This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 411 – Making A Feature for $40K in 10 Days! .
Ashely Meyers: Welcome to Episode 411 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Adam Mervis and producer Mark Stolaroff. I had Mark on the podcast before talking about his film Driver X. That was episode 256. So, check out that episode when you have a chance, if you want to learn more about Mark and his backstory, and Adam is an actor turned writer, he’s actually sold some bigger studio projects as a writer including the upcoming film 21 Bridges, starring Chadwick Boseman, and the upcoming film National Champion, starring Timothy Olyphant and JK Simmons. But today we’re going to be talking about their new micro budget feature film called The Last Days of Capitalism. It was shot over a week in a suite in Las Vegas hotel, we talk through the writing of the screenplay, obviously, but we also go into the production as well and how they were able to make this happen. And Mark is very candid about the budget, how much money they spent, and how all this came together. So really fascinating in depth interview, so stay tuned for that. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving 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 mentioned the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case 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 411. If you want my free guide “How to Sell a screenplay in five weeks”, you can pick that up by going to 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 logline and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So, a quick few words about what I’ve been working on. The main thing I’ve been working on over the last week is getting ready for this film festival. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago that I want to run my own festival next year. Well, we just locked our location. The festival is going to run from October 7th, 2022 through October 9th next year, obviously it’s almost a year away is about 9-10 months away. We’re going to be doing screenings it’s a Theatre in Hollywood, it’s called the yard theatre. I’ve rented the theatre for 20 hours. So, I’m really hoping to screen a lot of films both features and shorts. So, if you are in the Los Angeles area, and this sounds like something you might want to do definitely save the date October 7th, again to October 9th. Hopefully we’ll have lots of great films to show. I’m going to be getting everything ready and officially launch the Festival in February. And then I’ll run this in tandem with the screenplay contest. In fact, I think I’m going to rebrand this as SYS six figure, Film Festival and screenplay contest, the emphasis on the film festival side will be films that were produced for less than a million dollars. And then on the screenplay side, they will be screenplays that could be produced for less than a million dollars. So that’s kind of going to be the angle that I take. And as I said, this is going to be the first year and if it goes well, hopefully I’ll do it a second and third year and kind of build this up into something that really can celebrate independent film. Anyway, if you have a finished film or if you have an indie producer, friend, please do pass word along. As I said, I’m just really looking to screen movies and you’ll find the best that indie films that are out there over this, you know the next 12-month period. Anyway, that’s the main thing I’ve been putting together over the last week. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I am interviewing writer-director Adam Mervis and producer Mark Stolaroff, here is the interview.
Welcome Mark and Adam to the Selling your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you guys coming on the show with me today. So, Mark, you were on the show before, it’s episode number 256. So, I’m going to refer people listening to this check out that episode, we went into some of your background kind of how you got into the business and worked your way up as a producer. So maybe now today we can just talk to Adam just for a second here kind of get his backstory, his origin story. What is your story, Adam? Where did you grew up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Adam Mervis: I grew up in Miami and I went to Florida State and Florida State famously as a very good film school
Mark Stolaroff: And a terrible football team. But not worse than the University of Texas football team.
Adam Mervis: Yeah. And I went to, I got I took an acting class kind of to run out the clock on my senior year, I kind of got bit by the acting bug and then started acting in some of the FSU film school senior thesis and stuff. I met my good friend and producer of the film we’re going to talk about Last Days of Capitalism. Kenny Harrison when I acted in one of his films, you know a bunch of heavy hitters were there. Joy Macmillan who edits all Barry Jenkins films, Barry Jenkins was there making films, and just a bunch of other people. And I kind of decided to make a U-turn and go be an actor. And so, I went with about $2,000 in my pocket to New York City. Like, they say, in 2003, and started doing acting, started acting and theatre, and really kind of got in the scene there. And like all actors, at a certain point, I think you’re in a tiny play in a church basement, in East Village, and you go, I could write something better than this thing. And that’s what I started to do, primarily just to be able to act and control my acting and not have to wait and audition and all that, that rigmarole. And then the second play I wrote, which was a play called The Revolutionaries, got a good review. And I had been coming in and out of Los Angeles enough that I knew a couple guys in the CAA and mailroom and they said; Hey, this play got a good review, we could probably help you do want to write a screenplay. And I said; Sure. And I can’t remember exactly the sequence. But I had the Philly kid around, and I gave them the Philly kid. And they said; Hey, I think we can like help you make this or help you sell this. And that was kind of the beginning of me becoming a screenwriter. And then after the Philly kid, I kind of decided to really become, you know, bore down into writing and, and still act but not try to, you know, shoehorn my acting and my writing together. And that was a probably a good decision. Now that was a decision that took about six years to come to fruition and I’ll we can go back if you want, but I’ll flash it ahead. About six years, I was sleeping on my buddy Abe Schwartz’s couch, and I sold 21 Bridges, which kind of really kick started me into I guess what you would call a Hollywood screenwriting career.
Ashely Meyers: Gotcha. Now just talk about that transition. So, after the Philly kids sold and was produced, these are guys at CAA, did CAA sign you like then did you have a big agent at CAA? And did that help you get this 21 Bridges deal?
Adam Mervis: No. Some of the guys at CAA I knew were very, very young, and they kind of hit pocketed me as they were, some of them were young agents, Junior agents, and some of them were still on somebody’s desk, two guys actually, and what I will name, Matt Rosen, still a good friend of mine, and now runs my management company with Jeff Silver, my other manager. And, you know, they couldn’t really bring me into CA they feel like it was a tiny deal that was made almost against my will. I mean, you know, I think if we backtrack a little bit, my New York Theatre routes kind of give me a certain arrogance and stubbornness in Hollywood, that perhaps could be called self-sabotage at times, but I didn’t really want to, you know, I saw what the Philly Kid was becoming, which is like, let’s say something along the lines of schlock. There’s a lot of people worked really hard in that film, the finance and money guys, were not some of them. And you know, after the Philly Kit happened, basically, they gave me I think $30,000 and said, thank you very much. And I didn’t really have an agent, I was able to kind of sign with a smaller agency APA and kind of start to build from there. But there was, no one was like; Oh, the Philly kid. Let’s get him in there. You know?
Ashely Meyers: So then how did you eventually get to the point where you sold 21 Bridges? What were those steps from the Philly Kid to 21 Bridges?
Adam Mervis: Let me see I’ve already feel like I’ve gotten myself in trouble here. But let’s see if we can do this without getting in trouble.
Ashely Meyers: And just roughly speaking. I mean, was it you so you sound that you had an agent at APA? Did the agent at APA, did you write 21 Bridges as a spec and then APA took it out? Got it sold? Did you send it to more of your contacts? Just sort of the gist. Screenwriters are always asking you how did this script actually go from script to produced script?
Adam Mervis: Yeah, I’ll do the whole thing. I was at APA. Nothing was happening. I was kind of coming up with ideas, writing features and nothing really happened. But when the Philly kid came out, my manager. So, my manager at the time was able to get me a meeting at WME, WME then sign me. And I thought, here we go, like I’m at WME had a meeting with like seven guys, you know, put together a whole team around you and you go. And I wrote a script. That was pretty hot. It was one of those scripts where everyone reads and goes, we love this script. No way we’re making it but we love it, you know. One of those.
Mark Stolaroff: And last days of capitalism.
Adam Mervis: Yeah. And then nothing happened. And then I kind of like crying my managers office, you know, waiting tables in LA. And I said; what do I do? He said; You better come with a new idea. Come up with an idea for a TV show. A producer comes on board, a big producer, a big director comes on board. We then spend about two years pitching the show around town, nothing happens. I was now then completely flat broke. And I say I’m going back to New York to do theatre. And at least I’ll be happy and bartending and doing theatre there. The bar I had closed randomly one night, so I was able to collect unemployment. And I sat for summer and wrote 21 Bridges in a summer collecting unemployment. I had then fired WME because nothing was happening. I went to paradigm, I walked into my general, my first meeting a paradigm to; Hey, guys, I got this script called 21 Bridges. Let’s try to sell it. And within the course of about two or three months, it sold to SCX and the Russo brothers. And away we went. So, I know there’s a thing in screenwriting and I would do it too, especially when I was starting out and things are going well, like the agent is going to fix all your problems. Like if I just couldn’t have an agent at WME, then it would be great. Then like my career would take off, that was the furthest from my experience. I had to keep writing, I had to keep creating stuff. And I keep kind of running through different walls and obstacles. And many times the agents were the obstacle in that, a big place like that is so busy, is so profit-centric, that if it doesn’t work quickly, they’re kind of moving on. And so, I think for any young or up and coming screenwriters I would be very careful to assign. If I get an agent, it’s going to help me a lot.
Ashely Meyers: Gotcha, gotcha. So, Mark, let’s talk to you for a minute. How did you get into Adam’s orbit? And how did you guys meet? And then what ultimately brought you into the last days of capitalism?
Mark Stolaroff: So yeah, so as you know, I’ve been, you know, in this world of micro budget filmmaking for too long. Pretty much after I left, or after next wave films closed in 2002, I started becoming an independent producer making specifically no budget films. And then in 2005, I started no budget film school and started teaching. No budget filmmaking, that’s really the only kind of filmmaking I knew. And when I was at an executive at Next Wave Films, that’s the kind of films that we were getting involved with, and like Chris Nolan’s film and stuff like that. So, I’ve been doing this for a long time. And, you know, made several features with Henry Burial. I just come off of Driver X, which is, I guess what last time we talked, talking about how he made that film, which was $130,000 film, it was a film that should have been maybe, I don’t know, half a million dollar film that we made very little, but it was, you know, it was more money than, like, what I would teach in my class was I teach something more like how to make a film for $5,000 or whatever. And so, we have a mutual friend Adam, and I, my old college roommate, also a very successful filmmaker and editor named Tom Provost. And I guess Adam, you know, had mentioned to him you know, I’m putting together you know, I’m getting $40,000 I’m going to make a movie and it’s going to be very more designed to be a micro budget film than the kind of films that Henry and I do, you know, two characters, one location kind of a movie and he had Kenny, who he mentioned who was producing it, who was at the time we were calling you know him the line producer, which on a little movie like this it’s kind of an overstatement to call anybody a line producer on a movie that is this small but he was you know, he was involved already. And Tom said, Oh, well, you should talk to and I think we probably met before at a party or something because I know a while and, in fact, I was going to be I was supposed to produce Abe made a film that Adam was in called Engaged in Vegas, which came out in May, which is a really great micro budget film that I’ve done a presentation on, and I was supposed to produce that movie, but I couldn’t, there was something, there was a conflict or in calendar. And anyway, so we met to talk about, you know, this film that Adam wanted to make. And he told, you know, I had already decided I wasn’t going to produce any more movies after Driver X, it was just like, it was such a difficult the whole experience was so hard. I mean, I was like, I think I’ve done micro budget films. And then Adam, you know, met him at the one-on-one coffee shop, which is sadly no longer there. And, you know, we just, I mean, I really enjoy just hanging out with Adam. And hearing his story, we talked a lot about 21 Bridges, which hadn’t come out yet, but it was coming out in November, this was like in June or July or something. And then he told me about the project. And like, the first thing I thought was I hadn’t read the script, but I thought this is the kind of project just the, the elements of the, not the creative part of it, but to the production parts of it, that I would really enjoy doing. And I thought I could be helpful because of what they were looking for at the time. And Kenny’s background is more production oriented, and not necessarily all the other things that kind of go along with it. Like I could look at that budget and go; Well, there’s no money for this, and you can you can make a movie or $40,000. But you’re going to need some money here. And so, you know, I felt like I could give that perspective. And so, then I read the script, and I really liked the script. And for me, it was like, this is kind of an easy project for me, because it’s much more of a micro budget film. And it’s I don’t have to do all the work, I don’t have to raise money, or put my own money in. I don’t have to, I’m not the only producer. You know, and they had put together a lot of the things that we ended up doing like they were already like scouting locations, if ever, I think at that point, I know that, that I didn’t have a big say in how we were going to you know, we were actually going to go to Vegas and shoot it, which is what we did. I mean, I because there’s other options, we could have said; Oh, let’s cheat Vegas, we’ll shoot it in LA. And they had already made that decision like that’s the way we want to do it night. And I thought that was a good way to do it. I mean, again, there’s a million ways to make a movie. But anyway, so that’s how I got involved. And then, you know, it was this really fast experience too, because every film I do, everything I’ve done with Henry takes years. And this we shot this in September in 10 days. And we were finished. We went to our first festival in March the following year. So, it was just a few months. And if it wasn’t for COVID, the whole experience would have been faster in terms of getting it out into the world. But yeah, COVID really kind of put the kibosh on that. So anyway, but that was that’s how I got involved and in the whole process.
Ashely Meyers: Sure. Can I go back and touch on a couple things you said, and Adam can close his ears for this little bit. But you mentioned you met him. What was it you liked about him? And we can talk about the scripts second, but what was it like you liked about him personally? And I asked this question, because I think writers so often miss the fact that chemistry between two people, a writer and a producer is so important. It’s not always just purely about the writing. Sometimes there is that chemistry, but what are those things you’re looking for in a writer? And what are those things that you saw in Adam that made you say; Okay, I’m going to devote my time because it’s exactly what you’re saying a movie like this, you’re not going to make tons of money, most likely off of this thing. So, it is more about see you got to get in business with people that you want to be in business with, that you’re going to enjoy spending time with. So just talk about that a little bit. What were the things that Adam did that impressed you?
Mark Stolaroff: That’s a really good question. I don’t know if I remember, you know, everything about that, that particular lunch. I mean, and I’ll just back up and say, you know, Kenny and I are getting paid on this. And this is a completely free job for us. We paid the cast and crew. But Adam and I and Kenny, you know, not getting paid and knowing that going in I mean, on a $40,000 movie producer and director writers not getting paid. And so, it really is a labor of love. You have to enjoy the you know, the people you’re working with. I’d met Kenny before I think. I can’t remember if I met, I think I met Kenny before but Kenny is also really nice guy, great guy to work with, which I learned after meeting with Adam, but I mean, I just, you know, so yeah, I guess so is yours. You know, whatever, I just enjoy hanging out with Adam and he’s funny. I mean, you know, we relate to each other on certain like, like sports and this and that and we get there just a certain kind of sense of humor that we both have that like I don’t have to explain, you know, or you have to explain to me, some of that kind of stuff, what goes a long way. And just, I mean, there’s a kind of like, you know, slanted kind of sense of humor or whatever that we just, you know, we just connect with immediately And I think I could tell, you know, we talked a lot about, again, about 21 Bridges, and I could tell that this is somebody that kind of, you know, had an interesting career and had some talent, obviously, even before I’d read the script, he clearly you know, that he’d sold a big script to a big company, and it was coming out in a big movie and all this kind of stuff. And yet, you know, I hadn’t seen 21 bridges yet. But, you know, that experience, you know, and he can speak to that, if you if he wants, or y’all want to talk about it, it wasn’t a perfect experience, and which is typical on a big movie, for screenwriters especially. And so, there was a, there was some thought to, like, you know, Adam had a real passion for what he wanted to do with this film, that wasn’t what happens on a studio film. And I think he said, he must have said the right things to me in terms of like, what you kind of need to hear from someone who wants to get into this kind of thing, because it’s very difficult, making a micro budget film, you really have to do it for the right reasons, and I heard those reasons. And again, there was a place for me to, I felt like I wasn’t, I didn’t need to bear on my way in, it was like; Oh, I think I could really be helpful here. And to be honest, this is going to sound you know, crass, or whatever is like this, you know, this is somebody who’s going somewhere, hopefully, and I mean, sound like that. And it would be fun to get involved in a project with someone who’s career might be going somewhere interesting. Not that I’m going to be dragged along with that, but, but just, you know, it’s more fun to work with somebody, I would say, in that situation is with somebody you’re like, you talk to, and you’re like, this person, we’re going to make a terrible film, this person’s never going anywhere with their career or whatever. I mean, obviously, you’re not going to want to get involved in a project that you don’t think has some potential, and I wouldn’t say potential to make a lot of money, potential to get out in a big way. I mean, it’s clear, without even reading the script, that this is a small movie, it’s not going to get out in a big way, in the way that small movies, you know, generally don’t get out and big way. But we could hopefully get it seen, and it’ll give Adam what he wanted, what he wanted out of it. And it would give me something what I wanted at that time, which was, I didn’t really want to stop producing. But I didn’t want to take on a project because I’m getting older. And I can’t take on projects that take six years to get done. I’m be you know, I’ve already got too much grey hair for that. And so, this was going to be something that, it was going to be easy for me. And yet, I’m not just like, I’m doing the work, you know, but I’m not killing myself. So, there are a lot of elements there that worked for me.
Ashely Meyers: Yeah. So maybe, then you can talk about the script. And once you read the script, maybe you can give us some pointers, like, what are the things that you really liked in the script that really just said, okay, we can do this cheaply, and you want to get involved?
Mark Stolaroff: I mean, it’s smart. I mean, you know, the reviews we’ve gotten, were 13 out of 13. 100% rotten tomatoes right now. And I’ve been pulling quotes out of those reviews, and I four or five of them use the word intelligent. And you know, that comes across, it’s a smartly written script. You’ve got to, you know, fully fledged characters, and that you can see, like; Oh, good actors will want to do these roles. We didn’t have a lot of money to get good actors, and we weren’t looking for name actors or anything like that. Just that was never really on the on the table. We never talked about doing that. But we had to find good actors, there’s no way this movie without, like, really spending some time casting, that fact, that was one of the things I think that I don’t remember, my memory, Adam may disagree, was it like, we need to get a casting director and make sure we get, you know, and at the time, Adam was going to play the lead role. And I was like, we need to find a really great actress because this, there’s just can’t make this movie without that. I don’t think we can find that person without a casting director. I mean, I’ve done a lot of my own casting, but I’ve been using casting directors the last, you know, two or three projects with Henry. And it made a huge difference. And so, we just we went to the casting director that I had used on Driver X, and she was great. And then we started thinking, well, we’re going to read them kind of getting off the script here but we’re going to read for a female let’s, because Adam was on the fence about whether he wanted to take on that much. And I was happy with him doing the acting but I mean, I could support either way. I wasn’t telling him he needed to not act. But I said why don’t we go ahead and read some guys as well. And just in case you think it’s too much and so we started reading both parts and we actually the, just again to say on this tangent, the female actress that we cast the female part for the woman, non-sag, kind of came out of nowhere, which is it was a total discovery, which is great, which is something you really you know, so fun to do on a film like this. And then the guys that are an actor, was on a TV show. We were lucky to that he read for us, and we were lucky to get him kind of an actor, not a name necessarily that some people are going to know him. But you know, but very much a very seasoned actor. And but both of them, we did chemistry reads both of them terrific. And Adam was actually terrific, when he read it with the same actress that we have casting, but it was Adam’s decision. I think I’d rather you know, not do all of it. And I think that was probably the best decision. You know, I think it would be really fun to see Adam play that part because he would play it very differently than Mike. But anyway, so… now, I forgot the original question.
Ashely Meyers: No, yeah, I think that that answers what was good about the script. So, let’s dig into the Last Days of Capitalism. And maybe Adam, you can just to give us a quick picture logline to start, what does this film all about?
Adam Mervis: Sure, this film is about it opens on what you believe is a love affair happening in Las Vegas penthouse over the course of a weekend, you think. And then as the opening scene unfolds, you begin to think maybe this woman is actually a high-end escort. And perhaps this guy has a lot of money up here. And that’s what’s going on. And then as the movie unfolds a little more, you begin to ask yourself; hmm, maybe she’s a con man, or maybe something else is going on up here. And maybe he doesn’t have that much money? Or maybe he has a lot of money, you know, I think you begin to ask yourself, what’s going on? Who is who, what is what. And it’s really a film about I think, loneliness, love and economic systems. Now, it actually has nothing to do with economic systems. But yes, it’s a two hander kind of in the vein of medicine for melancholy, or the before midnight series, kind of those are Sex, Lies and videotape, kind of those old school indies that we all grew up on.
Ashely Meyers: And so where did this idea come from? What was the genesis of this story?
Adam Mervis: I had written off-Broadway play by the same title, and I think the genesis for the original, I can tell you, I was at a bachelor party in Las Vegas and met this met someone. And we’re having this wonderful conversation and kind of like, all that stuff, you love about meeting someone for the first time. And my brother’s good friend leans over to me in the middle of the conversation, and tells me that she’s a prostitute. And I go, everything completely changed. Because she was a prostitute. And there was a real sadness to the exchange, then, which quickly ended. But I remember that encounter really well. And I went back to New York. And I kind of wanted to write about those two people in the club, you know, who I had met, and that’s kind of where we went from, where I went.
Ashely Meyers: Gotcha, gotcha. So just quickly Adam, let’s talk about your writing process a little bit. Where do you write and when do you typically write? Do you need to get out to Starbucks at ambient noise? Do you have a home office that you’re writing? Are you a morning writer you write in the middle of the night? What does your writing schedule typically look like?
Adam Mervis: Yeah, I think what I liked most about writing and different projects is each project is different. And each project requires me to solve a new problem I’ve never solved before. And that includes my process, I think. I’ll say, I don’t remember exactly capitalism, but I know right now, I’m very much a morning writer. I’m very much a Get up. You know, do some kind of breakfast, do some kind of meditation and go write, and it’s usually getting out to write. I usually try to get out. I have a co-working space that I’ll go to sometimes, but I really like a coffee shop. Especially in New York, you know, the coffee shop scene in LA can get a little too screenwriters, where it’s like guys like piling screenplays on their desk, or on their table. There’s some kind of competition and it gets a little distracting for me, but I’ll try to write from about 10 o’clock. And I’ll start in a coffee shop. I’ll come if it’s really going well come back to my place. Keep writing and I’ll write to about lunch, I eat lunch at about two. And at about two, if I can get four hours in pretty solid, I feel good about it. And I’ll kind of move after lunch at about three to emails, you know, all sorts of different stuff that I’ve put off distracting myself with.
Ashely Meyers: Yeah, exactly. How much time do you spend in like the outlining stage, just doing index cards outlining? And then how much time do you spend in Final Draft, actually cranking out script pages?
Adam Mervis: You know, for something like this, for my plays, I don’t outline. I don’t know any playwright that outlines a play, you kind of go in and live with it and figure it out. For the bigger studio projects, I do, obviously, they want an outline. And I tried to make that outline as bare bones as possible. In that for me, because my background as an actor, the process for me is much more based in the final draft document, it’s almost like a rehearsal for me, well, I’ll start talking, and we’ll do it. And then we’ll come back. And we’ll do it again. And, and you kind of keep going with that, you know. So, I spent very little time outlining, although for feature film, I do like to have kind of a bare bones outline just so I don’t get completely lost. Or those days, you know, there those days, you’re just sitting there on a Wednesday in Los Angeles, and like a smoke-filled sky where you’re like, I don’t want to do this anymore, I want to go be an accountant or something. And then at least you can look at your outline and go like, okay, he says he walks into a bar, and you know, I’ll write that. And you can at least write something for the day. You know, I think, getting in the final draft, for me now my process, as I’ve gotten, I guess, more seasoned. I love having the printed first draft, I’ll print it out, and I’ll start going to work and pen on it all over the place. You know, that’s when it really starts to cook for me. It’s me getting to that place and getting, you know, this is not an original thought. But confronting all those blank pages, you’ve got to get to 120. And even if I’ve got dogshit, 120 pages of dogshit. I can then, now I feel like I can make it work.
Ashely Meyers: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, let’s talk about your development process a little bit. And I wonder if Mark, you could step in here. When you got the script, did it need any further development? And Adam, did you get notes from Mark or at this point was the script just you had developed it for a long enough period of time you felt pretty confident with it?
Adam Mervis: Well, I’ll let Mark say what he felt about the beginning of script. I think for me, when me and Mark met at Cafe 101. We had a I had a part of that conversation was coming off 21 Bridges. I like to say in 21 Bridges, I got the whole Hollywood and screenwriters will know it. I mean, if you look at the credits of 21 bridges, you understand what I mean as well. But I said to Mark, I said; Look, I want to get back to my roots of you know, what I think what I talked about in the beginning of this conversation of New York Theatre of writing something, I’m doing it on stage and kind of, you know that indie Ito’s are like, let’s go make a play or make a film and let’s go do it. I said, you know, here’s the script, it’s bold and ambitious, I want to make it as good as possible. But I want to shoot this script. And we did I think two or three table reads, where we really started to kind of tweak in on the characters and stuff like that.
Mark Stolaroff: Before I was involved. Just so you know.
Adam Mervis: Yeah, I don’t know. Do you remember Mark, I don’t remember a lot of notes. And you know, in the edit, we started kind of playing around, but I don’t remember a lot of notes in the beginning.
Mark Stolaroff: I mean, by the time I’d gotten it, it was fully developed script. It wasn’t like, you know, he was trying to figure it out. And that’s unusual, I guess, I mean, when I work with Henry, I’ll get like, a sentence. Here’s the next film I think I want to do. Here’s the first sentence, you know, treatment, you know, then a treatment and I’ll give notes and not depending on the thing with like pig and with like Driver X, you know, I was more involved in like developing not that I’m a writer, and I’m not trying to write, but you know, Henry likes to get the feedback, and I would get versions and I would give him notes or whatever. But this was way further along. I don’t remember having any notes about you know, creative notes about it. Maybe there was something but I don’t remember that, it was pretty far along. I probably had notes about how we would do it as a production not creatively, and it didn’t change that much when we when we edit it to obviously there are changes and there’s things that get pulled and you know, but wasn’t a ton you know, there are a few things but you know, not a ton of that either, you know.
Ashely Meyers: Gotcha. So, let’s talk about that then the next step. So, you guys had a script that you like, it sounds like Adam, you guys raised $40,000. Number one, how did you raise the $40,000? And how did you decide that you can actually do this for $40,000? Did your producer come up with a budget? Where was that number? Where did that number come from? And then ultimately, how did you raise that money?
Adam Mervis: I met with Mark. Well, part of what appealed to me about this process about this project was that I knew I could do it. I knew in some way, shape or form, I could do it. And honestly, I called my two brothers. And I said; Can I have some money? And they sent some money. And that was it. As far as the money, you know, I met as far as arriving on that number. You know, I met with Mark. And I think that’s when I, I kind of sought out Mark it to say like, can we actually do this? And what’s the actual number? You know, I think if we’re talking like a practical, I think our cash flow is actually 30,000, for the other 10 comes in, honestly, from me, just in post-production kind of pushing it over. But…
Mark Stolaroff: I think I probably put in like three or 4000 myself, here and there, not just paying for things and not getting reimbursed or something like that.
Adam Mervis: Talk about that off air.
Mark Stolaroff: The least amount I’ve ever done that on a movie, I’ve done. So.
Adam Mervis: But you know, like, I met with Mark and I said, what’s the like actual cash amount we need to have to make put this movie in the can. And I’m a big believer, kind of, in like, set a date, we’re going, everything will appear, get in the can and figure it out. Now that’ll get you in trouble. That’ll get you a lot of credit card debt in your early 20s sometimes, too. I was in a financially healthy enough position with my screenwriting career to be able to say, let’s get it in the can and you know, I think I can land this plane. Yeah.
Mark Stolaroff: And my recommendation I remember earlier is, as always, my recommendation was, well, you know, we always have crowdfunding, we want to do Kickstarter. I’ve done three Kickstarter campaigns in my past, and Adam was not interested in that. But I thought that was something we could also lean on. I mean, I can’t remember now I have to kind of go back as I’m curious now, because I remember, you know, I marked up this budget that they had created here, and can you create a pretty simple kind of a budget, wasn’t any kind of budget format, or anything like that, and he didn’t really need that for this kind of a movie. And they had already decided how they wanted to, like pay people. You know, it was like a really, you know, most favored nations, like everybody is going to get paid the same amount, actors and crew and very simple kind of, you know, payment kind of thoughts. And I was like, okay, well, yeah, we can do like that. And so, the money was, like, it was pretty simple. It’s like, we’re going to pay the cast and crew very small, it was a five or six man crew, they were getting paid was four or five people getting paid on the crew because Adam and I and Kenny were not getting paid, we were also part of that crew. And then, you know, locations a little bit very little in gear. I mean, it’s a pretty simple budget, and there was like, okay, well, we’re missing this or missing this, and I just don’t remember all those things. I know, casting director was one of those things that they didn’t, I don’t remember, I think you guys didn’t think you needed a casting director and we kind of talked him into it. And we ended up you know, putting some money into a casting director, which is not easy to get someone who’s a real casting director for not a lot of money. And even though you know, we’re only at the time looking to cast one part but we looked at a lot of people, it was a lot of work, it was not an easy casting you know, this took over two weeks or whatever, and then the big thing was post. There was like no money for posting it. And when we’ve kind of finished it I think there was really no money for posts and for me, like I have on my personal kind of thing where it’s like I like to spend $15,000 on sound, like all sound, for post sound and there was never going to be that so it was going to be like well how can we can we do this you know, really short cut this and still end up with something that works. Post wise that was the biggest challenge. And we were able to pull that off I mean, we spent very little on post it was like the least I’ve ever spent on post sound and we got a really an amazing favor from a big time sound person I’ve worked with before he just I wouldn’t even ask him to work on the film and he totally did it. And then it was Craigslist a little bit on some of this and then there’s someone else that I knew who did the color really inexpensively because I usually go to a facility that I like to do that. And I worked with a composer I’d worked with before, Alexander Burke, who was great and brought in some really talented people on the music side because we had so little money on the music side, for songs and for the score. So, that part was a challenge. But the production budget and going in and shooting it. I mean, there were things along the way, we had a DP who we were, you know, we drove to Vegas with him, who to scout the location, because we found this place that we wanted to shoot. And he had an amazing gear, he had this like, amazing camera, area, a mirror, and some other stuff and, and then he had to drop out like the last minute, which was like, like, we’re going to shoot in like a week or two weeks and we met finding a replacement, cinematographer Bethany who was terrific, but we were getting all this free gear. And that was part of the, you know, making that budget work. And he was generous enough to let us still use the gear, which was like a huge thing. And we still rented a few pieces. But it was like those kind of like lucky, you know, what you just always have, you can’t make a film like this without things going wrong and things going well, you know, those kind of lucky breaks and unlucky, you know, catastrophes kind of mixed together. So.
Adam Mervis: I think for anyone listening, you know, the idea that you write something and go make it is also the most freeing thing and the, you can get yourself in trouble thinking too far down the line of like, well, what about our post sound? How are we going to figure that out? Like, don’t ignore it, but make the movie. And like Mark said, like, you figure it out, you know, someone doesn’t do a favor or you go on Craigslist, or, you know, an advantage of being in Los Angele is you can call five friends and be like, Hey, can someone help me here? And it’ll happen, it may not happen the way you want it to happen. It might be slightly painful for you or whatever. But you should. You know, I think one of the things going back that I liked about Mark, when I met with him is he was very much of the ethos of let’s make the thing. Like, let’s make it and let anyone stop us. We’ll figure it out.
Mark Stolaroff: Yeah, there’s a little bit of faith. But there’s a couple things. I mean, there’s the kind of no budget rule that you’ve always heard is, you know, fast, cheap, good, pick two. So, you apply that rule. And usually, you know, you want it to be good, and you want it to be cheap, so it’s going to be slow. So you so when you’re like, going to try to figure these things out, like this always happens, on Driver X was, we don’t have any money for locations, and these locations are all 1000s and 1000s of dollars. So, it’s like, well, I’m not going to just we’re not going to spend that money on those locations, we’re going to take the time and find locations, which sometimes can take months. And so that’s really one of the first issues you just know, it could take longer. It didn’t actually take that long. Luckily. And then the other thing that I’ve learned is that, you know, it’s, you know, what Adam said, which is kind of another way to say it is, if you’re committed to something, 100% committed to something, you have to believe that when you put you know, there’s no floor, you have to believe that when you’re you know, as you’re stepping that the floor will present itself before your foot hits the ground. And if you’ve done that enough, you just know, I’m so committed, I will find a way to walk this from here to here even though there’s nothing there. I’m committed and I know I can, and I’ll do it, and it will be a different way each time or whatever, but it’ll happen. And I’ve done it enough in different experiences in my life, but also with filmmaking to just believe that because I’m so committed, I will find a way and Adam was completely like that. And it was fun to be with two or three people that are like, that’s just the thinking, you know, there’s no one there going, what are we going to do, you know, is like, oh, we’re going to figure out a way I mean, I don’t know if we want to say this. But you know, the biggest one of those was, you know, are we going to be able to really shoot in this room, in this place in Vegas, because we’re not telling them we’re shooting a feature film up there and we drove up to Vegas.
Adam Mervis: I was shooting at 21 Bridges interview.
Mark Stolaroff: Yeah, we drove up to Vegas with a suburban full of gear. And that was our back story was we’re because the movie was coming out in a couple months. And we’re here in Vegas. And we’re going to shoot this interview with this screenwriter, this big movie that’s coming out. But we never had to tell that story. But we parked this suburban filled with like, clearly film gear like big pieces of you know, like a combo stand and c-stands and flags and whatever. And we’re like, we’re just walking past the security and getting on this elevator over a series of days like carrying this stuff up. Because we didn’t need all of it. It was so we left some of it in the car, will only pull it up. And no one said a word and we’re like, you know, they can easily just say; Where are you going? You can’t do any of this. And then we were we brought everybody to Vegas and cast the movie and all this and we wouldn’t have been able to shoot a movie but we were like, we can do this and we’d scattered it. We’ve kind of like looked at the situation and, you know, like we can, we’ll pull this off. And we’ll say this, this happens, we’ll say this, you know, so there was a little bit of a plan, but it was also like a ton of faith that this was going to work out that we’re going to be able to drag all our stuff up there.
Adam Mervis: And it was like Oceans 11.
Mark Stolaroff: Yeah, exactly Ocean’s 11. It was total Vegas situation. But so, you know, those are just things that, you know, I think some people are okay with that. And some people are just like, that we can’t make a movie that way. And I’ve always made movies that way. I’ve always had like a backup plan, and I’ve had to use the backup plans. I’ve gotten shut down many times. And you know, the back of your head, you’re like, if we get shut down, we’ll do this, you know, kind of thing. And so, you know, those are things. That’s kind of fun. I like to make movies that way. I prefer to make movies that way. Actually, it’s just fun to me.
Ashely Meyers: Yeah, how many days did you guys take to shoot? And was 100% of the film in this penthouse suite? There’s no extra sets or no other locations? And then also how, what is the crew look like? What are the actual crew positions you have, you got to cinematographer, a first AC, a grip gaffer, like what are the actual positions you have?
Mark Stolaroff: It was 10 shooting days, there are a couple half days in there. And then like, you know, eight full days, but I’m just kind of way we got there. We had a cinematographer, a first AC, who was both of them very, very young, the first AC was like young, and the cinematographer just graduated from AFI. She was younger, I just found out like a couple of weeks ago how old she really was. I’m like older than her dad, which is depressing, but whatever. Very talented, though, first AC, very good. And it was that was someone that she’d worked with. We wanted a female crew, we were looking kind of for a female crew, because of the kind of sensitive sexual nature of the movie. And it’s not an HBO thing where we’re paying everybody a lot of money to take their clothes off. And there’s a little bit of that, less than the script probably looked like there was going to be but we were looking to kind of not have a bunch of guys on the crew. And so female cinematographer, female first AC, female Gaffer, who also had worked with this cinematographer. And so, the gaffer was, she was, you know, the whole grip and electric department essentially, we had a person I’d worked with before a couple times, who was the stylist or so who did makeup and wardrobe. And then we had a person doing sound. And then Kenny was essentially like the first AC. I mean, that’s the first AD and also, you know, did the slate and whatever needs to be done. And then I was like, I was someone who could go and deal with stuff. So, I was production account. I was the DIT, I was dealing with props. I did all the meals, I brought the meals up, which was the worst. I mean, this is like they’re making a movie. I’m like, you can’t tell me, oh, it was so hard to do it. I mean, I’ve done this before, it’s just they’re very difficult group to keep happy with the meals and stuff. And it was like, I hated that job. But anyway. And that was the crew, and then…
Ashely Meyers: Perfect. Yeah. And you said it took 10 days. So, you rented this this suite of 10 days. What was your…
Mark Stolaroff: There was one piece of the script that was outside, that was written to be outside the thing which we kind of shot. And it didn’t, it was kind of a before they meet kind of thing. And we didn’t really like the footage and when we are adding it together, we realized we didn’t really need it. So, everything was shot at that moment. We didn’t do any pickups, which we could always have done. But we didn’t need to do anything like that. So, everything that’s in the movie now was shot in Vegas, in that 10 days.
Ashely Meyers: Gotcha. So that’s a great story. Very inspiring. I hope screenwriters really listened to this. And what you’re saying here. I just like to end the interviews and get the guests, is there anything you’ve seen recently that you thought was really great? Maybe something a little under the radar, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, is there anything out recently that you guys have watched that you really liked that you’d like to recommend?
Adam Mervis: Oh, no, that’s it on the spot. What am I watching? I’m watching Succession. Wow, that’s not under the radar for sure. Me and Mark we’re just talking about, I haven’t seen that like false slate of movies yet where I’m really jazzed about it. So, I will pass to Mark. I bought enough time for you. Do you have anything?
Mark Stolaroff: Yeah, I can mention a couple things. I mean, I am seeing a lot of the false late. Once I was able to go back to theatres I signed up for this AMC. You know all you can watch. I mean, you know, I watched like three free movies because I like to try to go see a movie like once or twice a week and so I’ve been seeing the kind of big movies and I won’t comment on those. I like to say bad things about movies, but I will say I saw the first movie I saw coming back from the whole COVID shutdown in a theatre was a $60,000, they shot it for $30,000 and the whole budget was like $60,000, no budget film called The Killing of Two Lovers. And I actually did an interview, you know, similar to this, but it was like two hours with that director, like, a couple months ago for the no budget film school thing that I do. And just, I mean, the more I think about that movie, the more you know, I had watched it a few times to prepare for my presentation. It’s a great movie, it’s a great you know, similarly done like, like small, you know, crew. They shot this tiny town in Utah, but it’s just a kind of like a great art film and also still “commercial.” I mean, it’s not commercial to most people, but it’s not like just arty and you can’t enjoy it or whatever. It’s just really well done. And I know a lot of people missed it, you know, it played theatrically neon, it was in Sundance, and then neon picked it up. But no one was going to theatres when it came out. And most people when I missed that movie, they’ve never heard of it. And it’s like, wow, you know, because it’s really good. And so that’s the one.
Ashely Meyers: What’s the name of it again?
Mark Stolaroff: The killing of two lovers.
Ashely Meyers: Killing two lovers. Perfect. Yeah, that’s a great recommendation for our audience. How can people see the Last Days of Capitalism? What’s the release schedule going to be like for that?
Mark Stolaroff: We’re on Amazon right now. And we’re on Google Play in T VOD, and transactional so you can rent it for like $3 and you can buy it for 999 or whatever. And then it’ll roll out in a broader way. It’ll eventually be on you know, I guess on Esbat and AVOD and stuff but right now I think it’s just playing in those you know, two places then they’ll eventually be on other platforms and stuff. So that’s how they indie rights is releasing it and that’s how they like to do that.
Ashely Meyers: Perfect, perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you guys are doing, Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing? Just tell me that now and I’ll round all that up for the show notes.
Adam Mervis: For me, it’s my name Adam Mervis on Instagram is the best way and we also have our Last Days of Capitalism Instagram page as well and website.
Mark Stolaroff: Yeah, we’re not as good at social media as we should be. I’m terrible at it. I’m on Facebook and Twitter Stolaroff, my website is Mark Stolaroff. And from there if you’re interested in no budget film school, if you wanted to subscribe to my no budget Film School list and be part of all the things I’m doing with that, that’s you can find that pretty easily at markstolaroff.com or nobudgetfilmschool.com.
Ashely Meyers: Perfect, perfect, Adam, Mark. I really appreciate you guys coming on and talking with me today. Congratulations again, this film finished and I look forward to talking to you guys in the future about your future.
Mark Stolaroff: Thank you very much. It’s really been fun.
Ashely Meyers: Thank you, will talk to you guys later.
Adam Mervis: Alright, take care.
Ashely Meyers: Bye.
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On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing writer director Trevor Hawkins, who just did a really cool indie drama called Lotawana, I was researching what I might be able to do with crypto currencies and these NFT’s for the rideshare killer. And I kept running into articles about his film, he actually minted some NFT’s for his film, and he’s one of the first films to really try this. It wasn’t really a big success, but he did get some decent press out of it, which is actually how I found him. I just kept running into these interviews that he was doing. But he’s very candid, really nice guy, really artistic, you know, creative guy, and really an artist and very, very, very honest about how this all went as I said it wasn’t really a success as far as minting these things and making money on them. But I think that there were some aspects to it that were successful. And we really dig into this, the whole crypto NFT wave and how that might affect television and film in the future. And I think I’m going to be doing more of this. It’s something that’s I’m kind of becoming more and more interested in just cryptocurrencies in general, and then how that can ultimately relate to films and especially independent film. I think the NF TS is definitely one angle that independent films will we’ll be using in the future. So, I’ll be getting more into this and sort of discussing this and hopefully bringing on some more guests. But we have Trevor next weekend as I said his film is one of the first to really try and utilize NFT’s as a way of financing the film and getting some recoupment on the investment. Anyways, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s our show. Thank you for listening.