only Stana vatic, Canon 5D Mark II, no budget filmmaking

Michael Polish has created a filmography of critically-acclaimed features, including the karaoke-themed Jackpot (2001), the self-financed period piece Northfork (2003) and the sci-fi drama The Astronaut Farmer (2006). Yet the Polish brothers have always maintained a collaborative—as opposed to competitive—spirit when it comes to finding success in Hollywood

In 2005, he and his brother published the must-read book The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider’s Guide to Making Movies Outside of Hollywood, a how-to guide for first-time filmmakers.

How to Make $500,000 on a DSLR Feature Film

How does one make money shooting a feature film on a DSLR? The film in question came from a screenplay that Mark Polish wrote more than a decade ago called For Lovers Only (Available on IFHTV)., about an American photographer who runs into an old flame while on assignment in Paris. The film follows the rekindled lovers around Paris, France in a series of quiet vignettes that gradually reveal more about the complications in the couples’ lives.

Related: DSLR Video Tips: How to Make Your DSLR Film or Video Look More Cinematic

Inspired by the guerilla-style of the French New Wave filmmakers of yesteryear, Mark and Michael Polish came up with a simple plan: they’d fly over to France with only a Canon 5D Mark II camera (which they already owned) and one actress (Castle star Stana Katic) in tow and just go out and shoot feature film. Oh did I mention it was in black and white?

 

With no budget to speak of, they went out into Paris and captured its stunning beauty for free. Additionally, shooting solely on a DSLR had quite a few advantages. Not only was the camera extremely portable, and allowed for filming in tight spaces (such as the small alcoves in French churches), it gave the film the level of intimacy it needed.

No-one stopped them since they were such a small crew and the camera was a still camera (with video capabilities) everyone thought they were a married couple simply on vacation.

Screenwriter and actor Mark Polish explained the process.

“It was me, Mike and Stana, and that was it. We shot for 12 days, and the whole point was to capture this really intense intimacy between the two characters.”

Most of the team’s hotels and meals were comped by their contacts and friends; their only expenses were food and a few taxis, but Mark and Michael Polish don’t consider that part of the budget since those charges would have been incurred if they took a vacation instead.

Michael Polish, mark polish, the polish brothers, for lovers only Stana vatic, Canon 5D Mark II, no budget filmmaking
Making of For Lovers Only (Available on IFHTV).

Michael Polish said that their hotels and some meals were comped; they shot and edited with the equipment they already owned; and they don’t consider the few grand worths of meals, taxis and the like to be part of an actual budget.

“There was not one dime that came out of our pocket specifically for this movie — besides the food we ate, but we had to eat, anyway.”

Now what makes the filmmaking story really interesting is the film made of $500,000 through self-distribution. Yup, that’s right. How might you ask?

Using Social Media to SELL!

Michael Polish was extremely smart for casting Stana Katic not only for her amazing beauty and talent but she also had a huge fan base from her hit ABC television show Castle. At Michael Polish’s request, Stana tweeted out to her over 67,000 twitter followers that the film was available on iTunes and word spread very quickly.

Related: How to Make a Feature Film for $1000 with Mark Duplass

Michael Polish leveraged not only his and his brother’s own social networks and also Stana’s. Katic’s rabid Twitter and Facebook followings spread the word.

Then Michael Polish found that the film’s #hashtag was drawing over 1,000 tweets an hour, he drafted up posters using the Twitter raves in place of critics’ quotes. Those posters went viral on Twitter and Tumblr, and further helped create an amazing amount of iTune pre-sales.

I can’t express to you enough that they created this enter film completely in the DIY, no-budget filmmaking process. From shooting it to marketing and selling it. This is a model that should be studied by all indie filmmakers. Now you can find the film on all the usual suspects of VOD (Netflix, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon & Movies on Demand via FilmBuff). Since he and his brother own the film, they keep all the profit.

Michael Polish sat down with me for an amazing interview about his filmmaking life, Hollywood and what it means to be an artist.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 1:42
So today's episode, man I'm so so so excited for this episode you guys are getting to get so much info and knowledge off of my guest. His name is Michael Polish Michael Polish is one half of the Polish brothers who are known for making some amazing independent films and films like northfork with Nick nulty, James Woods, Ben Foster, Daryl Hannah and a bunch of other movies There's a wonderful movie Roger Ebert called it a masterpiece. And it is wonderful to watch and the story behind that movie is even more impressive than the movie itself. They came out swinging with their first film, Twin Falls, Idaho, which was a independent film about Siamese conjoined Siamese twins, which is not the easiest thing to get financed. And they'll tell us stories about that, followed by jackpot. Again, North Fork, and then many other films like Big Sur starring Kate Bosworth, among others, but one of the reasons I really wanted to bring him onto the show is not just to talk about all his early indie indie work, but the specific film that I really wanted to go into with him is his movie called for lovers only. This movie was shot on a basically a zero budget. It was shot basically with him as a director, his brother as one of the stars. And the other star was staying at Kate tech from castle fame with Nathan Fillion on ABC. And this movie was has was shot first and foremost on a DSLR back in 2011. So they were kind of the first if not the first, feature film shot on a DSLR. They shot the entire movie in Paris, France. And Michael goes in deep detail about what kind of gear he used, how he was able to get into like amazing locations and cafes and things like that in France, without a permit without anything like that. So it's guerilla filmmaking at its finest. But that's all wonderful. And there's a lot of great stories about filmmakers who make these small, independent movies. But the wonderful thing about this one is that he actually made money and not chump change, bind you real money, they've reportedly have grossed over half a million dollars on a basically no budget film shot on a DSLR. It's one of the few films that have been shot on the DSLR that has made a lot of money. To my knowledge, I might be wrong. I'm sure there are others out there. But this is the one that I heard of. So please, if anybody knows of any other DSLR movies that have been made that have gone out and made money, please let us know in the comments. They were one of the first independent films to actually leverage iTunes and they sold the majority of that of all their sales on iTunes. They didn't make any big festival premieres or anything like that. They just kind of guerrilla did completely So he tells us the whole story I really asked him a lot of detail questions about how he was able to make that movie, along with all this other amazing gems of information. He was so kind to, he spoke to me for almost over an hour and a half. And I was just kept grilling him about questions. So he was such a pleasure to speak to. And just so giving of his time and of his knowledge and experience, he's been making movies now for God over 20 years, I think at this point. So it's been pretty amazing what he's able to do so without any further ado, guys, please enjoy my conversation with Michael Polish. I'd like to welcome to the show, Michael Polish. Thank you so much for being on the show, man.

Michael Polish 5:42
Appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 5:44
So first question I'm going to ask you is how did you get that part in Hellraiser?

Michael Polish 5:49
Oh, man. You know, only only indie guru guys like yourself will ask that question. I've been asked that question maybe three times in my whole life. And guys that are very serious about cinephiles really understand. I, I was we were doing the movie Twin Falls, Idaho, we were actually researching makeup and how we were on those two, character two twins together. And Gary Tunnicliffe was the effects supervisor on that show. And in exchange for him helping us they asked us if we wanted to do a bit part in that Hellraiser. So sort of it was it was sort of a, you know, a trade. You know, and it was, it was great, because you got to meet Doug pinhead, and you've got to see how the movies are being made. And that's relatively low. We're low budget movies to that point.

Alex Ferrari 6:39
I was a sequel that was like, what the third sequel is? I'm like that was it? Yeah, it was Hellraiser bloodline. Right?

Michael Polish 6:43
Yeah. But my. And you, you got to see how long makeup sessions were in. And sort of how everybody got together to make something pretty, you know, pretty special in terms of you have a lot of people create, you know, do creating a movie that you don't necessarily get to see or hear about all the time.

Alex Ferrari 7:04
Right. And now when was that? That was what the 90s? Right?

Michael Polish 7:06
Yeah, that was the 90s. That was that was lesson three?

Alex Ferrari 7:11
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So let me ask you what made you want to become a filmmaker, you and your brother,

Michael Polish 7:16
I was. I was from, I was going to high school up in a small town suburbs of Sacramento. And I was fairly good at drawing. And I knew a lot, I was really obsessive about movies and watching movies. And from work. Remember, in the 70s. In the 80s, I saw just about everything that came out in the theaters. And I would see three or four movies a day, especially in air conditioning times, like the summer we'd probably watch for movies, and one, one complex. And then I didn't have the background in film, because there wasn't there was either super eight and seven, there were some 16 cameras around, but it's very difficult to get our hands in to get it all developed. So So what did I end up doing was applying to Cal Arts, which is just up in Santa Clarita with all my drawings and design work, and I and I was able to get into that school, right out of high school, and then get myself fluent in cameras and how it worked and how film works. So I didn't really get an education in filmmaking, but I was in an environment which had a lot of filmmakers in it.

Alex Ferrari 8:23
So you weren't on the track for because Cal Arts is kind of like a breeding ground for Disney is not

Michael Polish 8:30
yet true. And there are other bought other animation funding and a lot of their staff either worked for Disney or has connections to Disney. And it's a wonderful school for animation. It really isn't Pixar, when I was there was being born. And a lot of Pixar. A lot of Pixar, today's Pixar are the ones running the running Pixar on doing a lot of the films.

Alex Ferrari 8:51
They're very cool. So I first discovered you when I saw the film northfork many, many, many years ago what it's absolutely a gorgeous film, by the way. But when I did some research, I found out that the financing fell through a few days before Principal photography, is that true? Well, how did how did how in god's green earth did you get because that's not a simple little like a couple people in a room movie. That's a period it was a period of peace.

Michael Polish 9:16
Yeah, the sets are being built. And you find yourself you're you're find yourself when you're making a movie and financing false true that it's it's not that uncommon when you're a filmmaker. And that happens, you probably should figure out if you survive that you're going to be when a group of really good filmmakers that have had this happen to them. You're in pretty, you're pretty, you're pretty in a pretty good class when that happens. However, when we were we were up there for about four to four to six weeks, and every set was being built so we had money being spent, but the second, or the third round of money that is supposed to land never, never really landed. And so we stretched what we could into the first week of principle but By the second by the second week, we were just out of out of funds. And so we were having everybody's kind of scramble for money and we ended up borrowing money from, I ended up buying a couple hundreds of 1000s of dollars. That's an and in getting the movie finished, I just, we just got the movie in the can, it was new, we couldn't even get the post. And so what we ended up doing was borrowing that money coming flying back from Montana, cutting a teaser trailer that was a little bit longer and then started to show a very rough cut. And we showed it to Sony classics, which was the was the they released jackpot they released Twin Falls, Idaho, their first previous features, and Paramount classics was in Miramax and those those Paramount was having a really good run. And we went and showed Ruth fatale who was running at the time, and she put an offer on the minute the movie ended and, and actually paid exactly what the movie cost and then some and so we were able to finish the movie with without having that sort of stress of, of, you know, try to pay that person back. And and it was a remarkable time. And it was a remarkable time a very stressful time but but in the sense of making a movie that we actually want to see on the screen is it was intended that it was intended and for me is one of my favorite experiences regardless of financial.

Alex Ferrari 11:34
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, the for everybody who has not seen that movie. I mean, it has an insane cast with McNulty and James Wood. So I mean, it's like it's not only that you financing fall through on your independence, it was it was an independent film, right? Basically,

Michael Polish 11:49
It was I believe, we finished and then we got home for about 800 that I think we've paid about 800,000 at that point, and then we finished it for one, I would say roughly between one four and one seven, we ended up yeah. Yeah, no, no, no. To 30,000. To do Yeah, she doesn't just do we found it yesterday was released. And it's and you know, ironically, how I'm accepting the golden thumb award that Roger Ebert gives out post Roger Ebert next week, because it was one of his favorite movies. So yeah, and that, yeah, that was that was when we permitted at Sundance, we permitted at the big theater echoes and does it I don't know if there's 1000 people can fit in there. Maybe 1200. Yeah, and we, I remember, when you have to present it, and we come up, I came up after and it was dark, and the lights come on, and not a single person moved in. Oh, god, this is just it is. This is a disaster. And I'm just standing there No. And I see this big your walk in the middle of the front and back in the back in the theater, come up, walk up the stairs, and it was Roger Ebert. And he comes up on the podium. And just as we have breakfast with me in the morning, talk to us. It's a great episode. I was so shocked. And then then once he did that everybody started raising their hands.

Yeah. Yeah, he was. He's done that a couple times in my career. That's why I have a fairly good relationship with Him. And I've had a great relationship with him because he was he was such a film fan. And he also protected the people and helped usher people and filmmakers that, that he thought that needed other people to understand what they were doing. And he did that he would even tell you that if you missed the target, he thought a couple of movies submit the target, but he said I can't wait to see what you do next.

Alex Ferrari 14:10
That's a very impressive budget for that kind of period. Peace movie. I mean, even even back in the night with that, yeah, back in the night. 2000. So 2000s. So coming from an indie world because you definitely are, you know, definitely it's all up until astronaut farmer. You had never worked with a major studio. So what was that transition from complete control to do whatever you want to working with the studio? How was that experience?

Michael Polish 14:39
You know, we started with Warner independent, which was having fairly much a distributor on board to do that astronaut farmer as sort of a pseudo independent is especially in the early you know, in the mid 2000s, early 2000s, especially in the late 90s where studios were trying to land grab these before they were being made because they didn't want to get into these bidding wars, there was a few, many majors that were setting up and doing their own productions so they wouldn't have to go to Sundance or go out in the world and bid for these for these movies, because it was just getting very, very expensive for them, it'd be easier for them to make these ideas. So we went to mark Gill who came over from Miramax and he started wanting to order independent pictures on independent productions and it was called whip. And we knew Mark from the days when he wanted to do to Twin Falls, Idaho. And when we made it with weapon we did this movie it was more money that we've seen to make a movie, you know, we had to build a rocket and we wanted to do effects and luckily there was a studio executive way whose name was john Jimin, Jeff Robin off and Jeff was able to really usher in filmmakers and he was he was corralling a lot of early talent, like Christopher Nolan's and, and people like them, the Hughes brothers. And he found that me and me and Mark could probably do something special with the Astro farmer. So our relationship with with Jeff and Mark made that movie happened. And what was understanding with Jeff was, he said, basically, if you see me down in New Mexico, and you're feeling ever problem if you don't see me watch the movie when you get back. And yeah, and I found in recent years, I found Warner Brothers at that time, are really working with something that they're proud they really don't have. They don't have a lot of say they would, they don't have a lot of finger touching and figuring, you know, kind of the minutiae of everything. They want to see what you do. And if there's a problem, they're going to they're going to step in, at least that was my experience with Jeff. And I, and that was way easier than any independent ever made. And because you had you had the, you had the vision, they had the financing for it. And I think Jeff left a legacy at Warner Brothers to prove it. Prove that very, very, right. Yeah, it was jack. And when Jeff was with with Warner Brothers, it was it was a very special time because we saw a lot of, you know, we saw them work with spike Jones. And every, every he just knew how to curl this. This class that was coming in, I say it was about 9097 to 99. In 2000, he was getting these filmmakers to come to Warner Brothers. Yeah, yeah. I

Alex Ferrari 17:41
know, for world, it's a different world than that than 97.

Michael Polish 17:45
Different it's a real different time and their idea of, of not being so eclectic. Right, exactly,

Alex Ferrari 17:53
is what we're saying. And it's, it's a shame because I mean, I grew up we're both similar vintages. So we both kind of grew up around the same time period. So I remember when Disney and Warner's they would put out a $10 million movie or a $15 million movie. And, you know, and those comedies like downtown Beverly Hills back in the 80s. Like what about Bob and those kind of movies and they just don't exist anymore. There's just like, either it's, it's, it's under 5 million, or 100. It's like rare to see anything else?

Michael Polish 18:26
Yeah, they, they really put that Vegas mentality of betting, betting big all the time. You know, that nickel, the nickel and dime a business they just got away from which, you know, it's understandable when you're running a corporation, but it's not understandable when you're a filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 18:41
Right? Exactly. And I think, you know, I think Batman vs. Superman is probably one of those examples right now that they've bet the farm on it. And they're, they'll do okay, at the end of the day, but I don't think it's what they expected it to be. It's not paying off. It's not paying off exactly the way and what Spielberg said, you know, the implosion of the Hollywood system, like, you know, if a studio can only do Imagine if Batman or Superman made, you know, $100 million, like it would cripple it could cripple a company could it could shut down a studio, and he says a few more of those happen. And it will I think it will happen. Do you agree? I mean, at one point or another, someone's going to make enough mistakes that you know, it's gonna

Michael Polish 19:19
I would have, I've always said when when was $100 million? Something that was a bad thing.

Alex Ferrari 19:27
Like, they would be extremely upset if 100 million if you made 100 million?

Michael Polish 19:32
Yes. When was when was $100 million? It failed, right? Well, when it costs 400. And that and then you have to look at the people that are doing the finger pointing that goes back to the person that's spending the spending the money that you know, having, you know, having said that, you look, you you look at some of the films that do require a lot of money to make, like the Martian. That was was spectacular look at and it was it felt like we were you know it felt like that experience of travel and even the movies like Lawrence of Arabia just thought you were there

Alex Ferrari 20:08
I mean Blade Runner Blade Runner to I don't want for $5 million. I want I want $150 million in that movie you know without and you know and let Ridley do what he does. You know that's

Michael Polish 20:20
yeah and you I mean he looked at Fury Road and you see every every penny on the screen and and more so because it pays forward in a way that is an experience that all the Mad Max films did. They gave you a world and they gave you made you pay attention to another world.

Alex Ferrari 20:40
Absolutely. And that's a fairy. It should be called Furiosa. Yeah, yeah. Max says like five words the whole Yeah. But the thing that's most amazing to me about that specific movie now we're just geeking out for a second but the thing that's the most amazing about Mad Max is that this whole younger generation had no idea that I think what a 70 year old plus director made that and he is his hip and visually stimulating as any younger director out there if not more so.

Michael Polish 21:09
I believe I believe it later. He's you know that's those are the films that got me into filmmaking was the ad Max, the original that was coming out of Australia. I watched what HBO just was a brand new home box office channel and there was two of them. I think it was no there's three it was Showtime, Cinemax, Cinemax, and HBO. And they showed Mad Max probably six times a day. I watched it. And then

Alex Ferrari 21:37
the other times they were playing Terminator. And yeah.

Michael Polish 21:41
Yeah, they ended up and what was fascinating was, how much I learned, you know, it was basically a no man with no name situation going into this world, which is very surgically only. And that's, I would have to say, you know, and then I watched the curve, I really watched the group of Mel Gibson and what he was doing because he ended up turning out to be a wonderful filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 22:05
I mean, Braveheart and, and even the other one he did right after

Michael Polish 22:09
Apocalypto

Alex Ferrari 22:10
is no, that's the one.

Michael Polish 22:12
Oh, Apocalypto is a feast it is

Alex Ferrari 22:15
a visual feast that movie and a wonderful wonderful wonderful stuff. So so it was an ask you you've worked with some legendary actors. What advice would you have for directors when they are working with very seasoned actors?

Michael Polish 22:32
Listen they've been there they've least listened to their stories of they've either been in the shot you want to do or know the shot you want to do you have acted in the movie like and so you're able to gain a lot of knowledge before you pull the trigger with these guys and or girls these these actors are all well seasoned that I've worked with before and I continue to work with a lot of even young talented actors that mean you treat in this that you everybody treated shows them while you listen to what's going on and then you're able to direct because if you start just shooting around just gonna just make a bunch of you're just gonna make a bunch of holes you know dealing with Nick naughty on in James was extremely two different types of actors extremely two different types of personalities. But yet they both have an incredible presence on screen and are able to demand your attention and if they trust you and what you're doing to walk in it's it's a walk in the park

Alex Ferrari 23:34
it's only a difficult thing when they don't trust you.

Michael Polish 23:37
Yeah, if an actor doesn't trust you in any level you're gonna have a hard time

Alex Ferrari 23:41
exactly and the more seasoned I think probably more difficult the situation might be

Michael Polish 23:47
because they've seen you know they've they've seen it all you know with with most filmmakers The first thing you hear with these younger filmmakers or people that are just trying out they usually say I want to I want to do something that's never been seen before I want to do something has never been seen before. Or I want to put the camera here because there's no cameras probably put in every single hole and every mouth and every year and every building and skyscraper there's every shots been made so do the shot that's going to tell the story correctly.

Alex Ferrari 24:17
Absolutely. Well I was gonna ask you like on the first day of set is there anything you do special when you walk on and like because I mean I know every every movie is a new adventure. So is there a thing you do a ritual because I know Coppola. I've read somewhere that he does like some sort of like a bonding experience with the whole crew and does a whole they eats meat he makes a meal for everybody and stuff like that. Is there something that you do specifically to kind of get this whole adventure off and running

Michael Polish 24:46
there's nothing specifically I've done because I've known a lot of these a lot of my crews since we were coming out of Cal Arts. With the actors I what I try and do is keep it fairly light and not in don't think I'm going to paint this very Heavy with them the very first day is just to show them that they're in really good hands. And I might think of maybe coming with a prayer next time?

Alex Ferrari 25:08
Well, I think I mean, is there any advice about making of an actor feel safe? Because I know that's a big thing with actors, they want to make sure they are in good hands, is there something that any advice you can give directors to kind of give that energy out?

Michael Polish 25:24
I always, you know, I think every director has a special way of communicating with their actors. And some are very, some some directors or actors, and some, they can express and I think if you can articulate exactly what you want in a meaningful manner, then that they can really get what you're saying, and not get too metaphorical with them. in certain ways, I tend to let the first take first or second take be what they what they want to see or what they feel their initial because they've been practicing on their own, or they've had rehearsals, they've come in with their whole, you know, their whole, their whole deck of cards that are going to show you and what your job Your job is to do is render down to see what hands you like, and, and that's speaking in metaphorical terms, what you don't want to do. It's just, you know, I always I always find other ways to explain how to, to communicate. And sometimes you have to use different ways of communication or different methods. But most of the time, I like to see the actor performing. And I trust what they're going to do, because that's, that's their job, and they're really good at it. And they're going to, they're going to try and make the best decisions they can make at the moment when you're filming.

Alex Ferrari 26:41
Now do well, let me ask you a question. They say never to work with family. But But not only do you work with your brother, but you also work with your wife. Right? How do you make working with both of them work?

Michael Polish 26:57
Trust, there's a big trust factor that we're in, we're in this business, business is family and we fall in love with the business and, and in the, in the interpretation when we create, we trust each other that we have chose best interest when they're performing or when we're writing or when we're directing. You want to you want to make sure that that we're all on the same page. And it's a shorthand when you have family that doesn't mean that there is not going to be conflict I find I find less conflict with my wife just because I have to

Alex Ferrari 27:37
go politics I'm married to my friend it's all politics.

Michael Polish 27:39
I have to I had to define the mascot because you

Alex Ferrari 27:44
don't go home and lie down next to your brother at night. Yeah.

Michael Polish 27:47
Yeah, I'm not I've only been tied to him once. Yeah, I was actually tied in once and you know, through the years we haven't done a lot of projects together in the past five years just because our careers took different shapes and shadows and colors. And so I work mainly more with with Kate now, just because I'm finding that you know, I've always loved the leading ladies, I've always loved women that can do leading roles. And I'm really fascinated just like Hitchcock was and all the other human Fincher and all these. You find that if I you know if I want to go down that route with with Kate, I find it really, really educational for me,

Alex Ferrari 28:33
right? I mean, she's a wonderful, wonderful actress. I mean, and then you have earn, what was funny that you have when you were shooting Big Sur? Yeah, I was. And I don't I couldn't believe this. But I literally was driving up the coast. And I saw the film crew on the side by the beach. I'm not I'm not kidding you. Cuz I mean, I mean, I live in LA so I always see film crews everywhere. But we were driving through Big Sur we were going all the way up to Napa Valley for a little vacation, a baby moon with my wife before our kids or my twins were born. And and we look I look over and I'm like, Oh look, there's a film crew. And I'm like, it's not like a little film crew. There's, it's a real film crew. And I was like, I wonder what movies being shot up here. So I later looked it up. I'm like, Oh, it's called Big Sir Michael polish.

Michael Polish 29:22
We were up on the road. We were probably doing some of those scenes where they were driving up and down. Because we were you got us on the day. This bright three days. We were actually on highway. One. We were in Big Sur for weeks. We were out we were down in the canyon for weeks. But being on the road, maybe three days,

Alex Ferrari 29:40
right. I saw I thought the cameras like Well yeah, I think they were I think maybe getting some ocean shots or

Michael Polish 29:45
Yeah, we were praying near Bixby bridge.

Alex Ferrari 29:49
Yeah, it was. It's just it's just ironic. It's funny.

Michael Polish 29:54
Right? I should have stopped by I wish I could. I wish I could

Alex Ferrari 29:57
have uh, we were on our trip to Napa and last thing My wife was gonna go like I don't want to go to another set right now I

Michael Polish 30:04
don't want to go another set essentially are set because we were really living like beings at that point

Alex Ferrari 30:12
so one of my favorite films you've done is for lovers only. I absolutely love that movie and it gave indie filmmakers hope that anyone with a good story and a camera can make an amazing film.

Michael Polish 30:24
So that was a that was a that was a very very fun movie to make

Alex Ferrari 30:28
I mean so it can you please fill in the fill the audience in on how the film came to be and the unique process in which you shot it. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Michael Polish 30:47
But the Mark and I were talking we were we were doing movies back to back with fairly big budgets and it was I think it was 2009 when economically films were being funded the way they were used to independence are usually funded from outside the studio space and you're finding fund film funds are drying up we wanted to you know we already aligned ourselves with a couple studios and we are writing screenplays at the moment but we weren't making anything and we always had this idea to do a black and white movie or just a French New Wave Titan cinematic experience was which was sort of our tour we are we travel a lot through Europe for all of our movies and we thought maybe France would be great to shoot in and he said well we have this idea I said let's not spend a lot of time trying to make something spectacular because we're not going to have a huge budget if we all shoot it all shoot it and I'll direct it and we'll make it a two hander you and we'll find another girl so we had this story he had an idea of a story of having a love of current Paris and I said well let me get you continue writing all go to Paris and I'll be there for four weeks and I'll scoop it all out and I'll get all of the fine locations so as a sort of a tandem act going on he was here in LA writing and I was in in Paris looking at stuff and I had the Canon five D was fairly new and it was being having the video component component on it was doing doing the work that most people were shooting small commercials on or you were looking you were just seeing the birth of this DSLR right that's yeah that's gonna happen what I found was if you were using cinema lenses they're a little too big and they weren't mount they were having to do another mount and I didn't I really didn't feel like carrying on those type of lenses so I went in and found these Zeiss lenses that were had the nice focus pool but they were smaller likes very short lenses and I was looking at a 15 millimeter and and I went to when I went to Paris I was going you know this deal they look great but there's something not quite right about it. And when I turned it to black and white the grays were very light and milky and and I go well if this is the way it's going to look I'm just going to try and figure this out. So I remember driving around Paris and stacking filters like threes and threes and sixes and nines on these I was just making the most dense image I could make and black and white I was going back to my hotel room and playing this back I go wow we're starting to get to a real black and like it very easy black and white. And I think we're gonna get somewhere in and um and so I called up Mark and I said I'm ready. I'm gonna send you a clip of Paris with a shot and you just tell me what you think. And he said, okay, he watched it he goes okay, I'll be over there next week. And he said yeah, but we need a girl on Star Academy who is on castle came in and we spoke to her and she was I get off those show in like two weeks and I'll come over and that's basically how that was done. We didn't tell him Mark gave her the script on the plane.

Alex Ferrari 34:15
How did you pitch her he said How did you pitch indigenous? No Are

Michael Polish 34:19
we she was at the same agency we were at

Alex Ferrari 34:23
are we we were but how did you did you know or did you reach out to her? I forget what agency we're at. We're at the same

Michael Polish 34:29
same agency they will give us a list of actresses that will wouldn't be willing to actually actually was they're not going to read the script you're going to go to Paris with the Polish brothers and that's it basically that's what's really it's about so whoever walked in whoever walked in whoever walked in that room was really really brave and she was one of them that said I choose so many moving northward and I would do you guys want I'm just gonna get you know I'm gonna she's very polite and very genuine about it. And and when Mark and Her got on the plane he handed her the script and I'm I was already in Paris and so when they landed with the minute they landed we started rolling and we did it. I shot the film and we were at night we were doing which they ended up naming it which we didn't have an idea was you just download we just download

Alex Ferrari 35:22
it. Download it right? Yeah, you weren't. We weren't

Michael Polish 35:25
in here we were just we were just I was downloading at night giving my SD cards arrest walking around Paris and we ended up circling the whole country of France we ended up going to send Michelle all the way down to what you do in the morning call her when can and nice and and we did all that within we did think we did it in 12 days.

Alex Ferrari 35:48
Jesus that's a hell of a hell of a beatnik pay.

Michael Polish 35:51
Yeah, it was it was a heck of a ride because we had motorcycles and cars and it was just me and Mark it's Donna. The majority of the time when we were driving around and then I had an assistant named Sean O'Grady who was carrying basically carrying a backpack and and the sound equipment

Alex Ferrari 36:10
Yeah, I was gonna ask you this with as far as sound is concerned, did you did you patch it directly into the camera or did you record it on a location recorder

Michael Polish 36:18
both depending on the environment I did just pretty much a scratch track onto the camera as much as possible because I knew even though it was tinny and the highs and lows are not so good there was a medium range that if they didn't get excited, we were able to get some some pretty nice dialogue that we could work with. I would say the film The film ultimately suffered with with some sound but then it also gave it a feel about authenticity. You know, it wasn't it wasn't great, I would say now if we're if we were to do that again I would just do a to system you know all the way around and just have it have somebody who was mixing them mixing the sound as we were going along but then it but then again I wouldn't say that would preclude anybody that's listening not to go do it and put it on your camera

Alex Ferrari 37:07
right it just it yes go especially with the whole mumble core and that that whole generation of filmmakers that just come out and just like let's just go shoot something Yeah. Now did you with in did you do audio post production at all?

Michael Polish 37:22
Yeah, we did it with a friend of mine that was that was his dad did northfork and Ascot farmer and did Big Sur do a lot of my recent movies and he was able to take the tracks and clean them up on his own time because we weren't we weren't paying anybody so he was he would take the tracks and spend time cleaning them up and he would do his passes on it and he also got some students to help with him to do it that we're learning sound at the same time and yeah, and you know we had a composers name was qubee whose name is kool aid you know, I went to Cal Arts with them and he did some work on with films before so he was able to bring in really classical classically trained musicians to put down tracks in his in his house so he could double up a cello he could do trumpet and I found that to be whenever when all the other crew members and all the other special positions that we're doing on the real talented people they pull they pull good I did which is what their people you know and that and I feel that that's that's a collective and it's also it works when when you're filming people that are going to do what you do what you can review

Alex Ferrari 38:31
what was the equipment just listed off like the lenses the camera the tripod?

Michael Polish 38:37
By took my tripod genius I needed Boba Fett

Alex Ferrari 38:42
you were Star Wars fan then.

Michael Polish 38:44
Yeah, it was just so it this thing was tough. And it was like a kubaton it was like a stealth It was a monopod that I used to do the whole movie but at the bottom of the Mondo pad. It had a chicken foot, you know it had three, three prongs on it. But mainly it could stand there by itself and you wouldn't see it as a traditional tripod. And so you could take the chicken foot off and keep it as a monopod. And this thing was a savior I still I shot with it this last week and I was I was in Hawaii and I was shooting some some surfing stuff and I think it's had its day I kind of might have to put it to rest.

Alex Ferrari 39:22
I retire it put it in the office,

Michael Polish 39:24
I would say Boba Fett was my thing. And I kept me as a cane and kept me going through things and and i i had two bodies that to camera I had to five DS but mainly I would say 90% of that movie was shot on Zeiss 50 millimeter lens. very wide and it could go in you could tuck it up pretty close. I did have an 85 which was probably stone as close ups and mark over the shoulders and similar stuff from Marcus Donna was 85 it was as close as I got with an 85 And then the 50 was basically at 550 that resides that I carried around basically,

Alex Ferrari 40:06
but they were photo lenses or they were cinema lenses. They were

Michael Polish 40:09
photo lenses, but they but Zeiss made these cinema lenses but they weren't those huge suckers that were thinking now they were. I mean, they've looked, what's the difference is is that they have focal points focal marks. So you're able to actually see when you pull.

Alex Ferrari 40:28
Oh, yes. So the focus is on the side down on the top. Yeah, like photography, it's in, you can see them,

Michael Polish 40:34
but they look exactly like agafay lenses and, and so we ended up doing that, and that was a lot that was that was basically one photo backpack that was a backpack that carry my, it was small, but the length probably about 24 inches tall, maybe less. And I put everything my clothes, everything. And then when I carried that around. For 12 days, I was back on a plane on the 13th day. I mean, I was already there for four weeks scouting it out. But it what was nice about being in France was going into cafes and shooting scenes. I

Alex Ferrari 41:16
was gonna ask you like what's like some of the ridiculous locations you got? Because you were just in them. You just look like a couple, you know?

Michael Polish 41:22
Yeah. It was I always said, I always said I was falling around for their wedding video, if anyone asked. Yeah, I would say they're getting married. And we're doing this video because a lot of relatives can't come to France. So

Alex Ferrari 41:34
that's how you stole locations. I love it.

Michael Polish 41:37
But, but because at that time, that camera wasn't even flagged for having a video or component and would take your degrees enough to shoot a movie on that thing.

Alex Ferrari 41:50
Like no one knew no one knew you were under the React.

Michael Polish 41:54
You know, I still believe that the five D gets away with a lot more stuff, too. I mean, you could probably still pull a few levers off the same way. Yeah, just yeah. And then the sensitivity to that camera as opposed to video cameras. two different worlds to deal with the common person that sees what we're doing. So basically, it was it was it was to answer your question. efficiently is, it was two bodies. two lenses. backpack and a tripod. Yeah, the monopod

Alex Ferrari 42:32
No, yeah. Oh, yeah. Cuz it looks like it's like just still camera.

Michael Polish 42:36
Yeah, we had Forgive me because I don't have the name of it. But it's the cross. You know, it's the it's the, it's the mic. It's a book that has the tube didn't matter people gonna say they're gonna say God damn as dumb as like, you know, talking about is like, the fact is, I know what I know what I see. I don't know the words on the on the machine

Alex Ferrari 42:59
then as far as audio is concerned. You had I saw a picture that you had a mic plugged into the

Michael Polish 43:06
that was the recorder that we were we were doing it on these. They were actually the small SD SD cards that were putting sound

Alex Ferrari 43:14
recording on the SD card.

Michael Polish 43:17
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:18
You guys are really just, you mean just threw caution to the wind on this one.

Michael Polish 43:24
Yo, yo, yeah. Yeah, it

Alex Ferrari 43:27
must have been an adventure and a half.

Michael Polish 43:30
Yeah, brilliant when it's really done as in the theater. But before that, you're just you're building the roller coaster.

Alex Ferrari 43:36
Now with the screenplay was a lot of it. Was it all written out? Or was there a bunch of improv during that process?

Michael Polish 43:42
Say 75% of the 70 to 75% of screenplay was written, okay. The other 25% was, you know, like, when they're like putting on makeup in that hotel, or they're going out to drink a party, like going into other people's rooms and exit. That was all that was done on site. And then

Alex Ferrari 44:02
you just found it in the Edit.

Michael Polish 44:04
Yeah, we found in the Edit we, we were, we had a lot of footage like them hanging out. We'd be in hotel rooms waiting to go downstairs to do a scene and they'd be sitting in the bathtub or they would be looking at the view or just hanging out. We basically follow two people in love around Europe. I mean, we around France, and we were able to they were so in tune to what they were doing it they were on vacation, and I was just documenting it.

Alex Ferrari 44:34
Yeah, they seem to have an insane amount of chemistry. Yeah. No, it was wonderful to see.

Michael Polish 44:41
They didn't. They didn't understand that there was a camera and following and

Alex Ferrari 44:46
they were just there. They were just enjoying it. When I watched the movie, it's almost surreal. The whole process, the whole imagery, the the whole everything the the way that the almost I want to use the word ghostly, With surreal, dreamlike, they're like very, very dreamlike in the sense of the way it was percept that like the way it was shot and just the energy of it. I feel not to compare the movies but Eyes Wide Shut. How has that dream like surreal vibe. They're very different movies. But that I just said was the only film that came to me. Now with you did this amazing production you you push the envelope you were like the first feature to ever be made on a five D or one of the first?

Michael Polish 45:33
Yeah, one of the first I'd say we're in, we're in that we're in that discussion of being present based It was released as one of the first

Alex Ferrari 45:42
which was brings me to my next question. You are one of the first independent films that I know of to take full advantage of the VOD and digital distribution platform. Was that part of your plan? Was there a plan?

Michael Polish 45:55
Well, there was a, there was a plan that we wanted to make a movie without restrictions, meaning, we didn't feel like we had to go sell this movie at the end of the day or go have distributor meetings. Although that would, that would be great, too. I mean, we all intend to make our movies to be on the screen and we all compositions are to be on the big screen. However, when we thought of doing this, this five deep movie, we thought, you know, we can make something intimate that you could just watch it on your iPad. And you could be anywhere and it could we could just fly it out to wherever you're at. So this movie would have a small run anyways, maybe a 510 city theater and nobody would see it. So why don't we just make a deal with an iTunes or a VOD and zap it out to everybody?

Alex Ferrari 46:40
And this was 2011. Yeah, it was.

Michael Polish 46:45
I think it was 2009 when it came out, right? Yeah, but we didn't do that the deal was done in 2010.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
Right? So 2010 and 2016. For VOD online is still it was a very different world, not nearly as many options. But iTunes was around and iTunes was just starting to kind of ramp up.

Michael Polish 47:04
Yeah. Yeah. It had, yeah, didn't have a lot of on their catalogue. But they were showing, I think things that were associated with Apple, or maybe things or shows associated with Disney, that everything was going digital. They were they were we gave them the specs. And they took that they took the movie. And it was it was nice, because we got invaded by all the fans that heard about the movie,

Alex Ferrari 47:31
right? So how did that whole work like how did you how did you get the word out on the film? Like how did you mark it? Stannah had

Michael Polish 47:36
a really big following in, in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, there was some festivals being played. And so we sent the film to a Polish festival and a couple of them forget the other festivals, and we didn't even show up. But I believe Donna went to one of them. And it was the reverse effect. Worried was coming out of Europe that this French New Wave was coming to the United States, starring her. So all her fans built this huge, huge following for the film. So when it opened here, people heard about it already.

Alex Ferrari 48:12
Wow. So was the reverse marketing campaign

Michael Polish 48:15
first marketing without truly knowing and audience that she had wanted to see her do a feature monitor to see her in this feature film.

Alex Ferrari 48:23
I'm a big fan of Stan. I mean, I love it. We watched all the episodes of castle a big fan of she's, she's a lot of fun to work with. Yeah, she's she's a lot of a lot of fun. And so you basically we're doing something that a lot of people talk about today, including myself is trying to leverage social media and leverage fan bases of your actors to help sell your independent movie. Right?

Michael Polish 48:47
And, yeah, it's social media. And how many followers do you

Alex Ferrari 48:50
exactly that's like this is it's not like, what are your credits? Like? What's your following? Yeah, how many? How many Twitter followers you have any Facebook followers? How many?

Michael Polish 48:59
I just tell you right now, I could not open a movie with my followers. Even I couldn't make a movie with my vault.

Alex Ferrari 49:06
Well, I'll help you with that if you'd like sir. Yeah.

Michael Polish 49:09
Great. You're doing pretty dang good.

Alex Ferrari 49:11
I appreciate it. Man. I appreciate it. I've been in the field. hustles been around for about seven months. So we've been I work good hard.

Michael Polish 49:21
You hustle.

Alex Ferrari 49:22
I hustle, no question about it. And for people that and for everyone who doesn't know I literally just tweeted Michael on Twitter a couple days ago. Yeah, you'd had and he's like, yeah, I can do the hustle. Sure. Yeah. And a couple days later, it's the fastest turnaround for an interview I've ever had.

Michael Polish 49:40
Well, you know, I've been, I've been where most of these listeners have been, and hopefully they all get to go through the journey that I've been through as an independent filmmaker. I still consider myself a film, you know, indie guy all the way through but I never ever do not say I don't have the time to help or at least help somebody that Some advice in that situation in that situation because you get some good mentors in this in this industry and you get a lot of good advice and you get a lot of bad advice at the same time and you know getting down and doing your burn Bare Knuckle filmmaking is basically how to get it down.

Alex Ferrari 50:17
Thank you and thank you for that. I know the I know the indie film hustle tribe really appreciates it Now one other question this is a more of a of a tech as an actor technical question. With with four lovers for lovers only since you basically were experimental as far as a SAG is sag contracts concern How did that work when you actually started making money?

Michael Polish 50:39
Oh,

Alex Ferrari 50:39
I'm sure that was a conversation that

Michael Polish 50:42
was occurring it's still a conversation it's a commerce it's a conversation with any union I DGA I won't say that they fired me but in any any it's a tough when you're dealing with union because I'm in line with all three of them and so you you can't you know what I'm going to what I would like to say is not really what I'm going to say but of course I will say something about the DGA they weren't very kind for me going out and making that movie.

Alex Ferrari 51:11
I've heard that about the DGA. They have wonderful benefits, and they're very strong Union for directors. But I mean, that's why Robert Rodriguez left that's why the Tarantino and Lucas aren't part of it, you know, but it's interesting that they're there to help directors but when directors go off and do something like this, like they they don't allow it or but I think now they're a little bit different. I think they're they're kind of like that ultra low budget. Yeah, like sag does now I think the DJ finally caught up to that, am I right? That are

Michael Polish 51:42
they, they caught up with it, it's, I feel it's still a slippery slope with unions. Because you know, every filmmaker has a right to go create whatever they want. And if it's not in the parameters, or in their guidelines, they're going to they're going to make a fuss and and you know, the union is good when it comes to benefits and taking care of zoo animals and stuff. Yeah, in your in your personal side of your living and what your whatnot. But in terms of professional professionally, they haven't seemed to have the, they're not built for renegades or any Mavericks or any of anybody is trying to do something that hasn't been done before. They're not built for that. Right. Now the status quo. Yeah, it's a traditionalism that I understand. Because it's romantic. And it's great to keep making, you know, 1020 $30 million movies back to back but that's not the way the world works and, and they have to adapt to filmmakers that go this Guess what, I'm gonna make a movie for 10 grand. And I'll make one for 100 grand, I'll make one for you. It's about the filmmakers work at the end of the day, and how they're going to provide for them or their family and actually get better because they have to get better at their craft. And sometimes getting a $10 million film school isn't going to work.

Alex Ferrari 52:52
So so then that conversation would sag and stuff like because I'm asking for my own now asking selfishly because I'm doing low budget films as well. And that whole sag ultra low budget you know, we're experimental and things like that I guess that's to a certain point. And then after money starts coming in, then the quest there's the conversation to be had basically correct.

Michael Polish 53:11
Yeah. And, you know, the strange The strange thing about that conversation is studios have been making money a long time and they're not they don't seem to be going to find them for anything. And everybody's there you know, studios being sued left and right surely just being for money they said has been made and they can't find where they've put in they said they've lost and some of the biggest movies you've ever seen are in the red still. And but yet you have the unions coming after the smaller people saying well, if you make money we want to see it it's a it's a as I say it's a it's a hard it's a hard conversation to have with the union that is actually looking for for money. And when you do make the money so happy you made the money, you've probably already spent it.

Alex Ferrari 53:59
And they're like, Where's our money? Iraq? I don't know. I don't know what you're talking about.

Michael Polish 54:04
Would you say we all filmmaker say it's called back pay?

Alex Ferrari 54:07
It's exactly, exactly. So um, you wrote a book, the declaration of independent filmmaking, which I had no idea about until I started doing research. I already it's on order and coming to me, so I can't wait to read it. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Michael Polish 54:23
Yeah, the book was written we were being approached. Because before you and a few other of your, of your contemporaries that do podcasts and other people and do this, this type of you know actually goodwill work. It's a lot of goodwill work. You had books that were coming out like Robert Rodriguez, you know, El Mariachi and in the making of how to make I remember the big book was how to make a $7,000 movie. Yeah, how to make or how to make a movie on use card price. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 54:53
yes, yes, Mr. Schmidt.

Michael Polish 54:55
I knew it see these things. But what You know, besides Robert and a few other you saw a lot of filmmaking manuals that were people that either made one movie or their professors in school, they were making, there wasn't a lot of I wasn't gonna do after my first movie because I didn't know if I was going to be able to the second one, the third one after northfork in that experience about that we have enough under our belt that we could help other filmmakers not we're actually not do some of the things that we did and actually improve the situation if they were able to understand what we were at. And also to say, we've had success three times in a row, but that doesn't mean we're we're more wealthy or richer, we what we do have is knowledge. And in those, that book is accumulation leads all the way up to astronaut farmer. It stops before we start making National Farmers. So you see Twin Falls, Idaho, how's that made and jackpot being the first digital movie because we're using Lucas's cameras that he was developing with Sony. And, and then we did northfork, which was the biggest of all three, but each of them were distributed, and we're out. And at that time was seen as a success. All three films are seen as somewhat of a success, but also they were made under all three different conditions. One was 400,001. One was 100,000. And the other one was at the end was 1,000,000.7. So you saw a different range of all types of budgets, and

Alex Ferrari 56:26
you could talk you could talk intelligently about all three experiences, and you had a range of experience talk about

Michael Polish 56:33
Yeah, and with actors, it started out with two unknown, completely unknown people, which were me and my brother doing Twin Falls getting in the jackpot and using a lot of working actors for that were really known just with the actors, which was john Grice. And, and even though beziehen Warren was, is was there, there was also Patrick Boucher, who was doing it, he was he was doing guileless show, he was on TV, but he was a fresh new wave actor, he was great. And so we were able to Garrett Morris who was from SNL, so we started to graduate into getting a lot of great actors great actors but not what we would call ones that were going to finance your movie which and then when we got into doing northfork we ended up working with idols that we saw on once upon a time in America and in seeing McNulty and James Woods so it was a you're able to see that we started by putting ourselves in a movie then you could graduate cast other people and then it was able to get your nor some very notoriety you know some big names and those I think those three movies I believe we're able to show in every different situation every situation most people are in even if they are now what is it like to do a movie when nobody knows you would like to do your second movie when you've had success you know it really as a combination of our career wrapped up in a few years with those those three movies and and you think it's difficult to make your first one it's harder to make your second one and then your fifth one you never think you're going to ever make a movie again. It's It's, it's, it's a it's a constant mental game also that I have to understand that. Don't if you write a screenplay and you hold on to it too long, you say this is my favorite movie. I've always gonna make it he doesn't get major you might be 10 years down the road has not been made. Best thing you can do is write another screenplay and another screenplay. And keep crafting that because one day one's going to hit you say, dang, I have a whole locker full of scripts.

Alex Ferrari 58:36
As opposed to just having one which is a big mistake a lot of filmmakers make

Michael Polish 58:40
Yeah, yeah, I've seen that. I mean, there's still filmmakers today when I started out in the 90s still have that are still humping that first screenplay. Oh, Jesus.

Alex Ferrari 58:47
Now, how did you like I had a question about Twin Falls, Idaho. How much was

Michael Polish 58:52
the budget for that? Just under 500,000. How did

Alex Ferrari 58:56
you get financing for your first movie of a half a million dollars with no. Did you have you? Did you have anything before? like did you shoot I mean, I

Michael Polish 59:04
I was shoot. Yeah, I had, I had a few shorts. I had a few shorts. I had a couple I would say music videos, because that was happening. And I did one really nice sync sound short that I cut and went around and festivals. And that was probably, I would say a calling card for people to say that I could direct a narrative. But But what's tricky about doing shorts and I don't know if it's still the same as today. But back when everybody's making shorts. It wasn't very much a graduation ticket to make a feature because they would say, Well, we know you can make a short. You're gonna make another short or you make a feature. And the short doesn't tell anybody you can make a feature. It just says you're capable of doing something in a short period of time and if you'd like it, then And so if so I felt that we fought we fell on trumpet that shirt because I would take it around and show it at the DGA. I show it to other people think oh, this is really great. What are you doing next I said why I was screenplay. And it was actually northfork was the very first screenplay we ever wrote. And they looked at that and they go, you're nuts. You're nuts. If you want to make movies big, it's in Montana. It's on the High Plains. And, I mean, you're looking at Heaven's Gate right now.

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You're looking at the second biggest disaster movie, if we give you money for this for this. And so we wrote 24 zero. And we know what that's going to be too big in North American Beauty. But let's do something we could actually just get behind. We can be in it, we can actually do it for 1000s of dollars. We have the crew, we have the person making the suit, we could actually pull it off that movie for $25,000. We could have pulled that movie out for that much. And we were getting ready to do it. We were three months out. And our motto was this not set a budget, let's set a time. And it was around Christmas. And I said, we're gonna give our six months to finance this movie if we don't have finance, but at least the costume movie belt locations will be found. I'll get we're shooting a film. So I said, I'll get Kansas short. And so I made all my relationships with division. I made everything with Fuji and I had everything set and I said June 1, we're going to shoot this in LA. And so we were going ahead and doing it for just whatever we can scrape together. Three, eight weeks, eight weeks before we started to shoot. A financer who was coming out of Seattle was coming down and financing small movies and one of the ladies named Rena Ronson. Now she's a she's an agent over at whim. Now she's not worried. She started at William Morris. she, her and Cassie nowadays are putting movies together. She said, you I want you to meet this. I want you to meet this investor, because she's coming out. Yeah, she's only here for a couple of days. And they're doing small, small movies. And I think she respond to it. And so one evening we drove down is right across the street from under the tarp, the bread tar pits, which is so ironic, because you could feel like that's where your career is at at that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:34
I've been there. I know.

Michael Polish 1:02:35
It smells like it doesn't smell very good. And my we probably didn't smell very good. Yes. Can we blend it in really well. So we went into this meeting, and the lady read the screenplay and said, I want to let you guys know something. I have. I think she said I had twins. I have twin sisters. Oh, I understand what this is about. And I've been happily like to make this movie for you. Do you have a budget? I choose? Can you do it for a price? Because I'm because I'm going to? I'm going to warn it like, I'm never gonna see this money again. Because it's crazy to do a movie. Yeah, it's just nuts. And nobody knows who you guys are in. And nobody's gonna want to be in this movie if you even know somebody. So it just had everything work. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:18
Very much on paper. Yeah. Um,

Michael Polish 1:03:21
so I was when we said we do it for the low budget agreement, which was 500. And under. She said, you can get it for that agreement. That's, that's 50 times more than the money I'm doing right now. So we'll figure this out. And within six weeks, we were shooting

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
it. Wow. That's that's pretty amazing, actually. Right? Every time.

Michael Polish 1:03:46
But my my advice to filmmakers is, continue, like you're just gonna make it and do it. Because when the money comes, you're ready to go already. You're not waiting for money, then you're starting up and saying, Well, I'm not sure. Get your budget on for what you think you can do for and understand that you might lock in bigger financing, but see what you can do afford, get your scheduling down. Get the people that want that you can get for your moving the timing, because you're going to have to if you want to make it you're going to have to make it you got to make something or you're really just going to be a Starbucks or somewhere, huh,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:17
yeah, we've all been in LA for those who don't live in LA. If you go to any Starbucks anywhere in Los Angeles at any time of day. There is someone writing a screenplay. I think they I think Starbucks hires them just to sit there. I don't know. Yeah,

Michael Polish 1:04:32
yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm really surprised. And this just, I'll share with you on this. You can share with me on this idea. Yeah, Starbucks should probably start naming coffees at a writer at writers expenses. You know, things like this. Like, this is the final draft cup.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:51
This is this is the Charlie Kaufman cup. Yeah, this

Michael Polish 1:04:54
is Charlie Kaufman could have a have a have a cup of Charlie have a cup of coffee. Yeah, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:03
have a cup of tea. Have writers sponsor you can there? Oh, that's brilliant. Only in LA though. No, no, it has to be la based only absolutely you couldn't go anywhere. But like it but but then basically in San Francisco then you could do tech startups like this Steve Jobs.

Michael Polish 1:05:20
Yeah. I think it would work. I think we would work. I mean, we're always looking at other businesses right now.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:27
Of course, it's just a case this filmmaking thing doesn't work out. Now, a quick question about film and digital, you've shot both. Where's your heart? And where do you shoot mostly nowadays,

Michael Polish 1:05:39
I've been my last feature was on the Alexa which I found, you know, beautifully fast and slow and has a lot of a lot of the light love, light love. And it's just as, just as they've done a really good job with the Alexa, I shot four features on the red, and the epic did Big Sur on the red in for the epic. And it was, it was a beast, it was great. It took it was it has really, really great things about it. I shot I first woke, Twin Falls was 35 millimeter jackpot was digital. And northfork was was was filming. I found that you know, the story should dictate what you want to see. But now that digital is where it's at. And there's no reason why you shouldn't be doing it. I was sitting with Irwin Winkler last or a couple weeks ago. And who was just finishing Martin Scorsese's movie, he said to me,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:41
oh, you're the ones coming out this silence number thing? It's Yeah, yeah. He said, Is that the one with the De Niro and the capreol together? I'm not

Michael Polish 1:06:50
sure but it was it was shot in in Asia and film I'm assuming Yeah. And he goes you know Marty shot someone film and someone digital and I'm not quite sure why he wanted to do why he wanted to do digital Dom or why do you want to use vi he goes hell I don't know why I do it and then when we show it to him he can't tell the difference right now anyway, so I don't know what we're doing. And I just I laugh because you know you have a legend like you have the you have a legend like that. Who speaks to in about another legend? And it feels as common as this conversation if you're if you're in the room to listen to it. They're talking about the same thing we're talking about. And they're having just as much fun and jokes about it and and yet, it's a common thing to talk about this world being digital and film and some holding on to this romantic part is you look at the book film the emotion process, it's just it's a beautiful thing and

Alex Ferrari 1:07:57
it's man it's really magical. I mean, I I've shot 35 shot 16 I shot eight. And isn't there is something magical about celluloid and there's a lot of filmmakers who are fighting very hard to keep it I mean Star Wars was shot 35 and it's actually making a slight comeback now I've actually seen I'm working on I own a post house as well. And I'm working on a film right now that was shot on Super 16 independently you know they shot it because they wanted to get that look like the wrestler had the look and Black Swan Those were all shot Super 16 but it's starting to come back and it's funny that I was talking to a couple buddies of mine over at the ASC and they're like we can't find anybody to load mags like there's just there's no the generation that is coming up has no understanding about loading a mag or film or and it's like it's I'm like really like

Michael Polish 1:08:53
they're at the ACS are just it's it's just the either moving nothing's really moving sideways it's just moving vertical and everything's going up and you know the when you had that film bag and you had the guy sticking his arms in mode scary you know and yeah and then they would say you know, check the gate which was a term which they still sometimes say just as a joke, you know, let's check the gate or

Alex Ferrari 1:09:21
for those who don't know what that term means, it means to check the gate to make sure that it wasn't a hair that got caught in the frame because sometimes you can shoot three or four takes and if there's a hair in the gate, forget about it. We got to reshoot and all those tapes are gone now digitally you can fix that if you if there was a major issue but it's it's interesting. I don't know if I'm maybe I'll shoot film again one day, but I do love the speed of digital and the quality of digital to be honest with you. The Alexa is a gorgeous camera and I've shot a lot of red too.

Michael Polish 1:09:50
Yeah, you know, once these film historians that have fallen in love with film, they do you know, end up taking the negative and digitizing it and Working in post and manipulating they're not truly taking it to a chemical situation in that unless you're going to release it but they don't do an inner negative or an inner positive that's all gone It's so there's a the actual shooting part I understand but right after it gets gets to the laboratory it goes back to what we're doing

Alex Ferrari 1:10:19
it's done yeah it's just it's just a recording medium now it's not a full circle. I mean you remember when di was the big thing with Oh brother where art though? Yeah, like now it's every single movie has to go through di Yeah. before and I tried to explain to people sometimes there was a chemical like how do they call her before I'm like well the DP went into the lab

Michael Polish 1:10:43
Did you and you're dealing with bats and you're dealing with with you know, three colors or four colors and

Alex Ferrari 1:10:51
more yellow they're a little bit more

Michael Polish 1:10:54
Yeah. When you hit you know the funny thing about North work was it's presumed to look like a black and white movie it mean people look at it and they think it's black and white because you saturated yeah we flashed the negative effect we actually flushed the negative in the camera and then we skip and we skip the bleach that left more silver in the print which would make it darker and so when the lab got it they didn't understand what we do with all the sets were painted black and white and gray and everybody wore black and white gray there was no color to it there's no color for them to see what kind of movie that we were making so when we got it it was all pink it was all pink and when we saw the first one I go there's no color to take off of we don't know we said no this The movie is shot everything in the movies black and white so we can we wanted to make a black and white movie but shooting in color in the studio when you know you couldn't sell a black or white movie so we said why don't we just make the movie in front of the camera all black and white. So we spray painted the grass gray. We took we all the milk bottles, all the ketchup bottles had gray paint in them. If you look every single thing in that movie was attend, we carried a 10 gray color chart on our belts. And so we would say pick number four do the bedspread do number five do the shoes. So every single thing in that movie was was out attendance. One being almost white and 10 being black.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:23
Wow. So you basically color graded in camera, your onset onset?

Michael Polish 1:12:28
Yeah, and so when they filmed we were watching when we would watch it you were looking into black and white movie except for the skin tones at the people you would see a sort of a blush blush but that's all the color that was it?

Alex Ferrari 1:12:41
Yeah, you did. Yeah, we

Michael Polish 1:12:43
shot one of the opening shots is the American flag that we had sown in black and white and the stars are white and the blue is black and the red is gray. And that flag flew over the state of a part of Montana and when you when you photograph it it looks black and white I

Alex Ferrari 1:12:57
mean and for Pete and for people who don't know what bleach bypass is it's the process that Fincher did on seven to get those darks like the blacks just pitch black and then he crunched it there at the deep they did they didn't do di there was no di then he did it all on the lab I think back then. Wow. So one one last one last question before I get to a few I always ask the same last questions to everybody so but one curious question I have Why did you change your name as the director on stay cool and smell of the success?

Michael Polish 1:13:33
Oh, those are those are my my movies that when you know you're in good company just like when you find financing false you when you don't get the cut that you want. When you don't get the cut you want you you take your name off the move

Alex Ferrari 1:13:50
you Alan Smith, he did. Oh, okay, so but you did those two back to back so you had two bad experiences.

Michael Polish 1:13:56
Two weeks? Yeah, it was two was two years of my life that you were two really special movies there were two really special movies and they were expensive to make and hell of

Alex Ferrari 1:14:10
a cast on the both of when we are when we

Michael Polish 1:14:15
sold them both. The minute we finished we sold them. The one premiered at Sundance one per minute Tribeca IFC, IFC Films which one of them both, and there was another company at the same time, both and we had the financier, the production company wanted to hold out for a bigger offer. And I said, you know, the success of these movies is going to be distributed. And so we got in a big debate of is it better to have a movie released or to make the money upfront and never or never seen or have a movie released and be able to be credible to make more movies and this this is a brand new production company and they wanted to they just had different ideas. And and I understand that they had different ideas, but At the end of the day, this this was my, I think it was my sixth or sixth and seventh promotion finance film I hadn't I had a really good understanding of what was going to happen. If they didn't sell fast, they would look like these movies. Were doing well, there was a failure. And it's better to have a perception in Hollywood, since it runs on perception that these films are sold, and they're coming out as opposed to holding on for two years, seeing if you're going to get a better offer. And they said, well, we'll get a better offer if we go in and recut these movies. And I said, Well, yes, you're going to get a better offer, then you go for it. And so I actually, before I room, I remove my name. I watched what they wanted to do. And I said to go ahead, and I watched the movies back, I said, are enough screenings for with that cut? Go for it? We didn't, there wasn't an offer. There was an offer for that for those movies for a year. And then I said, Well, go back to the original card, because you have an offer on these movies. And because I you know, because we proved to be right. It wasn't right to be proved wrong. You know, it wasn't till we. And so they sell in the movies and released and for. I mean, it was one of those tragedies and films that we've seen with other filmmakers, too. But

Alex Ferrari 1:16:17
But let me ask you, though, at the level you were at when you made these two movies, wouldn't you? And I'm assuming the budgets. I mean, they weren't like $100 million, or $20 million movies. Wouldn't you get Final Cut or wound? negotiate? final call? Yeah,

Michael Polish 1:16:32
we negotiated Final Cut, but but it's when you're dealing with attorneys that can sue you for sitting on a park bench for doing nothing. You know, you have you can start picking fights and what their idea was what they claimed was yet Final Cut. If it's sold, and they didn't want to make it, meaning they didn't if they didn't accept the deal, it didn't sell.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:57
So that was that was their loophole. The loophole

Michael Polish 1:16:59
was you have Final Cut. And yeah, you have a deal and we could sell it so you keep final crap. But if we don't sell it, it's not selling so we're going to cut it. So it was one of those fighting, you know, disasters that you walk into saying, Yeah, Final Cut, but if it doesn't, so obviously there was a problem. But and

Alex Ferrari 1:17:15
you did not one because normally you hear that story with one movie, but yeah, two. Yeah,

Michael Polish 1:17:19
it was two years of just taking it on the chin. I mean, taking it everywhere. Actually.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:27
I understand what you mean, sir. Well, with that said, Can you talk a little bit about your latest film hotpot, which I hear?

Michael Polish 1:17:34
Yeah. We made right after Big Sur. And it was a screenplay that we had it for a while. And it was, it was sort of a homage to Weird Science. And it was to be a small million dollar feature that we were going to go shoot and really have a lot of fun. And if we did, we had a lot of fun with that movie because it was just too goofy teenagers getting a sex robot way before it was halfway before the Scarlett Johansen robot came out yesterday, you know, way before it was years ago. I mean, we did this three years ago. And it was it was fine. It almost it didn't run the same risk as as the two moves are speaking just about it. What happened was we decided to what they wanted to get a true theatrical, and it was going to be a day on date movie. And so they just waited for that perfect timing went on and went on and went on. I don't think the distributor was happy with how they were going to release and what they're going to put in. So there's a lot of turmoil about how you were going to release a movie like that. However, having said that, it wasn't that kind of, it wasn't the same experience. It's the movies is the movie and it came out. I think it came out a little late. I mean, actually came out way late. But then that's a type of movie that can stick around and it doesn't have it somebody will always discover it. So I didn't have I didn't have too much precious feelings about it was it was a fun exercise was fun to shoot. And the kids and it was

Alex Ferrari 1:19:07
a lot of fun. Yeah, it looked like it from the trailer looks like a lot of good. Yeah. So what? What final advice, can you give young filmmakers venturing out on their first feature film,

Michael Polish 1:19:18
make decisions? And that you can ultimately correct because if you don't make a decision, you're just going to be like most everybody looking? What do I want to do how I want to do it? You know, I believe a director is for a better word is mainly a coach, not so much. They have to keep the stamina of everybody going. And especially independent films are based on relationships, not so much money. Although money starts and stops your production. What keeps it going are the days you don't have money. So you really have to be the person behind that builds that relationship with that crew that allows them to give you what you need, and get everybody to do the exact same thing. At Exact same time and you call action. And that is somewhat of being a coach in that term as a football analogy to get all those different personalities together on the line to say hi, that's pretty brilliant. to not move. Everybody stands still until I say, I mean that, to me is like moviemaking, to get all these people just to shut up. Stop.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:23
Yep, you know, you're absolutely right. It's like

Michael Polish 1:20:28
you are, it's the best position to be in and the worst position to be at the same time because it's controlled chaos.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:34
Everybody wants to be in that position, but very few people know what to do once they get there.

Michael Polish 1:20:40
And then thrive under those conditions. Because day one to day 30. You spent everything you've got inside and out, and you've got to act like it was day one.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:50
I was gonna ask you real quick with that. With that being said, the whole mumble core Mark duplessis. Jo, swans were kind of films. What are your what's your vibe on those? What do you What's your opinion on those kind of films that just got filmmakers that just go out with whatever camera they have. And it remarked upon Mark duplass. She's,

Michael Polish 1:21:09
she's is. I mean, I love that kid. I mean, I call him I love him to death just because we've we've run we've crossed paths so many times in our careers. And we're not that unsimilar about the way we've done our movies, and we will finance it, he is consistently going down the path that I kind of go back and forth with meaning I've done higher films and lower films, but and I do quite different genres back to back. But Mark has just been somebody I've always admired and I have a good relationship with and you know, there's nothing bad I can say about somebody who's actually kicking butt all the time, and his wife to his wife is tremendous.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:47
And his brother is now killing it on. Trans is a trans America. Oh, yeah. transparent, transparent. Amazon show as an actor now as well. Yeah. Jay. Jay. Yeah. Jay, as well. It's Did you like when you saw puffy chair, obviously, yeah. It's like I watched puffy chair and I'm just like, cuz you're, you're taught in film school, that everything needs to look like, perfect. You have to know the production value. You have to do this and that. And these guys just grabbed a camcorder. And when I shot a movie, yeah, they don't care about sound. They didn't care about anything. But the story was good.

Michael Polish 1:22:26
Yeah. Yeah, that's, that's, that's the fabric of a good movie. It's just getting that story down. And you know, executions always gonna be judged. Even when you make something that's beautiful. Look how people say I still didn't like the way that though Did you like they, they really spent time doing that. And there's people that say, I don't spend time I just want to make I want to see the acting and the story. And people say I didn't like the way it looked. But God that was a funny movie, or that was a really well acting movie. And I think the look of a movie has a free pass at this story is great.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:59
I think I mean, I actually have a podcast coming out. I are just by this time this airs that already had come out about basically telling filmmakers, like, no one cares what you shot your movie on. And a lot of people like oh, I shot it on the red or I shot it on the Lexan like, you could shoot it on your iPhone. Or is your story good? Yeah, that's what matters is is the story. Good? You're absolutely right. I think you do get a pass visually. And even auto audio is what if you've got a good story and those are so rare, aren't they?

Michael Polish 1:23:30
They're really they're rare. I'm I'm working on a picture right now. Where they're in the writing is fantastic. I'm working on speed the cloud with David Mamet. Play that up adapting to a movie,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:42
he's done, okay? He's he bites, okay. Oh, you see, you

Michael Polish 1:23:45
see what he's, you see his words and you go. What's wonderful about David is he's just say his words. You don't have to do anything. Just let them come out of your mouth, and you are there. And that's remarkable. With David's work, ma'am. It just has the ability to you don't have to put any touches on his words. You don't have to bring them up down, polish them, whatever you want you to Sam and they are in Mamet. You're Mamet no

Alex Ferrari 1:24:09
matter. Exactly like like a Tarantino, like your Tarantino. Yeah, it's like there's that voice. It's so crisp, and clear. And and it's non. You can't confuse it.

Michael Polish 1:24:19
Yeah, it's great writers have that tactic like care about when I did Big Sur you it was a definitely Kerouac piece because of the way he he was a language. It was language. He was able to spend language in a way that was unique at the time. And it was a train of thought that was recorded that was unique for a generation, which, you know, probably other bloggers have. Did they do the same thing?

Alex Ferrari 1:24:46
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I want to I want to leave you with the last few questions I have to ask all of my all of these are the toughest questions. So I ask all of my guests this

Michael Polish 1:24:55
is there. If they're not time, then it's

Alex Ferrari 1:24:57
not time at all. What Is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Michael Polish 1:25:04
Well, I don't know if this this this the lesson that took me the longest to learn was Don't be so fucking precious.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:14
Oh man, that is a lesson most filmmakers need to learn in a big way. Yeah, don't be so precious about because that preciousness is what has you Hawking that same script since 1995.

Michael Polish 1:25:25
Yeah. And it will, it will, it'll kill you. It'll kill the spirit. It'll kill your spirit. It'll kill your wife spirit. It'll kill your kids spirit. It'll kill your dog spirit, because you're going to start defending a piece of art, just to defend whether it's right or you're going to start defending it and make choices based on that that's probably might not make some happen or make the film not that great.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:47
That's a great lesson to learn. And oh my god, if most filmmakers coming out of school, or are just starting out would learn that lesson, man. Got it? I mean, I've had so many. I mean, I've I've been in post for about 20 years. So I've had so many filmmakers walk through my doors and my God. You know, you never know a filmmaker or human being more than you do when you're in a dark room with them for eight hours, 10 hours at a time for

Michael Polish 1:26:14
For you to chat. It's, you know, these families that we create are the traveling circus families of today, and it's just different personalities for months on end. And Yep, you don't see him for two years, and then you're back in bed with them again. It's it's hard.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:29
Yeah. It's carnies. It's it's something that people don't understand. Like we are kind of like carnies in that sense, because you do you like, and it's weird what you make such intense relationships, being a director of being a filmmaker, with your crew, that you literally can not see them for five years. And then, hey, you want to come back to work with me? And the second you see them? It's like, not a day is gone.

Michael Polish 1:26:50
Yeah. And you, you've seen, you talk to your crew, you see your crew way more than you've seen your family. For the rest of your life, he spent 18 hours a day with most of these brothers and sisters. Yeah, it's intense. And it's a great bond when it works really, really well. And then you don't have to see him for two years, because he spent more time than those two years apart in one

Alex Ferrari 1:27:16
And one, three, and one two month period or something like so. And then what are three of your favorite films of all time, when in no particular order?

Michael Polish 1:27:25
Maybe not all the favorites. The influential ones, the ones I remember, I would say seeing what's more time in America was a film that influenced me because it wasn't the godfathers it wasn't. It was the Jewish mafia and how it was, it was wonderful to watch James Woods and Rob Robertson near a very young ages. duel it out on on this movie was just beautiful to watch. It was authentic. Yeah, and that was just his foray. Yeah, in America and and it just taught me a lot about music and cinematography. And why I felt and why you know, actually why didn't understand the movie, why didn't understand what what was the depth of it that I didn't get in this room? And what was the symbolism, the religious symbolism all throughout the film, and where was he coming from? And I think that was one of those movies, I look back on going, Wow, that was something night. And they're all childhood films in a way because we're so impressionable, and I'm pressing Close Encounters of the Third Kind was one of those films, which was just a stroke of genius to have the suspense that he built around these. These, these foreigners that we call aliens, and how they would come in and out in the world and be in our daily lives and, and attach ourselves to that, to that was, was wonderful to watch as a kid was just one. I mean, you watch jaws still holds up. Yeah, I would say those two on the same feeling. Same I was, I would say I could interchange those all the time. And then I know, the third one hasn't been made yet. Oh, wow.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:14
Very great answer. I like that answer. It's still coming. It's still coming online. Yeah. So where can people find you on Michael?

Michael Polish 1:29:23
in Montana?

Alex Ferrari 1:29:27
Online, sir. Oh, yeah, our website. I didn't I wasn't asking for your home address.

Michael Polish 1:29:35
It's a big it's a big state.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:37
It is a big state. And it's there's more cows than people though.

Michael Polish 1:29:40
Oh, yeah. They're definitely more are still under a million people in that state. Yeah, it was I'm thinking a lot about say because Merle Haggard passed away this morning. And, and in. He had a great song called Big City and it was about leaving everything behind and being dumped off in Montana. So You know, my blessings to him and his family because he was such a great iconic You know, he had something like 79 Top 10 hits in the top 10 or 73 I think of us 73 Top 10 hits.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:16
Yeah, that's ridiculous. That's more than Lady Gaga. I'm joking.

Michael Polish 1:30:18
I know. I mean, who all she want to do is have a duet with him right? But yeah, it's like you can find me on Twitter it's a pain on my face on my Instagram the same name as Twitter. Michael dash polish. Yeah, yeah. Michael. underscore. Yeah, Wonder Miko underscore polish is usually both of them. is you can find them on both, or Yeah, I think they're both.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:46
And do you have a website at all or no?

Michael Polish 1:30:49
No. I have your website. Now. You can find me.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:51
You can find them on indie film hustle. Which will now live will live all now that's that's your calling card now like, I don't know it just got any full muscle look my name up all my contact informations there.

Michael Polish 1:31:03
He's right there right in the corner anybody? anybody's looking for microphones? Just have that arrow.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:12
Michael man, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. Thanks, man. Really, really, thank you so much.

Michael Polish 1:31:16
Keep up the good work. And you're you're doing a good job for the community.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:20
I appreciate it, man. Hope you guys picked up some knowledge on that one man, I was asked I hope you guys appreciate I was asking him all those questions. I was really grilling him about all the technical stuff goes. And even some of the business stuff, because I was really curious to see how he was able to do everything you did on for lovers only. So if you guys haven't had a chance to check that out, I'm going to put a link to not only that, but a bunch of his other movies, as well as his amazing book, the declaration of independent filmmaking, which I've since read, and it is a really, really, really good book for independent filmmakers. It's a great, I would rank it up there with Rebel Without a crew, Robert Rodriguez book, which I'll also put the links in the show notes. Because it was a really great book and really shows you a passionate group of filmmakers trying to make their movies and they throw a lot of lessons out about how it really is and what you need to do to make a movie. So definitely check that out. The show notes are of course at indiefilmhustle.com/069. So once again, thank you, Michael polish, for being on the show. You are an inspiration. Thank you for showing us that we can do it. No matter what just a good story, a camera, and a dream. And you can go make something happen. As always guys, head over to filmmakingpodcast.com filmmakingpodcast.com and leave us a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. And I've been getting a lot of notes, emails, letters from the tribe, and of encouragement of thank yous of, you know, the how much the show means to them, and how much the website means to you guys. And I really meant from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for being loyal listeners of the show. And it really humbles me every time I get these letters and these emails, so please keep them coming. It keeps me going. You know, it really does keep me going and I do have a bunch of stuff. I'm working on some exciting stuff that I'm going to be bringing you guys in the next coming weeks. I am working heavily in the lab, as they say to to bring out some very cool stuff and I'm going to be doing some very experimental stuff moving forward in the feature film world coming up soon so I will keep you guys abreast of that as it comes goes forward. So as always guys, thank you very very much for being just being you guys. Thanks guys so much. Keep that hustle going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

IFH 066: What Really is an Independent Film?

This is a question I’ve been asked many times.

“What is an Independent Film?”

Is George Lucas an independent filmmaker? He did make all his films outside the studio system and paid for them all out of his pocket. Is the $8000 horror feature created with the sole purpose to be sold an independent film? Is the five million dollar film starring a major movie star that worked for scale an independent film?

The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking written by Mark and Michael Polish is a book I’m currently reading and has an entire chapter dedicated to the topic. I discuss the question, in-depth, in this episode. We are all indie filmmakers but are we making independent films? Take a listen.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I wanted to talk about guys, what really is an independent film, it is something that I talk I talk a lot about with, with other filmmakers, and people in the industry and outside of the industry. And they always ask what is an independent film? And what is actual definition of an independent film. And I think it's something that we needed to talk about. And I also wanted to discuss so anything, I want to hear what you guys have to think in the comments of the show on Facebook, on Twitter, please send out what you guys think really an independent film is because I've been reading this amazing book called an in the declaration of independent filmmaking an insider's guide to making movies outside of Hollywood, by Mark polish, Michael polish, and Jonathan Sheldon. It's an older book that I just came across and been reading and it kind of blowing my mind a bit. It is based on the film making escapades of the Polish brothers, Mark, Polish, and Michel polish. And I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Polish a few weeks ago, and we will be having his interview coming out probably in about a week or so. And it's remarkable, a really, really great interview about how he was able to make his one of his movies. For lovers only a DSLR shot on a DSLR in 2011, I think, and the movie is grossed over I think half a million dollars. And it was a no budget film. But we'll get into all of that when we get to that interview. But right now, you know, the question is what is an independent film? What really, that is the definition of an independent film. And my definition at least as well as the Polish brothers is a film that is done outside of the Hollywood system. Now many filmmakers believe that it's based on budget so if it's a budget of you know it, can there be a movie an independent movie, that's $5 million dollars. Now that's just a studio movie that hiding underneath an independent title. And by the way, you know, in the 90s, when the independent film movement started growing, when Hollywood started seeing independent films making money, then they jumped in and they started to kind of brand it and now indie film is is basically kind of almost like, like Mike polish, like in the book, it says, They basically just say it's, it's kind of like the term fat free, it's so generic and just using it to sell more product. And that's what filming that's what studios are doing now, as well, as they'll they'll take a movie, call it an indie movie, it might be a little bit riskier than, you know, they're big studio pet temples, but it's still using the same method, the same system, the same machine, as you would in a studio in a full blown studio movie. So, you know, it's not based on budget, because you know who the biggest independent filmmaker of all time is. That would be George Lucas. I know a lot of people don't think of George Lucas as independent filmmaker, but he is the ultimate independent filmmaker, in the sense of he was able to create his movies his ways, outside of the outside of the studio system. Whether you agree with him or not, and if you like his movies or not, is irrelevant. The relevant part is that he was an independent filmmaker, he wrote the check for the prequels. He wrote the check for his movie Red Tails, he made those movies himself. I didn't got distributed by the by a studio, but he made it without any interference from anybody, and couldn't end and not change his cut or change his vision for any reason. Some of us would say that that would be a mistake with the prequels. But anyway, that's, that's beside the point. But so someone like George Lucas is a an independent filmmaker. So an independent film, an independent film is a movie that's done outside of the studio system system outside of micro studios, or major studios or Hollywood production companies. indie film is really about filmmakers telling stories that are not being told in the main Hollywood mainstream or in the main cinematic mainstream of the world. You know, that's how the French New Wave got started. That's how dogma 95 got started. These kind of movements, john Cassavetes, work all that kind of stuff. These guys were making movies and nobody else was making easy writer was a movie that kind of shook up Hollywood, it was an independent film. That made more money than any of the studio movies that year. And the studio's had no idea how to deal with it. So independent film should be an expression of the artist, the director, the filmmaker, and almost all studio films do these wonderful things called test screenings. And based on those test screenings, endings are changed, things are changed all the time because of these test screenings. Now in the business, this is the test screening or an ending that's been changed because of a test screening is called the San Fernando ending, which means that a lot of films are test screened here in I live in the San Fernando Valley here in Los Angeles. And they are basically everybody here in the San Fernando Valley, apparently is a representation of all of America, according to Hollywood, and this test screenings, and they are the ones that here in San Fernando in the San Fernando Valley will do test screenings, and based on those notes, they will change endings. So it's called the San Fernando ending, which is hilarious to me. But I've heard stories of you know, had a friend of mine, who, you know, won a bunch of awards, including Sundance and many other film festivals. And her second film, she signed on and had a bigger star attached and went through living hell, because of the producer and the production company with test screenings and changing the edit and not changing you know, and, and basically, this poor filmmaker was so beat up after the whole thing, she just decided to kind of walk away till Finally, the when they this, the producers changed the edit, and showed the Edit, they couldn't sell it. So they said, well, let's just go back to your original edit. And that was the one that sold but by then she was already beaten up so much. And I think that experience showed her what independence really means. And her next movie she did completely on her own finances herself, and to express the story that she wants to tell. And that's really the true essence of what independent filmmaking is all about. Guys, that's why we, what I try to do at indie film hustle is to empower you guys to survive and thrive in the film business. And I want you guys to be able to express yourselves as artists, as filmmakers, as entrepreneurs, within the film industry. And this definition of what independent filmmaking is, is or an independent film is is important to understand. Because not always, independent films are supposed to make money, I would hope that they do because there are real realities of life and you have to make money in order to continue to do your art because unfortunately, for better for worse, filmmaking isn't a very expensive art. It's not just a book and pen. It's not just a laptop, even it's it's not a canvas and paint. It is an expensive medium to express your art and, and remember, budget is not the definition of independent film, because of budget was the sole definition of independent film, then pornography softcore, porn, many other things that are budget related that shoot films would be considered an independent film. And I don't think that's what the term independent film really means. So the differences are, a Hollywood production company is adjacent to or attached to a Hollywood studio, or has a direct relationship to a Hollywood studio. So a lot of times they'll create a movie. And in that movie, you're gonna have to go through all the same crap that you would go through in a studio scenario, test screenings, trying to make the ending happy, trying to appeal to as mass of an audience as possible. Now, I'm not hating on studio movies because you know what, if you're spending $200 million dollars plus another $150 million on marketing on a feature film, you better be appealing to the most mass audience as possible. You have to be responsible with the budget that you're given. I'm talking specifically about independent films. We're an independent film really should be about an artist creating and expressing their vision. In today's world, there's no reason why you as an artist, as a filmmaker, go out with $5,000 like Mark duplass. Did, and or john Oh, Joe Swanberg did or Lynn Sheridan did and go out, make your movie and make it and tell the story you want to tell and get it out there. And if you make some money back, great, hopefully you will and continue to make movies that way. Joe Swanberg did that for a god probably about 10 features 10 to 12 features before he even started making real money, but he was popping them out like water. And he was doing it for five grand, 10, grand, seven grand, whatever, just to get them out there. And that's what he did. And that's something that you guys can do into today's world. If you start building up your community, you building up your following, you can sell your art to people and they can support you and you can continue to make the art that you want to make. And that's what it's all about man just being happy about what you're doing, and expressing yourself as an artist and as a filmmaker. So it's a really, really exciting time to be a filmmaker and Again, guys, I hope you got something out of this episode in regards to what an independent film really is. But I also want to hear from you guys, I want to hear from that tribe, I want to hear what you guys think really is an independent film. And, you know, please leave me comments in the in the show notes, leave it in on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever you can get ahold of us, email us. I want to hear what you guys have to say about this topic. And you know, as a community, we want to discuss things and get things out there and help each other and get different points of views on anything we're trying to discuss, especially something as broad of a question as what is independent film, this is just my opinion, as well as the opinion of the Polish brothers in their book. But I really thought that this is something that we should discuss, and get out there and just have that conversation and get that conversation started. So if you want the Show Notes for this episode, head over to indie film, hustle comm forward slash zero 66 I'll leave a link there for the the book the declaration of independent filmmaking, by the Polish brothers, as well as some of their work, the film northfork for lovers only northfork by the ways, in rodri ever called it a masterpiece. And it really is, it's a wonderful, wonderful, independent film and the story of how they made it is even more amazing, as well as for lovers only, which is that DSLR movie that I told you that made over a little bit over half a million dollars, with no budget, but definitely a pair of filmmakers that you should be watching and looking at how they've done things and how they're doing things currently in today's world as well. And don't forget to head over to filmmaking. podcast.com that's filmmaking podcast.com and leave us a review of the show. It really helps us out a lot. So as always guys, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive, and I'll talk to you soon.

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IFH 063: The Walking Dead – Working on the Dead Set

If you are a Walking Dead fan you are going to LOVE this episode. If you ever wanted to know what an assistant director does onset you are going to LOVE this episode.

In today’s episode, we have a long-time friend Vince Gonzales. Vince has been working in the film industry for over the top decades. His IMDB page is pretty crazy. He’s worked on 90 classics like The Sandlot, Speed, and What Dreams May Come. Now after 2000, his credits start to heat up: Pearl Harbor, Six Feet Under, Charmed, Boston Legal, Grey’s Anatomy, Transformers: Age of Extinction and of course The Walking Dead.

I wanted to bring Vince on the show to discuss his time on The Walking Dead but also what it takes to be an assistant director on both small and “monstrous” sets. Don’t listen to this episode in the dark.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:04
So guys today as you can tell a little bit different. I have gone full deadhead for walking dead. This is our special Walking Dead edition of the podcast and we have a very special guest this week we have Vince Gonzalez who has actually worked on walking dead for seasons two and three. So he was there very early on and saw the growth and how the cast kind of blew up and the whole show like how it started off as like this little quiet little thing and they had no idea how big they got and all this kind of cool stuff. He gives us a lot of information about what he did on the show. He was a assistant director and Vince is worked on I mean his his credits are insane from Transformers Age of Extinction neighbors Red Dawn, the tooth fairy with the rock stepbrothers as well as Pearl Harbor traffic. And then on the TV show it's and that and that's not by the way, he worked on a ton of other movies as well. One of my favorites, sandlot Encino Man and son in law and speed for God's sakes. I mean, he's worked on a ton of stuff on TV shows Walking Dead Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal charmed six feet under the list goes on and on. He is a wealth of information and I wanted to get him on the show and it just so happened that this this week is the final episode of the season for walking dead and that he worked on the walking dead I am a huge Walking Dead fan. I was like well, I got to get you on the show. We're going to talk a lot about an assist being assistant director, stories from the set all those kind of cool things, but I dug in deep on what was it like to work on walking dead? The process is how they not torture but Raz new directors as they come in, and what they do to the new directors. So on new directors going on two sets of a TV show always keep an eye out because it's it's kind of like a fraternity sometimes. But anyway, guys, it's awesome, awesome episode, so please, enjoy it. Without further ado, my interview with Vince Gonzalez. Vince, man thank you so much for being on the show, bro. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Vince Gonzalez 3:29
Alex, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 3:30
I'm good brother. Good. It's been it's been a few minutes since we've talked. We work together god how long ago now? 10 years 10 years ago a way though, right? I think it was 10 years ago when we work that we did that in a leap thing where you are my You are my first assistant director on that project.

Vince Gonzalez 3:50
Ohh that was so fun.

Alex Ferrari 3:51
It was so much fun. And then I came back a year later to be a teacher, an instructor which was a lot of fun. And then we got to know each other on that level as as opposed to me just going crazy running around as a director.

Vince Gonzalez 4:04
It was you know, it was a lot of fun. We created a lot of great work in a very short amount of time. It was a it was a sort of a camp an intensive where we took young directors for a week and we prepped two scenes from their feature film scripts and shot them over a weekend. And

Alex Ferrari 4:28
With real talent or crew yeah with restaurant.

Vince Gonzalez 4:31
Yeah, that's amazing results. They had the editors there but they laid music down to it and in say a week we had a finished product of these two scenes that we were able to view and look at and with with you know high production value and Hollywood results.

Alex Ferrari 4:47
Yeah, we were shooting on if I remember the the we were shooting our mini v mini DV on the Panasonic dv x 100 a little camera, but that was the technology 10 years ago.

Vince Gonzalez 4:59
No it was a great great programmed with young people, or newer filmmakers who had never put the camera down who always held the camera. We took the camera away from him said, talk to the actors.

Alex Ferrari 5:11
I know it was so weird because I was a director, I wasn't I was I was that trouble director wasn't I had to remember if I remember correctly, I caused a big stink. Because I brought a second camera, I wanted to shoot, I wanted to edit. And I was like, I had no idea how to do anything else, until finally the program director, she's like, no, you're not gonna do anything, you're gonna direct and you're just gonna talk to the actor. And I'm like, but I have a second camera, I want to make this production really good. Like, now you can't use a second camera.

Vince Gonzalez 5:40
That's, that's true. They gave you some trouble about that. But you know, they give them all trouble, because it was all these directors who had done everything who were one man bands, and to give them a professional crew and have them step back and focus on the actors. I mean, you could tell us what that's like, because it's got to be a big freedom for you.

Alex Ferrari 5:57
You know what I tell you that the first time I ever directed something that was not that I did not edit was that I'd always edited, everything I've ever done. So when we did those scenes together, and I had someone else editing and I would walk in and I kind of tell the editor what I wanted and walk out of like, well, this is nice. This is nice.

Vince Gonzalez 6:19
But that that allows you to also rethink that from being a filmmaker who's who could be a one man band and get it all done yourself from beginning to end to trusting the collaborative process and having professionals and other experts in other talented people who are talented in their own fields. Be part of, of your piece of art, you know, having 20 artists rather than just you?

Alex Ferrari 6:45
Oh, absolutely. Now we've already we've already digressed. Vince, we haven't even started the interview yet. We just catch it up. So there's I wanted to get you on the show because you have a very unique perspective on the film business you've been in the film business now for I'm not gonna say the years but a good amount.

Vince Gonzalez 7:04
More than two decades,

Alex Ferrari 7:06
let's say more than two decades. Absolutely. And I loved working with you. And we work together. And we've stayed in touch over the years. And I really wanted to get you in the show to get your perspective on things. But first and foremost, tell me tell people how you got into the business.

Vince Gonzalez 7:20
Well, you know, I grew up in Colorado, and I went to school at the University of Colorado and I had a communication class I, I went into the communication School, which is interpersonal communication, and it's because my roommate came I was an undeclared as a junior, my roommate came home and said, Hey, I just got an A in the comp school and there's 30 girls to every guy, every class. So I said okay, I'm gonna be a con major Why not? Right? And at the comp school, I kind of brought in a different, different ideas. I mean, they wanted me to write a 15 page paper with four other people. And I said hey, there's this I'm taking this VHS I have access to a VHS recorder a camcorder. Would you mind if we just did a video project instead of writing the paper? Can we try that and the professor was up for it, which was cool. And we did this project and it took the Communication Department by storm and they loved it we all got A's and you know

Alex Ferrari 8:27
Now what is this now what is this VHS thing you speak of? Is that like beta now I'm joking.

Vince Gonzalez 8:39
Right? But But you know, I made it we made a film and a film a video project rather than writing the papers and and to me, it was a better way to communicate. And it was exciting for the for the console to to see the results of this is the whole class you know, we have them and they laughed and it was funny and they got the point. So to me that made me excited about film and I decided to go into the film program and make films and the rest and film program there. So I created my own independent degree and moved to LA decided I was going to move to LA and make movies so

Alex Ferrari 9:20
and then and then you and I was looking at your, your IMDb and you've you've worked on a lot of movies, but in your early career you worked on some of my favorite films growing up, sandlot Encino Man, son in law. Those movies I mean when I was growing up I absolutely love and Sam lots of classic I mean it's an amazing and you're a PA on these on these are just starting out you were just starting out basically in your career. So how did you how did you get your first gig? How did you like just get that first foot in the door?

Vince Gonzalez 9:54
Well, I had I had moved to Florida because it was going to be the new Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
Yes, I'm from Florida. So I'm I'm in Orlando even more. So yes, I completely know that that was the

Vince Gonzalez 10:03
right thing with Disney. The Disney Studios were built and they were had just finished universal. Yes, huge studios and yes, and Spielberg was on, on the TV and on the radio saying in Hollywood, he's just gonna kind of give going to be a great place to make movies. And so I didn't have a lot of cash when I moved at a college and I moved to move to Florida to get started. And I worked in the film office, I was an intern in the film office, and I delivered the permits to the various commercials or whatever was shooting, because I wanted to get to know what was going on. And I go to work at the TV station at night, because I had sort of a TV background as a floor director. And one day I delivered a permit to an hbo movie. And it was called some buddy has to shoot the picture with Roy Scheider from Jaws, of course and and I met the producer and I said here's your permit, sir. And here's my resume. I really want to work on your movie. And he said well, thanks for the permit and you know, there's really nothing on your resume that pertains to us but why don't you call my office and see if they need some help? And I was like okay, great. Wow, yeah, so I called the office and and they said Yeah, come in tomorrow at 9am

Alex Ferrari 11:26
does that's the greatest phone call ever isn't it? Well, well it is.

Vince Gonzalez 11:29
It is and I went at 9am and I'm and they said wait here and then they said make some Can you make copies of this well while you're here and how about making coffee and here's some money to go to the grocery store and bring back a receipt and I came back and and did all these things and pretty soon I'm saying well When am I going to get my interview you know I have to go to the TV station at three o'clock and you know I want to make sure I get my interview done it's almost two o'clock right now and they said What have you been doing the job for half a day TV station I says I'm not coming back now and ever thank you very much cut back on business

Alex Ferrari 12:15
that's all so you really don't even know you were in the business that's how green you were you had no idea that you had already started working

Vince Gonzalez 12:22
that's right as long as I can follow orders I think I was doing it and I know that was really a lot of a lot of fun and it doubled my salary and and that job lasted three weeks so at the end of two weeks I'm starting to say well we're gonna finish in one more week and I gave up a solid full time job and and what am I going to do right everyone there says you know what, we all work you'll work again and I said I don't have any experience she said stay in touch with everyone on the show that you met and you'll work again so I was really nervous and kind of scared but I just kept doing a good job and amazingly the production company picked up another show I was down for a week before they said hey come back to work we're going to we need you to do some pickups and some deliveries and get started again I was like wow that fast great it's it's

Alex Ferrari 13:21
it's it you know I've been a freelancer all my all my adult life in the film industry pretty much only other than two jobs that I had, which I was gloriously fired from. I'm very proud of my firings. I wear them as badge of honors.

Vince Gonzalez 13:36
You no one in this business until you've been fired? Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 13:39
Absolutely. So I know there's that whole like, oh god, what am I gonna do? Am I gonna work next week or not? And that's only towards the beginning. But once you've once you like, oh, work just starts to come. And it is something that my wife took years to finally get comfortable with. This. It's we're carnies. We're carnies. mints. We're carnies. We're, we're Carnival folks to

Vince Gonzalez 14:03
Try and sell your mother in law and the fact that you have a regular job and a corporation.

Alex Ferrari 14:10
And listen, I listen to I tell you what my wife's family for three years, kept asking her and he was like, What is Alex do again? Like they couldn't they just didn't grasp the idea. Like, what is that? Like so? And then finally, after three, you're like, well, there's been food on the table. So apparently he does something and it's it's not illegal. So

Vince Gonzalez 14:30
So you know, my neighbors are skeptical.

Alex Ferrari 14:35
Exactly. No, can you Now with that said, Can you talk a little bit about the importance of relationships in the business and how imperative it is to maintain those relationships over the course of your career to be able to work?

Vince Gonzalez 14:49
Well, sure that was that was some of the best advice that someone gave me is that we all work somewhere and if you stay in touch with all of us, you know, someone's going to go somewhere and they're going to need some So that's really what you do is you start that, you meet that first crew, and you stay in touch with everyone there. And they all go different directions, because there's that many different projects. And, you know, you just go one to the other and, and What's strange about the business is you'll ended up with having choices. Because it all comes at once Of course, you have a voice, and then all of a sudden, you have four different directions to go and, and you're choosing for your career, do I want to go work for the art department? You know, when you're PA, they have you do different things? Do they want to work in the accounting department? Do I want to work with the assistant directors? And or do I want to work in camera so so that's a, you know, important decisions. And you always wonder, you know, if you went the right direction, if you made the right decision, the producer can on that first show kind of helped me make the right decision. Because I admit, I've worked with cameras, and I made films in college, and I said, I wanted to be a camera system, I want to be a loader, which was the bottom

Alex Ferrari 16:02
loading level. Now please explain to to the younger audience members what a loader does, because I know what a loader does, but

Vince Gonzalez 16:10
right back then, you know, the loader actually loaded the film in a darkroom offset into the camera, so you can't do it on the Saturday or in a bag or in a bag get dark. I mean, if you open it any lights exposed, it's no good. It's, that's what they say. flashed like the film got flashed or something, if it was exposed to any light, it'd be no good. So the loader had to go off set and

Alex Ferrari 16:38
very stressful, I would imagine.

Vince Gonzalez 16:41
The most important job,

Alex Ferrari 16:43
I it's truly, like, literally, there's millions of dollars in your hands. Every day, because if you and I know this, because I was on set many times that, you know, he would, they would hand you over, you know, you know, roll and they might have just shot, you know, might have cost $100,000 to shoot that, you know, five hours or whatever long it took to get this these shots, and to give it to give it to a 20 year old.

Vince Gonzalez 17:09
the least amount of experience, hey, make sure you load and unload this film without flashing it. And then at the end of the day, after you shot the entire day, which might be a $100,000 day, Rihanna to a PA to drive it to the lab. And every producer said to me when I drove them to the lab, he said, if you have an accident, put the film in the ambulance.

Alex Ferrari 17:33
Yeah, I think that was one part of the filmmaking process that I think wasn't thought out properly. Over the course of the many decades that film industry has been around at this point.

Vince Gonzalez 17:47
Weren't jobs to the least experienced people? Yes.

Alex Ferrari 17:49
Is that what it's I mean, it's trial by fire, to say the least. So you know, one of the funniest thing is I had an old dp friend of mine who used to, just to mess with the, the PA, they would, he would throw a lens at them to catch, but it was a broken lens, it was an old broken lens, it had no value, but he just throw it like your catch. And when they drop it, he would lose it. It's just the onset pranks.

Vince Gonzalez 18:15
Yeah, that there may be, you know, the responsibility on his skin given to those people, because I guess you know, you want a film crew, you are ultimately very responsible for your position from the beginning.

Alex Ferrari 18:28
Oh, yes. Oh, no, absolutely. Now you went down the path of assistant directing. And so can you tell? tell the audience a little bit about what an assistant director does? And then the different kind of assistant directors because there There seems to be hundreds of them?

Vince Gonzalez 18:45
Yeah. Well, the an assistant director is part of the Directors Guild, which is part of the directors team. So there's a director and a first assistant director and a second assistant director, and, you know, various other assistant directors be below that that might work on the team, but there's only usually maybe three assistant directors on every feature film, so it's a very competitive position, whereas there might be 10 grips, seven to 10 grips, you know, or seven to 10 electricians, or four or five prop people, or four or five wardrobe people, you know, the the three assistant directors are very competitive, they're picked by the director most of the time to, to schedule and break down the film, what we do is we they give us a script and we go into a room and in the next day, we come out or a couple days or a couple of weeks, and we come out with a schedule and the director. We've talked to him or her and we asked him you know, basically this is our schedule. We're going to start in this room. We're going to do this, depending on an actor's availabilities, depending on the sets availabilities, depending on daylight or not Right, so you have all these meetings during prep. But we come out the first date, he makes a schedule, the second ad helps execute the schedule for him. And if you have a second second ad is what they call it seems odd, but that's the way it's read. And that person kind of writes a production report and about what happened, someone's dealing with the future, one's dealing with the president, one's dealing with the past.

Alex Ferrari 20:27
Oh, that's, that's actually a really great way of explaining it.

Vince Gonzalez 20:31
I hope it makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 20:34
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Vince Gonzalez 20:45
But, you know, we're like the managers of the set. So we're giving information to the crew constantly, and also keeping track of overtime and keeping track of staying on schedule. So if the movies not on schedule, it really comes down on the assistant directors to be efficient,

Alex Ferrari 21:02
right? I've had I've had experiences working with wonderful assistant directors like yourself, and I've had experiences working with not good assistant directors. And I really didn't never knew early in my career, I really didn't understand what a real good first assistant director does. But they crack the whip they actually keep they keep everything moving forward. To a certain extent, I could only imagine, because you've worked with some major major league directors, how how do you crack the whip on a Michael Bay?

Vince Gonzalez 21:34
You know, it comes down, he wants the same thing you do, he wants to accomplish all the schedule, as well as get the performance. So it's up to us to tell him Hey, in his five minutes that we have down, do you want to take the actors from the next scene and go into the other set and rehearse for for those five minutes and get an idea of what you're doing so that when we go over there, we can just nail it. And, and things like that, just try and work ahead and use every minute that you can on on the day because if you don't, you know it gets behind it. We put it this way, sometimes, if you know if you have 60 people on the crew, usually the cruiser on bigger shows or 120 or 150. But let's say a medium, small TV show. And if you have 60 people on the show, and each person gets two minutes to waste, or you're waiting for them for two minutes, I mean, that ends up to be two hours of the day, right? So so you can't afford that. Everything has to be happening like clockwork all at once. It's got to tick like a Swiss clock,

Alex Ferrari 22:39
right? And if not, you go into OT and you start going into I mean, like I was telling you like when I worked with with the first ad I was shooting something in the first ad was inexperienced, and I smelled it. The second he was on set and it was too late. By the time he was on set, and the crew ate him alive. Just it just ate them alive. And I literally had to pull them off something like Dude, you've gotta start controlling this set. If not, I can't get my day. And then it turns into the screaming first at which which is like not helpful at all. Like, like you use yelling is not helping anybody. No one it doesn't work. So I had them like Dude, you got to stop you. So he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. And I was just so upset at the production manager who hired him. I'm like, guys go seriously, you know, so, you know, I ended up having to kind of control the set a little bit, because with a season crew I mean it we really are events kind of like carnies. You know, it's like we're a group of Carnival folk who go out to make a movie. And the more experienced guys will Raz. The least experienced guys it's just part of the process. And you know, when you walk on the set, they smell the blood instantly. They're like oh, oh hey, he's the one so it's it's it's a rough it's a rough environment being on a professional set. Sometimes if you're not a professional.

Vince Gonzalez 23:59
I said it's a tough it's a tough crowd and they're all very smart. And they're all experts at what they do. Right? And nobody wants to waste time wasted. Yes, so

Alex Ferrari 24:07
Exactly, exactly. So now I'm gonna geek out a little bit and talk about one of my favorite TV shows on on TV right now The Walking Dead and you worked on the walking dead in season two and three. So please can't Can I Can you tell me a little bit about how that experience was because you were at the you're at the beginning of the Walking Dead phenomenon. Now it's I don't even know what season I think they're on six or something like that five or six. if not more, and they've become you know, the I honestly I think they are the like the biggest, highest highest rated television show on on TV at this point, if not close to it. But at the beginning, even Season Two was still the craziness hadn't kicked in yet. So you kind of saw it's between two and three. I'm imagining you saw a big change in a lot of stuff that was going on. Can you tell us any stories or How that experience was?

Vince Gonzalez 25:02
Well, I'll start I'll start at the beginning. And even after 20 years experience, this is how getting the job goes. I'm, I'm I'm coming. I'm flying to Colorado. I just finished a week on. I'm stumbling here. A show. The Motorcycle Show.

Alex Ferrari 25:24
Oh, God. Yeah, yeah. Sons of Anarchy. Thank you.

Vince Gonzalez 25:29
So I'm, I just got off a plane, I'd done a weekend Sons of Anarchy, doing a second unit and additional for unit stuff. And I get off the plane in in Colorado where I was going to take a break. And my phone has a message on it. And I checked the message, it says, How soon Are you available and interested in working on a show in Atlanta? How soon can you be here? Well, it's Memorial Day weekend. And I called him right back on the tarmac and said, my bag is still packed. Why? Right now? You know, I'm in Denver, you know, booked me a ticket, I'll go. And that's kind of how these jobs go. Because he they said, Alright, you've got the job. But we'll do. We'll let you have memorial day off. You'll fly on Memorial Day, by the way. And be here for the day after that. Okay, great. And I said, What am I doing? And she said, it's a little show called The Walking Dead. And you're replacing a second ad there. And I said, Okay, great. So I'm coming in with no prep, you know, you have no idea what the job is. And I had agreed to it. You had no, but you knew the person, obviously, who was offering it to you. No, I mean, this was someone that I just met on the phone. Oh, really? Are you interested in available for this show? And I said, Yes. And then I then I say, well, by the way, what's the show?

Alex Ferrari 26:51
Right? And that you had no idea about zombies. You had no idea about?

Vince Gonzalez 26:55
You know, I'd heard about the show. In Season One, it was really starting to gain some ground. Of course, there's a big little zombie show going on. And they said, Well, this is called The Walking Dead. It's in Atlanta. And like, is that that song we show? I don't know. So I got on the plane and I flew in and, and I plan on replacing a second ad who was going off to do something else and and my first dance that I walk on to in season two, the barn massacre. The man,

Alex Ferrari 27:30
by the way, spoiler alerts.

Vince Gonzalez 27:33
Let's see season two. So it's the past but I get out of the van. And these guys are pouring jugs of blood on around people who are lying on the ground. And then I realized some of those people are dummies, and they're pouring blood around the dummies. And these It looks like a train wreck. You know, like a train in a school bus or something. It was a mess.

Alex Ferrari 27:57
This is your first day that said first

Vince Gonzalez 27:59
day on now, my eyes must have been as big as you know, chocolate chip cookies because the DP or the the camera operator comes up to me, Mike cetera zammis who's now the DP and the director. He comes up puts his arm around he says, it's your first day, isn't it, buddy? it'll it'll get better. It's funny. Very soon. It's okay. Cuz I look like I was gonna throw up. Oh, that's hilarious. This so? Yeah, after a while you have to you had to just treat it as tongue in cheek because it looks so real. And you're standing here in the middle of this mask. And, and everyone else is laughing and so yeah, yeah, put a little more over there. Look, no, no, we need the darker blood for this one. Okay, great. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 28:45
go grab that arm. Go grab that arm, I need another carcass, get another carcass.

Vince Gonzalez 28:52
So they're all having a great time with it. I was horrified. But you know it after a day or two, it started to sink in that, hey, this is the funnest part of moviemaking where, you know you're making it crazy. It's all about make believe and it's nothing having to do with anything that's real or, or any representative of that. It's just it's a lot of fun making make believe and here we go.

Alex Ferrari 29:13
And it was just and and then they you stayed on for two seasons.

Vince Gonzalez 29:17
We went from there and the actors are going to, to do a photo shoot for Vogue. And they come back and they're like, we just did a photo shoot for Vogue. We just did a photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly. And then they went to Comic Con and they came back and they said, Oh my god, you guys. Oh my god, you won't believe how huge we are. Because we're shooting in this tiny little town, south of Atlanta. And they said there was a line a mile and a half outside around the arena just to see us. And we you know, we're all being proud of that.

Alex Ferrari 29:54
That's pretty and I've heard that before from other shows. It was like I think Sarah Michelle Geller said that about Buffy because when she originally was doing Luffy they're in you're in a you're in a production bubble like you were your whole life. You don't even see the outside world you just you just keep making the show. Right? And then the first time you step out you don't even like you're not even on the streets. You're not even reading the paper like you just to show that's all you do. And that's I guess we have time for right right. It's all you have time for and then I guess from their point of view, they're in Atlanta, so they're in the they're not like in Hollywood. So you're in Atlanta, so you're in a bubble inside of a bubble. And then like like yeah, somewhat I guess we just did a photoshoot for Vogue I guess something and Oh yeah, did a photo shoot for entertainment and then of course Comic Con is the ultimate and they're like I could only imagine that experience it must be insane so then of course you guys are like hey we're on Walking Dead That's awesome.

Vince Gonzalez 30:50
Well you know we just keep making making the thing and all the actors are great young cast who you know may not have had a lot of big big shows before right and these kids were becoming stars and to be with them while they're becoming stars was a great experience and it's a lot of fun because you're sharing that experience with them you know that wonder of of wow people really like us and someone's out there you know there's millions of people watching us and the show gets bigger and bigger and pretty soon we're our ratings are better than Monday Night Football or Sunday Sunday night NFL shows which which you know, I don't know did you read all these beat everything

Alex Ferrari 31:33
right but this show like the show's insane and it's gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and I know you told me you haven't seen many of the episodes after the episode you've worked on so I won't talk to you about any of those

Vince Gonzalez 31:44
okay yeah I get busy I went on to the to the next hit show I was exploring other opportunities and in in that you know, I'm back in my production bubble where date day night and I'm eating sleeping drinking the show right? The way I have to work it's it's what we got to do.

Alex Ferrari 32:03
Exactly now. What was it I mean, the Walking Dead is a show that has a lot of logistics as far as extras and makeup and I mean a prosthetic it's so that must be for first or second ad must be a massive thing to undertake because I couldn't I mean just doing a normal show where you just have you know I got how many people on set today Okay, we've got seven people on set maybe we've got maybe a party scene with 30 or 40 people on set and they just oh how are they dressed? Great, great, great, but you've got like zombies so all of the zombies look insane so I can imagine what the makeup process goes through. So can you explain like the most hectic day you had on the show?

Vince Gonzalez 32:48
Well Well it's it's true walking onto that show was walking on to the hardest show that I've ever done in my life because because of all those elements I mean you have a cast that was 11 or 13 cast members every single day from the top of the day to the end of the day they are all together you know they're the banner and everything and then you add two hours of makeup on various walkers that are going to be in close up here on here I have another 30 walkers that are meds is what we call them and then you have you know the deep walkers if you really needed a big crowd that need to have a number of them that were deep that their makeup wasn't as good as the as the heroes right. So that process starts way early in the morning and these people were starting to come in at 330 in the morning and when I got there I said this this process is this is too hard to have a TV show if we had a feature we could get through it because then there'd be months of rest after a couple of weeks. But this is the only TV show that had six months to go or something and you know someone was going to crash your car on the way to work or on the way home because you're not getting rest right so so I talked to the producers and I said we need to fix this we can't come in at 330 in the morning to get these people started without adding 10 more personnel to do split shafts so a kind of a management thing and an experience thing and and I just said listen this is we can make this work if we start coming in at 530 if we only have nine heroes at the top of the day, and I can still give you 13 cast members you know it's kind of what what I know that we can push out of our factory as far as hair makeup wardrobe and and walkers. And the producers I was lucky that producers work with me on that everyone was glad to get another hour or two of rest. And the show only gets better when everyone's well rested. So right Oh

Alex Ferrari 34:51
yeah, cuz you can burn on a show like that and imagine you could burn out and not only burn out but you're thinking about people getting hurt like you like That's what first day DNS is a second do they think about what could happen and what you know like something like that like I remember I've been on many productions where like we can do a turnaround like that people need 12 hour turnaround you know you know and you're thinking like if you keep doing this someone's gonna crash their car someone's gonna get hurt

Vince Gonzalez 35:17
right and that's that's and we're making movies we're not we're not doing anything that's more important than a little bit of make believe so so they understand and and that reasoning went far and the Plus we're dealing with outdoor conditions you know, we're shooting out rash dad's waist high

Alex Ferrari 35:38
and it's a little humid I hear it's a little humid there

Vince Gonzalez 35:41
a little bit more humid now the temperature is only about 101 you know for most it's like

Alex Ferrari 35:46
Orlando all the time.

Vince Gonzalez 35:50
Like I luckily no gators

Alex Ferrari 35:53
yeah no gators Yeah, that's Yeah, we have you know 1000s of zombies so I don't know which is worse.

Vince Gonzalez 35:59
Right? Now wait, I just have to hand it to the cast and and and even the actors the walkers because they were so excited about the show. They come on with all this enthusiasm and, and the actors are standing in the grass, in text in chiggers. Yeah. And you know, we'd have the locations go down and beat down the grass. So that's the snakes would go away. These are things it's only 101 degrees out and humid. So

Alex Ferrari 36:26
but isn't it isn't a glamorous being in the film industry? Yeah.

Vince Gonzalez 36:29
It's just great.

Alex Ferrari 36:30
It's super glamorous being in if I don't understand what you're saying. You know, and hearing this kind of story, people forget that when they're watching it, they just like it. Like, it's not easy. It's not all like in a studio, comfortable air conditioning. They're out there doing it all the time. And there's actors kill themselves. Working I mean, look in the scope of scope of jobs in the world is not the worst job in the world. But it is hard work without question. And I can only imagine what it's like being in those, that full zombie makeup in 101 degrees in

Vince Gonzalez 37:04
Trying not to melt

Alex Ferrari 37:06
more, not more. Because already metaphor.

Vince Gonzalez 37:10
And the actors aren't going to, you know, these gigantic motor homes where they can go cool off in between takes, because we're moving so fast and doing so much work. And the trailers are a mile away, that they're sitting on set with us, you know, sweating through their clothes, just like everyone else. And that's what what makes them makes the show great, is because the cast works just as hard as their crew on on doing their thing. And they know what it's like so so they're there for us.

Alex Ferrari 37:41
Right? So it's kind of like a an army regimen. Like you guys are all fighting in the battle together against the elements to try to get this movie made. And it's

Vince Gonzalez 37:52
it's an experience that that you have you you have few experiences in life that are like that, where you something is so hard, and everyone goes through it, that you're bonded for life,

Alex Ferrari 38:03
right? You even though you only work on season that only but you worked on season two and three,

Vince Gonzalez 38:07
it's people are great friends of mine, right. And I see them once in a while at a comic con or a walker stock. And the experience we've gone through never goes away where you know, your friends for life, you're bonded.

Alex Ferrari 38:21
And that's something I think in, in the film industry is unique, in a way because when you when you make a movie, when you shoot a show, it's like going into a battle together. And and when you both make it out, or all of you make it out on the other side. You know, you and I are at the beginning of this conversation we're talking about, you know, a week that we shot 10 years ago, you know, like, you know, it is something that like, Oh, you remember when we did this, and that happened and we made it there is there is a you know, like a bond that is made in production. And then that's why certain people work with the same crew throughout their career like Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard. And, you know, when you find people you can kind of really work with, you take them with you. And you just,

Vince Gonzalez 39:10
yeah, you trust you trust them in situations that you don't want to be in without them. Right? Like if

Alex Ferrari 39:17
you're exactly like if you're in a foxhole, who do you want someone you just you just hired or someone who's been in the battle with you three or four other times, and that's where those relationships are so, so important. Where it just, those relationships are so important, not only for getting work, but also creating good work going down the line. So, so important. Now I'll ask one final question or walking down and then we'll move on, is what's the funniest story you can share from the set?

Vince Gonzalez 39:45
Oh, well, um, you know, there's pranks all the time. There's stuff going on all the time. And humor is really the only way we get through it and you really have to laugh every day. Are you, you know, you wonder why you're doing this business, if you're not laughing every day, I'm having a good time with it, you know, find something else but that are maybe that's what keeps us in it is because we are having such a good time every day. But I would go on a scout some of the funny stuff is, is I'll tell you two things, we'd go on a scout with a new director who hadn't been there. And we'd be standing on the side of the road and, and the director would walk into the field and say the scenes gonna be up here. And he'd say, why don't you guys come out here and we're, we're all standing on the road saying, No, I don't think so. Just Come on, guys. We're gonna do the scene out here. And we like yeah, we understand we've we've seen enough. And he's, he's like you sure you know what commander? We're like? No, because that field is full of ticks and chiggers and snakes. And he's like, Oh, I'm only out here for for two minutes. And he's already walking back to the road at that point, because we scared him. And the next day, he's got chiggers on his beltline, and he's itching and he's missed. Because you know, yeah. So you know, that's, that's one of the funny stories and then you know, another one is we're doing we're going to smash a walkers head and they load the walkers head up with a bunch of bloody gUc gak and, and stringy bits of whatever the magic they put in there. And everyone backs up about 15 feet. And I actually is ready to smash it in the director standing right there. And he looks at us back there and he's like, Hey, what are you guys doing back there? And we're like, nothing. Nothing. He was okay, actually smash splatter all over his pants on. And we're just writing sweat. And we're like, you know, yeah, we've been here before. We don't need to get blood all over us every day. So it seems like you guys need to read

Alex Ferrari 42:06
is every time a new director game? Yeah, I was gonna every time a new director came in. Apparently you guys just razz

Vince Gonzalez 42:12
them. Yeah, it's it's initiations.

Alex Ferrari 42:17
Now can you tell me a big difference between working on a TV show, and working on big huge tentpole movies like Transformers or Pearl Harbor,

Vince Gonzalez 42:25
TV shows me crank out a lot of work a day, we crank out probably seven or eight minutes of the show a day, because you only have a seven or an eight day schedule. And a feature might have a 65 day schedule, if it's a trend. It's a big movie, and they can go over a week if they need to. Of course, they don't ever want to, they don't ever want to because your budgets for a certain amount of time. But we shoot a lot less dialogue. Because you can spend more time on the action action takes, you know, action, an action scene where you flip a car, something might take half a day, compared to the actors talking for two minutes in the car, beforehand that might take you know, just a couple hours. So it's all kind of the art of scheduling inanimate things, right?

Alex Ferrari 43:25
So Vince, can you tell me what what lesson took you the longest to learn in the film industry?

Vince Gonzalez 43:31
Oh my gosh, you know, there's so many and I always think that you know, I might be successful because I made so many mistakes. So you can't be afraid to make mistakes and you can't be afraid to get have someone you know teach you a quick lesson by you know, I hate to say that I've been I've been yelled at the most I think for for the many many things for giving information wrong or not. or giving not giving it completely or giving it to the wrong person and the department head or you know, any silly mistake someone new in the business is going to make you know they have to be taught what's the right way. So you have to have a thick skin and It's nothing personal and don't take it home at the end of the day. If you've got your if you get beat up all day because you know, that's part of the learning process and those people end up being the best, the best people to work with because they have made those mistakes and they won't make them again, I guarantee you so let me ask you a real quick Vince where can people find you begins always calm or visit Gonzalez Denver Comic Con page on Facebook. Vince man

Alex Ferrari 44:41
Thanks again so much for taking the time out to talk to the indie film hustle tribe. I really appreciate it brother.

Vince Gonzalez 44:45
Hey Alex. Yeah. Appreciate you haven't been Thanks a lot.

Alex Ferrari 44:51
Vince is man a wealth of information and he was dropping value bombs like crazy in this episode, and it was so much fun to listen to how The cast and crew of walking dead were at the very beginning of the phenomenon. It's always interesting to meet house how to see how they were and how kind of in a bubble they were down in Atlanta shooting. So it was great to have Vince on so I really appreciate him coming on. If you guys want the show notes for the show, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/063 you can get links for everything we've talked about in this show. And don't forget to head over to filmmakingpodcast.com, that's filmmakingpodcast.com to leave a review of the show, hopefully a positive one. It really helps us out a lot guys, it helps to get more eyes and ears on to what we're doing at indie film, hustle, and help more and more independent filmmakers around the world. So filmmaking, podcast, calm. Thank you guys, as always, for being loyal, loyal listeners to the show. The podcast is growing like weeds. It's insane how fast it's growing, and how the listener base is growing. So guys, thank you so much for listening. I really humbled the appreciate everything you guys do. So please spread the word. I want more filmmakers to be listening to not only my podcast, but there's a bunch of good filmmaking podcasts out there as well, that week that that give a lot of great information. So I want more and more filmmakers to know that there's great information and knowledge on podcasts. So thanks again guys. Keep the hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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