Friendships > Networking — Networking is important but it’s more about finding people that you like and are good people. Josh and Chris who I mentioned earlier coordinated the entire production of Taking The Fall and I met them through a friend but when i met both those guys I just knew they were super nice and genuine people and I could trust them. Make those connections. You’re gonna meet so many people in your life and always keep an open mind but there are always gonna be that select few that are gonna be “your” people that you know you can rock with.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Steven Hellmann.
Steven Hellmann is the Writer and Executive Producer of the feature film Taking The Fall that comes to digital April 9th (iTunes & Amazon) . In addition to writing, financing and producing the film, Steven is self distributing the movie after years of working in film marketing and distribution which entails creating the ads, using Facebook/Instagram YouTube, Twitter ads etc to promote the film, working with his PR team. Steven is rolling out a feature film in the exact same fashion of a full service film distributor from his house by himself.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up in Lansdale, Pennsylvania (Suburbs of Philadelphia) and had a fairly normal childhood. My parents got divorced when I was 8 which was tough, but I feel like I really got the opportunity to know both of my parents so much better and now I can call both my mom and dad best friends of mine so I can’t imagine my life any other way cause I love the relationship I have with both of them. When I was in my youth I was really tiny in high school. My freshman year of high school I was 4’8 81 pounds and when I graduated I was 5’7 110 pounds. High school just wasn’t my time for dating or being “popular” I was very self aware honestly haha. I wasn’t like uncool just middle of the pack pretty normal kid just liked hanging with my friends and playing video games.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I love making people smile and laugh. I feel like I’ve always been a pretty good story teller. My family consists of two nurses (My parents) and then my sister is a Science professor at the University of Dayton so I didn’t get it from my family cause we aren’t really a family of artists. I think what brought me to it was just trying to entertain people and I made a few video skits in middle school and high school that people thought were really funny and when you’re not that cool in high school it felt pretty good to make people laugh for a few minutes. I went to school for film production but actually didn’t start writing screenplays until I graduated.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
Besides shooting my feature “Taking The Fall” the most intense thing I ever filmed was an interview for an old radio station I use to work at in 2013 that was with Macklemore. And if you recall 2012–2013 during his tour Macklemore was like thee guy and I was such a huge fan. I made that poor guy do so many mic checks and he could tell I was nervous but he was such a good sport about it. Such a nice and genuine person. I feel like people know that already but it was such an awesome experience meeting a huge fan but in a professional setting.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Macklemore definitely one of them and the story above. Me and my current roommate actually tripped Jack Johnson with a table at a concert by accident. I use to work in radio before I moved to LA so I met some really cool musicians. One of my favorite bands is the Airborne Toxic Event and I once went through a haunted house with them through a radio promo.
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?
My parents for providing me with a nice upbringing and allowing me the flexibility and freedom to go pursue my dreams. My close friends for just supporting me and riding with me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
At the Centre Court of Wimbledon there is a quote on the wall from the poem “If” by Rudyyard Kipling that reads “If you can meet triumph with disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” And the quote means it doesn’t matter if you win or lose all that matters is that you try your absolute best. If you fail that’s okay. The fear of failure is such a crippling thing that it stops so many people from achieving what they want. I am okay with failing it’s fine. I want to do what makes me happy in this life and that’s making films and inspiring people. I can’t imagine my life without Taking The Fall it’s such an important movie to me and a story I needed to share and it took everything I had to make it. Massive risks and if I would’ve been afraid to fail I would’ve never done this and you wouldn’t be interviewing me.
I am 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?
- We all need more perspective — America is so big and vast. They say 70–80% of people don’t leave their hometowns most of us have no idea whatsoever the struggles that others go through. I’ve been fortunate to live in Philly and LA where I’ve met many different people and I think there are a lot of stories and truths that need to be heard that people aren’t aware of cause it doesn’t effect them.
- Gender and racial misunderstandings -We need more females, we need people of different races and religions to share their perspective and stories from their experiences. Not the Hollywood fabricated recreations of something.
- A better understanding of each other — We don’t understand each other as different races and upbrings as a white male I have very little perspective or understanding of my female friends and person of colors life and hardships. I am working very hard at trying to improve and educate myself as much as I can. I think if we all got to know each other better we’d all be a lot closer and there would be a lot less hate.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
This week I’m releasing my movie Taking The Fall which is super exciting and I have a lot of scripts ready to film after this. I have one in my mind that is written that I will film one way or another whether that’s with the money from Taking The Fall or an investor but it will happen because like Taking The Fall it’s another important story to me. I don’t really talk about my scripts unless I’m gonna get them made.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
I never gave up. I had no investors to make Taking The Fall, I have no manager, I have no agent. I hired an awesome production team led by director Josh Marble and our cinematographer Chris Alexander that nailed the production of the film. But in terms of the risk and creating this story it was all me. I put myself in over 100 grand in debt to do this cause I believed in myself and now I’m distributing this entire movie that I wrote because I educated myself on how to market films by doing it for years. I am so proud cause I did this against insurmountable odds cause I knew the only way people would ever take a chance on me is if I proved myself and I think I will have done that on April 9th. I don’t know many people that know how to write, finance, produce and run an entire marketing campaign for a movie and the only reason I can do that is caused I worked really hard for years. Doing work that no one could see or knew I was doing to make my dream a reality.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Everything is practice — I should’ve made more skits in college I didn’t film enough. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I started making silly videos cause i just wanted to do it. Don’t worry if something isn’t perfect it’s not suppose to be.
- MARKETING MATTERS — So many good films are made that never get scene or the proper distribution because they don’t get the advertising budget or no how to appeal the film to the correct audience. I would have never took the risk to make Taking The Fall if I didn’t know how to release and market movies. I’ve ran advertising campaigns for theatrical and digital releases for at least 15 movies.
- You don’t need to live in Hollywood to make movies — I’m super glad I moved to LA and it worked for me cause I learned the importance of marketing here and made the right people but I have a ton of friends who can film freely and make projects all over the country.
- Make your own content — Everyone wants to be the big shot director or be the lead actor. If you want to be the lead of a film and can’t get a lead role. Perhaps write your own movie and play the lead. Can’t make a whole movie? Write a short a film and play the lead. Show people you can wear many hats and prove to people that you can make something yourself.
- Friendships > Networking — Networking is important but it’s more about finding people that you like and are good people. Josh and Chris who I mentioned earlier coordinated the entire production of Taking The Fall and I met them through a friend but when i met both those guys I just knew they were super nice and genuine people and I could trust them. Make those connections. You’re gonna meet so many people in your life and always keep an open mind but there are always gonna be that select few that are gonna be “your” people that you know you can rock with.
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
Well for Taking The Fall there was no investors. It’s more about my story that I think people will like. I write a lot of coming of age stories and drama comedies because that’s the experience I know. I’ve worked terrible jobs, I live pay check to pay check. I get the struggles that my peers have because I share them too. I made a whole movie about the perspective of millennials and I am FLOORED that people are like wow this so relatable, raw and real it’s incredible. I wrote this movie straight from the heart because I thought people really wanted to hear this perspective so I trusted my instincts.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
I think everyone should live in at least three vastly different places in the country and learn how other subcultures of America operate and live so we can get a better understanding of each other. Almost like a domestic foreign exchange student program if you will. Think that would really help us understand each other.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this. 🙂
Rob McElhenney. Not only is Always Sunny the best show I’ve ever seen. Rob’s work ethic and journey to become the creative genius that he is now is so commendable. He truly 1000% earned where he got to where he is. I also would love to watch a Phillies game with him over a couple of beers and ask him more about his upbringing and story.
How can our readers further follow you online?
@Stevemayoh on Instagram and Twitter. From there you can creep and find me anywhere else ha.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!