After Evan Glodell made Bellflower, a 2011 Sundance debut that went on to earn two Indie Sprit Award nominations, he thought his decade of trying to break into the industry was finally behind him. Which made the next seven years even more frustrating.
In the latest episode of Demystified from StudioFest, Glodell, founder of film production company Coatwolf, talks about the one extremely simple lesson that’s been the key to all the success he’s had as a filmmaker — and how it took him almost two decades to learn it.
He recalls of the days after Bellflower: “I’m having meetings with literally A-list actors who were like, ‘I want to work with you’ and every big studio in town, and I was like, ‘We’ve made it.'”
He adds: “‘Things are gonna work from now on’ is not even remotely close to what happened.”
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Despite countless meetings, he couldn’t get funding for his next feature film, Canary. So Glodell realized he was back to square one.
And discovered that square one is where the magic lives.
“Nothing had ever worked in my life until one day I said, I’m gonna do this thing and take what was available to me, like in my real-world resources I actually had, which is what we used to make Bellflower,” Glodell says. “And instead of being like, ‘Hey, that was a big life lesson, that worked!’ we were like, okay, now let’s go back to holding our hands out… What the hell was I doing?”
Not only would no one fund Canary, he said, but no one would explain why not.
“No one told me, you know? I started asking people — hey, look, this is the thing I’m doing and I’m not getting a good reaction. It would be hugely appreciated if you could tell me what it is that scares you. And even asking people that seems like it makes them have a nervous breakdown,” he says. “When things are going good, people call you back. When things are not going good, they just disappear.”
And so he came to a realization.
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“If I care at all about telling stories in these movies that I say I care so much about that I’m willing to endlessly work and go to meetings for seven years with no outcome, I should just go back in with the resources I have now,” Glodell says. “The second that I made that decision, all of a sudden everything turned around, and it was like the stars aligned.”
He decided to make Canary on his own.
“I started a Patreon to just somehow have some small amount of money flowing in and launched a specifically stated goal to produce this film,” he recalls. “And then as soon as we did that, all of a sudden because we decided to do it ourselves, all those people — not all of them, but people that I recently met with and gotten no’s from — suddenly my phone’s ringing.”
Soon after, Joe and Anthony Russo’s production company, ABGO, offered to fund the production in full.
Looking back on the early days of making Bellflower, the law of attraction was on Glodell’s side the whole time.
“We had our first meeting ever meeting, and we just met at a dive bar here in Ventura. We’re there talking, and we’re like… we need these locations, there are these two main locations that are the apartments that the characters live in. That was a big thing and I don’t think we made any progress at all,” he recalls. “By the end of that night, we had those two locations from people that we met at the bar.”
Now, when aspiring filmmakers ask for his advice, his reply is simple: just start with what you have.
“You literally have like zero in your way. It’s only you,” he said. “You can tell your story, but you’re scared of having your story be there bare naked on the screen without the polish of millions of Hollywood dollars and skill, you know? Like 99% of people who reach out to me to say the same thing. I’m like, dude, you just need to get over your fear and just go. Do you have a rich family? Do you have rich friends? No? Okay, you’re in with most of the rest of us. Just go. Nothing’s gonna happen if you don’t go.”