Tommy Stovall is an American writer, director and producer. He’s directed multiple feature films, including Hate Crime, Aaron’s Blood, Sedona and his newest horror thriller, Room for Rent, starring the iconic Lin Shaye. I had a great time speaking...
Tommy Stovall is an American writer, director and producer. He’s directed multiple feature films, including Hate Crime, Aaron’s Blood, Sedona and his newest horror thriller, Room for Rent, starring the iconic Lin Shaye. I had a great time speaking to him about the making of his latest movie and his advice for aspiring indie filmmakers. Here are key takeaways from this conversation with Tommy Stovall.
- Aim high when casting. When making a low budget movie, the performances will make or break the film, which makes good casting critical. But the fact still remains: good actors are typically more expensive so, what do you do? Tommy had worked with Lin Shaye in the past, but was able to get her as his lead in Room for Rent because he gave her the opportunity to collaborate closely with him and craft her character around what she was most interested in doing as an actor. Many directors have spoken about this 'casting hack' where you can attract great actors by giving them the opportunity to craft the script & character around their strengths & interests. A lot of very good actors just want to work, and if your script is solid and you give them an opportunity to extend their range or do something they’ve never done, you have a decent shot at getting well known names. You’re not going to get Brad Pitt this way, but that supporting character on that TV show you like who you always thought could carry a movie might be a very realistic option. Mark Duplass has an excellent speech that outlines this same strategy called The Cavalry is not Coming - it’s an hour long and it’s on YouTube and I recommend watching or listening to the whole thing.
- Get used to NO - it’s cliche but deserves to be repeated. Tommy, like most directors, wasn’t handed a movie to direct, he had to fight for it, and work through multiple rejections before he was ever given a chance. Directing ain’t for sissies, thick skin and a 'never give up' atititude is required. Additionally, it’s important to not hear ‘no' but instead hear 'not now’ as many producers will pass on a project at first, then jump on board later down the line. (Listen to my interview with William Lustig for more on this).
- Perfectionism is the enemy, take the plunge. A lot of 'would be directors' are paralyzed by their own perfection and 'some day' approach to filmmaking. As Tony Robbins says, "the road to some day leads to the town of never.” Many people don’t fully comprehend that hands-on, real experience is the only way to become a good director. Not by planning, attending film school, reading books or researching. If you’re not 100% sure of your script, or your approach, or whether or not you know what you’re doing, Tommy recommends that you get out there and do it anyway so you can make your mistakes, fall upwards, and get better.
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