Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Interview with Shane Stanley, author of What You Don't Learn in Film School

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.



Author: Shane Stanley
Publisher: Industry Insider, LLC.
Pages: 199
Genre: Nonfiction/Film

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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What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

When I was eleven, Rocky III came out and I thought it would be fun to remake it. My father had just got a home video camera, which was very rare at the time, so I jumped on a typewriter and rewrote a shorter version of Stallone’s hit film. It was the start of a screenwriting career that now, many years later, has translated into penning books as well.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 18, I took a stab at writing my first screenplay. It was a short about twelve pages long. The plan was to film it as a way to prove to my father I was capable of coming to work for his production company full-time after graduating high school. A series of great jobs surfaced and I never got to film it. Oddly, 15 years later I was looking to direct my first project and I found the script, blew the dust off and it ultimately became A Sight for Sore Eyes which starred Academy Award nominee Gary Busey and was one of my most critically acclaimed projects to date.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?

I’ll admit I am often inspired by the works of others but don’t take notes when I read or watch a film in fear I’ll fall into the habit of relying on other people’s influence in order to create something fresh. I have seen so much plagiary in screenwriting, I’m scared to death someone might read my work and say, ‘he ripped it off’, which is something I often say when I read other people’s screenplays.

Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?

I am passionate about having written. Writing for me can be quite grueling but when the job is done, the rewards far outweigh any agony I face during the process.  Maybe I’m just a masochist, as I keep going back to it knowing the pain it will evoke.

Do you have a day job? What do you do?

I am a full-time filmmaker who spends his free time volunteering at various film schools and workshops. Frankly, I would like to reverse this and become a full-time adjunct professor of the arts and make a film every couple of years or so and continue writing guidebooks for the entertainment industry.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors? 

Write. And then write some more. After you’ve done that, write again!

What hours do you write best?

I do my best writing from 11pm-6am when the rest of the world is asleep and I can be left alone to work without any interruptions. I have a very short attention span and am easily distracted, so in order for me to hunker down and get my work done, its got to be when there’s nothing else going on that can take me out of the moment.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?

All the time. I’m that guy who hears a plane flying overhead when he’s supposed to be working, stops and wonders what airline it could be, where it’s going, and if I might know anyone who could be on the plane. I try to justify that behavior as what drives my creativity but between you and me, I have lousy discipline when it comes to staying focused on my work unless I am filming a movie.

How often do you write?

I find a week doesn’t go by where I am not either working on a screenplay or a new book idea. I try to exercise the demon every day but with my responsibilities as a filmmaker, writing is just a small part of what I do for my job and I don’t get nearly enough time for it.

Are you an avid reader?

I have either a book or a script in my hand more often than I care to admit. I love to soak up literature and have found the older I get, the more I enjoy the knowledge I receive and the quiet time that comes with reading.

What are you reading now?

I’m just finishing Music to My Years by Artie Kane. It’s a great read about one of the most accomplished composer/conductors in cinema history whose talents helped to define the transformative era. As soon as that’s finished, next up is A Sense of Direction by William Ball. I’m embarrassed to admit this book has been in my possession for over 25 years and I’ve never cracked it. Now is the time, as I want to continue to broaden my knowledge and grow as both a filmmaker and a writer of instructional books for the arts.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a couple of things right now, as my A.D.D. will never allow me to focus on one project at a time. My next book Why Good Actors Don’t Work is a wake up call for actors, shedding light on several reasons they’re not working, regardless of how well they might know their craft. The other project is a screenplay I am gladly taking the backseat to with a writer whose work has inspired me for quite some time and I’m truly honored to collaborate with. We’ll see where it leads but I have some high hopes with this one. It’s been a nice boot camp for me as a fiction writer as his approach to the craft is much different than mine and I like how he does things.

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