Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Walking The Talk

It's one thing to write something as your bio on Twitter and another to actually do it. I've spent the last two and half years after The Bannen Way release, developing projects for me to star in or direct. The journey at times has felt like I was going to the same well only to find no water. I've pitched shows, shot sizzle reels, spent umpteen hours taking meetings around town and developing and reworking projects. And yet during that time, I've worked like crazy as an actor and director on projects that include web series, shorts, features, commercials and even a guest spot on Showtime's Dexter. So things have definitely changed since Bannen. I've also been fortunate to work with some of the most talented, prolific and successful actor/filmmakers in the New Media space including Felicia Day, Mystery Guitar Man, Jon Lajoie, Taryn Southern, Yuri Baranovsky and Wilson Cleveland.  This group of actor/filmmakers inspire me to keep creating, keep shooting and not to give up.

I was recently asked by a friend of mine, Marvin Acuna to create a twelve week online course to help screenwriters break into Hollywood through New Media for his awesome screenwriters site The Business of Show Institute. The idea was that it would be a version of my web series workshop broken up into twelve 7 to 10 minute videos that dovetailed with each other, so by the end you'd be able to go out and shoot your own project. I was to come up with the videos and assign a homework assignment for each week. At first I thought this should be pretty straight forward. I'd just take the workshop syllabus and break it up into twelve sections. Easier said than done. So many things came up as I was working on this, the first was my own bullshit that I didn't actually know what I was doing and that I was a fraud. The aforementioned struggles selling another project were looming in my mind. Did I just get lucky with Bannen? Was I a one hit wonder? If I knew what I was talking about, I should have hit it again. All of these things you can imagine were keeping me from actually being productive and doing me a disservice.

I turned my attention to why I did the workshops in the first place. I like helping people. I love inspiring people, sharing my experience, strength and hope with others. After Bannen was released I had over 40 'coffee meetings' with aspiring filmmakers and actors who wanted to create their own web series. I realized that after even a two hour chat, most people left with more questions and felt overwhelmed. I thought if I did like a six hour course where I walked through our process of Bannen and shared about all the things I learned with others, I could save people from the mistakes we made as well as all the stuff we learned along the way. I hooked back into that purpose and started from the beginning of the process.

The interesting thing is, I do know what I'm talking about. At least I know what worked for us and what's worked for the many web series creators I've met along the way.  There are the practical things you have to do to create any film, TV or web series, but more importantly you have to have a project that you totally believe in and HAVE to make no matter what. When we first started to work on Bannen, we both believed in it and I could already visualize what it would turn out to be. Even though I had no idea what steps I had to take to get there or how many challenges we would come up against. There was this sense of being in the wild wild west, there were no rules, no restrictions and ultimately no guarantees. I mean what was our other option? Because continuing down the trajectory of the traditional  path was not working in our favor.  It was a two year process from idea to selling it to Sony. Two years of Jesse and I meeting or talking (practically every day), writing, creating a pitch website, shooting episodes, cutting together a trailer and telling every person we met what we were doing. So as I began this online video course I went back through what worked for us and others, I tried to be as specific as possible and in the process, realized where I stopped doing things on current projects and how my 'experience' actually worked against me. I started to see the very thing that got Bannen made, our passion and belief in the project is not something that is a given, it's ephemeral. It takes a decision, a pact with yourself, that you will not listen to all naysayers, the rejections and most importantly the voices in your head.

So I pushed forward, confronting the voices and shifted my attitude to my current projects, to potential new projects and started to infuse what I truly believed in and things started to shift. In the process of doing these cool videos, I, in effect, started to get recharged and excited again about creating and failing. I'm very excited about the online course. Part of the deal was that I could use the course for my own purposes and offer it on my own site. I plan on launching it towards the end of the summer.

So what about my projects? Well, many projects are still there, in various forms, different ones have taken their place and yet still others are coming out of left field. The next four months, I'm embarking on an incredibly challenging journey as I am gearing up to shoot four different projects while developing and pitching two others. But none of them would be in my life if I hadn't first done Bannen with Jesse. Having a partner to keep us up when we were down was the key to our success and to keep us out of our own way. I'm fortunate to have been teaming up with several great filmmakers on these projects and feel very optimistic about the future... well today that is. I couldn't, and can't do it by myself and will be looking to build my team as I go along. Feel free to shoot me a note if you're interested in working together or have someone you think I should meet.

THE PROJECTS (the ones I can talk about):

The Program (pilot presentation for tv & digital)
Shooting pilot and teaser July 13-15
Written & Produced by Matt Lutz
Starring & Produced by Mark Gantt
Directed by Dylan Mulick
Director of Photography Kyle Klutz
Editor Phil Davis

Annie Takes Off (digital series)
Shooting sizzle reel August 11-12
Executive Produced by Mark Gantt
Starring Sybil Temtchine

(a mock up for our presentation deck)
Love & Betrayal (short film based on feature)
Written, Produced & Directed by Mark Gantt
Starring Brianne Davis

(a mock up of the feature version of the script - nobody actually attached from these names)

Sevven (digital series/feature film)
Executive Produced by Taryn O'Neill &  Mark Gantt
Written by Taryn O'Neill
Directed by Mark Gantt
Starring Taryn O'Neill and Mark Gantt

 (not actual poster - just a birthday card to Taryn when we were first developing - pre 'double v')

LoveMakers (digital series/TV series)
Created by Yuri & Vlad Baranovsky
Executive Produced by Yuri Baranovsky & Mark Gantt
Produced by HLG Films
Directed by Yuri Baranovsky
Starring Yuri Baranovsky, Alexis Boozer & Mark Gantt

I'm really proud of LoveMakers and we are not giving up on this project. Now that Yuri and the boys at HLG Films have finished the very impressive second season of Leap Year (10-22 min episodes) we're regrouping and gonna get this made.


  1. Mark you are a very talented man and I believe you have many more great projects in you. I look forward to working with you one day.

    You have been churning out project after project in economic times that aren't that friendly. Keep chasing your dreams and only giving out samples for free. Just make sure your cash register is up and working before you start selling your next project.

  2. Ha! Thanks Tim. Yes the cash register is up and working. And I don't take IOUs anymore. Escrow accounts preferred. Appreciate the kind words and you've been there from the beginning. Thanks for all your support.

  3. Wow, you certainly know how to hustle. More power to you Mark. I always follow any Gantt news with interest. Can't wait to hear more.

  4. I know that little voice in my head very well that tells me that I'm a fraud and have no idea what I'm doing. I have to say that every time I start a film, every time, that little sh*t raises his ugly head. Once I actually start the film, all is ok. I think it keeps me humble! Good for you on all of your upcoming projects Mark!

  5. Thank you Marci and Brett - Writing it out is a nice little exorcism for myself. I realize that taking action is the best remedy to quiet down the voices.

  6. The most important lesson I have learned in this life is that the only absolute way to fail is to never try. For three decades, ever since elementary school, I've had people tell me I should write and publish books. The writing part came easy as I could fill out a thick spiral notebook in the time frame of a month.

    But that publishing thing? That took more guts, as well as a chain of events that led me to realize life was all too short. I got off my butt, studied my craft, and worked myself to the bone more than ever before. The result? Self-publishing my first novel in Feb '12, and I don't intend to ever give up on myself. I just take those voices of doubt, make them characters in a story, and torture them.

    I admire your perseverance, Mark. You've already done so much, but I think you'll go long and far in creating content for people to enjoy. I look forward to following your journey!