Film and Family

Ep. 37 - Your Advantage Over Hollywood

May 07, 2021 Kent & Anna Thalman
Film and Family
Ep. 37 - Your Advantage Over Hollywood
Film and Family
Ep. 37 - Your Advantage Over Hollywood
May 07, 2021
Kent & Anna Thalman

When you're starting out as a filmmaker you may feel that you are at a complete disadvantage. Understanding the advantages you have as a new filmmaker over Hollywood will  help you play to your strengths as you break out. Come learn what small resources can make a big difference in starting your film career.

This podcast is owned and sponsored by Invisible Mansion Pictures. For more resources, visit us at:

Show Notes Transcript

When you're starting out as a filmmaker you may feel that you are at a complete disadvantage. Understanding the advantages you have as a new filmmaker over Hollywood will  help you play to your strengths as you break out. Come learn what small resources can make a big difference in starting your film career.

This podcast is owned and sponsored by Invisible Mansion Pictures. For more resources, visit us at:

Ep. 37 - Your Advantage Over Hollywood

[00:00:00] Kent Thalman: [00:00:00] Hi, I'm Kent 

[00:00:01] Anna Thalman: [00:00:01] and I'm Anna. 

[00:00:02]Kent Thalman: [00:00:02] And this is film and family, a podcast for filmmakers who want to see real progress in their film, careers without sacrificing their health or relationships hit subscribe to never miss an episode. 

[00:00:13]Anna Thalman: [00:00:13] Let's jump right in 

[00:00:14]Kent Thalman: [00:00:14] speaking of health. I'm not in the best of it. 

[00:00:19] Anna Thalman: [00:00:19] You might hear it in his voice a little bit.

[00:00:21] Kent Thalman: [00:00:21] Yes. Okay. Well, let's jump right in today. We are talking about. How to prep a turnkey production and your built-in advantage over Hollywood as a first-timer. So mainly think what I'd like to talk about is just some of the advantages of not having broken out yet. And, reminds me right off the bat of something I've heard. Jared Hess say, who's talked about, pitching Napoleon dynamite to people who are wanting to change really, really key things about the movie. And he said don't ever give up creative control on your first feature. He said, because if that thing breaks you out. That's the last [00:01:00] time you're going to have full control over a movie. Now that's Jared Hess's experience, but there's some wisdom there. It's, if you're going to try and make something to pander or direct it to, uh, general audiences or whatever on your first go around. You're kind of playing a losing game, make something that's extremely personal, something that you don't think would ever get funded, by a big Hollywood studio, you know? So that's the first thing that jumps to my mind. 

[00:01:25] Anna Thalman: [00:01:25] Yeah. I think when we make our first film, there's so much to complain about so much that we're missing or not. You know, we don't have a big crew. We don't have a big amount of funding usually. And so. I just want to think about what are the advantages of making your first film. And when in the early days, there are advantages that you have that you might not know to enjoy because it's your first time, but then it's over. And that chance might escape you. If you make a really great film and you break out. [00:02:00]so what are some of our advantages as new filmmakers? You mentioned creative control. I think that's a huge one. You might not have that, man. That's a sad thing to think, but you know, a lot of movies have directors cuts that you can watch in the bonus features because they didn't actually get to have their cut in theatres. 

[00:02:20] Kent Thalman: [00:02:20] Yeah. Well, it's rare that directors get final cut, although it happens. but I mean, the other thing that jumps to my mind is that we usually complain about the lack of money, but making your own film. Without being affiliated with a studio without having A list actors and without being associated with unions can save you a whole ton of money. cause you don't have to pay union dues, those union dues, don't up your budget, which then puts you into a new union tier, which then makes you have to increase everyone's pay, which then. Ups your budget, which then forces you into the next union tier, which I have a friend who's experienced that [00:03:00] on budgeting, a film that like every time he adjusts the budget for the union, tier it bumps into the next tier, which bumps him to the next tier. It's this endless cycle. And so there are some advantages there as well. you mentioned something Anna about. locations. 

[00:03:15] Anna Thalman: [00:03:15] Yeah I think you do actually save money by not being big. And like you were saying, it's kind of an exponential growth thing where even if you have a bigger budget, things cost more, the union dues costs more. if people know that you're bringing in a big budget production, or if they know what your budget is, then they're going to charge more, which is unfortunate. But true. We realized that on our short film that we made was that a lot of people gauged us because they knew the budget and they knew we had some money. And so they charged more because of that. And people will even ask what's your budget. And you might be proud of that money that you raised and want to tell people, but it's probably better not to just [00:04:00] say we're really low budget, you know, next to nothing production, unless that's not true, but. It's hard. It's hard when people ask questions like that and it just costs more. The more that you raise 

[00:04:12] Kent Thalman: [00:04:12] yeah. it's Price discrimination to some degree, but in another degree, a location should charge more for a big production because they're going to bring in a big production into that location, which could cause a heavier shut down way more blockage of whatever that location's. Normal operations are way more damage film. I mean, a movies, even the most professional of movies do damage to locations. And so. In some ways, I'm like, that's fine. And we don't want to say working with big actors, having huge career breaks and working with Hollywood studios is bad. The point is, is that we're focusing on what are the advantages that you can be grateful for now, if you're still breaking in, those advantages that you can recognize as affordances of your current situation that you can leverage to allow you, To [00:05:00] compete, as a whether, your micro budget or low budget, or modified low budget, whatever it is, you might be in one union, but not many others. You might be in no unions, or the movie itself might not be operating, affiliated with any unions. 

[00:05:14] Anna Thalman: [00:05:15] Yeah, I think when you have a small crew and nobody knows you. You can kind of fly under the radar. You can get into places that would otherwise be a little scared of a big production coming in. I know we experienced this on our feature film. There were locations where people didn't really know that we were even making a feature film. They're kind of like, what's this project that you're doing. 

[00:05:38] Kent Thalman: [00:05:38] How long is it going to be? 

[00:05:39] Anna Thalman: [00:05:39] Yeah. so there's things to enjoy about the early days and being able to get access where other productions would get scared away. Or sorry, where other people would be scared away by a big production or they might be charged a huge fee. I think that some small businesses would say, I don't even want to try to figure out [00:06:00] all that paperwork and just turn it away. but we were able to get some small little locations that were really nice for what we were making and. People who actually worked in those locations, who would act in the film and they did a great job. I thought 

[00:06:16] Kent Thalman: [00:06:16] there was some, there were some big surprises. 

[00:06:19] Anna Thalman: [00:06:19] Some of that was the most enjoyable stuff for me was when it was. Actual documentary. We just give them a few lines, work with some people who really, 

[00:06:28] Kent Thalman: [00:06:28] yeah. In our film, we had a pilot who played the pilot. We had a waiter who played the waiter. We had people working behind the desk at a, daycare who played the people working behind the desk at a daycare. And all of those people turned out to be really good. In fact, one of them turned out to be actor he's actually breaking in, you know, he's working in the acting field. And so he was. Actually good. I was a little worried when they told me he was actually an actor, I thought, Oh, but sometimes just a normal guy, who's a waiter would probably be better than having an actual actor because they're going to try [00:07:00] to act if you know what I mean? he was totally, totally natural. In fact, we actually got more coverage on him than we were ever expecting to do. because he was so good. He was so good on camera and stuff. 

[00:07:12] Anna Thalman: [00:07:12] And the manager stepped in and she played a role. 

[00:07:15] Kent Thalman: [00:07:15] Yeah and She did a great job. She was totally stepped into it and, had like a small line or two. And 

[00:07:21] Anna Thalman: [00:07:21] our bus driver was an actual bus driver and she was excellent. She even learned the character names and incorporated that into her one or two lines that she had as they get on the bus, the preschool. They were so natural. I was like, it's like, you do this for a living or something. You're so good at it. But I feel like that gave it an authenticity that I'm glad we were able to get. 

[00:07:46] Kent Thalman: [00:07:46] Yeah. And most of these places were still in operation while we were shooting in them, which made some issues with sound that we had to dance around a little bit, but we managed to get everything we needed. To an acceptable quality in my opinion. And I gave [00:08:00] it another authenticity. We didn't have to fill it with extras because they just had the restaurant running. Yeah. And, there were people walking around in their reflections of the office at the daycare. So it looked like it was an operation, which was once again, like we didn't have to hire extras for all that. And, it gave it this great authenticity. It and it felt like it wasn't totally documentary. It felt like a fiction film, but there was that bleeding documentary sense of realism that I, personally love in films that I felt like. Allowed it, I don't know. I think in the end it will help the film. So we'll see, I guess in the end end how the movie itself turns out. But these are huge advantages that I feel like big, big movies, rarely get to enjoy. don't get me wrong. I'd be happy to work for a big studio, to be honest, I wouldn't mind giving it a try. I don't know if I like it, but I would like to give it a try. I'd be happy to work with a [00:09:00] lot of money, even if that means I'm working with A list actors and paying lots of union dues and whatnot. but for now there's some really cool scrappy filmmaking you can do, and there are people who've done it. to varying degrees, no mad land to varying degrees used real people, real locations. they had a lot more money than we did, but, They didn't light it hardly at all. They used a little bit of LEDs and stuff. 

[00:09:24]Anna Thalman: [00:09:26] and you look at the credits on that film and they're 

[00:09:28] Kent Thalman: [00:09:28] short, 

[00:09:28] Anna Thalman: [00:09:28] small 

[00:09:29] Kent Thalman: [00:09:29] relative. Sure. they used people who are living in their vans and trailers as like, camera PA's or second ACS and stuff like that.

[00:09:39] Anna Thalman: [00:09:39] And as actual nomads in the film, 

[00:09:41] Kent Thalman: [00:09:41] yeah obviously a lot of the actors were social actors. But yeah, totally stunning stuff coming out of that movie. and I'm trying to remember the other film I was going to mention that was kind of like this, I mean, there's movies that are shot in the middle of baseball games, like spotlight the show in the middle of a, Boston [00:10:00] major league baseball game with a full stadium. And they only had a certain amount of time and audio I'm sure was a nightmare. I don't know how they did it sounded good. Maybe they just dubbed over it. But I, I, you know, some guys are just good at their jobs, but that scene was cool and it just felt good. So you can do this. And there are other people that are doing it. And I guess I mentioned those big movies because to me, it gives me license. When I see a movie like nomad land, with like a crew of five people on set, including the director. And I'm like, Oh, it's not like you're cheating. Or you're not doing a real movie. that movie just won best picture. And best director and best actress and it got nominated for best cinematography . So it's not like it's not a real movie. It's super, totally real movie. It's awesome. And you can make awesome stuff too. so go make awesome stuff. 

[00:10:50]Anna Thalman: [00:10:50] Yeah. So you can save money, you can get access. There's a degree of authenticity that you can, Have in your film, [00:11:00] there's being able to kind of fly under the radar with a small crew, move quickly, be lean, and efficient. There's the creative control. And I would say the other big advantage I want to talk about is before you even start filmmaking, before you actually start production and. A lot of people look at this as a disadvantage, but you could also look at it as a huge advantage, which is the amount of time you have to prep your film, 

[00:11:27] Kent Thalman: [00:11:28] something we did not take advantage of on this latest feature.

[00:11:30] Anna Thalman: [00:11:30] we did not. And that's why we want to share these because if you know these advantages, you can take advantage of them and use it.

[00:11:38]Kent Thalman: [00:11:38] So that is something we talked about in prep for other films. We said explicitly what we lack in money and resources we will make up for in preparation. And we cannot compete in terms of money on this film, you know, who knows what the future will bring, but for now we don't have that, fiscal sponsorship. but [00:12:00] we do have time, which means we can prep and we can be very detail oriented. We can really workshop the script until we feel strongly about it. We can, adjust the timeline. After our main two actors left, we slowed way down and we're really careful with the way we shot with our kids and the way we handled production. After that, we really use our resources a little more carefully, and that gave us time to really make the film. You know, just a little bit more of a careful endeavor and, and not be so haphazard and rushed about it. And so, you could also go to the nth degree, right? Shot lists, storyboard, do animatics. I mean, you could do the stuff that they do on big feature films, sometimes like big, big ones, you know, do animatics and do rehearsal cuts of the movie. Like. AMI Lee, they shot the whole thing on videotape. Shot for shot the DP and the director. And then they cut a whole version of it together with all these, like, them standing in [00:13:00] as all the actors. We've done that on a short film before, and it gave us huge clarity on set. We were able to shoot a ton of coverage in like a nine hour period, and it was pretty. Big for a $300 short film, we had like a train and we had a bunch of extras and it wasn't that great. We were students. But 

[00:13:17] Anna Thalman: [00:13:17] do you remember what the time limit was, 

[00:13:19] Kent Thalman: [00:13:19] you had to be able to shoot in one day and you had to be able to pre produce it, shoot it. And finished post-production within a six week time period, 

[00:13:27]Anna Thalman: [00:13:28] the shoot day,

[00:13:28]Kent Thalman: [00:13:28] I'm wearing the shirt for six weeks cinema, which was that little pilot program they did in school. 

[00:13:33] Anna Thalman: [00:13:34] It was a good thing. Yeah, we were because we knew that we would be short on time. We went ahead of time, Kent DP'ed. And I directed it just like this feature, 

[00:13:43] Kent Thalman: [00:13:43] we had a great AD James Hall.

[00:13:45] Anna Thalman: [00:13:45] Yes we did. And he kept us on schedule, even though we had shots that had to be up and done in 15 minutes or less, every single one was 15 minutes or less. So it was very quick, but because we want ahead of [00:14:00] time, Kent and I went and rehearsed camera and shot. We just used. I don't remember even using like a puppet or a stuffed animal or something for one of the compositions, because we didn't quite have enough people, but we just use the people we had with us and kind of stood in and said, this is whatthe camera will do. We shot it on a cell phone. 

[00:14:19] Kent Thalman: [00:14:19] Anna And I, and our one main actor who was my friend, who's not an actor. He's a pianist actually. He's incredible. His name is Dallin Ficklin and he. was so natural for this part. We just said, he needs to do it because he's that guy. And he has a natural camera presence, which he did. He was great. yeah, it was just three of us running around this train yard and just shot it on like an A7S and then the day of we shot it on two cameras and the AD was super, super prepared. James. And we were very prepared for that film. And Anna had done a lot of homework for that. And, it was a short film and it was a good [00:15:00] experience for us to look back on and say now that level of preparation on a feature film is something else. I mean, that's, going to take months to do that, that much preparation. I apologize for my voice. but it's possible because you've got no one breathing down your neck. 

[00:15:13]Anna Thalman: [00:15:13] Yeah. And this is something it's a luxury that. You might not have on other projects where you are working for a studio, you might have deadlines.

[00:15:22] You have to meet that are more fixed. Eventually you'll have deadlines on yours as well. But in the meantime, while you're pitching, while you're trying to get your film greenlit, take advantage of the time to prepare everything, you can get a turnkey production where all you need is the money locked in and you can go. So we can't beat them in dollars, but we do have other advantages, namely creative control, preparation time, 

[00:15:51] Kent Thalman: [00:15:52] and time can be tricky because you have to pay the bills and you might not be making enough money while you're making your first fill or two, to really [00:16:00] just put everything else aside. So I do recommend by the way, if you even have a small budget paying yourself something, if not enough to take a month or two of work off, That situations can be different for everyone, but don't be afraid to invest in yourself because your attention will serve the film deeply. A lot of people throw their money into the budget of the film. We actually put some of our money into the budget of the film, but we still paid ourselves a little bit so that we could. Just keep going with it. And it just helped cushion the financial burden of the film just a little bit. And that is important. I think that sometimes we over estimate the value of sort of these tangible resources and we underestimate the value of people. And I could put a lot of money into a film, I would put a lot of money into the people, the actors, the production designer. cinematographer, the producer, the director, so that they can really focus without major distractions. [00:17:00] Speaking of major distractions, you're going to hear a little bit of background noise because we are at a family reunion in North Carolina. So apologies for them, found the quietest room, which happens to be a theater in this Airbnb. 

[00:17:13] Anna Thalman: [00:17:14] Yeah. So is there anything else we want to add to that?

[00:17:17]Kent Thalman: [00:17:17] I think everyone gets it.

[00:17:18]Anna Thalman: [00:17:18] Yeah. We can keep this episode short. 

[00:17:20]Kent Thalman: [00:17:21] Yeah. Well, you guys, thanks for joining us on this episode. let us know some of your thoughts, experiences, reach out to us, check us out at and keep making some, you know, great stuff. If you're making or working on short films, commercials, feature films. If you're running into problems, or if you'd just like to share, please reach out. If you're prepping a film and you want to be pitching it around, pitch it to us and, you know, We'll let you know what we think of it and give you whatever feedback you want, or just give it a look. We just love collaborating. We love meeting people And now's a good time to be reaching out to us and connecting, networking, and sharing. 

[00:17:55] Anna Thalman: [00:17:55] Yeah. And if you want to be more involved with what we do, you can check out our website, [00:18:00], and we're regularly updating that website with, you know, new projects that we're working on or opportunities that we have. And so you can check us out there, check out the coaching program. I need to name it something better. eventually we'll have a name. And in that program, we mentor you through making your first feature and you receive coaching for 12 weeks currently. That's probably going to end, so take advantage again while that's available and yeah, let's keep in touch. Keep listening. 

[00:18:33]Kent Thalman: [00:18:34] Thanks. Bye. 

[00:18:35] Anna Thalman: [00:18:35] Bye.