Author Interview: Shane Stanley Author of What You Don't Learn in Film School @shanestanley

“Remember, when you pitch an investor to finance a film, you’re selling something different. You’re selling the magic and the sizzle of Hollywood and most importantly, you’re selling yourself along with the upside (or fallacy) of what their investment might return. If someone is really in the position to write a check to finance a film, they’re probably pretty savvy. Trust me, they have been pitched everything from financing movies, to night clubs, clothing lines and widgets by someone a lot slicker and more qualified than you. Investors know they hold the key to unlocking the door to the dreams that can change your life, so go deep in thought when creating a presentation…because you’re pitching them on a fantasy (smoke and mirrors), not real estate or something they can look, touch or feel at the moment.”

From What You Don’t Learn in Film School by Shane Stanley

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.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

A: My book came from years of personal experience in the motion picture and television industry. It came about because I do a lot of teaching and consulting and felt I could save time by writing down answers to the most commonly asked questions I was getting to make it easier for those who I was mentoring. I never had any illusions of grandeur as, once it started to take shape, was intended to be a blog that somehow got loose from me and turned into a 200-page book.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

A: Because of my professional background, writing my book wasn’t too much of a struggle. As a storyteller, since my background comes from a visual medium, I have always been attracted to telling stories I can personally relate to, so when the opportunity to write a book about the business of my business came about, it felt very natural to me. My advice, especially to new authors, is to write what your familiar with whether its fiction or non-fiction. Find something in what you’re trying to create that flows naturally and comes easy but also in a voice that is engaging and fresh to readers. I know from my experience in filmmaking, once you find your voice you can start coloring outside the lines by taking more liberties into other genres and markets.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

A: I published through Industry Insider, a small shingle that was set up for industry how-to books, which I have since partnered with in order to help grow the brand. They’re based in Los Angeles with branches in Denver and Austin.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

A: Most everything I have done in the entertainment industry has been self-produced or pushed from within, so the steps I had to take to get it finished and into a book people could buy and read wasn’t too difficult but included a lot of new experiences having never put out a book before. It was tedious at times getting artwork to fit with various texts I wanted to include on the cover but I had a great team of designers and layout artists that held my hand and were extremely patient with the neurotic artist in me.

Q: What other books are you working on and when will they be published? 

A: I am writing Why Good Actors Don’t Work, which I plan to release before summer 2019. It’s a comprehensive (and brutally honest) guide to everything actors need to know but never seem to learn told from the point of view of decision makers in casting, producing and directing, and how to become a commodity when you have no commercial value.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

A: Contrary to what people think, I believe there is value to a formal education - specifically in learning a trade - however, I am challenging the curricula and those who are teaching it.

Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

A: I want people to know that with a lot of hard work, creative thinking, and a stiff upper lip, anything is possible. In order to have a successful career in our industry, it takes a tremendous commitment. Nothing comes easy, nothing is given, and you will reap what you sow. 
Q: Thank you again for this interview! Do you have any final words?

A: My hope is that the entertainment industry’s educational system will get an overhaul - and soon. For too long countless universities have preyed on the hopes and dreams of aspiring artists and have no problem allowing them to rack up over $250,000 in debt but never teach them how to implement what they’ve learned into a career or help guide them once they leave school. Its safe to say, conservatively, over 80% of the students who graduate film school with a degree will never earn a dime in our industry. I hope to see that change and I’m willing to do my part - one student at a time.  

About the Book:

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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