FT 069: Fighting the Good Indie Film Fight with Mark Polish

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Today on the show we have writer, director, author, actor, and all-around indie film pioneer Mark Polish. Mark and his brother Michael Polish (listen to his  interview here) are well known for their films, Twin Falls Idaho, Jackpot (the world’s first digital feature film, yes they beat George Lucas by a few months), The Astronaut Farmer starring Billy Bob Thornton and one of my favorite indie films ever For Lovers Only (Available on IFHTV).

His most recent film Headlock (aka Against the Clock, more on that later in the interview) is out in VOD.

Also, do yourself a favor and read his amazing filmmaking book The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking which is easily one of my favorite filmmaking books of all time.

Mark and I discuss his career, the challenges of maintaining your creative vision and working within and out of the Hollywood system. We also discuss how Sundance has radically changed over the years and some of his horror stories when shooting and distributing his films.

Enjoy my epic conversation with Mark Polish.

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Alex Ferrari 1:58
Today on the show, we have film director, writer, and actor, Mark polish. Now Mark and his brother are famous for making a lot of amazing indie films like North Fork, and Jackpot, which was the very first digital feature film ever shot, he actually beat George Lucas by a couple of couple of months, Twin Falls, Idaho, one of my favorite films ever For lovers only. And and then they also got to do some studio work as well, like the Astronaut Farmer with Billy Bob Thornton. And Mark has done some amazing work as an actor as a writer, and now as a director with his new film Headlock with Andy Garcia. And I wanted to have him on the show to talk about his, you know, journey as an independent filmmaker, from the early days of Sundance, to working with the studio system to doing I think one of the first if not the first five D movie, which is For lovers only. And and all his adventures and also his book that he wrote with his brother called The Declaration of Independent filmmaking, which I promise you if you are an independent filmmaker, you need to read this book. It's one of my top 10 filmmaking books of all time. So let's get into it. Without any further ado, please enjoy my inspirational conversation with Mark Polish. I'd like to welcome you to the show Mark Polish brother, thank you so so much for taking the time out to come on the show.

Mark Polish 3:32
Hey, thank you so much for having us. Having me. Here.

Alex Ferrari 3:36
I was about to say,

Mark Polish 3:37
I'm gonna say us because my dog is right behind me.

Alex Ferrari 3:39
Fair enough. Fair enough. I've been a huge fan of your work for years. And specifically a few movies we're going to talk about later in the interview. But before for before we even get into it, can you please tell the audience how you even got into the business and and who you are in general, because a lot of people might not know your work.

Mark Polish 4:00
Well, was we first probably known as the label as a Polish brothers. That was probably the first that people got recognized who I was more as a duo as we did a film. Our first one we did a short film to kind of put us on the map. It was a Latino based film about boxing called Bajada pero. And it started gaining some back then festivals are very much more of a cultivating of talent. I mean, you could read there was no other ways of seeing these movies. There was no distribution back then. So a short film could really get you on the map or get you I think it does as well today but back then it was if you got into a festival that was your distribution, you went from festival, the festival and the short film that Michael and I made, started garnering some attention and got some awards put us in some nice places, some nice rooms to start talking about some features that we had and originally we'd had Northfork written and ready to go. It just looked too ambitious on paper. This kind of bigger location thing shot in Montana didn't look like it was going to work for two young filmmakers who had no credit or you know, anything. Small 17 minute short film. And so John Gries, the actor I think everybody pretty much knows him as uncle Rico on Napoleon Dynamite. Yeah, a neighbors introduced us to Rena Ronson, who was at Wayne Morris. Oh, prior to that she was at a porn company called Lakeshore. She had a scene and we we talked, she'd read Northpark loved it, but thought that it was again too ambitious. And we had something else. And they said, we're currently working on this movie, the script of our Siamese twins, and that really intrigued her. And she's like, can he get that done, I think I could get that financed to make it. And so that was our first kind of foray into the whole idea of getting something financed. It was independent, it was around $500,000, either 17 days, we got into the, you know, the Super Bowl of Sundance kind of thing. Got a lot of attention.

Alex Ferrari 6:16
You got into Sundance when Sundance was still like Sundance?

Mark Polish 6:19
Yeah, when it was when it really cultivated independent voices. And then there was so many unique voices up on that mountain at that time, I think it was 99. And just remember how many great films of that year we had like American Beauty you had been john malkovich, you had boys don't cry. I mean, you named Blair Witch, you had us you had a lot of films that very unique voices that are coming out at the time. And it was a nice class to be around. And he traveled with those filmmakers. And he became friends with a lot of them. So it was a we got a lot of attention off of Sundance came off the mountain got a lot more recognition. Got into the studio system. And, and they were very, you know, there was a one in particular, by Jeff Robina, who was running, he was a junior exec at the time really responded to my plan, I and we set up a deal over there to do some to do some work over there. And that's how it kind of really started from there. And we always kept doing smaller movies while we are kind of cultivating these bigger ones that take took a while to get made. So we were always kind of try to do the smaller ones, though.

Alex Ferrari 7:27
That's awesome. And specifically, like you were saying that you guys were known as the Polish brothers. Well, you literally played Siamese twins.

Mark Polish 7:37
You literally Twin Falls, I know. You have to be forceful.

Alex Ferrari 7:42
And that's that was the way you know, you guys, obviously are extremely talented filmmakers. But that was a way to brand yourselves, honestly.

Mark Polish 7:51
I mean, it was it was one of those things that because we wrote we had written North work and it only had a small role. Supporting more by me, you started going, Okay, no one's gonna make this for this price point. At that time, it was quite high. So you start looking, okay, we check the boxes of what I couldn't do. Or we could play the twins. Oh, we can use our house. Oh, we can use john Gries. As an actor we can use Garrett Morris. We can use Patrick, we chose people that were around us at the time. Sure. So it was a very resourceful first time movie, and very unique at the time, because no one had had told that subject matter. correctly. I think there was sisters, but no one really saw the fusion of twins or the kind of intimacy that two conjoined twins had. So it was it was it was it was definitely eye catching. And it allowed us to really make our mark, you know,

Alex Ferrari 8:45
And then, you know, I just I just loved the pitch session about like, how could you walk into a room? First of all, did the money come from Lake Shore? Or did it go

Mark Polish 8:54
I said that she eventually left the Lakeshore before she became a sales agent packaging agent, William Morris. Reno was able to find an equity source. And it just happened to kind of it landed a we're having trouble doing it because like on paper, like, we didn't act Siamese twins a hooker. You just keep saying, it's just like, it's a no fly thing. You know,

Alex Ferrari 9:17
this is like, I was gonna say, this is a horrible pitch.

Yeah, horrible pitches. There's nothing you could you know, we took pictures to show I mean, at that time, you had to remember there wasn't the internet, there wasn't these photos. There wasn't any that you had to change a bunker and that was it. That was the image of Siamese twins. They coined the phrase, there was no kind of medical term conjoined was just barely coming to fruition. No one really used that term. And so we had to kind of figure out, okay, what's the political correct way of saying this, this is and start telling people Hey, it's about conjoined twins. And then they get a prostitute that didn't do well.

And you lost me at prostitute

Mark Polish 9:57
Yeah, you lost a lot of interest that way, but financier who eventually funded the film had had had met time between the heads, twin sisters. So she saw the intimacy just between the sisters and thought this was a good representation of what she knew about that relationship. And so she was very kind enough to finance the film and we are very, very lucky to do it. I mean, at first when we remember we're taking it out first we were going to all the normal places the Miramax is sure the new are fine lines. Remember, there was a lot of those those

Alex Ferrari 10:29
Oh yeah, the mini majors. Yeah, the mini majors

Mark Polish 10:30
Because that was it. And it was challenging, because no one could see the fusion and nobody could understand. I mean, it just looked like a big ticket item. With the twins being fused, it was going to be expensive. Regardless, you know, no one thought like, hey, how can you do this practical and make it look good, or believable. So that script inherently looked like 510 million dollars. And so you know, we eventually stripped it back down to make sure that it could stay within the room, the four wall drama type thing, and then did a lot of testing within our own house of how we are going to be able to you know, it was camera angles, versus what you didn't see that could sell these twins walking was probably the hardest contraction

Alex Ferrari 11:17

Mark Polish 11:18
But we only did it a few times, you know, and you know, your weaknesses really became your strengths in that idea, because you could they were in mobile. And we couldn't move a lot of sets, we couldn't do a lot of things. So it really added to the cost of phobia of these two brothers that couldn't be apart from each other. And that inherently was like the side effect of having a movie that was very closed set. You know, I think there was six sets altogether.

Alex Ferrari 11:43
Yes, it's an insane story. And I always always found that fascinating about how you guys got your start with that movie, because it is, again on paper, a horrible pitch. And and and also the other thing is to that you actually from at least from this point of view, you could tell me if I'm wrong or not, but you actually it seemed like you guys had pretty much creative control over that part.

Mark Polish
Yeah, we did. We did up until I mean, up until the cut, we had a cut that we submitted to the financier and the producers, not Rena, there was another one that was kind of between the money and us. They didn't quite understand. They didn't quite digest the story as well as we thought they would. And they had a lot of questions. And then a basically would wanted to recut it in a way that they thought was much more pleasing. And it was, it was a very, it was a very defining moment at the time. So we made a deal with them. That was like, Look, let's take it up the mountain. If it if it sells for price, you know, I think just even sells we get our cut. If not you guys can take it and recut it. So those a lot of pressure on that initial that that

Alex Ferrari

Mark Polish 12:55
Cuz we were riding on it. It was one of those things where, you know, you saw the twins. They just thought it was a little bit more, you know, slower than it should be. And I was like, Look, that's just inherently characters, you're not going to be able to jazz it up.

Alex Ferrari 13:08
You know, this is not this is not stuck on you.

Yeah, exactly. It's a very, it's a much more a, a tone piece about a relationship and you get into it and understand it's like, and so once it was really embraced by the Sundance community, and Roger Ebert came out all the restaurants over the year, it pretty much quieted all that quickly, because the reviews were really were the next day type reviews. So hey, he came out in the forefront immediately it was like, This is probably one of the best films of the year, then they followed up when it came out with that Janet Maslin came out with an amazing review, this is this is when you your film really depended on a review, I mean, it was make or break each city, depending on head reviewer, you would march into that town, have a screening and if that had reviewer did not like your film, you pretty much killed your box office, because it was all of that. And back then there were some really big name reviewers, you know, in each in each publication, so we were very fortunate to get right off the bat and get on Rogers, good side, he was such a champion throughout until he passed away.

I actually had the pleasure that he gave me the review of my very first short film, and he was one of the most gentle wonderful souls I've ever met and, and he was a champion. He really was a champion.

And he wasn't your your, what you call a critic critic he was so he just wanted to believe in the good of everyone's work and he I rarely saw him go after something for the spite of going after he always felt and I'd always read what's good about this film well what's good about this story and then focus on that. It's okay maybe some things didn't come and satisfy him. The way he thought it would but he never focused on it and he was such a such a darling to my I and I miss him tremendously, because I think he would have still championed a lot of these things that we're doing.

Yeah, without question. And he was a he was he's definitely a champion without question. And he had for people who don't know, wasn't raised in that time period with Roger. He was the dude.

Yeah, he was. Yeah, that was no, there was no one bigger than him at that time.

It was. There's no one and there's no one who's ever no critic ever won the Pulitzer.

Mark Polish 15:26
No. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And so when he, you know, when he asked you, yeah, and yeah, it was it was, I remember the phone call he he'd seen the movie, and he wanted to meet with us. And I was like, this could either be really good or really bad. I had watched him. I grew up on PBS with Gene gene. And gene had passed away.

Alex Ferrari 15:50

Mark Polish 15:51
Prior to the screening, so we didn't get a gene review. And, you know, I don't know if he would have liked it. I assume he may have. It would have been a great argument. They wouldn't. You know, it would have been amazing to see the fight over it. You know.

Now after after Twin Falls, Idaho, you got the juice to go make North Folk.

Yeah, we made a small digital film jackpot in between. Okay, with with Jon Gries. That actually got a little bit more award and attention than Twin Falls, it won the Cassavetes award spirit, it was a much smaller and it was actually the first digital movie to be released. It's on the timeline right before Star Wars, which is really fascinating that we actually took that Center also right before he did

Alex Ferrari 16:36
Oh, you shot it with this in the altar?

Mark Polish 16:37
Yeah. And we just saw out there before that. So you see a timeline, you said a movie called jackpot right before Star Wars and like, so it was

Alex Ferrari 16:45
that's really it

Mark Polish 16:46
That and then we were able to get enough attention and put together North Fork that was up in Montana location up in Montana, which was the beginning of those stories you hear losing your money, and all that kind of we had, we hadn't had that experience yet. And that was kind of that bigger, we're moving forward. We're losing money type thing that happens to independent filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 17:16
Without question, and I've actually studied northfolk a lot over the years, because I loved the movie when it came out, then that wonderful documentary on the DVD.

Mark Polish 17:26

Alex Ferrari 17:27
That just total just showed the Hell

Mark Polish 17:31

Alex Ferrari 17:31
The insanity of what you guys were attempting to do, I mean, building that that book.

out there, the plains of Montana. I mean, as we're always there saying, you know, once you step foot in Montana, you're part of the food chain. You just, there's nothing, you know, there's nothing that's gonna hold you back, you know, from the nature of Mother Nature

No there was nothing

Mark Polish 17:55
Yeah. And then they didn't even make clothes that was warm enough. For Montana. It was and it was it was the flip side. It's not It's not the sexy side of Montana, which is Glacier Park, and the west side. And all that whole thing everyone's familiar with, it was the east side, which is more prairie. And the backdrop is the beginning of the Rockies.

Alex Ferrari 18:12
And it was it could go ahead. No, no, no, no. But the thing is, with Norfolk as well is that, you know, from what I saw, like was, and I might be mistaken, that like, did your dad or your parents were not my dad?

Mark Polish 18:25
My dad came up there

Alex Ferrari 18:27
He's a production designer,

Because we couldn't get anybody who knew the land, as well as he did, right. And he built, you know, we built a lot of the houses we lived in or contributed to the building. We built the house that he currently lives in in Montana. So we are familiar with this building qualities what he could do. So we had these plans of this boat, he's like, sure. And he just, you know, he's former da, he doesn't, he's seen a lot of stuff. So it was like, Oh, let me see these. I'll build this. Where do you want it? And he knew that he could crack ground and a frozen ground. He just knew the terrain very well.


Mark Polish 18:59
And so it was a very, it was amazing to see him, take that position and take it head on and be like, Oh, he built the house, the church and he built a few things. And so it was a very, it was a great moment for the Polish brothers and their father.

Alex Ferrari 19:14
That was such a beautiful film, though. I mean, honestly, Norfolk was just if people listening who have not seen North Wilkie gotta rent it or watch it?

It's I mean, it's a it's a love letter to dying America. It's a love letter to dying in itself and what we've lost in our value, so it's very prevalent now.

Oh, very much. So. Can you tell people who because the cast was insane?

Mark Polish 19:34
Yeah, the cast was, um, we started off with. We first got Jimmy Woods James Woods, who played my father Walter Ryan, and then we're able to wrangle in Nick Nulty, Daryl Hannah, Anthony Edwards, Tony, who's a close friend of ours, and I was we were doing to get some of these people. Jimmy was just a fan. So I'd known he liked our stuff. So I got to meet with him and got him aboard. But I don't. I was doing the good thief, the Neil Jordan film and nice and I was out having a drink and Mike had to fly back to accept an award for jackpot. And that's how Nick got involved. He were drinking Mike called me and he said, hey, look, we just won the award. And Nick was like, what's going on? I said, Well, we won an award because what movie and I said, Oh, we did this small karaoke country movie jackpot. He goes, am I in the next one? I'm like, Damn, right. You are. It was like that kinda he was, you know, we I just loved that so much. And so he was so gained for it. It just happened. We just ran up against the Incredible Hulk. He was shooting Incredible Hulk at the time. So we literally put a jet on on American Express to get him up there. You from Ang Lee set?

Alex Ferrari 20:47
Well, from what I heard was like what I saw on the documentary, I'm not sure if his documentary The book, but you guys literally didn't know if he was gonna be there.

No, we only pushed to the final half days. I mean, it was it became it became this kind of slogan. is Nick showing up next show. Andy Coughlin who was our ad at the time? Yeah, just two bullets for us all the time was like rescheduling every night and thinking he's going to show up. And then it's me on the phone talking to the producers of the Incredible Hulk. Get him released, you know, and they're like, we need them here. We need to there and Nick really wanted to do it. And you know, Nick throws himself so I don't know if you've seen that role of that. He did an incredible force

Of course he did.

Huge and big and you really spend himself so he he was exhausted. Just Dad, you know, he comes off the plane pajamas. And I think he had some kind of sitar wrapped around his neck. And his assistant was a kamikaze assistant. So he helped Matt trauma's was the guy he helped me a lot to to navigate Nick up there. But once Nick was there, it was fantastic. You know? No, no, it was, it was a great set. And he just got to see I mean, we did Jimmy there the whole time. And they just, and Jimmy really wanted to work with Nick and never want and never had an opportunity. So there was such as great bonding of, I mean, extreme right and left.


Mark Polish 22:16
Your views very imagine taking them to bowling. It was it was the kind of the, the kind of debate about things that were for a lifetime. And also Peter coyote was in it. So he was there as well. So there was a lot of

Alex Ferrari 22:33
Daryl and

Mark Polish 22:33
Daryl Hannah was. I mean, it was it was one of those casts that and when you're up there, and you're in such a remote area, you become you become so close, and never becomes a family. But oh, and Ben Foster was in it,

Alex Ferrari 22:46
then was in that too.

So it just kept going? It's just like, we just started, we'd accumulate these casts prior to the films that we made before. And those would either hit the market or people would hear and people would watch them. And they're like, what are the Polish brothers doing next? I want to work with them until we were able to get this reputation of doing these films that people really these actors really wanted to be in.

Yeah, it's it's an remarkable story. And it's also chronicled in the amazing book, the declaration of independent filmmaking that you wrote with your brother. And

Mark Polish 23:16
It's Jonathan Shelton, who was a producer was one of the producers on the astronaut, farmer and North Folk

Alex Ferrari 23:24
it's an in I've recommended, it's one of my top 10 recommended books for filmmaking. It's a great book, it's it's what I love about what you and Michael do in general. And what you've done is that you guys are independent filmmakers. Yeah,

Yeah. I mean, truly, this is the kind of the thing that was always confusing to me. Because that confusing. It was, I mean, we're truly independent, since the money was never from anywhere, but outside the industry. Whereas a lot of these indie films were cultivated and made it many majors show and they had the support in the insurance and the help of corporations, you know, having smaller things, we'd never had any of that. So I mean, truly, truly flying by the seat of our pants on these things, you know, mortgaging houses and cars and do whenever we could. And so that, to me was always independent filmmaking, like you would do whatever you took. It doesn't look healthy. It looks really crazy. But that's what we did. And so we're always you know, the style became your mistakes type of thing, or the style became what you what you lacked in your filmmaking equipment that you had. It was less about storytelling and more about story engineering. How am I going to tell this thing about an art with no money? You know, or I wanted to tell the story about angels? How do you do this with no prosthetics or people like VFX

or no, no high end? VFX it's a magical film and I do honestly think that if you had another $20 million, it would be the same movie.

No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't it would probably look like an x men in the excellent had one of the angels in it that I think Ben Foster went faster

Ben Foster is Angel is literally angel and umm

what he was a low budget angel in our movie. He the high budget wanted Bryan Singer.

But apparently that's why he got that other part. You know, hollywood works. He played an agent before let's hire him to do an angel again.

Yeah, exactly. Then this in this day and age, yeah, rebranded, we're gonna rebrand an angel.

Now I want to definitely talk to you about how you transition from being an indie film darling. And you know Sundance and Eber and all that to the studio system where you got a hefty budget for what kind of movie it is. And it's called the astronaut farmer with Billy Bob Thornton, which I do love as well. I always there. They're such unique films. That unique voices. So how was it transitioning from? indie, indie, indie to, you've got to buy what was about the budget was like 20 million for that right?

It was 15. But 12 hard. And then the incentive in Mexico made it rounded off at 15 or something like that.

Still, you know, Jack's

Mark Polish 26:03
Oh, yeah. A lot more than we've ever had. You know, and

Alex Ferrari 26:06
I don't know about you, I don't know about you, but I'd pick up 12 million.

Mark Polish 26:09
Yeah, no, it was it was one of those things where, you know, we had, I remember walking online, well, we got a lot of trucks on this one. He had a lot and a lot of toys to play with on this one. I mean, even the rocket build, we were able to do a lot of things that you weren't able to do with the with the lack of resources. So and you know, New Mexico was a very fun, magical place to shoot that as well. I mean, the experience was actually, I had a great time I didn't have I didn't run up against anything. I remember that, you know, specifically, this is a really funny story. I remember that talk about transition. I we were doing a bigger movie, a bigger science fiction movie there that they weren't going to kind of work getting their head wrapped around. And Michael and I just finished astronaut farmer, like, we're gonna go do this while you guys make your decision. Paula Weinstein and let him motto. The producers said, You know what, wait, before you go off and do another ad, let me read this. And then they read it. And they're like, Well, I think Jeff would do this. And so they gave it to Jeff, who was a part of our deal. And Jeff is like, I'll make this this is this is great. I'll make it for a price. And so we sat down with him. And we were able to get Billy Bob immediately into it and sat with him and he joined on. So he effectively made the show go really fast when he when he agreed to it.

Alex Ferrari 27:30
Oh, of course.

Mark Polish 27:31
But we were right before we left to New Mexico, Jeff. Robin had called us up to his office and said, let's have a lunch. I want to you know, pie pep talk. This is a studio system I want to see, check you guys out and he's like, Look, just follow the script. Basically, he's like, just the headline was like, just follow what you wrote don't go off and do something crazy. Like he was a fearing like, this was a joke like this. This script was not what we were going to do is to get by, you know, like, we are going to pull a fast one on him. So I was like, No, we're gonna do it. so dumb me. The first thing we shoot is Billy Bob on the horse and White Sands, New Mexico. The opening of the movie is the first thing we shot. And it's just bizarre as hell you have this guy in a spacesuit on a horse walking advice. First phone call I get is Jeff Robin off screaming at me. Like just live. I'll keep the profanity out. But you could imagine it was laced with profanity saying you're making these goddamn Fellini film, aren't you? I don't believe I let you guys do I said, I'm so sorry, Jeff. That's now what it's like it's a title sequence we can cut it you know. So filmmakers when you transition, your first dailies should be very, very welcoming, and not be something esoteric as a guy in a 60s patient of one on a horse and the wife was the wrong thing. So you learn real quickly, you know, that you want to send you know, things that they

Alex Ferrari 29:05
that they can palatable, palatable.

Mark Polish 29:07
Yeah, that they understand that Oh, yeah, they're gonna do that. And they're gonna they're gonna follow the script

Alex Ferrari 29:11
And for people listening I mean, when you do get if you if you're lucky enough to work within the studio system and have those toys to play with there is politics that you have to play there are there is massive amounts of psychology

Mark Polish 29:25
You can learn so I mean, good things that I think I learned the most was probably in the post in the editorial because there are so many notes that were there that was coming down the way if you send a cut and go up there I'll watch it and then you get a binder of notes. So many people and you know that in the indie game is just like, Hell no, I'm not doing that one. That one out now. And then what you're doing is gonna create this massive conflict early on, rather than every time was a good, really great guy who taught me was like, Look, just show them what they want. And then When they see it and they know it does not work, then they'll move off it, if you're going to be resistant upfront, it's just going to be a bigger fight. And that's probably what I learned early on is just show them how bad that note is. And then they'll move off of it, you know, kind of embarrassed them in a way. And then that's probably the biggest thing. But as the transition, the more money more time, there was not much to worry about that. I mean, I think that the children were our kids. And that was a little bit at first was like, how, how's it gonna work? But that location that the DPW everything, there was, there was it was like a family thing. It was very, very

Alex Ferrari 30:38
Small, but yet big.

Mark Polish 30:40
Yeah. And it was nice. So it worked out very, very well. I'm very happy with that.

Alex Ferrari 30:43
And the movie and the movie did well, didn't it?

Yeah, it did, it did really well really opened up a lot of doors to be like, Oh, these brothers brother just don't make these weird, esoteric films, they can do that straight story.

And by the way, I mean, and that was released by Universal was it

Mark Polish 30:58
Nah Warners

Alex Ferrari 30:59
Warners. I'm sorry, Warner Brothers, I know is a big one is one of the big guys. But But first prefer studio film, astronaut farmer is still definitely out there.

Mark Polish 31:09
Ya I know, it's wild. And a lot of it came from the inspiration came from trying to get North work made, and then losing that, you know, losing the financing the night before. And, and this is, so there's certain scenes in that, that are really derived from our life that was very much about like, Hey, you want to launch this dream or this rocket, and all the opposition and all the adversity you're going to go through and how you're going to overcome that who believes in you and your family versus you know, all those things. Where we're inherent in that story that we could tell this story from a point of view of living it, you know, living of like, no one believes I'm going to launch this thing, or no one's gonna believe that we're gonna finish this thing. It coincided with the way our father raised us and the things that he did and showed us the certain ways to live and build things and do things with your hands and you know, do things your own way, do it yourself. And so there's a lot of homage to him as well.

Alex Ferrari 32:19
That's awesome, man. That's awesome. So as we continue down memory lane for a second. One of the films that really inspired me, I cannot tell you how inspirational this film is For lovers only.

Oh, yes,

I it is the ultimate indie. The ultimate indie film, if I may, if I may be so bold to tell the audience and I've we've talked about it on the show before when we had your brother on Yeah. But for lovers only you literally the five D had just come out. And you your brother, I think a sound guy and and Stena the actors.

Mark Polish 32:56

Alex Ferrari 32:57
Just went to Paris and shot a movie.

Mark Polish 32:59
Yeah. Yeah, like top to bottom. I mean, it was.

Alex Ferrari 33:04
It's an insane story of how you made it. But I love the story. Because Michael said it in the first and the first interview. How like how did you get Stana in involved? And for people who don't know Stana Katic who is a she was on a very long-running hit show called a castle. She was still pretty, you know, she still at the time,

I think was the beginning of the second end of the second. Yeah. End of the second end of the third.

Yeah. So she wasn't she was already on her way. And she had done a bunch of other stuff prior to that, you know, she's a wonderful actress. But the the way I was told is that, that you guys just put a call out in your agency and just said, hey, look, we're gonna go make a movie. And we don't know. Like it we're gonna Paris Do you want to come. Is that

Mark Polish 33:48
Basically it was like, we'd shared the same agent, Stana, and I didn't. I didn't know at the time that we'd shared. I went to the agent at the time that was representing me. I said, Look, these are, this is what we're going to do. This is the requirements. Do you know any actress that would be willing to do and it was like a little shortlist. And Stana was the first girl of actors on board. So we met with three I think, and she was the one that was just like, let's do this. She had the she she was brave from the very beginning. And you could just read it. I mean, when you do these movies, like even like a headlock, and these, you're casting a lot outside outside the lines as well. You know, you're looking at what, what those moments are going to be like when they're there when you don't have a trailer. And you don't have a room to go back to how people are going to respond to that. And so we knew it was going to be running gun and tough. That was a lot of physicality involved in it. But we knew that, you know, your personality was in your character was definitely going to be tested and she was right up front. Besides just her ability, her ability to act. It was amazing.

Alex Ferrari 34:56
And you were the co star?

Mark Polish 34:57
I was the co-star. Yeah. And so it was it was A lot of preparation for it in the sense that it probably looks a little bit more free-handed than we were but we miss Donna will rehearse every night. And make we'll take it upon ourselves to be as fully prepared because they were live sets or life situations. You don't, you don't want to mess up in the sense that I don't know my lines, you don't have your lines. So we rehearse them the night before, backward forwards different ways. Understand what the characters were the intimacy level what we wanted to show, and then we would just hit the street, we would be able to do these things. So natural, and that really helped us out.

Alex Ferrari 35:34
Yeah. And then of course, whatever happened on the day, you kind of had to roll with it.

Mark Polish 35:37
Yeah, yeah, roll with it. I mean, it was it was modular descriptives as modular as you could make it. It didn't necessarily be like, Well, you know, we had things that were in the bad would probably those are easy, but the thing that was on the boat or on the beach weren't necessarily written beach and boat, those were things that we were able to attain on our journey, or the motorbike was there, but not in Nice. So it was very modular in the way that we had to be able to approach it, which is challenging, but sometimes freeing, because you would get these amazing things like the boat, like the beach

Alex Ferrari 36:13
How about the cliff?

Mark Polish 36:14
Oh, the cliff was tough, because you don't have anybody scouting it, you have no one out there, you're you're actually looking at it the day you're gonna shoot. And then there's no one jumping before you, you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:24
you really don't know what's underneath, like,

Mark Polish 36:25
No! And so there were some defining moments there. Where were you thought? This is a little bit far this, you know, trying to judge it from the top

Alex Ferrari 36:36
Oh No, you can't do that.

Yeah, it was tough. It was challenging to have her do it. It was amazing. I mean, at that point, he couldn't turn she couldn't turn around.

No, no, of course not. But the funny thing is about like those, and then the thing I love about that movie so much as the performances are so natural-looking and but you guys are jumping off that cliff, you're jumping off that cliff, there's no acting involved.

Mark Polish 36:58
Now you're hitting that water heart, you know? Yeah, it's and it's cold, it was cold at that point.

Alex Ferrari 37:02
And you look at the face like I still remember her face. So clearly, just right before she jumps. Yeah,

she was she was nervous, but she was into it, you know, it was it, that's the thing about that particular movie was trying to capture that, that feeling of alive, you know, like, it's hard to it's hard to articulate what you do. But, you know, it's nice to be an actor in an environment that is feeding your cue can feed off of it invigorates you, it does not like people coming up and touching you for your makeup or your going action of cut, Michael was rolling all the time. So there was moments that were just so pure, that you can't really get because it's always like a starting gate, you know, it's always like action, boom, you're out of the gate, you know, cut, boom, you're done. This was so fluid, you know, and you're able to really harness the energy that was around us and the things that you would do and you know, the the natural things that couples do, you know, grooming child to put things around each other's you know, like, put the hair behind her ear, those type of things just became inherently natural, because you're with somebody for so long doing these things, so and so that kind of subversive kind of stuff, we really benefited from it, you know,

it was, yeah, it was it was my direct, one of my direct inspirations to make my first feature, which was very similar in that sense, because I was just kind of like, let's just kind of roll with it and see, and minds was I didn't have a script, we had a script. But, but I had insane actors, like I had really, really seasoned, you know, I just had been doing this for 20 years.

Mark Polish 38:40
I mean, you need you need to be that's the thing, when people watch it, I've met with a few people, you know, wanting to emulate coilovers on its head, like that's like our eighth movie. That's not that wasn't our first one out of the gate. I don't know if we could have done that. I mean, we knew what not to do more than what to do. And that's probably more important.

Alex Ferrari 38:59

Mark Polish 39:00
And in that particular film, yeah, we knew what was in the parameters of what the story what you could do you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:07
And that is something and that is something I think that people listening is like if they go see lovers only in the go or if they see puffy chair or something like that, like a lot of times you you know, when you made for lovers only that was your eighth film, you know, and when I made my movie I had been directing for 20 years at that point, so there's like, you know, an in post production and I kind of knew what I can get away with. You kind of can't jump into those films at first, you know, upfront

No, because I think you're concerned when the first time filmmakers you're concerned with much more things out outside the lines and you are unsightly, you know what's happening and it's you know, it's the game is fast at that point, it slows down at each film you do and so it was much slower, to be able to know like, okay, we just need this shot. We need this shot. I'll be married, a lot of storytelling is made an editorial and so when you go through numerous films, you start to understand where the fat is and what you can cut. And what you don't need and what tells a story much faster, or how linear just how storytelling can be reduced through editorial and the way the language works. And it's I don't think if you are a first time filmmaker, you get to see those different methods or different ways of telling a story, you know.

And then another thing that was kind of revolutionary with for lovers only is that you guys made a good amount of money off of it.

Mark Polish 40:26
Yeah, we did.

Alex Ferrari 40:27
Well, it did what and I don't be crass about talking the numbers. But on a distribution standpoint, you used iTunes, yeah,

Mark Polish 40:35

Alex Ferrari 40:35
It was a thing.

Mark Polish 40:36
Yeah, before any of this kind of internet, or these kind of what they're called distribute distribution, there was not a lot of platforms and deals out there. I remember when it got released, the next day sag called me, and we're like, you don't have a deal, as it were, there wasn't one existing for a digital platform. And so we had to go in and create this, this digital, with a whole new media idea. So we consulted on that. But it wasn't a lot about that. And we just felt I mean, I think it's documented, we just felt that the intimacy level of the movie warranted that you know, you can watch it on your phone, you can watch it on your iPad, it was much stronger. An effective in that medium than it would have been projected. We'd projected a few times in Europe in a cup Film Festival, and it was great. We went to an audience award, and thing and things people really responded to it. But we felt overall people could discover it. on their own. The power was in that it was more about a kind of a keyhole romance where you're kind of looking in on people rather than, you know, hey, we're gonna show you this love story, because it's very intimate. It's very, very intense.

Alex Ferrari 41:41
Oh, it's it's it's, it's, there's an energy that comes off the screen for this film. It is. It is beautiful. It is it is a wonderful film and isn't black and white.

Mark Polish 41:49
Yeah, black one, five D really allowed us to get really close within centimeters of the actors. And it, it just everything worked at that moment in time, you know, the equipment, the way we were able to move

Alex Ferrari 42:04
location out there.

Mark Polish 42:04
Not very many people. I didn't not not very many people are on the street shooting this, you know, shooting this way. So it didn't look like we are shooting a movie. And so we didn't get we didn't get disrupted at all, we didn't get bothered at all on that shoot, whatsoever.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
Well, because because what kind of crazy people shoot a movie with a five d? I mean, seriously

yeah, at that point, nope. Nobody and nobody had come before. I think there was a few people that were using a supplemental thing, you know, supplemental ways, in between shots, and some TV shows. I think we're using it when they had to get into tight spaces. But it was never meant for that. I mean, it was like a little digital card. I think they put in there for wedding photographers at the time, you know? And we're like, well, we'll exploit that, you know, make it we'll make a big movie with that. And so I tried to and so it worked. I didn't we didn't have very many problems with it. You know? It she you know, the the when he brought it back and it wasn't truly black and white is very sepia, there's a lot of yellow because it was a color card, you know. And so you find out quickly that black and white is we had to really modify black and white. Yeah,

definitely had to work with it.

Mark Polish 43:14
Yeah. And we'd work with it. And we were lucky enough to have like Warner Brothers, our contacts, be able to zip it in there and tweak it to suck all that. I mean, there was a tremendous amount of yellow in that camera.

Alex Ferrari 43:24
No, I'm just Oh, yeah, back. I mean, it was like first generation fine.

Yeah. You think your eye sees black and white, but it's actually warming it up with the yellows

That is insane. And and you did create a an amazing documentary on the making of that film, which

Mark Polish 43:39
I did. I mean, there was so many questions. And it got a lot of, you know, hype, a lot of internet, a lot of film schools, a lot of talk about it. And I just felt like I had been, it's so much easier just to say, Hey, this is how we did it. I just didn't want to do it. So I 20 minutes. And enjoy, enjoy how we did it. And it I I saw it the other day. And I was like, wow, what? We're crazy.

Alex Ferrari 44:02
No, no, no, I know the feeling. You look at it like, Wow,

you're so focused on getting the film done, and are doing it that way that you're not really seeing all the red flags of what could have went wrong?

No, no, absolutely. And I'm hoping that we can get both the documentary and for lovers only on ifH. TV, we are working on it with the distributors as we speak, but I really do hope because I want to show

Mark Polish 44:24
But I know the filmmakers. You let me know.

Alex Ferrari 44:28
I will, I'll call you for sure. Now let's talk about your latest film Headlock. Or as it's known on the street Yeah,

I'm so I'm so happy. I have a sense of humor about it. So just when someone faces your work, you're just like, holy crap.

I know. So I want to talk before we get into the movie. The movie has been it's now called Against the clock because of I guess distribution decided to change the name. Yes. Can you tell me that There was a funny story or

Mark Polish 45:01

Alex Ferrari 45:02
Please tell me

Mark Polish 45:03
It's really, really ridiculously silly. Um, there is no clock in the movie, and there is no justify from the movie. So that being said, you know, this, these distributor, you know, discovered the magic of the alphabet. Basically, it was

Alex Ferrari 45:19
Oh no, it's not the alphabet thing again.

Mark Polish 45:22
Yeah. A, it's on the top of the queue on anything. And most like the people, they have their research that say, their films do better with a and I was just like, it was such a non-conversation, you know, like, I was like, You're kidding me. Like, I couldn't believe this was the conversation I was having. I didn't have usually when when, when I would sell a film or whatever, we'd have a meeting, we'd sit down, talk about the, how we got to this film, what we could do, what was our resources? What were their strengths, how we could market it, I basically got a phone call saying, we bought your film, this is the new name dadadada da, hung up. And that was it. And I haven't had any communications with them since. I mean, it just tells you the faith that they had in it, which was zero, and it was like, we're gonna monetize it as we're gonna try to get the money as much as we can. Because we don't think the film's worth anything. And so that's where that came from. And unfortunately, that's not the response. It's gotten from a lot of people. I mean, look, it's not It's a challenging narrative. But that said, The deceptive marketing behind it. And what they're doing is, you know, the backlash is, hopefully it's not as bad as I think it may be.

Alex Ferrari 46:36
Yeah, it's, it's, I've actually had that conversation as well, with distributors when I was working with them on the post side, where they're like, it was it was called, you know, the letter was, you know, beginning started with an S, so they just changed it to an A s, like so. And I was like, I can't believe that's a thing. But

Mark Polish 46:54
Ivmean, it would have been great to have a conversation about you know, alternatives or whatever. But, but A's or whatever, even numbers or whatever. But that wasn't, it wasn't even to be having a headline,

Alex Ferrari 47:06
even a headline in anything it But first of all, we had numerous offers on the table from different distributors, if you're going to go to someone who's just going to deface it butcher do whatever they're going to do it. I mean, there's other, there was other alternatives to be had. And so I'm not quite sure why the financer chose that I, when you're so focused on making a film, finishing this film, which was just a tremendous, hard thing, challenging. I mean, we made it 1,000,002. And so it was so hard to do, that I didn't protect myself properly, in the sense that I thought, look off finish the film, I'll hold my hand up at the of the bargain, I'll want to present you with, you know, such an upscale kind of like, larger movie than you guys have ever had. Not knowing that this is what they would do. So it's just it's really unfortunate, because we didn't we didn't anticipate this was the finish line, not the creatives, not the actors, that anybody evolved to put a lot of hard work into it. We just didn't anticipate this would be the ending. And it would it did, it just fractured everybody. It just fractured the support from the cast. Because that's not the movie they made. And that's not the movie that anybody wanted to promote. It's not exactly what that is. I mean, the the one sheet is misrepresentation, it's got the most has me holding a gun. I don't hold a gun. You know, it's like, I mean, they're doing everything like it's the mid 90s. I mean, this is when this I don't mean to go off on a bike if they don't do it. But, but it's like this country has changed so much, Japan, Germany, they're not changing our name is headlock. But in the United States, it's so different. Now, you know that when the bottom line is the buck, they don't even they just don't care. And that's what's hard. As an artist trying to do work in the United States. Now, it's like you're dealing with with these kind of billionaire bullies don't even care. There wasn't even a conversation, which, that's the harder part of it all.

That's Yeah, it's, it's unfortunate. It really is. And when you and you were saying something like it's the mid 90s, for people to understand, in the mid 90s, you know, DVDs and, and video stores were still a thing, and they would just slap any cover on and I mean, look, we all we all rented movies in the 80s that had a cover that had nothing to do with.

Mark Polish 49:21
Yeah, I mean, look, this is the puppy mill mentality, isn't it? Yeah. It's like, they don't really care about what they're doing. They just want to make money. And that's unfortunate when they do it to be some of these movies like mine and possibly just get get caught in a wash. Because there's a lot of these movies that they can do this to that. Don't have hope. But surely headlock is not one of those movies, not my pedigree, not where I'm from.

Alex Ferrari 49:44
The cast.

Mark Polish 49:44
Never. Yeah, I've never made that kind of movie. And so to try to fit it in and put a bow on it and wrap it up to be that to a crowd that is going to be very disappointed once they click it and to see what they have. It's not what they cut. That's unfortunate. You shouldn't do that to consumers or the audience. That's just unfair.

Alex Ferrari 50:02
And that's why, like, there was a there's a film recently that I saw called, I think it was called this is this is life. And the trailer looked wonderful. It has an amazing cast as Olivia Wilde in it. And Isaac umm. I forgot his name. From

Mark Polish 50:20
Oscar Oscar.

Alex Ferrari 50:20
Yeah, Oscar, I think, yeah. And it, you know, amazing cast. And the trailer made it look like it was this kind of like, really, you know, emotional, uplifting, you know, from the writer of Crazy Sexy love, or you know, crazy love whatever that movie was, it was so good with with Steve Carell. And my wife and I like, Alright, let's watch it. And we started watching it. And it was the most depressing thing. I mean, literally, and I don't want to ruin it. I should ruin it for people. But there's something that happens, like 20 minutes in and you're like, you can't come back from that. Like, yeah,

Mark Polish 50:55

Alex Ferrari 50:56
Anyway, I'm like, you might have not seen a movie in years that lied. So

Mark Polish 51:01
Yeah I mean they're so short sighted to the audience. And that's how they cater to it. You know, they cater to the lowest common denominator. Yes. I mean, anybody who's just going to scroll through VOD, and pick a movie by this letter is definitely not the crowd for this movie. And then then I thought start to think like, okay, we have a here. I mean, did they ever think about Aquaman, like smashing us? Because that's gonna come up, that's gonna come up for us. And I think I think more people are gonna hit Aquaman, and then maybe Avengers after that. So I don't know if the a game that they're playing is even gonna work.

Alex Ferrari 51:36
But the funny thing is that people who are watching Aquaman, and Avengers are generally not gonna be dead.

Exactly. So it's like, this deception they're playing is

it's old school mentality. It's all it is. It's old. Yeah, it's traditional old school distribution mentality, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Mark Polish 51:54
No it doesn't. So you know, I, you know, I have this sneaky suspicion that the way that it's gonna play out, and the way people we're gonna, people are gonna find it, people are gonna appreciate it will appreciate it. And you got to just find your grace in that because it's so it's a horrible way to treat, there's only a headlock every couple years. So it's not gonna be it was such a unique way of making it. It's such a new way of doing it, that it should be celebrated and be a trailblazer for other filmmakers not butchered and put in a package to sell, you know, rather than be like, you know, we can do something different. It does have legs, we do celebrate this stuff. And, you know, does it have a narrative in it like that they cut the trailer, sure, they carved a narrative out of it, but it's just certainly not that.

Alex Ferrari 52:41
So how did you come up with the idea for the film and tell everybody what the film is, is really about?

Mark Polish 52:46
So funny. It's about a clock.

Alex Ferrari 52:50
It's about a clock. Do you have to be against that clock

Mark Polish 52:53
It's a transformer clock?

Alex Ferrari 52:55
Is there a chance I thought I saw a transformer in it?

Mark Polish 52:58
Yeah, they probably would stick one in and sell tickets. So basically, you know, the short end of it all it's about intelligence trafficking in the future. And about these two intelligence traffickers, one played by the love and Diana Agon and one played by me and and how when you start messing with the kind of brain things start to go awry in the sense that the brain to when I was was fascinating to me, what the kind of the seed of the idea was, the brain is such an amazing supercomputer that it does much more than anything we could ever kind of manufacture and what was fascinating to me, it was like what you put something in your brain it's your choice to bring it out. It's It's such the safest of safes. You know, it was like there's nothing that you can lock that's more safer than the brain, you know, you put things you don't even know where things go, that they're that you know, like, scent goes one way fragrance goes or, you know, site goes one way so you actually split up the intelligence as well. And so I thought, wow, this would be a great kind of idea for a science fiction movie about you know, someone going over getting intelligence using their, their hard drive in an organic way, and then bringing it back in them extracting it and then at that point, or what of that became viral, what if something were able to infect it and that's kind of the seed of at all. That was kind of the the premise that I had for a long time but there was always a section of this travel section that was always much much larger canvas of the travel side of Kelley and until I did four levers only did I realize I unlocked that I know how I can do this side of the story. That wouldn't cost us a lot of money. If anything, I think it was a little 100 100 grand all those trip we did two and a half global trips. We did almost 20 countries decision. Yeah. And so there was only four of us so that one side of it. There's 17 day shooting with Diana and Andy and Justin and James frame on this And then after that, it was pretty much abandoned. At that point, it was four of us going all over the world, the cinematographer, a drone operator, me and a producer that did the operated sound as well we did we just globe trotted to all these countries, eight and then 15 and stuff like that. And we were able to accumulate very much of a lovers only style of running gun. Yeah, you know, the motto was like this, this side of the film lives in pieces, because we knew we could plug it into a solid side. So we knew that Diana's side was more of a spine that whatever troubles we couldn't or could get on our foreign side, we could plug into her side of the story, because of the way we set it up. So basically, you know, her side was the launching pad for this kind of another narrative. So basically, I mean, to put it in kind of like a term, it was like, she's the heart, he's the head, and you're going to put them back. And they're gonna fight all the way through the head of the story and the heart of the story, and kind of like weave it all the way through. So that's kind of the conceptual aspect of it

Alex Ferrari 56:02
And then also on the the editing of the film is such is so unique. In rapid fire. I can imagine I mean, it is such a unique style of shooting and editing. And I can see now that you say that, because I wanted to kind of get like the fighting. Yeah, the editing seems angry.

Mark Polish 56:23
Yeah, oh, it was. There's multiple issues of what was happening because there was no film to turn to that was doing that environmental editing, there was things that were samples out there, like, but they would shoot it the same way, they would shoot the same subject and just switch the background. But the subject would be saying no one was doing the angles and changing. And so when we are going to these places, you are going to be able to cover the scenes, normally, you want to be able to say I'm going to get a close up a two shot, a three shot and then move on, you are just going into these things running gun and being like, Hey, we had the typical run roll and fall type thing. And we'd capture some of it in Hong Kong and then some of it Marrakech. And so we're just getting pieces of all of that in the train. And bringing that all back, you just had a bunch of pieces, you know, you had a bunch of get some things that strung together really well. And yet some things that didn't, that didn't quite add up. And it wasn't because we didn't shoot it right, it was just, it's your eye versus what it can receive at the time. It's funny how editorial like if you cut from let's say sand, as as the texture to cement is a different kind of cutting and where you would cut it versus cement to cement or the vironment of like times square we are in versus a sand dune, your eye and the level of how you will receive that information was really important to the cut. And that's something you didn't anticipate, because a lot of that stuff is green screen, and we did everything in cash. And so there was a lot of trial by fire and a lot of learning this. And at the point, you just couldn't get editors to do the work log of it all because it was 1000s of hours of like hands falling, feet falling, rolling, rolling, left, rolling, right, running, right

Rolling, left jumping, all these things. So I had to take it upon myself just to start logging all this stuff. And then ultimately, I started editing it because it took me to be like, Okay, this right. Roll works with this left roll. This drone shot works with this in Venice, this works with the Hong Kong.

Alex Ferrari 58:36
It's insane.

Mark Polish 58:36
And then yeah, and then so and then. But that formula wouldn't carry over to the next segment of Kelly's story, because it was something else. And then so each so I think there are 2025 segments of his story each has a different type of way that we had to battle to make sure that to make that work. Yeah, it was it was a challenging, I mean, there was many nights of like, in the basement, in my boxers with my boxer, you did a lot of Holy crap, this isn't working, you know, and, and then the financial aspect of it was on top of it, you know, so there was a lot of just problems, like financial problems that came on top of trying to just figure it out as well. So that is adversities that, you know, I'm still having trauma over

Alex Ferrari 59:23
you know, but the funny thing is, is that even after all the years and all the films that you've made, is that you you're willing to still take risks. Yeah and I think so many filmmakers once they get to a certain level like they do a studio movie and they do like you know you did astronauts farmer, but then shortly thereafter you you went out and did for lovers only with your brother.


Mark Polish 59:44
I mean, that's exciting to me is to try to tell narratives in a new way or push the envelope here and there because I always thought like, Look, even if you crash it's still beautiful. It's like at 100 miles an hour. Everything still looks hot. You know? That's how you learn a lot from you. You know, cuz even when Evel Knievel crashed, people watch, it didn't matter, you know, I mean

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09

Mark Polish 1:00:09
it was the thrill of victory, you know, kind of thing. And so I always was like, people are like, are you really gonna be able to pull off these twin countries and I was like, I don't know, it's just something I'm going to try to do and where they come back. And when I try to piece this thing together, and if it doesn't work, you know, least we know, we tried to do something new and innovative. And it's exciting to try to always bring something you know, you can go to the, every weekend, you can go and see the same stuff over and over when I try to bring something new to the marketplace where it's like, and that's where you're going to probably find a lot of people who it doesn't resonate with, because, you know, we're like, you just go down to the psychology of it all. It's like, the patterns that people are very happy with patterns, you know, and so when they, why Hollywood's doing so well is because people are familiar with the movies that are out there, they know what they're going to get for that 20 bucks ticket. When you do a headlock, it's pushing blood in new parts of the brain. And it's like who I don't know if I like this, you know? And so that's the risk aversion you're going to have eventually you can make it but are you going to people are going to accept it. And that's, that's the problem of why they're repackaging and trying to sell it as something else. Because they know once that clickbait it's basically clickbait. Now, once you hit it, you start to see that this thing's unraveling into a whole different thing. It's like, I didn't want to microdose I didn't want to do this. Why are they doing this to me? Because it's, it's forcing you out of a story pattern. You know, and I don't know if that's as comfortable as people. I don't think people like to be uncomfortable when I'm watching movies that much.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:41
Not the mass, not the mass audience. But there is a specific audience for that. Yeah. And I

Mark Polish 1:01:46
think you have to advance storytelling that way. There's no other way to do it. You have to like go and push it a little bit farther each time. I mean, I figured out the kind of the equation, I think people like they're crazy. And like 30% I think, I think this is it.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:59
No, I think you're more about the 9090 to

99.9. So I gotta I gotta rescale my formula and realize, Okay, I gotta do it. In smaller doses,

when you look at a movie, like Pulp Fiction, when that came out that definitely pushed narrative, it was a


Sheet. Yeah, it still holds. It still

holds up. But it could you imagine watching it at 1968? That must have been so mind blowing to try to figure out what the hell is going on when he went to the black hole? And what was that whole, you know, the part when he's in the master bedroom?

No, no, no, no. I mean,

Mark Polish 1:02:37
you think like, wow, that changed a generational filmmaking in you hope that you can do stories that rival that or kind of get into that framework, or like, I don't understand it, but I respect it. You know, I don't get it. And that's what we're fighting against. Because there isn't support for that risk taking when they do stuff like they did the headlock, people are going to be like, Oh, I need to cater to the masses, or I need to do and I said, we made it for such a small amount of money, that I didn't think this we are susceptible to this treatment. And that's somewhat confusing because they've already gained from foreign sales. They've made their money back but I do think they see the shiny allure to and they're like, well, we can we can help people swallow this hook

Alex Ferrari 1:03:22
you know, and and going back to, to Stanley's work, especially in 2001. From because I'm a Stanley Kubrick everyone listening knows now I'm gonna go into Stanley Kubrick chipper second. But that that movie when it came out, it didn't do well.

Mark Polish 1:03:39

Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
It didn't do well. But what made it money was the new generation the hippies smoking the weed, taking the LSD and going can you imagine watching Ellis

Mark Polish 1:03:54
use that formula with headlock it's gonna come with buy it from my website. Some some shrooms with you.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:05
But it takes but it takes it takes really courageous filmmakers to go out on the edge like that and do something a little bit different. And and the thing that I always tell people is like, Look, if you want to make art, that's fine. Do it for a price. And then and identify the audience that you think that this film is for, because there is an audience for this. This is not a mainstream movie. There's, it's not you know, you go see Aquaman you're not going to enjoy a headlock. But there is definitely a large audience. Well, well large enough to sustain this substantiate the budget that you had for it.

Mark Polish 1:04:49
Yeah. Imean, I think you know, I remember seeing movies all the way across the board from the big ones from jaws to close encounters to all those But the one that probably was definitive was blue velvet seeing, oh, crap.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:05
What the hell is this? You know, I was from a small town, roots, Montana. He's from Missoula, Dave. So seeing that really pivoted my idea of filmmaking, that's what you hope you do you hope you make a movie that you're like, okay? I have been cornfed, these big budgets, but then I see a headlock or I see something, I flip zone, and I'm like, boom, I can do that. You know, and that's how you're gonna advance anything storytelling wise, you know, art wise, you're gonna have to have a few people who take those bullets, you know,

like they say, the first one through the wall is always bloodiest.

Yeah, and plus me. I mean, I busted my nose on this one. And I separated my shoulder. Oh, I mean, the list is long of the sacrifices. And that's probably what the, the the give, I probably wouldn't give as much of what they're doing. Because I'm really never been married to the success of anything or what it's going to do box office, but emotionally, I'm more attached to this movie because of the sacrifices of what everybody did of Diana, and Andy and everybody who believed in this type of filmmaking, and that's what's disappointing is, right, is everybody buying into it? And then this happening? That's, that's just more emotional, where this is such a business to them. And that's unfortunate.

Now, what can filmmakers do to maintain creative freedom?

You know, in this process, what's like one piece of advice that you could give

this budget, you know what I mean? It's like you said before, it's too if you keep your costs down, they're going to trust you, you know, and I think people can really sniff out if it's a creative decision, or a lack of education, there's a big difference. I mean, right. Whereas like, you see things and mistakes become your style type thing, because you don't have the money to do it. Like the twins that I was mentioning before. We didn't move them because we couldn't and became kind of the style of the film. I think, you know, with with anything of the strong voice, people listen, I've never been in a place where, you know, if you can articulate what you're trying to do, that they're not listening to that it's when you bullshit and you're trying to talk a big game or you're trying to do that's when I think assignments go off, and people are like, I don't know, you know, I mean, I don't know if there's very many good storyteller filmmakers around there's a there's a lot that I don't know if there's a lot so there's a lot. I mean, it was like, I remember in the 90s everyone wanted to be lawyers, you know, any movie filmmaker, of course, so there's gonna be a lot of people who love the idea of it, but not the Battle of it.

Oh, yeah. The Rock and rock, the rock and roll director style.

Mark Polish 1:07:38
Yeah like yeah I'm doing this. I got a camera in my hand, and I'm shooting like john Cassavetes. That's not that sexy. It looks like it. But it's not, you know? Boy, it is, it's really hard. Because, like I said, it's not much more about storytelling is much more about engineering, because how am I going to pull this off? You know, the funny thing is, like, you know, the sequence when Kelly hits the car, and it starts to roll over, and it's going head over heels. I'm thinking, how am I going to pull this off, because there's no way I'm going to get a cage to pull this off. So I went to the fair, and got on the Hammerhead ride, and just film to be flipping up and down and then used and inserted it and it looks just like a car.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:14
That's amazing.

Mark Polish 1:08:15
That's the kind of engineering you have to have for these movies. And it's less about, Hey, I'm going to sit back in a in a chair and eat a bagel. And see the thing is more like how am I going to figure out how to flip a car with absolutely zero money. And that's cost me the ticket of the of the fare out in Pomona. mean, they might think it's weird, you know, the guy in a suit and a gray suit that looked like that

Alex Ferrari 1:08:42
with a camera.

It was at that time it was reduced. I mean, I think we had I mean, there's a lot of supplemental iPhone stuff in there. Because at the time we just got into the 4k of it all and so we could use some of it and so there's some GoPro iPhone 4k in there and then the some of the little, little tiny Sony point and shoot that shoot that we use as well.

That's insane. Yeah. And now Lastly, can you tell me the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on a film set?

Mark Polish 1:09:10
And how much on a film set but filming?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:14

Mark Polish 1:09:14
We were arrested in Marrakech, filming headlock. We were detained for a long time. We now expect a little it was a little weird where you were Marrakech in Morocco on a motorbike and and next thing you know you're arrested detained put into a detention center stuff and you know, wasn't moving midnight run with it with one

Alex Ferrari 1:09:34
No, midnight express.

Yeah, Midnight Express. It was like it could have been the beginning of Midnight Express or I'm good dateline.

Because she was missing for

Yeah. And it was at the time was a little bit hostile and nobody was really working with drones at that time and we had like a six prop drone so it's a little bit bigger than what they are now. And so we are filming some of that motorcycle sequences and

You didn't have you didn't have permits?

Mark Polish 1:10:03
None of those places have permits. Yeah, that's just not my style.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
No I didn't, you know, you

didn't know when you're gonna hit the ground. You didn't know when you're gonna film you didn't know what you're gonna use. I was like, it's this movie lives in pieces. I'm not going to close down streets or get everybody excited that I'm going to shoot here for more than five minutes, you know, right. So we get arrested, we get to chain we get thrown in into jail. And they're speaking this weird kind of pigeon French. I don't know what it's a French, but it's very weird. French. Someone will correct me over Twitter, probably. And it was no, it was a little bit scary, would you you know, like with any filmmaking, especially a comic, and you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. So we sat there for a while, and I was like, okay, we go in having there was a moment I was like, holy crap, if that door cracks on rounded, you know, like, Oh, and one more level back and we're not getting out. You know what I mean? Because we're in the room, that's a holding room, we go from one room desk to no room desk, you know, no desk in a room. So what's the next one look like? And so the processing our paperwork to arrest us for a whole mess of things that I don't know, if we did or didn't do. It happens, I get out the door open. I'm about to bowl, I'm think I'm gonna bolt, the door opens. And it's the guy who rented me, the motorbike coming to pick it up. And he's like, happened. And I said, Well, we were riding in the village with his camera, and he's like, give me a second. And so he called his brother who's at another precinct and got us released.

Oh, so yeah, he literally had a brother who was a cop.

He had another precinct down the thing and he came and was like, Look, is a mistake. They're filming or whatever. I mean, it was, it was there was moments that we were like, Oh, this is gonna go bad, really bad. Really bad. And, and so like, my wife, and even Diana, I think they were both aware of the journeys of what was going on at the time. So I'd be like, they were all worried, like I went to off to war. So every time I'd be like, Oh, we were just arrested. And then they wouldn't hear from me. So it was just really crazy, like, dispatch going on between people here in the mainland and what we were doing, because it was just, I mean, it was the ultimate running gun from Hanoi, to Iceland to all these places. They're not very little support in those places. I mean, we'd have a very, we'd have one or two people in Hanoi that would drive us around or in Hong Kong, but we didn't have very much support, you know, when we got there.

That's it. Same story.

It's for lovers love of Italy on steroids. You know,

pretty much it sounds like it

sounds crazy. It's reflected, for sure.

Now, do you want to tell people where they can see the movie?

Mark Polish 1:12:53
I don't even know where it's at. I mean, I know it's out tonight. It's out today.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:56
As we're as we're recording it, it's coming out today.

Mark Polish 1:12:59
Yeah, I think it's

Alex Ferrari 1:13:01
It's gonna if you're looking for As, you have to look in the A's.

Mark Polish 1:13:03
No, this is really funny. There is being tweets that it's still under a headlock in some in some areas. That it's not under that. It's not that. Yeah, so the timing. There was a fan who tweeted me and said, Look, I've been looking for against the clock. I can't find it. But look, I found a headlock in the times. And I was like, ah, we won the forces with it. So yeah, I don't know if she was on the East Coast or not. But I mean, I don't know. They're probably some dark dingy theaters that they put it in? I don't I'm not quite sure where it's on VOD as well. I think it's the same day.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:36
Yeah yeah. So you'll be able to get it on iTunes and all that stuff. So either look up headlock or Against the clock. And I'll put links to both of them.


in the show notes for people to watch. And I'm gonna Mike, I mean, Mark, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions that asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Focus on your story and make that your star. Don't deviate from that, like that great advice. important asset you will ever have your voice what that voice says, Who you are is all on the page. I mean, you can dress it up with anything you want, you know, I got this person attached, or I got this thing attached or I'm talking to doesn't matter when that story is your star when you're feeding that it jumps off the page. I mean, it's the difference between micronized careers having a story that no one had heard before, an insight no one has seen before Siamese twins have things that we could talk about. And so that that immediately separated us from us. We didn't need a name actor because this the twins were the star that you Yeah, the story of this thing. And it's always been that way I've always found when you focused on your story and yet your star, nothing else, more than likely you will generate enough interest if you do get that made.

Would you agree that and I tell this to everybody who asks me that like what do I do? How do I make you know, noise And like, be yourself be courageous enough to be yourself and do what you want as because that's the only thing that will make you stand out.

Mark Polish 1:15:09
Yeah. And that's, and that's what's probably the most challenging of it all is because there's no one to look at. You know

Alex Ferrari 1:15:16
It's scary. It's scary.

Mark Polish 1:15:18
Because there's no one like that out there. It's your own voice. And so you're like, Am I telling the right story? Am I doing the right things? It's very risky. But I couldn't agree more that if you pay attention to your own voice, there's nothing like it. Even Michael and I are twins tell different stories, you know. And so it's so important, I think, to cultivate your own voice and understand how to communicate that sometimes you communicate it, and people hear you and sometimes they don't.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:45
Yeah, and if you look at any successful film director, or a screenwriter, every big one, they all have their own thing. Yeah,

I mean, it's a it's the biggest, or the largest collaborative art form, we have the most expensive as well, you're gonna have a lot of voices, and a lot of different ideas coming in your way. So it's really important for you to know what you want, and invite those ideas in but understand, you know, what works for you and what doesn't work for your stories as well.

Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or

Mark Polish 1:16:16
Career? Oh, man. Yeah. This was a movie thing. I just like divert to the Bible.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:27
I mean, we've had that answer before, but if

he doesn't know me amazing story. They get to the sacrifices. Amazing. And then the whole the whole Holy Ghost thing. The ghost stories are amazing, too. Not at all.

It really it really is a fantastic work.

Mark Polish 1:16:48
I mean, what 32 authors, it better be

Alex Ferrari 1:16:51
At least

Mark Polish 1:16:52
You know, there's a lot of there's a there's a lot of different books that I've read that I really like. I mean, I think one of the earlier ones was the making movies by

Alex Ferrari 1:17:07
Sidney Lumet.

Mark Polish 1:17:09
Yeah, that was pretty definitive.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:11
That's a great book.

Mark Polish 1:17:12
Yeah, it was one of those ones you picked up and it was real. You know, it was a real like,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:16
Yeah. I still remember it clearly.

Yeah, yeah. There was one of the earlier ones that we came out that I liked. You know, I've always liked you know, always like, although my films aren't reflected, I'd like to story about Robert McKee. I always think that's a good callback to understand some of the fundamentals of storytelling. I mean, it's there's such a formula to how films, stories and screenplays work. So it's always good to go back. Like how do I do this? Or how do I get from A to B to C? I mean, know the rules and then break them. You know, so he's a good he's good to set those rules up. I think that's a

Thoses are good books.

Mark Polish 1:17:51
Yeah. Those are two books out there right.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:53
Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Mark Polish 1:17:57
Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:59
These are some tips. I'm talking now.

Mark Polish 1:18:00
I know. I know. I didn't know that. No, you're getting Oh, like, you know, Dr Phil

Alex Ferrari 1:18:04
Oprah, please, please. Oprah.

Mark Polish 1:18:07
Dr. Phil, Dr. filmmaking. Let me see what's Uh, what's the thing? Probably patience. I think patience is a thing because you like to, you know, you'd like to, I think patience is the hardest thing is that when patients are free to type thing, that's always the hardest to, to. Because you want to get up and run and make it and you know, that you have to cultivate a story and it takes time and everything that's worth the damage takes time. So I think patience is probably the thing and you know, not to be so serious, I think, to understand, like, be comfortable with what you're doing and not, you know, be so serious about it. I think you can take your work serious, but you don't have to take yourself so serious, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:18:54
very good. Yeah, patience is one of the big ones I get. And I get that answer a lot. Because it's true. Yeah, it's true. No, no, it's my answer to when people ask me that question. I know it's patience. Took me 40 years to learn.

Mark Polish 1:19:06
I'm still learning it.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:08
Yeah I know. It's a it's still hard sometimes. Especially when you just want to get up and go. I'm like, I want this movie done already. Yeah,

I mean, that's what I mean, this film took four years. So it's like one of those things where you're like, Alright, what am I going to do today to make sure that we try to get this thing done and understand that the the pieces will will eventually come together or what we need

now in three of your favorite films of all time.

Mark Polish 1:19:34
They constantly change because you're fresh. I mean, What's about time in America is pretty much up there all the time. sighs like that. Dog the afternoon.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:42
Another amazing one .

Mark Polish 1:19:44
And let's throw one there like Tootsie. Tootsie is pretty good.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:47
I just love Tootsie

Mark Polish 1:19:48
Yeah I just think it's underrated as a as a comedy. I thought that was really good. I mean, there's there's so many that are so influential, why and why? And what I do and what I do you No, I mean, look, Penny Marshall just passed away.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:02
I know.

Mark Polish 1:20:04
Perfect movies ever written. Amazing

Alex Ferrari 1:20:08
Beautifully performed, beautifully directed. And then also on our, arguably one of the best baseball movies ever made was League of Their own

Mark Polish 1:20:14
Yeah. Yeah, the highest grossing i think

Alex Ferrari 1:20:16
I think it might be.

Mark Polish 1:20:19
I mean, there's that there's so many movies that, you know, that are so influential that I grew up in the 70s, where they were just feeding Oh, yeah, Max. No, of course not definitive movie that made my why I'm a movie maker. The one Australian one with the before was dubbed it was on HBO, you know, and they played it 10 times.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:41
Because it wasn't a lot of stuff out there.

Mark Polish 1:20:43
I mean, Sunday afternoon, I mean, did that just blow you away? That it was like he was doing it for sex change for his lover? You know? I mean, I mean, I was seven years old, or eight years old, going, Wow. This is what we rob banks for?

Alex Ferrari 1:21:03
This is what you know, can you imagine that movie coming? Like there's a lot of movies that came out in the 70s. You like, can't that could imagine taxi driver showing up today?

Mark Polish 1:21:10
Yeah, yeah, we could it just it just couldn't know that. The time is basis is not there for that maybe one day, you know, we'll have those versions. Again, you know, you know, you know, we'll have to see. Well, I mean, it's all good

Alex Ferrari 1:21:26

Mark Polish 1:21:26
there's so many great filmmakers today that there's

Alex Ferrari 1:21:29
it's just, it's just different stuff. Yeah. Now, where can people find you and the work that you do?

Mark Polish 1:21:36
I'm, obviously on Instagram under my name. I think that's a platform people use. I have my own my own website, which is just markpolish.com, that you can reach me there's things to reach me there. And then Twitter on both handles, you know, the headline, headline movie, and they don't have my name. Some Russian has my name on Twitter. his squadron club is my Twitter.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:03
I'll put it up put it in the show notes. Man.

It's a it's like old CBS member they'll see Yeah. That was taken. banned. I wanted. You know,

Mark, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you so much.

Support and reaching out and, and taking the time to talk about a headlock and my other work, I really appreciate that.

I told you this would not disappoint. I want to thank Mark again, for taking the time out and jumping on to drop some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And if you guys have a chance, please check out his new film headlock, or against the clock depending on where you are and how you look at it. You'll see you find it, but it is a very, very visually stunning and interesting film, especially for what he did and how he did it. It's quite remarkable actually. And, you know, as filmmakers, like we said in the interview, you just got to kind of take some risks sometimes and and you know, sometimes, you know, the first one through the wall is always the bloodiest and, and that's what these guys do. You know, that's what Mark and his brother do. So, so well, so definitely check them out. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at film entrepreneur.com forward slash 069. And guys, if you haven't already, please head over to film biz podcast.com and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you so much for listening, as always be that film entrepreneur. I'll talk to you soon.

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