SMU graduation is so close we can already hear Pomp and Circumstance drifting through the air. With the many Mustang alumni in the Dreamfly offices and our very own Geenah Krisht graduating this Saturday, it only feels right to spend this #ThrowBackThursday talking to SMU Film Alum Thane Economou (SMU Meadows Class of 2010), who now spends his days making comedy magic happen on the LA film scene.
We caught up with Thane this week to discuss LA, building relationships in the film industry, and the golden ticket to being successful in movies: doing good work. Check it out!
DFLY: When we met, you were already living in LA. What was it like for you making that leap so soon after graduating? How did you go about building a network in a city like that, and finding work in your field?
TE: I moved out to Los Angeles almost immediately after graduating from college. I had interned in LA all three summers of college, so I was familiar with the city. Initially, my network was all fellow SMU alumni. But through work, that network slowly began to grow. And as far as finding work, I applied literally everywhere – agencies, production companies, etc., sending out as many as ten resumes a day, with no response. Eventually, I found freelance work as a script reader.
DFLY: What’s your take on working relationships in Hollywood? How do you know when you need to chase someone, when to cut an old friend loose, who to believe, et al?
TE: I’m both an independent filmmaker, and a story editor at a production company based at 20th Century Fox, allowing me to see the industry from two very different angles. The key is to do good work, and maintain relationships as best as possible. Because it doesn’t matter if you know the right people, if you don’t have the work to back it up.
DFLY: So before I get into asking you about your later work, along with the upcoming stuff, I want to get into the #TBT portion of our conversation and ask you to share with us some reflections on the style of filmmaking you did in school, particularly on your first film, The Roommate from Hell.
TE: The Roommate from Hell was in many ways the quintessential freshman movie. The cast was my friends. The set was my dorm room. There was no crew – just me. I was learning to use a basic lighting kit as I worked. I had a friend hold the boom mic, and it didn’t record any sound – which meant we had to shoot the entire film a second time. But I re-watch it now: yeah the camera work is nonexistent, and it runs way too long, but it’s not half-bad. It’s pretty funny, and I still chuckle at the insane hubris of who I cast myself as…
DFLY: So one of your latest works, Quentin & Lisa at the Grocery Store, has done really well on the festival circuit, garnering a lot of attention on the internet as well. As an indie kid in a movie giant like LA, how do you go about securing financial support, crew and everything necessary to produce your own projects?
TE: When I first came out to LA, I helped out on every film set I could. In return, people were often generous with their time and resources. As time went on, I began working with extremely talented producers who were able to connect me with great crews and financing.
DFLY: Did you know when you conceived of the story that you were going to make a six or seven-minute move in one take? That’s wild! And it can’t be easy to do it well.
TE: When I first moved to Los Angeles, I wrote a feature-length screenplay called The Wedding Party. It was an ensemble romantic comedy which takes place entirely at a wedding reception, in real time, and I wrote it to be filmed in one shot. Through the one shot method, I wanted to immerse the audience in the story, making the humor all the more awkward and the situations all the more real. My producers on The Wedding Party [including SMU film alumni Ryan Hawkins and James Lentzsch] are incredible and have been seeking financing so we can shoot the film independently. One plan of action they had to raise funds was to shoot a short proof-of-concept to show that I could maintain the humor of my script while pulling off the one-shot. Based off of characters and situations from The Wedding Party, I wrote Quentin & Lisa at the Grocery Store. Our cast was extremely talented and our crew members were all-stars. I mapped out the seven-minute Steadicam shot with the DP Josh Lipton. We filmed the short in a grocery store in Loa Angeles over the course of two nights. One night was spent blocking out the shot with the actors, crew and extras. Then we spent the second evening shooting the one-takes. We completed seven full takes of the shot, most of which were nearly perfect. Quentin & Lisa was very well received, and won a handful of film festival awards. That’s been incredibly helpful when approaching investors for The Wedding Party.
DFLY: In what ways would you say you’ve grown most as a filmmaker? Which developments have been the most vital in your progression as a director?
TE: My confidence as a director has definitely grown. My motto is to plan meticulously, execute flexibly. I need to be the most prepared person before walking on set. And when I’m there, I need to be ready to answer any question or problem solve any issues as they arise.
DFLY: I absolutely adore that mantra. Such great advice. What’s the one “golden rule” you would give if you were speaking to a class of freshmen filmmakers?
TE: Internships. Do as many as you can. Paid. Unpaid. Summer. After-school. Every summer of college, I would head to Los Angeles to intern. Not only did they help to bolster my resume, but I learned so much and met many people who have mentored me in the years since. Also, if you plan to move to LA (but aren’t attending film school there), it’s an absolute must.
Check out Quentin & Lisa at the Grocery Store above and plug into The Wedding Party news at http://www.theweddingpartythemovie.com
Follow Thane @ ThaneEconomou.com
Rachel Wilson, 2015.