Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Authors To Watch: 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.



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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Welcome to My Bookish Pleasures. We would love to get to know you and your book! When did you begin writing?

I never thought I could really write. I poked around but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s when I had the privilege of working with Golden Globe nominated filmmaker, Zalman King (Wild Orchid, 9½ Weeks) and one night over dinner in Bali, Indonesia while we were filming In God’s Hands I pitched him an idea for his hit series, Red Shoe Diaries. He liked my story and said, “Write it in 40 pages or less!” I did and he bought it. I was now a professional writer. Soon after, I was hired to write action films for the straight-to-video market in the 8-12 million dollar budget range.

Describe your writing process. When and where do you write?
Because of my professional background, writing a 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 surfaced, it felt natural to me and came about rather quickly. My most productive times to write are between 11PM and 6AM, when the rest of the world is asleep and I can be left alone, as admittedly, I have the attention span of a puppy and the slightest distraction can rob my focus which is never good when you’re trying to create. I used to write anywhere I could but after my last laptop died, I do most of my work in my home office, which I call ‘the cave’ as all the windows were blacked out years ago for my film editing work.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?

What You Don’t Learn in Film School: A Complete Guide to (Independent) Filmmaking was created because I feel much like the middle class in our country - the true, independent filmmaker - is rapidly becoming extinct and I want to do everything I can to prevent that from happening. I believe I can offer a wealth of knowledge from several aspects of the industry and hope the book will encourage or inspire the next generation and help them go into the business better armed with the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed. I wanted to hand them a map…my map, to help make the journey along the highway to Hell a little easier on their feet so they can avoid some of the blisters and twisted ankles I suffered over the last 30 years.

How did you get the idea for the book?

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

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
For me, the most challenging aspect of writing the book was staying focused and keeping to point. The book is 200 pages long and could easily have been 600, as every time an idea hit me, I would go off down another rabbit hole to make a point. I learned after giving my book to someone I really respected that it was all over the place and needed to be streamlined. He reminded me that Rome was not built in a day and that I could always write a Part II or another book covering additional areas that were important to me. So, that’s what I am doing.
Do you find it easier to write nonfiction?

I’ve made my living as a fiction writer for over 20 years, so I assumed writing about real stuff would be a breeze. I tell you, it was an incredible adjustment for me and continues to be as I write my next guidebook. I think the process is getting easier but as the old saying goes, ‘to thine own self be true’ and sometimes when you look in the mirror, what you see is ugly or dull and needs to be shaped into something engaging while still keeping its integrity.

Do you have plans to write fiction?
I will probably stay on the path of writing nonfiction for the books, as I have the fiction medium outlet with my screenwriting. I have loosely considered adapting some of my screenplays into books over the years and I’ll admit its something I will probably dabble in sooner than later, especially since I now have written a book.
What projects 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.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring nonfiction authors?
If you have something you are compelled to write, write it. Don’t get your head wrapped up in all the things that can weigh you down creatively or will suffocate the process. There will be plenty of time to edit, trim the fat and make your work better. Too often people get so wrapped up in structure or format, and they never can get off the ground. A writer writes. Never forget that and the less worry you have about everything else, the better and more enjoyable the process can be.

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