IFH 292: Fighting the Good Indie Film Fight with Mark Polish

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Today on the show we have writer, director, author, actor, and all-around indie film pioneer Mark Polish. Mark and his brother Michael Polish (listen to his  interview here) are well known for their films, [easyazon_link identifier=”B00002SSKW” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Twin Falls Idaho[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B00005RDRM” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Jackpot[/easyazon_link] (the world’s first digital feature film, yes they beat George Lucas by a few months), [easyazon_link identifier=”B000TDXQY0″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Astronaut Farmer[/easyazon_link] starring Billy Bob Thornton and one of my favorite indie films ever For Lovers Only (Available on IFHTV).

His new film [easyazon_link identifier=”B07MKTCT9W” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Headlock[/easyazon_link] (aka Against the Clock, more on that later in the interview)  is out in theaters and VOD.

Also, do yourself a favor and read his amazing filmmaking book [easyazon_link identifier=”0156029529″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking[/easyazon_link] which is easily one of my favorite filmmaking books of all time.

Mark and I discuss his career, the challenges of maintaining your creative vision and working within and out of the Hollywood system. We also discuss how Sundance has radically changed over the years and some of his horror stories when shooting and distributing his films.

Enjoy my epic conversation with Mark Polish.

Alex Ferrari 0:03
Now today on the show. We have film director, writer and actor, Mark Polish. Now Mark and his brother are famous for making a lot of amazing indie films like northfork, and jackpot, which was the very first digital feature film ever shot, he actually beat George Lucas by a couple of couple of months, Twin Falls, Idaho, one of my favorite films ever for lovers only. And and then they also got to do some studio work as well, like the astronaut farmer with a Billy Bob Thornton. And Mark has done some amazing work as an actor as a writer, and now as a director with his new film headlock with Andy Garcia. And I wanted to have him on the show to talk about his, you know, journey as an independent filmmaker, from the early days of Sundance, to working with the studio system to doing I think one of the first if not the first five D movie, which is for lovers only. And and all his adventures and also his book that he wrote with his brother called the declaration of independent filmmaking, which I promise you if you are an independent filmmaker, you need to read this book. It's one of my top 10 filmmaking books of all time. So let's get into it. Without any further ado, please enjoy my inspirational conversation with Mark Polish. I'd like to welcome the show Mark Polish brother, thank you so so much for taking the time out to come on the show.

Mark Polish 3:41
Hey, thank you so much for having us. Or having me here.

Alex Ferrari 3:45
I was about to say

Mark Polish 3:46
I would say us because my dog is right behind me.

Alex Ferrari 3:48
Fair enough. Fair enough. I've been a huge fan of your work for years. And specifically a few movies we're going to talk about later in the interview. But before for before we even get into it. Can you please tell the audience how you even got into the business and and who you are in general because a lot of people might not know your work?

Mark Polish 4:10
Well, we first probably known as the label, it's a Polish Brothers. That was probably the first that people got recognized who I was more as a duo as we did a film. Our first one we did a short film that kind of put us on the map. It was a Latino based film about boxing called bajada pero. And it started gaining some back then festivals are very much more of a cultivating of talent. I mean, you could read there was no other ways of seeing these movies. There was no distribution back then. So a short film can really get you on the map or get you I think it does as well today but back then it was if you got into a festival that's what your distribution you went from festival, the festival and the short film that might I made, started getting some attention and got some awards, put us in some nice places some nice rooms to start talking about some features that we had. And originally, we'd had northfork written and ready to go. It just looked too ambitious on paper. At this kind of bigger location thing shot Montana would didn't look like it was going to work for two young filmmakers who had no credit or you know, anything. Small 17 minute short film. And so john Grice, the actor I think everybody pretty much knows him as uncle Rico on an appointed diner. Yeah, neighbor. and introduce us to Rena Ronson, who was at Wayne Morris. Oh, prior to that she was at a foreign company called lake shore. She had a son and we would talk she'd read northfork loved it, but thought that it was again too ambitious. And we had something else. And I said, we're currently working on this movie, the script about Siamese twins. And that really intrigued her. And she's like, if you get that done, I think I could get that financed and made. And so that was our first kind of foray into the whole idea of getting something financed. It was independent, it was around $500,000. We did for 17 days, we got into the you know, the Super Bowl of Sundance kind of thing. Got a lot of attention.

Alex Ferrari 6:24
Can you get your going into Sundance, when Sundance was still like Sundance?

Mark Polish 6:28
Yeah, when it was when it really cultivated independent voices. And there was so many unique voices up on that mountain at that time, I think it was 99. And just remember how many great films of that year we had American Beauty you had been john malkovich, you had boys don't cry. I mean, you named Blair Witch, you had us, you get a lot of films that very unique voices that are coming out at the time. And it was a nice class to be around. And you traveled with those filmmakers, and you became friends with a lot of them. So it was a we got a lot of attention off of Sundance came off the mountain got a lot more recognition. Got into the studio system. And and they were very, you know, there was a one in particular by Jeff Robin, who was running, he was a junior exec at the time really responded to my plan, I and we set up a deal over there to do some to do some work over there. And that's how it kind of really started from there. And we always kept doing smaller movies while we are kind of cultivating these bigger ones that take took a while to get made. So we were always kind of try to do the smaller ones, though.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
That's awesome. And specifically, like you were saying that you guys were known as the Polish brothers, we literally played again, closer than that, you literally would fall by No, you have to be resourceful. Look, and that's, that was the way you know, you guys, obviously are extremely talented filmmakers. But that was a way to brand yourselves. Honestly,

Mark Polish 8:00
It was one of those things that because we had written northfork and it only had a small role of supporting more by me, you started going okay, no one's gonna make this for this price point. At that time, it was quite high. So you started looking at checking the boxes of what I couldn't do. Or we could play the twins. Oh, we can use our house. Oh, we can use john Grice. As an actor we can use Garrett Morris. We can use Patrick, we chose people that were around us at the time. Sure. So it was a very resourceful first time movie, and very unique at the time, because no one had had told that subject matter. correctly. I think there was sisters, but no one really saw saw the fusion of twins or the kind of intimacy that two conjoined twins had. So it was it was it was definitely eye catching, and allowed us to really make our mark.

Alex Ferrari 8:55
And then you know, I just I just love the pitch session about like, how could you walk into a well first of all, did the money come from Lakeshore or did it go

Mark Polish 9:03
It did not. She eventually left the lake shore before she became a sales agent, packaging agent William Morris, Rena was able to find an equity source. And it just happened to kind of it landed. We were having trouble doing it because like on paper, like we didn't act Siamese twins a hooker. You just keep saying these things. And it's just like, it's a no fly thing. You know, this is a whole, like, I suppose I say this is a horrible pitch. Nothing you could you know, we took pictures to show. I mean, at that time, you had to remember that wasn't the internet. There wasn't these photos. There wasn't any that you had chaning bunker and that was it. That was the image of Siamese twins. They coined the phrase, there was no kind of medical term conjoined was just barely coming to fruition. No one really used that term. And so we had to kind of figure out okay, what's the political correct way of saying this, this is and start telling people It's about conjoined twins. And then they get a prostitute that didn't do well

Alex Ferrari 10:05
Prostitute.

Mark Polish 10:06
You lost a lot of interest that way. But financier who eventually funded the film had had had met me 20 heads, twin sisters. So she saw the intimacy just between the sisters and thought this was a good representation of what she knew about that relationship. And so she was very kind enough to finance the film. And we were very, very lucky to do it. I mean, at first when I remember we're taking it out. First we were going to all the normal places the Miramax is sure the new are fine lines. Remember, there was a lot of those those

Alex Ferrari 10:38
Yeah, many majors. Yeah,

Mark Polish 10:40
That was it. And it was challenging, because no one could see the fusion and no one could understand. I mean, it just looked like a big ticket item with the twins being fused, it was going to be expensive. Regardless, you know, no one thought like, How can you do this practical and make it look good, or believable. So that script inherently look like 510 million dollars. And so, you know, we eventually stripped it back down to make sure that it can stay within the room before war drama type thing, and then did a lot of testing within our own house of how we are going to be able to you know, it was canon, what camera angles, versus what you didn't see that could sell these twins walking was probably the hardest contraction had to do. But we only did it a few times, you know, and then you know, your weaknesses really became your strengths in that idea, because you couldn't they were in mobile. And we couldn't move a lot of sets, we couldn't do a lot of things. So it really added to the cost of phobia of these two brothers that couldn't be apart from each other. And that inherently was like the side effect of having a movie that was very closed set. You know, I think there was six sets all together.

Alex Ferrari 11:53
Yes, it's an insane story. And I always I always found it fascinating about how you guys got your start with that movie, because it is, again on paper, a horrible pitch. And and and also the other thing is to that you actually from at least from this point of view, and you could tell me if I'm wrong or not, but you actually it seemed like you guys had pretty much creative control over that point.

Mark Polish 12:15
Yeah, we did. We did up until I mean, up until the cut, we had a cut that we submitted to the financier and the producers, not Rena, there was another one that was kind of between the money and they didn't quite understand. They didn't quite digest the story as well as we thought they would. And they had a lot of questions. And they basically would wanted to recut it in a way that they thought was much more pleasing. And it was a it was a it was a very it was a very defining moment at the time. So we made a deal with them. That was like, Look, let's take it up the mountain. If it if it sells for a price, you know, I think just even sales, we get our cut. If not, you guys can take it and recut it. So there was a lot of pressure on that initial that that. Yeah, cuz we were riding on it that it was one of those things where, you know, you saw the twins. They just thought it was a little bit more, you know, slower than it should be. And I was like, but that's just inherently characters, you're not going to be able to jazz it up. You know,

Alex Ferrari 13:18
This is not this is not stuck on you.

Mark Polish 13:19
Yeah, exactly. It's very much it's a much more a, a tone piece about a relationship and you get into it understand it's like and so once it was really embraced by the Sundance community, and Roger Ebert came out all the fun pedestrians over the year, it pretty much quiet at all that quickly because the reviews were really were the next day type reviews. So he came out in the forefront immediately and was like, This is probably one of the best films of the year, then they followed up when it came out with that Janet Maslin came out with an amazing review, this is this is when you your film really depended on a review, I mean, it was make or break each city, depending on the head reviewer, you would march into that town, have a screening. And if that head reviewer did not like your film, you pretty much killed your box office, because it was all of that. And back then there were some really big name reviewers, you know, in each in each publication, so we're very fortunate to get right off the bat with and get on Rogers, good side, he was such a champion throughout until he passed away.

Alex Ferrari 14:23
I actually had the pleasure of he gave me the review of my very first short film, and he was one of the most gentle wonderful souls I've ever met and, and he was a champion. He really was. He was a champion.

Mark Polish 14:40
And he wasn't your, your, what you call it credit credit he was so he just wanted to believe in the good of everyone's work. And I rarely saw him go after something for the spite of going after he always felt and I'd always read what's good about this film or what's good about this story and then focus on that. It's okay maybe some things didn't come and satisfying the way he thought it would. But he never focused on it. And he was such a such a darling to my phone I and I miss him tremendously, because I think he would have still championed a lot of these things that we're doing.

Alex Ferrari 15:16
Yeah, without question. And he was, he was he's definitely a champion without question. And he had, for people who don't know it wasn't raised in that time period with Roger. He was the dude. Yeah, he was. Yeah, that was no, there was no one bigger than him at that time. It was that there's no one and there's no one has ever no critic ever won the Pulitzer on that

Mark Polish 15:36
Yeah, exactly. And so when he, you know, when he asked you? Yeah, and yeah, when he blasted it was it was, I remember the phone call he he'd seen the movie, and he wanted to meet with us. And I was like, this could either be really good or really bad. I had watched him. I grew up on PBS with Gene gene. And gene had passed away. Yeah. Prior to the screening, so we didn't get a gene review. And you know, I don't know if he would have liked it. Or assuming may have would have been a great argument. They would have been amazing to see the fight over it. You know.

Alex Ferrari 16:14
Now after after Twin Falls, Idaho, you got the juice to go make Norfolk north.

Mark Polish 16:20
Yeah, we made a small digital film jackpot in between, okay, with with john Bryce. That actually got a little bit more award and attention than Twin Falls is one of the Cassavetes awards spirit. It was it was a much smaller and it was actually the first digital movie to be released. It's on the timeline right before Star Wars, which is really fascinating. We we actually took that center altar right before he did it. Oh, you shot it with this in the altar? Yeah, we just saw out there before that. So you see a timeline you see little movie called jackpot right before Star Wars and like, so it was it was that's really that. And then we were able to get enough attention and put together North Fork that was up in Montana location up in Montana, which was the beginning of those stories, you hear of losing your money, and all that kind of we had, we hadn't had that experience yet. And that was kind of that bigger, we're moving forward. We're losing money type thing that happens to independent filmmakers,

Alex Ferrari 17:26
Without question, and I've actually studied northfolk a lot over the years, because I love the movie when it came out. And then that wonderful documentary on the DVD. Yes, that just told just showed the Hell yeah, the insanity of what you guys were attempting to do, I mean, building that that boat

Mark Polish 17:48
Out there in the plains of Montana. I mean, as well, as they're saying, you know, once you step foot in Montana, you're part of the food chain. You just, there's nothing, you know, there's nothing that's going to hold you back, you know, from the nature of Mother Nature knows nothing. Yeah. And then it didn't even make clothes that was warm enough. For Montana. It was and it was it was the flip side. It's not It's not the sexy side of Montana, which is Glacier Park, and the west side and all that whole thing everyone's familiar with it was the east side, which is more prairie. And the backdrop is the beginning of the Rockies. And it was a good, go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 18:23
No, no, no. But the thing was with Norfolk as well is that, you know, from what I saw, and I was and I might be mistaken, that like did your, their dad or your parents were happy.

Mark Polish 18:34
I know, my dad, my dad came up, he was a production designer, because we couldn't get anybody who knew the land as well as he did, right. And he built, you know, we built a lot of the houses we lived in or contributed to the building. We built the house that he currently lives in Montana, so we're familiar with his building qualities, what he could do. So we had these plans of this boat, he's actually he just, you know, he's former DEA, he doesn't, he's seen a lot of stuff. So he was like, Oh, let me see this. I'll build this. What do you want it kind of thing. And he knew that he could crack ground and a frozen ground. He just knew the terrain very well. Right. And so it was a very, it was amazing to see him. Take that position and take it head on and be like, Oh, no, he built the house and the church and he bought a few things. And so it was a very, it was a great moment for the Polish brothers and their father.

Alex Ferrari 19:23
That was such a beautiful film, though. I mean, honestly, northfolk was just if people listening to have not seen northfolk he gotta rent it or watch it.

Mark Polish 19:31
It's I mean, it's a it's a love letter to dying America. It's a love letter to dying in itself and what we've lost in our value, so it's very prevalent now.

Alex Ferrari 19:39
Oh, very much. So. Can you tell people who because the cast was insane?

Mark Polish 19:44
Yeah, the cast was, um, we started off with. We first got Jimmy Woods James Woods who played my father Walter O'Brien, and then we're able to wrangle in Nick nulty Daryl Hannah Anthony Edwards, Tony, who's a close friend of ours, and I was we were doing a To get some of these people, Jimmy was just a fan. So I'd known he liked our stuff. So I got to meet with him and got him aboard. But I'd known I was doing the good thief, the Neil Jordan film, and nice and I was out having a drink and Mike had to fly back to accept an award for jackpot. And that's how Nick got involved. He were drinking Mike called me and he said, hey, look, we just won the award. And he was like, what's going on? I said, Well, we wouldn't know where he was what movie and I said, Oh, we did this small karaoke country movie jackpot. He goes, am I the next one? I'm like, Damn, right. You are. He was like that kind of he was, you know, we I just loved them so much. And so he was so game for it. It just happened. We just ran up against the Incredible Hulk. He was shooting Incredible Hulk at the time. So we literally put a jet on on American Express to get them up there. You from angley set?

Alex Ferrari 20:56
Well, from what I heard was like what I saw on the documentary, I'm not sure if his documentary The book, but you guys literally didn't know if he was gonna be there.

Mark Polish 21:05
No, we only pushed to the final act days. I mean, it was it became it became this kind of slogan. is Nick showing up next show. Andy coughing who was our ad at the time? Yeah, it was just to boil it for us all the time was like rescheduling every night and thinking he's gonna show up. And then it's me on the phone talking to the producers of the incredible whole, getting him released, you know, and they're like, we're, we need them here. We need to there and Nick really wanted to do it. And you know, Nick throws themselves I don't know if you've seen that role, that he did an incredible force I did. Huge and big and he really spends himself. So he he was exhausted, just dead. You know, he comes off the plane pajamas, and he had some kind of sitar wrapped around his neck. And his assistant was, I'd come across the assistant and so he he helped Matt trauma's was the guy. He helped me a lot to navigate Nick up there. But once Nick was there, it was fantastic. You know? No, no, it was, it was a great set. And you just got to see I mean, we did Jimmy there the whole time. And they just, and Jimmy really wanted to work with Nick and never we never had an opportunity. So there was such as great bonding of I mean, extreme right and left. Yes. Your views very mad, you taking them to bowling. It was it was the kind of the, the kind of debate about things that they were for a lifetime. And also Peter coyote was in it. So he was there as well. So there was a lot of

Alex Ferrari 22:42
And Daryl Hannah, was there.

Mark Polish 22:44
I mean, it was it was one of those casts that and then when you're up there, and you're in such a remote area, you become you become so close, and everyone becomes a family. But oh, yeah, Ben Foster was in it. And Was that too. So it just kept going? It's just like, we just started, we'd accumulate these casts prior to the films that we made before. And those would either hit the market or people would hear and people would watch them. And they're like, what are the Polish brothers doing next? I want to work with them until we were able to get this reputation of doing these films that people read these actors really wanted to be in

Alex Ferrari 23:16
The it's it's an a remarkable story. And it's also chronicled in the amazing book, the declaration of independent filmmaking that you wrote with your brother and

Mark Polish 23:26
Jonathan Shelton, who was a producer was one of the producers on the astronaut, farmer and North work,

Alex Ferrari 23:33
It's an A, and I've recommended it's one of my top 10 recommended books for filmmaking. It's a great book, it's it. What I love about what you and Michael do in general. And what you've done is that you guys are independent filmmakers. Yeah,

Mark Polish 23:48
Yeah. You mean truly, this is the kind of the thing that was always confusing to me. Because without confusing, it was you. I mean, we're truly independent, since the money was never from anywhere, but outside the industry. Whereas a lot of these indie films were cultivated and made that many majors show and they had the support and the insurance and the help of corporations, you know, having smaller things. We've never had any of that. So I mean, truly, truly flying by the seat of our pants on these things, you know, mortgaging houses and cars and doing whatever we could. And so that, to me was always independent filmmaking, like you would do whatever you took. It doesn't look healthy. It looks really crazy. But that's what we did. And so we're always you know, the style became your mistakes type of thing, or the style became what you what you lacked in your filmmaking, or when you couldn't read you had to, it was less about storytelling and more about story engineering. How was I going to tell this thing about an art with no money? You know, where I wanted to tell the story about angels? How do you do this with no prosthetics are people like VFX?

Alex Ferrari 24:52
Or no? Yeah, no high end. VFX Right. Yeah. It's a magical film. And I do honestly think that if you had another $20 million, it wouldn't be the same movie.

Mark Polish 25:00
Wouldn't it wouldn't it would probably look like x men in the accent had one of the angels in it that I think Ben Foster was

Alex Ferrari 25:08
Faster. His agent is literally Angel. He was a low budget angel in our movie. He the high budget man wanted Bryan Singer. But apparently that's why he got that other part. You know, hollywood works. How he played an age before. Let's hire him to do an angel

Mark Polish 25:24
Yeah, exactly. In this in this day and age, yeah, rebranded, we're gonna rebrand that Angel.

Alex Ferrari 25:31
Now I want to definitely talk to you about how you transition from being an indie film darling. And you know Sundance and Ebert and all that to the studio system where you got a hefty budget for what kind of movie it is. And it's called the astronaut farmer with Billy Bob Thornton, which I do love as well. I always they're, they're such unique films. That unique voices. So how was it transitioning from? indie, indie, indie to, you've got to buy what was the about the budget was like 20 million for that round.

Mark Polish 26:04
It was 15. But hard. And then the incentive in Mexico made it rounded off at 15 or something like that

Alex Ferrari 26:11
Still, you know?

Mark Polish 26:12
So Oh, yeah, a lot more than we've ever had. You know, and I don't know about you,

Alex Ferrari 26:16
I don't know about you, but I pick up 12 million?

Mark Polish 26:18
Yeah, no, it was it was one of those things where, you know, we had, I remember walking on like that, well, we got a lot of trucks on this one. A lot and a lot of toys to play with on this one, I mean, even rocket build, we were able to do a lot of things that you weren't able to do with the with the lack of resources. So and you know, New Mexico is a very fun, magical place to shoot that as well. I mean, the experience was actually, I had a great time I didn't have I didn't run up against anything. I remember that, you know, specifically, this is a really funny story. I remember that talk about transition. I we we were doing a bigger movie, a bigger science fiction movie there that they weren't going to kind of work getting the head wrapped around. And Michael and I just finished astronaut farmer, we're like, we're gonna go do this while you guys make your decision. Paula Weinstein and let them motto. The producers said, You know what, wait, wait, before you go off and do another ended. Let me read this. And then they read it. And they're like, Well, I think Jeff would do this. And so they gave it to Jeff, it wasn't part of our deal. And Jeff was like, I'll make this this is this is great. I'll make it for a price. And so we sat down with him. And we were able to get Billy Bob immediately to it and sat with him. And he joined on. So he effectively made the show go really fast when he when he agreed to it, of course. But we were right before we left to New Mexico, Jeff, Robin off had called us up to his office and said, let's have a lunch. I want to paint a pep talk. This is a studio system I want to see, check you guys out and he's like, Look, just follow the script basically. Like just the headline was like, just follow what you wrote, don't go off and do something crazy. Like he was fearing like, this was a joke like this, this script was not what we were going to do is to get by, you know, like, we're gonna pull a fast one on him. So I was like, No, we're gonna do it. So tell me, the first thing we shoot is Billy Bob, on a horse in White Sands, New Mexico, the opening of the movie is the first thing we shot. And it's just bizarre as hell you have this guy in a spacesuit on a horse walking and this phone call I get is Jeff Rogoff screaming at me, like just live I'll keep the profanity out but you can imagine it was laced with profanity saying you're making these goddamn Fellini film aren't you? I let you guys do I said I'm so sorry Jeff. That's now what it's like it's a title sequence we can cut it you know, filmmakers when you transition, your first dailies should be very, very welcoming and not be something esoteric as a guy in a 60s patient of one on a horse that was the wrong thing. So you learn real quickly you know that you want to send you know things that they

Alex Ferrari 29:14
That they can palette palatable palatable. Yeah, that they understand that Oh yeah, they're gonna do that and they're gonna they're gonna follow the script and for people listening I mean when you do get if you if you're lucky enough to work within the studio system and have those toys to play with there is politics that you have to play there are so there is massive amounts of psychology

Mark Polish 29:34
Learned so I mean, the thing that I think I learned the most was probably in the post in the editorial of because there was so many notes that were there that were coming down the way of you send a cut it go up there at all, watch it and then you'd get a you know, what binder of notes, so many people and you know that in the Indian, the indie guy in me is just like, Hell no, I'm not doing that one. That one that one out now and I would end in what you're doing is going to create rate this massive conflict early on, rather than every time is games, a good really great guy who taught me was like, Look, just show them what they want. And then when they see it and they know it's not work, then they'll move off it. If you're going to be resistant upfront, it's just going to be a bigger fight. And that's probably what I learned early on is just show them how bad that note is. And then they'll move off of it. Yeah, kind of embarrassing, in a way. And then that's probably the biggest thing, but as the transition, the more money more time there was not much to worry about that. I mean, that I think that the children were our kids, and that that was a little bit at first was like, how how's it going to work? But the location the DP, everything? There was there was was like a family thing. It was very, very

Alex Ferrari 30:48
Small, but yet big. Yeah. And it was nice. It worked out very, very well. Very happy with that. And the movie and the movie did well didn't

Mark Polish 30:54
Yeah, it did. It did really well really opened up a lot of doors to be like, Oh, these boys brother just don't make these weird, esoteric films. They can do this story.

Alex Ferrari 31:04
And by the way, I mean, but but and that was released by Universal was Warner Warner, I'm sorry, Warner Brothers. I know, it was a big was one of the big guys. But but for us prefer studio film astronauts, farmers still definitely out there.

Mark Polish 31:19
Yeah, no, it's it's wild. And a lot of it came from the inspiration came from trying to get North work made, and then losing that, you know, losing the financing the night before, and anthesis. So there's certain scenes in that, that are really derived from our life, that was very much about like, Hey, you want to launch this dream or this rocket, and all the opposition and all the adversity you're going to go through and how you're going to overcome that who believes in you and your family versus, you know, all those things were, were inherent in that story that we could tell this story from a point of view of living it, you know, living of like, no one believes that I'm going to launch this thing. No one's gonna believe that we're gonna finish this thing. It coincided with the way our father raised us and the things that he did and showed us the certain ways to live and build things and do things with your hands and you know, do things your own way, do it yourself. And so there's a lot of homage to him as well.

Alex Ferrari 32:16
That's awesome. That's awesome. So as we continue down memory lane for a second. One of the films that really inspired me, I cannot tell you how inspirational this film is. for lovers only. Oh, yes. I it is the ultimate indie. The ultimate indie film, if I may, if I may be so bold to tell the audience and I've we've talked about it on the show before when we had your brother on Yeah, but for lovers only you literally get the five D had just come out. And you your brother? I think a sound guy and stain are the actors. Yeah. Just went to Paris and shot a movie. Yeah. That's a France. Yeah, like, top to bottom. I mean, it was. It's an insane story of how you made it. But I love the story. Because Michael said it in the, in the first interview, how I'm like, how did you get Stena in involved? And for people who don't know stain caidic, who is she was on a very long running hits show called castle. She was still pretty, you know, she's still at the time. I think it was the beginning of the second end of the second and yeah, end of the second end of the third like yeah, so she wasn't she was already on her way. And she had done a bunch of other stuff prior to that, you know, she's a wonderful actress. But the way I was told is that, that you guys just put a call out in your agency and just said, hey, look, we're gonna go make a movie. And we don't like it we're going to Paris Do you want to come is

Mark Polish 33:46
Basically it was like, we'd shared the same agent, stone and I didn't, I didn't know at the time that we'd share it. I went to the agent at the time that was representing me. I said, Look, these this is what we're going to do. This is the requirements. Do you know any actress that would be willing to do and it was like a little shortlist. And Donna was the first girl actress on the board. So we met with three I think and she was the one that was just like, let's do this. She had the she she was brave from the very beginning. And you could just read it. I mean, when you do these movies, like even like a headlock and these, you're casting a lot side outside the lines as well. You know, you're looking at what, what those moments are going to be like when they're there when you don't have a trailer. And you don't have a room to go back to how people are going to respond to that. And so we knew it was going to be running gun and tough that there was a lot of physicality involved in it. But we knew that, you know, your personality was in your character was definitely going to be tested and she was right up front. Besides just her ability, her ability to act was amazing.

Alex Ferrari 34:54
And you were the co star

Mark Polish 34:55
The co star. Yeah. And so it was there was a lot of preparation for it in the sense that it It probably looks a little bit more free handed than we were but we miss Donna will rehearse every night. They make we'll take it upon ourselves to be as fully prepared because they were live sets or life situations. Don't you don't want to mess up in the sense that I don't know my lines, you don't have your lines. So we rehearsed them the night before, backwards forwards different ways. Understand what the characters were the intimacy level what we wanted to show, and then we were we would just hit the street, we'd be able to do these things. So natural, and that really helped us out.

Alex Ferrari 35:32
Yeah. And then of course, whatever happened on the day, you kind of had to roll with it.

Mark Polish 35:35
Yeah, you had to roll with it. I mean, it was it was it was modular descriptors as modular as you can make it, it didn't necessarily be like, Well, you know, we had things that were in the bed would probably those are easy, but the thing that was on the boat or on the beach weren't necessarily written beach and bow, those were things that we were able to attain on our on our journey, or the motorbike was there, but not in knee. So it was it was very modular in the way that we had to be able to approach it, which is challenging, but sometimes freeing, because you would get these amazing things like the boat, like the beach, how about the cliff? Oh, the cliff was tough, because you don't have anybody scouting it, you have no one out there, you're actually looking at it the day you're going to shoot. And then there's no one jumping before you. You know, you really don't know what's underneath, like, oh, and so there was some there was some defining moments there. Where where you thought this is a little bit far this, you know, just trying to judge it from the top

Alex Ferrari 36:34
Oh, no, you can't do that.

Mark Polish 36:35
Yeah, it was tough. It was trying to have her do it. It was amazing. And yummy. At that point, you couldn't touch you couldn't turn around.

Alex Ferrari 36:42
No, no, of course not. But the funny thing is about like those and that the thing I love about that movie so much is the performances are so natural looking. And you guys are jumping off that cliff, you're jumping off that cliff, there's no acting involved. Now you're hitting that water heart, you know? Yeah, it's it's cold, it was cold at that point. And you look at the face, like I still remember her face. So clearly, just right before she jumps. Yeah,

Mark Polish 37:06
he was she was nervous, but she was into it, you know, it was it. That's the thing about that, particularly movie was trying to capture that, that feeling of alive, you know, like, it's hard to it's hard to articulate what you do. But, you know, it's nice to be an actor in an environment that is feeding your cue can feed off of it invigorates you, it does not like people coming up and touching you for your makeup or your showing action of cut, Michael is rolling all the time. So there was moments that were just so pure, that you can't really get because it's always like a starting gate, you know, it's always like action, boom, you're out of the gate, you know, cut, boom, you're done. This was so fluid, you know, and you're able to really harness the energy that was around us and the things that you would do and you know, the natural things that couples do put, you know, groom each other, put things around each other's you know, like, put the hair behind her ear, those types of things. Just became inherently natural, because you're with somebody for so long doing these things, so and so that kind of subversive kind of stuff. We really benefited from it, you know,

Alex Ferrari 38:16
it was? Yeah, it was it was my direct, one of my direct inspirations to make my first feature, which was very similar in that sense, because I was just kind of like, let's just kind of roll with it and see and minds was I didn't have a script, we had a script. But, but I had an insane actors, like I had really, really seasoned, you know, I just had been doing this for 20 years. I

Mark Polish 38:38
mean, you need you need to be that's the thing, when people watch it, I've met with a few people, you know, wanting to emulate whoever's on, they said, Look, that's like our eighth movie. That's not that wasn't our first one out of the gate. I don't know if we could have done that. I mean, we knew what not to do more than what to do. And that's probably more important. Right? And in that particular film, yeah, we knew what was in the parameters of what the story what you could do, you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:05
and that is something that is something I think that people listening is like, if they go see lovers only, and they go or if they see puffy chair, or something like that, like a lot of times, you know, when you made for lovers only that was your eighth film, you know, and when I made my movie I'd been directing for 20 years at that point, so there's like, you know, an in post production, and I kind of knew what I can get away with. You kind of can't jump into those films at first. You No, upfront.

Mark Polish 39:32
No, because I think you're concerned when the first time is you're concerned with much more things outside the lines than you are inside. You know what's happening and it's you know, it's the game is fast at that point, it slows down at each film you do and so it was much slower, to be able to know like, okay, we just need this shot. We need this shot. I'll be married, a lot of storytelling is made an editorial and so when you go through numerous films, you start to understand where the fat is, and what you can cut and what you don't need and what tells a story. Much faster, or how linear just how storytelling can be reduced through editorial and the way the language works. And it's I don't think if you are a first time filmmaker, you get to see those different methods are different ways of telling a story.

Alex Ferrari 40:17
And then another thing that was kind of revolutionary with fur lovers only is that you guys made a good amount of money off of it. Yeah, we did. Well, you did. Did what? And I don't be crass about talking the numbers. But on a distribution standpoint, you used iTunes, yeah,

Mark Polish 40:33
it was a thing. Yeah, before any of this kind of internet, or these kind of what they call distribute distribution. There was not a lot of platforms and deals out there. I remember when it got released the next day, fagged called, and they were like, you don't have a deal, as it were, there wasn't one existing for a digital platform. And so we had to go in and create this, this digital with the call new media IDM. So we consulted on that. But there wasn't a lot about that. And we just felt I mean, I think it's documented, we just felt that the intimacy level of the movie warranted that, you know, you can watch it on your phone, you can watch it in your iPad, it was much stronger and effective in that medium than it would have been projected. We'd project it a few times in Europe and a couple of them festival and it was great. We went in an audience award. And thing and things people really responded to it. But we felt overall, if people could discover it, on their own, the power was in that it was more about kind of a keyhole romance where you're kind of looking in on people rather than you know, hey, we're going to show you this love story because it's very intimate. It's very, very intense. Oh, it's

Alex Ferrari 41:39
it's it's it's there's an energy that comes off the screen for that film. It is. It is beautiful. It is it is a wonderful film and,

Mark Polish 41:46
and isn't black and white. Yeah, black one, five D really allowed us to get really close within centimeters of the actors. And it it just everything worked at that moment in time, you know, the equipment, the way we were able to move location up. I didn't not not very many people were on the street shooting this, you know, shooting this way. So it didn't look like we are shooting a movie. And so we didn't get we didn't get disrupted at all. We didn't get bothered at all on that shoot, whatsoever.

Alex Ferrari 42:17
Well, because because what kind of crazy people shoot a movie with a five d? I mean, sir, yeah,

Mark Polish 42:21
point. Nobody and and nobody had come before. I think there was a few people that were using a supplemental thing, you know, supplemental ways, in between shots, and some TV shows. I think we're using it when they had to get into tight spaces. But it was never meant for that. I mean, it was like a little digital card. I think they put in there for wedding photography. At the time, you know? And we're like, well, we'll exploit that. You know, maybe we'll make a big movie with that. And so our tried to and so it worked. I didn't we didn't have very many problems with it. You know? It she you know, the the when he brought it back, and it wasn't truly black and white, it was very sepia, there was a lot of yellow because it was a color card, you know. And so you find out quickly that black and white is you we had to really modify it like a white. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 43:11
we've definitely had to work with it,

Mark Polish 43:12
and work with it. And we were lucky enough to have like Warner Brothers, our contacts, be able to zip it in there and tweak it to suck all that. I mean, there was a tremendous amount of yellow in that camera.

Alex Ferrari 43:22
No, I'm just Oh, yeah, back. I mean, it was like first generation five.

Mark Polish 43:25
Yeah. Don't you think your ice is black and white, but it's actually warming it up with the yellows

Alex Ferrari 43:30
is insane. And you did create a an amazing documentary on the making of that film,

Mark Polish 43:36
which I did. I mean, there was so many questions, and it got a lot of, you know, hype, a lot of internet, a lot of film schools, a lot of talk about it. And I just felt like it'd been it's so much easier just to say, Hey, this is how we did it. I just didn't want to do it. It's only 20 minutes. And enjoy, enjoy how we did it. And I I saw it the other day. And I was like why we're we're crazy.

Alex Ferrari 44:00
No, no, no, I know the feeling

Mark Polish 44:02
like, wow, we do that. You're so focused on getting the film done and are doing it that way that you're not really seeing all the red flags of what could have went wrong?

Alex Ferrari 44:10
No, no, absolutely. And I'm hoping that we can get both the documentary and for lovers only on ifH. TV, we are working on it with the distributors as we speak, but I really do hope because I want to show the filmmakers you let me know. I will. I'll call you for sure. Now let's talk about your latest film. headlock. Or as it's known on the street

Mark Polish 44:39
Yeah, I'm so I'm so happy. I have a sense of humor about it. No, no. So just when someone to faces your work, you're just like, holy crap.

Alex Ferrari 44:47
I know. So I want to talk before we get into the movie. The movie has been it's now called against the clock because of I guess distribution decided to change the name. Yes. Can you tell me there was a funny story or

Mark Polish 44:59
actually Please tell me, it's really, really ridiculously silly. There is no clock in the movie, and there is no yes, apart from the movie.

Alex Ferrari 45:10
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Mark Polish 45:21
So that being said, you know, this, this distributor, you know, discovered the magic of the alphabet, basically, and was

Alex Ferrari 45:29
Oh, no, it's not the alphabet thing again. Yeah, it's

Mark Polish 45:32
a, it's on the top of a queue on anything. And most likely people, they have their research that say, they'll films do better with a and I was just like, it was such a non rotation, you know, like, I was like, You're kidding me. Like, I couldn't believe this was the conversation I was having. I didn't have usually when when, when I would sell a film or whatever, we'd have a meeting, we'd sit down, talk about the, how we got to this film, what we could do, what was our resources? What would our strengths, how we could market it, I basically got a phone call saying, We bought your film, this is the new name, data that hung up. And that was it. And I haven't had any communications with them since. I mean, it just tells you the faith that they had in it, which was zero, and it was like we're gonna monetize it, we're gonna try to get the money as much as we can. Because we don't think the film's worth anything. And so that's where that came from. And unfortunately, that's not the response. It's gotten from a lot of people. I mean, look, it's not It's a challenging narrative. But that said, The deceptive marketing behind it. And what they're doing is, you know, the backlash is, hopefully it's not as bad as I think it may be.

Alex Ferrari 46:45
Yeah, it's, it's, I've actually had that conversation as well, with distributors when I was working with them on the post side, where they're like, it was it was called, you know, the letter was, you know, the getting started with an S. So they just changed it to an A s, like so. And I was like, I can't believe that's a thing. But I

Mark Polish 47:03
mean, it would have been great to have a conversation about, you know, alternatives or whatever. But, but 80s or whatever, even numbers or whatever. But that wasn't, it wasn't even to be having

Alex Ferrari 47:14
a headline, or even a headline

Mark Polish 47:16
or anything it But first of all, we had numerous offers on the table from different distributors, if you're going to go to someone who's just going to deface it and butcher it and do whatever they're going to do it. I mean, there's other, there was other alternatives to be had. And so I'm not quite sure why the financer chose that I, when you're so focused on making the film finishing this film, which was just a tremendous, hard thing, challenging. I mean, we made 1,000,002. And so it was so hard to do, that I didn't protect myself properly, in the sense that I thought, look, I'll finish the film, I'll hold my end of the of the bargain, I'll want to present you with such an upscale kind of like, larger movie than you guys have ever had. Not knowing that this is what they would do. So it's just it's really unfortunate, because we didn't we didn't anticipate this was the finish line, not the creatives, not the actors, that anybody involved to put a lot of hard work into it. We just didn't anticipate this would be the ending. And it would it did it just fractured everybody. And it just fractured the support from the cast. Because that's not the movie they made. And that's not the movie that anybody wanted to promote. It's not exactly what that is. I mean, the the, the one sheet is misrepresentation, it's got the most has me holding a gun. I don't hold a gun. I mean, they're doing everything like it's the mid 90s. I mean, this is when this I don't read it off on a bike. No, do it. But, but it's like this country has changed so much, Japan, Germany, they're not changing our name is headlock. But in the United States, it's so different. Now, you know, that when the bottom line is the buck, they don't even they just don't care. And that's what's hard. As an artist trying to do work in the United States. Now, it's like you're dealing with with these kind of billionaire bullies that they don't even care, there wasn't even a conversation, which, that's the harder part of it all.

Alex Ferrari 49:09
That's Yeah, it's, it's unfortunate. It really is. And when were you and you were saying something like it's the mid 90s, for people to understand, in the mid 90s, you know, DVDs and, and video stores were still a thing, and they would just slap any cover on and I mean, we all we all rented movies in the 80s that had a cover that had nothing to do with.

Mark Polish 49:30
Yeah, I mean, look, it's it's the puppy mill mentality, isn't it? Yeah. It's like they don't really care about what they're doing. They just want to make money. And that's unfortunate when they do it to be some of these movies like mine and possibly just get get caught in the wash. Because there's a lot of these movies that they can do this to that. Don't have hoped. But surely headlock is not one of those movies. Not my pedigree, not where I'm from. The CAD never Yeah, I never made that kind of movie. And so to try to fit it in and put a bow on it and wrap it up to Be that to a crowd that is going to be very disappointed once they click it, and to see what they have. It's not what they cut. That's unfortunate. You shouldn't do that to consumers or the audience. That's just unfair.

Alex Ferrari 50:12
And that's why, like, there was a, there was a film recently that I saw called, I think it was called this is this is life. And the trailer looked wonderful. It has an amazing cast as Olivia Wilde in it. And Isaac. Africa has that from Oscar Oscar. Oscar Isaac. Yeah. And it you know, amazing cast. And the trailer made it look like it was this kind of like, really, you know, emotional, uplifting, you know, from the writer of Crazy Sexy love, you know, crazy love, whatever that movie was, it was so good with with Steve Carell. And my wife and I were like, Alright, let's watch it. And we started watching it. And it was the most depressing thing. I mean, literally, and I don't want to ruin it. I should ruin it for people. But there's something that happens, like 20 minutes in and you're like, you can't come back from that. Like, yeah, I'm like, you have not seen a movie in years that lied. So

Mark Polish 51:12
short sighted to the audience. And that's how they cater to it. You know, they cater to the lowest common denominator. Yes. I mean, anybody who's just going to scroll through VOD, and pick a movie by the letter is definitely not the crowd for this movie. And then then I thought start to think like, okay, we have a here. I mean, did they ever think about awkward man, like smashing us? That's gonna come up, that's gonna come before us. And I think I think more people are gonna hit Aquamarine, and then maybe Avengers after that. So I don't know if the a game that they're playing is even gonna work.

Alex Ferrari 51:46
But the funny thing is that people who are watching Aquaman and Avengers are generally not gonna be dead. Exactly. It's though it's like this deception they're playing is. It's old school mentality. It's all it is. It's old. Yeah, it's a traditional old school distribution mentality that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Mark Polish 52:03
No, it doesn't. So you know, I, you know, I have this sneaky suspicion that the way that it's going to play out and the way people we're going to, people are going to find it, people are gonna appreciate it will appreciate it. And you got to just find your grace in that because it's, it's, it's a horrible way to treat, there's only a headlock every couple of years. So it's not going to be it was such a unique way of making here. It's such a new new way of doing it, that it should be celebrated and be a trailblazer for other filmmakers not butchered and put in a package to sell, you know, rather than be like, you know, we can do something different. It does have legs, we do celebrate this stuff. You know, does it have a narrative in it like that they cut the trailer? Sure, they carved a narrative out of it, but it's just certainly not that.

Alex Ferrari 52:50
So how did you come up with the idea for the film? intellipaat tell everybody what the film is, is really about. So funny. It's about a clock. It's about a clock. Do you have to be against that clock transformer clock? Is there a chance? I thought I saw a transformer in

Mark Polish 53:06
it? Yeah, they probably would stick one in it would sell tickets. Basically, you know, the short end of it all. It's about intelligence trafficking in the future. Okay. And about these two intelligence traffickers, one played by the love of Diana Agon, and one played by me and, and how when you start messing with the kind of brain things start to go awry in the sense that the brain when I was was fascinating to me, what the kind of the seed of the idea was, the brain is such an amazing supercomputer that it does much more than anything we could ever kind of manufacture. And what was fascinating to me was like once you put something in your brain it's your choice to bring it out. It's It's such the safest of safes. You know, it was like there's nothing that you can lock that's more safer than the brain, you know, you put things you don't even know where things go, that they're that you know, like, scent goes one way fragrance goes on, you know, site goes one way so you actually split up the intelligence as well. And so I thought, wow, this would be a great kind of idea for a science fiction movie about you know, someone going over getting intelligence using their, their hard drive an organic way, and then bringing it back in them extracting it and then at that point, what what of that became viral, what if something were able to infect it and that's kind of the seed if at all. That was kind of the the premise that I had for a long time, but there was always a section of this travel section that was always much much larger canvas of the travel side of Kelley, and until I did four levers only did I realize I unlocked that I know how I can do this side of the story. That wouldn't cost us a lot of money, if anything, I think it was a little under 100 grand all those we did two and a half global trips. We did almost 20 countries. Yeah, and Though there was only four of us, so that one side of it, there's seven teen days shooting with Diana, and Andy and Justin and James Frain on this side, and then after that, it was pretty much abandoned. At that point, it was four of us going all over the world, the cinematographer, a drone operator, me and a producer that operated sound as well we did, we just globe trotted to all these countries, eight and then 15, and stuff like that, and we were able to accumulate very much of a lover's only style of running gun. You know, the motto was like this, this side of the film lives in pieces, because we knew we could plug it into a solid side. So we knew that Diana side was more of a spine, that whatever troubles we couldn't or could get on our foreign side, we could plug into her side of the story, because of the way we set it up. So basically, you know, her side was the launching pad for this kind of another narrative. So basically, I mean, to put it in kind of like a term, it was like, she's the heart, he's the head, and you're going to put them back. And they're going to fight all the way through the head of the story and the heart of the story, and kind of like weave it all the way through. So that's kind of the conceptual aspect of it.

Alex Ferrari 56:11
And then also on the the editing of the film is such is so unique, and rapid fire. I can imagine. I mean, it is such a unique style of shooting and editing. And I can now that you say that, because I wanted to kind of get like the fighting, the editing seems angry. Yeah. Oh, it was.

Mark Polish 56:35
The I mean, it's, there's multiple issues of what was happening, because there was no film to turn to that was doing that environmental editing, there was things that were samples out there, like but they would shoot it the same way, they would shoot the same subject and just switch the background. But the subject would be saying no one was doing the angles and changing. And so when we are going to these places, you are going to be able to cover the scenes, normally, you want to be able to say I'm going to get a close up a two shot, a three shot and then move on you were just going into these things running gun and being like, Hey, we had the typical run, roll and fall type thing. And we'd capture some of it in Hong Kong and then some of it Marrakech. And so we were just getting pieces of all of that in the train. And bringing that all back, you just had a bunch of pieces, you know, you had a bunch of get some things strung together really well. And yet some things that didn't, that didn't quite add up. And it wasn't because we didn't shoot it right, it was just, it's your eye versus what it can receive at the time. It's funny how editorial like if you cut from let's say sand, as as the texture to cement is a different kind of cutting and where you would cut it versus cement to cement or the environment of like times square we are in versus a sand dune, your eye and the level of how you will receive that information was really important to the cut. And that's something he didn't anticipate, because a lot of that stuff is green screen. And we did everything in cash. And so there was a lot of trial by fire and a lot of learning this. And at the point, you just couldn't get editors to do the work log of it all because it was 1000s of hours of like hands falling, feet falling, rolling, rolling, left, rolling, right running, right rolling, web, jumping, all these things. So I had to take it upon myself just to start logging all this stuff. And then ultimately, I started editing it because it took me to be like, Okay, this right. Roll works with this left roll. This drone shot works with this in Venice. This works with the Hong Kong, it's insane. And yeah, and then so and then. But that formula wouldn't carry over to the next segment of Kelly's story, because it was something else. And then so each so I think there's 2025 segments of his story each has a different type of way that we had to battle to make sure that to make that work. Yeah, it was it was challenging. I mean, there was many nights, like in the basement, in my boxers with my boxer. Oh, crap, this isn't working, you know, and, and then the financial aspect of it was on top of it, you know, so there was a lot of just problems like financial problems that came on top of trying to just figure it out as well. So that is adversities that you know, I'm still having trauma over

Alex Ferrari 59:32
you know, but the funny thing is, is that even after all the years and all the films that you've made, is that you you're willing to still take risks. Yeah and I think so many filmmakers once they get to a certain level like they do a studio movie and they like you know you did astronauts farmer, but then certainly thereafter you you went out and did for lovers only with your brother.

Mark Polish 59:53
Yeah. I mean, that's exciting to me is to try to tell narratives in a new way or push them appear in there because I always thought like, Look, even if you crash, it's still beautiful. It's like 100 miles an hour, everything still looks hot, you know? Like, you learn a lot from you. That's, you know, because even when evil Knievel crashed, people watch didn't matter, you know, I mean, right, it was the thrill of victory, you know, kind of thing. And so I always was like people like, are you really gonna be able to pull off these 20 countries and I was like, I don't know, it's just something I'm going to try to do. And we're gonna come back, and we're gonna try to piece this thing together. And if it doesn't work, you know, we know we tried to do something new and innovative. And it's exciting to try to always bring something you know, you can go to the, every weekend, you can go and see the same stuff over and over, why not try to bring something new to the marketplace where it's like, and that's where you're going to probably find a lot of people who it doesn't resonate with, because, you know, we're like, if you just go down to the psychology of it all, it's like, the patterns that people are very happy with patterns, you know. And so when they, why Hollywood is doing so well is because people are familiar with the movies that are out there. They know what they're going to get for that 20 bucks ticket. When you do a headlock, it's pushing blood to new parts of the brain. And it's like who I don't know if I like this, you know? And so that's the risk aversion you're going to have eventually, you can make it but are you going to people are going to accept it. And that's, that's the problem of why they're repackaging and trying to sell it to something else. Because they know once that clickbait it's basically clickbait. Now, once you hit it, you start to see that this thing is unraveling into a whole different thing. It's like, I didn't want to microdose I didn't want to do this. Why are they doing this to me? Because it's, it's it's forcing you out of a story pattern. You know, and I don't know if that's as comfortable as people. I don't think people like to be uncomfortable when I'm watching movies that much

Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
not the mass and not the mass audience. But there is a specific audience for that. Yeah. And I

Mark Polish 1:01:55
think you have to advance storytelling that way. There's no other way to do it. You have to like go and push it a little bit farther each time. I mean, I figured out the kind of the equation, I think people like they're crazy. And like 30%, I think, I think

Alex Ferrari 1:02:07
this is no, I think you're more about the 9090 to

Mark Polish 1:02:12
99.9. So I got a I got to rescale my formula and realize, okay, I got to do it. In smaller doses.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:19
Let me look at a movie like pulp fiction that came out that definitely pushed narrative, it was a

Mark Polish 1:02:24
2001 sheet. Yeah, it still holds. It still holds up. But it could you imagine watching it at 1968? That must have been so mind blowing to try to figure out what the hell is going on when he went to the black hole? And what was that whole, you know, the part when he's in the master bedroom?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:44
No, no, no, no. I mean,

Mark Polish 1:02:46
you think like, wow, got that changed a generation filmmaking and you hope that you can do stories that rival that or kind of get into that framework, or like, I don't understand it, but I respect it, you know, I don't get hung up. And that's what we're fighting against. Because there isn't support for that risk taking, when they do stuff like they did the headlock, people are going to be like, Oh, I need to cater to the masses, or I need to do and I said, we made it for such a small amount of money, that I didn't think we were susceptible to this treatment. And that's what is somewhat confusing, because they've already gained from foreign sales. They've made their money back, but I do think they see the shiny allure to it and they're like, well, we can we can have people swallow this up, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
you know, and and going back to to Stanley's work, especially in 2001. From because I'm a Stanley Kubrick everyone listening knows now I'm going to go on a Stanley Kubrick trip for a second. But that that movie when it came out, it didn't do well. No, it didn't do well. But what made it money was the new generation, the hippies, smoking the weed, taking LSD and going Can you imagine watching 2001

Mark Polish 1:04:03
hoping to use that formula with headlock it's gonna come with a few little micro doses. Buy it from my website, some some shrooms with you

Alex Ferrari 1:04:14
what it takes, but it takes it takes really courageous filmmakers to go out on the edge like that and do something a little bit different. And and the thing that I always tell people is like, Look, if you want to make art, that's fine. Do it for a price. And then identify the audience that you think that this film is for because there is an audience for this. This is not a mainstream movie. There's it's not you go to see Aquaman you're not going to enjoy adblock. But there is definitely a large audience. Well, well large enough to sustain this substantiate the budget that you had for it.

Mark Polish 1:04:47
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, I remember seeing movies all the way across the board from the big ones from jaws to close encounters, to all those but the one that probably was definitive was blue velvet saying, Oh, crap. What the hell is this? You know, I was from a small town, roots Montana. He's from Missoula, Dave. So see that really pivoted my idea of filmmaking. That's what you hope you do you hope you make a movie that you're like, okay? I have been cornfed these big budgets, but then I see a headlock, or I see something like Flex Zone, and I'm like, boom, I can do that. You know, and that's how you're gonna advance anything. Storytelling wise, you know, art wise, you're gonna have to have a few people who take those bullets, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:37
like, they say, the first one through the walls, always bloodiest. Yeah, and

Mark Polish 1:05:40
plus me, I mean, I busted my nose on this, I separated my shoulder Oh, opens. I mean, the list is long of the sacrifices. And that's probably what the, the the give, I probably wouldn't give us much of what they're doing. Because I'm really never been married to the success of anything or what its gonna do box office. But emotionally, I'm more attached to this movie because of the sacrifices of what everybody did of Diana and Andy and everybody who believed in this type of filmmaking. And that's what's disappointing is, right, is everybody buying into it? And then this happening? That's, that's what you just more emotional where this is such a business to them. And that's unfortunate.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:19
Now, what can filmmakers do to maintain creative freedom? Well, you know, in this process, what's like one piece of advice that you could

Mark Polish 1:06:26
give this budget? You know what I mean? Like you said before, it's if you keep your cost down, they're going to trust you know, and I think people can really sniff out if it's a creative decision, or a lack of education, there's a big difference. Right? Whereas like, you see things and mistakes become your style type thing, because you don't have the money to do it. Like the twins, like I was mentioning before, we didn't move on, because we couldn't, and it became kind of the style of the film. I think, you know, with with anything that the strong voice, people listen, I've never been in a place where you know, if you can articulate what you're trying to do, that they're not listening to that. It's when you bullshit and you're trying to talk a big game when you're trying to do that's when I think the sirens go off, and people are like, I don't know, you know, I mean, the I don't know if there's very many good storyteller filmmakers around there's a there's a lot, but I don't know if there's a lot so there's a I mean, it was like the number of knives. Everyone wanted to be lawyers. You know, in any movie filmmaker, of course, there's going to be a lot of people who love the idea of it, but not the Battle of it.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:33
Oh, yeah. The Rock and the rock and roll director style.

Mark Polish 1:07:36
Yeah, like, yeah, I'm doing this. I got a camera in my hand, and I'm shooting like john Cassavetes. That's not that sexy. Yeah, it looks like it. But it's not, you know? Boy, it is, it's really hard. Because like I said, it's not much more about storytelling is much more about engineering, because how am I going to pull this off? You know, the funny thing is, like, you know, the sequence when Kelly hits the car, and it starts to roll over, and it's going head over heels. I'm thinking, how am I going to pull this off, because there's no way I'm going to get a cage to pull this off. So I went to the fair, and got on the Hammerhead ride, and just film with me flipping up and down and then used and inserted it and it looks like a car. That's amazing. That's the kind of engineering you have to have for these movies. And it's less about, Hey, I'm going to sit back in a in a chair and eat a bagel and see this thing it's more like how am I going to figure out how to flip a car with absolutely zero money. And that's cost me the ticket of the of the fare out in Pomona. They might think it's weird, you know, the guy in a suit and a gray suit that looked like that with a camera. It was at that time it was reduced. I mean, I think we had I mean, there's a lot of supplemental iPhone stuff in there. Because at the time we just got into the 4k of it all and so we could use some of it and so there's GoPro iPhone 4k in there and then the some of the little tiny Sony point and shoot that shoot that we used as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:00
That's insane. And now Lastly, can you tell me the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on a film set?

Mark Polish 1:09:09
Now much on a film set, but filming, okay, you were arrested in Marrakech, filming headlock. We were detained for a long time. We now expect a little it was a little weird where you were in Marrakech in Morocco on a motorbike and and next thing you know you're arrested, detained, put into a detention center stuff and you know, was it movie midnight run? Or was it with the Midnight Express? Yeah, I mean, I express it was like it could have been the beginning of Midnight Express or I'm good dateline.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
Because all this was missing for

Mark Polish 1:09:45
Yeah. And it was at the time was a little bit hostile and nobody was really working with drones at that time and we had like a six prop drone so it was a little bit bigger than what they are now. And so we were filming some of that motorcycle sequences and

Alex Ferrari 1:09:58
you didn't have you didn't have a parent. It's not

Mark Polish 1:10:01
none of those places have bromance. Yeah, that's just not my style. No, I didn't either. I just didn't, you know, you didn't know when you're going to hit the ground. You didn't know when you're going to film you didn't know what you're going to use. I was like, it's this movie lives in pieces. I'm not going to close down streets or get everybody excited that I'm going to shoot here for more than five minutes, you know, right. So we get arrested, we get to chain we get thrown in into jail. And they're speaking this weird kind of pigeon, French. I don't know what it's a French. But it's, it's very weird. French. Someone will correct me over Twitter, probably. And it was no, it was a little bit scary. But you know, like with any filmmaking, especially filmmaking, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. So we sat there for a while. And I was like, okay, we go in. I mean, there was a moment I was like, holy crap, if that door cracks, I'm running. Oh, and one more level back. And we're not getting out. You know what I mean? Because we're in the room, that's a holding room, we go from one room desk to no room desk, even though no desk in a room. So what's the next one look like? And so the processing paperwork to arrest us for a whole mess of things that I don't know, if we did or didn't do. It happens, I get out the door open, I thought the ball, I think I'm going to bolt, the door opens and it's the guy who rented me, the motorbike coming to pick it up. And he's like, happened. And I said, Well, we were riding in the village with his camera. He's like, give me a second. And so he calls his brother who's at another precinct and God has released Oh,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:36
yeah, he literally had a brother who was a cop.

Mark Polish 1:11:39
He had another precinct down the thing and he came, I was like, Look, is a mistake. They're filming or whatever. I mean, it was, it was there was moments that we were like, Oh, this is gonna go bad, really bad. Really bad. And, um, and so like, my wife, and even Diane, I think they were both aware of the journeys of what was going on at the time. So I'd be like, they were all worried like I went to off to war. So every time I'd be like, Oh, we were just arrested. And then they wouldn't hear from me. So it was this really crazy, like, dispatch going on between people here in the mainland and what we were doing, because it was just, I mean, it was the ultimate running gun from Hanoi, to Iceland to all these places, that we are not very little support in those places. I mean, we'd have a very, we'd have one or two people in Hanoi that would drive us around on Hong Kong, but we didn't have very much support, you know, when we got there.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:35
That's it. Same story. It's for lovers of Italy on steroids. You know, it pretty much it sounds like it was crazy. It's reflected, for sure. Now, do you want to tell people where they can see the movie? I don't even know where it's at. I mean, I know it's out tonight. It's out today. As we're as we're recording it, it's coming out today. Yeah, I think it's, it's gonna if you're looking for you have to

Mark Polish 1:13:00
look in the eyes. No, I did this really funny. There is being tweets that it's still under a headlock in some in some areas. That it's not under that. It's not that. Yeah, so the timing is, there was a fan who tweeted me and said, Look, I've been looking for against clock, I can't find it. But look, I found a headlock in the times. And I was like, ah, we won the forces with. So yeah, I don't know if she's on the East Coast or not. But I mean, I don't know. They're probably some dark dingy theaters that they put it in? I don't I'm not quite sure where it's a VOD as well. I think it's the same day.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:34
Yeah, yeah. So you'll be able to get it on iTunes and all that stuff. So either look up head lock or against the clock. And I'll put links to both of them. Yeah, in the show notes for people to watch. And I'm going to add Mike, I mean, Mark, I wanted to ask you a couple questions that ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Mark Polish 1:13:57
Focus on your story and make that your star don't deviate from that, like that. Porn asset you will ever have your voice when that voice says Who you are is all in the page. I mean, you can dress it up with anything you want, you know, I got this person attached, or I got this thing attached or I'm talking to them. Doesn't matter when that story is your star when you're feeding that it jumps off the page. I mean, it's a difference between micronized careers having a story that no one had heard before, an insight no one has seen before Siamese twins have things that we could talk about. And so that that immediately separated us from us. We didn't need a name actor because this the twins were the star to Yeah, the story of this thing. And it's always been that way I've always found when we focused on your story and yet your star, nothing else more than likely you will generate enough interest if they get that made.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:51
Would you agree that and I tell this to everybody who asks me, they're like, What do I do? How do I make you know noise I'm like, be you yourself be courageous enough to be yourself and do what you want. Because that's the only thing that will make you stand out.

Mark Polish 1:15:08
Yeah. And that's and that's what's probably the most challenging of it all is because there's no one to look at, you know, like, scarier, it's scary. Because there's no one like that out there. It's your own voice. And so you're like, Am I telling the right story? Am I doing the right things? It's very risky. But I couldn't agree more that if you pay attention to your own voice, there's nothing like it. Even Michael and I are twins tell different stories, you know. And so it's so important, I think, to cultivate your own voice and understand how to communicate that sometimes you communicate it, and people hear you and sometimes they don't.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:43
Yeah, and if you look at any successful film director, or screenwriter, every big one, they all have their own thing.

Mark Polish 1:15:51
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's the biggest, or the largest collaborative art form, we have the most expensive as well, you're gonna have a lot of voices, and a lot of different ideas coming in your way. So it's really important for you to know what you want and invite those ideas in but understand, you know, what works for you and what doesn't work for your stories as well?

Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
No, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career? Man? Yeah, this was a movie thing. I just like divert to the Bible. I mean, we've had that answer before, but if you

Mark Polish 1:16:28
No that's fine, is an amazing story. It's they get to the sacrifice is amazing. And then the whole the whole Holy Ghost thing that ghost stories are amazing too

Alex Ferrari 1:16:42
It really, it really is a fantastic work.

Mark Polish 1:16:47
I mean, wouldn't have 32 authors, it better be at least, you know, there's a lot of there's a there's a lot of different books that I've read that I really like. I mean, I think one of the earlier ones was the making movies by

Alex Ferrari 1:17:05
Sidney Lumet.

Mark Polish 1:17:07
Yeah, that was pretty definitive. That's a great book. Yeah, it was one of those ones you picked up and it was real. You know, it was a real like, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:15
I still remember it clearly. Yeah,

Mark Polish 1:17:16
Yeah. It was one of the earlier ones that we came out that I liked. You know, I've always liked you know, always like, although my films don't reflect that, I'd like to story about Robert McKee. I always think that's a good callback to understand some of the fundamentals of storytelling. I mean, it's there's such a formula to how films, stories and screenplays work. So it's always good to go back like, hey, how do I do this? Or how do I get from A to B to C? I mean, know the rules and then break them. You know, so he's a good he's good to set those rules up. I think that's a

Alex Ferrari 1:17:49
Good books.

Mark Polish 1:17:50
Yeah.Two book I really like.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:51
Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Oh, these are some tips I'm talking about? I know. I know. I didn't know that. You're getting all like, you know. Please, please. Oprah.

Mark Polish 1:18:06
Dr. filmmaking Let me see what's the what's the thing? Patience. I think patience is a thing because you like to, you know, you like to, I think patients is the hardest thing is that when patients are free to type thing, that's always the hardest to, to. Because you want to get up and run and make it and you know that you have to cultivate a story and it takes time and everything that's worth the damage takes time. So I think patience is probably the thing and you know, not to be so serious, I think, to understand, like, be comfortable with what you're doing and not you know, be so serious about it. I think you can take your work serious, but you don't have to take yourself so serious. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:18:52
Very good. Yeah. Patience is one of the big ones. I get it. I get that answer a lot. Because it's true. Yeah, it's true. No, no, it's my answer to when people ask me that question. I go, it's patience. Took me 40 years to learn. I'm still learning. Yeah, I'd say it's still hard sometimes, especially when you just want to get up and go and like I want this movie done already.

Mark Polish 1:19:11
Yeah, I mean, that's what I mean, this film took four years so it was like one of those things where you're like, Alright, what am I going to do today to make sure that we try to get this thing done and understand that the pieces will will eventually come together or what we need

Alex Ferrari 1:19:27
Now and three of your favorite films of all time?

Mark Polish 1:19:32
They constantly changed because they crashed I mean, what's what time in America is pretty much up there all the time. sighs like that. Dog Day Afternoon. nother amaze. I'm here and let's throw one like two T two t is pretty good. I love to see Yeah, I just think it's underrated as a as a comedy. I thought that was really good. I mean, there's there's so many that are so influential. Why am Why would I do what I do you know? I mean, look, Petty Mark We just passed away I know perfect movies ever written beings amazing,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:06
Beautifully performed beautifully directed, and then also are arguably one of the best baseball movies ever made. Just leave it there. Yeah. It's the highest grossing I think, I think it might be.

Mark Polish 1:20:17
I mean, there's that there's so many movies that, you know, that are so influential that I grew up in a 70s, where they were just feeding Oh, yeah, Max. No, of course not definitive movie that made my why I'm a movie maker that we went Australian one with the before it was dubbed it was on HBO, you know, and they played it 10 times. It was

Alex Ferrari 1:20:39
It wasn't a lot of stuff out there.

Mark Polish 1:20:41
I mean, Sunday afternoon. I mean, did I just blow you away that it was like he was doing it for sex change for his lover? You know? I mean, I mean, I was seven years old, or eight years old, going, Wow. This is what we robbed banks for.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:01
This is what you know, can you imagine that movie coming? Like there's a lot of movies that came out in the 70s. You like, can't that could imagine taxi drivers showing up today?

Mark Polish 1:21:08
yeah. It just it just could it validated at the time and spaces is not there for that maybe one day, you know, we'll have those versions. Again, you know? Yeah. You know, we'll have to see. Well, I mean, it's all good. Exactly. But there's so many great filmmakers today that they're just,

Alex Ferrari 1:21:27
It's just it's just different stuff. Yeah. Now, where can people find you and the work that you do?

Mark Polish 1:21:34
Well, I'm both I'm obviously on Instagram under my name. I think that's a platform people use. I have my own my own website, which is just MarkPolish.com, that you can reach me there's things to reach me there. And then Twitter on both handles. You know, the headline, headline movie, and they don't have my name. Some Russian has my name on Twitter. his squadron is my Twitter. I'll put it I'll put it in the show notes. It's a it's a gold CBS member there. We'll see. Yeah. That was taken. banned. I wanted,you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:22:13
Mark, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you so much.

Mark Polish 1:22:17
Thank you for the support and reaching out and, and taking the time to talk about marketing my other work, I really appreciate that.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:25
I told you this would not disappoint. I want to thank Mark again for taking the time out and jumping on the drop some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And if you guys have a chance, please check out his new film headlock, or against the clock depending on where you are, you look at it, you'll see you find it, but it isn't very, very visually stunning and interesting film, especially for what he did and how he did it. It's quite remarkable, actually. And, you know, as filmmakers, like we said in the interview, you just got to kind of take some risks sometimes and, and you know, sometimes, you know, the first one through the wall is always the bloodiest and, and that's what these guys do. You know, that's what Mark and his brother do. So, so well, so definitely check them out. If you want to get links to Mark's book, any of the movies we're talking about, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/292 for the show notes and if you haven't done it already, guys, head over to shootingforthemob.com check out my new book about me almost making a $20 million film with a mobster and and my journeys through Hollyweird and who I met and all that kind of good stuff. While I was trying to get it made, it's one hell of a story. And if you want to sign up for the book launch, head over to shootingforthemob.com, you'll get a free copy of the book and see the behind the scenes on how I launch a book and do all the marketing and all that other kind of stuff, which can easily be translated into how to release a independent film. Then you get for listening, guys, as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

LINKS

  • Mark Polish – IMDB
  • Mark Polish – Official Website
  • Mark Polish – Twitter
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”0156029529″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B07MKTCT9W” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Headlock[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B005ADQVG4″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]For Lovers Only[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00002SSKW” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Twin Falls Idaho[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B000TDXQY0″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Astronaut Farmer[/easyazon_link]
  • Filmaka – $30,000 Web Series Competition 
  • Shooting for the Mob – Amazon Link

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

Right-click here to download the MP3

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.

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.

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