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IFH 127: No Budget Filmmaking with Mark Stolaroff

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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

…and others.

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
Very odd.

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
100 million.

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
yeah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Screenwriter and actor Mark Polish explained the process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Social Media to SELL!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right-click here to download the MP3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Polish 22:09
Apocalypto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 43:14
recording on the SD card.

Michael Polish 43:17
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Polish 49:21
You hustle.

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

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

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

Michael Polish 50:39
Oh,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Polish 1:29:23
in Montana?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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