Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America recently launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenges producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants will make a short film over a single weekend in late June, and the 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards.
We caught up with Seth Rogen at the PGA-sponsored Produced By Conference on the Warners lot where he, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver were offering advice that might be useful for aspiring filmmakers planning to enter.
Although they currently have Neighbors in theaters — which a weary Goldberg said there’s already discussions about making a sequel — the three men were not in attendance to promote any project in particular. They primarily discussed their history together and, best of all, the kinds of stories they’re interested in and how they want to go about making them into movies.
Of course Rogen is a familiar face in front of the camera, but he’s now something of a seasoned producer. Since his first producing gig, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he’s produced nine other features. While his leap into producing sounded fairly easy — he simply asked Judd Apatow if he could work for him as a co-producer — reaching that point was not. As a writer, actor, and comedian Rogen obtained Apatow’s trust by being driven, not by waiting around for someone’s permission to create. Although Rogen mocks his and Goldberg’s work ethic, the two of them achieved success, like most, by putting in the hours. According to Rogen, if you’re a driven filmmaker, then you’ll do the same.
While the actor/writer/director/producer acknowledged some of his advice to aspiring filmmakers is obvious, that doesn’t make it any less true.
“Just make shit,” said Rogen. “If I was a producer and couldn’t write my own stuff, I’d join a screenwriting class, make friends, and try to raise $100,000 to make their movie. At this point, it’s hard to take people that seriously who haven’t made an effort just to do it themselves. We’re working with the guys from Workaholics and the Broad City girls, and they’re people who did it themselves. The production value and lighting might have sucked, but it was good. More than anything it proved that they could make something, which, in and of itself, is one of the most valuable and rare commodities: people who can actually see something through to the end. We work with very few people who don’t have the willingness to fail or put themselves out there.”
One of those people? 50/50 director Jonathan Levine.
“By the time we worked with Jonathan Levine, he’d made two movies: a horror movie for $50,000 and The Wackness, which he wrote, directed, and got financing for,” Rogen added. “I didn’t even watch The Wackness before we hired him. I just knew he made it! That was enough for me. I liked him and knew he made a movie that I had heard of, so we hired him. After we hired him I watched The Wackness, and thank God I liked it. Honestly, the quality of that movie was the least important thing on the scale of three things: I liked him a lot, he had made a movie, and it was a good movie. Just make shit. It’s hard to excuse not just doing it at this point. You could make a movie on your iPhone. You gotta produce stuff.”
Levine’s similar “do it yourself” attitude has worked out for him. He’s now reuniting with Rogen, Goldberg, and Weaver, making an untitled Christmas film coming out in 2015. Rogen later went on to elaborate that if you’re not making something, it’s probably because you’re afraid to fail or to confront the true quality of your work. Unless everyone is saying your script is no good, Rogen and Goldberg claim there’s no reason to ever stop trying.
Learn more about the Make Your Mark competition.