EOC 004: Filmmaker David Rountree and His Decade-Long Overnight Success

David's headshot

David’s headshot

Oh, my. Episode four already. We’re making steady progress with this podcast thing. Thank you so much for everyone who’s tuning in and thank you for all the love shared. I appreciate you!

I’m really excited about this episode, as I talk with filmmaker David Rountree (his IMDb), who was referred to the program by Jake Katofsky, who I interviewed on Take 2. David is a multi-talented guy who writes, produces, and directs his own movies. So far, David has directed four and produced five features under the banner of his company, Psycho Rock Productions.

Initially a sports guy, David has a curious journey, as he kind of fell into acting (he joined the drama club because he had a crush on an actress). His first real gig was on a local TV show in North Carolina, where David’s from. Attributing a lot of his early success to the marketability of the athlete in him (David practiced three sports!), he eventually signed on with a manager and moved to Hollywood, where he worked as an actor, eventually transitioning to behind the camera.

Listen to the interview here:

On this take, we discuss:

  • Reasons David had to fire people in his crew
  • Mistakes he made as a director and the lessons he learned from the experience
  • Advantages of having your own production company
  • How some athletic background may help you as an actor
  • Tips for actors doing auditions
  • How lucky he was as an actor for booking a major commercial right out of the gate and immediately getting his SAG card!
  • How he had a 2-year lull in his acting career that made him appreciate how tough the business is.
  • Why you should double your rate of failure

 

Show Notes

Highlights

108 Stitches movie David Rountree Josh Blue

David and  comedian Josh Blue on the set of “108 Stitches.”

One of the main things I wanna hammer home as a post-analysis is how long it takes to be successful in this game. As David and I discussed on the show, “overnight” success in Hollywood usually takes a decade or so, which is not as a random number as you might think. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell argues that proficiency in any trade takes about 10,000 hours of practice, trial-and-errors, skill honing, etc. That’s 10,000 hours of hard work towards whatever you want to be, not counting hours of sleep, eating, etc. According to Gladwell, most people need 10 years to run the clock on those 10,000 hours.

Now here’s the kicker: In Hollywood, more often than not “successful” just means doing what you love full time even if you’re not getting paid ridiculous amounts of money to do it! It’s the difference between, for example, a working actor and a struggling actor. A struggling actor is someone who needs a 9-to-5 to pay rent. On the other hand, a working actor is someone who already has representation and collaborators in this business so that he is constantly employed. He can’t retire just yet, but at least he can earn a full time living doing what he’s passionate about. For me, that’s the definition of success in Hollywood: doing what you love and getting paid in the process. The next level after this is stardom. That’s reserved for the Steve Spielbergs, the Meryl Streeps, the Jerry Bruckheimers, the Shane Blacks. These are professionals so talented and so sought-after that they don’t have to hunt for jobs because there are people hunting for them. It’s a glorious position to be in, but one that usually requires much more than 10,000 hours of experience in addition to the right connections, constant improving one’s skills, and luck.

The bottom line here is: avoid giving yourself a deadline, especially a short one. Odds are: you’re not going to have your big break within a year or two after moving to Hollywood. And that’s true for everyone in the business. Know that it takes time. Learn to love the process. Thicken your skin. Court failure and keep at it.

 

David Recommends

Read Scripts

When I asked David what books he would like to recommend for the listeners, he said that actors should read more screenplays. David explains that reading scripts helps you understand why things are written a certain way and helps you to be in that mindset, which is a great point because everyone in this business should be comfortable reading screenplays, and definitely actors.

One of my readers once told me that reading scripts is boring. Well, it shouldn’t be. Or even if it is, you should do it enough till it becomes second nature because – trust me – that’s a skill that will benefit you in this industry. David recommended Drew’s script-o-rama as his script database.

Save the Cat!

As far as books go, Save the Cat! was David’s recommendation for us. This screenwriting book, which was recommended to David by producer/manager Dan Halstead, is a little gem of a read for filmmakers and screenwriters as it discusses salability of a script, including the marketability of a logline and the target audience.

Stage 32

David also recommended Stage 32 as an online resource. David calls it “Facebook for filmmakers.” By the way, thanks to David’s referral, I’m now in the process of the scheduling an interview with Richard “RB” Botto, the CEO and founder of Stage 32. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, and I’ll let you know once that happens! You can connect with David on his Stage 32 profile or on Twitter @psychorock2.

 

And here’s the trailer to David’s upcoming film, CUT!

  

Coming Soon

Next week, I talk with Angel Hunter, an administrative assistant at 20th Century Fox, giving us insight on the corporate track and why you should consider it. Stay tuned.

EOC 002: Interview with Jake Katofsky, producer/ screenwriter

Here's Jake at (what I believe is) the premiere

Jake living the dream

In this take of our podcast, I speak with Jake Katofsky, a producer and writer whose first feature, 108 Stitches, is now available on Amazon and other VOD platforms.

Jake is (only) a student but through unlimited passion, smart networking, and perseverance, he found his way into an independent production that features such talents as the Oscar-nominated Bruce Davison, the Emmy-nominated Larry Thomas, and many comedic super stars.

In this show we discuss:

  • Financing and funding
  • Distribution
  • How connections will help your production in several stages
  • Jake’s plans for the future
  • How networking  happens in Hollywood
  • Some pop culture Easter eggs
  • How hard it is to market a movie without the “ideal” cast
  • And more!

 

There are so many things in life you cannot control, but one thing you can control is how hard you work and your attitude when you are working. And I believe that a good work ethic and positive attitude can take you a long way.” – Jake Katofsky

 

108StitchesSet

On the set of 108 Stitches

Show Notes

Highlights

Among many interesting topics discussed, I think one of the biggest takeaways from this episode is how networking was essential for 108 Stitches. We always hear about how crucial networking is, but sometimes there are no examples to illustrate how that occurs. In this episode, I definitely noted many:

  • Jake himself befriended director David Rountree in a film class David taught. In the interview, Jake said he was  the only student who respected David’s time and gear (this story is later corroborated in Take 5 where I interview David).
  • Financing was possible due to the connection the crew had in the baseball world.
  • The production was connected to Bruce Davison (perhaps the biggest name in this film) through a referral by Kate Vernon
  • The production was connected to Larry Thomas through Jake’s grandma who plays mahjong with Larry’s mother (now this is just luck!)
  • Distribution was facilitated because David plays in a weekend baseball league with Mike Simon, who works for the distribution company Freestyle Releasing.

 

Jake Recommends

The book Jake referred to us was Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. This is a book that I also have and enjoy. Though there is a vast ocean of screenwriting books out there, what sets Save The Cat apart is the emphasis in marketing your story, which is a skill not many writers enjoy, but one that is necessary for longevity in Hollywood.

Stage 32 is the online resource Jake recommended to us. Stage 32 is actually how I found Jake, so you know I use it as well. This website is a good place to network with other filmmakers and entertainment professional. Think Facebook for filmmakers.

 

 Elements mentioned in this take

People

  • David Rountree: the director and co-writer of 108 Stitches
  • Bruce Davison: Academy Award nominated actor, plays Coach DeShields in 108 Stitches.
  • Larry Thomas: Emmy nominated actor for playing the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.
  • Kate Vernon: she plays President Jennine Wormer Pratt (a reference to Animal House)
  • J.P. Pierce: the colorist and co-producer
  • Dat Phan: co-star in the movie and Last Comic Standing winner
  • Josh Blue: co-star in the movie and Last Comic Standing winner
  • Allen Maldonado: co-star in the movie (his latest film The Equalizer just opened two months ago).
  • Denzel Washington: one of Jake’s idols and star of The Equalizer.
  • Mike Simon: General Sales Manager at Freestyle Releasing

Companies and institutions

Titles

  • Animal House (1978): a comedy film referenced through the Jennine Wormer Pratt character
  • Seinfeld: a 1990s sitcom referenced in the movie through Larry Thomas, who played the iconic Soup Nazi on that show
  • The Equalizer (2014): thriller headlining Denzel Washington, with 108 Stitches‘ alum, Allen Maldonado
  • Cut! (2014): another movie which David Rountree and Jake also worked on

 

Introducing The Elements of Cinema Podcast, featuring Interviews with Filmmakers

Greetings CinemaNation!

Filmmaking Podcast

Our Artwork

I’m so excited to announce the launch of the Elements of Cinema Podcast, a phenomenal resource for both current and future filmmakers as we will explore different professions and careers in the entertainment industry. This will help us break the business apart and then piece it together.

Here’s our introduction episode in which I explain what the show is about:

Note: This episode is only 6 minutes long because it’s just me talking about the show and the goals I have for it. All other episodes will range between 30 minutes to 1 hour in length as our guests have A LOT to share.

 

What is this Podcast About?

Well, our tagline goes: “Learn Filmmaking from the Pros Living it.” As such, our show will feature interviews with filmmakers and other professionals working in the TV and film industry, which means you will get insights and advice straight from the pros. What else could you ask for?

The emphasis of each interview will on the guests themselves; their journeys, their backgrounds, their successes, their failures, and more. The discussion will be your frame of reference about how the business works, which in turn should guide your filmmaking career and illuminate the obstacles ahead.

So far I have recorded seven interviews that I will be making available to you gradually in the next coming weeks. In the order of release, these are the pros I’ve spoken to so far: Jai Corria (assistant camera/DIT), Jake Katofsky (producer/screenwriter), Shenita Moore (actress/producer), David Rountree (director/producer/screenwriter), Angel Hunter (administrative assistant), Bonnie Gillespie (casting director/producer/author), and Lindsay Adams (production assistant/production coordinator).

Do you see the variety? These amazingly talented experts all come different backgrounds, and they all work in different departments of the business. By talking to them, I learned a lot about their respective careers, successes, struggles, etc. Take a listen to the upcoming interviews, and I promise you, there’s a lot to learn.

If you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter yet, I strongly recommend you do so, so that I can keep you in the loop and let you know when a new episode has been released. You may also get the chance to submit your questions to our guests, so please join our mailing list now for that amazing opportunity.

 

Our Goals and Purposes

As I mentioned in the episode itself, here are my four goals for this endeavor:

1) To teach. I love teaching, which is why I created this blog. The Podcast will allow me learn and then teach things about the business that I really didn’t know much about. Plus, even for the things I know, it’s always better to present topics and concepts as a discussion.

2) To connect. One of the best things about having a blog is the opportunity to connect with and guide  people all over the world. With a podcast, I want to increase this even further by reaching out a different audience. But more importantly, I am hoping that in some cases I will be able to connect guests and listeners to each other. Say, you live in Hollywood, and you are looking for gigs or an internship. Well, I expect that in some cases my guests may take you on board their projects. I can’t promise anything, but I can give it a shot, which is another reason to subscribe to our newsletter, as some of those opportunities will not be broadcast in the blog.

3) To explore the industry. This is a new goal the presented itself as I interviewed my first few guests. What happened was: I learned things about the industry that I didn’t know. Some of it was really nice exciting stuff. For example, when I spoke to Production Coordinator Lindsay Adams (episode 7), I was happy to learn about a 2-Day Production Assistant Bootcamp Crash Course that teaches you the skills you need to know to get a job in the industry as a PA. Priced at $250, I think a course focused like this could actually replace higher education if your goal is to get your foot in the door and climb the rungs of the business. (I have a friend who would argue that nothing replaces the university experience, and he would be right. But maybe you don’t need or want the university experience. Different means for different ends. Know thyself.)

But, on the other hand, I also learned about some frustrating situations such as when I interviewed director-producer David Rountree (episode 5), and he told me about a case in which he had to fire a sound person who, after an altercation with someone on the set, was threatening to delete the sound file he had recorded on set (that’s the audio media for the movie David was making! In other words: irreplaceable assets.)

The more I chat with people, the more I hear things that keep me on the edge of my seat. I often ask my guests about a moment of failure and what they learn from that experience. Those accounts are quite insightful, so stay tuned!

4) To get better at speaking! (That’s no joke.) Of course I can utter sounds, but truth be told, I’ve never considered myself eloquent or articulate. If you listen to the interviews, you will see that I have a long way to go. Luckily, my guests are the stars of the show, not me. In any event, the prophecy is true: the more you practice, the better you become! I think I sound better in my later episodes than I do in the early ones.

 

Listen to Our First Episode Here

This is Jai on the set of Parks and Recreation.

This is Jai on the set of Parks and Recreation.

Our first guest is Jai Corria. Jai is an Assistant Camera and Digital Imagining Technician with over a decade in the film industry. Jai has worked in big shows like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and NBC’s Parks and Recreation. If you are ready to listen to it, click on the link below to be taken to the episode’s page:

Interview with Jai Corria, Assistant Camera/Digital Imaging Technician

 

Acknowledgements / Credits

I must thank my dear friend Guillermo Azurdia for composing the music you hear on the show. Thank you, Guillermo, for providing us with some groovy melodies for the intro, outro, and everything in between! If you want to check some of Guillermo’s other works, click here to listen to Jane Astronaut, Guillermo’s band. You can follow Guillermo on Twitter here @adude.

 

About Podcasts

Because our community spans several locations and age groups, I wanted to take a second to explain what a podcast is in case you don’t know. In a nutshell, a podcast resembles a radio show with audio episodes (MP3 files) being released online  every so often. And because this is the 21st century, this “radio show” is always live in this website and podcast directories (like iTunes or Stitcher) so you can listen to it at any time, day or night, including weekends.

Podcasting is a relatively new medium that is gaining popularity as smartphones become cheaper and the G3 or G4 internet networks become more accessible. You see, most people listen to podcasts on-the-go, usually on the way to work or school, or when doing actives that require little focus, such as folding clothes or cooking rice. You can listen to it from the computer or from your smartphones downloading an app that helps you manage all the different shows you listen to.