David Shapiro started a production company out of his bedroom. He and editor Jacob Schulsinger discuss their work on Kristen Stewart's directorial debut, 'Come Swim,' at Sundance.
In this episode of the No Film School podcast, our guests David Ethan Shapiro, CEO of Starlight Studios, and Jacob Schulsinger, editor (Force Majeure, Nymphomaniac I and II), discuss their Sundance premiere, Come Swim, Kristen Stewart's experimental short film. We talk about the merits of film school and why it's important to recreate that atmosphere of creative freedom, the secret to raising money as a producer, how to start a production company from your bedroom, why editors should help directors write movies, the two-year development process of Come Swim, and more.
Below are some excerpts from the interview.
"Kristen [Stewart] really speaks a cinematic language... this was a project she needed to make. The early draft was somewhere between a poem and an outline. As she wrote, she also painted. She painted the opening shot. You have a machete and you're cutting through the woods and there's no clear path, but you're trusting in the idea. It's a really singular vision."
"The best directors are producers as well. The biggest thing: have no shame. No one likes asking for money. You just do it."
"The biggest thing I got out of film school was the people I met. When you move to LA, so much of it is finding your people. You're trying to recreate your film school experience, where you have this incubated world where you're making your movies with people that you love."
"I learned how to raise money in film school because I never had money to fund my own films. It's a really important skill: raising money and closing those deals. The best directors are producers as well. The biggest thing: Have no shame. No one likes asking for money. You just do it. It's like cold calls—you're doing it in pursuit of something that's more meaningful than whatever momentary imbalance you may feel. I always ask myself, what would you do if you were not afraid? Usually, the answer is, you'd do the thing you want to do. There are so many outlets that are outside of the traditional studio system. You just have to seek them out. Private capital from friends of friends will help you make deals with these respective partners, because you know in the back of your head that you don't need these people; you can go find the money yourself. You have to be prepared to walk away from a deal even if you really need the money."