IFH 339

IFH 339: What to Do When Your Film Project Falls Apart


Right-click here to download the MP3

We all have gone through it, a project falls apart after months if not years of you working on it. It has happened to me so many times I lost count. I based my book Shooting for the Mob on my biggest and most painful failure. In this episode, I share my experience on how to deal with a dream-crushing event.

“ALL filmmaking careers are forged by the failures you have in this business.”

You need to understand that EVERY FILMMAKER at EVERY LEVEL has gone or is going through a project falling apart. Let’s discuss how we can deal with this and keep moving forward towards our filmmaking dream.

Alex Ferrari 2:01
Now today on the show, guys, we're going to talk about something that it's something that we all go through. What happens, what do you do when your project falls apart? Now before I start, I do want to give a big shout out to the tribe member who suggested that I do this episode Jim Henson out there and no, not Jim of the Muppets. But Jim, he's a contributor to the indie film hustle blog, and he suggested I do this episode. So thank you, Jim. Now, every filmmaker and I mean, every filmmaker will go through this at one point in their life or another. It's just the way it is. You're not alone. It happens to everybody. It happens from the first student film, you're getting off the ground, to the 100 and $50 million $200 million dollar studio project that falls apart because the cast or the actor doesn't want to do it or something happens. It happens that everybody's happened to Spielberg. And it's happened to the student. And there's something kind of freeing about that. Because if you know that everybody else goes through it, and it's just part of the process, then it doesn't hurt. Or at least you can rationalize it a little bit more. Listen, man, I've gone through so many of these experiences in my life, I've been attached to so many projects. And the biggest project that was attached to was the subject of my my book shooting for the mob. If you guys haven't heard of it, I'm sure you have already. But for those who haven't thought about how I almost made a $20 million movie for the mafia and how I was flown around to Hollywood or met all these big stars and so on. And being that close, being that close to your dream in and getting ripped away from you is such It was like literally a ton of bricks falling on top of my head. While being while I was being kicked in the nuts. It was brutal. And I'm sure people listening right now. And I'm sure tribe members who are listening right now, somebody out there is going through this, that the project that they've been working on for five or six months has fallen apart. And for many of you, it's fallen apart again. And I want to tell you something, and I said this at my my talk I did last week at the holly shorts Film Festival. And I think it's very important for you to understand this. And I think once you hear it, it might make you feel better. I don't know we'll see. When it comes to your dream, when it comes to where you've come from, what you've gone through what it's taken to get to where you are today and the struggle Because you've gone through to make your dream come true when it comes to all of that, you know what? No one cares. No one in this business, cares about your dream about what you've gone through, and what what it took to get to where you are. No one cares. And I'm not saying that to be callous. I'm not saying that to be mean, I'm being honest. And I, whether you hear it from me, than when you're sitting in an office somewhere with an executive or investor, and they tell it to you in your face. And you really get sideswiped. And you really just fall and crumble after you hear it from someone like that. Because when you're sitting across, when you're sitting across the table from Batman, and Batman tells you that he wants to be in your movie, the actor who played Batman says, I want to be in your movie. And can you sleep over the night? Which is like, you know, so we can work on it for the next day or two in Wayne Manor, if you will. And when that happens in a week, a week later, you're off the project. I'm telling you. It's just, it's grueling. Yeah, I mean, what do you do to be that close. And I'm an extreme example of that. And there's many other stories out there in the, in the Knights of Hollywood in the streets of Hollywood, that that's even worse than that. But I'm sure it hurts just as much. And I know, it hurts just as much because it has, it's happened to me with every single film I've ever done, whether short film, or feature, or something along those lines, other than the two features that I made myself, everything else, I was always chasing money, I was always trying to, to, you know, get that actor put that pitch together, get a business proposal, get a ppm, take meetings, find investors all of that, to say, Oh, God, take those meetings at the agencies and all of that stuff. And I just finally decided for myself, that I was tired of letting the power of giving the power to somebody else, I just decided to do it on my own. And that's something I really do advise you guys to do. Try to make the thing wherever you're trying to make your project, try to do it on your own. If it's if it's a half a million dollar movie, then find a project you can make for 1015 Grand 20 grand, get it done, and get it out there. So the the title of this episode is how what do you do when your project falls apart? Well, step one is man, it happens to everybody. So understand that and have some sort of solace in that you're not the only one. And that's not going to help you a whole lot. And you might still be pissed and angry. But when you when you attach so much to something that you have no control over, you are bound to be disappointed, you are bound to get hurt. Because it's not in your control. It's just something that you have no control over, you're literally just saying, Hey, you know that, that whatever happens to that dog today out on the street, I'm going to put all of my eggs in that basket and with that dog gets hit by a car. Your entire world comes crashing down. Am I right? Does that make sense? It did for me. My world has been torn apart so many times. So many times over a project, I've lost count. I've lost count, because I used to give so much power to people into situations and the projects that were literally not in my control. I finally just decided, you know what, I'm not going to play this game anymore. I'm going to do it on my own. And if I have to do it on a small scale, I'll do it on a small scale. And hopefully that'll lead to bigger things in the future. But you know what, I'll be happy along the way. Because there's nothing and I tell you no better feeling than to finish a feature film or a project that you've had complete control over the entire time. And again, I've been doing this for over 20 odd years. Okay, so I've I've earned the right to have complete control over something. I've earned the right to control my own destiny if you're just coming out of film school have never made a movie before. And you want complete control rethink that you might want to partner up with some people who've been doing this before, but still do it on your own. Control the the reins, the drive the steering wheel. You got to take that steering wheel and drive man. Because if you give it to somebody else completely, you're gonna you're gonna crash man. Because if that person does something that they don't like it, you're gonna just fall apart. And I've had that happen to me so many times. Look, the reason why I made my first feature is because I was attached to another project with some big people, and I was already doing castings. And we were going to go down this road. And all of a sudden, for no reason, it just all fell apart, again. And I just turned myself and I looked myself in the mirror, and I said, I'm 40 years old, man, I can't do this anymore. I can't keep playing this game. Because tomorrow, I'm going to wake up, and I'm going to be 60 or 70. Trying to get a feature film made. I'm going to be that sad guy who's been trying for 30 or 40 years to try to get a movie made by playing by somebody else's rules. And that moment, I said, I'm going to shoot a movie in the next 30 to 45 days. And guess what, a month later, I was shooting my my first movie with a friend of mine. And we did everything. And you guys should know the whole story by of this as Meg if you don't, I'll put a link a couple of links in the show notes. So you can listen to the story of how I made this as Mac. But that's what I did. I took the reins, and I promise you something. When you do that, oh man, is it addictive? It's hard for me to think about doing a movie when I don't have the reins. But um, you know, I'm open to it. And we'll you know, we'll go down that road when that when that those opportunities present themselves. But I'm having a ball doing this. I'm telling you, man, it is a dick, Tiff. It really is. So when a project falls apart again, and it will again, even when you're controlling everything. There's things out of your control, because this is a collaborative art. So you're going to it's going to inevitably crash again. I said something else on my my last talk that I thought I think would really be helpful to you is I wish nothing more for anybody listening right now. That any success that comes to you in this career of yours in this filmmaking career, whether it's writing, whether it's directing, producing, cinematography, production, design, whatever it is, I hope it comes to you slowly. I'll protect time. Because you need time to ripen, you need time to harden, you need experience, you need tools in your toolbox to handle success. If I would have made that $20 million movie when I was around 25 or 26, I would have self destructed I know I would have my ego was so ridiculously out of control, I would have self destructed and I would have been a horrible human being to be around. Because I wasn't ready. Some people are ready at 19 some people you know on their path, they're ready to take it. And many do. You know, but no matter where you are, and no matter what even if it comes fast for you. All careers are forged out of the fire of this business. All of them. Do you think that Robert Rodriguez when he was 23 and got El Mariachi, do you think it was smooth sailing ever since it might look like that on the outside, but I promise you he has been hardened. And he's got a lot of shrapnel maybe different than my shrapnel. definitely different than my shrapnel and different definitely different than your shrapnel and your scars. But he's got him nevertheless. And I promise you that's what you need. You need to think of this as a long game. And anytime you have a failure to another scar, it's another piece of shrapnel that's hardening you in a good way it's creating that rhinoceros skin, it's turning you into a professional. It's turning you into a filmmaker because the professional doesn't sit and cry when a project falls apart. If they feel it, they're human, of course. But they move on, they move on quickly. After I I almost made that $20 million movie for the mom the shooting for the mob store. I went into a depression for almost two years, two to three years I was in a depression. I was so bad psychologically that I hid in a garage, selling comic books on eBay. I got so low in my in my place the rock bottom, close to the rock bottom rock bottom was actually almost filing for bankruptcy. But close to the rock bottom. I actually went to Hollywood video when they were still around and submitted an application to be a video store clerk again when I was 27 and I hadn't been a video store clerk since I was 18 had been a professional editor, and director. But I was so destroyed that I couldn't even deal with it. I was so just obliterated that that's how low I got on my path. And thank God, they turned me down. Because I don't even know what would have happened if I would have gotten that job. You need to pick yourself up when something like this happens. I know it's easier said than done. But I've been there been there every multiple times, multiple times I've been there. You understand that it's a lesson, you need to understand that it's part of this process. It's part of a career. It's part of becoming a professional filmmaker. in whatever field in the business, you're going after, your script doesn't get optioned, you're told that you suck. You go down the line for six months, going back and forth with investors and agents, and actors and all this kind of stuff. And at the end, that last second, the money falls through, which has happened to me as well. Literally, like a week before shooting. The investor goes, I'm out. And now Oh, my God, what am I gonna do? That's happened to me. And I've seen it happen to multiple filmmakers, friends of mine, clients of mine, I've seen it. I've seen movies sit on a shelf with major stars on it for a year or two, because they ran out of money. with major stars in it ran out of money, something happened, someone screwed up. Can you imagine being a director with a full movie in a harddrive that you can't even edit? Talk about grueling, grueling, grueling process of trying to find money for a year or two, to try to finish that movie. It happens to all of us guys. And it's part of the process. So if you're going through that, right now, listen to my voice. I've been there. I feel you, I'm with you. You can make it out of this. Because we all have. And if you can't make it out of this, then this business is not for you. So you have to ask yourself, do I want to do this anymore? Do I want to move forward? Do I want to be relentless? In my pursuit of my dream? That's the question you have to ask yourself. Because like I said earlier, no one cares. No one cares what you're going through. You know what they do care about money. That's what this business cares about, is success in money. And the only reason they care about success is because it has money. If you can make money, for anybody in this business, you'll always have work. You'll always have work. In whatever place it is, man. If you can make money as a production designer, as a director, as an editor, as a screenwriter, if you can make somebody else money, you'll always work. take that to heart. Take that really to heart. So just ask yourself, Is this for me? Should I keep moving forward? I think you should. Cuz you're listening to this. This podcast has found you for a reason. you clicked download and play for a reason. Don't take that lightly. This message has gotten to you. So listen, and listen very clearly. We've all been there, guys, you can make it through. Just understand that this part of the process. I hope this has helped you a little bit. I hope this is helping. I mean, I wish I would have heard this when I was going through stuff. And trust me, sometimes I was so angry and so pissed off and so sad and depressed that even this might have not helped. But I hope it does help you just understand that we all go through it. Everyone goes through it, you can go back and listen to as many of these podcasts as you can and, and with these interviews that I've had with these amazing filmmakers, and they've all gone through it. Every single screenwriter, every single filmmaker, we all go through failure. We all go through projects completely crashing after years of being on them years of being on them. I know filmmakers who've been on projects for 10 years and it falls through. It just happens guys at every level of this business. So I hope this episode helped you. I hope this episode is gonna get you through it or at least start the process of you coming back out of wherever you are in whatever dark place you might go in your own head. But understand, it's completely in your head. It's something that you have control of. You can't control what happens to you in life. All you can control is how you react to it, how you handle it that isn't 100% in your power, but what happens to you isn't? Keep that in your mind as you move forward in this. If you want a couple of links of the stuff, like the things about this, this mag and things like that on the show notes, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/339. And I, if I were you guys, I would tune in to Thursday's episode, which is going to be a special episode about how a filmmaker, a tribe member, if you will, they reached out to me and they said, Hey, Alex, I've had, I've had a short film on my shelf for four years, and I've had the courage to finish it. But then I heard your podcast, and I finally got up off my ass and did something about it. And I invited him on the show, to talk about his process of what it was like, watch how he went all the way down to rock bottom, moving back in with his parents at 30. And how he's been able to come back up. And he's in the process of getting his movie, movies finished. It's done Now finally, and it's getting out there. It's a fantastic story. And it's something that I think a lot of us have gone through. A lot of us have gone through. So if it's a nice companion piece to this episode. So I wanted to put these both out on this week. So again, I hope this helps you guys out. I really do. I really, really hope this helps you guys. Because man, it's brutal. It's brutal. But it's what we signed up for. This is why we're here, right? We're in this business. We're following this dream. And this is you know, don't get pissed off about getting punched in the face. When you walk into the ring and say I want to be a boxer. That's just, that's just the way it is. Be the professional. Take the hit, and keep moving forward. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)

Free Training of The Week


How to Produce a Profitable Low Budget Feature Film

By Suzanne Lyons

Join veteran producer Suzanne Lyons as she shows you the three key secrets to produce a successful and profitable independent film.