Creative, reliable, reputable, ambitious, and easy to work with are just a few qualities describing Gabriel Campisi. He began filmmaking at eight and was winning awards at festivals and contests as early as fifteen. Gabriel recently wrote the book “The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors.” The book is highly recommended for filmmakers as it provides advice, plans, and includes interviews with successful producers that share real-world experiences and strategies.
He also is one of the partners at Traplight Media which has released multiple films and has many more in development. Jared Cohn is another partner at Traplight Media and between Gabriel and Jared along with the rest of the Traplight Media team they are making nothing less than highly entertaining films. Traplight Media is always pushing the envelope and thrives on audiences being shocked, thrilled, and getting stomach pains from laughing.
Five Quick Questions with Gabriel Campisi
Can you tell us about your book “The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors” and the benefits filmmakers will get from it?
GABRIEL: Most people think of Hollywood as a creative place, where ideas flow, imaginations run wild, and movies get made like magic. It’s accurate on the one hand, and that’s why I’m here. However, a lot of people don’t truly comprehend that Hollywood is also a business, creativity be damned. It’s a place of numbers, contracts, agents, lawyers, money, statistics, research and strategies. A far cry from the world of imagination and if you’re not careful, it can be a very cruel place.
I wrote my book because I noticed a lot of less-experienced filmmakers getting taken advantage of by more savvy individuals in the business. From financing deals to distribution deals, I saw filmmakers with amazing talent crash and burn because they had no clue what they were doing with the business side of things. They were so eager to sign “the deal,” that they didn’t pay attention to the small print. Then, when the movie made money for the distributors, they wouldn’t see a cent of it, and cry foul. Yet it wasn’t exactly because the distributor was a crook, but because the filmmakers agreed to something in the contract that they shouldn’t have.
I also noticed other filmmakers have a line to someone with money, but wouldn’t know how to go about getting them to put up the cash for their projects. So I stepped in to help there as well. Eventually, the whole experience culminated in me writing a book on the subject, with the same goal in mind: to help aspiring filmmakers understand how the business works, and how to go about securing funds for their projects and taking it to market — and not getting taken advantage of along the way.
The book is written “from the trenches,” from hands-on experience, not theory. The second part of my book is filled with interviews with many of my successful friends who basically endorse what I have to say about the industry. The interviews are conducted with independent filmmakers as well as A-list producers, such as Gerald Molen, the producer of Jurassic Park, Minority Report, Twister and so many more. He worked with Steven Spielberg for over 20 years, and has an Oscar for Schindler’s List.
There’s also Donald Kushner, who produced Tron and Tron: Legacy, as well as Monster with Charlize Theron (for which she won an Oscar). Others I interviewed include filmmakers Pen Densham, Morris Ruskin, and the owners of The Asylum, those guys behind Sharknado and Z-Nation. Each tell stories of how they made it in Hollywood, how they got the funds to make their movies, and how aspiring filmmakers and producers can succeed in this insane business.
The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors, 2d ed.
by Gabriel Campisi
Being a partner with Jared Cohn over at Traplight Media, can you tell about the company and when/how it started up?
GABRIEL: Jared and I met a few years ago, and we quickly realized we shared the same aspirations. We began to share ideas, thoughts on movie projects, and strategies on making it all come together. We began to collaborate, creatively and financially, and quickly realized our thoughts were always in sync with each other. It was a perfect partnership right from the start, and so we decided to make it official.
We worked together on 5 movies this year alone, and have several in active development. The company gives us the liberty to pick and choose a lot of what we want to do with our careers. It allows us to steer things in certain directions. We have a huge pool of talent we work with, from producers and crew members to cast, including very well-known actors. We have a line on investors and distribution outlets, and can strategically produce films that make sense — films that will make their money back, because we consider the content, the performers in the movie, and the overall viability of its potential in the marketplace. (You’d be surprised how many indie filmmakers make movies without any legitimate idea of their performance potential. They believe just because they make a movie, they can sell it. They couldn’t be more wrong.)
We also work independently with other filmmakers and producers, and we pursue our own individual goals. You might see us working on different things from time to time, but that’s only because we’re both very ambitious and constantly hammering away at the walls of Hollywood. Our minds are always racing, always looking for a way to express that creative spark.
We have a comprehensive business plan we put together for Traplight, and it’s helped open a lot of doors for our company. With so much that’s transpired this past year, I’m actually in the process of completely updating it to reflect the completion of so many projects. The bottom line is we just want to make really cool movies and tell really cool stories, and just have a lot of fun doing it.
Since you were a teen you’ve won awards at film festivals and contests. Did that success back then drive you to your success today?
GABRIEL: Yes, completely. Those festival wins definitely reinforced my drive to follow my dreams from an early age. Imagine being a little-league baseball player, and you smash that homerun straight out of the ball park. Suddenly you realize you might have a future in the professional leagues, and you work even harder to practice your craft and to advance doing what you love. It was the best positive reinforcement of my teenage years, that’s for certain!
I remember the first award I ever won was at Chicago’s Photographic Society of America Teenage Film Festival. I was a senior in high school. I had won for my short film, The Lost Creature, which featured stop-motion animation creature effects that mixed with the live action performers. Keep in mind, this was all shot on Super-8mm celluloid film, not digital media like we have today.
That same film went on to win more awards across the country at other festivals, and that pushed me to shoot even more movies and to step into professional production work.
The same thrill and excitement of shooting amateur films on Super-8mm and 16mm from my youth still permeates what I do today. It’s the same magic, the same expression of creation that manifests in the imagination and works its way onto paper as text, and eventually onto film or digital media as a completed motion picture.
And there’s no better feeling than watching audiences enjoy my movie, whether I wrote, produced or directed it – laughing, crying, screaming or booing at all the right spots. When that happens, there’s truly no greater satisfaction.
With a lifetime of achievements in the industry, what were a couple experiences that stand out the most?
GABRIEL: There are so many experiences that stand out, I could probably write a book on the subject, truly. I’ve met some very interesting people in this industry, many who are good friends today. And I’ve had some very interesting experiences, to put it mildly.
I think there are stages to the experiences that stand out. By stages, I mean experiences at different times of my career.
One of the most exciting experiences that happened this past year is the fact I’ve been able to meet one-on-one with the heads of studios to discuss future projects. This would not have been possible just a few years ago. It’s only because of the movies Jared and I have been doing recently, the success we’ve been sharing, that certain people have started to take notice and open doors that were previously sealed shut.
The reason this really stands out for me is because I can clearly see the direction things will be going over the course of the next few years, and it’s in line with our original business plan. Another ongoing experience that always stands out for me is meeting stars or celebrities, and seeing who is genuinely nice versus who is genuinely rotten and outright obnoxious.
I meet and work with stars all the time. It’s part of the business, so it’s very difficult for me to get “star-struck.” They’re ordinary people like you and me, and we have a job to do.
But one particular encounter earlier this year stands out that made me stop and think:I was with Jamie Kennedy (who, by the way, is the coolest person ever) at the Visual Effects Society (VES) Awards at the Beverly Hills Hilton, where they were giving away awards for the best special effects in motion pictures. It was a huge gala event for the industry, and they honored legendary FX masters Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra with lifetime achievement awards.
The highlight of the evening was the movie Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. We were standing backstage, and Jamie Kennedy was called up on stage to present an award. I was watching him on the backstage monitors, and suddenly someone walked up and stood next to me. It was Sandra Bullock, the star of Gravity!
I think I said, “Hey, Sandra, nice to meet you,” or at least those are the words that tried to come out of my stuttering vocal chords. I was taken by surprise, but seriously more taken by her beauty. Sandra is one of those actresses who looks even more beautiful in person than she does up on the big screen. I was truly mesmerized, or “star struck.” She smiled and said hello, and went up on stage as Jamie stepped off. She gave away the final award for the evening.
What’s the significance of this moment? I realized I can still get star-struck from time to time, and it might sound silly, but I honestly think that’s a good thing. It means I still truly appreciate the magic and the wonder of this enchanted world of make-believe called Hollywood.
I should add that I got to meet FX wizards Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra backstage, too, and being a lifetime science-fiction fan, and following their careers from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Star Wars, Star Trek and beyond, I was equally star-struck. These guys were responsible for creating the imaginary worlds of some of the greatest movies I ever watched growing up as a kid – movies responsible for making me get into filmmaking.
Anything you can share about current and upcoming films you are working on?
GABRIEL: I just wrapped The Horde in Los Angeles, which I produced and Jared directed. It was a very ambitious project on a very tight budget, which made it challenging, but fun. I think audiences will really enjoy it when it comes out next year.
We got to work with some very cool renowned horror actors, including Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses, Halloween) and Costas Mandylor (SAW films, Picket Fences). I got to know Costas very well, and we spent a lot of time discussing future projects. Costas is not only an amazing actor, he’s also very creative and passionate about ideas and storytelling.
The Horde is part action and part horror, with a whole bunch of mutant mayhem. We had incredible prosthetics makeup on this shoot from Eric Fox and Eric Wilson, as well as some very cool stuntwork and fight scenes, thanks to Tony Snegoff, our legendary stunt coordinator.
This was a passion project from our main producer, Paul Logan, who also wrote and stars in the film. It was his brain-child, and a lot of it is a throwback to 80’s action and horror films, with a slick touch of modern visual style and fast pacing.
We shot most of the movie in Topanga Canyon, in Moorpark, and in Burbank. We had the best people working on this movie, and that’s why it’s turning out so good in the editing room. We seriously couldn’t have done it without our amazing cast and crew, and my fellow producers, Doreen Bennett and Beth A. Thuna.
As for future projects, there are several at different levels of development and financing. One I can tell you about is Little Dead Rotting Hood, a fantasy action-thriller with a zombie-demon version of Little Red Riding Hood fighting a supernatural mega-wolf and its minions. The other is 323, a gangbanger movie in the vein of Boyz N The Hood and the movie Colors from 1988, a gritty look at gang-life in Los Angeles, with a young man who struggles to find his way through incredible opposition. I wrote both original screenplays, and if all goes as planned, they will be shot in 2015.
There are a lot more exciting things in the works, as well, but I’ll wait for them to get a little more solidified before announcing them.
We can’t thank Gabriel enough for this amazing interview. Check out Gabriel’s and Traplight Media’s websites. Also, continue scrolling down for trailers, comics, promos, etc.
Directed by: Jared Cohn
Starring: Jamie Kennedy, Sally Kirkland & Sara Malakul Lane
[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/vWv_xLPGlcM “]
Directed by: Jared Cohn
Starring: Richard Switzer, Ryan Persaud, & Jackie Moore
[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/7F8vsKsSYPk “]
Directed by: Jared Cohn
Starring: Sara Malakul Lane, Erin O’Brien & Steve Hanks
[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/WR-ouRYzlm8 “]
In addition to Gabriel he also is the creator of the Jailbait comic. This is the Jailbait Cover: This is the cover of the comic book/graphic novel that Jailbait was based on. Jared did the movie and Gabriel did the comic book.
Jailbait Inside: This is the inside cover of the Jailbait comic book where Gabriel is there as Editor in Chief.
As Gabriel mentioned, due out in 2015 is The Horde directed by Jared Cohn and starring Paul Logan. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3924782
Here are some on set photos from The Horde
(L to R) Paul Logan, Matt Willig, Gabriel Campisi, Jared Cohn.
(L to R) Jared Cohn, Gabriel Campisi, Bill Moseley.
(L to R) Costas Mandylor, Gabriel Campisi.
(L to R) Vernon Wells, Gabriel Campisi.
Conceptual artwork for the upcoming movie Gabriel wrote called “Little Dead Rotting Hood.” Artwork by Buz Hasson and Blair Smith.
This is a mockup of the upcoming movie Gabriel wrote called “323,” which is the “area code” of Los Angeles. Artwork by Randy Goad.
Updated Buddy Hutchins poster which will be released early 2015.
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