Don’t wait for others to finance your projects, don’t waste your time on medium or big-budget scripts. Try to write and create something out of a very low or no budget ON YOUR OWN. Be a producer of your first movies, because you should prove to others that you deserve to get funds from producers and investors.
As a part of my series about “Pop Culture’s Rising Stars”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing László Illés. László was born in 1987 in Hungary, Miskolc. He began making independent films when he was 13 years old and has continued his passion for film to present day. Currently, he is directing films, commercials and music videos including working as 1st Assistant Director in Hungarian features, international films, commercials. Illés’ independent personality carries through to his films, which have been primarily financed through crowdfunding and private investors. He owns his production company (Intergalactic Productions), which enables him to pursue his passion and make top quality, critically acclaimed independent films for international sale. His first feature film was a horror film, ‘The Basement’, in which he served as director and producer. The Basement was released in 13 countries and on DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD, and Television winning raves reviews from audiences. The Shepherd is his second feature film as a director. The Shepherd is a historical drama, which takes place in Europe during WWII, in a territory occupied by Nazis. The main character is an old shepherd, who lives alone on a ranch. After his daughter gets killed by German soldiers, he decides in his grief to save as many Jewish lives as possible. Throughout the film, the Shepherd is faced with many difficult challenges, the most difficult culminating: to save the life of a Jewish family, a wounded girl, or himself from the German soldiers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us László! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in the west side of Hungary, in Szombathely. I lived in many places during the last 32 years, but for a couple of years I’m here again. My mother is a teacher, and my father is a forester.
I have a very beautiful childhood. Thanks to my parents I spent a lot of time enjoying nature, as we were hiking almost every weekend. Those days still have a great impact on my life. We lived in a classic concrete-paneled apartment building, but luckily it was next to a small forest at a very peaceful area.
I’m quiet happy that I grew up in a period when there were no cell phones and also the computer games were not very popular, so we spent all our freetime together with my brother and the other neighbor kids in the backyard. We played soccer, baseball, hide and seek, we built bunkers out of trees and bushes in the forest.
I think the most important thing in life is to have a happy and meaningful childhood full with fantastic and lasting experiences.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was always fascinated by movies, filmmaking is like a miracle for me since I was a child.
First I wanted to be an actor, but it wasn’t “enough” for me. There were always stories in my mind and I loved to write them down. To create characters, interesting situations, create something that’s not existed before it, and make them a reality. I was a huge Star Wars fan during my childhood, and I collected action figures as well, so I started to shoot stop-motion animations with my best-friend when I was 13, and after it I wanted to make more films. As the years passed, I created a lot of animations, short films with my friends, wrote any scripts, and filmmaking became my life goal.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Filmmaking is always an outstanding an unique experience. For me all periods, projects and all film shoots were always of the same interest to me. It doesn’t matter how big the crew or the budget, the only thing that matters is: to create something.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Back in 2004 (I was 17 years old), I made a movie with my friends called Chumba Wumba. It was a pseudo-documentary about a fictional creature that lives in the water tunnels of our neighbourhood. To be honest, I thought the audience will be scared and they’ll start to believe in the existence of the creature, but at the first screening everybody was laughing during all runtime… It worked really well as a comedy, and all the people were very satisfied after the screening, and they had a lovely time, and said congrats to me. But in the end, I was deeply disappointed, because I intended it as a creepy “thriller”. So I learned a valuable lesson that it’s not easy to communicate with the audience. You should find a way (although it’s not easy) to evoke the same emotions out of the viewers of what you want them to feel about your story, scenes and characters.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well know we are working on the festival circuit of The Shepherd, and afterwards we will start the distribution process. Besides that I’m working on the script of a historical adventure horror movie. We’ll shoot a concept trailer next month, and afterwards we’ll start looking for investors.
I really hope that I will be able to start shooting next Spring. I’m also trying to find a company to finance and produce my other project/ mini-TV series. It’s a mystical sci-fi thriller that takes place in an abandoned ghost town.
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Well, I want to share only one reason: Everything is just a point of view. There are no common truths in society only different angles of approaching the different tasks and problems. One of my favorite examples is Clint Eastwood’s ’Flags of our Fathers’ and ’Letters of Iwo Jima’.
Those movies are about the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II, as told from the perspective of both sides. If you’ve seen those movies, you understand what I’m talking about. Without representing diversity in film and television, humanity will never have the chance to understand each other.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You can do it! — I think the most important thing is that you should believe in yourself, and you should believe that you are able to achieve your dreams. There are always hard times and difficulties, so my advice for everyone is to find someone who believes in you, and supports you emotionally.
- Don’t be afraid to fail! — Being a filmmaker is a very hard life. Even if you do everything good, there are always other circumstances that can lead you to fail. You can’t avoid failing, so sometimes just let it happen. You don’t have to feel that it’s over. You should find out why it happened, what were your mistakes, then stand up, and start everything from the very beginning.
- Trust no one! — Maybe it’s a bit pessimistic statement, but I learned that the hard way that I can only rely on myself. I don’t really want to share stories about this, but in the beginning of your career don’t let your projects depend on others or you will fail badly. Mostly in this instance, I’m talking about producers and money. Don’t wait for others to finance your projects, don’t waste your time on medium or big-budget scripts.
Try to write and create something out of a very low or no budget ON YOUR OWN. Be a producer of your first movies, because you should prove to others that you deserve to get funds from producers and investors.
- Your movie is the most important to you — Filmmaking is about collaboration, but don’t judge your crew. If you are a director you will never find anyone else who shares the same emotion about your movie. You should accept that for most of the crew people, it’s only a job.
- Learn to make compromises — Filmmaking is a business and sadly nowadays it’s more about money, than pure art. You should accept that. As I mentioned earlier, it’s better to make low budget movies, than making no movies at all. The price you should pay is to learn to make compromises. Actually it’s a very creative process and you can learn a lot from that.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t do anything what you don’t like! I know that everybody should pay their bills. If you don’t have a proper job because you are a full time filmmaker in the beginning, you are just happy if you have any paying jobs. But if you are working with customers for a long time, it could lead to having a constant feeling that you are living for someone else’s dream and not for your own dream. So my tip is that if you want to direct feature film, then grab a camera and start being creative for yourself and start making movie for your own career. Don’t hesitate to take risks or think outside the box. In the long run, it makes you successful.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are a lot of important movements in the world already. I have always attached great importance to nature in my life. I spend a lot of time in the forests and mountain nearby. It’s a huge inspiration for me to be surrounded by the energy of nature. I try to do a lot not to destroy, but to look after nature and the planet. I would be delighted if all the people would try to reverse the destructive process and be more respectful and devoted to the Earth.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I never was a lucky guy, the opportunities never knocked on my door. I had to fight very, very hard for everything I achieved. Of course filmmaking is not a lonely creative process, you need a lot of people to make a movie, so I’m very thankful for all the cast and crew members of
’The Basement’ and also ’The Shepherd’, beacause they were there to help my dreams come true even though I wasn’t able to pay them normally. If I must name only one people, it’s obviously Mr. Roy McClurg. He is a very large-hearted and selfless man, who was the biggest supporter of my previous two movies. He was always there to help me even without knowing me. Without him I wouldn’t be able to make any movies, so I’ll be always grateful to him.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s a very simple quote: “Always keep fighting”. I know I’m very idealist but it would be so great if all the people could live a life what they truly love without making any compromises. Life is hard and nobody starts their journey on Earth with equal possibilities, but I want people to fight for themselves and never give up their dreams. I think we are in existence to achieve completeness and happiness.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Actually there are three of them: Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky. They are my all-time favourite directors. I’m in love with all their movies.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
The Shepherd’s FB page: http://www.facebook.com/theshepherdmovie
The Basement’s FB page: http://www.facebook.com/thebasementhorror/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!