I’ve been trying to get today’s guest on the show for months. Mark Stolaroff is a No-Budget Filmmaking maestro. Here’s a bit about our guest.
Mark Stolaroff is an independent producer and a founding partner of Antic Pictures, an LA-based production company producing a slate of low-budget, high-quality digital features. He recently finished principal photography on DriverX, his 5th collaboration with award-winning writer/director Henry Barrial.
DriverX stars Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul), Desmin Borges (You’re The Worst), Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and many other talented actors.
Stolaroff and Barrial’s previous feature, The House That Jack Built, which premiered at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival, played theatrically in December 2015 and is now currently streaming on Netflix and other digital platforms.
Mark produced Barrial’s third feature, the micro-budget sci-fi film Pig, which was an official selection at over 35 film festivals worldwide, winning 10 awards, including 7 Best Feature award.
Pig was distributed by Kino Lorber in 2014. With Ron Judkins, Stolaroff produced Barrial’s second feature, True Love, which was developed in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and was a hit on the festival circuit. Stolaroff also consulted on Meera Menon’s Farah Goes Bang, which premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, winning the Nora Ephron Award.
Other projects include:
- The Trouble With Men And Women
- Paper Chasers
- Some Body
- Manic (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Cheadle, and Zooey Deschanel)
- Keep The River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale
He is currently producing the horror feature Devil’s Whisper, directed by Adam Ripp, which will be shooting in June 2016. Stolaroff was formerly a principal of Next Wave Films, a company of The Independent Film Channel that provided finishing funds to exceptional, low budget films; and through its production arm Agenda 2000, financed and executive produced digital features.
Included in Next Wave’s 13 films are:
- Christopher Nolan’s Following
- Joe Carnahan’s Blood, Guts, Bullets, & Octane
- Amir Bar Lev’s Fighter
- Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary Southern Comfort.
In all Next Wave took seven films to Sundance and five to Toronto; nine were released theatrically in the U.S. and two premiered on HBO; nine were shot digitally and six of those were transferred to film. Stolaroff has lectured on low/no budget and digital filmmaking throughout the world and at many of the major film festivals.
He has taught film classes at UCLA Extension, the Maine Film Workshop, and The Learning Annex and has written for Scientific American, Filmmaker, Sight & Sound, Film Festival Reporter, and Film Arts Magazine.
He has been on countless filmmaking panels over the last two decades, including serving as the Series Moderator for IFP/LA’s Digital Filmmaking Series in 2001 and 2002. He has sat on the juries of several film festivals and was on the Advisory Board of HBO’s US Comedy Arts Film Festival. He currently serves on the advisory board of Filmmakers Alliance.
Stolaroff founded No Budget Film School in 2005, and in addition to teaching his classes, has lectured at most of the major film schools.
Mark has extensive production experience on several low-budget features and shorts, including production managing the Academy Award winning short film My Mother Dreams The Satan’s Disciples in New York.
His background also includes two years in Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, and five years as the Managing Director of Curtains Theater, an innovative legitimate theater he founded in Houston. A native Texan, Stolaroff received his BBA from the prestigious Business Honors Program at the University of Texas and minored in Film Production, directing several 16mm shorts.
As I said, the man has been around the block. Enjoy my conversation with Mark Stolaroff.
Alex Ferrari 0:53
So guys today on the show, we've got Mark Stolaroff I always say his last name horribly Mark Please forgive me. But Mark I've been trying to get Mark on the show for a while now. We've walked in a lot of the same circles here in LA but we've never actually met and I've been wanting to get him on the show for a long time he runs a school called the no budget film school and he's a very accomplished producer. And he's produced many award winning films many in Sundance at South by and he's just a wealth of information on how to get shit done on a budget so of course this is why I wanted to have him on the show so he can share some knowledge bombs with the indie film hustle tribe. So without any further ado, here is my conversation with Mark Stolaroff I'd like to welcome to the show Mark Stolaroff that I said I suppose store off sorry I apologize but thanks for being on the show but I appreciate it
Mark Stolaroff 2:38
Hey It was my pleasure I'm really I'm excited to be on
Alex Ferrari 2:40
We know we know a lot of the same people we've we've we've I think walked a lot of the same dirt paths here and in LA and it's just funny that we've actually never met other than this time right now.
Mark Stolaroff 2:53
Alex Ferrari 2:54
It is it is a small town isn't it?
Mark Stolaroff 2:56
It is you know and yeah, this community is small certainly any film community I mean relatively small compared to the whole town
Alex Ferrari 3:03
Right! Exactly, exactly. But so let's get into it. So how did you get into this crazy business that we that we find ourselves in today?
Mark Stolaroff 3:11
Well you know i'm i'm think I'm significantly older than you and I started out you know, as a kid with a eight millimeter camera kind of you know, thing, which was probably my initial kind of foray. You know, I was one of those kids in school that I'm now all kids are like this, I think everybody's kids that I know are doing this talk making rounds and kind of right in the 70s and early 80s you know, in high school, you know, no one was making films in school, you know, shoot things instead of doing book reports and that kind of stuff. So I made these little films in high school, and then went to University of Texas, I was a, I wanted to do film. I mean, I thought that's what I wanted to do, but I was too scared. And it No, it wasn't really a career that people did. Although the University of Texas had a really great undergraduate film program. And I majored in business which was something that you know, you kind of majored in and then I snuck over and did film classes and made some films in in college on 16 millimeter and really loved that and thought I was pretty good at it, although not I just didn't have the competence to really just say, Oh, this is what I want to do. So I left and did two years of investment banking, which was something that you know, I was kind of in while I was in a honors business program at Texas and it was kind of an easy gig for me to get I worked in New York and then when I when that that to your analyst program was up, I kind of thought I'd earned some credit with my family and, and a friend of mine that I grew up with it. We used to do skits together and stuff like that he had started this theater in Fort Worth, he was talking about coming to Houston and I had moved to Houston from New York, and we were talking about starting a live theater. I thought that sounds like an awesome idea. That's we built a
Alex Ferrari 4:46
lot of money there. There's a lot of money again, that is not about money.
Mark Stolaroff 4:50
That's my whole career. So we started this live theater, which was a total blast. I mean, I was the managing director. He was the artistic director. We wrote a lot of our own shows. I mean He was really the writer, but I got to co write some some stuff and, and act which you know, I'm not a very good actor, but I got to admit I liked doing it. And then I would do like the sound design for the plays. And it was a very creative business position. And we did that for four or five years, or I did that with him for four or five years, we had I think we, I think I produced like 40 plays. We did, we had a show in the borough Fringe Festival, which was, you know, the only show from Texas and the whole Fringe Festival, which was fun. And then at some point, I was like, you know, this wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to make films as a filmmaker, and I had been keeping up with these kind of nobody. El Mariachi, and it was really probably clerks, I went to see clerks at the Houston Film Festival in early 94. And I had decided right before that, that I was going to leave the theater and stay in Houston and try to make films and I mean, I was kind of helping with the theater, but I had left sock clerks, and met Kevin Smith, at the, at the festival before you know, anything, you know, for he was, anybody knew who he was. And I thought, Man, this is the kind of movie I want to make, I can make this I have $30,000 saved, like, right, right. And so I had worked on a couple of local things, and then just realize I couldn't stay in LA and I moved. I mean, couldn't stay in Houston to do that. And I moved to LA at the end of 94. To pursue, you know, my dream as being a, a no budget film director, I just that that those kind of movies appealed to me as a filmmaker, and I thought they were doable. And I had kind of, you know, felt like I could do it. And it was very similar to the kind of theater we were doing, which is very DIY. And so you know, you get into town, you got to get work. I started working at corpsman one thing leads to another and you know, you're, you start going down this path. And my path has been, you know, kind of a little nutty, the whole the whole way around. But I ended up meeting Peter Broderick in 97. at the, at South by Southwest, I was going every year to South by Southwest from the very first year, in 94, I would go back to, you know, to Texas and go to that festival, it was so much fun. And he had just announced this company called next wave films that IFC was financing. And it was basically a company that was going to give finishing funds to these same kinds of movies that I wanted to make. And in fact, you know, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith and all these filmmakers that I was like, you know, wanting to be like we're on the board of advisors, Soderbergh and all this I was like, Oh my God, I've got to work with this guy, I don't know who this guy is, he was at the festival, I went up to him after a panel and said, Hey, I think I want to work for you. I gave him a resume, we ended up you know, meeting when I got back to LA. And, I mean, I think I kind of overwhelmed him, I had so much material and so much things I've been, I had been, you know, thinking about and working on that, you know, I think he had to hire me, I was like the perfect choice. So I was like the first person he hired full time, and I worked for pretty cheap. So it was easy decision. And so I worked with him for six years it Next Wave films, which was just, like kind of the perfect job for me, because, you know, I'm probably more of a producer from maybe from taking like a business background or whatever, but I'm but I'm like to be hands on. And when you're making these kinds of films, you can be very hands on without being the director. And still be very creative, you know, depending on who your partner is your partners. And, and, you know, it was just this kind of dream job where I was actually getting a paycheck to work in this part of the film business that no one gets paid in. I mean, I know because I've been in it for so long, you just don't, you just can't get paid doing it, you have to succeed and then move out of it, you know, and I never really wanted to move out of it. I really liked this kind of film making and I love these kind of movies. I have no dream or aspiration to make Doctor Strange or whatever, you know, and so I've stayed in it, you know, probably longer than I should have from a kind of career. Practical, practical. But anyway, so yeah, so that's, you know, when next wave was a great experience I got we got to be gay, basically give finishing funds to what, you know, our thing was we gave finishing vents of exceptional low budget films, and for six years, three or 4000, you know, movies were submitted to us from all over the world by by filmmakers of all different, you know, kinds of, you know, levels of talent and that kind of thing. And some very talented people that we got involved with, like Chris Nolan and Joe Carnahan, and Amir bar-lev and some very talented people that we didn't get involved in that that you know, I met through that job like David Gordon green and Craig Brewer and Marc Forster and you know, a number of people that were making, you know, making films in that time that submitted stuff to us. And those are pretty big.
Alex Ferrari 9:38
Those are pretty big names.
Mark Stolaroff 9:39
Yeah, now they are Yeah, it's fun, you know, meet these people at the beginning of the beginning of this of their career and you know, we were really in a great position you know, and in the in the indie film world, we had money to give and that made us important, you know, to people, places. I was always on panels and stuff is you know, I was always Representing the finance people and then when next wave closed and I was no longer the guy with money, you know, it's like you get tossed out on the sidewalk a little bit but I Why did they close? By the way Is there a specific you know, it's you know, Peter has a has a kind of big discount, you know, you can kind of do a whole discussion on that, I mean, it really kind of had to do with just the changing, you know, when we started in 97, the independent film world was a certain way. And then by 2002, it evolved and it kind of the studios and, you know, kind of mini major, or whatever it taken over that space. And it just changed a lot, the distribution became harder, and it really was a really, it was a great business model, but it was a very difficult business model. In terms of you, we, I think the original business model was, you know, we would give, let's say $100,000 to a film, and then we would, they would do all the work, you know, the filmmakers would just take our money and do all the work and we would rep the film and a major film festival and it would get picked up by a distributor and we didn't advance that would pay our pass back and then that we would kind of be able to move on to the next film and it's like it barely ever worked like that. I think Joe Carnahan film blood gets pulled in octane was the probably the closest film that really worked like that where you know we you know, I mean I worked very closely with Joe and his team finishing the film so it wasn't like we were just hairs in money I mean we you know, I had to oversee that and I did a lot of work on that movie you know, and then it went to Sundance and got picked up in advance was you know, more than what we had spent and we kind of didn't have to do a ton of work after that but every other film was a ton of work I mean following was which was a very much a success financially for us was four years of very hard work you know, so fun work you know, it was great work with Chris and and we work very closely together once we got involved and you know, but he went on and started doing them into we were still working on his
Alex Ferrari 11:55
right he had already moved on
Mark Stolaroff 11:57
now he got to move on. So anyway, so I think was just a more of a time commitment and we were able to do as many films as we wanted to and it was getting harder to kind of get advances that would pay back had really worked to get the money back and he was just you know, number of factors probably
Alex Ferrari 12:11
were the independent independent film and generally is not that it is very difficult business model. Unless you
Mark Stolaroff 12:18
come up with a different a lot of different business models and they're very all of them are difficult to make work. I mean, slate models I've had I wanted to one of the first things I did after next wave was work with a gentleman that I met at next wave named Roger Ron Jenkins, who had made a film that we wrapped called the Highline that was at Sundance in 99. And he's probably better known as a production sound mixer. He does all Spielberg's movies and he's won two Academy Awards he's been nominated five times and really great guy and a talented filmmaker on his own right I mean, in addition to being a smart film guy and a great sound mixer, we had started this company called antique pictures which was going to be a slate you know we were going to do a slate of $200,000 you know films and I love that idea and and especially at that time I think it probably could have could have worked which was Henry burial second film when he enters my regular you know, collaborator we I had met Henry at when I was at next wave we did his first film somebody which was a $3,000 shot on you know, canon Excel one movie with no crew completely improvised. It was about four years before anybody had ever heard the word mumble core is exactly that was kind of proto mumblecore film and it got into dramatic competition at Sundance and you know, I worked on that film in post and and you know, I was friends with Henry and then he approached me with this with this film true love when when Ron and I were trying to get antic pictures off the ground and Ron and Henry and I decided well let's make this movie you know we'll make it for $50,000 Let's each put in kind of equal amount of money and make it and and we never ended up we ended up making that movie but we never ended up really doing antic is a slate we still kind of use the name but he moved on and did his things and I moved on to do my things and basically my thing from that time on has been working with Henry as a filmmaker though Do I have done other films without you know I'm like I'm finishing a film right now that Adam rip directed called Devil's whisper and I've done other movies as well. And then I also started you know, no film school around that time 2005 so I kind of that's kind of been my thing since next wave closed
Alex Ferrari 14:28
now with with Henry specifically. I know you when I was I kind of discovered you when you guys started doing the whole crowdfunding for driver x, which is Henry's latest movie. And I think in that if I do remember correctly, that amazing crowd it was a really great crowdfunding video by the way. I think it was really cool. Um, you were telling you telling the story or I know he's telling the story that you know, he was between projects and he needed money. And he was you know, and he went to start doing Uber I think it was Uber or Lyft at the time. Which I found really, you know, refreshing to see that someone like that has been at Sundance has won a million of awards. And like there's just a reality of the film business like, just because you're at Sundance or just because you're at these doesn't mean that you're just you know, living up in the hills like entourage, it doesn't work that way. You've got to keep hustling and keep working. And it happens for some people, but but it's the lottery ticket. Yeah, yeah, the most. Yeah, that's for some. And that's where everyone, that's what Hollywood shows you is that they always show like I always say, they always show you the lottery ticket winner, they never show you
Mark Stolaroff 15:33
Alex Ferrari 15:35
but that they didn't get anything. But so with driver x, you raise some money through a crowdfunding campaign. And I know you've done multiple crowdfunding campaigns have been very successful. Can you give us any tips on how to run a successful campaign?
Mark Stolaroff 15:49
Yeah, I mean, in a short amount of time, if I had to kind of boil it down, that's the that's the tricky part. So I feel like, let me think about this, if I, if I was gonna boil it down, I think maybe the first thing that I would think about doing a crowdfunding campaign is I think of crowdfunding not as raising money. I mean, it's a great way to raise money. And you'll have to give it back, which is nice. Yeah, it's a gift to your investors, essentially. But it's a marketing thing. It's and I'm not a marketing person. And I've met people that are really good at internet marketing and all that kind of stuff. And better at certainly better than I am, and I'm not, you know, I know enough to know how I don't know that much. But it's a great way to market your film, because people pay you to market to them. It's brilliant. So you if you think of a crowdfunding is marketing, you know, and, and really, everybody who's making an independent film, and really, I mean, almost every film period, I mean, studios don't have to do this with big, big movies. But certainly people at even kind of higher level indie films, like millions of dollar films have to do this. But if you're making, you know, hundreds of $1,000 films, you've got to be doing this, where you're looking at who's gonna, who's gonna watch your movie, because no distributor is going to come along and pay in advance and take your movie from you, and you can walk away and they're going to do all this great work and get your movie out there. That just I mean, it's so rarely happens. And if you you know, you've interviewed enough filmmakers who told you about, you know, yeah, they handed it over to a distributor who didn't give him an advance they didn't they didn't do anything special. You know, they did a date release, and they never saw any money out of it. And you know, that kind of stuff. I mean, I won't get into all that. Yeah. Anyway, we've talked about distribution later, but, but you know, the smart filmmakers, and the filmmakers that have these interesting stories, and I think, like Tom Putnam, who I've had in my class is a friend of mine, who did this film burn this documentary about Detroit fireman A few years ago, you know, kind of a classic, you know, there's a lot of these examples, but you know, certainly that's one of my favorites of someone who, you know, really worked at finding their niche audience before the film was finished. And then when they didn't get that great deal at Tribeca even though they won the Audience Award and they said, Well, you know, why would we give our movie away to this distributor for $50,000 or whatever when we can when we we already know that there's an audience out there that we can reach ourselves and they had been they had been working on aggregating that audience and so they built this whole self distribution strategy around going to that audience you know, directly and you know, and there were partners and people along the way but so I feel like every filmmaker has to be doing this note this I'm not the first person to say this has to be looking at who those audiences that that have to see your movie, you know, they're not arthouse audiences if you can't it's not demographics, it's specific niche audiences that that you know, have to see it I was at a panel the other day and they were talking about a hula hoop documentary. And you know, I don't need to see a hula hoop documentary,
Alex Ferrari 18:45
but maybe in the maybe in the 50s.
Mark Stolaroff 18:48
You hula hoop competitively, and apparently there are a lot of people that do that. You have to see that movie does it matter how good it is? No, it doesn't matter at all right? It could be the worst hula hoop movie ever made. You have to see it. It's it's not it's it's not discretionary, you know, or wiener dog or wiener dog movie your dog. So if you own a wiener dog, you're gonna see that movie. So yeah. So you know, each filmmaker, and it's harder for narrative films. There's no question about that. It's easier for a documentary about the 20 firemen to go Oh, we're just going to hit up. firemen. You know, they have to see this movie. So you but you know, we've tried to do this with each film. I mean, we really tried with pig, which was two three films go to 33 Films ago, it was more complicated. To do that with pig, you know, for reasons I won't get into just the subject matter, whatever. But with with driver x, which is about an Uber driver, it's like, okay, easy enough. Uber drivers, people who drive for, you know, drive or ride shares for Uber and Lyft. Might want to see this movie. It's about an Uber driver. It's written and directed by someone who actually drove for Uber for over a year. It's very, it's a very authentic, honest take on that experience. So we're not it's not real Pharaoh's version of it, which I'm You know, don't know what that will be like, but I'm sure it won't be a depiction of it. And let's be fair has been driving for a year. And I don't know about that. But so who else you know, stay at home dads or lead characters to stay at home dad, our lead actor is on Better Call Saul, there's Better Call Saul fans, we have other actors on another TV show. So you start to kind of think about who are these audiences, my friends, my family members, the other people involved with, you know, the cast and crews, friends and family members, these are people that are going to want to see your film, you know, so I build all my crowdfunding campaigns from that. I say, Who wants who who do I want to reach? And how can I reach them, and I'm going to reach them with this crowdfunding campaign and they're gonna give me money. And the reason that crowdfunding campaign is such a great opportunity to reach them, is that you want to build this audience up before you're ready to premiere your film. And by the time you're ready to premiere your film, you know, for distribution, not at that first film festival, you want to already have that huge list of, you know, emails, addresses and, you know, Facebook Likes and Twitter followers and all that stuff, right. But it's hard to get people excited about your movie before it premieres you know, I mean, you, you can show them clips maybe or there's different things you can try to do. But there's really I think there's like three or four times in a film's life that people that you can create energy around your film. One is when you start making it, you tell all your friends, we're shooting tomorrow we're shooting our movie and he gets all excited, right? And then there's we we got into Sundance or South by Southwest we're premiering our world premiering our film in a film festival people get excited about that. And then we're premiering the film for distribution to the world releasing it right releasing it to the you know for for commercial purposes. And kind of before you do that and before you do the festivals it's nice to have like you know people already again already knowing about your movie so the crowdfunding is like a fourth opportunity to create energy around your film and it's really it's a it's a great it's one of the best ones because it's very limited 30 days and everybody knows it's 30 days you know, I only need you to get excited and post and do all these things for me for 30 days and that's it and then in that 30 day period, what do I want to do I want to I want to get some money I want to collect some email addresses which is how many backers Do you have because you're going to get an email address for every backer I want to build up my social media so I want to get followers and and Instagram you know, whatever and let Facebook likes I want to do all those things during this 30 day period and Kickstarter is I think one of the best ways it's one of the creative energy around your film to reach out to all those people that have all these friends and people you know helping you reach those other people that you don't know and we did i think that you know we could have I thought we could have done so much better on this campaign they were just there were whole avenues that we didn't really reach but but I thought we did I was really excited about how well we did with people I did not know because I have I I didn't do very well and people I do know in fact because I have huge mailing list I have all my high school friends are all have money and college friends who all have money and I have like 1000s of 1000s of email addresses of people who know me and and you know I wrote a blog article about this particular I've written one about each one of my three campaigns but I won't run about this where I talked about you know how you can get email addresses and which I gotten from this guy who calls himself the Kickstarter guy getting in and I you know talk all about that on my blog but you know you can get you can get email addresses from your Facebook friends and LinkedIn and all this kind of stuff and and so I had this huge list but I actually didn't
what's the internet term? I didn't when you if you sent out 10,000 emails and only three people respond what's that what's the the the open rate the open rate or the the beyond the open rate the click rate or the click through rate yeah or the when you actually get them to do something right whatever that's there's a term for that call to action something that anyway so I mean that that was probably one of my business appointments was just I got you know, there were so many people that I knew that I emailed personally that didn't give me money that hadn't given me money before and I kind of felt like they would you know, whatever but there were just so many strangers that and people who gave a lot of money like 1000s of dollars that I did not know how much did you raise on Dr. Rex was raised 41,000 on Kickstarter, and then another 10 outside of Kickstarter that was donation but it was not through the platform. That's so nice. It's not you know, the world breaking or anything like that, but but you know, considering how busy I was, I was producing another movie at the time and I was pretty busy and and I really wanted to have another month of prep. I think if I'd had that month of prep I could have done way better. And then we never, we didn't even pursue like press which is a whole other thing that I've never been. I've never done that other people have done very successfully. They go out and they reach out to you know get publicity there's companies that email you about that like you can pay them $500 and they'll you know put out press releases I've never done that and I've never I don't know any of I don't know any specific companies that I've heard like really work so I just write you know tentative to do that but I mean looking back I probably would have done it because I think it's I think it was a story that I think maybe would have gotten picked up you know the Uber the Uber thing you know and all that so but I was again very happy and so you know when you once you have these groups these constituencies I call them that you want to reach out to then you build everything around that you build your video around your constituencies and in our videos very long it's like six minutes long or whatever it was
Alex Ferrari 25:43
you told us Don't ever do one as long as
Mark Stolaroff 25:46
you just I mean but every moment in there has a has a purpose and has a reason you know and every part of it hat is a is a call to some constituents you know see whether it be a fan of you know Better Call Saul or you know my high school friends or you know when when our lead actor talks about all the shows he's been on it's partly for his fans but also for my friends back home they'll think that's cool you know that aren't in the film business or whatever so right right. So people go I think it's too long you should cut out that part and like I can't cut that part out because I need that for that group. I can't cut out this part because I need it for this group that I'm trying to reach you know so it worked Yeah, I mean I think it worked I mean again you know, it's always things can always be shorter but but you know, so you know your rewards should be built around your constituencies your video your text, you know on the page you know the things that you're doing how you're reaching them and and so all of that you know that that's kind of my my big thing it's it's when you kind of follow that lead I think it kind of helps guide you know, the way you create all your materials and the way you do everything when people like I don't know what rewards to to do well their standard rewards but then you need to be thinking about you know, what, what is the Better Call Saul fans that I'm trying to reach? What do they want you know, and I want to give them something at $15 I want to give them something in $80 and I want to give them something at 20 $500 which is you know, there was a super duper fan you know, we had a script that was signed by all these like big time people and you know, whatever we were giving away the whole all budget stuff at 20 $500 kind of superduper Better Call Saul fan you know, but if you were just you know someone who didn't have 20 $500 but you wanted to get involved we we had something kind of nice at $15 it didn't cost us anything you know, it was a digital reward so
Alex Ferrari 27:29
now what was the what was the biggest lesson you learned when shooting driver x
Mark Stolaroff 27:36
oh man so I make this mistake every movie where I try to do too much wear too many hats in fact, I do a presentation about my making the film pig and I I added up like 23 hats I wore and some of those were like smaller hats and some of them were like they were big hats you know I was the only one doing that particular thing you know and so I always said I would never do that again. And then of course I did it again. With most of pay we shot I mean most driver x we shot driver x and several chunks, which we often do. This time we had to do it because our lead actor was going back to New Mexico to shoot and we would shoot around you know his schedule. So the first chunk which was five days of shooting, I did have help I had a bunch of interns at a very small paid crew. It was I don't remember how many people we paid but it was four or five people maybe or something and then a lot of interns people that were not young interns like older people who were like from my budget film school list who were helping out and it was it was nice having that help. And then we that was like all the stuff we shot at the house because you know he's married he has two kids the lead character and so there's a lot of things that take place at his house with his wife and kids and stuff. And then we have all the driving stuff which we shot a few months later which is very completely different type of shooting and the crew was kind of different and you know we're basically we're not shooting with a process trailer obviously.
Alex Ferrari 29:06
That's that's, that's for rich. That's for rich people.
Mark Stolaroff 29:09
Yeah, exactly. That's what the $200,000 movie Exactly. That's just crazy to me. But you know, we actually we had a terrific dp Dana Lin who had been had done a couple shoots with driving stuff that we got a chance to look at and saw how you do the rigging and we basically kind of mirrored what he'd done on these short films that he'd done. And so in that one, you know I just was the entire production department I was the first ad I was the producer the first ad the second ad the PA the you know I was I was literally the only production person I mean I had a little bit of help in a couple of you know, in some certain instances. But it was brutal. It was just so brutal. I was I was sending out this. I was sitting at the press the the call sheet, we would shoot all night and I get home and I would be downloading the media because I was the media manager, of course and and desperately trying to stay awake to send out the call sheet so that people knew who the hell you know who was coming in where they were going the next day. And I was falling asleep and the only way I got through that actually I use this program called lightspeed which is kind of an online Production Management cloud based production management program that is kind of their sponsor for my class and I, I really, you know, that that program saved me I there's no way I would have made them be able to make the movie without lightspeed. Because the, you know, they pre populates the, the call sheet with your schedule, but as long as your schedule is correct, it kind of pre populates your, it's a little, a little tweaking to do and then you just you just tick off names that are already in your, you know, already in the computer that you're going to be sending it to. And it just makes it a lot easier, I would never have been able to kind of build a real call sheet, you know, on Excel or something. At at seven in the morning when I was going to when I'd been up for, I don't know, 20 hours or whatever. And then he was gonna get three hours and then had to get back up. And, you know, whatever. I mean, it was just brutal. I, I don't know, I can't let
Alex Ferrari 31:11
that let me. So let me ask you a question, though. Mark, you've been doing this for a few years now. And you obviously love this crazy, but I mean, because every I've heard the word brutal at least 10 times in this interview. So with that said, either you're a masochist. Or you actually really love it in a weird way. And believe me, I feel you because I'm a filmmaker as well. And you know, I have a wife who is not in the business, and she's gotten used to the crazy and the only reason she's gotten used to the crazy is because I've been able to actually build a business around my my filmmaking hobby, which is post production, and now indie film hustle. But it's it's it's lunacy and I know but but you must love it. And yet Do you ever ask yourself why do I keep doing this?
Mark Stolaroff 32:02
I didn't want to do it that way. I wanted to hire a first ad and I could not find anybody when we had a very short timeframe when our actor said Oh, I'm here I'm gonna be back because it's all top secret. Better Call Saul we never knew what his schedule was. And I had to kind of quickly pull together a crew and again it was a small crew so but I could not find a first ad and I mean I you know, I first didn't pass and you know all that stuff and I thought I could do it and and there was a point in the shoot where it was it was very you know, once we're driving around and you know, we're out in the car and we've got it all rigged up and the actors in the car and whatever, it was fun and it was it was okay it was just, you know, it was doing the craft service in the walkies
Alex Ferrari 32:44
and yeah, that was cool that was cool like 10 years ago maybe I feel you I feel you had to present a few years ago I completely agree with you I was like
Mark Stolaroff 32:54
I'm saving money I'm I feel a little bit better about things that's because that's still the Jewish person to me or something no budget film school guy me but he was you know it was brutal but yes, I know I love it but I'm kind of a control freak probably too and then and then I told you before we started you know the official conversation that I'm also I have a horrible memory and I think it's like I forget I forget how and I go right back in it you know, and dude,
Alex Ferrari 33:22
do you have any kids? No. Okay, so I'll just give you I'll give you a five kids the big house. Exactly, exactly. So I'll give you a perfect example of that with the whole memory thing. When you first have a child it is the most brutal thing you can like the no sleep the the sleep deprivation the beatings the I would like they say this just to just rip you
Mark Stolaroff 33:44
your life apart and the woman I mean this thing coming out of her body No,
Alex Ferrari 33:47
I'm just talking about the baby part. I haven't even talked about the wife. I'm just talking about this whole process of six months a year no sleeping in the eating and the pooping and all that and it's brutal. absolutely brutal, then passes like three years and then you completely forget and my wife and I both talk to each other. We're like you know maybe we should have another kid I'm like yeah, it wasn't that bad was it but when you're in it, it is just you I don't know what it is about when you love something you forgive it in your memory do it again
Mark Stolaroff 34:18
No I've said this a million times it's like having a baby you know it's I've said this in my class it's like having a baby and you it's hard it's awful and difficult and then you forget and then you you know and and then you know what it is you get excited about the next project I mean I it's what I find hard is to do a movie that I don't care about I've done that a couple of times it's really hard I just can't muster yeah the whatever to do it's too tough it's tough enough
Alex Ferrari 34:44
when you're doing it for something you love yeah let alone when you when you don't oh god It's horrible.
Mark Stolaroff 34:49
Yeah, I mean the thing that driver x for me personally, I mean, I didn't write it. Henry wrote it but it's I feel that story. I know that story. It's it's I'm going through the same thing the characters going Through i mean it's it's not it's about a guy drives for us 50 years old who has been kind of aged out our technology has disrupted his you know disrupted what he was doing and now that business doesn't exist anymore and he is 50 trying to get work and in a world that is now run by the generation behind him and and with new technologies have created new businesses that he doesn't understand and you know that he was in the music business he had a music record store for 25 years you know, that obviously went away and now he goes in the beginning the movie goes interview at a kind of, you know, internet it music company or whatever it is, is no idea what the hell you know, I mean, they're never gonna hire this guy. And so, you know, that being kind of thrown out on the curb, so to speak, pun intended, I guess. And having to then, you know, take up the in the gig economy is something that I mean, I don't I came driving because my car's too old. It's like, I mean, I know what it's like I mean, I mean, a part of the film business that has been has gone to the same you know, the same issues I mean, you know, this you making indie films and even much higher levels, there's no money in it. I mean, I hate to say that, especially you know, on a podcast and in public and stuff, but it but you're right, there's no money in it for anybody. I mean, for lawyers, and a few people like that, and you know, you pay your lawyer they say, Well, I gotta make at least five grand or whatever, on any, you know, any movie or whatever. So you're, there's certain people that make money, but you know, not producers and directors, if you make a million dollar film, your fee? Yeah, million dollars a ton of money for me. But your fee is like, what is it? 50? Maybe, maybe 50? grand God? No, oh, god, no, no, no, no, it would be like 20 or 15 for the year for like a year, for the whole movie, which might be three years, right? amortize that over three years, it's not a good business you know, to be in it's now if you're director, obviously, you do that, because you hope that you're going to be successful. And then you're going to get an agent, and they're going to get you TV directing gigs. And you're going to make another feature, that's more money. If you're a producer doing hotels, that director and I know a lot of producers whose directors went on and become a big deal, but there's, you know, scrapping of trying to, because they didn't, they couldn't get pulled into the studio world with them. And now they're still scrapping, trying to make it happen, it's just very difficult to make a living as a producer on indie films. I mean, they're the, you know, the world change for those movies, and there's just less money to make them and everybody expects you to make them for less money, which I tell my class look, you know, make it for as little money as possible, I'm going to teach you how to do that. But you now everybody's telling you to do that. I mean, I was at the film independent filmmaker forum. And there were these foreign sales people who were like, if your budgets a million and a half, you better cut it in half, you better make a movie for seven or 50,000, well, I would absolutely tell you the same thing or make it for less than that, even if you're making seven remind you that your budget, your fee, as a producer is tied to that budget, and F and you'd have to figure out a way to make a living, you know, alongside that and, and the sad thing for me, I think are now sad. But the tough thing for me is that I've never wanted to make any other kind of movie, I love these kind of movies, I go to Sundance, I see as many next movies as I possibly can, I usually see just about all of them at Sundance every year. And I love these kind of movies, this is the kind of movie I like to see. And the kind of movie I like to make. And I don't want to make a Marvel movie or something like that. So it just makes it hard. Because it's a very difficult, you know, living I mean, I found you know, had to find other things to do to make a living, you
Alex Ferrari 38:40
know, and now it's it's, and I don't want the whole the whole episode to turn into doom and gloom, but it's something that I've I've preached many times, it is a very, it's brutal business, it's very tough to be out there. It's tough to make a living to like make and I just saw Brian depalma that the blue Brian De Palma documentary, and he was saying he's like, 97% of these kids in film school are not gonna make a living. Yeah, like, it's just not gonna happen. It's it was brutal for my time, I can only imagine what it is now. But the thing is, if you're smart, there are ways of doing it. It's not that it's impossible. It's hard. And for those people who understand a lot of aspects of the business, not just the one, it can happen, but it is difficult without without question, and you gotta love to do it.
Mark Stolaroff 39:23
The thing is, I look, I teach a class in my class is not depressing. It's not designed to be depressed. They're trying to empower you to make a movie. Sure. Everybody's taking my class wants to make a movie. Sure. So I start off the class with you know, the reality. I mean, I do it. I think a very funny way. I tried to make it funny. I you know, I kind of pull the audience and I ask everybody, you know, what, you know, are the directors and what kind of movies they want to make and blah, blah, and then I say who wants to make who wants to who's in this to make money who's who's doing this? Because they want to make money, right? And then I say, okay, that's great. You know, raise your hand that's great. They're actually better ways to make money than filmmaking. And I put this slide up and it's like you know investment banking is a better way i mean i that's the most money I've ever made and and then it you know and then go down the list of funny things and the last one is begging begging is a better way to make money than than filmmaking if you're doing this for the money you're you're going to be you're you're just going to be sad and unsuccessful and what you know money cannot be the metric for your success and then I asked everybody okay, knowing let's assume that I am can predict the future with 100% accuracy and I tell you that you're not going to be successful doing this you know who would still make their movie and of course everybody raises their hand right everybody and like I'm I'm warning you I'm this I'm 100% correct you know my I'm you know I could I do this with a with 100% competence you know, you will not be successful everybody raise their hand I'm like, Okay, so I've told you you're not gonna make any money and you've told me that you're gonna want to make your movie no matter what. So great. We're gonna I'm going to teach you how to make a movie for no money so that you don't have to worry about you know, the fact that you're not gonna get your money back it's you know, you're going to whatever money you're gonna put into this you're gonna it's money that you are happy to lose because you're not gonna get it back. And I'm gonna and I'm gonna I'm gonna inspire you to go out and make that movie because you want to make it and and and the reason that no budget filmmaking is so great, is that if you love making movies, which is something that Henry and I really liked to do, you get to do it. I mean, we sat around the reason that Uber movie happened in the first place was because we sat around a year 2014 trying to make a bigger budget horror film that I really liked you know, Henry wrote it I thought it was a great script and we were we wrote it several times that year and financing was just around the corner was just about to happen like twice I mean, I couldn't take a trip because we were gonna we were gonna start shooting and then the financing fell through like two times. And then you know, we never got to make that movie and it's like, wow, we just spent a year of our lives working pretty hard with nothing to show for it. Nothing not even a movie and we always had a movie to show for it, you know? And so Henry had to start driving Uber because he was he needed the money and and then you know, we realize there was a better movie in his experience driving Uber but but then we got to make that movie and so with us I mean, it's not like we're we're not as as prolific as Joe Swanberg. But you know we've managed to rack up a several films on our belt and I love that process I mean I probably I think probably the making the shooting of it is probably the least the probably the part I like the least but after that like post and certainly once the movie is done like getting it out in the world that's just something that I really love I mean if I liked the movie I think the reason I made movies when I was a little kid and why I you know kind of deep deep passion for doing it is just that feeling I don't know if it's an insecurity or where it comes from where you just want to create something and show it to people and get them in they get excited about created I that's what it is for me and and that's why like that that Kickstarter campaign I love that Kickstarter campaign I love that every 13 it was a I didn't sleep you know for 30 days or whatever and I really enjoyed it because first of all I made that video and it's not the world's greatest video but I was proud of it and I love doing that I'm not I don't get to make films anymore I'm not a filmmaker and I got to create materials and do i mean i got to be creative and and and throw that out into the world and see what stuck in I love that you know process and so I'm hopeful that driver x will be a movie that we people really love and god there's nothing better to me than to know I have something that people are gonna love and give him a chance to show it to and I don't again I don't know where that comes from. I've never studied it you know but I'm sure a lot of other people have that same feeling that do this you know, they just love to
Alex Ferrari 43:41
you're an artist that's the you're an artist in your own way because that's what artists do artists love to create things and let other people see it whatever form that might be as a producer as a as a director as a writer that's an artist
Mark Stolaroff 43:54
yeah that's fine you know and so so you know and we the thing with drive wrecks mean something that I you know do on every movie we we do test screenings all throughout the process as we're editing it to test you know different things that we're we're trying on the cut and we you know we've done several test screenings and you know, these are usually 10 to 20 people tops and they're often friends and whatever but you know, we have them fill out you know, anonymous forms and where we ask them questions and stuff and the feedback has been you know, pretty terrific I mean the the kind of consensus is that this film is very topical that it's really hitting the mark in terms of what's going on right now in the you know in this whole you know with with the Bernie Sanders stuff in the middle you know, the middle class and the and gig economy and Uber and all this like stuff and so you know, they've people have said like, you got to get that movie out now. Obviously, you know, we're we have to finish it, which we're almost done with the cut and then we have to, you know, we were we're trying to get into Film Festivals will premiere the film festival so it's not you know, we have to kind of wait for the film festival first to decide to premiere so
Alex Ferrari 45:08
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor and now back to the show so what's the distribution plan right now for driver x?
Mark Stolaroff 45:22
So I think look you know, I always you know, for all my films I always have like an A, Plan A and plan B and plan A is the oh we're gonna get into Sundance or South by Southwest and some distributors gonna come come along and they're gonna love the movie they're gonna pay us in advance and they're gonna they're gonna release the movie and that's you know, you always hope for that and I've been in ball with films that that have that happen in next wave and such but Plan B is more likely and plan B for me is again this idea of building up these audiences around the movie have some specific ideas that I've come up with that I you know, I think in the new year I'm gonna have some time to you know, I'm kind of finished with this other movie Devil's whisper that I was hired to produce I will be able to focus on some of these ideas I have for building up our audience with like rideshares especially and in the you know, let's say we I don't know when will premiere but you know, the months before we premiere I'll be working on on these different creating materials that will attract people to our social media platforms and also to you know, get their email addresses, get them excited about the movie build up our list. And then with the, with the idea that maybe you know, maybe there won't be a company that comes around who would who would that you know, I'd want to hand over the movie to and then I would I would do is I would put together some type of an event theatrical, I would window the film out, I wouldn't do day in date, I would put out put together a bit theatrical myself
Alex Ferrari 46:57
through tality or something
Mark Stolaroff 46:59
through what they're taught me today. We would rely less on like a tug, and more like I just went to this. I mentioned I went to this distribution, this little seminar that they did down the street of the canon, building down the street in Hollywood. And they throw out three filmmakers, who had small movies that didn't get big, big film festival premieres. They played film festivals and won awards and stuff, but not that they didn't get Sundance or something like that. And they were each doing kind of small event theatricals and one of them was this film. Lose the director. It's a it's a romance, I wrote movie romance. And I'm gonna forget the title. It's called, there's a new world out there somewhere, something like that. It's not quite, maybe off by word. There's a new world out there somewhere, I think is what it's titled. And she, I came across her because she's from Houston, and I'm from Houston, and I'd given to her seed and spark campaign. And so I'm on her mailing list. And I've been getting all her emails about this, this little theatrical that she put together, where she basically started with the seed and spark supporters she had, and where, where were the Where was the strength in terms of cities? Where was where were her strengths? And you know, one of them was Houston, because that's obviously a friends and family from Houston, how
Alex Ferrari 48:17
does she find out? How
Mark Stolaroff 48:18
did you find out that information? Oh, you know, you know, where they're where these people are coming from, you know, you'll get there, you know, you get their addresses. And I mean, for most of them, I mean, like, with my, with my campaign, everybody, I'm mailing something to I'm gonna get their address and to know where they're from. And I try to know who everybody is anyway, I think everybody personally, and how'd you hear about a movie in Toronto. And when I send my surveys for Kickstarter, there's something I'm doing now. I asked them, you know, hey, do you want to help us out in some kind of a way, however that might be and you kind of start to test the waters on their enthusiasm? Do they just want to help you by giving you some money, or they're really interested in like, kind of going a little further and most people, you know, have 400 and something backers. So let's say that only 10% of them are really, really interested in doing something beyond just giving us money. That's 40 people, you know, 40 people who could really like do some work for me, you know, and help us out and they'll enjoy it too, you know, for whatever reasons. And so for whatever reason, because they, because they liked this material, they love the actor and their process, because they love Patrick Fabian, who's terrific, and he's also really a guy like nicest greatest guy I'll ever work with. So, so she found out okay, I have a stronghold in New Orleans and Houston, you know, these certain cities. And so she basically found venues in each city like to to do one or two screenings. They they she brought some, you know, she went to all those screenings, she had Q and A's. Maybe she had some actor with her. Maybe she had somebody else on the crew with her. She would work with organizations in those cities. Like let's say in Houston, she would work with the filmmaking organization swamp, which I'm very familiar with. And they would help promote the film and she would talk about how they made the film You know to filmmakers who are members of swamp and you know whatever and so for me I would build this event theatrical similarly with you know, figuring out where to earn I have strengths what cities do I have strengths in you know Atlanta is a city I would pick because my sister lives there and I can stay there for free and I know a lot of people in Atlanta and I played the film in Atlanta film I played films in Atlanta film festivals you know several times and you know, whatever and and and hopefully I would have you know, supporter to there but I have friends there and I kind of know Atlanta for instance, you know, and so I would build it probably around initially around Uber Lyft drivers, there's a lot of Facebook groups for almost every city has a Facebook group, we would create a screening that would be that would have some utility, if you if you rode, if you drove we would have we would offer kind of incentives for people to come we would have paid maybe a panel discussion with quote experts you know, talk about you know, the driving and you know, the difficulties of it some of the tricks of the trade, we would maybe have a maybe I would get some kind of a vendor to sponsor the tour and since like, you know, dashcam manufacturer insurance company or whoever you know, there are several vendors that are in that world you know, I would try to build it around that and we would you know, have networking at a party, you know, type of thing so that other drivers, I mean, I know these drivers because I'm on I'm already a member a lot of Facebook groups and I'm you know, I kind of see what what they're doing, they have meetups and stuff and because when you're driving other than maybe when do the airport run and you're sitting at the airport talking to other drivers, you don't you don't really get a chance to talk these people to learn this stuff. So, you know, we would have this kind of celebration of being a writer, and you know, and and a driver sorry, at the screening created an event around it, you know, and maybe my actor could could be at all those screenings. I mean, he's certainly going to try because he really is so behind the movie and, and, and, you know, we would build it around other things, too, again, around filmmaking, independent filmmaking, if I can talk about how we made the film and tricks we did, and all that kind of stuff. So I would build this kind of theatrical in the case of loose film, she did so well with her few cities that she did it that actually, um, I gotta remember the name of the company, Jesus, the company that does the do distribution and kind of like museums and media centers, emerging pitchers came along and took the film to like another 13 cities because they liked what she was doing. And and then what she did is so you do that theatrical, that little theatrical where you're building up you know, you're getting reviews, you're building up your list, you're getting you know, hopefully you know, there, you never know how you're going to kind of reach people. I mean, I bring I bring the old fashioned way I bring clipboards and I hand them out and I say, you know, that for pig all over the world and I had you know, hundreds of email addresses that way. And so
so then you work either with a distributor let's say with her, she's working with gravitas or you work with an aggregator like cuivre distributor, and you put together your, now your, your transactional VOD window and you basically drive as many people as you can to that transactional window like iTunes and hopefully if you've done it right and I'm you know, I'm I'm I'm I've never done this to the to the extent that I want to do it this time around you know, you've built up a big enough list to where when you do premiere the film on iTunes you first have a list where you can get their presale number up so that you're you know, wherever that magic number is I've heard it's 6363 people 63 pre sales on iTunes will get you you know in the top 10 you know when the film comes out I mean I've heard these different you know, these different numbers about you know, trying to get you know pre sales there's a film called slash that I also gave two I've given to probably 120 campaigns and they were working very hard they did a really great Kickstarter campaign and also very, very strong kind of small self theatrical and then driving people to a transactional window in this case iTunes as well and going out to their 500 backers and saying you know, go to our page go to our iTunes page and pre buy the movie and what they did in fact, to go beyond that, which I've never seen before and I want to find out how well this worked. They actually gave people $10 gift cards to do that. So
Alex Ferrari 54:33
yeah, I was thinking about it I was free but I was thinking about that myself as you were saying I'm like, What if we just gave them the money somehow so it's you know, it's just a way
Mark Stolaroff 54:42
of marketing Yeah, yeah, it's a marketing expense so you give them 400 you know, maybe that cost you 400 bucks or something even habits could possibly cause and, and they're there they had a discounted price of 699 to pre buy and there was like a wind a tiny window that you had to do to buy it at that price. And so I bought it you No I want to I want to support the film and if they reach that magic number then they would be you know in new noteworthy year and or you know whatever the top 10 lists on iTunes and then and then the rest of the world would find the film as well right assuming that they had a good a good piece of key art and a good trailer because that's iTunes all about Keanu trailer right Karen trailer so so we would you know try something very similar to that and I know that because I've seen in last couple months I've seen the guy from Adam from distributor and this guy from quiver give presentations and they they give examples of Oh yeah, you've never heard of you know, maybe you've heard a bit you've never heard of that, you know that or that have a topic like I think one of them was about UFC wrestling or something where they were able to aggregate an audience relatively easy around that subject matter and got all those people super excited about the film before they opened it and then drove everybody to their iTunes and and did mid mid to high six figures on iTunes alone because of that now I mean I think that would be I'm not saying I think I could do that for our movie but if I don't need to do that because I didn't spend that kind of money to make the movie so I think that would be my goal would be to you know try to do that I feel like I have a movie this time where I can do that you pay was much harder to do that we tried to do it a little bit but it was it was just more difficult you know this one's I think a little bit easier I mean it'll be a ton of work and you know, whatever but that's the work I really kind of enjoy doing.
Alex Ferrari 56:33
So can you tell me a little bit about no budget film school? Yeah, so
Mark Stolaroff 56:37
no budget film school I again I started 11 years ago almost almost 12 years ago which was really just my attempt to kind of on one level just monetize a certain information that I had that I wasn't making money on. But really you know, I had been doing panels and teaching doing teaching classes at UCLA extension and learning annex when I was at next wave we'd done that and and I'd been doing presentations on digital filmmaking next wave all over the world actually. And so I was very used to getting in front of people and kind of you know, we always like felt like we were telling people something that they other people were just we're giving them misinformation like about digital filmmaking everybody was telling me Oh, you can't you can't shoot on a VX one Vx 1000 or whatever DNS or like you know, we put this you know, presentation together to prove to you how you know, absolutely you could and you know, with clips and whatever and so I did that for several years and I was a next wave and so when I left and I was you know had made true love I learned a lot of things on true love that you know, I'd never done before that was like Wow, I didn't know that could even work and it worked and I had this knowledge plus the knowledge that I had from working at next wave which I think informs most of the class frankly, is is the experience of looking at 1000s of movies and and you know, knowing what to focus on and people focus on the wrong things you know, they think it's all about this when it's really about that you know, and so kind of prioritizing because you can't get everything right when you're making a no budget film you really have to get the key things right so what are those things you know and and so I kept hearing this misinformation about about shooting on film or about you know, just shooting with no money and I was like these really do people still don't understand this, you know, and I did a presentation from filmmakers Alliance. That was kind of the promo kind of proto no budget film school and, you know, people really liked that. And I thought, I'm going to teach a class I'll do a one day class. That's everything I know about about no budget filmmaking, I'll bring in a couple of guest speakers and, and I did that one class, it was really successful. I ended up turning it into a two day class. And you know, I do it. I've done it in different cities I, but mainly, I do it here in Los Angeles once or twice a year over at rally studios. It's a weekend. I've partnered with my old college roommate, Tom Provost, who's a terrific guy and a really smart filmmaker. And also, he's an editor and a screenwriter and director and he also a terrific instructor, he and he teaches graduate screenwriting at Pepperdine, and he does a second weekend called cinema language which we kind of put together as kind of a two weekend you know immersion in no budget filmmaking. And you know, I teach that class and so part of his I would say kind of philosophical, like you have to understand the universe you're working in before you can begin to start making a film. So I try to teach them that no budget no budget filmmaking is different from Studio filmmaking. The rules that I cover these kind of two big philosophical ideas in the first part of the class, and then and then it becomes you know, very nuts and bolts II, you know, go through, you know how to deal with sag or you know, when you have no money I mean, basically, the second day is all about, you know, I'm assuming you have a little bit of money, but not the normal amount of money it takes to make a movie. So I'm gonna go through all the different kind of categories cast and crew And equipment and insurance and you know permits and locations and you know whatever and we're going to talk about you know you know if you have no money How do you kind of deal with it all these different things it's it's based on my own experience you know if I make mistakes I get to teach them you know which is good because otherwise they're just mistakes that you suffer from. But and also you know i have i bring in great guest speakers who are also you know, who have done this and done it successfully. And you can kind of corroborate what I'm saying and I've had everybody from my god I've had a Joe Carnahan David Gordon green and Ty West and destined cretin and no Joshua
Alex Ferrari 1:00:39
to Joshua Caldwell. Josh Caldwell Yeah, it was just on the show.
Mark Stolaroff 1:00:44
I mean, I've done it for so long I can't it's a it's a long list. Jody Hill anyway all kinds of people Jay duplass you know who've come in and really just you know it's a it's a very it's a room they're in a small small room but they're in a room and they speak the truth in that room and I videotape them and I'm and when I did Jay duplass he said something that was kind of shocked that he was that honest about it and he came up to me afterwards like you're not going to put that stuff out on the internet you're like no no don't worry this is one of the things I want to do and I have the time is you know start to get this stuff out all I've got all my guest speakers you know Chris Nolan all these people on tape and I want to start kind of getting some of that stuff out you know kind of you know free content out there just hours of footage of this stuff but you have chris chris Nolan as well. Well I did a screening with Chris about 10 years ago I had this thing called no budget Film Club which I'd love to kind of resurrect I did a couple of screenings of no budget Film Club which was essentially a screening of it was like a no budget you know we're gonna screen a no budget film from a director who's who's gone on to become big and we're gonna you know, you know have the director there and he's gonna tell all the dirty secrets you know what you know what it took to kind of make that film and then you know how that film kind of launched his career her career and I did one with Chris we screen following at the Egyptian right before the prestige was about to come out it was a great screening and a lot of fun and had Peter moderate the discussion you know and then I did one with David Gordon green where were right before I think snow angels I'm not sure which film was about to come out and then you know, we screened George Washington and that was fun we we gave away props from the movie we had we gave away a dinner for two with one of the actors of his from his movie which was dinner at McDonald's you know it's kind of a high school it's still very good friends with the with the girl that won that prize she actually had a great time with the actor and stuff but so so yeah so so I you know I have that discussion on tape. Talking about following and following is a big part of my class I I worked on a film I know a lot about how was made and and it's a perfect case study for the firt of the first two big ideas that I teach my class in the first half of the of the first day so I kind of teach these ideas that I use following to kind of you know show the world world way to apply those two big ideas so
Alex Ferrari 1:03:22
now if you were if you were going to give advice to a filmmaker just starting on the business what would it be besides runaway? Yeah, no, I would never tell them no I would never I have no meaning
Mark Stolaroff 1:03:32
I'm joking I mean I think I mean obviously it's it's a there's never been a you can say this every minute and then the next minute you can say it again there's never been a better time to make movies I mean really every I used to say that we said that back in 2000 we used to say that because the because the PD 150 had come out or the dv x 100 day came exactly pal pd 150 had come out and we were like there's never been a better time to just go yeah right oh my god now 1000 times better than that but it's never been a better time tomorrow that will again be a never a better time to make something it's so easy to make something I mean I think you have to create restrictions and limitations because it's otherwise you can't don't know where to start in my class we try to talk a lot about limitations and how good they are and where they were to create your limit you know where to find your limitations create rules around your limitations and then those are rules that you you live by. And so never been a better time it's it's easy to get your film out into the world and to get it on a platform is nothing to get anybody to see it is that much more difficult. That's where the rub is for if you're successful if you weren't if you weren't successful 15 years ago, then yeah, no one was gonna see your film but when you were successful 13 years ago, people saw it they got into Sundance and they got you know, there were only you know, they gotta get out there you know, but now there's a million things out there. There's every film that ever was made is out there. Right? Your film is competing with with you know, Citizen Kane Cuz I can just as easily go watch this in Kane online. Plus, you know, everything every video that people post on on YouTube or whatever I'm, there's just so much shit out there that that is competing for your time. And so, you know, my advice would be, you know, if you want to be a filmmaker, you want to make something, do it. Don't wait around. I mean, you know, Mark duplass has said this and gets a lot of press for it. You know, don't wait for the cavalry. Cavalry is not coming, they're not coming. I said it in a different way before before he did with when I created my my my postcard for film school in 2005. It was like, I have this, this picture on my website that says Hollywood instead of instead of Hollywood, its Hollywood sign, but it's all he won't. And it's like, Look, they're not, don't wait around the phone for these people to come in and sweep you up and give you a career, it's not going to happen, you have to make it for yourself. And so never been a better time to do that do it cost effectively. But what you have to do is you have it's like you've got to hit them or they're not you know, the studios or create certain things. You've got to create something so different from what other people are doing. It has to be so bold and bold can be defined in a lot of different ways. But if you're not creating something really unique, it's just sticking out like a sore thumb. No one's gonna notice. And there's a quote that I use in my class that one of my, one of my students who became one of my star students have a few of these star students who took my class and then went on to make a really successful film this gentleman named Blake, Blake Edwards. Yeah, Mike Robbins, sorry, who was an actor. Before he took my class, he took the class he went on to make to write and direct and act and produce his own no budget film that got into slam dance and was in competition at slam dance, and then got distribution. And now he's just finished directing a $3 million film that he was hired to direct and he's now a real director, you know, from that experience. He came back and was a guest speaker, my class, so he kind of circle of life, you know, came back around. And he he had written several, he'd written several articles about his experience making this film and one of them he quotes in terms of making interpret, with regard to making films, he quotes, something that Quentin Tarantino said which is, you know, independent films are like waves on a beach, they just keep rolling in, you know, if you want to make if you want to get noticed, and I'm kind of paraphrasing a paraphrase, you have to blow up the beach, blow up the fucking beach is what he said. It's a great, don't make another wave, blow it up. Don't make don't don't don't even think about waves. While I'm the beach, you know. And so I don't know, that means eating for people or not. Hopefully, that kind of connects, you know, just how different you know, you have to be and look, I mean, I know from job wrecks me, we apply to Sundance, we were alumni, I was able to tell them ahead of time, hey, I mean, I'm sending me the movie. And they gave us an extension. They knew it was coming. We didn't get into Sundance, right. And the reason I could I don't really know why we didn't get to Sundance, but I have to think because I've go over the years. This will be my 22nd year I think this year coming up. I mean, I look at the films that got in, and in the films that are conventional, which I would say ours is relatively conventional movie it's not experimental. It's told in a conventional way it's not idiosyncratic and as well it's an art super rd film. If you're not making a kind of unconventional or super edgy or super arty film, you're not going to get into Sundance if you're a no budget film if you're a low budget film. Yeah the films that are like that they get into Sundance are made at higher budget level they're made perfectly you know they're made with two or $3 million with stars and you know by by filmmakers that have you know, they're not on their first film and you know, they're in the premiere section and sometimes the competition sex and the films that come they get into Sundance and there are still films they get in a sense they're made on tiny budgets but there's a film's that are really like doing something different and I think of a film like the Fitz from last year which was a terrific movie not commercial at all No one's gonna really see it I mean it got on the cover of filmmaker magazine but it's you know, it's a very arty film but very different. And that film got a lot of attention even though it's not commercial and very few people will see it because you know, because it was so unique and so well done. And so you have to do something like that whatever that is, I mean for you, for you, the filmmaker, your uniqueness is different than someone else's use I actually go into a lot of that my class but I feel like that's what you should be doing I mean look, if you want to, you know, make something for yourself and it's conventional and make it as a showcase you know, for a bigger film that you want to do that's fine you won't get into Sundance or South by Southwest but that's fine you can you'll there are still other film festivals you can play. You know, but don't expect that film to get out in a huge way or make you money but you know, it might do what you needed to do. But if you really want to hit the bull's eye, I think try to do something really Different I mean it needs to be something organic that you you know you know that comes from you it's not you know you're not like just trying to be different for different sake here you're coming up with something I mean maybe it's just telling us a story you know maybe you come from a small town that is really different that we've never seen before. And there's a story that comes out of that place that no one's ever heard and it can be relatively conventionally told story but it's just a story that we just never heard before Sundance has always as films or might be a film that's told backwards like momenta or you know is doing something really radical with the way it looks or something like that. Or pulp
Alex Ferrari 1:10:39
fiction that changes structure or something like that. Now what is the these are the last two questions are the two questions I always ask all my all my guests what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Mark Stolaroff 1:10:54
at some point you do have to make money I just started that process years ago
Alex Ferrari 1:11:04
Mark Stolaroff 1:11:06
Can I still make money now i don't know i mean, i just i never I've never cared so much about making money I mean, I mean I'm not that I have any problem money it's nice and you know, but i don't i don't i don't know your main motivation Yeah, I've never looked around and said what's the where where's the money going? And how can you make money and loving to get in that business and do that thing and I've been kind of starting doing that now a little bit like I think I'm gonna get in the healthcare business because you know man you pay doctors a lot of money you know whatever but so I don't know that's that's a bad one I wouldn't say that one hardest lesson
Alex Ferrari 1:11:42
what the hardest doesn't want to take you the longest to learn
Mark Stolaroff 1:11:48
it's just I don't know I mean maybe that maybe that is that one
Alex Ferrari 1:11:53
I don't know that's no that's a good one to know honestly, that is a good one I hate kind of just you
Mark Stolaroff 1:11:57
know, sitting sitting on that money thing you know even though that is my thing with a budget film school I guess but
Alex Ferrari 1:12:03
it's it's a good it's a good answer purely because a lot of people don't realize that till it's it's too late. And they just like they go down this long path and I always tell everybody like this is the word is show business and the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. And there's a reason for that and that's you have to understand both aspects of the art and the business if you don't you'll never make it you'll never make it now what what are your three favorite films of all time?
Mark Stolaroff 1:12:30
Oh, wow. Okay, maybe that's a little easier although just just like out even thinking I'm just gonna say Chinatown godfather I'm getting I'm thinking really about it and Monty Python the holy grail
Alex Ferrari 1:12:47
nice great combination by the way that's a that's a fun night pretty close that's a fun night if you if we sit there and watch all night. Now where can people find you online?
Mark Stolaroff 1:12:59
So no budget film school is no budget film school COMM And we didn't talk about it now but I will say it that I built that website in 2005 and it is the same website it was I mean, I've added content but it's looks like 1995 so if you're interested in subscribing to my newsletter and you know getting you know knowing when the classes go to go to that website Don't be shocked i'm not i know what good websites look like I go to them all the time. I've been I've just been busy producing movies the last several years and I've and I'm going to have a new website and when I do it's going to have great content I've already have all this pent up content like not just the video content I mentioned but a lot of stuff that I've written that I haven't even posted like like case studies of no budget films that I've been doing for the last 10 years that I've never posted I have a lot of them on the website currently old ones but I don't post as much now because no one goes to my website cuz it's so old and so bad I mean I if you're on my newsletter list and you get stuff I send you you know, I send stuff that I write and whatever but I don't post I it's it's kind of a dying on the vine website but but there is there is stuff on there. There's a lot of I mean, I'm very proud of a lot of the things I've written. I've written about Kickstarter, I've written three articles I'm very proud of about Kickstarter I've written about you know having doing feedback screenings that's an article that I'm wrote a few years ago that I don't know if there's a better article out there about because I've looked for it in the past when I wrote it I there was no article about how to do how to do like feedback screens while you're editing your film. I you know, so there's good stuff on there it's just it's just older. evergreen kind of you know material that's that's one place to find me. Driver x movie.com is where you can sign up for the there's not much on that on that website. But the Kickstarter video that you were so kind to say like is on there, and page but you know, that's easy to find Dr. Rex I'm on Kickstarter, but but driver x movie.com Dr. x movie is our Twitter handle and our Instagram. And Facebook, I think is just, Facebook is DRV RX. I couldn't, I couldn't switch it to drivers come up with DRV Rx, which I thought was cool, but not as good for branding. But you can sign up on the driver x website on our mailing list and I'm going to start you know, sending out haven't really done it yet because I'm very like, secretive run on the secret is right word I don't like sending out like pieces of the movie, you know, when they're half baked, you know, but I kind of promised that I would send out some stuff and I think I think there's, there's a couple things that we've cut out of the movie that, you know, might might, you know, I don't know, I'm a little, I always get a little weird about like sending out stuff like that, but I may send out a few clips and stuff but there's definitely gonna be we're going to be creating a lot of content going forward. that I think will be some of it will be geared toward you know, driving for Uber, like like tips and stuff for that. We're going to interview some Uber drivers who you know, are successful and create these kind of tip videos. Also, you know, be interviewing our lead actor and some of the other actors in ourselves and talking about filmmaking stuff. And so and using, you know, having B roll from, you know, behind the scenes footage and stuff like that, I got a lot of that stuff, I just haven't really used it yet, because we've been, you know, focused on the movie, I've been finishing this other movie so so that stuff will start coming out. And if you're on the mailing list you'll, you'll get to, you'll get to see that stuff.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:31
Perfect. Well, Mark, man, thank you so much for your time on being on the show. You dropped a lot of great knowledge bombs on the on the tribe, so I appreciate it.
Mark Stolaroff 1:16:39
Well, this was really my pleasure, I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:45
Mark is a wealth of information, guys, I'm really hope you got a bunch out of that budget knowledge bombs off of this conversation. I really love mark. And hopefully we're gonna hook up at Sundance this year. So we can catch a cup of coffee, and freeze our asses off while we're over there. And guys, I have some really exciting news, I can't tell you yet. I'm dying to tell you guys, but I can't tell you anything yet. I'm just going to tease you guys for a few more weeks, until I can finally release the information. But I've got so much cool stuff coming for you guys. And it looks like I might be doing something super cool that no one's ever done before. And it's going to show you a process in the business that no one's ever seen behind the scenes of. So um, I know it's very cryptic and very exciting. But you'll need to stay tuned. And it's something that we're going to be releasing within hopefully the next month or two. So keep your eyes out for sure. And guys, if you enjoyed this podcast episode, please share, share it with everybody. You please tweet it, please Facebook it, please Instagram it, whatever. Get it out there, share it with as many people as you can. It really means a lot to me. And thank you so much. for all your support. Every time you guys visit any of our sponsors, or obviously buying either products, it helps support the show. So I greatly greatly appreciate all the massive amount of support that we get from you guys. Thank you so much. It is really hard to keep this show going. Especially at the beatnik pace of two brand new episodes a week. And a third possible throwback Friday that I've I'm going to be doing more of in the future because we have so many cool podcast episodes from the past. I don't want them to get lost and there's a lot of new listeners who have not been able to get access or have found all these old cool podcast episodes with a lot of great information. So thank you again so so much for all of that guys. Don't forget to head over to free film book calm that's free film book calm to download your free film audio book from audible. And guys, I will I'll talk to you next week. Keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- No Budget Film School
- Mark Stolaroff
- DriverX Kickstarter (Study these guys)
- This is Meg – Feature Film