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Producer Filmmaker Talk with Adam Scorgie
Adam Scorgie’s plan A has always been to work hard, be humble and take chances; and it has worked tremendously to date. A father of 3, a loving husband and an acclaimed documentarian, Adam has an astonishing ability to balance his relentless work schedule and his invaluable family time. To date, Adam has produced ten feature films, with two features currently in post-production including ‘Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo’ and ‘Bisping’, an in-depth look at the life of UFC legend Michael Bisping. His leadership and loyalty to his team has ensured that his future films guarantee to impress and inspire those who watch them.
Producers, directors, choreographers and professionals in related occupations oversee and control the technical and artistic aspects of film, television, video game, radio, dance and theatre productions. They are employed by film production companies, radio and television stations, video game companies, broadcast departments, advertising companies, sound recording studios, record production companies and dance companies. They may also be self-employed.
Over the 2016-2018 period, employment in this occupational group grew strongly. The unemployment rate increased slightly to reach 4.1% in 2018, below the national average of 5.8%. However, the unemployment rate for this occupation has been historically below the average of all occupations, mainly because about 60% of the workers are self-employed. The increase in the number of unemployed workers, coupled with a low and stable number of job openings, led to a surge in the number of available workers to fill those vacancies. The mixed signals of key labour market indicators suggests that the number of job seekers was sufficient to fill the job openings in this occupational group.
A university degree or college diploma in the performing arts, broadcasting, journalism, business administration, theatre production or film studies and Experience in a technical or production occupation in motion pictures, broadcasting or theatre are usually required.
(Visit the jobbank.gc.ca Canadian Website For Most Recent Numbers)
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Today’s guest is Adam Scorgie.
Here’s our Job Talk with a Producer Filmmaker.
Welcome to The Job Talk Podcast, where we talk with people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges, surprises and secrets to success in their industries through conversation we explore their careers, past work experiences, and the education that got them to where they are now.
I think we could produce several episodes for The Job Talk with everything that you do You have summarized what you do with a term called Creative Hustler.
Can you tell me what what is a creative hustler? Well, that kind of that phrase came up because I was talking to I used to…
I went to acting school in New York and a fellow student there I was connected through one of our a friend and he said, oh, man, like you’re…
I remember what he called me, but he said, you’re something else.
And I said, No, no, I’m just a fellow creative hustler like yourself.
Trying to navigate this crazy world in the film industry.
And he’s like, Oh, man, I love that term.
Right? And he’s like, I think I’m going to use it.
And I joke and say, No, sorry, it’s trademarked you can’t use it.
Right? And then and then I started, you know, and it’s funny because the more it kept coming up and then like, my editor and friends working and they’re like, Man, you are a creative hustler.
Like, that is your phrase.
And then they start putting it on business cards and signing off with it.
And and it would always bring conversation.
Like, everybody has their fancy business card.
Some people try to make them metal or they were like up there, they plug into your computer, USB and all the different things.
And but that would always that would be like, whoa, creative hustler.
That’s bold that you call yourself that.
Why do you call yourself that? And like, because I will always find a way to deliver.
That’s all ultimately the ethos of the creative hustler.
And even now we have the creative hustler key and thing that we’re doing and the communities that we find a way to deliver like this.
There is no one path to making your film successful in our industry, especially with the technology’s constantly changing right now, right where it’s, it’s, you know, streaming, not streaming.
VOD, iTunes, iTunes, no stopping that.
There is not like here is your path to getting a film made.
So you just have to find a way.
And that’s where now everyone will, you know, in especially here in Alberta, where I work in Super Channel, the province where we say, oh, if you want to figure out the financing, you need to talk to Adam.
He knows how to do it.
He is the guy that he is the creative hustler that finds a way if he gets behind a project and he’s passionate about it, I will find a way to not only deliver and get it financed, but also make the talent happy and make sure that, you know, when you hear about our companies name afterwards, like oh, they were fantastic to work with.
We’d like to work with them again.
So that’s kind of the creative hustler kind of embodies all that that you we find a way to get it done.
We don’t make excuses and point fingers we take it on the chin and we get it done and we deliver.
And I have a lot of questions about finances with film.
I’m not going to ask you how much you make, but I will ask you how.
Transparent with everything.
So I can tell you I don’t I don’t make as much as like probably a lot of these guys in the oil industry.
That’s that’s the most common most common conversation I have at dinner parties now is that, you know, you’ll meet a lot of people, especially in Alberta, and I’m sure even they will have what they would term they I heard from them is the golden handcuffs right where they make great money and they’ve come accustomed to this lifestyle.
And Alberta, like thankfully with the energy sector, there’s a lot of great jobs, but a lot of guys absolutely hate it where they’re like start having anxiety and nightmares on Sunday knowing I have to go to work on Monday.
I hate it so much.
But my family’s accustomed to, you know, having an RV in this house and this much income and, you know, and then they’ll be like, do you mind if I ask how much you make? And I was like, not nearly that much, bud…
I was like, I have a great I have my I truly I my dream job I get to travel.
I get to learn from all different cultures and experience and interview some of the most fascinating people in the world.
But I probably won’t make as much as you make working in the energy sector.
So if money is your goal and that is your primary way of measuring success, then probably the film industry is not for you.
Yeah, I would say that for sure.
Adam, where did you grow up? So all over.
I mean, I was born in Trail, B.C.
I moved overseas shortly after that when I was younger.
I lived in Australia and Singapore, and then I moved back to Canada with my biological father to Trail briefly and then went to high school in Kelowna.
But I was from Edmonton originally before I went to B.C..
Yeah, but yeah, I’ve grow up all over.
I went to college in Texas, I went to film school in New York, I lived overseas, so I’ve been all over the place.
And people often make jokes and find it funny that Edmonton is where I ended up settling with my kids of all places.
Hey, I’m a thin skinned Edmontonian, and so will I will just comment that Edmonton is a beautiful city.
So I you.
Know, I honestly, my wife jokes with me, she’s like, Oh, your dad loves I’d like as far as places to raise your kids right now, and you look at like, you know, the cost of living and what you can like, it is pretty hard to beat Edmonton.
Like, I’m not going to sugarcoat the weather in the winter.
And this was a bad winter we had this year with COVID and everything to the last couple of years.
The first six years I was here, we had mild winters.
I used to joke like global warming was doing good things for Edmonton, but this this last two winters was bad.
And then on top of it with the global pandemic and being locked and confined in your house was is pretty, pretty crappy winters these last couple winters.
So let’s talk about because I can go all over the map.
Like you said, you went to school in various locations.
You lived in a lot of places, but you’re ultimately from a small town in B.C.
I will just say that.
Let’s talk about your first education to get into film.
Was that New York City? Yeah.
So I went to New York originally to be in front of the camera.
I, I modeled briefly and then because obviously wasn’t, I wasn’t good at either the modeling or the acting.
I was kind of OK at both.
Right where I did parts on soap operas.
I was in a Britney Spears video, which always gets brought up on IMDB.
I did some, you know, I was surviving, though, like I was my parents.
You know, I moved away at I think I was 20, 21 when I did that.
And, you know, never looked back at asking my parents for any money at that time.
I put myself through film school.
I was working full time, and that’s where I really I did love the craft of acting and stuff, and I wish I was better at it.
Like, I really did, really was like it.
It honestly feels almost like therapy when you’re going through it to be so honest and open with your emotions because we we fake them all the time and the example they give to you.
And what I can give is like you know, if you’re stuck in an elevator with someone and someone does the polite thing and says, Oh, how are you doing? I’m like, you know, even if inside you just had the worst day and you’re like, it’s fucking horrible and fuck you for asking me, like, sorry.
I don’t know if they’re swearing on here.
Like, Oh, there is yak going on here.
But, you know, inside that’s what you’re feeling.
We will hide all those emotions and make.
You, right, you.
Or if you’re about to break down and cry like we.
So actually, when you go to acting lessons, when you start, it teaches you how to break down the fakeness and just be open and honest and how you’re feeling.
Like if you’re feeling grumpy, be mad, right? Or if you’re feeling sad because we that’s why actually kids a lot of the time when they start acting, they can actually be so good because kids are so truthful.
It’s like time when you see a young child actually.
They’re so is like they’re more in touch with their emotions.
They haven’t allowed the societal pressures to make them pretend like, no, I’m not really sad when I am or I am mad, but I’m going to pretend to be not mad.
So that to me I found fascinating human psychology behind acting like, wow, we learn to put on this fake facade all the time and then you have to break it down and find out what those triggers are and why you have these defense mechanisms.
But I learned quickly that, you know, especially in New York, you had so many talented people that can like sing and dance and do accents and play ten instruments.
And I was like, I can’t do any of that, right? So I found naturally kind of when my dad died, I moved my biological father passed away and I moved back to Kelowna and I inherited his nightclub.
That’s really where I just found producing work for me.
I was good at connecting people and solving problems and finding ways, even though my education, everything was in the most traditional way of solving problems you know, kind of growing up in the nightclubs and living that when I was a young age, that I just I knew how to deal with people.
I knew how to stand up for myself if I was getting pushed too much.
So I think all those things just really kind of, you know, my dad wasn’t married when he passed away, so I did.
I’d be the executor of estate.
I had inherited a strip club, actually.
I had to go through like it was a nightmare for most 23 year olds to figure out how to navigate all this.
And I made a ton of mistakes, but I got out of it OK.
You know, I never was addicted to drugs.
I never got into the partying.
I never got big into the girls.
I probably want to be more into the girls.
I just wasn’t very good at that.
Oh, come on, you being what, 6’1″? You’re doing all right? Well, I would.
I would say you think you can, but I was I was I was more I was more of a scrapper when I was younger.
So I kind of got more into that kind of trouble was my thing.
But then obviously, once I had a nightclub and a liquor license and stuff in my name, you can’t do that right.
If you get an assault charge you you lose the whole.
So I grew up very quick.
I went from 23 to 30 in six months and I got my business degree in life really quickly.
There, and I think that just boded well because that’s when I was starting to get into producing and producing my first film, The Union, The Business Behind Getting High.
Yeah, and I want to get right into that.
You having a career in front of the camera or trying to go down that road has helped you, I’m sure, on the production side and being a producer behind the scenes because you’ve seen the industry from almost all aspects.
So when you moved back from New York to the Okanagan, where did you were you putting your your film career on hold? Did it look like you weren’t going to go into film and you were going to be a nightclub owner? Is that how it was working? Yeah, I never wanted to go there.
I didn’t get I didn’t get fall in love with the nightclub thing even for a moment, but I was trying to figure out a way to I was like, OK, you know, because I know most like actors and stuff.
You struggle as a if there’s a way to run the nightclub, you know, typical naive young, 23 year old, I’m like, if there’s a way to run the nightclub, make revenue and still pursue what I want to do in film, that’d be great.
But cash businesses don’t work good if the owner is absent, right? That’s just in the when the cat’s away, the mice will play, right as the expression goes.
So I learned very quickly that didn’t work.
And and then but I was starting to do The Union at that point.
I was starting to dive into that.
And I mainly I was inspired by that because I’d watch Morgan Spurlock and Super Size Me and Bowling for Columbine and Docs were hitting a new level of like popularity.
Like, I never really watch documentary when I was younger other than maybe National Geographic on some cool animals or like an IMAX thing, right? Where you’re kind of looks like you’re flying over the mountains and stuff.
But recently in New York, we’d started to go see documentaries were and they were amazing, like Super Size Me, which seemed basic from a production standpoint.
And then Bowling for Columbine, like Shattered Records and did I think $56 million or something? It was.
So I was like, Wow, maybe we could do.
And, you know, everyone like, didn’t believe me when I would tell them how I grew up.
Like, I grew up around, you know, the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club and my dad on a strip club and my friends were growing marijuana and were millionaires and all this and people.
Until I brought them there, all my, my roommates and except for New York, and they’re like, dude, everything Adam said is true and it’s crazy, right? So, like, I brought them to the Hell’s Angels clubhouse in town.
I had them.
I brought them in to grow ops to see how those operated that guys that I went to high school with were operating and all that stuff.
So what are you going to produce a documentary on your life? Because you’ve you’ve lived a lot of different lives.
It’s funny, this has come up a lot lately.
I don’t know about a doc, but I’m thinking about hiring like a ghost writer to do a book.
And I’m thinking maybe that’s starting to come now just because of everything that’s like that.
You know, the doc business is doing well that, you know, people like yourself keep asking like Adam, you’ve got a crazy journey yourself.
And originally that was one of the screenplays I wanted to do was to do something on called Lake City, all about like a young guy that inherits a nightclub and to navigate this world of understanding the motorcycle clubs.
And, you know, and it wasn’t all bad because the motorcycle clubs, like, I grew up with a lot of those guys there for the most part, a lot of them are good guys.
They just live a different life.
Ultimately, you know, even that’s what Sopranos did, is Sopranos brought you family drama in a crazy environment, right? Yeah.
That’s what great.
Because if you can’t connect with somebody on a human level, right? If you just paint, you know, motorcycle clubs as just gangsters and thugs, then the audience can’t connect.
But those guys, a lot of them I’m still friends with.
I still do witness letters and stuff for them.
Right where they you know, they have kids.
They’re family men, too.
Like, they a lot of them didn’t have good family growing up.
And the club became their family.
That became the way that, you know, that was their brotherhood in their family.
And who looked out for them? Yeah.
So you’re not you’re sorry to interrupt you there.
You’re not adverse to risk it seems so daunting to me that you had The Union.
Was that your first idea for a documentary? Yeah.
And I did everything you’re not supposed to do.
OK, that’s great.
But you learn from it and you’ve created a big portfolio of amazing documentaries.
So you have the idea for The Union how what is the first step? How do you how do you even find financing? What do you what do you do? So that that’s a great question.
And it’s a tough because the.
So for The Union – Union, I did it differently than the other films because it was my first film.
So I didn’t know how to do the proper steps of like now when I create a film, the first thing you do is you you you get the concept on to what we call a pitch deck, right? Or like a Bible or a tree, like an outline, which would be if you relate it to other business, your business plan.
Right? Here’s what it’s going to look like.
Obviously, I actually have an example of like, you see, here’s what we did for Dolph, right? Where you have like your pitch deck, you have the title, you had imagery of writing.
You have, you know, obviously because we’re in the film business, you you created very visually and like limited writing and stuff until you get to the treatment and all that.
And then typically you take those pitched acts to the various like financiers and you try to put your financing together right.
And now that’s how all of ours are done.
Like when Dolph comes, the first thing I do is I get their life rights and I get that because you can’t I’m not even technically you can’t even pitch a subject about an individual technically.
Now, most of our suing everybody that does, but until you have their life rights.
But with the union, it’s my first film.
I didn’t know how to create a pitch deck.
I didn’t know about synopsis treatments, outlines.
I just knew that there was something interesting.
If we did, our kind of idea was do something like Super Size Me did.
But about the marijuana industry right I have a host and I was acting at the time to be like, OK, I’m also I’m like in better shape and better look in the Morgan Spurlock.
I think I could be just the host is him, right? But I can take you down a cooler path instead of eating McDonald’s for 30 days, I could take you down this path of marijuana and to grow houses and how this B.C.
You know, and is $1,000,000,000 industry while remaining illegal.
So I did everything you’re not supposed to do.
I borrowed family money.
I borrowed a lot of it.
And I used a lot of my own money.
That I got from eventually, like selling the nightclub and the little bit of assets my dad had and putting that in.
Now, thankfully, you know, we did well enough that I was able to recoup a lot of that.
But technically, the union has never made a profit.
I think on the books it still owes like 50 grand, not to mention the years of work put in like you didn’t.
I don’t get the bill for that.
But what it did do is that was kind of my film school degree.
I was able to take an idea, bring that idea to life.
Produce it, shoot it and deliver it to the world.
And then I’d say there’s a lot of luck in it, but you got to be good.
To be lucky is that we made a great film that really hit the world at the right time.
It was right when social media in the Internet was getting popular, so it it spiraled in a way that nobody could see coming it was right when Facebook was launching, MySpace was dying, although we did have a MySpace page and all these ways, and it was able to connect with an audience in a way that we could have never thought.
And you have played you played a part in legalizing marijuana in Canada, for sure.
Well, that was so the way that happened is like again, through social media when social media first came, we were building they used to have like groups.
Now they have pages like Facebook changed a lot since we were first on it, but used to have groups that we had a union like the movie group.
And we give people updates.
We just got in this festival, we just won this award.
We’re seeking distribution, but groups annoyed people because any time you did a post, everybody would get a bump on their phone.
So it was kind of like spam.
So they got rid of groups and then they had pages, right? So then pages are kind of where the business went and the union page grew into, I think at its peak was 789,000 people.
And this is like this is before most businesses had a Facebook page, like this was literally we work.
I know it sounds crazy.
But we were one of the first I remember distributors making fun of me being, Oh, that’s so cute.
You got a Facebook following.
And I was like, It’s so cute.
We have half a million people that follow that I can message instantly.
I’m like, I don’t understand why as a distributor you don’t see value that I got so cute.
Facebook is they still thought social media and stuff was for kids until I would say, Well, yeah, I was so cute that for our sequel we raised $42,000 or $240,000 42 days because of that cute page, right? That we were able to connect now social media has changed where if you are paying for the promotions, they crushed the algorithms.
So things have a much harder time to go viral.
But the union went viral organically and in The Culture High did when we did a Kickstarter campaign as well, it went it went viral.
And that because of those viral things, is why it absolutely played a part in Canadian legalization, is that the federal the Parliament Hill kept getting thousands of emails and letters referencing our film the union saying You’ve got to watch this, you got to watch this.
Then finally the Liberal Party invited us to screen the film for a night nonpartizan screening to help educate politicians and and members of Parliament on, you know, the mistakes they made with with criminalizing cannabis.
And so it’s like how how much we played a part? I don’t know exactly.
But I do know that shortly after we were invited, the Liberals then did actually make it federally illegal.
And I’d like to say it’s because they actually want to do something to help Canada.
But let’s be honest, all politicians, whatever color you support, they’re all the same.
They knew it as a way to get the young vote because they just got hammered in like 2008 2009 they looking for a way to connect with a young audience.
They were getting thousands of emails.
They’re like, Hey, I think I have an idea of something that might get us the young voters yeah.
That’s why I voted for them.
I didn’t read any of their other policies, and probably all the rest of them are garbage, but they got me on the canvasing.
Yeah, and I could talk to you for a long time about that film for sure.
When you’re getting funding, the spirit of this podcast is to help people understand being a film maker.
Do you set your salary when you get funding? Is that how it works? Yeah.
So what we do now in the proper business I learn, which took many years to learn, and I think the film industry is probably more challenging than other industries for that, that reason, because there’s a lot of egos involved, because there is red carpets.
You are working with talent.
There is a thing that’s a little bit different than, you know, no offense to other businesses, but if you win like the Best Salesman award, like when I was at Santos, like I’d win these things and be like, I put in the garbage, I could care less, right? Like give me my bonus.
And that’s all I cared about, right? So the egos involved when you’re trying to learn there is this thing that my company and my team have tried to break, but no one wanted to help.
When I was younger and I tried to ask, What was your budget and how much did you ask this broadcaster for and how does it the tax credits work? Nobody wanted to help you because there is a stupid old school way of thinking that somehow if I help you, that’s going to take away from the projects we’re doing or you might pitch to the same broadcaster and they might give you a license instead of giving me a license.
And I always hated that.
It was so hard to learn.
And even if you go the traditional route with film school, they don’t really explain it to you either, right? They kind of they give you the gist of certain things, but they don’t go into it partly because a lot of them actually haven’t done it.
Like a lot of the teachers teaching, you actually haven’t like pitched a project, got the money, raise the money went and shot it.
You know, it’s really hard to navigate, but the way we do it now is, like you said, you create a pitch book, you then go to the broadcasters.
Now, what we always do in particular is we always sell it in Canada first.
So I usually go to Super Channel, who’s the only independent broadcaster in Canada, and they’re right here in Edmonton.
One of the reasons I moved to this lovely city and embrace the cold is because my main business partner is right there and I can go visit them and go for lunch and have a personal rapport, which, like any business, plays a big a big factor in in addition to the product we deliver.
So once they then give me a long form for a broadcast license, I then that then triggers the provincial and federal tax credits, which is how our Canadian system operates.
That’s why Canadian productions like The Last of US and Stuff are coming, is that if you’re going to spend money and you’re going to get a rebate for hiring Albertans and putting money into the economy, this has become a big business all around the world for the film industry.
Is it like, you know, like subsidies for oil and gas or whatever else? If you’re given a benefit for hiring locals and Albertans and you get a rebate for doing that, then companies want to come there, right? If they go if we spent $1,000,000 and we get 30% of that back because we’re employing local Albertans, and supporting the economy, we get nothing if we’re in the States right.
We just didn’t then we have to recoup it.
So businesses are like, we will try to come and hit all the qualifications to make sure that we qualify for that.
So my next question for you is this is kind of like the day to day question with what you do, and you’re going to have to really speak broadly to it.
But your trailers for your movies and I think I emailed you this before I even met you, Adam.
I told you that the trailers alone gave me goosebumps are how heavily involved are you? Are you in the edit suite as as the films cutting together? Yes.
I’m not super like active like like I’m not a micromanaging producer.
So technically, what I do is I work with several different directors that are now I’ve worked with them on several projects over the years.
And we’re like family.
We’re very, very good friends.
So kind of when a project comes to me, I will think about which director I think would be best for it, and then I’ll approach them and say, Hey, would you be interested in this? Right.
Or or maybe specifically.
Now, at this point, someone’s seen some of the directors work, so they’ll they’ll reach out to the producer and be like, Adam, we loved Inmate, like, we want to work with Brad Harvey or We love Bisbing, we want to work with Michael Hamilton, and they’ll reach out to me, and then I’ll talk to the director and, you know, see what their schedules like, see if they’re interested, because we all know it’s a minimum of a two year process.
If we’re going to dive in from the time of like raising the money, shooting it, editing it, delivering it, releasing it, then you know, we better really be invest in really we love what we’re doing, otherwise, you know, they won’t do it.
So that’s kind of where I come in.
And then once it’s shot in there in the editing phase, they’ll send me dailies and stuff.
But usually by then, because we flushed out the idea of the pitch deck and we have the director’s vision and you have the treatment, like you have an idea of what it’s going to be.
But because it’s a documentary, you have to have that honest curiosity to right where you discover as you go.
Otherwise, it’s not a great the doc should be.
You shouldn’t be driving a narrative you want.
You should be, honestly in curiosity, discovering as you go, Wow.
I never looked at things that way, man.
That interview today rocked me.
So when it comes to the trailers and stuff, I’m certainly there for all the footage, depending on what directors.
Sometimes I even do the questions.
Brett does it very interesting.
Our one director because he also is the cinematographer, so he’ll operate the camera but have me do the questions and he writes the questions because I am just a vessel.
I don’t take any credit for other than I know how to keep good eye line from my acting lessons and stay engaged.
Other than that, I just look down and ask a question and I stay engaged.
So the trailers are a special technique in themselves.
There are great there are great directors that are great at delivering a film but are not great at trailers.
So the trailers can be different.
A lot of the times we create trailers, Pollyanna might want editors really good at them.
And then my director, Brett’s really good too.
But usually we have to deliver one.
We deliver to a distributor but then a lot of times they’ll edit it or tweak it to the way they think will best sell it.
So it’s a combination.
I wouldn’t say I’m in the editing suite thinking I’ll obviously looking into I love that and think we should change like maybe I’ll offer two or three notes, but usually my team, I know they’re so good.
No, I don’t.
I get them the content they need to make it good.
I line up the financing, I line up the interviews, I line up the travel, I coordinate all that kind of stuff so that when they get there, they can just have the freedom to use the elements that I help line up and put that into something powerful.
And you’re always so gracious with giving credit to your team.
Whenever I see comments from you, you’re constantly thanking your team.
Well, I think I tried that is I really appreciate bringing that up because that’s an important thing that, you know, that’s why usually in the theater you’ll see me I sit to the credits are done because the producers and the directors normally get most of the love.
But when you see the end credits, how many people are involved? It’s like a hockey team.
Like, you know, maybe the goal scorer that got the game winning goal mattered.
But the defenseman that cut off the play, that got the puck off the boards that, you know, the two to three passes before the two assists, that all played a part in that win.
Your goaltender making the big save before obviously making references to hockey because our daughter’s playing so it really is like when you think it is a team like I, there is yet to ever be a film where it’s like written, directed, shot, edited research.
Like there’s always people in the end credits.
It takes a team to deliver it.
And I’ve always said from day one, it just came to me, I think naturally in the way I was raised and I would much rather own 5% of an amazing project and own 100% of a shitty project.
That is fantastic for sure.
Can you talk about a moment when you were experiencing something where you had a feeling of I can’t believe I do this for a living? That’s been happening a lot this last couple of years.
Where it’s like, Wow, I get to I know most recently, I mean, we were just up in Rankin Inlet with Jordan Tootoo, right? And I’ve never been on an experience like that in all my filming.
Like, we, we went on a three and a half hour snowmobile out of town in would like and they joke and call them in Inuk limousines.
But they’re like, we call them shakers because you’re just back, you’re bouncing, bobbing with you’re hitting all the snow on the rocks with film gear and our team and we were out on the land with Jordan and his family for three days.
And, you know, they’re hunting caribou and we’re fishing and we’re sleeping in tents on the Arctic tundra.
And it’s amazing.
Like, our team was kind of like, wow, do you like like we won the lottery of life.
We get to do this for a living.
Like, even my wife called me and she’s like, I don’t normally admit this, but I am so jealous that you…
he’s like, like, I would love to go on one of those trips just as a life experience, just what it’s like to be on the land and fish and do.
She’s like, and you’re doing it and you get paid to do it.
Like, that’s an and our team has been really good.
Like I said, we’re almost like a band or like a hockey team now or a family when we go.
Like we said, our director Michael Hamilton’s like, Man, I’m so glad I’m doing this with you guys, because if it was just a team that was put together by CBC or something else, it wouldn’t be the same.
Like it was something we’ll remember forever.
We all had to share a tent.
You know, there’s six of us in there for 3 days sleeping, dealing with each other, snoring, mainly mine, you know, it really is when you’re kind of like, Wow, this is what I get to do for a living is, you know, and again, that’s where I go back to that, like that golden handcuffs story where more and more people come back now where they’re just like, Dude, I want to do that.
Like, how do you do that? And how does one do that? And I’m like, Man, years of eating shit because there is many years you know, even my wife was like, Adam, maybe you should just give it up.
You did some great things with the union, but like, we got kids now and you need to earn more money.
And I was always working right? But I would work two to three jobs and then try to find how to make the film industry not a passion, but actually make it a legitimate business.
And and it was hard, especially as I mentioned earlier, like, people don’t tell you how to do the budgets and people don’t tell you how to do the financing.
And so there’s a real lot of trial and error, and you have to grind and learn how to figure it out.
So now I know we go pre-sell a project, but once you pre-sell it, this is a lot of things I tell young producers, it’s all you go a super channel.
They just go, boom, here’s your half million dollars, go no, no, no.
You get your broadcast license from Super Channel, which then triggers your tax credits, which then we apply to what’s called the Canadian Media Fund at certain times of the year.
And you get your budget of anywhere of half a million dollars to 650,000, but then you don’t get that money still, right? So you have to then it took me many years with investors to now I have the credit to where the banks will then loan against that paper, right? So while we’re in production and then when we’re done and you’ve done an audit that verifies that you hired Albertans you spent that money in the province that you’ve given back to the province, they then give you the rebates of the federal tax credit.
You have to make one application to capital, which is federal and then another one to the provincial tax credit and then even the broadcasters and everything, they’re like, OK, now that you’ve delivered the movie, will now start paying you in monthly increments or quarter or however that the arrangement set up that they pay you.
So even once you win that broadcast deal and you get the deal, you then have to learn how to do that.
That was something I was never taught in film.
Like you’re always taught about how to pitch how to win, how to win over broadcast, or how to win over Netflix, how to do all this like OK, so then you get them.
Even Netflix, even before this little spat they had where they’re finally their stock dipped and they’re having some money troubles.
But Netflix got one of the worst payment terms.
So like even if you go there and you knock out of the park, good.
Kim, we love it.
We want to make this a Netflix original.
They don’t just go, here’s $1,000,000, go make it because, you know, they’d have a lot of filmmakers go fuck off to Costa Rica and be like, boom, I’m rich.
I got $1,000,000.
I’m out, right? Like, so what they do is best case scenario, they usually give you like 10% during.
Now you have to go get a loan against that.
So not every filmmaker can go do that, right? So then you have to get private investors because even a lot of banks in Canada will not loan against Netflix because they’re outside of Canada.
So then you have to secure private investors and then you have to build in what their interest and rates are as the money comes back.
And then once you deliver to Netflix, the way they normally pay is that if it’s an original or if it’s an acquisition, then over the course of the three years that their term is, they’ll pay you every quarter till that money is drawdown.
So you’re carrying that money for like three or four years.
So when you mentioned earlier about being, you know, adverse to risk and stuff, I guess that’s probably when you said it, it kind of a light bulb went off for me, that’s probably one of my biggest assets is I’m not afraid to take risks.
That’s probably why I’m a good creative hustler producer is that I’m not risk averse.
I will I will get it done because I know I can deliver.
But it is something that I’d be lying to say if I don’t stress the times with like there’s a lot of weight on the producer’s shoulders because we carry all this, because we have to make sure our team’s taken care of and they’re paid and the talent’s paid and we have money to shoot and everything.
And then if you go over you’re I’m diving into my fees or my line of credits to cover it or going back to investors to cover that until we deliver and we get all that money back right so yeah, the producer has to manage a lot of when you understand what the producer does, because at times our producers work the most when we are getting the project financed and when it’s done and when it’s done right, the stuff you don’t see when you’re on set.
A lot of times the directors like, Well, I’m doing all the work, I’m writing the questions, I’m doing them like, yeah, once I got all the money, once I got you paid, once I got your gear up to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, right? And got everybody there safely and organized everything and got the chain of title and the legal done like, yeah, you can now write questions and ask questions, right? So that that is probably the more and more I learn, that’s probably my, my best skill is that I’m able to, to handle risk aversion and go over that kind of stuff for sure.
I have three remaining questions for you and you’ve been very generous with, with your time today.
Have you off the top of your head throughout your film career, has there been any surprises and have you ever experience something that I wish I knew that before I started this this journey? Lots of those.
So I wish I had learned with my first film that you don’t spend your own money to get it unless you’re securing against presale licenses, right? That’s what I tell all filmmakers now, right? Just don’t you.
But I say that.
But like, I don’t know if we would have got a cannabis film greenlit back in the early 2000s when it was so taboo to even talk about it if we didn’t take that risk.
So I guess the big surprises that have come up, every project has them in different ways.
Sometimes you’re dealing with the talent being difficult and you have to learn how to navigate that.
And then other ones, it’s financial struggles and then other ones.
So there’s been many surprises.
It’s hard for me to put my finger on one now at this point.
I just take them with a smile and be like, Oh, so this is the challenge for this project.
I see it now.
I now I have experience in how to overcome this one, and I can help my team navigate that.
But I think the biggest part is just, you know, and it’s what I tell all young filmmakers, too, is I don’t want filmmakers to go what I did where it was like six years I was working three jobs.
My Riley was just like three.
And I was trying to make this all work and not a hobby.
I knew I’d found what I love to do, but I didn’t quite know how to do it is that’s why I’m so open and sharing and trying to help so that other filmmakers don’t have to do that.
That would be the ones or I just I wouldn’t want filmmakers to go through that because it’s a it’s a painful process because cause a lot of like fights and arguments between me and my wife, you know, when you’re really struggling for time, but you found something you’re passionate about and you’re trying to find a way to make it a living, you know, it added a lot of strain and pressure that I wouldn’t want to see on anyone else.
So that’s always what I try to, you know, tell young filmmakers how to be be safe and mitigate risk to to to also mitigate that and protect yourself as best as possible.
That is fantastic advice.
Summarize three more.
So we’ve got two more deployed.
Wasn’t there a second one in there? I might think.
Maybe I do.
So welcome there.
Listen, math isn’t my strong point.
That’s we we kind of in video my last question, let’s summarize.
So I had two questions for you.
Summarize why you love what you do.
Well, that’s easy.
There’s many reasons to say the one thing, but if I had to summarize it is that I get to travel the world and experience new perspective lives and cultures all the time.
And I change – me and my whole team.
We’re moved at times from interviews and from cultural experiences we have and I think that’s kind of what you when you talk about the meaning of life not to get to be like.
That’s all to me, your mission.
It isn’t how big your bank account is or your house or what car you drive.
It’s like, you know, did you fulfill an experience enough that you can give back and do the same? So I get to do that for a living and where I really witness it when, you know, there’s a very special moment that always happens is when you’re in a theater that’s packed for the people coming to see your work and you see them have an emotional experience from what you put together, and there’s nothing more emotional than that.
I know the specific time when I remember saying, when I said I’m fucked, I’m never going to be able to do anything else again is when we’re making the union and we’ve done a few other film festivals before because that’s a whole thing.
I could do a whole I could do a whole segment just on the film festivals and that that is that we submitted to the big ones.
We’d submitted to Sundance, we’d submitted to Tribeca and submitted, of course, is our first film.
Like, we got rejected probably with a laugh on the other side.
We’re like, You’re kidding yourself, right? First time filmmaker, you think you’re done.
We finally got into him, got into the Winnipeg International Film Festival, which is even around anymore it folded.
But we are so excited.
We got accepted.
Somebody else saw our work and they believe to a special and we’re going to have a premiere.
My family flew in from Texas and my friends from New York and Pennsylvania like we all came.
There’s like 12 of us flew into Winnipeg, of all places, to go to watch the premiere of the film.
And there was like 17 people there to watch it.
I brought 12 of them, right? And I was like, and we were disappointed.
We’re like, Oh my God.
But then this is the producer me.
I was like, OK, I’m going to start putting this in.
Rather than letting festivals dictate.
Let’s pick festivals in provinces and cities that I have connections to because I know I come from a nightclub and sales and promotions world.
I know I can fill that theater.
So when we did the Vancouver International Film Festival premiere of the Union, We’re in town and I’m walking up to the Garneau Theater that used to be there, or Granville Theater that used to be on Granville Street.
And there’s a line up and I remember me and the director Brad were like, Whoa, man, because they did a lot of the screenings there for the festivals.
We’re like, Whoa, somebody film is so busy.
Look at a lineup.
And then we saw that little sign with like a chalkboard and rushed tickets for the union, and we’re like, Whoa! They’re like, That’s for us.
And they’re like, Oh yeah, there’s only like 50 rush tickets to see a theater 450 sold out.
They’re just now staggering.
It So we go in there and it’s packed.
There is an empty seat other than the two broken ones, there’s like the old fold down chairs and they were just broken and watching the film in that audience for the first time was like nothing else.
Like hearing people laugh when Joe Rogan made a joke and hearing people cry when Greg Cooper was showing his MS and he was twitching and how he then smoked cannabis and then just went calmly and was able to speak.
I remember sitting there looking around and really seeing that our work was affecting people.
And by the end, people were in tears and there’s a standing ovation for like 5 minutes.
And I remember being like, Oh, no, I’m never going to be able to do anything again.
Like, I knew, like, how can I just go to putting in what felt almost like slave work for, you know, two weeks to get a piece of paper with some numbers on it will never fulfill me the way that that just did.
I have to find a way to make this a living.
So that is I forget even what your question was there, but that’s how do I know that this is what I want to do for a living and would be like.
What do you love? I knew I knew there that this is what I had to do and I had to.
And it took me many years.
It took me almost like six years afterwards, working so many jobs and jobs that could fit where I could figure it out and took many years to figure out how to do it.
But it wasn’t really till 2013 till I moved here to Edmonton and worked for Aquila that I really learned how to do it full time.
Yeah, well, Adam I want to thank you for spending time with us today and please keep producing documentaries because you’re inspiring so many people.
I thank you very much.
I will certainly do my best.
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