Thursday, June 14, 2018

Interview with Filmmaker/Author Shane Stanley @shanestanley

Multi-Emmy Award winning filmmaker Shane Stanley has worked in almost every capacity on and off the set starting with hit shows like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Seinfeld.”

Along with his father, Stanley produced “The Desperate Passage Series,” which was nominated for 33 individual Emmy Awards and won 13 statues. In this series, five of the seven specials went No.1 in Nielson Ratings, which included “A Time for Life” and “Gridiron Gang.”

Stanley has produced films starring Marlon Brando, Mira Sorvino, Thomas Hayden Church, Donald Sutherland, Marisa Tomei and Martin Sheen. He co-wrote two of the films and has worked closely with top Hollywood executives.

Stanley has taught workshops at many film schools and universities. He is the founder of Visual Arts Entertainment, a production company based in Los Angeles. He is still active in teaching, working with several schools, film students, and recent grads as a mentor and guide.



Multi Emmy-Award winning filmmaker Shane Stanley, a lifelong entertainment industry insider, has worked in every aspect of the film industry, covering a multitude of movies, television shows, and other projects. In his valuable new book, WHAT YOU DON’T LEARN IN FILM SCHOOL: A
COMPLETE GUIDE TO INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING, Stanley takes a candid look at the film business and offers ambitious young filmmakers important information on how to navigate every aspect of making movies, from initial pitch to distributing a finished product. The book “is written for anyone who hopes to have a career in the industry at any position, but (is) geared for (the) total filmmaker,” Stanley says.

Producer Neal H. Moritz (“Fast & Furious,”S.W.A.T.,” “21 and 22 Jump Street”), says that WHAT YOU DON’T LEARN IN FILM SCHOOLpulls no punches. It's one of the most insightful and accurate books ever written on the subject, a master class bridging the gap between school and real-life experience that will save you years of heartache. A must-read for anyone interested in pursuing a career in film.”

Jane Seymour, two-time Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner, actress, producer and founder of the Open Hearts Foundation, declares that Stanley’s “step-by-step guide is a must-read for anyone hoping to break into the world of independent cinema, along with many useful tips for those who desire to work within a studio or network system.”

Jeff Sagansky, former president of Sony Entertainment and CBS Entertainment, notes that “Shane Stanley takes you to a film school that only years of practical experience can teach. He covers both the business of independent filmmaking as well as the hard-earned secrets of a successful production. A must-read for anyone who wants to produce.”

A lifelong veteran of the film world, Stanley has directed and produced hundreds of film and television projects, including the 2006 No. 1 Box Office hit “Gridiron Gang,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. His clearly-written guide to navigating the shoals of independent filmmaking comes from his hands-on experience, covering such topics as choosing what material to produce, raising independent capital, hiring a production crew and selecting the right cast.

WHAT YOU DON’T LEARN IN FILM SCHOOL is an essential book written by someone who clearly understands the independent film business from the inside.


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Thank you for this interview! I’d like to know more about you as a person first.

What do you do when you’re not writing? Lately when I’m not writing, I am usually preparing to direct a film or am in the middle of ones post-production. I do plan to stop and smell the roses again as it’s been too long since I’ve done the non-work related things I truly enjoy which include a drive through the desert at sunrise, going to the channel islands for a day of scuba diving or head up to Mammoth for some snowboarding.

When did you start writing? 

I never thought I could really write. I poked around but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s and had the privilege of working with filmmaker, Zalman King (Wild Orchid, 9½ Weeks) and one night over dinner in Bali, Indonesia while we were filming In God’s Hands I pitched him an idea for his hit series, Red Shoe Diaries. He liked my story and said, “Write it in 40 pages or less!” I did and he bought it. I was now a professional writer. Soon after, I was hired to write action films for the straight-to-video market in the 8-12 million dollar budget range.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life? 

Being able to formulate the life lessons that brought me to the point of finally writing a book such as this. It’s something I have always wanted to do, but never did. Much like the filmmaking side of my career, things happen because I put them into motion and then once I achieve something new and I want to continue, it becomes a part of my repertoire and subsequently my every day life. 

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why? 

I would like to go to Croatia. I have never been but a good friend of mine goes all the time and after seeing the pictures I feel so inspired. He co-owns a resort out there, I just need to pack a bag, kidnap my wife and go one day. My only fear is we might not come back. J

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do? 

If I had four hours of found time, I would write. Tomorrow I might give you a different answer but that’s what I’d do today.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet? 

One of the most intriguing films I ever saw was Enchanting April - don’t ask. I would love to write something one-tenth as good, set up in Big Sur or Carmel and just let ‘er rip. The more I think about it, the more I think I’m going to have to put pen to paper and do that one…

Back to your present book, What You Don’t Learn in Film School: A Complete Guide to (Independent) Filmmaking, how did you publish it? 

It was originally created as cheat sheet to me save time when consulting other filmmakers and quickly got loose from me and turned in to a 200-page book. I thought about breaking it up into segments for various blogs I had been offered to contribute to but quickly realized there was information in there that no other book of its genre offered. I went to work on finding an outlet and I partnered with a group of mavericks who were focusing on industry how-to guides and just let the chips fall where they may.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research? 

Well, the book is a culmination of my 30-plus years as a filmmaker, which I’ve circled the globe several times to do. I wish I was able to go some place remote and beautiful to gather my thoughts but unfortunately, I wrote it during the holidays and had to stay home for some family obligations. There’s always next time…

Why was writing What You Don’t Learn in Film School: A Complete Guide to (Independent) Filmmaking so important to you? 

I feel much like the middle class in our country - the true, independent filmmaker - is rapidly becoming extinct and I want to do everything I can to prevent that from happening. I believe I can offer a wealth of knowledge from several aspects of the industry and hope the book will encourage the next generation and help them go into the business better armed with the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed. I wanted to hand them a map…my map, to help make the journey along the highway to Hell a little easier on their feet so they can avoid some of the blisters and twisted ankles I suffered over the last 30 years.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is? 

I get my best ideas of inspiration from other sources of art. It could be a great song on the radio or a beautiful painting at an art show that gets me rolling. Even a majestic sunset or a fine wine has been known to do the trick. Inspiration for me can come from the most bizarre places at the most inopportune times. For example, the idea for my newest film, The Untold Story came from seeing at a well-known actor sitting in his car next to me at a red light who was clearly miserable on a rainy afternoon.

Any final words? 

I think as storytellers, we have a certain responsibility. I know as a filmmaker it’s my job to take viewers into a world they can never experience for themselves, or to a place they just want to be immersed in for 90 minutes. It’s the same for authors and painters. Our work can either leave an uplifting or destructive impression on people, and that’s quite a load when you really think about it. Remember the power your gift has on others and how it can impact them. I know I’d like to make the world a better place than I found it…how about you?

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