There Are No Restrictions on this Q&A with John Paul Rice! – Part 1
One independent filmmaker who has been building up a solid reputation for producing quality content is John Paul Rice, President of No Restrictions Entertainment. Now in post-production on the dramatic thriller Mother’s Red Dress, John is known for his successes with self-distribution and social media marketing and he very happily shared some of his strategies with us in this Filmmakers Notebook Q&A, the first part of which is posted below.
I know earlier in your career you started out working in development reading scripts and later working with marketing sales and distribution for Mandate Pictures, so how did your experiences there help prepare you for your role as an independent film producer?
My experience at Mandate was an education on the challenges and rewards of creating a film from script to screen. In four years, I saw hundreds of successful directors and producers come in for meetings to pitch their next project – many of them attached to the project for years, some with well-known stars.
What initially surprised me were all the non-creative factors (presale value, sources of equity, recoupable expenses, terms, etc.) that went into the decision making process to green-light a film. So on one hand, you’d have a ready-to-go package – a sellable director/producer, name actors – but the project was not viable for the company. On the other hand, you’d have this lesser known writer with an up-and-coming producer attached. Made for a price with marketable story elements, the film had a solid chance of making its budget back, maybe more – JUNO, HAROLD and KUMAR.
What I learned is that the producers who were most successful in getting their projects made not only knew what a good script was, but also knew where it fit into the marketplace.
Having a mentor was the key to shaping my attitude and prepared me to take the next step. The last meeting I had with Joe Drake, the president of Mandate, was the punctuation mark of the experience. He said “John you will never appreciate it at the time or even years later, but being challenged is what makes you grow, if you seize the opportunity.” He continued, “Being challenged is where you find what you are made of, what you are capable of and really good at doing.” He spoke about his experience of leading a startup company, Mandate Pictures (then Senator International) and while he had a solid idea as to what it would take to build a company, he still had to learn and work each day at it.
What is it about a story that attracts you?
When I read a script for the first time, I watch how the story affects me emotionally. I observe what hooks me and where I lose interest – usually scenes that don’t advance the story. A good sign is page turning that doesn’t feel forced – there is a flow that feels organic and compels me to know more. What attracts me beyond the craft or concept is how I emotionally relate to the characters, their journey and the theme according to what I believe is true.
Always, always trust your gut instincts.
How has your approach differed in making your three films?
In the beginning, I had a mindset that in order to be a successful producer, I’d have to win the validation of the industry, make millions of dollars, win awards and critical acclaim – essentially winning the lottery of the film industry. I knew the odds were low, but that didn’t stop me from wanting and believing it could happen.
People with experience will tell you that all filmmakers go through this and the disappointment that comes with the reality – especially with their first film – but it was important not to lose the lesson. My approach went from a pie-in-the-sky fantasy to learning to enjoy the journey of a long-term career investment.
What I have to come to realize is that the key to achieving your dreams comes from a lust for finding meaning in your work. It’s not about being right or winning. The discovery of yourself in the process is what enriches you and makes you grow.
It has been a fairly short time from when you started with One Hour Fantasy Girl to Mother’s Red Dress and I have read that you tend to set deadlines for yourself so that you stay on schedule. How do you become disciplined enough to stick with the plan and not get distracted while producing your films?
I work a full time job for a corporation so for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week my focus is there. How I spend my time outside of my day job must be focused and planned out in order to make things happen.
The first time producing, I felt overwhelmed because I looked at all that was ahead of me but by the second film and certainly our last movie, I learned to break things down into steps and not get ahead of myself. I write down tasks in the order they must be accomplished.
A production start date is not critical to hit as are all the things you need to do in preparation of production. Ignoring or kicking responsibility down the road to deal with later is disastrous. Doing all the work necessary before filming begins, mitigates the unforeseen challenges that may arise while filming is taking place.
We’ll have Part 2 of our Q&A with John later in the week, but in the meantime you can follow him on Twitter @NoRestrictions.