Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Mike Vannelli: I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio called Chagrin Falls. Life at home was normal. It was a small, mid-western town with a tight community. However, I always knew I wanted to move out to LA to pursue film.
Mike: Yes, they always supported me in my filmmaking. They said that even at a very young age, when my mom used to take home movies with the VHS video camera, I used to try and direct the family on where to stand and how to act on camera.
Mike: I knew I wanted to do this as a career by the time I was in high school. In middle school, I got my first camera and did some short films with friends. Ever since then, I was hooked.
Film Courage: Did you go to film school?
Mike: I tried to. I went to school for “film studies” for about a year. I remember speaking to someone who graduated the film studies program from the college and said that that they “could talk to you for an hour about film theory, but I never put my hands on a camera at all through the program.” When I heard this, I knew that wasn’t for me. I tried to take some community college classes in film production, but I was way too advanced for the classes and was really bored by them. All throughout this, I was making short videos with friends and then I got a job as Director and Producer of music videos for the rap group Three 6 Mafia, particularly Juicy J. After I started making their videos, I stopped school altogether.
Mike: I always planned on going to film school for 4 years then trying to find a studio job after. Like I said before, I ended up Directing and Producing music videos for Three 6 Mafia while still in school. This gave me a big jump-start (compared to my peers). A little while into doing the music videos, I also started as a freelance Director and Producer and have been doing that ever since.
Film Courage: What was the first film job you were ever paid to do?
Mike: The first film-related job I ever got paid for was an editing job in high school. I started learning Final Cut Pro 7 in high school and learned to use it pretty fast. My school didn’t actually teach Final Cut Pro 7, but they did have it on the PowerMac G4’s in the video dept. room. I actually learned from staying after school and watching one of the seniors editing his film projects he worked on outside of school, and he was kind enough to teach me as he edited. I went to an Arts high school and for the “senior final project” a lot of seniors did videos for their presentations. When I was Junior in high school, my first paid film job was from some of the seniors who filmed their video for their final projects but didn’t know how to edit it. So, I stepped up and edited some for them. I probably only charged $20.
Mike: At some point, after producing and directing over 50 music videos, I was ready to move on. I knew I still needed to bring in income from my video production and commercials seemed like the obvious route. I’ve never don’t a commercial for free (even in the beginning). But, I have made my own sample commercials to show the quality and style of the commercials people would get if they got one from me.
Film Courage: What is your process for finding new commercial clients?
Mike: Right now, it is a lot of word of mouth and cold marketing. I love tech and I keep up with a lot of new tech out there. So, if I see a tech company that doesn’t have a video, I shoot them an email and we move forward from there.
Film Courage: How did you get involved with Envy Creative?
Mike: I am the owner and head producer of Envy Creative. I actually was doing so much work and so many videos that I eventually needed to make a company and have people start working for me to keep up with the demand.
Mike: Envy Creative is kind of a creative agency and a production facility in one. So, we almost always write the videos we make and are almost always involved in the video production from beginning to end. We mainly do startup, tech, app, explainer and websites videos, but we take on other projects as well if we are interested.
Film Courage: You are now the head video producer at Envy Creative, have you always been entrepreneurial, as well as creative?
Mike: Yep! Ever since the beginning, I loved being an entrepreneur. Up till now, I have produced over 400 commercials. Obviously there aren’t room for all of those on ThinkEnvy.com, but if you saw my private Vimeo page, you would be overwhelmed!
Mike: I usually try to do about half and half, if I can. Sometimes, a shoot will take up a whole day and sometimes my inbox is so full of people I need to respond to and treatments I need to get out, I spend the whole day on that.
Film Courage: Out of your work with Envy Creative, you decided to create Easy Call Sheets. Wouldn’t it have been easier to let someone else build Easy Call Sheets? Why did you take on this venture?
Mike: So, making Easy Call Sheets came more out of necessity. Then, once we started using it, we thought we would share it with other filmmakers. Since all our workflow is mainly online now-a-days, we looked into other services that allow us to send out call sheets online. We found only one other service, but their plans were really expensive. So, we decided to work on making our own. Then, once we started using it ourselves for our productions, we wanted to make it available for other people at one, small price.
Film Courage: Who is Easy Call Sheets for?
Mike: Easy Call Sheets is for any filmmaker or production company that sends out call sheets, which is pretty much everyone. But, we made sure to make it in a way that you get a simple and clean interface that walks you through the steps to create call sheets So, even if you’ve never created one before, you can do one on Easy Call Sheets easily.
Film Courage: How does it make a film production easier?
Mike: Creating call sheets has always been an arduous process. Filling in PDF templates, having custom made email templates, looking for old call sheets. Easy Call Sheets helps build call sheets to emails to the cast and crew. Before now, remembering what info went where and remembering what shoot info to include took time. Now, all the info you need to include is in one, easy, step-by-step area.
Mike: We have some unique features we built in to help make the call sheets more accurate, customizable and easier. First, when you register, You are able to choose your clock format, so you’re covered whether you work on a 12hr clock or a 24hr clock. If you have a company name or you want to brand your call sheet emails, you can go into your profile and put your name or your company name. Then, when your call sheets get emailed out, the sender name will show up as your company name instead of “Easy Call Sheets.” And, when you put your address into the call sheet, you can automatically get maps and street view photos attached to the email call sheet.
Film Courage: What kind of impact has Easy Call Sheets had on your own productions?
Mike: It has made sending out call sheets much faster and easier. Like everyone else, we had an email template we used to send out call sheets to each actor and crew member individually. Now, we just use Easy Call Sheets, clone on of our old call sheets (in the interface) and modify it to send out the new call sheet. We create a new call sheet if we need to, but we work with a lot of the same people, so cloning the old call sheet is easier because it keeps all the info from past shoots that we normally use.
Mike: With Easy Call Sheets, you get a 14 day free trial (no credit card or payment info required). This is a full-featured trial so it gives access to all the features. Then, once the trial is up, we save your account and whatever you’re working on and you can choose to signup for the paid membership, which is only $10 a month. You only pay monthly, so you don’t have to worry about having to pay a year upfront or anything. Once you signup for the paid membership, you can pickup right from where you left off during your trial. You can get to the registration page from the front page of the website EasyCallSheets.com by clicking on the “Sign up for your 14-day free trial” button or you can just go straight to the registration page here: App.EasyCallSheets.com/register.
Film Courage: What would you say to a filmmaker who does not want to have call sheets as part of their production?
Mike: I’m not really sure. Maybe if it was only the filmmaker and a couple of friends or people that they always work with. Call sheets have been around forever and are an important part of any shoot. They are one of the key things to a films shoot, just like the script or storyboard. Without the call sheet, nobody would show up on time, in the right place or at all!
Film Courage: Have you developed any other apps previously?
Mike: Nope. I have always been into tech and have produced over 400 tech commercials and videos. But, I have never created one before now. I found a need for it and worked with some talented people to make it.
Mike: I have a background in web design and graphic design. I made ThinkEnvy.com and the front page of EasyCallSheets.com. For the actual Easy Call Sheets app, I did all the graphics and mockup, then I took it to my dev and he made it work.
Film Courage: How many people were involved in building Easy Call Sheets?
Mike: Just myself and my developer Kailan. He has helped me before on some web design backend stuff so he was my go-to guy for when I wanted to tackle Easy Call Sheets.
Film Courage: What advice do you have for someone thinking about developing their own app?
Mike: Know that it won’t happen overnight. When I first sent Kailan the mockups and he started on the backend, he worked really hard to get it working asap. Once there was a working model, it look almost the same amount of time to get all the bugs out than it did to get a working model. When starting, I never realized how much trial and error when into developing an app. I made about 20 test accounts through the process since we needed to go though the whole process of creating a call sheet, from registration to sending the call sheet. And, we had to do this every time a round of bugs were fixed to make sure we didn’t create any new ones (which we almost always did).
Film Courage: How is app development similar to filmmaking and how is it different?
Mike: It definitely has it’s similarities in regards to being proud of the final result, once it’s done.
Film Courage: Is it correct that most business owners cannot work for others? How is this a blessing for their skills and temperament?
Mike: Well, I mean, technically I still work for my clients. But, yeah, it is really nice knowing that when it comes to the business itself, you have final say in everything and if you need or want to make a discussion, you can just do it without needing approval from anyone else.
Mike: “There are snakes that go months without eating, then they finally catch something. But they’re so hungry that they suffocate while they’re eating. One opportunity at a time.” (Don Draper)
Film Courage: What other creative outlets do you pursue?
Mike: Yep. I do web design and graphic design. I am also (obviously) the go-to photographer and videographer in the family. So, if my family or my wife’s family needs anything, I’m always happy to help.
Film Courage: Where do you develop your best ideas?
Mike: Most of my deep thinking comes when I’m driving. I live in the LA area, so there is plenty of time to think while driving. Other than that, I find that if I just sit down, concentrate and maybe watch some other videos I like (that are similar to one that I’m working on) I can get things written and done pretty well.
Mike: My wife. I have been married to her for about 3 and a half years and we’ve been together for almost 7 years. She has supported me every step of the way. In the early days, she even came on shoots with me to hold my boom pole or get craft services setup before I had PA’s and other crew.
Film Courage: Quote or mantra that you live by?
Mike: “I never look back, because I’m a shark, and sharks can’t turn their heads.” (not sure who it’s by)
Mike: Right now, I am working on producing a new comedy TV pilot. We are maybe a month or two away from starting production.
Here is our press page for Easy Call Sheets: EasyCallSheets.com/press.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Mike Vannelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Mike Vannelli