Today on the show we have writer, producer, director, actor, and Filmtrepreneur Steven Luke. Steven and I discuss how he attaches bankable movie stars like Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Liddell, James Cromwell, Thomas Jane, Sam Worthington, Tom Berenger, Ron Perlman, and Billy Zane to his independent films. We also discuss his misadventures in film distribution, how he presells his films and if he actually makes any money with film distributors.
Steven also has a Filmtrepreneur mind when it comes to his film productions. He has found his niche, war films. Understanding his niche market he uses the films he produces to advertise his company Man the Line. It is the internet’s number one source of recreating war!
Man the Line is a small South Dakota business offering original militaria and quality reproduction uniforms and headgear for collectors, reenactors, and film productions. By doing this Steven has created additional revenue streams for himself by using his films. This is the Filmtrepreneur way.
His most recent works include “Souvenirs” starring Academy Award nominee James Cromwell and “The Deep End,” for which he earned a Best Actor recognition at the 2011 Fischgaard Short Film Competition.
Steven’s work in the short film ‘Paper People,’ has also earned him the Best Actor in a Short film, for the 2012 Best Actors in a Film Festival. When not in front of the camera, Steven utilizes his skills as a historic military technical adviser and supplier for the motion picture and television industries.
Enjoy my conversation with Steven Luke.
Alex Ferrari 2:24
Now today on the show, guys, we have writer, producer, director, actor and film trip earner Steven Luke. Now in this conversation Steven and I discuss how he attaches bankable movie stars like Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke, Chuck Liddell,James Cromwells. Sam Worthington, Tom Berenger Ron Perlman, and Billy Zane to his independent films. We also discuss his misadventures in film distribution, how he pre sells his films, and Does he ever actually make any money with these film distributors? Now, what I also find fascinating about Steven is that he has a brilliant film supranormal mind. He has definitely found his niche with his filmmaking and that is war films. Understanding his niche market, he uses the films he produces to advertise his company, man, the line, which is the internet's number one source for vintage war, props, costumes, things like that. And it's pretty remarkable how he's been able to build out a business based in South Dakota by focusing on the war niche and specifically like World War One World War two kind of film, Steven was fascinating and an inspiration to say the least. So without any further ease, enjoy my conversation with Steven Luke. I'd like to welcome the show Steven Luke, man, how are you brother?
Steven Luke 3:50
I'm doing excellent staying. COVID-19 free up here in South Dakota. So
Alex Ferrari 3:58
Yeah, you don't have too many. You're not like LA. You don't have it's or New York.
Steven Luke 4:04
I mean, we literally have like the population of like, one high rise building in New York. So we're pretty pretty safe out here. For the most part.
Alex Ferrari 4:12
Are you are you staying quarantine? Are you?
Steven Luke 4:16
I mean, I guess this is gonna be recorded. So yes, I'm very quarantine safe. Secure in a bunker and, you know, old missile silo from the 60s? Yes, no, we're, we're kind of Yes, we kind of have, you know, doing the social distancing. But trying to like is a little bit kind of like normal here. So,
Alex Ferrari 4:37
Got it. Got it. It's fair enough. Yeah, you're a little bit more spread out than the big cities. takes two months to get to us. So I'm sure in August. That's where you're gonna have some stuff going up. Well, um, thank you for being on the show, man. Before we get started, how did you get into the film business?
Steven Luke 4:53
Okay, that's no, that's a fun story. So I think like with everyone else, you start off when You're young, and you kind of just the magic of cinema hits you. And you get really excited to, you know, see films, and you want to tell stories. And I think that's kind of how I wanted to get involved. And, you know, wanting to tell stories, and you know, just kind of progressively working up to that point throughout my life and career and how to just kind of, you know, tell stories and make movies and getting bigger and better.
Alex Ferrari 5:29
Very cool. So you were bitten by that bug, basically.
Steven Luke 5:33
And you can't get rid of it. No, it's, it's, you know, it's like that artists lifestyle, right. So like, if I wasn't doing this, or I mean, whatever I'm doing, I'm sure I'd be doing something artistic. So
Alex Ferrari 5:51
No, but you also got into the acting side of the business, as well.
Steven Luke 5:55
Yes, yeah. So I always, you know, I do act. What's fun about the film business is it really is a business. And there's lots of pieces that come come to that. So the acting stuff that I do, I consider that usually, like my art, like, it's more of an art form. To me, if I come in and act, it kind of gives me a chance to dive into a character and develop them and be someone else. And that's very, it's fun for me to do that. Some of the other parts of the film making experience are more business related or more kind of world building, or writing or something like that. But the acting is, is an art to me. And it's, it's always kind of fun to get to jump in someone else's shoes.
Alex Ferrari 6:37
But did you start off as an actor and then moved into producing? Or did you start off as producing and moved into acting?
Steven Luke 6:45
I think I mean, acting, you know, in high school, you know, you do plays and stuff. The acting was kind of always kind of that, what you want to do, I kind of realized really, right off the bat, right, as I kind of graduate high school that I wanted, that I could act and produce, those are my two things that I enjoy doing the most. So I kind of found myself, when I produce things, trying to find, you know, pieces, you know, is a part that I can play to kind of kind of have some fun with it as well, because producing for those that know is a little stressful.
Alex Ferrari 7:18
Bit a bit a bit, and you've got to wear like 1000 different hats, and
Steven Luke 7:23
You got to know the industry really well. So it's like when you get to act, you know, you kind of can just one character and then no one bugs you either, you know, like I don't want to disturb him when he's in character. Like, yes, yes. So leave me alone. Until, until that's over, then you can deal with all the craziness.
Alex Ferrari 7:40
It's fun, because I've always been, I've always worn 1000 hats in any of my productions. It's just the nature of what I do. I'm a jack of all trades. So when I get to just do one thing, it seems so light. Like,
Steven Luke 7:54
Definitely does, well, you sit there and you're like, like twiddling is like yeah, it's like to be doing for bed should be helping someone. So
Alex Ferrari 8:03
Yeah, from from my really micro budget films where I'm doing a lot to where I'm working on a, you know, on a series or something like that, where I have a full blown crew. And like, I don't have to worry about lighting. I could just tell someone to go light. It's just kind of, what am I gonna do? What am I doing here? I don't. I'm waiting. 30 minutes for the lighting setup to set up. I'll be like, what do I the actors are ready? Like, I don't know. It's crazy. Yeah, I guess I'll sit down. I guess I guess I'll relax. I guess. I don't know. I'll have a coke. So then how did you get into you know, producing full features, because I saw you did a lot of shorts prior to kind of to get your your feet wet. How did you get into doing full blown features?
Steven Luke 8:46
Yeah, so I yes, I always think it was important to do some short films, tests, test your craft, do some, you know, make some mistakes, learn a lot. To me in shorts, were kind of a great way to do film school. I never I didn't go to film school, I took more of the business side of things than got up, you know, kind of when I was in college got a business degree because that was what I felt was going to be more helpful to me just in terms of what I kind of wanted to pursue. But yeah, short films a great way to kind of hone your craft. And then you want to make that leap to a feature film, if you know your goal. And there's lots of goals, obviously. But if you want to try to tell bigger and better stories, if you want to try to make money, I mean, relatively speaking, that you kind of the feature film game is where you need to be. And naturally, that's kind of the next step that a filmmaker should try to pursue. It has its own I mean, making a feature film and a short film, they almost they almost have the exact same challenges and go through the exact same steps you just our feature film takes is longer days. So it naturally was that next step that that one takes.
Alex Ferrari 9:58
So one of the reasons I wanted you on the show is because a lot of the lot of the movies that you've produced have been with, you know, named talent talent that actually brings money to the table. And, and I always wanted to have someone on the show that has produced these kinds of films, worked with talent like Dolph Lundgren or Ron Perlman or Mickey Rourke, Tom Berenger, Billy Zane, these are like kind of go to character actors who have have a following and also have a value of monetary value in distribution and overseas. So I wanted to kind of dig into the how you do this. And I also want to take away a lot of these myths and illusions that a lot of filmmakers have, like, Oh, I could never afford, you know, adopt, you know, Dolph Lundgren, or Mickey Rourke, or, or Ron Perlman, or these kind of actors, because they must be billions and billions of dollars to to get, and I've been in the industry long enough to know that that's not true. But I wanted to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. So how do you go about first of all attaching named talent like this?
Steven Luke 11:03
Right? Okay. So I think the I'm a big proponent of this always, the first step with named talent is your script. Now, obviously, that kind of complain a lot of key points with a lot of things. But if you have a script, that, obviously is what you feel like a winner, something you enjoy a story you want to tell, that is definitely like the number one way to get talent to say, yes, they've got to like that script. And, and so kind of hand in hand with that the role that you might be offering them, it has to be a role that, you know, like, you see that person, you know, like, okay, like, take, take, Dolph London, like Dolph will have fun with this role. are, you know, so like, when you come to those towns that and sometimes that might mean you adapt your role a little bit for the specific person that you're going after, but like, they have to like, Okay, if they read this, they've never done that character before. Or maybe it's a character that they enjoy doing. I think really tailoring your story and the role that you're going after, before you present it to them. is, is, is vital. Because if it's just generic, you know, office worker, you know, they're going to pass on that.
Alex Ferrari 12:20
But unless, unless the paycheck is extremely high.
Steven Luke 12:24
I mean, that's gonna take probably double what maybe they would actually cost to pay me that. Like, why would you?
Alex Ferrari 12:32
Why would you bring Duff longer does the office worker, unless it's a comedy? And then yes,
Steven Luke 12:37
If you have the budget to do it. And that probably actually would be hilarious. Dolf is a great guy, too. I mean, he's a fantastic actor, and super smart, man.
Alex Ferrari 12:51
No, I hear he's like, he's like, genius level. He's like, really, really smart. Even when he did The Expendables, they would make jokes about it in the movie that like, what do you have, like a rocket scientist? Like,he is like, literally, he,
Steven Luke 13:04
He is that smart. And so like, when you first kind of meet him, you when you talk to him, it? I don't wanna say it throws you for a loop. But, you know, most people grew up with, I will break you. And when he talks to you, you're like, geez, this guy's way smarter than me. Right? Not like that. I'm filming. You're just, it's just, it's a fun story. Okay, so back to so you got your script, you got your, you got your role for these guys. So probably that, like, they always talk about, like the gatekeepers that come that are in Hollywood, yes. Or the talent, it really as their managers and agents, I mean, manager, agent, they guard those guys and all their clients, which is that that's what they get paid to do. So we try to probably the best way then to like, you know, to get an agent manager, okay, you know, having a producer that maybe has worked with them in the past, having, you know, maybe a sales rep that has worked with them in the past. You know, personal contact, emailing them straight up on IMDB, sometimes even can get you to the door. I mean, I hate to say that, but like you're only having to sit, but they read, they read, I mean, they have an assistant, they process that stuff. So that doesn't necessarily mean you know, you're going to get darklands in your film if you just email them with an offer because they don't work that way. Or it doesn't work that way. But if you have a level of if you're attached to someone that maybe has worked with them, the legitimacy of that offer of the script and the role and maybe the price tag that you're offering them, it they they will take it to their client, that they're they're required to take those things to their client if they feel it's actually a legitimate thing. And so by having someone and I'm just going to use like me, for example, like I've worked with Delft, London, you know, for me to maybe put up Like a filmmaker, in touch with his manager and saying, like, Hey, I think that, you know, that, you know, x y&z wants to, you know, it's interesting having dealt with the role, you know, I'll let you, I'll let him present it over to you, they will take that as a sign that I've vetted that person, I wouldn't be doing that. Unless it was a real thing, just in terms of of real because if I do that,
Alex Ferrari 15:25
You're Donnie Brasco in it, you're, he's a good fella.
Steven Luke 15:29
This is not like a real thing. I might not never get to work with that agent ever again. So that's why it's such a big, you know, it's a big deal to be able to be, you know, when that happens, they'll take you seriously. But I'm not saying that they don't just email them straight up doesn't work.
Alex Ferrari 15:46
Real quick. So let me let me jump on that real quick at one question. And this is this is a big question when it comes to talent. And I've heard both sides of the story, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you have a personal relationship or personal connection to the talent, do you bypass their management and talk to them directly? Or make an offer to them directly? If you have a direct connection? Now, if you're good friends, it's one thing? Yeah, yeah. If your buddies, it's one thing, but let's say my producer, like I know somebody who knows the actor personally. And I'm like, Hey, you look, I'll make you an associate producer, if you make the introduction to me, and then I go have coffee with Dolf. And then, like, Hey, I really like your thing, and I make him the offer directly. And then I've completely bypassed, I've just ended up just throwing out the scenario. Hold on before you say now. And you like talk to them and like, hey, look, you know, like to offer it to you directly. A lot of people will do that for PA, which, in my opinion to you shouldn't offer them directly, unless it's a conversation. And like, I always say, when I'm working with talent at that level, I go, do you want me to submit a formal offer to your agent, or manager? And sometimes they're like, no, what do you want? What do you got? And then they'll just want to negotiate with you right there. There's those those that that that talent? Well,
Steven Luke 17:12
Yes, I would say like, if you're in a situation like that, that that, I mean, they're open to it, that that might be different, I would say, in my opinion, if you were in that situation, where you're like, talking to the actor, and they're loving the role, you know, like just offering role and having them say, I love this, I want to do this is like a win. And then I would automatically go to Alright, great, I will get in touch with your agent and manager and work out the details. Because at the end of the day, you still got to work out the details with the agent manager, because there's not only is that mean? Oh, is that their price, there's their green m&ms that they need, there's their flights, you know, I mean, like, there's an entourage that might have to come. So like, you're still gonna have to work with the agent manager on the deal memo. And so you should at least then that way the agent manager feels, I don't wanna say useful because they're very useful, but that's their job. So respecting them right off the bat and saying like, hey, great. Dolph loves this role. Let me go work it out with agent manager, they will instantly I don't want to say like, you have an ally, but you won't make them mad. Because agents and managers do not like to be circumnavigated. They don't like it. And I can, you know, as much as like, sometimes you wish, you could just go right to it. And you can sometimes when you know the talent, you know, get them excited about the role that's already a win for you. Because you know, that they're going to want to do it, they want to do it, and then go back to that, you know, Agent manager, that way everyone stays happy. And then the actors not having to deal with any you know, the other than the money the other the other things that entail that agent manager can be the good guy, bad guy, good cop, bad cop. You know, there was a it's a it's definitely an industry and I had an eight a manager tell me this. So just you know, like always like, great, you know, the talent. They want to do the role then just come back to me and keep it keeping that line Hollywood very much like
Alex Ferrari 19:15
Yeah, there was a there's a story of a couple filmmakers I knew that were they bum rushed an actor at a film festival and got them literally in the back alleys an Oscar nominated actor. And and the actor was cool. He was like, tell me pitch me and he showed him like this, the sizzle reel, and the actor was very taken by their story. And this actor does not do an independent like he's only studio, but for whatever godforsaken reason, he fell in love with the story and wanted to do it. And he was at over at CIA and CIA did everything to torpedo that deal, like everything, but that
Steven Luke 19:57
Those guys did mean what the thing that those guys got, they knew the actor wanted to do it. So ca lost all those playing cards now they might not have been happy about it. But like that's, that is the one nice thing if you can get around them and you just find out if they want to do it, then you got right, you got to,
Alex Ferrari 20:16
But then afterwards that the actor just turned to their ages like, Look, I don't care what you say I'm doing this. So let's make this happen. And now and that's but that's a risk. you're rolling the dice when you do something like that. That's extremely risky.
Steven Luke 20:30
An actor in a back alley and corner him. I mean, literally, I would do it but
Alex Ferrari 20:36
Right. And they were just they were young, independent filmmakers. They weren't like, you know, seasoned professional season.
Steven Luke 20:41
Not that sometimes. That's literally I mean, you get lucky like that. I'm just lucky. He everything the stars lined up. And that worked out great for him. So I definitely not opposed to having that happen. Because sometimes when you're trying to get your film made, I mean, you got to you got to play hardball. The old that is hardball, man.
Alex Ferrari 21:05
Absolutely. Absolutely. I see you we're continuing. Alright, so now. So what's the next part of the process as far as attaching these guys?
Steven Luke 21:12
So let's story script, contacted agent manager, you know, so then you're you're wanting to it's the it's the money, you know, sometimes it's a lot of this talent, it really does come down to you know, they're gonna assume after they read the script, that they're gonna, okay, this is a worthwhile story script. I can enjoy this character, then it really comes down to their rate, you know, what are they willing to do it for? And it really is, I mean, oh, and let me back up because it is money, but like it like, Okay, well, who's who's who's maybe Who am I acting along with? Could matter to like, who's the director, the director? What's the budget of the film? Like, do I have to fly to Taiwan? Because that makes a big deal to them like, or can I just wake up and roll out of my bed and go 30 minutes over to Pasadena and shoot and then come back. I mean, that's what makes it huge people to do that for them. So like, accommodating them along with that offer with like, Hey, we're going to be you know, 10 minutes away from your house. So all you have to do is just get out of bed and woke up and go, we'll come pick you up. And you know, sometimes like literally, that if the money's good, and doing that and be like, well, I don't really care who I'm in with, and who the director is a day,
Alex Ferrari 22:29
Yeah, it's a couple days, and I'm home, back home to sleep on my bed. So one day, or two days, or whatever it is. So that's the thing that a lot of filmmakers, especially young producers don't understand is that if you have, you know, Dolf, let's say, or Mickey in a roll, and you have them on the cover of the poster, it doesn't mean that you shot them for three or four weeks, you know, you could shoot them out in 234 days or less, depending on what how big their part is. But you can shoot all their scenes out quickly. and affordably. Because if you tried to hire them for three or four weeks, it wouldn't be it would be cost prohibitive.
Steven Luke 23:08
Yeah. And they don't do that either. I mean, they they wouldn't, they wouldn't sign on to doing a three four week thing, unless it was a big studio or per bag or a studio are a big project. If you kind of live in that world of a week or less weeks, and go to court coordinate the character around those those scenes. I mean, a good rule of thumb, I think, right now with distributors is, you know, they need about 12 to 15 minutes of screen time, at least out of those guys, which is about the equivalent about 15 pages. So if you can get 50 I mean, how quickly can you shoot 15 pages? Now, I'll tell you this, like, you know, usually, I mean, I've knocked out an actor, and with 15 pages in one day, oh, yeah. Oh, it's doable. But I will tell you this with the talent, like they will not be happy about that, per se. I mean, they're not gonna be angry. Yeah. But it could take cue cards, and it could take, you know, like hiding their lines in you know, spots, or they can just do their thing, and they'll take your
Alex Ferrari 24:10
Earbuds don't forget the earbud I forget about the earbuds. I literally had a whole a whole VFX job once that I this was an Oscar winning actor who was later in his career. And he had earbuds because he couldn't remember his lines. And we had to digitally remove all the earbuds in all his shots because it was a period of peace. Sure. I mean, it's insane.
Steven Luke 24:38
Yeah, I mean, you. I shouldn't say you would think the actors would come prepared, they usually are prepared, but you know, if you can just get them there. I mean, they know they know, you know, a lot of the actor, you know, like when they're named actors. They understand that it's got to be my name and my face on the poster that sells it. So who cares if I know my lines, I mean, that's not saying that they don't know that but like, you know, you got to accommodate them. Sometimes.
Alex Ferrari 25:00
So this is the big the big question, you know, can we discuss the cost? And now we're not going to call anybody out directly, we're not going to go well Dolphus this much. And then you know, Mickey is this much nothing like that. But can we talk about a range? You know, per day? Because I have, I've worked with certain actors, and I know of prices of certain actors, who are name actors. But what is a range price? Because I think people still filmmakers still think like, Oh, I can't afford that guy, even if it's for three or four days? And you'd be surprised that you might?
Steven Luke 25:34
Yeah, well, I think you're looking at and I don't mind saying these things. Because I think they're, they're stuff that the, you know, the industry should know. And I think, you know, I mean, the more kind of money that can go, like, with projects that can go to actors, I think, always the better. You know, so let's talk about, so let's talk about money. So maybe, let's put a range of say $50,000, to up to $300,000. That is your, that is your budget range. And you might get an actor of a name caliber for one day to eight days, or seven days, seven, let's say seven days. So, I mean, that and to say that, that's, obviously there's a lot of factors and a lot of ranges, that that can play into that. But that's really not it is a lot of money. But for those guys, you know, that that could secure the the rest of your budget, and that could propel you know, your film into going to that next budget level. And like, like, I'm not trying to get down on any micro budget filmmaking, but because I love I mean, that's like, my forte, I love, like, how can we not do it the cheapest, but like, I mean, jeez, you get caught?
Alex Ferrari 26:55
Yeah, get the costume
Steven Luke 26:57
With those micro budgets, you're gonna hone your craft. And if you want to try to, you know, those stars will automatically jump your film out of a micro budget capability, just because of how much they cost, if you were to try to pursue them, just in terms of like, you know, let's say you spend an actor $100,000 on an actor, well, you might have an additional 20 to $30,000, other costs, you know, with different crew lighting, you know, green man's, you know, you should report that there are those days that you're shooting with him. So that's the, that's the fact that you got to you got to play, but I feel like it's it's a, you know, with filmmaking and movies, to go to that next level, and to have named talent, you know, it's a, it's a, that's what it will take, in order to take that kind of next baby step, you know, in terms of like, maybe then moving on to having a studio or distributor, you know, trust you with maybe more money, and with more name, talent, you know, and that next step, and if they can see that, you know, hey, this film with this talent, you know, these guys made this and it turned out great, or whatever, it was profitable, you know, different things depend on what you're trying to do, it will help you just kind of take those steps in a filmmakers journey, if you want to pursue that. So I highly recommended, recommend, you know, all the filmmakers listening to this, you know, that can help really be the next little baby step for you, in order to take the bigger leap to bigger budgets, and, and bigger, you know, productions. That's not to say, you know, there's always that wildcard, you get lucky and stars, new jump, which is every everyone's dream, but you know, baby steps sometimes,
Alex Ferrari 28:46
But you have to look at it as an ROI. So like, if you're, if you're spending, you know, $100,000 on a talent that could justify a $2 million budget, without that talent, you're looking at a $500,000 budget, you know, for the same movie, or less or much, much less, you know, so it all ranges you have to just kind of think about it. So you know, if you have Mickey or Dolf in your movie, you've you've got the movie sold almost done in pre sales and we'll talk about pre sales in a minute but it's almost sold automatically because of their because there's an automatic market for that kind of talent involved. Now as far as ranges is concerned, I've heard you know 50 to 300 1000s of good rains but I know guys who will show up for five grand a day and 10 grand a day and and if they go oh for a week, give me 25 grand and we're good. And they might not be at the level of the 50 100 200,000 but they start peppering the cast and you can it can you talk a little bit about the peppering of the cast where you get these known faces, they might not be box office draws, but their faces. One of the big ones was Trey Hill for the longest time, and now he's Danny. Danny, I've gotten to work with Danny, I've always wanted to try but isn't it by law that he has to be in every movie? I mean, that's law now, isn't it? I mean, he has to be in every movie him and Sam Jackson has to fight by? I think it has. You're right. I think it has I think I think the Supreme Court is checking on that right now. But I think it Sam Jackson and or Danny Trejo have to be in a movie. That's the law, I think.
Steven Luke 30:27
But I, if I remember, right, the law also states they can't be in the same movie together, otherwise the world will be
Alex Ferrari 30:33
the case that space time continuum explodes, I understand completely. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. But um, no, but I remember Danny before, you know, machete, and he was before he became a leading man, he was the character actor, and he wasn't. I mean, he's literally in everything. You know, he just shows up. It's fascinating to watch Danny. And he's the first to say he's like, oh, did you have a check? I'm there. And can I bring my typos? And he has this. And that's not racist. He has his own taco company. Because Trey has tacos here in LA. But it was fascinating. So how can you talk a bit about the value of peppering some of these more character actor faces in a movie, which kind of also gives you a little bit of weight when trying to go after a bigger fish to like, Oh, look at all these other guys who've been in a million things?
Steven Luke 31:37
Yeah. So I would say, if I was approaching, like a film, where we're going to pepper in some, some, you know, decent, you know, some some recognizable faces. So maybe TV actors? Yes, you'd want to try to get as many of those guys as possible. One of the nice things that if you were to pursue that route, okay, yeah, that will help. I always, it's always hard to say like, and then for your next project, but like maybe bigger talent, that you know, for a future work that you do when they look back and they say, Okay, well, we've got all these things. Let's see what they've done. They've Okay, well, they've worked with Danny, and they've worked with this. They're like, Okay, well, they, they've, they've worked with some industry people. So sometimes, you know, establishing yourself of being able to work with industry, people will help propel that next year also be a little bit of a baby step for you to kind of if you want to make bigger things. Now, I'm peppering guys in I would say, Yes, I mean, like the more recognizable faces, you know, obviously, the better. I would also throw this in with a caveat, like, really do your homework and research, because there might be like, Danny Trejo, I'm not super familiar with, like, I don't want to put like actors as if they have values. But I know Danny trails super popular in the United States. So like, you kind of get a distributor to bite on having a Danny Trejo in the movie.
Alex Ferrari 33:02
Oh, with that said that, Can I throw a caveat in there real quick? Sure. Yeah, there was a movie, there was a there was a movie that I worked on, which had Eric Roberts in it. And, and Eric is is the face and distributors generally liked Eric Roberts. And do still, unfortunately, Eric did 25 movies that year. So when so when the director went to go sell the producer went to go sell his movie, every distributor, like I already got three Eric Roberts movies this year, I don't need yours. So there has to be a balance as well. You know, so
Steven Luke 33:34
I think that that's why it ties into like, if you're gonna pepper it with, with with faces, you know, really do your homework, right? Because you don't want to have, I'm not trying to put down Eric rabbits, but like you said, you don't want to be in the season where there's 25 of his movies already.
Alex Ferrari 33:49
Right? He's losing his value. He's diluting his value, losing his value. So
Steven Luke 33:53
Just you know, do if you're going to pepper and use some different faces, which can work great and maybe be easier. Do your do your homework, do your research. You know, don't you know, don't be afraid to call like producers from other films with talent that you're looking at. Yeah, yeah. Yes. I would love to have someone email or message me. And so I can tell Mickey Rourke stories. I don't mean that like in a bad way. But like, I can like, Listen, this is what you need to do. This is what you you shouldn't do, you know, try to do this. Like, I mean, I feel like, you know, when you're in the filmmaking community, especially the independence, you know, we all have war stories and battle scars, and to be able to help the other the next person like, avoid, you know, like, Okay, well, this is a pitfall Try not to do that if at all possible.
Alex Ferrari 34:43
You know, we're Lieutenant Dan, we're Lieutenant Dan, the new privates we're Lieutenant Dan, the privates are coming in. It's like, Don't salute me. Get down, do this. You're gonna get burned over here. Like that's who we are. That's what we try to do.
Steven Luke 34:56
And like a lot of producers, a lot of us are very much Like that, so give him give those give those guys a call shoot him an email message though, they'll shoot you straight because you know, at the end of the day, it you know, the younger filmmakers, like you don't wanna say like who you help could be the next whoever but like it really could be beneficial you know, to just relay some information and and because you paid for it and blood sweat and tears so you know don't let it die Don't let it sink with the ship. So that's my thing.
Alex Ferrari 35:26
So with that said, Can you tell some Mickey Rourke stories or Dolf longer and stories that are, you know, you know, appropriate for the show, and that won't blacklist you from the industry?
Steven Luke 35:38
Oh, boy, let's let's okay. Okay, so a quick Mickey Rourke story. So, one of the things when Mickey work first showed up on my set, he, or at least when he showed up on our shooting location, he arrived late at night and me and my other producing partner Went, went, went to go meet him and we we kind of we brought his costumes and everything and Mickey Rourke, he enters the hotel, and he looks right at us. And he walked right on past us, right on passes and his assistant. Yeah, we were like, Did he did he not did because we had the costume. So we assumed like, okay, we must fit the film. I mean, we said that we were going to be there with the film. And you know, like, well, maybe he didn't see us. I don't know what's going on. And later, his like, assistant came out of the hotel and just said, like, Look, we need the costumers here. We don't want to see the producers like, oh, okay, well, okay, well, okay, fine. And so we, we get the customers in there, they're doing their thing. And later on, like, I don't remember if is later that night, early the morning, we find out like, um, Mickey would not like to have the producers on set. If Mickey sees the producers again, he's gonna punch him in the face. And we're like, not leave his trailer. And we're like, okay, so well. So like, literally the whole day when he was shooting, we were hiding in like a back room. And I, you know, I was a little bit younger than so I like, as an actor in the movie, if I screwed up my face, and I went in with the grips to go meet him. So I met Mark as a grip on my own film production. So that way, I didn't get punched in the face, or you have him not leave his trailer, that
Alex Ferrari 37:19
You hear stories about actors not leaving trailers, and, you know, being difficult sometimes on set, and you hear these mythical stories, you're like, this can't really be true. And, and I go, No, no, it can't.
Steven Luke 37:34
Now, to back that up Mickey was he got through the day, we got all this stuff shot, he seemed he was working great with the director, working great cast members. I don't know if it was more of like, just, you know, sometimes actors they like to say or do things just to see if they can get away with it, or just whatever. But you know, as the producer, you don't want to take that chance, hey, I didn't want my face punched. And B, I didn't want him to not leave his set their trailer. So
Alex Ferrari 38:01
Let me ask you, on a producing standpoint, just on a legal standpoint, if I'm paying somebody half a million quarter million dollars, and they do not perform the service, I hired them to do meaning like they are doing things that are creating havoc or not coming out of their trailer, I always wondered, there has to be some sort of legal ramification for this kind of behavior, right? Or if you don't want to answer that, please don't i don't want to put you in a bad spot.
Steven Luke 38:29
I don't know. I don't think that's a bad spot. I mean, obviously, you have a contract with them. And there's obviously some stipulations. And one of them primarily has been that they have to add
Alex Ferrari 38:40
Should I mean, to be fair,
Steven Luke 38:42
You know, that's where it kind of can get really great. Like, if they show up to set and they do a scene or two, and then they start making demands, and they don't get the day done. I mean, they're not, they can get really great. I mean, it really can with some of these things, like, you know, can you you can't put, you know, like, I'll just say for instance, like state law might dictate that or wherever you're shooting might say, like, Listen, you you, you can only work our normal eight hour day or sag rules. They only are an eight hours a day. They might do eight hours and then say hey, I'm out. I did my day. So, I mean, you just I've never experienced that myself where an actor has has not, you know, they're more, you know, if you treat them well. With respect, with respect, you're doing everything that you can in order to, I don't want to say accommodate them, but you know, just like just like they want to work, they want to work. And they know they know the situation of like what you know, like maybe you have them for three days. They know this, and they have so much they got to do and they're more than willing, if you if you treat them with respect, if you're accommodating if you're you know, going out of your way to you know, make sure that they have a good time just in terms of like experience set, you know, they will go that extra mile for you. Because they they are those I mean, they're the artists they want to they want their work to be good.
Alex Ferrari 40:14
Did you want to look? So did you ever hear the story of Marlon Brando on the on the set of the score with dinero and Ed Norton?
Steven Luke 40:22
Oh, I want to say that I have but please tell it
Alex Ferrari 40:26
Because what's Marlon Brando is legendary for being difficult. I mean, even the Godfather, he was being difficult, because he was already Marlon Brando when he did the Godfather. And he was on this movie called the score which was directed by Frank Oz. Now for many people who don't know who Frank Oz is he's very well known director but he also is known for being the voice of Yoda. And also being the voice of not the voice but he puppet puppeted up Kermit the Frog, he where he became up he came up as I'm up, I'm up at you know, a puppeteer. And and Marlon refused, refused to even let him be on the set. Now, when those two forces like the director, and Marlon Brando, that like in the Marlins, like I'm not acting if that puppet director and you know, expletive expletive, is there I'm not going to work so De Niro had to direct Brando on the set. While poor Frank Oz was in a trailer. radioing directions to Robert, while they would leave and like you're like and Roberts, like, come on Marlon. He's like, No, I'm not gonna work. Bobby, I'll work with you, Ed, I'll work with you. I can't work with this puppet director. I did this puppet guy with this frog frog effort. And he was saying, but I heard this story. And he just like and I've heard it multiple times from different people you just like those are the that's where this stuff happens is where these myths start coming like people becoming difficult. But also what you do that once this is a small business and everyone hears it. And then the next so you know when you're Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando, like what do you what are you gonna do? It's Marlon Brando. But you know, when you're an actor, you know, a paycheck actor, meaning that you've got to work to keep the bills common, he can't be pulling that kind of stuff for the most part.
Steven Luke 42:30
Yeah, and for the most part, they don't bite right. If you have a situation like that you find yourself in with with like Marlon Brando type of situation, you got to pick your battles. And at the end of the day, at least in terms of a producer, like you just got to get their footage, you got to get them shot, you got to get their face on camera, get their scenes, much, you know, I mean, like, just and, and they know that, you know, the actors know that. So, you know, they're being difficult because they know, you got to get them shot. So admission, say they're being difficult just because of that. But, you know, you got to pick your battles. And sometimes you got to, you know, you got to have Robert DeNiro directing with?
Alex Ferrari 43:10
No, I mean, do you find it that a lot of named actors, and seasoned actors in general will test, the director will test the production? We'll test to see how far they can push some things sometimes just to see what happens. I
Steven Luke 43:29
would say, I would say yes. So always be prepared for that. But at the same time, like they're doing next, they want to see how cool how quality you are, like, are you do when they're under pressure? Or is this like a real thing? You know, so don't don't, you know, be hesitant to speak your mind? And, and, you know, challenge them right back? Potentially not like in a bad way. No, no, no, absolutely like a test every once in a while. So be prepared for that. But you know, really, for the most part, like right off the bat, to to avoid, like the testing is to like, if it's the director, the producer, whoever it is, with the main talent, like, Go straight and try to establish rapport, they're almost always if they sign on to your project, they want to talk to the director, they want to know, like, go pick them up at the airport, you know, like you been if it's if it's all possible, I'm talking about maybe more of the director, like, be there, be there talk, I mean, then they have to talk to you in the car, and you can tell funny jokes. And you know, if they've written a book, read the book, read the book, you know, you can talk about their book, you don't do you know, talk about things that they enjoy? And like, Is it the end of the day, we're all human beings, and, you know, they approach like, where, like, maybe for us as independent filmmakers, movies or likes, like, this is my life. This is what I do. But for them, you know, they've been made more established in their career, like, this is their job. So and sometimes people don't like to talk about their jobs, they talk about dogs, they like to talk about their cars, but you know, I mean, like, like about talking about just things and Just kind of establishing that right away with them, that you're, you know, not that the film's secondary, but like, you really are excited to have them there and you just want to connect as a, you know, hey, let's just talk about, you know, funny stories and this and that. And that will really loosen them up to like, okay, they're artistic, you know, because at the end of the day, these are artists, and you just have to really, you know, like, the shapes can be very shy people very, you know, personal people, and to be able to make them feel comfortable is is so important. And it honestly will defuse a lot of the issues that you might have with problems, because if they feel comfortable, you know, then they then they're just they're free to express themselves as artists.
Alex Ferrari 45:42
Yeah, that's, that's, that's my feeling as well, that actress is a general statement, but let alone high profile actors. They want to feel safe. They want to feel that they're in good hands as a director speaking from a director's point of view, and that the second that they see that there's some buffoonery going on, or they don't feel that they've directors got their back, or they can't, they're not safe. That's when the acting up happens. That's where I've seen that happen, and they start because they're defending themselves. They're like, you know, what, if this guy's not gonna take care of it, this girl's not gonna take care of me that I'm going to take care of myself. And this is how I'm going to do it.
Steven Luke 46:16
And I always say, like, anyone can put up with anything for one day. Now, that's not to say that you need to abuse people by any means, but like, you think for a day. So, you know, like, when it comes to just, you know, be be upfront. And like, you if you're having issues on onset, I mean that with being like, oh, to the actor, apologize, say, hey, we'll work on you know, just, yeah, just work it out. And, you know, put up with it, if they know that you're, you know, they're not there. They know what, that they know that they're not on the studio set. Right. And that's not down what you're doing by any means that you understand. And if you are, you know, responsive to them, as such a being cordial that you won't have any issues.
Alex Ferrari 47:03
Did you ever listen to that? That vo session with Orson Welles that legendary vo session with you have heard that one isn't that brilliant? isn't for everyone listening Orson Welles did a vo session for I think some sort of commercial as a wine commercial or something. And this poor vo director oh my god he just ripped him for like 30 Let's just it was like a train wreck you couldn't you couldn't look away like that with the Christian Bale and all that was that was that was that was brutal. That was that was brutal. Now, let me see. Oh, the well Do you have any other fun stories? Dolf story Ron Perlman story.
Steven Luke 47:51
Intel so one, fun one London story is and this will kind of tie in with we're shooting with off and I happened to be in a scene with him as well as if we were knife fighting. So we only had him in for the hour, we were doing a knife fight. And we didn't have any practice space. And he was only available for two hours. So we literally brought him into the production office this little like 12 by six to block the knife fight. So we're with everyone else running around blocking the knife fight and, and I was literally like, on the phone with sag, like right before I was supposed to talk to him. They told me it and I won't go into the details. But basically, I still need to get the actors cleared. So they let me know that I need to get the actors cleared. And then I had a knife fight doll. And then as soon as I got done knife fighting dolphin the tournament's were steps I'd get back on the phone with sag to try to clear, you know, the actors and Dolf to actually be in the film. So that was kind of a fun he was and like, for, you know, obviously Dolf knows what he's doing in terms of action. Yeah, and I mean, we're like, in a production office, like basically a little room, everyone's copiers going and we're blocking our knife fight scene. And, and I'm just thinking this whole time, like, there's no way that he's not that he couldn't remember it, but like, there's no way this is gonna look good. Or, you know, like we're, but no, like, we shot it seven days later. And he knew it. He knew that knife fight, like as if he had been practicing it for like, you know, months to prepare for it. And like, knew every step and he was just like, dude, like, he knew it. And we literally had 20 minutes in an office. So I thought that was just professional. Talk about a professional.
Alex Ferrari 49:26
So let's talk about financing. Because, you know, this is all sounds great. You know, we got a great script, you've talked to the actors, the agents are happy, and they're ready to go. Then there's that whole money thing. You've got to pay them and also have money for the budget of the film. How First of all, how do you finance the film? How do you finance most of your films in what part of pre sales come into that? And secondly, when you're when you're trying to lock in an actor, a lot of times they need proof of funds or something along that Correct, correct?
Steven Luke 50:01
Yes. Um, so, at least for me and kind of what I've gotten blessed to be able to do is with a lot of with pre sales movies, and, you know, kind of your so the financing then in the distribution in a pre sales movie are kind of tied hand in hand. So let's, let's say, we'll do we'll use Mickey Rourke as an example. You might go to a distributor and say, Hey, if I get Mickey Rourke in this movie, so let's, let's take it say it's a horror movie. And if I get Mickey Rourke attached to this movie, what do you think that's worth? What would you give me? And they might come back to you and say, Hey, we'll give you 100 grand to distribute your movie. And so you take that kind of offer. And you go and say that's in the United States. And then you go to Germany and say, Hey, I have this horror movie with Mickey Rourke in it, what would you give me they say, they'll give you 10 grand, okay, great. 10 grand. So right now you got 110 and then you go you so you go to different territories, potentially, and say, Hey, into distributors there and say, Hey, will you give me and maybe you add all that up to say, let's say $500,000? Okay, so then you've got you, my friend have not necessary. I mean, there's, there's some more steps in there. But here you've got $500,000 worth of value with your movie and Mickey Rourke. Okay, so while that might not be money, that is worth something. Now, that's probably worth something to say like, Hey, we could actually probably approach Mickey Rourke. Well, assuming you hadn't maybe approached Mickey Rourke to do the movie in the first place. Let's like, okay, now we know we actually can have some money if we have Mickey work in this movie. So then you go to Mickey Rourke and say, hey, what would it take for you to do this movie, you know, you make an offer, bam, bam, bam. So, you know, and then so once you once you connect the two, pre sales, and we'll just say Mickey Rourke, then you can go to, there's a couple options for you. You can go to a bank, I've lost it. I mean, I want to say like a Los Angeles bank, any bank will do it, like a bank? Could you could take these pre sales with the actor attached and say, hey, how much will you with this? With these kind of offers? How much is that? Would you loan against that. And they might say, hey, we'll give you you know, $300,000. So there, there's your money, there stirner, $1,000, make movie, now you got to go out and find maybe $200,000 more, or maybe you've got, I don't want to say you've got $200,000 in your pocket, but then you got it, you know, so automatically, your ability to then kind of go out to investors, you know, you just you've just added you know, if you go out to investors, and you only need that's way easier to raise, maybe $200,000, than it is to raise $500,000. And as opposed to even having to raise, you know, the budget of your movie without having any of these things, you know, an actor or any, any sales beforehand.
Alex Ferrari 53:15
So two things. One is pre sales is more rare nowadays, rare nowadays than it used to be before you really could do exactly what you're saying, with doesn't even need to be at a caliber of making work. How would you feel that the today's not literally today? Because we're an upside down? But pre COVID? Like, you know, just late 2019? What was the world like for pre sales? And is it Have you seen it become harder or easier?
Steven Luke 53:44
I think it's been it's been better. It's been bigger? I think the giant myth is that pre sales are no longer a thing. Now, the actual value amount of what your presets can be is down. Yes, that is that is true. And that's where like, the value is down. But like that's where if you're like a micro budget filmmaker, that's where your value as being able to do that has just increased, right? Because you know how to do things way cheaper than maybe someone else knew how to do it 10 years ago, because the value the values have come down. And that, in my opinion, is across the board, like on everything. And that has primarily to do with the DVD market, just shrink. And they haven't been able to completely monetized VOD, or, you know, streaming VOD. As soon as your movie goes, you know, on the internet, it's or even released on DVD and released anywhere. It's pirate city and everyone watches it for free. But you know what I mean, give or take. Yeah, he's just now it's available free and now you're fighting pirate city.
Alex Ferrari 54:47
So that's the part that's the hard thing. So then we've got this whole chicken and egg situation where if you go to Mickey works people and go Hey, look, what would it take? Well, we want 250 But I'm sure Mickey is getting hit up by producers in this, I've heard this, I've seen this happen. He gets hit up by producers daily, and they just want his name to go to go raise the funding now, but a lot of them they will not let you attach their name to the project unless they see verifications of them. So you kind of need that money first, in order to attach a Mickey Rourke in order to then go off and get pre sales to get you know, it's kind of like, so how does that work in today's world with you?
Steven Luke 55:26
Yeah, so it That does sound convoluted, and complicated. And it's almost circular. My answer to that is yes. Okay. And it literally, I mean, it's a fine dance. And I would record I mean, that's why I like bringing in having maybe someone a little bit experience and being able to do that is is very valuable to project. Not that they because it it's like it literally is that I mean that that and that is the film system. In a nutshell in a smaller world, because like, I'll let you in in the secret of Hollywood and our cheap right now this no one has any money should so tell them what no one does. tell anyone. And so, but I think that's a fun, that's a basis to start with it. When you know this, okay? It makes it a lot easier to work in the circle to try to get the money to make a project because everyone that's a basic building block of films is no one has any money, and everyone secretly knows this. And so that's why it's like, okay, you know, a Mickey Rourke might say, okay, we won't let you attach your name unless you have the money and then you but you can kind of softly then approach someone with money to get the money because you make you work softly attached. And then it's all kind of tied together. And you just kind of keep working. You just keep working it in a circle until it so I wish it simpler.
Alex Ferrari 57:04
Oh, it should be.
Steven Luke 57:05
I mean, I mean, it should be but like I've done several of these now. And each time I'm just like, it's just so easy. You just know, it's it works in a circle. And you just got to keep the circle going. Right? Because if it stops, things will fall apart.
Alex Ferrari 57:20
Right? The mute if the music stops, you're gonna run out of chairs. Yes. What's the old? What's the old joke in Hollywood? How do you how do you have? How do you? How do you get it? How do you get a small fortune? And how do you make a small fortune in Hollywood? I don't know this. How do you make a small fortune in Hollywood, you start with a large fortune. I mean, it's insane. Now, one thing about actors, and I have a lot of experience with this. And I would love to hear your point of view. And if this is actually a thing, but I my feeling is it isn't but letters of intent. What the hell? Is it really worth? Is it worth anything? Is it just, it's just kind of fluff? You know, because I remember when I was, you know, in my first book about making a movie with a mobster. And well, we have this actors letter of intent. And we had Oscar winning actress letters of intent. And we never got money, it doesn't really mean anything. From my point of view, I'd love to hear yours. Yeah.
Steven Luke 58:27
I would say, like to have an actor with a little letter of intent. The value to that is if you've had someone, and I'm just gonna say like a director that has worked with that actor with the letter of intent. Because then automatically, you know, it's a it's a like, it'll tell investors or like a financing bank, that that's a real thing.
Alex Ferrari 58:51
Because there's a relationship there. There is I mean, they, yes. So if you if you all of a sudden have a letter of intent from Dolf, and for Mickey to be in a movie, and that's what you have, you can go to investors like, well, he's already done movies with them. So this this is a real thing.
Steven Luke 59:06
Yeah, this is a real thing. Yes. Yes. And that's why it's me. I hate to say like, yeah, you need someone kind of like that on your project. It's super helpful. It's very helpful because and not that those guys would then do it because this person's in the project, but like, it adds to that level of like believability, but no, no,
Alex Ferrari 59:30
no, it's, it's it's a smoke and mirrors. It's smoke and mirrors. You kind of like, Look, look over here, look at the dance, look at the dance going,
Steven Luke 59:37
you got to keep that circle going. And if, you know, like, if, if have someone that has worked, I mean, like, I'll give you an example. Like I could message like probably, I'm gonna say Mickey Rourke because I know he's switched agents. But in the past, like, I couldn't leave message Mickey Rourke's agent and say like, Hey, I am doing this project and this and this is Mickey Rourke even available, and he would get back to me because a, you know, we've paid him for something and he would he would at least respond, he would say like, oh, Mickey schedule is, you know, not available for nine months, or whatever that is. And that's why like having that kind of value of a producer or someone attached, the project that has that ability is so helpful because it kind of cuts through all the BS right away. And you can know like, I mean, it's not that Mickey Rourke not interested in your project, it's because he's just not even available. I mean, he could be, you know, on vacation, so, you know, then you can move on, you're not wasting time.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:37
There. Fair enough. Makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, with the distributor and pre sales, when you in your experience when you're getting mg. So essentially, you're getting mad and you're getting mg is basically before you're not just giving the movie and doing a profit participation.
Steven Luke 1:01:06
Like you said, like Promise, Promise, Promise letters. Pay you this once the movie is finished,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:13
But they are paying you once the movie is finished. So it's not like this isn't These aren't not speculation. It's not? What are those called? what they think the movie is going to make? This could be worth? Yeah, this would be cash, cash in the pocket. Right? So after that cash in the pocket comes in, you're hoping that all the cash that you're going to make off of the initial MGS is going to be not only enough to pay back your budget, but also maybe make a nice little profit it because do you actually see back end? Do you actually you know, with the way distribution is worked, is worked in the whole system is played out? I don't know. And dude, just say Alex, I don't feel comfortable asking.
Steven Luke 1:01:59
I think this is a great answer. Okay. So they always say in, in when you're trying to do distribution, whatever you're going to make, if they offer you, let's just say $20,000. That's all the money you'll ever see. Right? And I would say that like you, you can take that same to the bank every single time. Because if it but barring, okay, barring that, if your film is like a sensational hit or a hit, and then maybe you can, you'll see some more money later on, like down the road, like maybe two or three years later. And I'm not saying that's a lot of money. But like, you'll see some royalties come in, maybe two or three years later down the road. But whatever they are going to offer you up front is about all they'll see. I mean there, I mean, all you're gonna see from whatever that territory is, or let's just say us just to make things simple. So yeah, whatever, whatever that mg is, if they're offering you know money, and they're going to pay you are off of I'm not saying you shouldn't do that deal. Just like just know that you will not just put that in your brain, you will not see any money ever.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:11
It's what I've been up in the mountains for a while now.
Steven Luke 1:03:15
And I know you have you say in all your shows I want for those that are listening, like I listen to Alex's shows, like from the beginning. So I've taken a lot of his advice to heart. So start at episode one. And then you know, what are you on two, maybe 300 and out?
Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
We're getting close to 400. Now,
Steven Luke 1:03:34
Listen to all them. They're all irrelevant. No, and you can stop fine. And then you can be done. Yeah, there's no you'll learn everything. No, no. So very important. But yes, I mean, please, please, please, please. And that's to say like, if you're if they're offering you just to distribute your film without paying you something upfront, you won't see any money. I mean, the odds of you seeing a money are very, very slim. And so like, and maybe I don't mean to paint doom and gloom on that scenario, because maybe, you know, obviously, you want to try to make more money off your movie, but maybe that just but literally the act of getting distribution for your movie has its own value. That means something when you're ready to make a second one or third one, you know, take it on the to take it on the chin is you might have to take it on the chin it on the chin on the first but you might have to take it on the chin. So just realize that if you're in that situation, you have you know, you might have to take it on the chin in order to get that distribution because that act of distribution literally will help you on the next one that's 100% it 100% will help
Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
Right so if you if you get picked up by Lionsgate or you know Warner home movies or you know or one of these distribution companies like that, that are upper echelon not Yeah, not lower Echelon, but higher echelon
Steven Luke 1:05:00
But even lower guys, I mean, just that act of like, being able to get, you know, I mean, there's a lot of things but like they always say like we can get your movie in Walmart. You know, I don't that might not equal any dollars but it means something
Alex Ferrari 1:05:15
or theatrical or or limited theatrical. Don't even what do you think about limited theatrical? Well, I mean, obviously right now theatrical is a big question mark. But before COVID?
Steven Luke 1:05:29
Like, forget theatrical. Like, if they're trying to tantalize you with limited theatrical, that means they'll play it in if they play it at all. I mean, if they actually do it, they'll play it in 10 cities, and they'll run it on a weekend in some small theater that no one they won't have any press about to play. I mean, it will be limited. And away then to charge you, you know, a lot of money in expenses. So
Alex Ferrari 1:05:59
he just used he used he just use air quotes for people not watching this. There was sorry,
Steven Luke 1:06:04
I forgot. Yes, I put expenses in air quotes. And but I will throw I will throw if it if it means but saying that. Okay. theatrical run a limited theatrical run could help the film out in order to get on Netflix, let's just say,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
right? How about how about for foreign if it's a US
Steven Luke 1:06:26
limited me for foreign discipline. So you know it. So maybe you got to take that on the chin as well.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:35
So I want to be very clear about this. everyone listening, you the way that you're making money with your films is by stacking the cast with value that has presale value to distribution companies around the world in different territories. If you don't have that pre preak, that that valuable cast, pre sale value cast, you won't sell your movie, you won't get any pre sale money, you will not pre some money, but you won't even get any offers, you will get no MGS. And then now you're in the world of I'm going to donate my film attacks a non tax deductible donation to a film distributor. Is that fair to say?
Steven Luke 1:07:15
Yeah, I mean, yes. But I like I said, like, maybe that's what you have to do in order to take that next step on to the next one. I'm speaking maybe more for those micro budget filmmakers, right,
Alex Ferrari 1:07:26
you don't want to throw a million dollar movie?
Steven Luke 1:07:30
Yeah, I mean, if you, you know, if you make a film for $5,000, and you're able to go through all these steps and get distribution, and even if you're not gonna make any money, do you only have five grand and you get distribution on your movie, that's huge. That means someone in the distribution world sees value, at least enough for them to even just put on this go, they have to spend a little bit of money to put your stuff out there. Like, that's a huge deal. And, and don't let that discourage you, you know, and you're only out you'd only be out five grand, which is like, huge, because when you get into that, you know, let's say $100,000 Plus, I mean, you could literally you could be in the exact same boat except the out $100,000.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Right. That's why my first film cost me about five grand, and I got sold to Hulu and sold it overseas and, and you know, got it on different platforms and stuff. And it's five grand, my last film was three. And I got distribution for that. I was like, Okay, great.
Steven Luke 1:08:27
And it's a big deal. Because, you know, like, it would it that helps for things like when you approach talent or investors, right? And they're like, Okay, well, at least he got a film to the distributions point. Like, we know, he got out there to start selling. I mean, they Oh, there might be some things that investor might not totally understand. But they definitely understand like, hey, his last movie, at least got to distribution. And I can actually watch it on a physical like on almost a DVD, but they can actually see it going to market. And then you can still get the known the market.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:02
How important are filled markets to your process? Like AFM can.
Steven Luke 1:09:08
I mean, I think they're important. You know, for the producer in me hates them, because all it is is just a bunch of added expense, in my opinion, that film will have to go through, especially in today's world when you can like send out a screener out to just about anyone and they can go watch the film and check out they can see it from their home and if they want to buy it, they'll go after it. If not, I won't, but it is, um, for the industry. You know, sometimes it's that showmanship factor that you know, you got to be in that game to some extent in order to be taken seriously. That's not to say that you're not a serious person. But that's still that part of that Holly perception
Alex Ferrari 1:09:49
is perception keepers.
Steven Luke 1:09:51
Yeah and market you know, with maybe an established sales rep selling your film, you know helps you know What helps you and your filmmaking journey and career do now that might say be financially, but it does help?
Alex Ferrari 1:10:06
Do you use sales reps? I do. And but these are pre built relationships, they have sales rep that you actually trust.
Steven Luke 1:10:14
Yes, yeah, I've got honestly, like, I've got one go to sales rep team that I use for, like all of my stuff. And I've had that relationship since the first movie that I've ever had. And that, you know, if I can give a piece of advice to like, being able to establish, I think there's like a misconception about sales reps. That is partially true, but also built, you know, like, just the nature of the beast. First approaching a sales rep. And your, I don't wanna say nobody, but like, you don't have anyone in your movie, you don't, you know, it's maybe not a genre, that's super sellable. And if they take you on, you know, like, there's a lot of, you know, like that movie, we'll have a hard time selling, like, it's just, you know, and my family's in does real estate, like, I always did real estate, and one of the things that I've always learned is that, listen, I can get up and, and you can price your house, at this price, at the end of the day, I still got to show the house, and someone still got to buy it. So if it's not the house, you know, I mean, like, if the house is not worth it, the buyers will let you know. And so a sales rep company, they they'll give you all the lights, the showmanship and the lights and glamour and the estimates, but at the end of the day, your movie has to sell, like, it's your product that they're selling, they can't sell it for you. Now, obviously, there's some things that they can do to, like help. Like, it's the product. So my my piece of advice then is like, just realize that like it's your product, so sometimes that doesn't mean it's bad, but like then to so pick a sales rep for your project that you you feel maybe comfortable with and trying to build and establish that relationship. And then but and also realize that maybe they're not going to make it have, they're not going to make me any money off this movie. But you know what, that 10 year relationship potential that you could develop with them will pay off in dividends, just because, obviously, you know, like, you'll establish that rapport, they know you're a filmmaker that can deliver a movie, you know, then you kind of go maybe the next one, you have a talent, well, then all of a sudden, you're like, they know you're a filmmaker that can deliver with talent, and they'll help push you. And they'll help guide you into things to help your career along, they will be there for you. But you got to you got to you got to build that relationship with them. It can't be, here's my product, how about you sell it? And when they don't do that, then you you you burn the house down and you leave? I mean, now saying all those things like, yes, are predators out there. And you Oh, that's why it's so important to call other producers. But, you know, there's a lot of really great established sales reps. And you just want to, you know, go in there thinking, hey, I want to start I know, people that sell my movie, I want to start a relationship with them.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:12
You know, I think because I know a lot of sales reps as well. And I know the handful that are I know a handful of good ones I got ripped off by one early on in my career episode, I think number two or three of this show was me ranting about producers, sales reps. Because I was still I was still 10 grand off of me back in the day. But I feel that a lot of times that producers reps and sales reps get bad raps is they'll pick up a movie that has no talent, quote, unquote, no marketable talent. And they try to do their best. And generally the market will say no, but if you but if you show up with a movie with Dolf, or RA, or Ron Perlman or someone have, you know, some sort of marketable talent, it makes their job a lot easier. They can pick up the call and call Germany call two or three buyers in Germany and go, I got a Mickey work movie here. What can you give me for it? And that's the that's why you hire someone like that, because they have those automatic connections to all these buyers around the world, that you just don't,
Steven Luke 1:14:12
yeah, and they'll play ball with you. So like, Look, if your first film totally tanks, just because of the you know, not because it's a bad movie. It's just because it just didn't have the glitz and the glamour that it takes for a distributor to sell. Probably, you know, to the best of their ability. You know that if you kind of if you do approach them with like, hey, I've got this horror film, then if we had Mickey work distributor might go Oh, let me make some calls for you. Right there.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:39
And the guy. I'd work in it. Exactly. Now, which leads us to my final question COVID-19 and how production is going to be moving forward, how the film markets are being affected what you think in your personal opinion from being a veteran in the business. How do you think things are gonna move moving forward, like I know nobody knows the answer to this, but I just like to hear your opinion about first of all production and then also film markets because I don't know about you like, I'm not going to AFM this year, even if I'm invited on, but I'm not going to a public event in 2020, pretty much. So how can you do a film market without hundreds of 1000s of people together?
Steven Luke 1:15:23
If you want my opinion, Now, granted, this is my opinion. And let me give you some background. I'm a history major by trade. Okay, so I always approach things, just naturally, because it's who I am, by looking into the past to predict the future. Okay, let's just, I put
Alex Ferrari 1:15:39
very slow sound advice. Sound Advice, sir. Okay,
Steven Luke 1:15:42
so my advice would be, history has always rewarded the bold, and this is an opportunity for the bold to us, I mean, I, I'm not recommending that you go out there and make your movie. You know, people at risk can pay for all these things. But I mean, they're a whole industry is ground to a halt. And those that are willing to go out and be creative this craft and create will be rewarded. That's just my opinion. So and, you know, and I'm not saying they like, that's a. So that's my right now, I think, eventually, if we looked into the future, I think things by, I think by, like productions will limp along here this fall, like in terms of just what's happening, like there'll be, they'll, they'll try to make some things work. I think by next year, this will all be in our rearview mirror. I think things back on track. I think we'll see a giant spike in you know, profitability, potential off of VOD, because a lot of people are staying at home and getting used to watching now things on TV and streaming. I think that will only help boost the streaming markets from the into into the future. And so that will be which is great for independent filmmaker independent films, because that's been the one area that's been a real big hit on just our ability to make income from our work. Um, I think unfortunately, you know, theaters will have a really hard time. You know, but I, I always foresee like the big tentpole movies, the big budget stuff, you know, the Marvel movies, I think that's the only way to really experience them.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:41
I agree with
Steven Luke 1:17:43
that. relief. So though the theaters will be okay. But I do think it will, you know, very, it won't be it's, you know, it's hard to be profitable as independent doing theaters anyways, I think it just won't be the death be a real death sentence to like, Don't even bother taking two years. That's not to say that there's not some allure to it,
Alex Ferrari 1:18:02
you know, but also, and I'll be, I'll play devil's advocate here, if there isn't a lot of studio product for all these screens, there might be opportunities for iPads to come in, and to intake because honestly, beforehand, the studios are only making 30 movies a year 40 movies a year,
Steven Luke 1:18:23
you've got a lot of great videos on how to market and distribute your movie. And I think that there is, especially with theaters, there's a giant missed opportunity to just focus in on theaters and marketing your film, and keeping it that world. And I could go I could mean that's its own like, Oh, no, it's its own thing. And I have had guests on who've made millions, millions theatrically self distributing, and for walling and booking their own theaters, and it's a thing, but it's a lot of work. And it's a lot. And if you're you know, if you're in the most creatives like to do the project, get it out there and then move on. And that's what I it's hard to, it's hard to you know, like live in your film for another two years, or whatever, you know, oh, no,
Alex Ferrari 1:19:11
I I've been trying to tell people like the the real work starts at the end of the cut. That's when the real work started. Like, the hardest part is not getting the movie made. The hardest part is getting the money
Steven Luke 1:19:23
back. Yeah, well, and so Alex, that's why with the pre sales that we've been talking about, you, you can do that process of, you know, attaching the talent to the you're doing a lot of work. But you're doing it almost before you start shooting it and as opposed to after. And so like the same, it's the same amount of work, except that you're taking that took risks. You're taking that risk away from what you're trying to do, and you're putting it on the front end. And so that's why it's, in my opinion, if you're able as a filmmaker To be able to get to that point where you can like, okay, hey, we're gonna raise. That's why that the distribution and the financing, you can tie together and put it towards the front end of you trying to make a movie, because then you could spend two years in that circular motion. Oh. And it's way better to do that than to have done six months in pre production, trying to raise the money, scrape out money, shoot the film, post production, and then spend two years trying to sell it. It's just,
Alex Ferrari 1:20:30
Yeah, you just want to hedge your bets. If you can, it's like, you know, when, when Apple creates an iPhone, they know that they have a market, they have an infrastructure, they have sale predict, you know, they know that they're going to recoup whatever money they spent to make or design or invent that product. filmmakers never think about that. They're the only business we were, when I use the term business. It's very loosely in our in show business. But we're the only product that's like, I'm gonna go spend a half a million dollars and then figure out how I'm going to get my money back. There's no other business that does that.
Steven Luke 1:21:06
Yeah, no, it's very true. And that's why if you can, if you can take that the business side of things and throw that in on the front end of your movie, you know, yes, will make your life not easier, but it'll be more enjoyable, you'll enjoy the product and so much mean not that you're not gonna have stress. But man, it's a lot easier to you know, only have to worry about maybe, you know, 10% of your budget coming back, as opposed to like, 100% of your budget coming back.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:33
Even just breaking even is a win, win. It's a complete win.
Steven Luke 1:21:37
Yeah, don't you know, if you break even on your movie that is a win
Alex Ferrari 1:21:42
100% win? Again, no other business? No other business is that a win.
Steven Luke 1:21:47
But you know, here's the here's the the other secret, like, you keep at it long enough. And you will have, you will have that catapult and I mean, one of the things I know we didn't really talk about, or maybe like investors, investors, one of the, I always like to tell investors is like, Listen, maybe it's not this movie, I'm asking you for this. And, and, and this is why, you know, this is gonna work. And maybe it's not this movie that we make a lot of money on. And but it's gonna help us get to that next level. And then when we get to that next level, maybe you know, I'm gonna ask you for more money. And maybe it's not that movie, that's gonna make us the money, but I'll get you, I'll get you, I'll get your money back, you'll get on the red carpet, you'll get to meet some stars. And then when we get to that next level, I'm gonna ask you for even more money. But that'll be the point where we're going to hang off really, really well. And you know what an investor can see that, because it's just like any business, they understand the risks. And they see like, hey, this person has got a plan and a future and they know where they're going. And they know that this is, you know, if you're not an investor, I shouldn't say they're not worried about 20%. Because they are, but like, they're investing in movies, there's a lot of glitz and glamour, but they want to have the huge hit. Where they you know, I mean? Like, that's what that's why they're investing. That's why they're investing in the upsell
Alex Ferrari 1:23:09
Steven Luke 1:23:11
Yeah, you have to you have to explain that to them. Like that is your goal as well. And but it might not, you know, like, it might not be the project that you're making for him right there at that moment. But you have to get you have to take those steps in order to get there. That's the only way. It's the only way to be able to to proceed forward. Fair, and they'll see that they'll respect that. And it'll add that level of like, I've solidly we'll invest in in the steps that maybe we're gonna take.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:42
Very cool. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests, as you know, if you've listened to the show yet, these are what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Steven Luke 1:23:52
Collaborate, collaborate, the film, filmmaking is such a collaborative business at all levels. And, you know, even collaborate with everyone on your team. I mean, we all know if you look at the back end of the credits, there's hundreds of people that work on your film, and collaborate with as many you know, of all the people that you know, all the all the people that help you make your film and your project, collaborate with them, they're going to have good ideas, they're going to have bad ideas, roll with it, take it, let it sink in. And it's like producers, all this stuff, because it's such an it's an art form. It's like molding clay. You know, there's things that will happen that you got to collaborate and you got to trust those around you to be immersed in that process. And I think of all the things that, you know, filmmakers have a tendency to lose is just that that art I mean, they don't forget it. They don't forget about the art form, but that art takes others especially in our business, and what bring their bring, you know, other people's, you know, art to life with them and it will just There'll be magic there. And that's when the magic is created. So collaborate, collaborate, collaborate,
Alex Ferrari 1:25:05
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,
Steven Luke 1:25:11
Perseverance, reservere, don't give up. Don't stop. You're gonna have so many pitfalls in life in filmmaking, and they're gonna seem like instrument hurdles. And maybe at that moment in time, it's gonna seem insurmountable, insurmountable. But with some time, and, and persistence and patience, like, you'll get past those things, life will go on, things will keep moving forward, it's just like this COVID-19 I'm literally sitting here, just like, I have a couple projects that were literally I mean, literally, like I was on a movie that I'm producing, I literally had just driven to Montana, the day before pre production, we're supposed to get started in March to start shooting, like for pre production to start. And that's when the national emergency started, all the dominoes are falling, everything was put on hold. And I just was like, Oh my gosh, we're just like, at that point, this movie is gonna get made, as the Debut Movie was supposed to get made, you know, I mean, like, where everything would have been sealed. So I only tell that because like, you just got to be patient, that your timing will come, your moment will be there. And you just got to be ready for it. And I think that's hard, especially in our business to be able to just, you know, sit still. So
Alex Ferrari 1:26:34
Three of your favorite films and three of your favorite films of all time.
Steven Luke 1:26:37
Okay, so I know you asked this to everybody. And I was like, I have a list of like, like art films, I was like, that are my favorite but and not that I don't want to get those boxes. Like I want to like talk to Lord of the Rings. Which one which one, the whole thing? Fellowship of the Ring, okay. First time I sat in a theater and I saw when those guys when that when the hobbits and everyone was going across the I'd read the book, but I'd seen the book come to life. And I just sat back, I was like, I want to do this. I want to make this whatever this is. I want to do that. So that was a big deal to me. Probably the other one is a Star Wars Empire strike. I know I'm given like generic, generic, big, big budget ones. But you know, like this. They're like ones that I watch all the time. And then a world war two movie called Kelly's Heroes. Yeah. Mmm. Kelly's Heroes. Yeah. It is a comedy. It's so funny. And I would recommend if you have not seen Kelly's Heroes, watch Kelly's Heroes. It's like the best combination of story. You know, historical accuracy actors and comedy. It's great Donald sutherlands in it.
Alex Ferrari 1:27:49
It's fun. It's a it's a good flick. I remember it. And now where can people find you? Like in terms of how they can get a hold of your personal your personal address if you could and phone number now I'm joking. But how can people find you online? Sir? If you want to even put that information out there. Yeah.
Steven Luke 1:28:07
Just get my wallet out. And here you go. Just for people that are going to see the video you get a sneak peek
Alex Ferrari 1:28:14
Social security card will be fine.
Steven Luke 1:28:16
Everything. So the probably the best way is you know IMDb me, Steven Luke on there. I think I got my email on there. shoot me a message. You know, say hi, check in. I'm always open to give advice, especially via email. I mean, that's easy. I say that because I have a lot of stuff going on and emails kind of the best way for me to keep track of like, not what I said but like, Oh, yeah, okay, I can I tuned myself back into the maybe a conversation better that way. So that's probably the best way to get ahold of me. You know, you can some of my stuff is on. I'd recommend you know, I'll do a shout out like, some of my stuff is on amazon prime. Give it a watch. I need the seven cents per hour but because
Alex Ferrari 1:28:58
First of all, you're getting seven cents. Holy cow down to five. It's a penny.
Steven Luke 1:29:04
A penny now?
Alex Ferrari 1:29:05
So it's a between Penny and 12 cents. So if you're good, you get up to 12 cents. But generally everyone's at a penny.
Steven Luke 1:29:13
Oh geez. Well, I've got to film at least at seven so let me give you the wow whoa,
Alex Ferrari 1:29:19
Wait a minute. You've got a seven cents an hour movie. That's quality. Its quality.
Steven Luke 1:29:25
I didn't know that was such a big deal. Now I'm more excited about the seven cents.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:29
Oh you kidding me? Seven
Steven Luke 1:29:31
Check out my films then online. I mean, she's apparently I'm making bucco bucks.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:35
Oh no. Seven euro seven cents an hour filmmaker, my friend. That is something I put on? That's like an Oscar like you're you're up there.
Steven Luke 1:29:45
I don't know about all of my phones. But I've seen one a couple years ago. I don't know. I know. I feel it. You know, it's funny as we're having this conversation. It's like, oh, seven cents an hour. Oh boy. Oh boy.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:58
Do you see what Where this is a ridiculous business. We're in an absolutely ridiculous ISIS button. Since we can't do anything else. We're stuck here.
Steven Luke 1:30:09
That's storytelling, start telling stories. And you know, it all bites us and we all got a story to tell. And yeah, man, best format film.
Alex Ferrari 1:30:20
Luke it has been an absolute pleasure man talking to you. This has been a just knowledge bomb filled episode, which I knew it would be. And I think it's I'm gonna make sure this is mandatory listening for all filmmakers because it, I covered things in this and you and I covered things in this episode that we've never I've never really had on the show before. So it is it's really, really great stuff. So
Steven Luke 1:30:46
Why don't I share with everybody and I want to at least leave with this last like, I am a filmmaker out of South Dakota. I went to Los Angeles for a few years, and now I'm back doing the films where I live. So let that be an encouragement to all those people sitting and saying like how can I do this? totally doable. You can do it from even little state of South Dakota. So just keep hanging in there.
Alex Ferrari 1:31:10
Thanks again, my friend. I appreciate it. Stay safe out there.
Steven Luke 1:31:13
Awesome. You to stay safe. We'll talk soon, hopefully real soon.
Alex Ferrari 1:31:18
I want to thank Steven for being on the show and dropping those knowledge, bombs and inspiration bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Steven. If you want to get links to anything we discussed in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/408. And if you want to sign up for my new course the complete film distribution blueprint. The course is now currently closed but will be reopening sometime in the next couple months. If you want to get early access, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/let me in. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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