Ashley: Welcome to Episode #256 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing producer Mark Stolaroff who just did a film called Driver X. Mark is a very experienced producer in the low budget arena. He’s got a lot of great advice for screenwriters, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode viable please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook.
These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode incase you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #256. If you want my free guide- How to Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons.
I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional log line and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
A quick few words about what I’m working on, on my crime- thriller feature film The Pinch. We have officially launched on Amazon and hopefully by the time you listen to this podcast we will also be available on iTunes. If you wanna do me a big favor please do watch the movie and then write a review on these various platforms, especially with iTunes and Amazon. On Amazon especially if you give it a nice review that’s how it gets into the algorithm and you get recommended to other people that are watching your film. This is especially true with Amazon Prime because people are not paying to watch the individual film, they’re paying for the subscription to the service. So if you get a lot of recommendations that’s how your film can really take off.
Again, on Amazon Prime, if you do Amazon Prime you can watch the film and there’s no additional charges, it’s just all part of your Amazon Prime subscription. But also if you don’t do Amazon Prime you can still watch it through Amazon, you just have to pay a few bucks for it. And again, giving me those reviews really does help, so I would really, really appreciate it if you have a minute if you wanna watch the film and give a review. It’d be very much appreciated. You can also buy The Pinch on Selling Your Screenplay through my website. So if you’re interested in seeing the film that is actually the preferred way for me just because I don’t have to do then a revenue split with Amazon and iTunes.
You can just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. The other thing that I’m offering on my website and not offering anywhere else is the behind the scenes how to webinar that I did. You can buy The Pinch through the website and you can also add this webinar. I go through every aspect of how I made this film, from writing a low budget…micro budget script to raising the money through pre-production, production and of course post-production. So if you’re looking to try and do your own micro-budget film I think this would be incredibly helpful to you. You can obviously watch the film and then you can also watch as I said my three hour webinar on exactly how I made the film. So seeing the two pieces together should really give you a good idea of exactly what can be done on this sort of budget.
Again you can purchase that all through my site www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. And again if you use Amazon, you use iTunes please do check out there too and if you can please do write a review. Thank you very much for all of that. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing producer Mark Stolaroff. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Mark to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Mark: I’m very happy to be here.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Mark: Well, I’m an old person so my background goes way back. I grew up in Houston, Texas back before when your dad went out and shot home movies on 8mm and before video tape. I think that’s probably what gave me the bug was that my dad liked to do that a lot. He was a lawyer but he was a big camera bug and we used to sit in the living room and watch Super 8 movies. When I was in high school I started making little Super 8 movies instead of book reports. That was that kind of thing. This was in the late 70’s and early 80’s. And then when I got to college, I went to the University of Texas, I thought about the idea of film. This was in 1983 and there wasn’t an American Independent Film Movement yet and no one talked about doing that.
So I majored in business but I was lucky enough to get under something called the Business Owners Program which gave me a lot of flexibility. It was like procedures part of the business school but it gave me all this flexibility and they have film classes at the University of Texas. In fact at that time there were very few universities that provided like film equipment to undergrads and I took all the prerequisite classes and snuck over and got kind of teacher consent to be in the film production track of classes and made 16mm films that were shot on wind up [inaudible 00:05:30] cameras in black and white reversal film and you’d edit it literally with a razor blade at least in film one. I made films and I loved doing it. I thought I was good at it.
And then when I graduated I kind of chickened out again and I did investment banking for a couple of years because of this business degree I had but then I went back to Houston. I was in New York for the investment banking. I went back to Houston and I kind of earned two years of credit with my family [inaudible 00:05:57] money and I just decided to do some more creative stuff. I started a theater with a childhood friend. We ran it for five years. I produced about 40 theatrical productions and all these were original shows. Our kind of mandate was original shows by local playwrights. I got to act…I’m not a good actor but I like doing it [laughs]…and produced these shows on what I would call a micro-budget.
These were small theater, very kind of homemade stuff, but we got a lot of attention. And then I won an internship there and worked professionally on the first movie in Houston in 1990 as a PA. I was a paid PA on three million dollar made for TV movie and then eventually moved to Los Angeles in 94’, started working at Corman to kind of get my feet wet. Roger Corman’s company. I had a friend that was running the studio there and then worked my way up to production track, you know, first AD. I production managed Academy Award winning short film back then. And then the big experience for me was I was the first person hired by a gentleman named Peter Broderick for a new company that he was starting called Next Wave Films which was financed by the Independent Film Channel.
We gave finishing funds to exceptional low budget feature films. We gave finishing funds to Joe Carnahan’s first film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane, to Chris Nolan’s first film Following, to Amir Bar-Lev’s first film Fighter and to some other really exceptional films. I worked there for six years from 97’ to 2002 and then when the company went under, I guess when IFC kind of closed it down I became an independent producer and produced the only kind of films I really knew anything about which was micro-budget films. That’s the kind of filmmakers I was talking to for six years and looking at their films and the kind of films that I had…I had come to LA with the idea that I would make clerks myself as a director- that was why I came to LA.
So it’s always been my thing and it doesn’t pay the bills tremendously well, so I started something called No Budget Film School in 2005. I teach…no budget filmmaking is a very specific thing that I do. It’s not about how to make any kind of a movie, it’s very specifically about how to make a movie with whatever money you have available in your pocket at that time. It’s mostly what I do as a two day weekend seminar. I teach it here in LA at Raleigh Studios but I’ve taught it in other cities or other countries. I do this when I have time. I actually haven’t taught it in the last year and a half or couple of years because I’ve been so busy on working but I’m looking forward to getting back beginning of next year and getting to teach again.
Ashley: Yeah. And what’s that word you just…the name of the teaching company- No Verse, is that what…
Mark: Sorry, No Budget Film School.
Ashley: No Budget Film School…Okay, perfect. And I’ll put a link to that on the show notes so people can just click on over to it. So I just wanna talk about a few things you just mentioned there. You mentioned working with Christopher Nolan on Following and some of these other real early films for filmmakers that really went on to do some great stuff. Maybe you can talk about that just a little bit. As a producer, what were you guys looking for? I assume these films came in, maybe you guys saw a rough cut of them and you said, “Yeah, this one looks like something we could put some money into it.” But maybe you could talk about what were the films that you guys were choosing and investing in and why were you choosing those films.
Mark: Yeah, that’s a great question and it’s something I like to…it’s kind of a whole thing in my class, a discussion about when you’re making an independent film, what do you need to be thinking about as a filmmaker. And I like to first say that independent filmmaking and studio filmmaking is like alternate universes. The rules are exactly opposite. So whatever you think you should be doing because you know a little bit about studio filmmaking, it’s probably the opposite of what you should be doing with independent filmmaking. But again I get a real crux of your question. The answer that we gave when we were there and I still like to say it all the time is we didn’t know what we were looking for. We were just looking for something different, something unique.
It’s not uncommon to what Sundance is looking for. We took seven of the films that we got onboard to Sundance and five to Toronto. So it wasn’t about you know, this looked real commercial or it looks great or shot on 35. Back then we were looking at films…in the beginning of the company we were looking at films mostly shot on 16mm and it didn’t matter to us that it looked that great or whatever, it just needed to look like what it should look like. What we were looking for was something really different. Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane which was our first film, there was a voice there, there was manifest talent, that’s the other thing we were always looking for. You could tell this guy had some talent.
I mean, both writing and directing there was a real style to it and he’d made it for like $7,000 before he came to us so he was able to just kind of conjure out of nothing something pretty amazing. And then with Following, it a little different story. You mentioned looking at rough cuts, basically once we planted our flag people would send us rough cuts on video tape and then eventually on DVD and I looked at probably some part of 2000 movies while I was there. Some of them were pretty rough…pretty bad [laughs]. As you can imagine, people don’t understand what bad movies are really like until you work for a film festival or do that kind of a job. But then you looked at a lot of really good films that you didn’t get involved with anyway, and that was tricky.
We came very close to doing Blair Witch Project, which we actually did decide to do. We’d been looking forward to that film for a year and a half and talking to them for a while and then when we finally saw the…when the tape finally came in which was before they got into Sundance obviously it was when they probably submitted to Sundance, I took that tape, I watched it, I thought it was terrific, I really wanted to do it but it was a struggle to say. It wasn’t a no brainer looking at that film because it was not clear if we’d get into Sundance and that was kind of important to us for these kind of films. It felt kind of commercial but yet it was very small and not so commercial in a way but it didn’t feel like an art film which was kind of a trick.
But we ultimately decided let’s do it and we were negotiating to try to do that film and then they got into Sundance and then somebody on their team came up with some money and they didn’t need our money anymore which was real…boy, that next summer was rough. But yeah, Blair Witch is a good example. A very unique film, talented filmmakers, Following, really unique obviously, the structure of Following was something that people hadn’t quite seen before. Again, a manifestly talented director which was something that we were really looking for. That film had actually been finished to 16mm and gone to its first film festival San Francisco International Film Festival before, so we didn’t get a rough cut of that one.
That was one where Peter was on a panel with Chris and it was like How To Make a $10,000 Video panel or something and Peter was like, “I’d like to take a look at this. It’s a little after where we get involved with the film but let’s take a look.” He thought it was terrific, we all looked at it and said, “Yeah, let’s do this,” and then we blew it up to 35, he got a chance to re-mix the sound which he wanted to do and then we rep all the films that we got involved with and so we repped it and got it into Toronto and then the rest is history for that film.
Ashley: I’m curious and I just wanna sort of float something out here and get your reaction. In sort of the venture capital world, one of the things that we say is we invest in the people, it’s not really the idea or the company. They’re much more concerned with just getting to know these talented entrepreneurs. You sort of are hinting at some of the same thing. I saw a pretty early cut of Blood, Bullets and Octane and Joe Carnahan was there and got up and did a little presentation. I was never that impressed with the movie but I was very impressed with him. He just had a big personality, he was charming and funny. I remember thinking then, “The movie was sort of so-so at least in my opinion, but this guy, it’s like he’s going places because he’s just such a big personality.
You could tell he could…you could put that guy in a room and he could sell a project to a bunch of development executives. How much does that play in to this kind of a thing in terms of when you’re looking at a filmmaker whether it be a screenwriter, director and thinking about getting in bed with them and going down this long road of producing a movie? How important is that to the project as opposed to just a “wow, this guy’s written a great script”?
Mark: Well, I wouldn’t put too much on that. I mean, it’s great to work with somebody who is charismatic and articulate and all those things you mentioned and all that stuff. Not to belabor the whole Blood, Bullets point but I’m curious to know when you saw it. We saw it at the market, at the Independent Feature Film Market and to us it kind of stood out. We looked at a lot of projects in that market but it was less about him but his personality because we saw the movie without knowing who he was. He was in the movie and you could get some sense of it but again the idea of a talented filmmaker is…in the game of that game which is trying to like break a filmmaker out into the world which is like what Sundance likes to do and whatever, it really helps to have a filmmaker where the talents really manifest whether that means it’s showy or whatever.
The first film we actually got involved with but we ended up not closing the deal was Pi. That’s a perfect example of a very showy filmmaker- Darren Aronofsky kind of showing off, like, “Look at what I’m doing.” It’s very uniquely shot and again manifest talent there. It’s something we hadn’t seen before. We mentioned that to the IFC, we were like, “This is gonna be our first film,” they were like, “What!” They were surprised. They didn’t…because it was just such an…it didn’t feel like a commercial film at all or whatever and we got involved with that film. I worked on it for four months before that deal feel through but…and certainly talked to Darren and he was an intelligent guys and whatever. But I mean, the filmmakers I’ve worked with in Next Wave and since, they have all kind of different personalities.
Chris is a really articulate, very smart guy, but he’s certainly not Joe Carnahan in terms of the way he conducts himself. It’s different personalities. But I think that when I work now, we don’t pitch so much. So I’m making films with my own financing that’s often my own money and I don’t have a lot of money and it’s not important that we find somebody who’s good in the room kind of a person. But I think for somebody who’s making a million dollar film or we’re really going out to…we’re certainly if you’re going out to production companies, not if you’re going out to maybe individual investors but certainly production companies I think that’s very valuable. But for me it’s not the most important thing. I mean, you wanna work with talented people.
These films are so hard to make that pretty much if you looking at something that’s made for $7,000 or $6,000 like Following was or $10,000 somebody is probably pretty charismatic and very talented to pull that off. They’re doing a lot of different jobs themselves, they don’t have a team of people with a lot of experience or talent necessarily even and yet they’re talent kind of oversees everything and makes it really great. Because I’ve been in this world for so long and appreciated low budget filmmaking for so long, I really feel like it’s an under looked…kind of people don’t quite understand. People are critical and they like to rip on things and it’s like if you had any idea what it took to do every job on a movie like what a lot of these filmmakers do, it’s quite the thing.
When you look at Joe and Chris in particular, their next movies were both five million dollar…and Darren. Their next movies were around dive million dollars, so they has resources, people that had experience were brought in to help them, and the second movies of all those filmmakers were really amazing movies. I mean, Narc and Memento obviously and…I’m blanking on Darren’s film… Requiem For A Dream, all amazing movies. To me that wasn’t a surprise that these filmmakers would go on with a little bit more money and some help and they weren’t having to do everything, would go on and make something pretty incredible.
Ashley: So let’s dig into your latest film Driver X. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick logline or pitch for that film. What is that film all about?
Mark: Yeah, so it’s about a guy named Leonard. He’s a fifty-something former record store owner, his record store has gone out of business and he’s now at home taking care of his two young daughters. His wife works during the day paying the bills and he’s been trying to get a job in the music business which is his only passion. It’s the only thing he really knows anything about, but he’s 50 years old and he’s not gonna get a job in the music business- that’s kind of run by younger people. Early in the movie the wife says to him, “We can’t pay our bills, we have a mortgage coming up and you’re gonna have to step it up and just get some kind of work.” So he goes out and he signs up for Driver X, which is an Uber- like ride share company and starts driving at night to help pay the bills.
And the movie it covers ride share driving and that kind of thing. But really it’s more about getting older, starting to feel like you’re having regrets for lost opportunities, starting to feel like you’re now getting older, looking at the generation behind you that’s starting to kind of take over the world and you’re not really ready to hand over the reins yet. It’s about kind of what happens when you’re that age and technology just wraps your work and now you’re having to kind of jump into this new world of gig economy and new technology, what that does to a marriage…We spent a lot of time with the struggle in a long marriage when you’ve got financial problems and you’ve lost your mojo and how do you get your mojo back.
And so it covers a lot of ground. Certainly from the driving side, I’m sure your next question was gonna be where did you guys come up with this idea and I can give you the quick answer without even hearing the question. I’ve been working with Henry since Next Wave. We got involved with his first feature which was called Somebody. It was shot for $3,000 with a two man crew on Canon XL1S before they submitted it to us. It was pretty finished film before they submitted it to us by the way. They got almost every bit of it with the $3,000. Our money was basically to do the post-sound which they already had pretty good sound mix and stuff, but we kind off [inaudible 00:21:22] post sound, we blew it up to the film and 35 and did some other things to it.
But that film premiered in the 2001 Sundance Film Festival in Dramatic Competition. It was picked up for distribution by Lot 47 Films and then sadly it came out in theaters and then Lot 47 went under and it never came out on video. So people don’t know about this movie. It was about four years before the word mambo-core had ever been mentioned and it was essentially that kind of a movie was all improvised. It was a terrific movie and it’s never really been seen since like 2002. But anyway, I joined that movie in post and became part of the team and then after that Henry started making films and he and I started working together. And so Driver X was our fifth feature and we were working on a bigger budget film.
These were all micro-budget films that we financed ourselves, these five films. After our fourth film which was called The House That Jack Built which premiered in the Los Angeles Film Festival and was picked up for distribution is now…you can watch it on Netflix. We were trying to make a horror film that he’d written, there was about a million dollar budget and we had a group behind us that were putting together the financing and it looked like it was gonna happen and we weren’t taking on jobs and then that financing fell through. And then we would come back again and it would look like it would sort of happen and it fell through and so the entire year of 2014 we weren’t really working.
He has two young boys, his wife works during the day and he started driving for Uber because he needed the money and he didn’t have a lot of time during the day to do it so he would drive at night. And I would stay up late and he would call me in the middle of the night telling me these crazy stories around his car. If you’ve ever driven for Uber, if you’ve ever talked to your Uber lift driver you know that the late shift is when the crazy things happen. That’s when the drunk people get in your car and crazy stuff happens. And so we realized pretty quickly that there could be a really great movie in that. It was pretty clear for me from my standpoint that these was a movie that could be made very easily on a micro-budget.
Without even knowing what the script was gonna be we knew we had the car which was his car. We knew if we were gonna be dealing with the family and stuff we would just shoot it in his house and that turned out to be about 85% of the locations. There’s a lot of locations in the movie and it’s a pretty ambitious movie…It turned out to be a pretty ambitious movie. We have over 50 speaking parts, probably half of the movie is set in the car at night with no money so we weren’t shooting on a process trailer or anything like that. So there were a lot of other locations but when you kind of reach a critical mass I would say that the car and the house as far as locations was kind of a critical mass.
And then the other critical mass for us was who’s gonna play the lead and we were friends with Patrick Fabian. He’d been in one of our other movies. Henry’s known him for years, he’s played beach volleyball with him for years…a super nice guy. Actually I knew he was a good actor and I’ve seen him on all the things he’s done on TV and stuff but I didn’t think he was capable of playing this kind of a part because he’s always playing the slick guy in a suit who just has confidence and knows everything and that’s not the part. He’s a terrific actor, he really changed my mind pretty quickly. He’s…I mean, I can’t say enough about Patrick. Not only his acting but just how great he is as a person and we wouldn’t have been able to make the movie the way we did without someone like that who just really, totally on board wherever you needed him to do kind of a thing.
Ashley: I’m curious, so as you guys are developing Henry is calling you at night and he’s telling you about these crazy stories, why did you decide to go the drama route as opposed to maybe the thriller or the horror or even a comedy I guess. What was it that sort of [crosstalk].
Mark: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And a lot of people have gone that route. There’s been some other movies that have come out and they’ve almost all been thrillers. I mean, it’s thrillers or torture porn…whatever. I’m shocked because when we started shooting this we thought there’d be 10 other movies coming out the same time and they would all be dramas or comedies or silly comedies or whatever. But so if you go back and look at Henry’s filmmaking, especially Somebody, his specialty, his gift as a filmmaker is authenticity both in the writing and in the performances. In Somebody that was the thing with that movie. It’s so real and you feel like you know those people and you’ve said those things.
It’s a very simple story about someone breaking up and then kind of going out in the dating scene. But that stuff all happened to the lead actress who played the part and Henry was like let’s get as real as we possibly can and we’re gonna cast some of the same people that played your boyfriend…they played your boyfriends in real life. We’re gonna play have them play them in the movie, and not a written word or dialogue because every time they wrote something it felt phony compared to the improvisational stuff. So that movie succeeded because of its authenticity. Even though we’ve done a lot of different kinds of movies, we did an indie sci-fi film called Pig and whatever there’s that feeling of it not being phony.
Not that these films were improvised but again he’s very good about getting a natural performance out of actors and so naturally the thought for him was, “I wanna make a movie that really conveys what this experience is like, both at home dealing with family and kids with wife and family and kids and that kind of thing. And also because that was a big part of what was going on at that time for him, the struggle to pay the bills and that kind of thing. And then also what was going on the car and what was going on with him specifically as a nearly 50 year old man driving around millennials. And so that’s just where he goes. That’s his place to kind of create something real.
And it’s funny, I mean, we’d like to call it a comedy, drama…using the word dramedy but there’s certainly a lot of humor in the movie because they’re just funny things that happened to him while he was driving. But the crux of the story is what happens to you when you reach 50 years old and your life didn’t quite turn out the way you thought it did and what do you do and are you ready to push on into later middle age or are you still hanging onto your youth or whatever. So that’s a drama and that’s where we went with it.
Ashley: So in terms of…you’ve just mentioned that one of the things you like about Henry’s writing is his authenticity. Are there some other things about his writing that you like? You know, this is a screenwriting podcast, so I’m just kind of curious just to kind of hear your thoughts on what do you see in Henry’s writing or even other people’s writing that you really, really like that maybe people don’t do as much as they should?
Mark: Well, it’s interesting because that’s a really good question. I have to think about how, like when I…because I do respond…when we did Pig there were so many drafts and I was always so happy to make a note for instance, and then he would send me back something based on that note, that was just great. It’s hard to maybe define that quality. Other than again, I respond to that authenticity too. I like to see things…As a producer looking at a script I’m not so great with the kind of big picture…I mean, not the big picture. I’m not so great with like structure and things like that, like giving notes on things like that. I look at moments. Just a moment, is that moment funny, is it a good joke?
Was it was that moment…is that phony, is that not what that character would do in that moment? That’s where a lot of my notes come from. And have I done that before and I haven’t seen that written anywhere or in a movie? I love that kind of moment where you go, “Wow, that’s what people do and we haven’t quite seen that in a movie. Henry always has nice moments like that in his scripts. And of course, I step back and say, “Is this a film that I understand who the audience is and can I deliver an audience to that with no money? Can this be made effectively with no money? Can I put the small…do I know where to put the small resources I have where it most makes the difference and can I get by without other things?
These are other kind of things that I look at when I look at a script that I know I’m gonna be making on that kind of a budget, but I think that…and really for almost everything I do, not everything, but mostly everything I do and certainly the things I do with Henry, I’ve responded personally to that material. It doesn’t have to be about what I’m going through, but there’s something about it that I connect with personally and that I relate to and that I feel like I can give notes that have some meaning because I have a shared vision with Henry. Not the same granular vision maybe but a shared vision and of what this needs to be and what needs to happen in that scene or whatever.
I don’t know if that really answered your question but I just feel like Henry is really good with dialogue, he’s really good with…he does a lot of dramas but he’s actually write some really funny stuff. In this particular case what was interesting is that he was pulling over…people would say things in the car and he’d pull over and write them down. There was a lot of things that ended up in the script that people said to him. Of course, that all gets runs through a million filters. I mean, it changes a little bit when he writes it, it changes a little bit when it’s performed by an actor and then the editing room. But that’s the kind of authenticity we were going for.
I feel like we screened it for a year at festivals and we’ve had a lot of drivers who’ve seen it and boy, they pick out scenes they go, “My God!” There’s the scene after his first night where they were in the kitchen in the morning and the wife says, “Well, how did it go?” And she asked him a series of questions. We’ve had more than one driver tell us that’s exactly how that went down in their life after that first night of driving. In fact she asks him how much money he made and two different people said I guessed exactly within like $3 of how much money he made that first night. That’s what we were trying to go for in a movie like this. So, yeah, I guess that’s…half answer your question?
Ashley: No, no, it’s good insight and I think that will be valuable for screenwriters to hear. So you’ve had this long standing relationship with Henry and I noticed you have another movie out- Devils Whisper. I’m just kind of curious in general, how do you find scripts as a producer? Do you still accept cold queries, do you have a network of agents that maybe pass you material that they think would be right for you? Maybe you can talk about that because I get a lot of questions about…from screenwriters, “Hey, how can I get to this producer or that producer?” I’d just be curious to get your take on how a screenwriter can build a relationship with a producer like yourself.
Mark: Yeah, you know, maybe my situation is unique because it’s not any of those things so much. I get your emails frankly, but I’m not looking for material. Often, Henry and I will spend years on these movies. This has been a four year journey for us. Pig was like, geez, like six years or something. It doesn’t mean we’re not doing other work kind of in between. I made Devil’s Whisper in between shooting…in the middle of shooting Driver X. That film was shot and finished and released in the middle of the whole Driver X experience because that movie had money and we were able to just kind of shoot it and finish it and there you go. So I’m never looking for material so much. Working with Henry, he writes…he’s a very prolific writer.
He comes up with a lot of different ideas and every movie is tough and then it’s maybe like having a baby or something really like, “Oh, I can’t do that again.” And then you know then you look at your cute baby and you’re like, “Oh I would like to have another baby.” Then you forget how hard…I’m not a woman I don’t know exactly how hard it is but I can only imagine being pregnant, but then you go ahead and you have another baby. And so I think that’s been what’s happened with us even though I think I’ve also kind of feel like I pulled Henry into no budget filmmaking every time. It felt like he…since Somebody he’s wanted to get out of making low budget films, that’s not his thing.
But different things happen and like film doesn’t happen like that or film and what are you gonna do when it’s nice to make a movie? And so we ended up kind of doing it that way. But Devil’s Whisper was not a script I looked for. Adam Ripp is someone that Henry is friends with and I’ve known Adam for a long time and never been really close friends with them until we started making the movie. But Adam knew about my background, came to Henry and said, “Hey, I’m making a film that we’re going to try to do on a really small budget and do you think Mark would be interested in producing it?” And he said, “Yeah, give him a try. And then we were in the middle of again kind of putting Driver X together and Adam’s a really charismatic guy, you’re talking about charismatic guy.
He’s a funny, smart charismatic guy and that’s not really my kind of moviemaking, genre movies, but I thought, “Hey let’s try it and make a movie for more money.” I never really…I’ve been involved with films like that in different capacities, but not as a producer and so that was a great experience learning how to do that. It wasn’t a ton and ton of money but there was all the money we needed to make the movie all at one time. I ended up… I think we still have like a few grand in the bank now that were way done with that movie, but we didn’t have to spend it all on that. That’s not the experience I have on the movies I do. I never have all the money.
We shot Driver X, we shot… most of the movie I hadn’t raised a single dollar. I just had zero percent credit cards and I just put the money in myself and we weren’t spending a ton of money, but it was money. And then we raised about $50,000 on Kickstarter while we were editing it and that was the first money I raised in the movie. So that’s how it normally happens. That’s why things take so long and we try to get it right too. We spend our time trying to get the movie right there. We’re in no hurry because we don’t have investors and people breathing down our back and that kind of thing.
Ashley: I’m curious, what’s your sort of…and maybe you could even answer this for Henry. What is your long term goal with these micro budget films? Are you eventually hoping to have like a breakout hit that then maybe people will come in to you with truckloads of money? Are you happy just creating these very, as you say, artistic pieces that you don’t have people breathing down your back?
Mark: Yeah, it’s a little bit of both. I mean, certainly, I don’t want to sound stupid and sound, “Oh, we just do this for ourselves.” Of course, we want these films to break out. Every film you want to get into Sundance. Our first film was in Sundance, our second film was a Sundance lab projects. Henry was in the screenwriter’s lab, and then it didn’t get into Sundance. It was very close actually from talking to John Cooper. It didn’t get in, and then every film since then has not gotten into Sundance. That’s kind of heartbreaking but it happens to most filmmakers, and a lot of filmmakers who played in Sundance. I mean, if you think about it, there’s a lot of filmmakers out there. I know a lot of them who submit their films and don’t get in.
And so you want that to happen and you want something to break in kind of a big way and for it to launch. Maybe not as much for producer, but certainly for the writer director. You want to get more work, you want to get paid gigs. Henry would love to be directing television or whatever just like every other independent filmmaker. And my hope is that this film which is getting a… I guess the biggest release we’ve ever gotten, the most attention we’ve ever had with IFC Films, Sundance Selects that that will happen. I mean, I’ve always felt like Henry’s a really talented guy and it’s kind of silly that he’s not doing… just working all day long directing television or whatever.
But I mean, I can tell you… I can probably give you some theories on why that is, but it’s not to do with his talent or his personality or that, it’s just the nature of the business. But yeah, you certainly do that. But, we’re also filmmakers and we like making films. That year of sitting on our hands, and it was almost a whole year of sitting on our hands, that’s never happened to either one of us because we make the movies. They take a long time but we don’t sit on our hands. He rewrote that script a bunch of times, I was looking for other money, we did a ton of work. I broke down that script two or three times and we had nothing to show for it. We like making movies. I get excited…when he started talking about this movie and we started thinking about what it could be.
And he started sending me pages. The same thing happened with Pig. I get excited and it’s like, “Okay, I’m gonna put my producer hat on, how are we going to do this?” And I have a kind of a way of doing that and then it becomes fun. I mean, it’s not always fun and it’s very hard work. But we got in this business to make movies and so while we certainly want the films to go on and do something, and I’m hopeful that this film will do something for his career and maybe mine is a producer, there is a kind of joy making movies and I love… once a film is done, I love talking to you, I love going to film festivals with it. That’s probably the most joy I get out of making movies, is having something that I really like and that I feel like other people will like, and trying to find those people that will like it and trying to get it in front of them. And sharing it with them and talking about it. I love that stuff.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So how can people see Driver X? Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like?
Mark: Yeah. So, as I mentioned, the Independent Film Channel… Sorry, not Independent Film Channel, IFC Films which is not the Independent Film Channel. IFC Films and their label, Sundance Selects is releasing the movie in theaters and on demand. It’s opening on November 30th. If you’re in New York or LA it’ll be opening at the Lindley Monica Film Center on the 30th in Los Angeles in Santa Monica and running for a week. In New York it will be opening at the IFC Center 30th and running for week. We’re doing a sneak preview on November 27th where a bunch of us are going to fly to New York and be there for this kind of sneak preview. Patrick and Henry and Tanya our lead actress plays the wife, Desmond Borgias is the third lead will all be there.
And then of course if you’re familiar with our model it’ll open on VOD, on cable VOD on iTunes and some few other platforms on the 30th as well. And then we’ll be announcing… actually I do know two other cities it will be opening in Santa Fe and Albuquerque on the following weekend December 7th and Patrick will be…because he works on the show [inaudible 00:40:33] he’ll be there to support those two openings and has a lot of support in those towns. It’ll be opening in some other cities. We haven’t gotten the dates yet so I don’t wanna say anything because it’s not official, but it’s a 10 city minimum and it’ll probably play more than 10 cities and we fighting it out with a with a million other movies that are opening those weeks.
It’s frightening. A story came out in the New York Times and the LA times the same day the kind of Hollywood holiday movie list. The New York Times was a curated list. It was what they thought the films that were most excited about. And we made that list. We were really happy to make that list. The LA Times was a comprehensive list. And I think on the 30th, there were 17 other movies coming out that same day. And that’s…and like, every weekend there’s another 20 movies or 18 movies. So it’s so difficult but…our trailer just dropped yesterday. We’re really happy with that and I think from my experience of showing the movie I’m very happy with the movie.
I feel like there’s an audience for it, people relate to what’s going on and the people that think they’re gonna like it generally like the movie which is a nice thing too. We’ve had great responses from a pretty broad range of people, but certainly the target audience however you wanna define that, they really love the movie. You don’t always have that. Sometimes your movies or 50/50 movies where you make something and you kind of split the audience down the middle. A lot of independent films are like that. A lot of the best ones are like that. This one’s a little, it’s a little more I would say commercial. That’s not the best word probably to describe it but it’s an accessible movie.
I think if you respond to that subject matter, if you look at the logline, you go, “This is interesting.” I think you’ll pretty much like the movie. It’s not an overly arty film or something like that. It’s just a good piece of honest filmmaking with good performances and good writing and it looks terrific considering what we’re up against shooting it and all that kind of stuff.
Ashley: Well, perfect. So what’s the best way for people to keep up with you? You mentioned your No Budget Film School, but Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you want to share now I will round up for the show notes?
Mark: Yeah, so for the movie we’re kind of revamping our website right now, but you can find all the information you would want to know about the movie at the website which is www.driverxmovie.com and again that’s gonna in a week or something it will look much better. We’lll have a lot more stuff on there. But the kind of basic information is there. Our handles for the movie or @Driver-X Movie. So Twitter, Facebook and Instagram it’s @Driver-X Movie. I’m on Twitter @Stolaroff- S-T-O-L-A-R-O-F-F. No Budget Film Schools is www.nobudgetfilmschool.com. I basically tweet for that, I’m not a huge social media person but I have to tweet sometimes and I do.
Yeah I’m pretty easy to find. I have a website www.markstolaroff.com and if you spell it correctly, you’ll find it. Anything I’m doing whether it’s teaching or lecturing, or consulting or the movies I’ve done or whatever that’s on that website.
Ashley: Well, perfect Mark. I really appreciate your coming on today to talk with me. Fascinating interview and I wish you luck with this film and all your future films.
Mark: Well, thank you so much Ashley. It’s been my pleasure and I really appreciate you having me on.
Ashley: No problem. Thank you, will talk to you later.
Mark: Thanks, take care. Bye bye.
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Producers are in the data base searching for material on a daily basis so it’s another great way to get your material in front of them. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend or consider from one of our readers, your screenplay will get included in our monthly Best Of newsletter. Each month we send out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This is a monthly newsletter goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material. So again this is another great way to get your material out there. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
Just a quick shout out to screenwriter Jody Alice. He just optioned a screenplay through the SYS Select Screenplay database to a very experienced producer. Congratulations Jody and thank you Jody for emailing me to tell me about your success story. I added a little blurb about the option to the success page so if you wanna learn a little more about it, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. And there’s a number of success stories on there. And once again, big congratulations to Jody for getting an option through the SYS Select database. On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer-director Paulina Lagudi. She is another great example of someone who started out doing short films and eventually parlayed that experience into doing a feature film.
She just did a really cool family film called Mail Order Monster. We dig into that and we really talk about the nuts and bolts of how that all came together for her. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.