Joining me today is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, and author. His latest book, “A Filmmaking Mindset: The New Path of Today’s Filmmaker,” is available on Amazon now. I’m talking with Kelly Schwarze about how the film industry is shifting and what we can do to adapt.
Amanda: You’re a filmmaker. You’re in this production industry that shut down during the pandemic with everything else. But you’ve used this time to think about some new things, create some new things. You just put out a book called “A Filmmaking Mindset: The New Path of Today’s Filmmaker.” So let’s talk about that.
Kelly: Well, you know, like everybody else when the pandemic hit, and we were looking at job cancellations and productions getting shut down, the first thing I thought was, okay, how do I innovate? I’ve always thought of myself as kind of always having to hustle. I’ve never really rested on my laurels ever. So I think for us, it’s always about been innovation. For me personally, it’s been about trying to evolve and do different things and try different things in terms of production. With the writing extent, I’ve been writing books for a while now. And I’ve been teaching and lecturing and doing workshops. The books are a natural extension of it. What the pandemic gave me was the opportunity to actually sit down and really focus on it and get it done. So I was able to write it. I actually started the book prior to the pandemic, and then now it gave me time to just get it finished.
Amanda: I like that, finding the opportunity, because we’re all stuck in this situation, but it is what you make out of it. And you took the time to think, oh, well, I don’t usually have this much free time. Besides all your own projects that you work on, you run the Indie Film Factory here in Vegas, which is usually busy with all kinds of different projects. And when everything kind of comes to a standstill, it can be a little confusing. Everybody was kind of like, well, what do we do now? But if you’re anything like me, you have a list of personal projects that you want to do, but you don’t always have time to get to.
“You have to figure out ways that you can innovate.”
Kelly: I call it the big calm. It’s like the big calm of life. Humanity has been put on timeout, and especially the entertainment industry – if you look at how many hours people were spending on set, if you’re looking at how much time people were spending working on various projects – and the quality of life really has decreased. And I think at some point, you have to ask yourself, is this system really working anyway? So I feel like this is a great opportunity for everybody to kind of reflect, sit back. Now granted, I get the financial concern. I’m not in a position where I’m like, oh my God, how am I gonna feed my family and do this and that, but I also have huge overhead. With the economy being shut down for the first several months, we were hemorrhaging money.
So I get the idea of it being a very scary time, but it is what it is. And you have to look and figure out ways that you can innovate and do things that are productive, but also to reflect on how you can do things better when things do get back into practice. And I think that’s another takeaway from all this, and it’s definitely put the spotlight on the fact that we’re able to do things that we didn’t think we could do. And we’re able to take risks and create entertainment on very simple platforms like the one we’re on right now. You’re seeing Saturday Night Live doing shows with webcams. I mean, so it, to me, is a pioneering effort, because we were forced to do it. I think, moving forward, it’s going to make us think differently about how we do production.
Amanda: It reminds me of what happened to the economy in 2008 – where everything crashed, and all of those budgets went completely away, but they still needed the content. So it was on us to figure out well, how can we still deliver the same quality with far less resources? And what ended up happening is we found a smarter way to work, and then when the economy came back, we were able to take those lessons with us to continue to work smarter and have that extra money now. As budgets started to grow, we could use that and put it into different places than we did before. And I really think that’s what’s going to happen here is we’re going to take these lessons with us and come out of this stronger and better than before.
“What we’re seeing now is this big question mark.”
Kelly: We’d all hope so. And I think you’re right about that and being able to figure out ways you can come out of this stronger and better, but also learning how to save money, save resources, save time. For the last 25-30 years, the blockbuster in Hollywood has become a question of sustainability – whether or not the industry can sustain at the level that it’s at. I mean, when you’re seeing that movie theaters are struggling – and that was a huge chunk of that equation – what is the VOD market going to be able to yield for a movie that costs almost $100 million? Is that even a practical model anymore? And I’m all about getting people jobs, but at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that the inflation of what things cost in our industry have been astronomical, and it’s only gotten worse.
Technology is supposed to have helped us and made things more efficient – since the advent of digital cameras and things like that – but in reality, it hasn’t changed a bit. It’s actually gone the other direction. So I think what we’re seeing now is this big question mark, whether or not this industry has to change course, dramatically. I mean, the movie theater industry is now facing the possibility of extinction. And we would have never thought that, but this is something that’s extremely real, because when you’re looking at an industry that hasn’t produced new content (and therefore by the time production does open up, there’s still going to be this six-to-eight month window where content isn’t being released – can the movie theater industry sustain itself? So I feel like it’s a big question mark on every aspect of this industry, and whether or not we have to do things better, more efficiently. It’s really an efficiency question.
Amanda: You’ve been a big supporter of the VOD market. You’ve chosen that route with a lot of your films. Sometimes there’s this perception that you don’t want to go small. And I’ve heard you talking recently about the importance of going small sometimes, especially right now. When there’s so many people in our industry, or creatives in general, who have that passion project, that thing they want to do, they always find an excuse for why they can’t do it. “I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have the right equipment. I don’t have this.” And you are very much like me and you say no. If you want to make a movie, go make a movie. If you want to write a screenplay, go write a screenplay. Stop making excuses, stop waiting for it to be perfect. Just do it.
“If we can do things smaller, we can do things smarter.”
Kelly: Everybody is waiting for permission. And I think a lot of people are so afraid looking foolish, being intimidated by the technology of it all. And this is an egocentric industry. Let’s not kid ourselves. This industry is dominated by people with bigger-than-life egos who think that they have some philosophy about how they can make things better by being more extravagant. When I would go to filmmaking mixers at film festivals, one of the things that most filmmakers would talk about was how big their budgets were, and it’s such an ego thing. People would explain in great detail how much money they were theoretically wasting whether they’re “Oh, I got this actor, and oh I got this, and I got that.” As impressive as that may be to some, to me I always see it as an inefficiency. But you look at the inefficiencies within all types of industries, filmmaking is no different. And I think we have to look at the fact that if we can do things smaller, we can do things smarter, then we can survive.
You know, when I look at the pandemic, I think of it as like the asteroid that hit the planet when the dinosaurs were here. It killed off dinosaurs. Dinosaurs went extinct, but not all dinosaurs. The little tiny ones, like the little cockroaches, the little creepy crawlers, they survived and they still live with us today. And I think independent filmmakers are that small group of little existences that that are crawling around the earth as all these giant dinosaurs can’t survive, because the infrastructure is too problematic. Smaller is the new big. And I think that’s the way we have to think of our industry. And, you know, unfortunately, there’s gonna be a great deal of people that have spent their entire lives in this industry that are going to have a hard time adapting because they’re going to need a giant production. They’re going to need seven assistants. They’re going to need this, that. We have to consolidate. We just have to. Pandemic or not, it’s a matter of trying to keep ourselves moving forward and being profitable.
Back to your point about just doing something, I look at my cell phone here and I can shoot video. I can shoot 4k video on this phone. Granted, it may not look like the Red camera, the Arri Alexa, or whatever. But the point being is that it gets points on the board. If you’ve got an idea, or you have a screenplay in your mind, experiment. Go out. Make a fool of yourself. And don’t be afraid to be foolish, because that’s where you start to succeed. I mean, it’s taken me seven feature films to figure out what I’m doing. And I’m still figuring out what I’m doing. And I probably forever will be. And so, you know, if you get to the point where you’re like, “Well, I’m going to wait ‘til I get all these pieces in order, and I gotta wait for the right budget, blah, blah, blah, and I gotta wait for somebody with a camera to help,” you’re never gonna do it. I can guarantee you that you’ll never do it.
Amanda: It’s very difficult to figure out what you want to do in your head until you actually do it and get into practice in it. I think that it’s kind of like the difference between going to school to do something, and actually doing it. All education is great. I’m always a fan of learning as much as possible. But if you spend four years in school learning about something by reading about, by talking to people who have done it, or who have read about it and now are teaching you what they’ve read, you’re in a different place in four years than somebody who has been doing it. somebody that took a PA job and started learning on set how everything is done, that person with four years of practical experience is often much further ahead. I know your first book is “What Film Schools Don’t Teach You.” Have you found that there’s a lot of difference between what you learn in school versus what you practice as an actual filmmaker?
“I don’t sit in a chair all day and drink coffee.”
Kelly: Film School teaches you perfect world scenario. If money is not a problem, and time is not a problem, and people getting sick, and egos, and flights getting delayed. If all that stuff doesn’t exist, in the perfect world, then this is what we can do. And I always find it very interesting when you see that. I would hire film students, bring them into our production side of things. Their jaw was on the floor, like “Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that you actually may have to set up a light? You’re the director.” No, no. What do you think I do? I don’t sit in a chair all day and drink coffee. I mean, I’d love to do that. Right? No, actually, I wouldn’t love to do that.
But frankly, it’s about the reality of things. When you start having to pay for things, and you have to start looking at the economy of making money back on a project, that’s when you start to really, really think about the fact that… Do I need to do a master shot, and a medium shot, and go through all the basic film school checklist on how I do my shot list? That’s not real. Sometimes you may have to design your film to the tee, because your margin of error is so razor sharp that you don’t have the time for 20 setups per scene. You have the time for maybe two camera setups per scene. How are you going to maximize that? So that’s the real-world experience that allows you to get moving forward and actually get points on the board.
Amanda: I really have this passion for helping creatives in business because sometimes they feel very overwhelmed with the business side of things like thinking about the money because they just want to go out and create. And I’ve spent a lot of the pandemic learning the basics of editing, learning the basics of audio, and realizing… Oh wait. Now I have to set up a microphone and all these little pieces that I know about, because I’ve coordinated it for people, but now having to remember all the steps and try to do it myself, and it’s not perfect. I know this. I know from episode one until however long I go is going to get better each time, and I embrace the lesson. But I also think it’s important to do what I encourage others to do, and just put yourself out there even though it’s really scary, and it’s not perfect. And somebody in my industry, in our industry…that was always my excuse, was I can’t put out anything that’s subpar quality because I’m in the production industry and I know better. I know what things should look like, or what they should sound like. I had to let that go.
“Go out, make mistakes, and embrace every one of them.”
Kelly: When I first got started… I mean, one of the best decisions I ever made in my entire career was just going down and buying a camera. And at that time – this is in the late 90s, people were still shooting movies on film – I had colleagues, and I’d met people through film festivals and things like that. They were shooting movies on 35 and 16 millimeter, and I remember telling people that I went to an electronics store and I got a store credit card, and I maxed out the store credit card to buy this little video camera. And I remember at that time, it might as well have been a million dollars. It might as well been a huge amount of money, but it was like $3500 at the time. It was a fortune for me. And so I remember like telling people. I was so excited I got this camera, and all these all my colleagues at the time were like, eh, you know, “You’re just making a video. It’s gonna look terrible. If you want to be a real filmmaker, you gotta shoot on film.”
And I just think back to that moment. I remember going back to my apartment, my little studio apartment, and I remember sitting there like, just being totally depressed because I’m like, wow, I spent all this money. I can’t get out of this stupid thing. I got this camera that it’s going to just make my stuff look like crap. And I just never forget, like sitting there and thinking, well, I have it. I might as well just do something with it. And I remember I bought it because I wanted to shoot my first movie. And so I went ahead, I pioneered through it. Did it look great? Of course not. It didn’t look like a movie. You know. I mean, it looked like an experimentation with a video camera. But the point being is that I moved forward, and I was able to meet people that were able to lead me to the next thing, and then that thing led me to the next thing and that thing, but it’s a starting point.
You know, everybody wants to snap their fingers and become the next big film director or producer. That’s not the reality. And anybody that I know who’s at the pinnacle of Hollywood success right now, those individuals didn’t start by just snapping their fingers. This is a lifetime, a career of trial and error, and missed opportunities, and bad decisions, and mistakes. But it’s all a part of that process. And if you don’t understand that, it makes it very difficult. So I always say like, just go out, make mistakes, and embrace every one of them.
Amanda: If you have the talent and you have the passion, you can make anything work. Because we have our cell phones, and they are 4k now, there’s a lot of people out there who think they’re experts. But there’s also that level of talent, of knowing how to set up a shot, knowing visually how things need to work. You can make a great film on whatever piece of equipment you have. Or on the reverse, if you don’t have the experience yet and you buy the $20,000 camera, you’re not going to be able to make the same quality. So it’s using the resources that you have to make the thing that you want to make versus, again, waiting until you have all that other stuff. Because that other stuff always helps. The more money you have, the better resources, the better equipment, your chances are better. But if you have that drive and the determination to do whatever it is that you’re passionate about, you can find a way to make it work.
“It’s really about having the passion to keep learning and pushing forward.”
Kelly: Yeah. And I believe talent is something that is acquired over time, too. But it’s really about your focus and your interest. You know, if you’re passionate about telling stories, you’re going to figure out a way to tell stories. And if you focus on it enough, you’re going to end up being the best you can be. And that’s all you can ask for. And then people perceive that. It’s like, oh, that person is massively talented at writing screenplays, or producing stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s really about having the passion to keep learning and pushing forward.
You know, the great thing is we live in an era where any information you want, you can find it, and you can do tutorials. Kids are teaching themselves how to play violin and piano by watching YouTube videos. So to me, it’s about you have the passion to learn it, you have the dedication to stick with it, and then ultimately that develops into some level of skill. and then you realize that, yeah, you know, I’ve outgrown my cell phone movies. Now it’s time to make the investment to get this and that. We all know people that own very expensive cameras that can’t figure out how to take the lens cap off.
Amanda: Also, when you’re talking about learned skills, I feel that that relates to mindset also. And again, going back to the book that you wrote, I can’t give away all your secrets because people need to buy the book and read it for themselves. But I’m a huge believer in mindset. And I know that’s one of those terms that people can cringe when they hear. They don’t want to hear about all the positivity and this and that. But to me, it’s a lot more than that. It is a learned skill. We don’t necessarily control our thoughts, but we can correct them. It’s really easy to feel defeated sometimes, even in normal situations, but especially right now if you’re in an industry that is not currently doing a whole lot. It’s very easy to dwell on the negative side of that, and the panic and the fear and what am I going to do, which is all very valid at any point. But there’s also that internal redirection that you can do, and say okay, things are a little scary right now. They’re a little bit different. But I’ve gotten through 100% of the situations I’ve been in in my life. This will be no different. Where can I find the good in the situation? Where it’s something like, now I have the time to work on this project, or it’s giving me time to really think about what I want to do and how I want to do it, or how I can do it. It’s really just making that shift, but making it the same level of effort that you would in developing your talent as a filmmaker, producer, artist, whatever it is that you are.
“Everybody has their own answers. You have to trust yourself.”
Kelly: There’s an Eastern society philosophy about the idea of doing things in increments. Everybody wants to get up the first day and go to the gym for four hours and become a muscle person, or completely fit. But the reality is that eating healthy, writing a book, making a movie, learning something, is an incremental process. You can’t learn anything – unless you’re a robot, you can’t learn things like a snap of the finger. It takes time, and every person is going to be different, right? So like, you’re going to different than I’m different.
I’m the slowest book reader in the world. It takes me a month to read one book sometimes because I’m so distracted, but I make a commitment to getting up every day and incrementally doing things in my life. And I think that’s what we have to try to do to stay on point, whether it’s getting up every day and saying, you know, between this time and this time, I’m going to spend an hour of my day writing something. It doesn’t even have to be good. I don’t even care. It doesn’t matter. I’m just going to write. This is my intention. This is what I’m going to do. And then what you find is that it gets easier. You start to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, because you know better.
People can read books, they can go to seminars, they can listen to TED Talks. Whatever it may be, you have the answers. Everybody has their own answers. You have to trust yourself. And you have to be able to kind of connect with yourself in a way to give that trust. And it’s difficult when people are hurting. When people are scared. When people are financially broke. When people are hungry. When people are in pain or sick. You know, it’s a very difficult kind of process. And in our industry in particular, people don’t know if they’re ever going to go back to work. So they’re staring at the idea of maybe having to go get a different job, completely change careers. But this is maybe an opportunity for people to make that switch in a way that gives them a much better perspective on where they really want to go.
I say to the person who grew up as a kid wanting to be the next movie star or director or superstar director, ask yourself is working at this production company that you just got laid off from, was that the really the path for you? I spent the first three movies that I made working at a picture framing shop, and I gotta tell you something. I run a business now. I run two businesses. It’s difficult when you’re running a business and trying to be creative at the same time. There’s a lot of mental distractions. So if you have the ability to work a day job, sometimes even if it’s not in your industry, it might be an opportunity for you to incubate the things that you really wanted to do in the first place – writing those screenplays, working on your first film, producing your show, whatever those things are. So don’t look at your career change, if it has to – you have to feed your face – but don’t look at it as though this is the end of the world. My life is ruined, my career is over. It’s only over if you want it to be over. And you have to figure out a different alternative to get to where you want to go. There’s always a back door. You just got to find it.
Amanda: Balance is an important part of that, too. When you are a “doer,” as we like to say, we finally take all this time, and it’s like, okay, we need to do this and do this and do that. And sometimes by trying to get through the situation so much stronger or better, you forget to take a minute to breathe, to appreciate a little bit of the calm or the quiet that we do have – not just in the work-life balance situation, but also making the effort and sometimes accepting that it’s okay if you don’t feel like it that day.
“Not every day is going to be your superstar day.”
Kelly: That’s right. You’re absolutely right. You hit on something very important, that not every day is going to be your superstar day. You just have to be in a position to understand that and relate to it and move on. And not everything’s going to turn out perfectly. Everything you put out is going to be spot on. It’s trial and error, but also giving yourself that time to be calm. I’m learning that. It’s very difficult when you’re used to being on airplanes and flying around places and doing things. And now you’ve been in the confines of like maybe three places for the last six months, it can be a challenging environment. But at the end of the day I’m learning, and I’m sure a lot of people are also learning, is the idea that, hey, use this opportunity for calmness, because you might be able to learn something about yourself. And you might have the answers. Like I said, I believe everybody has answers.
Amanda: It’s been interesting. Because of my introversion and my general lifestyle, I feel like I’ve been preparing for social distancing my entire life. So it has not been the adjustment for me that it has been for many. But I also look back at, even a couple years ago, I really started making this active shift towards remote production. I don’t have the same passion for filmmaking that you do. If I could work on documentaries all the time and just tell really powerful stories, that’s what I would love to do. But I really started focusing on, how can I be home more? So maybe this whole thing is my fault. For those who believe in manifestation, it’s all on me because I wanted to spend more time at home.
When I started doing this, it just wasn’t understood. People were like, “How can you do production remotely? You have to be in a room with the creatives. You have to be on set managing all the things.” But in a lot of what I do as a production manager, or as a producer, a lot of it is stuff that I can do from anywhere. And that was kind of my aim in the beginning. I want to be able to take my laptop and some limited software and work from wherever I am. At the time when travel was feasible, that was the thing that I liked to do. And I just said, well, you don’t need to fly me to that place and pay for my travel, and for my food, and for all those things. I can do it from where I’m at. And then I can really focus on it. When you’re on set, there’s a lot of distractions and you’re getting pulled in a million different directions. Now, with the current predicament we’re in, production is starting to open up a little bit more. And I’m finding that people are seeking people like me to do this, where they have to limit the number of bodies on set for safety reasons.
And the more I was thinking about this during the hiatus, most of the work that I get is either producer or production manager. And even though technically, if we’re talking ego-wise, production manager is a step down on the call sheet from producer. That’s the work that I actually enjoy the most. Because A) it’s a part that nobody else likes to do. You’re dealing with a lot of spreadsheets and numbers and budgets and scheduling and all the “boring stuff,” so to speak. I really like doing that stuff, and a lot of creatives do not. So that balance, again, works out pretty well. But I was getting my website redesigned, because there’s all this time, it’s finally time to work on these projects. And I just made this decision that I’m going to focus on being a production manager versus a producer. The day after I made that change to my website and all my social, I got a call from a series that needed a production manager, wanted them to work remotely, based in Vegas because that’s where they’re shooting. And now I have work until the end of September as a production manager.
And it’s not always that straightforward where you make a change and the universe suddenly says, “Hey, here you go. Here’s what you asked for.” But I think it’s that clarity. Sometimes we think we know what we want, but we really don’t until one thing shifts, and then you realize, oh, yeah, that’s what I want to be doing. So I think it’s good to always reflect, and don’t be afraid to change your mind about what you do or what you like to do. Even if you’ve invested all this time and energy and even money into one thing, if you decide that’s not the thing for you, it’s perfectly fine. Redirect that energy towards the thing that you did figure out that you want to do.
“You get what you put into it.”
Kelly: Well, you know, you mentioned universe, and I think we’re on the same page with a lot of these things. I’m a big believer in you get what you put into it, and it’s all about your thoughts. And not to get too lofty for people watching this, but the idea of taking time to recalibrate. I spend a lot of time just trying to meditate on decisions that I’m making. And it’s funny, amazingly, how many little voices will pop into your head and give you little gentle nudges within and say try this. Try that. I use that technique, just because it gives me clarity and gives me confidence. And again, like you were saying, not all of those things are going to pan out and be just perfect. But you find out that there are little nudges and instances that are happening all over the place. But if you are shut down – and by shut down, you’re focusing on the negativity and the problematic aspects of your world – you’re going to miss all of these things that are floating around the room every single day. And so I feel like you have to get yourself to a point where you’re able to identify these opportunities, and see them, and be able to make those changes to make sure that you can thrive.
I look at factories that were making certain products before the pandemic and they immediately made the switch to doing different things. That, to me, is where the filmmaking community has to be. And I know that’s difficult to say, when you’re like, well, I’m a stunt person. What do I, how do I do? Well, I mean, think about this. There’s a variety of things you could do. You could start building yourself up as that virtual safety stunt coordinator. You could be doing things like creating tutorials for directors, and training tools for people in this new era. So there’s a lot of stuff that you can be doing. And same thing, if you’re a makeup person or a wardrobe person, there are things that you can try to do now using the tools that we have available to us to try to implement new foundations for business.
And ultimately, I think a lot of these things are here to stay. You know, we may go back to set, but it may also be a hybrid of things. You may start to see that the cost economics of keeping somebody remote is far more beneficial. And like you were saying, bring somebody in, it’s more liability, it’s more people, it’s more this is more travel, it’s more this, it makes sense. You see that with trade shows. You know, there’s going to be a great number of trade shows that take 50% of their business and keep it in the ether. And there’s going to be the rest of it. It’s going to come back and try to be practical, and that’s fine. But again, there’s an opportunity there and you have to figure it out and you’ve got to be able to see those opportunities.
Amanda: The trade shows have been interesting because that’s the other piece of that puzzle, where usually for me, when there’s not video work, I’m in live events. I had a couple of those lined up when the pandemic hit. Those went away. But most of those companies are still having their shows, they’re just doing them online instead. A lot of television networks, for their programming, had to shift very quickly. They still had the content to deliver. And a lot of them started sending out production packages to the people who had to be interviewed. So somebody would say, “Here’s the camera, here’s the audio, here’s the lighting, here’s all the stuff that you need. Now I’m going to connect with you remotely. We’re going to get all your gear set up. You’re going to show me how the framing is.” So there’s that person with the visual talent that’s training this new person on how to set up all the gear, and then we’re going to do this interview remotely. I have a friend that did this for ESPN for a month, where they did this to make sure that the consistency of the look for all the people in this one show was cohesive, but it was all done remotely. The people had to push their own buttons, and that’s what’s happening with all the talk shows and all the stuff that’s still on the air right now anyway. People’s family members are getting involved. You see that we’re all just doing what we can.
I know a lot of people want to think that, oh, well, as soon as this virus goes away, things will go back to normal. But, with my producer hat on, and always being focused on budgets and different things, if the quality is still the same, and now you’re just traveling gear versus people – and I don’t think you can ever take away the talent of the person, but that person might not have to be in the same room as much anymore. Or instead of having the whole giant crew, you might just send a couple key people, and most of this other stuff can be managed remotely. We might carry that going forward, because it saves money, and it’s less liability, and the content is still the quality the network or whoever needs it to be. We might not go back to the way things were, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“People’s unwillingness to adapt, and accept change, is going to be the death to a lot of aspects in this industry.”
Kelly: No, I think honestly it’s going to expand what had already existed. And it’s going to open up the possibility for many more people. I think it’s really people’s unwillingness to adapt, and to accept change, that’s going to be the death to a lot of aspects of people in this industry. But the reality is that people are thinking that this thing is going to expand a lot of positions. And they’re already talking about having safety coordinators and COVID protocol managers on set. In addition to all of these things, whether there’s a pandemic or not, I think you’re going to see a lot of things that are created that are going to stick around for a long time. And it’s going to be a good thing for people to get into this industry. It’s going to be a gateway for people to be able to slide in here and learn. And at the end of the day, it’s going to save budgets, and we can bring costs down. We can make better distribution decisions that are going to help our industry overall and allow us to keep making content.
Amanda: It’s easy to think, okay, I can’t be on set anymore doing my wardrobe or makeup or all those other things, so I’m now out of work. Or you can say I’m now available for work globally, because I don’t have to be in that location anymore. And maybe somebody doesn’t have the budget anymore, or they have the safety concerns. They don’t want to have a makeup artist on set. You could still teach people – maybe not the level of the skill that you have if you’ve been doing makeup for 20 years, but you can use your knowledge and expertise to help other people who aren’t in your limited location, but now are everywhere who needs your help. I think expanding that and saying, okay, no, I’m not limited anymore. I’m available to more people, I can help more people now.
Kelly: Well, if you can bring the quality of your life up… Like we were saying earlier in this conversation, is the idea that people are working 12, 13, 14, maybe even 15-hour days on set sometimes, you know, and they’re cramming it in. And there was a lot of safety concerns. There was a lot of health concerns about this. We have probably one of the only industries – massive GDP industries – that are very unregulated by any federal agency. Not that I’m all about regulation, but at some point it’s just curious to think that we have an industry that is highly unregulated in terms of how long people can work and all these things. And so at that level, you wonder to yourself, okay, with this being a situation, safety takes the front seat, common sense takes the front seat, and efficiency has to take the front seat. So the ego gets pushed back to the bus. And I think that’s where you’re going to see the real change. And some people won’t make that change. But people like yourself, who are evolving and adapting, you’re the leaders of tomorrow.
Amanda: You, too. So what is it that you’re working on now? You’ve got the book, it’s out. It’s available on Amazon.
“I’m constantly looking at evolving for my clients.”
Kelly: It is. Yeah, yeah. So the book’s available on Amazon, “A Filmmaking mindset.” It’s kind of a companion book to the last one I did called “What Film Schools Don’t Tell You,” although this one’s a bit more loftier. So, you know, it says more about the thinking stuff a little bit more, and just kind of how you’re positioning your personality and attitude towards filmmaking and this new world. The book is released. I’m working on a new scripts. I’ve got some other stuff in development. I probably won’t be in production probably for another year, year and a half. So it’ll be really unclear as to what that world is going to look like for us when we start ready to roll back out to shoot a movie. Our last movie was released this year. It’s done very well. So, you know, a lot of good things have happened.
In the meantime, I’m constantly looking at evolving for my clients. We’ve been shooting a lot of different style videos for clients that give people more access to things that we can repurpose and reprogram throughout the year, been doing pretty well. And despite all of it, our studios, you know, this green screen behind me has been very busy because we’ve had guys come in here and shoot talking head stuff because they can’t go on location. We’ve got the studio back up and running, although we’re quite limited in terms of what we’re able to do here still with everything.
Amanda: You had a pretty big summer with “Abigail Haunting.” You had already released this movie, or it was in the works – obviously you didn’t film it and release it in two months during a pandemic. It was already ready to go. And because just the way the timing worked out, you were able to put this movie out on Amazon at a time where you’ve had a much bigger captive audience who are all desperately in need of new content to watch. And you got to see your movie charting over Memorial Day weekend, that was recommended as one of the top movies to watch that weekend. That’s a pretty big, unexpected opportunity.
Kelly: Yeah, I mean, everything kind of fell into place. We wrapped post-production, we finally locked everything in and had it mastered, I think about two and a half weeks before things started shutting down. We were leaving the edit. We were watching things closely. But the other editors and I were looking at it. I work with a guy named Michael Tushaus, and we kind of went through this whole process of getting it done. I knew that something was going to happen, but I never expected some of the success that we had. We’ve had success with Amazon. We understand how to use Amazon, and it’s our initial release. It’s not our biggest platform that we release on. But it’s something that we always enjoy because it gives our product the ability to get out to the market quick, very fast. Whereas in some markets, it’s still a bit unknown, but we make more money in those markets. So the good thing with this movie is that it just took off, and it happened to be in the midst of a time where not a lot of new content was coming out. So we had the opportunity to, for several weeks, to be in the most popular film category. And then over Memorial Day weekend, we were like the third most popular movie. And I’m sitting there thinking this is nuts. I mean, this is crazy. We have at least over a million people that have seen this movie on that platform alone. So it’s incredible, the opportunity that this whole thing has provided us in a way on a filmmaking level.
“There’s a second chapter of this.”
And I think going forward, and we’re only at the first part of this, you know. There’s a second chapter of this, and content is going to run… that content is going to start the squeeze. And I think as a documentary filmmaker, like yourself, documentary, animation, those are going to be high, high demand properties. And I think you’re going to start seeing a great deal of those coming in over the next six to eight months. So now’s the time to make a documentary.
Amanda: We can’t control anything. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort and planning you put into something, things could change that are out of your control. So we can’t really worry about that so much. All you can do is focus on making good content, making sure the quality of the story is there. I think that’s the biggest part right now. It’s what I’ve been missing in films, is the character development. I don’t need all the action and the fireworks and the stunts. There’s a place for that, but I’m really drawn to storytelling in general. So that’s why I watch a lot of documentaries, or TV shows even, where you see the really strong character arcs. So I think it’s a really good time for writers to focus on just telling good stories. For filmmakers, just focusing on the story itself and the quality of the content, and not so much the specifics of how to make it. Just tell a really strong story, and there will be an audience for it.
Kelly: With the way things are going with production, it’s going to have to be about storytelling. I mean, for a while there, we were building our movies with the expectations of a global audience. But what we’re discovering now is that we have neglected storytelling for so long now, for at least a couple decades, where it’s time to get back into some of the more brass-tacks type of things. That’s why you see TV series doing so well, versus even standalone narratives, because people can get into the characters. People can get into the storylines. They can evolve with that. And that’s something that’s very special to people.
This opportunity ended up working out for us. I think the last time we had a national disaster, or world disaster, was 9/11. I released a movie two days after 9/11, and our movie was a complete disaster because the movie starts off with terrorism right at the beginning. I never planned for that. But it did. And I look back and I say, you know, oh the movie Gods must hate me. Well, there’s no movie Gods. It’s just the way things are.
Amanda: You can’t judge your experience on one and just give up because it didn’t work out one time. If you’re really passionate about it, and you want to be successful, you have to keep trying and know that again, there’s that balance. Some projects are going to flop, and you learn from them and you move on, but you keep trying, and maybe you do better at the next one. Maybe it’s not even that you didn’t do a good job. It was just the circumstances. It wasn’t the right time for the right people who had to be involved. There’s a number of reasons why things don’t work out. But there’s also a number of reasons why things do. You just have to keep trying and keep doing what you need to do
Kelly: Keep stumbling through it.
Amanda: I look forward to your next projects and seeing how this all develops. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
Kelly: Thank you so much. I really appreciate being here, and thanks for the opportunity to speak to you and your folks.
Kelly’s books are available on Amazon: