Producer Shane Stanley's RX for Film Students

Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith on

Writer-Producer-Director Shane Stanley has good news and bad news for aspiring filmmakers. The good news: "There's no reason you can't be making movies people will enjoy." The bad news: You'll probably need to abandon your ideas about red carpets and Rolls-Royces.

Stanley illuminates the world of movie-making in detail in his fast-paced book, "What You Don't Learn in Film School," speaking from his own sometimes-agonized experience in the film realm.

The book is part of a trifecta of current projects for Stanley -- one that also includes his "Mistrust" movie with Jane Seymour, premiering in June on Showtime, and a retail reissue of Dwayne Johnson's "Gridiron Gang" feature, tied to the 25th anniversary of the Emmy-winning documentary hosted by Louis Gossett Jr. that inspired the movie. (Stanley co-produced both.)

Come summer, some 2,500 retail outlets, such as Walmart, Fry's and Best Buy, will carry DVDs of the inspiring movie in which Johnson plays Probation Officer Sean Porter, who created a high school football team with detainees at a California detention center.

Stanley says the idea of writing a book for film students came out of his experiences in leading workshops for up-and-comers in recent years at several colleges and universities across the country. He's commiserated with teachers about how few film students actually end up making movies. "I've spoken to some top educators who'll admit that 80 to 90 percent never earn a dime off our industry.

"I quote my friend Kelly Graham-Scherer, who is part of the (Canadian) Film Board, that students come out of school knowing things they don't need to learn -- obscure French cinema and what Christopher Nolan was thinking when he made 'Inception.' What does that do for you?" he asks. "How is that going to land you money? How is that going to teach you how to run a crew of 200? How is that going to teach you how to make money with a movie and deliver it?"

His book gets down into the nitty-gritty, touching upon real-life topics like on-set meals, keeping records for the IRS as an indie filmmaker and distribution pitfalls. One of his personal experiences provides a lesson in the potential pain of failing to keep close enough tabs on a project after the editing is completed.

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It was a film in which he and a partner had self-invested, "no outside financing," he recalls. Then their sales agent handed out 75 copies. "We had a sweet foreign output deal and some domestic stuff lined up. Then the calls started coming in: 'You know, your film is on YouTube.'

"The worst was not knowing how the dark web worked back then. You get one (video) taken down, and then another would appear to take its place. I'd be sitting at a red light with my BlackBerry and its 2G technology, seeing this happen. I filed more than 700 copyright infringement claims," he says.

Of course, digital technology cuts both ways. "Because of technology, I believe we can make great products for little money. I've made $20,000 features with big stars that have been distributed all across the world," notes Stanley. "I don't like working at that level, because you pay to work, but there's still markets for that."

Up-and-comers, he believes, can find a sweet spot for creativity and success in the $500,000 range.

As for Stanley, in his perfect world, he'd like to go from full-time filmmaker/part-time teacher to the opposite within the next decade. He admits, "I just am so passionate about these kids."

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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