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A graduate of USC's film program and a filmmaker with a marketing degree from Georgetown, Stu Pollard's work is the product of a smart and committed filmmaker who also maintains a savvy business sense - a successful blend that's ensured his films - the romantic comedy Nice Guys Sleep Alone, and the suspense/drama Keep Your Distance - are both personal and well-produced for filmgoers wanting more than predictable studio fare.

Pollard's hands-on approach means he's completely accountable for every stage of a film's birth and maturation, and while prior interviews have focused on the writing, casting, and filming of his latest work, Pollard generously discussed a stage in a film's life span that he acknowledges most filmmakers tend to ignore - distribution in theatrical and ancillary markets (like home video, pay TV, etc.).

The life of an independently financed and produced motion picture rarely mirrors the meteoric success of films like The Blair Witch Project - an experience which can be distilled to a movie being discovered and mass-distributed with a major ad campaign, and giving fame and fortune to once-poor filmmakers.

For these phenomena, the media's focus is often on how they got to the top, and while an indie filmmaker may hope for such heady good fortune, the reality is a long and patient journey over months and years to get their films accepted into film festivals, and sell their work to video and TV distributors. It's less sexy, but as you'll learn from Pollard's own experience, selling and distributing one's film can be an extraordinarily empowering experience.

Note: the following interview integrates and edits comments from two separate interviews conducted in the fall of 2003, and January 2006.


Pollard directing Jennifer Westfeldt & Gil BellowsCLICK for IMDB entry!Pollard directing Stacy Keach

Mark R. Hasan: Did you have to do a lot of advance research regarding the production of a DVD?

Stu Pollard: I think we were very fortunate to do a DVD... When Nice Guys Sleep Alone got its first video deal with Hollywood Video, they ordered 10,000 units of the movie, and they almost ordered 10,000 VHS and no DVDs, but at the last minute they changed the order to 8,000 VHS, and 2,000 DVDs.

That opened the door for me to do a separate edition, once the Hollywood deal ended, because I got to meet the guy who authored it for Hollywood [Clive Bush] and as a result, I got my own version out. Getting that film to DVD was one of [the] most important accomplishment in getting the second film made, because every business plan [for] Keep Your Distance had a DVD tucked into the back of it from Nice Guys - which was a great way to show a sample of my work.

The second thing that I sort of picked up from the process was getting out and having to push my movie to all these different video stores... I guess it was the best lesson that I could have possibly asked for in salesmanship: trying to get somebody to rent your movie at a video store, or [get] an independent video store to pick up your film. It's a very similar mind set to asking an investor to put money into a new project... so in a lot of ways, getting out and selling that film as much as I did, once I got it to DVD, was what really gave me the confidence to go out and start working on a new project.


MRH: During the early planning stages of your latest film, Keep Your Distance, did you think about shooting on DV instead of film?

SP: Having gone to film school at USC... we shot on 8mm and 16mm, and a lot of the thesis projects I produced for my fellow students were shot on 35mm; so call me a film snob if you want, but I'm a big proponent of wanting [film] to be a big part of the aesthetic.

Now going in, we set the fundraising goals for the picture accordingly. A lot of people ask me, ‘Why spend that extra money to shoot on film?' And my answer always is, ‘Because I want it to look like a film.' People who don't shoot on film all have one thing in common, regardless the format they choose: if they're not shooting on film, they're trying to do something to the DV, or the HD, or whatever it might be to make it look like film; so I supposed that the biggest difference there, from an economic standpoint, is just knowing that that's what I wanted going in.

I didn't get to $1.2 million dollars and say, ‘That's enough money to make this thing on HD or on DV.' We needed to raise enough money to accommodate shooting on 35mm film, [and to have] an adequate shooting ratio, and all that kind of good stuff, so I spent an extra six months raising enough money to do it, and that's not something a lot of people are willing to do.


MRH: Were there any stages in the production of the Nice Guys DVD that you found were particularly challenging, or were there areas that were actually much easier to produce compared to film production?

SP: This may be another fundamental difference between studio DVDs and indies, [but] there was so much lag time between when we shot the film and when we actually were getting to do a DVD that we had an incredible amount of perspective on it... In the summer of 1998, I had no real concept of what a DVD was at that stage. I had a laserdisc collection, but I did not do any forward thinking with regards to special materials or all that. So the fact that we got all the stuff that you saw on that DVD was a little bit of good fortune.

Keep Your Distance website!

CLICK for IMDB entry!


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