ALTERNATE ROUTES: Producing Outside the Studio System

Marty Lang is a screenwriter, filmmaker, journalist and educator. His feature writing/directing debut, RISING STAR, won Best Premiere at the 2012 Seattle True Independent Film Festival, and was acquired for worldwide distribution by Content Film in 2013. His producing credits include the 2016 Independent Spirit Award-nominated OUT OF MY HAND, and BEING MICHAEL MADSEN, starring Michael Madsen, Virginia Madsen and Daryl Hannah. Twitter: @marty_lang.

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ALTERNATE ROUTES: Producing Outside the Studio System by Marty Lang | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

The main focus of this column so far, has been for screenwriters and directors… Ways to get ahead in the industry and get your work in front of the right eyes. But what if you’re into producing? That’s a very different skill set. Thankfully, if that’s your goal, you can get into it without working for one of the major studios.

Want proof? Just talk to Jordan Gershowitz. After working in production and development, Jordan decided to create his own opportunities. That led to his co-founding Grandex Productions, a production company releasing feature comedies that are among the most popular films offered on iTunes.

It’s fitting that iTunes is where Jordan’s movies have found success, because his roots actually lie in music. He played in a pop-punk band called Rushmore, that won an MTV contest for best unsigned band. That got them them an indie record deal, opening slots for acts like The Plain White Ts and Justin Bieber, and even an MTV VMA nomination for Best Breakout Artist.

It also started his production career. He became friends with some MTV production crew members, and told them about his love of TV. That got him a summer internship with MTV, prepping shoots and band interviews, and another internship on the Warner Brothers lot in LA, which cemented his decision to work in film.

_mg_9080After graduating from Indiana University, Jordan started his career as a page at NBC, where he got some serious comedy training. “As a page I got to work on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and attend the legendary SNL after-after parties, all which reinforced my love for comedy,” he said.

After NBC, he produced digital content at CBS and worked as Director of Development for Storyville Entertainment, a New York City production company. Working in long form, he was able to really develop as a storyteller.

I was able to really spread my wings there and focus on storytelling and developing all different types of shows,” he said. “I was able to develop projects for every major television network and really got my first true taste to the ups and down of working in long form, dealing with agents, being apart of contracts negotiations, etc. It was insanity and amazing at the same time.”

But Jordan wanted more… He wanted to get into producing films, so he used his position at Storyville to arrange a meeting with of Grandex’s co-founders.

“As a recent college graduate and a member of a fraternity, I had been a fan of Total Frat Move (one of Grandex’s brands) for some time,” he said. I knew that they were in development on a feature film, so I was intrigued to learn more about their slate of projects. To my amazement (and glee) I learned that they had not really thought of film and television beyond this one movie.”

So he pitched them some ideas on what a production arm would look like, which led to more meetings – and eventually, producing movies.

I guess my pitch was convincing, because the next thing I know I’m flying back from Austin, Texas with a job and the task to launch a brand new multi-media production company,” he said. “Talk about a flight home!”

Marty Lang producing

Since forming Grandex Productions, Jordan has been a producer for two comedy feature films the company has released: TOTAL FRAT MOVIE (as Associate Producer) and TEMPS (as Executive Producer). On both films, he was the producing liaison between Grandex and the film, as well as working with the Grandex marketing and editorial folks to make sure the film’s promotion was as good as possible.

On TOTAL FRAT MOVIE, the film was in pre-production when Jordan first joined Grandex. So once he started the job, he jumped right in. “My first week at the company was spent in Canada to prep for principal photography,” he said. “So while a lot of things were already set before my arrival, I was heavily involved in the production and post process. I worked closely with our director, Warren Sonoda, and our screenwriter, Sacha Pavlovic, aiding in rewrites, and working with the cast, trying to get the film as close to the spirit of the Total Frat Move brand as I could.”

He was much more involved in TEMPS, coming on as Executive Producer after discovering the film on Kickstarter. He was involved in almost every step of the process, from rewrites to reshoots, to post and securing distribution. The film has been a huge success since being released in April; the trailer has 37 million views, they were the #1 romantic comedy on iTunes, and an iTunes best-seller for independent films.

grant-lindsey-barTEMPS is such a special movie, because it really proved the vision I originally pitched when Grandex Productions was just a dream of mine,” he said. “TEMPS and TOTAL FRAT MOVIE show that if you can go in and make films with a specific audience already in mind, you can truly have great success.”

Catering to your audience is a big part of producing, and something Jordan takes very seriously. He knows Grandex’s core audience is 18-24 year old males, who are college educated and who love to be the life of the party. He knows they love film and television that makes them laugh. And he knows they have more disposable income than other college students. He jokes they are “the kids viewed as the villains in any 80s comedy; the jocks, the preps, and the country club snobs.” He believes understanding your audience, and knowing what media they want, is key to the success of any project.

“Whether it’s Marvel Fanboys, Trekkies or Cheeseheads, having a strong core fanbase is everything,” he said. “If networking is one of the most important things you can do for your personal success, than targeting is up there for your film’s success. Grandex has been able to build a very successful company in part to their business model in which they use their content creation to target their core audience and then convert that audience is paying customers. By building such a large audience, you now have a millions of people to potentially sell your message or product to.”

This is a lesson any screenwriter or independent filmmaker can apply to their own work. Once you know your audience, you can go out and find them.

The key to remember about the movie business is that it is a business,” he explained. “Your job as a filmmaker is to make money so you can go and make more movies. So if you’ve made a heartwarming tale about a Jewish family, contact every synagogue in the country. If you’re making a movie about nursing, contact nursing schools and hospitals. And if you’re making a hysterical comedy, then call me up!”

Jordan’s advice to aspiring writers, producers and directors is simple: make content and network. “This will help you learn through trial and error so that you’re learning what to do (and what not to do) before you’ve even stepped into a professional setting,” he said. And once you’ve made your content, you have to network – but networking only works if you have content to back it up. “I always point to the women of Broad City as a great example,” he said. “People always say ‘oh, they got lucky’ but in reality they worked their asses off, created a great web series, and then grinded to make sure that their work got in front of the right people.”

Once a creator has their content completed, Jordan feels you can find a home for it – and that if you make risky work, or work for a very specific audience, you can still be successful. “I don’t think there’s been a better time to make movies outside of the studio system,” he said. “With more screens and more money being allocated for big tentpoles and IP driven films, there’s a massive hole in the market for those mid-range budget films.The great thing is that films don’t have to hit the “four quadrants” anymore. It’s okay and even cool to be niche!”

Now that TEMPS and TOTAL FRAT MOVIE have been released, Jordan is now hard at work on RANDOM TROPICAL PARADISE, a new comedy with Saturday Night Live’s Brooks Wheelan, which
he’ll be executive producing. But he’s always looking for new comedic talent, so follow him on Twitter at @jordangersh and get a taste of the Grandex brand. His next project could be yours!

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