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November 7, 2017

Professor Jason E. Squire Hosts Micro-Budget Panel

DIY movie-making discussion packs SCA 108

Producer Natalie Qasabian (three Duplass Brothers movies); writer-director Joe Sill (STRAY, Apple, Nike spots); CAA  agent Sue Carls; JES; 30 West finance and Investment exec Adam Paulsen; producer Eric B. Fleischman (18 features in four years out of SCA).

On October 18, 2017 the question on every film student’s mind was asked in SCA 108, “What does someone do after they graduate?” There was a different feel in the room at Jason E. Squire’s DIY and the Micro Budget Feature Model because, on this particular evening, the panel was made entirely of people who had made those first steps into the professional world through small films and they had a clear answer.

The panel included alum/producer Natalie Qasabian (three Duplass Brothers movies); writer-director Joe Sill (STRAY, Apple, Nike spots); CAA  agent Sue Carls; 30 West finance and Investment exec Adam Paulsen; and alum and producer Eric B. Fleischman (18 features in four years out of SCA). They covered topics ranging from how they got involved in the micro-budget world to common mistakes early micro-budget filmmakers make.

Frequent guest at Squire’s microbudget filmmaking panels Eric B. Fleishman started the evening with a pitch on why student directors in the audience should consider the micro-budget world and why he’s uniquely qualified to give advice. “I didn’t know anything but micro-budget filmmaking. After USC, I went to Paramount Insurge, which was Paramount’s micro-budget group, and then went to Blumhouse when Blumhouse was starting. From both experiences, I’ve taken the best part of both worlds where I work with people like Joe Sill and help make the film of his dreams. Maybe cheaper than the film of his dreams but he got to do it. I’m fortunate that my background put me in this world.”

There was a family vibe in the air with many of the people having worked together. Joe Sill’s film STRAY was produced by Fleischman, Adam Paulsen was formerly Fleischman’s agent, Fleischman and Quisabian worked together on two films.

In addition to being a good arena with a strong family feeling, panelist Sue Carls encouraged aspiring agents to move into mirco-budget as a way to find opportunities. “I think for me being a younger agent at CAA --  when you first get promoted -- you work on finding jobs for established clients but then the question becomes how do you become an agent with your own business and I think some of the best finds are emerging writer-directors and those tend to be on the smaller side. So you can find the next great filmmaker in micro-budget.”

Filmmaker Joe Sill agreed with Carls and stated that the micro-budget world gave him the opportunity to move forward when the industry seemed stalled. “When I graduated, I left school with all the confidence that a school gives you, then I realized no one would trust me to direct anything. Two to six months later I was asking, ‘How am I gonna get to do this?’”

Sill said that after meeting with Fleischman, he was given the opportunity to make his own film. He pitched five ideas and Fleischman greenlit his idea almost immediately.

Breaking into the film industry is a perennial question that’s been on film students’ minds since Douglas Fairbanks founded the USC School of Cinematic Arts. With panels like the micro-budget filmmaking panel available to students, the mystery is one step closer to being explained.

Squire teaches the Case Study class at SCA (CTPR 386) which focuses on micro-budget filmmaking in the Spring semester.