Hard Lessons Learned From Having A Film Office In Beverly Hills by Dale Stelly

Film Courage: Can you tell us a time in your life when you were the most broke making films?

Dale Stelly, Filmmaker: Most broke? Man…I remember…true story. 2006 I moved my office to Beverly Hills, I had an office off of Beverly Drive. It was in a famous building, ICM was in there. I was in Spike Lee’s old office. I remember I was still getting his mail and for his manager or producing partner or something?

And I had started my business out of my apartment and sold a couple of films and I’m like Alright, I’m going to take my business and I’m trying to grow. So I had agreed to open up this office in Beverly Hills. I remember the rent was high as hell. So I had my rent for the office and I had my rent for where I was living and I ended up partnering with another friend of mine at the back lot of Universal and that was some money involved there, too. 

I remember in 2006 I shot three movies and it wasn’t easy and I remember after shooting those three movies it had just exhausted all of my funds. I remember one of those movies kind of went over budget or something like that. So it was like ah…man! I got hit with not having money to pay my rent for the office…or I had to get out of there. One of those things, I couldn’t afford to stay there. I wound up moving out of the office to save some money there and I had these three films SINGLE BLACK FEMALE, UNEMPLOYED, and this movie WHAT UP? And I don’t know how I managed to shoot those three movies in one year but it tapped out my funds and I had to sell the movies to get everything back and going. But selling three movies is not easy because they were different movies and I remember people offering me not the right offers for my films and I remember that I had to figure some stuff out.

I ended up luckily at the end of the year after basically being at the end of my savings and everything. I remember my [car] tags were expired. I couldn’t afford to register my car because I was just holding onto these movies and I wouldn’t let them go unless it was like the right price and I remember staying broke until the right situation came by. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. And there were people who were in the position to help me with distribution and the were basically trying to extort me. They were trying to get my movies for little to nothing. They thought I was desperate because some close friends of mine kind knew my personal situation that were in the business. They were trying to take my movie from me for little or nothing. And I refused because I know my value and I know the value of the current marketplace and I’m like I’m going to hold out.

By the grace of God I was able to sell two of my movies to Lionsgate. One of them was UNEMPLOYED and the other one was through my other partner, called WHAT UP? They both went through Lionsgate. And I brokered one of the deals on my own so I didn’t have to owe anyone a finder’s fee or a producer rep fee or anything like that, you know what I mean? But I held out and I went from nothing to something real quick.

I remember that year going into 2008 was pretty rough but it started in 2007. Around 2007 I had to make a fight, a comeback. And I didn’t make a comeback until I sold my films to Lionsgate.

There was a period where all the money I had was going to rent just to keep my operation going. Just to keep the doors open in Beverly Hills. It was like Oh man…you know my ego and everything was coming in play…and it was like Oh man! And I was about to move my office back home or whatever the case may be but as technology and everything changed and things became more expensive people like myself started to have a home office anyway because of Internet and everything, it’s easier. 

Now I’ll work in an office when I’m in production, so I’ll rent the office space when I’m in production for three or four months for the duration of production and then take everything else back to home base because it’s just more economical for me that way because everything is expensive in LA. Like rent alone can run you 2,000 for the right place, you know what I mean? You’re trying to have that professional facade, you’re trying to charge certain rates and everything so it costs to be the boss…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).



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