Drew Marvick is a producer, writer, director, actor, horror enthusiast, and so much more. In this episode, we discuss the world of production, horror fandom, and why it's so important to not let the fear of failure hold you back from pursuing your passion.
Drew's primary career has been as a producer in the commercial world, but he's branched into acting in indie films and horror movies. He talks about his work ethic and not having an ego on set. It's not about where you're at on the call sheet, it's about coming together as a team to do the best work possible.
He breaks down what the commercial production process is really like - starting a completely functioning and successful business over and over for single days at a time, and shutting it down immediately after.
Motivated by all the talented people with whom he worked, he made his first film, the cult hit "Pool Party Massacre" with a meager budget in his parents' backyard. That movie has taken a life of its own with unexpected longevity - after 5 years, it's still playing at film festivals. He uses it as an example for all the people who want to do something but don't because they are afraid. He hopes people see what he's done and think, "If he can do it, so can I."
Connect with Drew @drewmarvick on all platforms.
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00:29 I've been watching horror my whole life and been fascinated by it. But separately, I just also loved movies and photography, and wanted to do one or the other. I didn't think production was a real, attainable job. I thought you were born into it, or made in a factory or something. I just didn't think it was real, so I was going to be a photographer. That was my goal. And then I kind of did neither, and then fell into this.
02:52 I still thought maybe there was something, and maybe I could go to film school. And then my dad actually kind of talked me out of it. He just didn't think it was a good idea. And he basically said, “If you're really passionate about doing film or photography, get a degree in business. I will pay for your college if you get a degree in business. And then if you're still passionate about it, I will pay for you to go to film school or photography school after that. But you're gonna need the business sense to do either of those jobs. If you don't have it, you'll fail. But also, you want to make sure that you're passionate about it before you waste four years to be a waiter.” That’s what he said. I think in the back of my mind, I knew he was probably right. I did get a business degree from UNLV. And when I finished, I had zero interest in going back to college to get any other degree, no matter what it was. And so I went into the management world.
04:57 When I was leaving Coyote Ugly, I happened to mention to an employee who was going to film school that if she ever needed a PA, give them my name, and I'll do it. She called me the very next day and said, "I'm working on a commercial and they need someone. If you're serious, call this guy, Matt. Here's his number.” That started a long relationship, because I ended up being a full-time producer for him for years. And now, I still work freelance for him to this day. I was going to take two months off and then get a real job again soon. And I still don't have a real job.
09:58 As a producer, business school makes way more sense than film school. Some people come out of film school lacking certain skills like interpersonal skills, and customer service skills, things like that. As a producer, you need to interact with people, and people need to trust you, and like you.
I say that everyone should have a customer service job at some point. Even if you want to be a filmmaker, and you know that's what you want to do, you should still get a job where you have to deal with people, and you have to take people's crap, and you have to learn how to handle it. Because if you don't, you're going to learn later in life, and that's a lot worse.
13:15 I've never had an ego when it came to what title I had, or what job I was doing. We're all on the same page, and we're all equal despite where our names are on the call sheet. I'm just there to get the best result at the end of the day. It's just the way I am. And it's the way I am on all of my sets, like in the indie film world as well. Just because I'm the writer, and the director, and the producer, doesn't mean I'm better than anyone else on the set. And in fact, I tend to do the dirtiest work myself, just because I don't want to ask other people to do it.
18:57 The idea of making a feature film just seemed impossible for a large part of my life. But then by that point, I kind of got motivated by all the people that we work with, in this town especially. We work with so many talented people. There's so many people that are on set that are so much more talented than I am, and can do everything. I mean people that can shoot, and edit, and light, and know sound, and probably know storytelling, and can write a good script, and they have every single asset that you need to make a good movie, except they're afraid to do it because they're afraid to fail. So, at some point, I just said, “You know what? Then I'm going to do it. Like here, the least talented person in the room. I'm not afraid to fail at all. Like, I'll make a movie. And maybe it'll motivate you guys.” And so, that's really what the motivation was. It was kind of just like to kick a bunch of my friends in the butt and say, “Hey, look, don't worry. It's okay.”
And I didn't even know if anyone would see it. I mean, it's a $6,000 movie that I made in my parents’ backyard. I really thought it was just for fun, and so that I could have a movie under my belt, and understand how it worked. And then that could make a real movie someday, based on what I would learn from that. But I guess it turned out to be a lot more than that. It ended up having a long life. It turned into this thing that I never expected it to.
23:27 The fear of failure is debilitating for a lot of people. And I guess I'm just lucky enough that I don't have it. I mean, I don't like to fail, and I don't like to be embarrassed, but I'm not afraid of it because I know it's a part of life. And I've done it so much, and I've always come out of it just fine. I fall on my face for a living, so I'm okay with it. And you move on, and you learn from it. I think everyone else, if they could just get past that, they'd be a lot better off. So if I can be the person that, even if it is them saying to themselves, if this guy can do it, then I can do it, then that's fine. That works for me.
27:32 We were still able to have the Sin City Horror Fest last year, just not in person. It shifted to an online model. Now, in the future, we can still use it as a tool and kind of integrate it into the in-person festival so that people around the world can participate, at least in some way. So, we're kind of trying to figure out that balance as we're now shifting back. We definitely learned a lot.
29:39 Horror fandom is something that is so very unique. The fans are really loyal, and really rabid, and very active. So, it's great. And it's a community. And surprisingly, most of the fans are really nice, which I think people on the outside wouldn't expect when they see a bunch of people in black t-shirts with decapitated heads on them, and people wearing makeup and blood all over their face waiting in line to get into to a convention hall. They look pretty scary, but they're not. They're just people like us. This is just what they're into it. To me, it's the same as a person that paints their face green and yellow, because they're a Packers fan. Like, there's really no different to me, because that's just as weird. Spelling out somebody's name on yours and your friends’ chests so that you can all stand shirtless together and root for your favorite quarterback is kind of the same thing to me as dressing up as your favorite horror celebrity or character. It's just a way of showing your support.
33:39 I think I'm both the cool dad and the weird dad. It goes in waves as they grow. My son is a teenager and I still have to drop him off like a block away from school because he's embarrassed. I'm definitely not the cool dad to him. Unless the times when it works out in his favor when he gets to meet Corey Taylor from Slipknot, because I happen to know him because of what I do. So, then all of a sudden I'm cool for like three seconds. But then I'm back to not being cool on the drive home, and he's telling me to turn my music down or roll the windows up because people are going to see him.
My 10-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is still in this great phase where it is cool, and she wants to be a part of it, and she wants to be on set, and she wants to make movies, and she's writing scripts now. she's really good at it. She's very creative. I’m stealing some of her titles.
They've grown up around it. I mean, they've been on sets of some kind. They've both been in tons of commercials, and been on commercial sets, but they've both been on movie sets and at horror conventions their whole life. So, they're immune to it, but they're also fascinated.
36:36 As their dad, I definitely want what's best for him. And I want to be able to give them good advice and help steer them in the right direction. But I also love letting them figure things out on their own. I'm a single dad with two kids, so I spend a lot of time with them. And I am definitely not the kind of dad that's trying to get them to like what I like just because I like it. I don't tell my daughter that she has to listen to Slayer and buy her a Slayer shirt. We're listening to Justin Bieber, and I'm scream singing along with her, with the windows down, all the way to school. And sometimes on the way back, even though I'm alone. That's just the way I am and the way I want them to make their own decisions.
39:40 I've been an FBI agent. I've been a doctor. Now granted it was in a garage with a drill, but I was a doctor. I've been a lot of things. my career, is very schizophrenic. I definitely make my living on the production side as a producer, in the commercial world. But now that I'm starting to do so much more in the feature film world, and with horror projects, acting has now taken over. At least 50% of my work is acting now. I mean, I haven't been able to complete another movie because I've been in so many other people's movies. From what people that know me ask me when I see them, I think it's really hard for people to figure out what I do, which I like.
41:32 Commercial production is basically starting a business from the ground floor, doing everything you need to do to start that business. You're hiring, you're finding a location, you're getting all the equipment you need, you're working out your business plan, and then you're going to execute it for one day. And then you're going to fire everyone. You're going to liquidate all your assets, and you're going to vacate the building. And then you start over in a whole new business the next week. We start a completely functioning and successful business over and over and over again for just single days at a time. Which is why my beard is gray now.
43:22 Don't quit your day job, until you can't possibly do both things successfully. Figure out a way to do it while you're doing that other job, so you actually still have insurance, and you still have a paycheck, and you have some form of stability. Like, literally wait, even if it's years, wait until the day when you can't do both things because it's affecting your quality of life. And then if you still have the same amount of passion for the creative project, quit your day job and do it.
But if you've already pulled the ripcord and you're in it, don't be afraid to fail. Because you are. You're going to fail a bunch of times, and you're going to have really bad days. And you're going to work on really bad sets and work with horrible people. But it doesn't matter, that's the beauty of this. If you are on a bad set, or you're working for a bad producer, or with a horrible director, or a client that just sucks, it's all temporary. Unlike any other job, there's an end date. Just know that you don't have to deal with that. You're not stuck. You're gonna work on a lot of jobs, with a lot of people. And you're gonna find your family. And once you do, it'll be awesome.
48:05 If you’ve got 80 minutes you just want to ruin, then check out Pool Party Massacre. Or if you're a fan of 80s, low budget ‘80s-style slasher films, maybe you'll even like it. And if so, you can pick up a t-shirt, and a lunchbox, and a hat, and look like a weirdo.