On the show, today is an indie film director, and CEO of Unstable Ground multi-media company, Justin McConnell. Even though he’s known for his work in post-production, Justin has also directed and written projects like Clapboard Jungle, Skull World, Lifechangers, and Galaxy of Horrors across the sci-fi-horror and documentary genres.
Justin is a man who wears many hats; his multi-media company, Unstable Ground, which he has been running successfully for the last 22 years specializes non-exclusively in film and television production.
The main reason I wanted him to come on the show was to discuss his new documentary called Clapboard Jungle, which explores the painful and brutal journey of a filmmaker trying and the movie-making process. I absolutely loved the documentary. It’s in a great tradition of films about making movies sort of a love letter to independent filmmakers.
Following five years in the life and career of independent filmmaker Justin McConnell (Lifechanger), this documentary explores the struggles of financing, attracting the right talent, working with practical effects, and selling the finished product in the hope of turning a profit. Featuring interviews with a range of industry luminaries – including Guillermo del Toro (Shape of Water), Sid Haig (The Devil’sRejects), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Mick Garris (The Stand), Dick Miller (Matinee), Tom Holland (Fright Night) and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), alongside a host of others – not only are technical aspects and interpersonal skills discussed but also the emotional stamina and little-known tips needed to survive in the low budget film industry.
A warts-and-all exploration of what it takes to get a film made and released, Clapboard Jungle serves as a survival guide for the modern independent filmmaker and offers a fascinating insight into a side of the industry with which few are likely to be familiar.
Clapboard Jungle was birthed from his lacking for such resources at the start of his career in the industry and launched onto developing the project/thought after directing and writing his 2013 documentary, Skull World, which follows two years in the life of Greg Sommer, aka Skull Man, as he builds the Canadian chapter of Box Wars, an international underground movement of cardboard-based combat.
Talking about horror, he wrote and directed a fantastic yet disturbing horror feature film, LIFE CHANGER in 2018 that is about a homicidal shapeshifter who is obsessed with reconnecting with the woman he once loved. To cheat death, he leaps from one body to the next, stealing the form of his murdered victims. And with each new identity, he circles closer and closer to her, looking to wind his way back into her life and her arms, no matter the cost.
Clapboard Jungle is a MUST WATCH FILM for all filmmakers. It shows you the raw truth behind the dream of being a filmmaker.
Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Justin McConnell.
Alex Ferrari 0:34
I like to welcome the show Justin McConnell man How you doing Justin?
Justin McConnell 3:25
I'm good. How are you? Nice to be on your your lovely program.
Alex Ferrari 3:29
Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for being on the show man. I heard about clapboard jungle your your doc about independent filmmaking. And anytime there's a doc about independent filmmaking. I always like to watch it and I it is by far. Absolutely every independent filmmaker needs to see it it is required viewing. If you want to be an independent filmmaker moving forward in today's world. It is it is brutal. It is honest, it is depressing. It is hopeful. It has everything inside. So but we're going to get into all of that. So before we before we get started, man, how did you get into this insane, ridiculous business?
Justin McConnell 4:12
Oh man, that goes back a long way. I mean, if you watch the doc, there's sort of a condensed version of that where, you know, around the age of like 15 I I realized I wanted to make movies for a living. And it got solidified more because I used to make little documentaries and stuff for class projects. And I had you know to two shitty VCRs I'd cut together with and I pull patches on RCA cables to try and patch in sound and voiceover and stuff like that. But I always got really high marks on those class documentaries I put together you know, cutting VHS clips and stuff like that. And I got kind of got the taste of for editing then. And so through the end of my high school I started making short films and I even made my first feature film when I was in high school. It's called strata and I organized the film festival. around it, because a bunch of other people like in the school presented in our auditorium because and invited a bunch of other people to bring in films to play. So it was like a sort of Film Festival, just so somebody would watch my fuckin movie. But from there, I wanted, I wanted to do this. So I pursued a first I pursued a degree at York University in film and television. But I quickly realized that that was far more theoretical and far less practical. And then there was a TA strike which like solidified the fact that I should just drop out and go to a more technical college. So I went to Travis I dropped out, took the money went to Travis. And then I slowly worked my way into the post production side of things, because I figured I and that's what I took a Travis to, I took film and television post production, because I noticed most of the production classes, less so a Travis, but definitely at York, we're very focused on the knees on sand and the theory behind them, which is great. But really what they're doing is you're paying them to tell you which textbooks to read. And then maybe you'll discuss it in class. But it's just it didn't seem to make a lot of sense when I could get all that stuff myself by just buying the textbooks watching the documentaries watching the behind the scenes stuff. So I got involved in post production. And right out of Travis, I ended up getting a job for a commercial company that did TV spots for record labels, universal Warner, Rhino, stuff like that. And we were hired, I was hired as what they call the predator, which is producer, director, editor. And it is probably an unfortunate term now in 2021. But that's what my job,
Alex Ferrari 6:32
I, I look at it, I still look at it as 1987 film that was amazing. So that's the way I look at it.
Justin McConnell 6:38
So I started cutting these TV spots for like seal and Billy talent and all these, like, you know, I was in a job where I six months ahead of the label launching an artist I kind of knew who the next big artist was going to be. But that really got me really got me in, like thrown into the frying pan of of editing and, and then I started with unstable ground, the company that I formed in 2001, officially formed in 2001, I was using that name all through high school to I started branching out and going to live shows and handing business cards to like to bands and being like I'll do your music video I'll do and I got a few of those clients. And then I ended up making music videos for like, very, very cheap, but they ended up on broadcast television, and getting really high ratings on broadcast TV in the early 2000s for music videos. And then gradually I just sort of like work my way up making short films and continuing to do post production for various businesses. There was one year where I was like, simultaneously working for a client that where I was servicing the Bible League of Canada, the Gideons and the Freemasons, all this hentai, which was pretty funny as and then simultaneously on my on the side making my own horror movies and stuff. So if any of those clients knew what I did on the side, they'd be like, what the hell, but then if they knew what, anyway, it was just the weirdest time in my life, I think one of the weirdest, and then it just kind of went from there. And then in 22,004, I set out to make my first feature documentary, working class rock star, just out of my own pocket, they paid for everything sort of out of my own pocket that was completed around early 2007. And then released in 2008. And there's a long story about the distribution of that one, and how screwed over I got. And I'll get to that I'm sure at some point, because, but but I sort of built up from there. And I've just been making self generated features and shorts for years and years and years. And the first like narrative feature that I made that did any kind of real real distribution was this movie called The collapsed that I made for like $40,000 Canadian upfront. And I, I basically went to my, to my parents, I was like, Listen, I'll have this money back to you within a year, which at the time could have been a lie, because who knows who knows a distribution goes, and I used partially my own money from my own pocket and partially that to put together that $40,000. But then the movie got made, and Raven Manor picks it up for sales based on a rough cut, and then we sold it to Japan, and that gave me enough money to finish the movie, then Anchor Bay picked it up for a bunch of territories, then Lions Gate picked it up for the UK. So on that $40,000 once all the referrals were paid out, the budget was probably more like 105,000 Canadian, but I paid all the deferrals and made a profit. And that kind of just gave me I guess the confidence to go okay, I really need to understand how the business side of the business works if I'm going to be successful, and then that sort of spun into the last decade or so of my life where I've slowly been trying to build my career and getting bigger films made obviously I got life changing made a few years ago and I've now got clap or jungle which was another out of pocket kind of deal. But yeah, I do owe a percentage of my career to like my parents taking a chance on me. And and me going to them and being like listen, can I borrow this and they, you know, they then taking a chance. I mean, I'll have to admit that right off the off the top because a lot of people like it's different now because the technology is way cheaper. So you can you can buy a DSLR and go out with five grand You know, shoot, basically what I did with the claps for 40 grand like the price is lower. So you have more opportunity now, but back then, you know, if I wanted to shoot on a red if I wanted to, you know, bring in an actual crew, even though they were working for like low rates and then a deferral beyond that and stuff, they were there was I had to put real money down to make even a tiny movie like that. And nobody else was going to take a chance on a first time filmmaker at the time. And then within within a year, like I said, they were paid back. And that was not going to be the story for everybody. But
Alex Ferrari 10:37
so the one thing the one Well, first of all, why did you want to make clap or jungle?
Justin McConnell 10:41
Okay, well, I just finished my last documentary Skoll world, that got released in 2013. And it was early 2014. And I realized I had this like slate of projects I was trying to get made at the time, the two big ones were the eternal and tripped. And I realized that it's probably going to take me a long time for me to actually get these these films made. So I wanted to do something in the meantime, that I could use whatever side money I was making for my business that wasn't going towards cost of living, to kind of create something and be producing as I go. And I realized that if I'm going to spend the next few years trying to make movies anyway, and and there really isn't that many documentaries out there about how you get a movie made, and then how you sell a movie, a lot of like, filmmaking stuff, documentaries, that are that exist, or like the story of how one movie came together, or like an American movie kind of thing, where the dreams are bigger than the realities or, or I guess seduced and abandoned as one where like Alec Baldwin goes around con to try someone or something like that, that's somewhat the same. But there, there wasn't really something from the like grassroots in the perspective of somebody who's like far removed from the business and how you would break in. So I thought, well, that's a good idea for a movie. And since I'm simultaneously going to be doing that, anyway, it's a way to keep my costs down super practically. Because if I turn the camera on myself, first of all, I can afford that I couldn't afford to shadow somebody else for four or five years and live their life with them. Because you need real, I would need like a ridiculous amount of financing to do that. Because I have to live my own life too. So I, I made the practical decision to turn the camera on myself basically. And, and they started from there. And I just started gathering interviews when I could by just reaching out to the people and it was all very grassroots. It was like, Well, what can I afford? Okay, basically nothing. So I'll buy some super cheap gear and just start going. And then it's now seven years later, and it's coming out, and the TV series versions coming out too. So you know, it was very much like, I don't know, like writing a book or something. It's it's a it was a self driven kind of process for this this documentary.
Alex Ferrari 12:46
The one thing I've watched in the documentary, I, first of all, I felt a kindred spirit. Because we're all insane for doing what we do. Can you discuss a little bit and I think you touched upon this at the beginning, which I think you and I are similar vintage as far as age is concerned.
Justin McConnell 13:05
I'm almost 40
Alex Ferrari 13:06
Yeah. So we're close. We're close. And I also came up in post production been doing I did post production for 25 years. And you and I could probably talk post production, horror stories, clients in the room, all that all that kind of great stuff as well. But I've talked a lot about over the years, I've talked about something called the lottery ticket mentality. And I think it's something that's very it's something that is so ingrained in our generation, because of the 90s. Because of, of Tarantino and Rodriguez and Smith and Linkletter and Singleton, and spike and all of those guys, it was that time period of I think probably all of the 90s it started more early 90s. But that whole time is where we we were seeing the the lottery ticket like every month, there was a new million dollar deal and and burns would show up with brothers mcmullin or Linkletter would show up with slacker or Kevin Smith with with colors and and it just in our minds, we were just like, Oh, I have to make one of those two, and I have to I have to blow up too. And maybe if I go to Sundance and maybe if I make a movie, submit to Sundance, I'll get that. And there's a whole generation of guys our age that had to deal with that. And you talk about a pretty on the nose in the documentary. Can you discuss that a little bit? And what you dealt with? And how did you break out of it? Or are you still dealing with it?
Justin McConnell 14:32
See, it's a difficult question. Because Yeah, obviously growing up that's exactly what what the dream was right? You know, you become one of those indie filmmakers that breaks out and like the world's your oyster for a bit and then but I think I feel like at a certain point, I realized that was always just kind of a lie. Like it was always sort of a spin. Because for every Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino or you know Allison, Anders, or whoever else is There was probably 100 other people that we didn't hear the stories of, but their movies still got made. And now there's 1000 other people who are not hearing up but but their movies still got made because of how much easier it is to actually make a movie now. So I think what broke me out of it most was probably getting conned. But because I in the in the early 2000s I had this mentality like what I'm a working class rock star. I mean, the movie is rough around the edges, I shot it on a dv x 100 it you know, but it has some sellable sellable stuff to it. And I ended up being turned down the first producer's Rep. And but and this is this the kind of thing that happens when people are green, and they have this, this, you know, big hit lottery ticket mentality is there are people out there that prey on that mentality. So I ended up signing with a producer's Rep. Who will remain nameless, but I did write a big blog post about it where I named him because he's actually being actively sought by police in both candidates.
Alex Ferrari 16:01
Justin McConnell 16:02
because he'd be frauded in an old folks home and buried No,
Alex Ferrari 16:06
yeah, that's just I can't even believe it.
Justin McConnell 16:09
He was a career continent. Anyway, he signed me on and I still remember distinctly remember the first meeting, right? I've got this finished documentary film. And I'm just once I'd never been to a film market, I have no idea what any of this shit is. And I just want somebody to shop it around. So it's very much a big talk kind of thing. And I was this would have been 2007 I think. So you know, I would have been significantly younger, and I had no idea how to sell a movie. At this point. I just was trying to figure this shit out. And I remember him going through his phone and he's showing me photos. Here's me with Anna Faris. Here's me with you know, like, like flipping through all these like photos and going okay, this guy's I'm thinking this guy's legit. He knows these people like I don't know, this business from I just do post production. I'm in a little fucking closet. I hope I can swear on this. I
Alex Ferrari 16:51
can't. It's too late now, but you know, that's fine.
Justin McConnell 16:56
Um, so I remember him flipping through this stuff. So I signed a deal. But the red flags that I should have clued on into, but I didn't know what he wanted to retainer, which was quite grand. You got on it.
Alex Ferrari 17:07
You got off easy. My my first producer. So it was 10 grand. So I got school. And
Justin McConnell 17:12
then he wanted a 30 $500 publicity retainer, of course. And then he wanted to be the one to handle by my you know, insurance. So that would be another 6000. So Oh, no, oh, yeah. Awesome. All in all, I got took for maybe 14,000. But it's the emotional part of that, that really drove home the point that I'm getting screwed and, and I gotta get smarter, but the business and it doesn't work where you just get because he did go to Berlin, he went, he went, he went to Berlin. Also, there was this whole side thing where he was dying of cancer at the time, or at least that was what he told me. And, um, you know, and and I get all these texts in my phone, like, we just sold Israel for 10,000 we just sold and I'd be getting those for days and days and days and days. And it added up to like, well over $140,000 in international sales that he told me I had. And I'm like ungreen at the time, obviously, that I was an element that was it was dumb for me to like, buy into holy shit this thing's actually selling and because I made the movie for like 30 grand or something, let's say a period of three years. So I'm getting all these texts. And then there was just dead silence for a while and I'm reaching out. I'm trying to figure out okay, if you got all these deals where deals like can I see the contract? And can I see the offers? Can I see the deal memos, none of that came in. So I started doing some due diligence and digging and realized that the contract i'd signed for this producers rep, they'd like his agreement, the address on it was actually the address of the gym. That wasn't any like no offices in it anything like that. Just he must have thrown a dart or something. And I kept digging more and more and it turned out he'd also defrauded the movie free enterprise. They had a sequel to that and they were planning and he took the money and ran on that. There was this big. It was called the publicist. It was going to be a television series based upon publicist around the Toronto Film Festival. He took all the money and ran from that, and he's one of the CO producers on Pontypool. So I always make the joke that I indirectly helped co finance Pontypool to some degree, because he made that directly after he defrauded me at this sort of money. But the point being is that that was kind of my first wake up call. And then the movie started getting distributed. The distributor took it on, and I don't blame the distributor. I don't blame cinema he pocket took on the movie for this happening. But as soon as I got signed, because Greg is actually a pretty solid like I like I this is not their fault, but they were being handled by Koch at the time for for distribution, like their actual titles were Kotch titles. They go through Koch, and then he went bought at Koch, and this was directly after I'd signed. So basically my release got forgotten completely is and kind of just dumped into the market and then I signed TV rights to another company that doesn't exist. Peace arch, who went into creditor protection After selling my movie to superchannel for like 20 grand, so I never saw cent from that either. So I did actually make these sales of this first movie, but ultimately, and I had paper for it, but ultimately, I didn't see a cent from any of those sales. So it was like, Okay, I gotta get smarter. And I got to control my career in a much more focused way and sort of grab the reins. And that's sort of how I rolled into you know, making the collapse and actually seeing a return on that and working with people I could trust because I think I just got a better radar for who's fucking feeding the bullshit compared to who isn't. And I started working with Raven Manor in like early 2010 or late. I went to AFM in 2009. That was my, that was my second year in AFM. But I had a finished film, I went in 2008, trying to shop pre like a trying to get an mg like a pre sale for a movie and then to make and then I realized I should have a product when I come back in 2009. So by 2000, or 2010, sorry. So it was 2009 was the first year 2010 was the second year. So I came back with a with a basically a finished film, at least enough of a rough cut that I can truck start shopping it. And I met with Raven Manor guys, and I've never looked back in terms of international sales with those guys, because they they deliver there, they're really trustworthy. And I like they're just really good people and they came from, like one of the co founders of Raven banner left a particular distribution company where that constantly burned their filmmakers and went fuck this, I can't work for this anymore and started raving better specifically because he didn't want to burn filmmakers. And
Alex Ferrari 21:34
he couldn't sleep at night. So he had to do something about but he wasn't he wasn't personally doing it. But he couldn't deal with it.
Justin McConnell 21:39
Yeah, exactly. And what he was working for a company that was doing this, and he was like, you know, he I have friends who had films distributed by this previous company, who've told me, you know, they were, they were in tears on the phone trying to collect money from these people. And like because there's, especially in the uni level, when you're putting your own money into something, you it's not just an like, it's bad enough when it's an investor, it's probably to some degree worse, but when it's your own money and you're like scrounging through couch cushions to, to put in to buy enough pasta, eat something you know, or whatever. And then you you're owed like 1000s and 1000s of dollars by someone which is like a blip compared to the money they actually take in. It can be really, really disheartening. And, and I get it, I get why someone would be that emotional on the phone about something like that. Anyway, long story short is that was the wake up call and then I just I dove headfirst into trying to learn as much as I could about the business as possible. I went to AFM every year. Then I started going to con every year I went to Berlin I and I go to like smaller markets and started working with two different distributors started working as a film festival programmer, I started my own Short Film Festival just as much as I could to be on all sides of the business while keeping the post production going. Just so that I am I don't get screwed over as much anymore and be I know what I'm talking about when I'm in a meeting with somebody so that when they say something that doesn't ring true, I can go Hmm, okay. You that's kind of where I'm at.
Alex Ferrari 23:07
That seems that seems shady? Yeah, it's like, you hear those things in those meetings? God, I mean, I mean, the stores. I mean, everyone listening knows my stories, because I've talked about them so much and written books about them and everything. It's just such a it's such an
Justin McConnell 23:25
objections, right, like, if someone can, I'm working directly with with an international sales company that I know is honest, and gets honest fucking numbers. And that so when somebody gives you sales projections or something, and you're like, there's no way that's making that in the market right now, as it exists, there's no friggin way. It really does temper the kind of meetings that you you end up the type of people you get into bed with I guess is the way I would phrase that.
Alex Ferrari 23:52
Yeah, I mean, I mean, right now, making money with films in general is almost impossible. That's for everybody. for work. I mean, Warner Brothers is having issues, like, you know, I mean, everybody is having issues because of COVID. So any and that's at the top level, can you imagine what these lower small distribution company, they're just struggling to survive? And I think that and I think that the predatory aspect of the distribution side of business is getting worse and worse and worse, it will continue to get worse and worse, as that pressure continues to tighten on them. See before there was a little bit of fat that that but now it's getting so and they were scoring filmmakers when I was fat. Can you imagine? When they're thin, or really lean? They're going to be screen filmmakers left and right. And one thing also that I want people to understand what you were, you've been chasing your dream now for the 20 odd years, probably
Justin McConnell 24:49
only five but
Alex Ferrari 24:50
something like that, right? Um, and you were smart enough to like Well, I'm going to build a business to support my my habit. If you will, and you're using decided to go into post production, which was the exact path I went down, because I figured, well, post is definitely a skill that a director needs. It adds a tremendous amount of value to any endeavors that I'm going to work on as a director because I don't have to worry about posts anymore. Like I can't even comprehend budgeting posts, I don't budget posts, because I'm like, I'll just do it. I'll edit it a color corrected a VFX, supervisor, a post supervise it, I you know, it's it's something I could do myself. But that was something really smart, where I see other filmmakers who like, I'm going to work at Starbucks to follow my dream. I'm like, Dude, it's going to be a rough road for you. Would you agree?
Justin McConnell 25:44
I would agree that if you're really serious about pursuing filmmaking as a career, the more you can work in a peripheral business that's related enough to the career that you guys still gain additional skill sets that will help you in that career. I think that's a much smarter path than just like going well, I need a day job, I should just get a day job. Because you also have room for growth if you do that. So it whether it's post or whether it's like working set work as a, you know, starting as a PA and then becoming a third ad and working with Lisa, like, those are actually applicable experiences to what you want to do down the road. So it makes more sense, because those opportunities are out there. If you you know, it might take you a while to land, the ones you really like. I mean, I've in post, I've worked on tons of stuff that I'm embarrassed to, oh, oh, you know, like client work is client work, the art is the art. And sometimes the client work ends up being art, which is great. But it doesn't mean you can only you have to fill up anyway. That's a rant. Um, the point being is that I do think it was it was it was a very good decision to to head the post direction. I think it helped me a lot. I mean, the obvious one is it saves a lot of money, like you said, when it comes to the actual post production process. And also because you can talk to the post people and get what you want, specifically because you know exactly what you want. If you're if you have a team, like I had more, I had a final post him on life changer doing VFX and grading and stuff like that, that I wasn't doing, which was refreshing. And even on clap or jungle, I knew that. Well, first of all, if I'm turning the camera on myself, I run the risk of making some kind of a vanity project. And that was the last thing I wanted. And so I needed second and third sets of eyes, I brought in Kevin Burke to edit the film with me. He's the director of a movie called 24 by 36. And, and he's a really brilliant editor and a co producer named Darrell Shaw, call me on my bullshit the whole process so that so that I wasn't too close to the material, I kind of look at bringing in extra post help, in a way, a creative way, having extra eyes having extra feedback and stuff like that. But yeah, I think whatever you can do to work within the industry, even if it's not directly related. I think Cory mousse has got a great quote, in the in the documentary where he says, Oh, you want to be a director, fuck you.
Alex Ferrari 28:03
Justin McConnell 28:06
You know, great, you can be a director and absolutely work toward that and put all your effort into that, or all your, whatever side, whatever you don't need to do to stay afloat, put, put work into that, by all means. But if that's all you want to do, and you don't do anything else peripherally to build your experience, and to put food on the table, you know, just you're not really, you're not really getting a broader picture of what you can be learning and what you you know, how you can grow. And I'll fully admit, like, I it's been a long climb for me to like, improve as a as an artist, and even a post production person like it's, it's, you got to start somewhere. And if your starting point is I want to be a director, and then 10 years later, you're still that I want to be a director and you spent 10 years working at a coffee shop. If that's all you can get, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that you got to do what you got to do to put food on the table. But if you didn't even try to figure out some kind of peripheral business or way to stay in the industry, while still working toward your dream and that job in the industry that you've built for yourself or that you've gotten for yourself. It has kept you afloat all that time, then I feel like you're definitely gonna be at a disadvantage years down the line. That's how I would put it.
Alex Ferrari 29:23
And that quote was to put it in context, because because you want to be a director Fuck you, which is great. But what he was saying earlier is like, a lot of filmmakers come up like I just want to be a director. I am you know, like he's gonna wear the monocle and the bullhorn and he's gonna come in like sizzle de Mille. And I don't know about you, in my post sweet. I had those directors. I had those directors who didn't even understand what a quick time was, like, they couldn't even grasp what I was doing and post production and I'm like, how did you get a million dollars? Like who gave you a million dollars? And I would get upset and how old are you? You're 20 what? Fuck you like it was just gummies Oh angry because they would just so like, and most of those, I think almost all of the directors, they never made a second movie, or they never continued down that path because they didn't have that other skill set. And in today's world, you need to have so many other skill sets. Besides just being a cool director, like you under need to understand writing, you need to understand posts, you need to understand how to deal with the politics on set, you need to understand marketing, you need to understand social media, it's I mean, it's sad, because you wish you could be like the olden days where you all you need to do is have to be a director show up on set, and you had a crew of 100 people who are all professionals at the highest level, to do what to bring your vision to life, but into today's world, that doesn't really happen. And all of those, like,
Justin McConnell 30:49
doesn't have the higher levels but
Alex Ferrari 30:50
but even there, yet, but even then, man, Michael Bay understands a lot more than just how to how to frame a shot. David Fincher is one of the most technical directors on the planet. Right now Chris Nolan knows, I mean, these guys are not just, I'm going to show up, oh, I don't even know what a camera is. That's icky. No, like that's, that's not these guys. So everybody, even at the highest levels, I think, have to understand other aspects of the business. I think it is a myth that you can just show up and be a director, if you don't understand a script. If you don't understand what a good story is how its constructed the basic understanding of myth understanding of story structure, even though you might not do it, but you need to understand it, is that a fair statement?
Justin McConnell 31:46
I think it's a fair statement. I think there's there's that old adage that filmmaking is a language, right, or it's a conversation you're having with your audience, but I would probably diversify that a bit more and say filmmaking is multiple languages, and you need to know how to speak each one. So you need to know how to talk to makeup people, you need to know how to talk to your post team, you need to know how to talk to your camera team, you need to know how to talk to actors. And these are all different ways of speaking, they're all different, different aspects of one big industry in one big art form. And if you don't take the time to understand how to speak the language of those departments, and have those, you know, distributors speak entirely differently to film festival programmers have their own sort of like in speak, kind of, like, if you don't take the time to really understand it, then the audience is a whole other conversation, that's a completely different language, you know, actually delivering your story and your art, completely different language. So it's almost like you need to be multi multi lingual in the sort of entrenched individual department languages of the business in order to effectively communicate a vision or goal or anything in this business. And if all your only languages director, everybody's going to be like, what the hell is this guy talking about? Yeah, that's how I would phrase it.
Alex Ferrari 33:10
I would, I would agree with you, 100%. Now with your journey, and this is something where,
Justin McConnell 33:16
you know, I think it's important to mention that, you know, always the word guy is a is an adage for everything.
Alex Ferrari 33:22
Yeah, of course, of course. Now, they're in during your journey of making your films, how important is cast?
Justin McConnell 33:35
Absolutely, the most important and, and, you know, it took me a while to really realize that, and I gave myself excused myself a lot, where I would say, Well, I don't really have the money for a great cast. So I mean, I just have to take what's available to me. And part of that gave me the excuse in my earlier days to kind of be lazy with casting to some degree. I mean, earlier on, all you can really get as your friends and sometimes you're lucky and your friends are good actors. But even when I made the collapsed, not every role was ideal in that one. I do think that in their own right, all the actors that I got a relatively talented, but I don't know if they really fit the roles, not all and I'm not being specific, I'm just saying that, like, as an overall ensemble, I'm not sure if the casting was the wisest sort of decision, especially given the, the short production time. And anyway, the point being is that and that's happened, like in especially in the non union world, if you're, you know, if you're, if you don't have the budget to be able to afford somebody who's really super seasoned, it takes extra time to find somebody who's, who really fits a role can live in that role and, and doesn't feel like somebody who's just trying to be an actor or just trying to act. I think casting is probably one of the most important things for any film, simply because it could be a great script. It could be you could be a brilliant director. You could you could have it Incredible financing. And this happens with big movies to like, you know, you could have every resource in the world. But if the cast isn't right, but the thing that actually is there holding the audience's attention, that's the first thing that will get your film dismissed is bad casting or, or poor performances, or just like, there's stigma in the business too, when it comes to like independent film, because if it's not somebody somebody has seen before, that a lot of the audience already jumps to the assumption that, Oh, this is a nothing film. And these are just like, you know, the feed, political theater actors or some like, you basically need to find a way to make it so that that stigma, that audience that is watching your film looks past the idea that these are not people they've seen before, past the idea that you don't have a lot of budget and sees the character within the Act, the actual actor's performance. And you're not going to get that if you've missed cast, or if you didn't take enough effort to truly find somebody who really works for the role. And it's not just their performance that matters, it's also their attitude on set, and how willing they are to, to, you know, embrace the actual vision of a film as opposed to like, you know, some actors, you can cast them, and they'll have their sort of own agenda, what they want to get out of it, because they presuppose that this film's not going to be very good anyway. So they just want those one or two scenes that they can use for their real to help their career down the line. So they're going to toss out any sense of effort to do anything more than that, you got to kind of avoid people like that, who are who are just there to climb a ladder and are just doing your project simply because you know, that I read this scene I'm going to be in and it's got some cool effects. And and that's going to look great on my reel. And it's, it's not like it can go both ways. But I would say that, you know, that's really important casting and then finding the time to either rehearse or, you know, really talk about the character dynamics with your cast really helps a lot too. And these are things that I've gradually learned over the years, and I'm getting better at and I'm still everybody's improving. And the hope is my next narrative feature, you know, will be even even more about even better cast. And it's, it's, it's a big question. But yeah, casting is probably the most important thing. I mean, the story is really important,
Alex Ferrari 37:15
right? On a market, a mark ability standpoint,
Justin McConnell 37:18
yes. But without the cast, being, you know, believable and sellable and not sellable to the level of like you've got a listers or whatever, but believable and like, they just feel authentic to the role they're supposed to be playing you, you basically have shot your film in the foot right from the start. Because there's too much competition. There's just too much.
Alex Ferrari 37:37
And you also said something like that actors will like it will do a scene just for their real but I've had experience where the cinematographer does it, the production designer does that they'll just jump on your show, because, and then you'll see that the DP is taking a little extra shot long to make this one shot because he knows that's going to be on his reel, but it's screwing your day. That happens as well.
Justin McConnell 38:00
I think I've been lucky enough that that hasn't necessarily happened. I've worked with really good crew people. I mean, there was a music video made back in the early, early 2000s, where I got actual government, like Canada, for a while had a music video grant where you can get upwards of 30 grand to make from the government. Basically, it makes use of this. And so I got 15,000 for this music video, and you're in like 2004. And I thought, oh, I've got all this money. Well, I'll hire better crew people. So I went out and I hired moonlighting, Union, crew, people, Union camera, people, and it, my day got so fucked, it was crazy. Let's just put it that way. And what it was like, Oh, they really don't care about being here. They're here for 12 hours, they're here for their paycheck, and then they're walking or they're getting overtime. And that's like, their whole reason for being on set. And when this is your camera, and electric team is like, Oh, I'm screwed. And so that day was like, the video got done. But it didn't. I had a vision in my head, and I had enough time to do it. And then I had to cut my shot list in half. And that was just, that was like a hard experience for me to go, Okay, I really got to be smart with cast with crew, and with who I bring in and get a feel for them as people before I start working with them. Because you know, you don't really know until you get to set but at least you can get some sense of the fact that they're actually in it for the pays nice, but they're in it for helping you tell the story you want to tell her the vision you want to tell it to the best possible level with the resources you have. Like a good crew and a good cast working together is how movie magic happens. If you if one of those is weaker, you know that then you end up with a troubled production that can can really, really hurt the final product. I mean, and that has happened in the past too.
Alex Ferrari 39:47
Now is as you were going through your journey of trying to get these projects made isn't the most brutal and most terrifying words and also mixed with them. most hopeful words you can hear is, oh, the money is going to drop tomorrow? Oh, yeah.
Justin McConnell 40:07
Yeah, I've been I've been good good along in the oil and good part along the way to having multimillion dollar movies financed several times at this point. And I literally don't trust that a movie is going to happen and get finished until we're in the first week of production at this point. And even then, oh, no, even
Alex Ferrari 40:23
Oh, even if it's for me, it's post, because once it's in post, I know I can control it, I can finish it.
Justin McConnell 40:29
Yeah, you can finish it
Alex Ferrari 40:30
out. But until then, like I've seen, I've seen projects midway have to be dropped. I was on a project where it was a union, it was a non union issue. It was outside the circle. And LA, someone flipped this flip the flip the the crew, the union went out, they shut down for a month to find the rest of the money that because now they had to pay all the union rates. Oh, yeah. And they screwed everybody up. And it was with major stars in it. Major indie stars, like people really. And they said, and then after that, it took nine months for them to finish it and post. So I had it in my hard drives on my hard drives for nine months with major stars and they couldn't get it finished. It happens
Justin McConnell 41:08
definitely tons of stories of movies that like are halfway through production. And then the plug gets pulled. I'm not going to name names. But there was something a few years ago, I was brought on to the VFX supervisor on a movie that is just now finishing their final sound mix. But this was like three or four years ago when I was like finding the getting the VFX quotes and trying to put it together. And it ultimately they ultimately took their business off to off to I think Vietnam, they had they had a charity of Vietnam do it. It was significantly cheaper. But it's now three or four years later, and it's just literally just now finishing final sound post. And this is a movie that is probably about two mil that easily, maybe two.
Alex Ferrari 41:44
And does it have any major stars in it?
Justin McConnell 41:47
No, not really. It's mostly preacher stuff they've made it cost what it cost. I mean, I'm not I can't judge that production scenario, because I don't know all the ins and outs of their financing. But just from my own sort of experience with it's like, Oh, I can't imagine sitting on a movie like this for four years trying to get it. Get it done.
Alex Ferrari 42:04
It just is and just hearing what you just tell me $2 million film whore creature no stars. They'll never make their money back in today's probably not never make that money back.
Justin McConnell 42:16
They might have 10 years ago.
Alex Ferrari 42:17
Justin McConnell 42:19
Yeah. Then again, they might depending on how the financing came together. So if it was because it's a co production, it's possible that enough of the money is soft money that doesn't have to be paid back that they will see. They might break even, but I doubt it. God man, it's it's such a me. Let's put it that way. It's a maybe definitely given the current what people are actually buying things for. Right? Oh, and the current like it? Probably not. Unless it was like 80% soft money.
Alex Ferrari 42:52
I just I just was talking to a producer yesterday who I was watching. I was on Hulu flipping through and I saw his movie fly by who has major major stars in it. And they go and I go Hey, let me ask you. How much did you How much did you get paid for Hulu for that? Because I mean, it's it was it was like it was really nicely positioned in Hulu. And they're like oh man, we got 30 grand.
Justin McConnell 43:14
Yeah, yeah, I mean I'm not gonna say the number for when life changer was on Netflix for a year but you know they bought it for a bunch of territory's for I was surprised. Let's just put it that way.
Alex Ferrari 43:25
Yeah, it's not. You're kidding me. Yeah, it's not it's not what it original.
Justin McConnell 43:29
Yeah, it's not what it used to be actual original.
Alex Ferrari 43:31
Yeah. It's not what it's it's insane.
Justin McConnell 43:34
That's the weird that's the new that's the new golden ticket right now is Oh, we'll get our movie sold to Netflix. And it's like nothing so I mean, it's great. It's I we were number one trending for like two days with life change which is awesome. I mean, it looks good on like hey, we were on the the weird top on Netflix for a couple days. It looks good trying to pitch for the next movie. But um the the amount that the streamers are paying for content right now unless you're an anointed original and you aren't going out on any other platform is very low. Very very low. And and I'm not going to get into specific dollar amounts. But like, and and it's a sliding scale to Netflix probably pays the most you know, the next level down is I'm not even gonna say you know, and when it comes down and when you come to it comes to Amazon Prime. Oh, how did those indie films on prime are making like one cent for every hour stream? Yeah. And then they're getting more fees taken off out of that like it's and that's dropped over just over the last three years. It used to be I think it was only three years ago was 22 cents an hour. Literally one cent now?
Alex Ferrari 44:41
Yeah, no, because before 22 cents you could actually which doesn't sound like a lot but you can actually make really good money.
Justin McConnell 44:46
If you properly promote it. You could have
Alex Ferrari 44:49
done now it's done.
Justin McConnell 44:50
Yeah. And now prime is going through and tear tearing down anything that is relatively lower budget looking or like whatever doesn't perform to the level that they're actually making any money. They just take it down. It's like you can't resubmit this. I sold broken, mild film of mine to Hulu, Paul gravatar sold it. But this movie broke them all to Hulu back when Hulu was buying indie stuff, or for flat fees, as opposed to
Alex Ferrari 45:15
what I got,
Justin McConnell 45:16
yeah, that's why that I got a pretty solid sale out of Hulu. But even that solid sale was relative to the budget of the film, which was quite low. So it wasn't, wasn't a lot of money. Um, and I think the thing that is really important is that the way you make your money back now is you've got to diversify across as many possible outlets and platforms as possible, because one isn't going to do it, it's probably going to be multiple, unless you're lucky enough to partner with Netflix from the start and do one of their 130% deals on an original like, there's XYZ did this a few years ago, where they made a series of $2 million films for Netflix. And I don't know if Netflix is necessarily doing this level of film anymore, because they're making bigger and bigger and bigger stuff. But the deal was, is that Netflix owns world rights, but and they but they pay 130% of the budget. So you know, you get your 2.6 or whatever it is on your and that's all you'll ever see. But that sort of thing can be good for you. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 46:14
yeah. Oh, yeah, that's
Justin McConnell 46:15
a massive hit, though. If they not everybody in the world watches it, you're not gonna be profit participant in that, you know, so, you know, they could start an entire franchise on the back of this thing that you've just built. And you know, by the time the 10th part comes out, you've only ever made that extra $600,000 as a production ever kind of thing. So it's like,
Alex Ferrari 46:33
in and I want to kind of do a little mythbuster here for everyone listening. So your film was trending number one in Netflix. So when they actually backed up the truck of money, and dumped it into your front yard? Did you have a problem counting all that cash that was coming in, because you were number one trending
Justin McConnell 46:53
use ups, and they drove past my place, and I never saw it.
Alex Ferrari 46:57
But you see, that's the thing. But that's the thing that that these kind of sometimes these predatory producers reps or, or sales reps or distributors, they're like, oh, our film was trending number one, and this filmmaker and look, we got this film to trend number one, it means nothing. It means absolutely nothing other than, like promotion, other than promotional, promotional, but
Justin McConnell 47:16
also I think it's because after left Netflix, Showtime picked it up for a year and a bit. And I think it's possible that that helps in terms of ammo to pitch to Showtime and say, grab this. And I think we've got a third window coming up with a different platform. You know, it's gradually less money each time. But I do think as an overall package to try and pitch your film to other platforms. That's a great thing to be able to say absolutely. But, but it doesn't translate into actual real world dollars. It just translates into someone else might take a chance on this next time, or are they on the next,
Alex Ferrari 47:47
there's better potential as basically, better is better potential.
Justin McConnell 47:52
And the other thing I've been getting on Netflix is like, you know, I don't think they would even consider my film. And if I hadn't done festivals around the world, won a bunch of awards, had like 100 positive reviews. 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, like all these things are the reason that it was picked up by Netflix, I think I don't think it was just oh, this film's interesting. It was just, it was literally like, okay, there's clearly an audience, we might as well just throw a little bit of money behind this and put it on the platform was, yeah,
Alex Ferrari 48:20
that was it. And so that's another things like you had to do that was a lot of work to get all that like to get 100 views and all this other stuff. It's like there's so much more that you need to do now than you did in 2004. To Make Money With, there's so much more that you need to do as a filmmaker, which they don't teach you in film school. They don't teach you about marketing. They don't teach you about social media, they don't teach you about Rotten Tomato reviews, they don't teach you about algorithms, they don't teach you about any of this stuff.
Justin McConnell 48:49
Well, it's even like how does Rotten Tomatoes work? nobody's been very it's it's a there are very set sort of parameters and stuff like that. But it's like, you know, do you know why a movie is considered certified fresh, I mean, the the breakdown is super simple. It's right there on their website, but most people don't really understand that you need 40 reviews, if you're really still at 40 reviews, five of those have to be sorry, need 40 reviews, with a percentage higher than 75% five of those reviews have to be from top critics like their their anointed and top critics. And then once you've hit that threshold, then you can be certified fresh. So if you've got 29 reviews, but you're 95% and you've only got one top critic in there, then you're actually getting a lot kind of thing so it's like there's there's all these sort of like inner workings and if you're a wide release, film, you need 60 reviews, you know, it's there's all these sort of like, I'm just background, I don't know where I'm going with this. But the point is, is that all these sort of sites like IMDb and their weighted average system can go fuck your your to, like there's all this and then the Google like Google, when somebody says Searching for your film always auto ranks rotten tomatoes and IMDb and stuff like that. And I guess, letterbox now right up at the top of all your search stuff. So you know, if you're early on in your release, and you've had two reviews and one was positive and one was negative, and those are the only reviews displaying anywhere, those are going to be the top of the Google ranking. And I've been in a situation I think, with broken mile, I was in a situation where I had had maybe 20 reviews at the time, only one of them was on Rotten Tomatoes. And it was it was a negative review, because that was you know, that was that was actually tomatoes at the time. So when you google search the film, the top six or seven you know, the top six or seven results were all very negative, very negative picture of a movie that had had maybe 13 out of 20 reviewers, maybe 15 to 20 reviews were surprisingly quite positive. But the perception to the public in that early part of the release is like well, this is why would I want to watch this. And it helps it doesn't help you move units and get people to watch it and bring in revenue when the way the algorithm works in the ranking of in Google works shows you know this this limited view of what the actual picture of the film is. And and I always find that kind of frustrating to
Alex Ferrari 51:10
what is the biggest lesson you learned in the making of life changer.
Justin McConnell 51:14
Oh shit. Mmm hmm. That's a challenging one. I guess patience to some degree. It took a while to get it made not as long as other movies I've been trying to get made. I've taken so far. But But I would there were there was two moments where we were greenlit before we were actually greenlit. So you know who we we had one set of investors plus telefilm, which I thought was going to happen and the set of investors was onboard if telephone was on board. And at that particular year telephone that given telephone is the Canadian funding body that puts government money toward movies. So in that particular round of funding, they'd said no to everybody that they were that I thought they were going to say no to. And they didn't say no to us. And then they brought us in for a couple meetings for over the course of about a month. And then at the end of that month, we got our note. So I thought, oh, we're we're stepping up into our next development stream. And I had brought in outside international buyers, as pre sales contingent on the idea that we'd have the other half of the budget from telephone, and that fell fell apart. So that was the first year. And then the second year, we had we actually signed financing agreements with people, we were greenlit, we were going to camera. And then once we started getting into a conversation about the number of shoot days that would be needed to pull off the film in a way that Abby and I felt we needed. The investors were used to making movies that were like 1.2 $1.3 million movie, the week type movies, where they would shoot them in 15 days, they'd bring in their one American actor or two American actors. And and just sort of rush it out. And I was pushing, even though we had a lower budget than that I was pushing, you know, we need like 20 to 23 days to do this, right? It's an effects movie. Even that's pretty, pretty tight. But in order to properly get the performances out of people in order to properly my argument was we need more days. And we can do it if we change the way we budget it to this and cut some of this fringe off. You know, and that's kind of the last thing an investor wants to hear, necessarily. But I was that that argument started up in our set in the second time, we were greenlit, essentially, and they just decided to pull their offer and go with a different movie they financed under with for more money, essentially they put more money down on a different movie shot it in less days. And that that was that was frustrating. But then when when I finally got to make it, I got to do it in 22 days, I got to do with partners that supported the vision and, and really did a pretty decent really release for us. So I think it came together in a way that was probably could have come together in a way with more budget and bigger actors. And it would be a different film at that point. But in the low budget indie sort of version of it, it's probably the best it could have been given the resources we had and the time we had. So I'm kind of glad those first two fell apart because it ended up I feel like we probably better filmed the third time that we were greenlit than the one the one the one that we would have had the first time because the script still needed probably still need more work or the second time where I feel like the producers, the finances we working we were working with would have been
Alex Ferrari 54:29
difficult. Let's put it that way. The the the key the key term I think here is persistence man and if you don't have it, you'll never make it in this in this business. It's just keep keep keep trucking along keep trucking along. Which I think one of the biggest one of the most profound things I think you said in the entire documentary was I was chasing the dream so long. I didn't realize I was living it. And that was such a powerful statement because so many have us always are looking for that thing that we've not six, we're not successful until we do this, or we win the Oscar or we win this or whatever bs that we've talked to ourselves, and, but when you realize you're like, you know, especially as like you would have been doing this for so long, 20 odd years, you look back, and like I've been living the dream, you know, it's not exactly the way I want it to, because it's never exactly the way you want. And I've spoken to, I've spoken to the lottery ticket winners, you know, I've had those conversations I understand. And even they are just like, this is not what I planned. And even after they win, sometimes a lottery ticket or like, now what, like, you know, they can whatever they want from that point on doesn't go exactly. So but if I just thought I was such a profound statement that it was chasing the dream so long that I didn't realize I was living it. When did you come to that realization?
Justin McConnell 55:55
I think it's a perspective thing. And kind of just looking at myself and where it my place in the world and realizing like, I'm pretty lucky terms of the opportunities that have come to me or that I've been able to generate for myself. And looking at the reality of this landscape of the filmmaking business as it is right now. And we're and and just realizing like I, you know, I do to some degree, I mean, I'll start by saying this, I know that I have a degree of privilege, even though I'm a nobody and I, I'm not particularly wealthy. And you know, I did I know at best a lower middle class upbringing, I'm still pretty privileged when it comes to what I've been able to generate in my career. So far, when lots of other people haven't been able to do that, for lots of different reasons, whether it's systemic, or whether they just never had the opportunity to have the resources necessary, or whatever decisions were made that brought them on their path. So on a prospective level, I can I can look and say, you know, I don't have it so bad compared to a lot of people. That was one realization. I think the other side of that is that is just sort of realizing that in a very, like, esoteric Conrad kind of way, where the journey is more important than the destination. If I look back over the last 20 years of my life, and all the different things I've gotten to do, and the countries I've gotten to visit, and the films I've gotten to create and the people I've gotten to meet and and the rooms I've been in that as a kid, I would have been like, Are you fucking kidding me? You're you're drinking chevis regal with George Romero right now. And, again, Guillermo del Toro just walked out the door 20 minutes ago, you know, it's like that those moments if I look at those and go, Okay, fine. Maybe I haven't made, you know, my version of in the mouth of madness yet, or what, you know, whatever. I haven't met I haven't, you know, I'm not john carpenter. And I'm never going to be I'm but I am just a McConnell, I I've done what I've done. And I, the hope is, is that I can continue to make more stuff, whether it's bigger or not, doesn't necessarily matter to me better is what matters, you know, self improvement, continuing to evolve, well, whoever I am, as an artist, in a way that I'm happy enough that when I die, I look back and go, Okay, well, maybe you didn't make, you know, Avengers part 14. And that's not even one of my goals. I can get into that in a second. But like, maybe you didn't direct a $200 million blockbuster, but some geek kid somewhere on their video collection or in their file library, I guess, because it'll be the future and physical media won't necessarily be the same. has adjusted McConnell selection somewhere, you know, somebody appreciated the work you did, maybe a lot of somebody that doesn't, as long as I can look back and go, you know, you impacted somebody, at least, that's more than I think a lot of people can ask for in life. So in a very sort of existential kind of way, really existential kind of way, if we really think about existence, and how every single one of us is just like this tiny grain of sand on a vast beach, on a planet in a massive universe. And in terms of the history of that universe, our lifetime is like comparable to the lifetime of an act, like we do not matter on a cosmic existential scale. And most of the stuff we create is at best trivia for the next 100 years at the
Alex Ferrari 59:18
at best at best.
Justin McConnell 59:21
Yes, yeah. That best probably not probably not even that long. So all you really can do in life is do what makes you happy and do what fulfills you. And the goal is never going to fulfill you because you're just gonna have another goal after that. But the pursuit of that goal can be incredibly fulfilling if you just open your fucking eyes and look.
Alex Ferrari 59:42
Amen. Preach, brother.
Justin McConnell 59:44
Preach, preach. Come on come from
Alex Ferrari 59:48
now. I'm going to ask you a few. A couple questions to ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Justin McConnell 1:00:07
Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
You know, the most, the most common answer to that question in my show is run run away. No, but we say we say that well, that's that that goes into another question like, why do we keep What? Why do we keep doing this? It's like the most delicious relationship we've ever been in.
Justin McConnell 1:00:28
I know exactly why, though. It's because if somebody tells you run and you run, then you weren't meant to be a filmmaker. If somebody tells you ready, fuck you, Grandpa, then you were meant to be a filmmaker. That's, it's that simple. It's a litmus test. It's a it's a. And that's kind of what the documentary is do. It's a litmus test. It's a way for you to look from one perspective of one career and a bunch of different interviews from a bunch of different careers, spelling out to you kind of the reality of things. And if you watch that, and go, Oh, man, that's too hard. It's not for me, great. You just determined that it's too hard. And it's not for you, but
Alex Ferrari 1:01:02
you got it, and you save the decade.
Justin McConnell 1:01:05
Say you've saved, you can now pursue something that you that works for you. Watch it or if you you know, if you want to listen to a podcast like this, or you know, your parents, or whoever else tell you you're never gonna make it. It's not it's not a career for you ever. Look at all the 1000s of people doing it and they're not making it. You know, even this guy who made this fucking documentary. I mean, would you call him a success? You know, these sort of these sort of expressions these things that come at you constantly your career and they never stop? I still, I'm still got doubt all the time. It's just part of being a filmmaker. If none of that sways you from your path Guess what? You're a filmmaker. That's I think that's what that's what matters. That's why we say run.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:47
And three of your favorite films of all time.
Justin McConnell 1:01:50
Oh, god dammit. I have 1000 favorite films. But I'm going to just do what I use as my three most influential to what got me started in my career. I'm not they're not the best films of all time. They are favorites of mine on a on an important level to my own experience of life. But I'd be here all day if I was listing chair films because I so the first one is the Monster Squad because it was my dad rented for me. That got me gave me the horror bug. It's got me started when I think I saw the last boys before that. And I obviously like Disney stuff like Mr. boogity and you know Gremlins all that. I don't really watch that. But the Monster Squad is one that I distinctly remember, I still remember I would have been, I probably was 12 I was 12. I remember walking into a video store. It was a new release that week, it was sitting on top wasn't really it, it was sitting at the top of a shelf and I remember pointing at it and looking at my dad, he's like, okay, and that kind of opened a window to me to go okay, I love this. That that movie as as silly as I'm sure some people think it is is is such a sort of whole classic to me in that implements, all the creativity that you can you can have in film in one sort of like easy digestible pill that a kid can sort of get obsessed with the the same as I'm sure the universal monster movies were for older generations. You know, you talk to an effects artist and they're always like all take Smith's work on this. And this is why I wanted everybody has those sort of watershed movies, the Monster Squad was one for me. And then in the month of madness, john Carpenter's in the mathematics another horror film strictly because a lot of my thought patterns growing up fell into the idea of story within a story and meta textualism and existentialism and the idea of spaces between dimensions and I was I was very much a cosmic corner growing up and in the mouth of madness is a movie that just for some reason, just like stuck in my head and spoke to me and like I feel like I'm always sort of chasing that high in terms of the type of movies I love. And and this around the same time, West Cravens new nightmare came out and that was like a duology of two films that both sort of dealt with the the nature of storytelling itself. And I was always fascinated me and, and but I think that really drove me to think about story from the outside perspective and how it actually, you know, reflects on on the warrior, it's not just the story, it's what is the story mean? I think that really, in the mathematics was a big one for me. last one's hard, though. Because I could literally say anything. But I'm gonna say The Big Lebowski. Lebowski is because it's my chicken soup movie. It's a movie that I can put on and I've physically been felt like if I'm physically sick, like I've got a cold or whatever else I could put on. And by the end of the movie, I've forgotten the cold some degree like even though physiologically, I'm still sick. Somehow it puts me in a mental place where I'm like, gosh, it's been so bad. Like, that's
Alex Ferrari 1:04:59
because you're the Dude, you become the dude. Maybe? Maybe that's a conscious
Justin McConnell 1:05:04
level you get about Jeff out that guy. The dude's based on how he Yeah, go to Sundance, and he just started vacuuming a party in the middle of night. No, that's a whole other side.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:12
Dude. I was at a party. I was shooting my movie at Sundance. And Jeff, Jeff Tao just walks into our party. Oh, yeah. Like, if he's just and he's over there. Like, that's Jeff. This guy's just the dude. I'm like, nice.
Justin McConnell 1:05:27
That's all I know, those all sound like kind of film bro choices. And I and I'll fully admit, like, I'm a, I'm a guy. I grew up with these movies. And this, and this is kind of, I think an important thing to mention, too, is that, um, especially for our generation, that golden ticket thing was very focused on like, dude, filmmakers, right, like Tarantino's and Kevin Smith, and all that sort of thing or thing. And it's taken me a while over the last 20 years to kind of pull myself out of that very male centric, focused storytelling. Bubble. Because, you know, you're always told, right, what you know, and you're always told, like, you know, so I wrote the stories that appealed to me the most and as I was growing up, the stories that appealed to me the most were like Starship Troopers, and for you like, like, very guy stuff, like, like, the kind of movies that absolutely women can like them. But they're very much like, they'd be the stuff that would be on a frat boys wall, as opposed to or something like that. Right. And so I've spent a good long time sort of diversifying my film tastes. So when I say these are the most important movies to me, and the most formative movies to me that those are starting points. But my world opened up so much, especially after I moved to Toronto, and I started writing rare films from all over the world and going to, you know, called video stores and, you know, expanding into World Cinema, and I just, I can't really answer the three best films question anymore.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
Sure. But you did it. You did a fantastic bio. So antastic answers fantastic as well, where now where can people find a clapboard jungle and any of the other work?
Justin McConnell 1:07:05
So a copper jungle right now, if you wanted to watch it, it's on VOD across North America. So anywhere you rent your movies on it's going to clap or jungle calm. It's got all the platforms listed on the buy sell page, you can you can find it and watch it now. But in April, arrow video is putting it out on a super crazy Special Edition blu ray. And it'll be up on the arrow video channel, their new streaming app, which actually has a really awesome catalogue of stuff up there already. And they're doing bonus features on an actual streaming app for almost everything, which is great. So in April, if you want to get the blu ray, I added it up. And if you watched all the material on the blu ray, including all the commentary tracks, it's about 24 hours and 45 minutes of material on one disc, which is if you want to go deeper into the film, like there's another five hours of extended interviews there's, I put together a guest commentary track specifically for that release, which is Barbara Crampton, Gigi, Saul Guerrero, john McNaughton, Richard Stanley, Adam Mason and myself. So like, that's just us shooting the shit about film for 400 minutes just as nice so that's coming out. So yeah, copper jungle calm will clearly connect you with everything you need to know social media and all that sort of thing. I'm pretty open on social like, you can just find me through my name. But my company website is unstable ground dotnet. And yeah, add me on on every social media platform but Tick Tock because I'm not on there. And LinkedIn because I don't check it. So that's
Alex Ferrari 1:08:38
me too. I don't take LinkedIn ever. I get
Justin McConnell 1:08:41
their their notifications all the time. And like, I'm sure this works as a professional platform and nothing against the company. But I just I've never been able to adopt the act of use of it for whatever reason, fair enough.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:53
Just to thank you so much for for sharing your journey with us in clapboard jungle sharing your journey with us here at the show. I appreciate you dropping the raw and truth knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So I appreciate
Justin McConnell 1:09:05
at least as much as I I perceive it right. Everybody's perception and story is going to be different. Yes, just as it is.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:12
Thank you, Mike. Thank you, my friend.
Justin McConnell 1:09:14
No problem. Have a good one.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:17
I want to thank Justin for coming on the show and dropping his knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you so much, Justin. Again, I highly recommend you watch clapboard jungle and you could get a link for that in the show notes at indie film hustle.com Ford slash 463. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmaking podcast comm subscribe and leave an honest review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- Justin McConnell – IMDB
- Unstable Ground – Website
- WATCH: Clapboard Jungle – Amazon
- WATCH: Lifechanger – Amazon