Spending Time With… filmmaker John Foutz

An Interview With.

John Foutz, of Albemarle, North Carolina,

John directed the feature film “Dirt Cheap Therapy” that won second place in the Best Comedy Feature category at the Indie Film Gathering International Film Festival and Convention in Hudson, Ohio on August 19th. Followed by winning “Best Comedy Scene” at the 2012 Action On Film International Film Festival in Monrovia, CA. Vanelle won “Best Supporting Actress” for “Dirt Cheap Therapy” at the same festival, August 25th.

Welcome John Foutz.

How does John Foutz  like to be known to the world.
Director, Filmmaker, Indie filmmaker. None or all of the above?

JF While I consider myself a filmmaker, because I wear so many hats during the process, “Director” is my favorite job in a movie production.

According to your bio, one of your early inspirations was your Grandfather Doug, at what age do you think you realised that what he did was pretty cool and you might like to do a similar creative venture.

JF:I think creators, no matter what the preferred medium, gravitate towards each other.  I grew up with his artwork on the walls of our homes and it definitely inspired me as an artist.  When I was in my teens, he told me about how he had his own NYC art studio where he’d paint covers for magazines, illustrations for ads, and do portraits for clients.  He’d work a year and take off a year so that was great money.  He did well until Photography became the rage so he went to work for the NY Times and worked his way up to a great position where he helped to perfect the color printing process for the paper.  So, he not only inspired me with his talent, he also impressed upon me the need for the ability to reinvent yourself, using what you know.  So I graduated from college with a degree in commercial art and advertising which included photography and I applied all I learned – from color theory, balance in frame, and lighting to photoshop editing – to making movies. Having the illustration/design background enables me to shoot and design my own DVD artwork as well as menus. It also keeps me thinking outside the box when it comes to movie ideas as well as businesses like www.made4film.com.

You obviously put in the groundwork by taking the college courses but can you pinpoint the actual trigger or moment where you thought. I AM going to make movies.

JF:”Star Wars” was the movie that made me want to make movies, but it took the catalyst of part “B” of making the short film in 7th grade to give me the addiction I would never be able to shake.  Tried to go to college right out of high school but was going to as many NC movie sets as possible so I quit. A year later I was working at a small TV studio where I put what I had learned at college in motion and honed a lot of the skills I still use today.  When that job hit a financial ceiling I could not break through (wife and a new baby was great motivation, too), I went back to college to finish what I began the first time and started my own company.  Within a could of years, I started buying video gear and making short films and along came the final catalyst.  Part “C” came in the form “Bird In A Glass House”, written and directed by Hannah Dennis, shot and produced by me.  That was the feature film that taught me that making movies was possible on the small scale.  The equation looks like this:

“Star Wars” + “7th Grade Super8mm film” + “Bird In A Glass House” = John Foutz today

Seeing as you mentioned John Foutz Today. Its August, over halfway through 2012 now. How has 2012 been for you John, how would you rate this year against other years and what’s kept you busy?

JF:2012 has been a new adventure and I really don’t know what the pinnacle for the year will be.  The win and potential wins for “Dirt Cheap Therapy” are awesome.  We’ve been honored with Film Fests showing our films over the years, but this marks our first win and I’m stoked about it.
I’m also excited about a TV series I’ve created with Sean Gilbert (We’ll shoot the pilot and pitch later this year) and a feature film written by John Zakour that I’ll be directing next summer.
I’m doing the animation for an iPhone app that will hit the market this year.  Those projects are great for my creative side.  But I’m also excited about co-producing a series of instructional Yoga video series with my talented friend and yoga instructor, Cindy Brewer (She owns and teaches at Albemarle Pilates & Yoga: http://albemarlepilatesandyoga.com/).  I have greatly benefited from Yoga and meditation over the years and I hope that the wisdom I have captured (and continue to capture) through her teaching will help others.  We also launched www.made4film.com this year and I hope it helps talented people in this industry to be found so they can make a living from their talents.  I like that sort of business model, a profitable business that helps people, whether the site or the videos that educate or entertain, give people value for their money.

 You have a ton of projects both past, present and future. Other than the yoga of course. How does John Foutz relax and take stock of life in general.

JF:I deeply enjoy spending time with my kids and family.  My kids keep me young I am fortunate to have great friends who I spend time with as well.  I enjoy boating, skiing, and being crazy on towables and I love the beach. Last, but not least, is my dog, Max.  Fun, loving dog who keeps an eye on the house and reminds me to take breaks when I’m working long hours.  These are the things that bring me deep joy.  Laughter is another great de-stressor, whether from the kids/family/friends or from a movie or just me catching myself doing something stupid.  It’s all good.

 How do you deal with the differences between shooting a short film and shooting something feature length? Is there a different process you do as a director for these two similar but not identical projects?

JF: As a director, it’s your job to make sure the story is told believably by the actors and captured appropriately by the cameras.  Pre Production time is based roughly on page number and genre.  The more action and/or FX, the longer the planning for the stunts and FX.  In production, short films rarely have a budget so there are fewer people on crew and each is carrying more than one job.  Arduous, but you know the schedule is short and you persevere.  With a feature film, there’s so much more ground to cover that you have to have more people so you hope you have a budget. The cool thing with having a larger crew, for me, is being able to focus more on directing.  Ultimately, with both short and feature films, the director must constantly keep post production in mind.  You don’t want to have puzzle pieces that don’t fit, nor do you want to have dozens of the same piece to sort through.  Just because we’re shooting digital vs film doesn’t negate the frugality needed to wrap the production day on time.  Cast and crew need to be respected by doing your best to shoot wise and stay on schedule.

 Woody Allen describes his film as ‘his children’ and is never really able to select a favourite. Is there a favourite type of film that you like to create or a certain genre of film that you would love to tackle?

JF: My favorite genre would be scifi, in particular, hero movies.  I like movies that make you think and inspire you to make a positive difference in the world, even if it’s just a small courtesy here and there.  I’m also a huge comic book fan and am enjoying the current run of super hero movies.  A friend and I wrote a script based on a lesser known Marvel character years ago.  That would be fun to direct.  I’ve personally written several stories about super heroes that I’ve created, although mine are all more akin to Batman and Iron Man in that they are neither gods nor aliens, just humans using technology to the fullest.

 Any plans in the footing to bring those super hero projects to realisation? Actually that brings me to the role of a director, as I understand it, a producer builds the package and the Director turns it into reality. How does a director find those projects? What’s the biggest tip you can give to people who want to get into the film world as a director?

JF: I’ve talked about doing a short film version of the Marvel character as a fan film and pitch it to Marvel (now DIsney) to see if they’d go for it, but other properly funded projects have always taken the lead.

Movies can start in the mind of the director or writer or producer.  Once a team is assembled, it’s the producer’s job to secure the money, locations, talent while the director defines how the story will be told.  How to get involved with these projects? Network and spread the word about what you do.  I wrote/produced/directed/edited dozens of short films before I did my first feature and I showcased every chance I got, entered films fests, promoted on youtube, sent out DVDs.  Anything I could do to get people to understand what I do so they could be my ears and eyes.  And it’s not just your preferred genre.  Do you have a reputation of staying on budget/schedule (i.e. are you a problem solver)? Are you a horses ass of a control freak on set?  Biggest tip to get into the film world as a director? Know your vision and stay true to it while being willing to listen to the input of others on the team when appropriate.  Being appropriate is key because you don’t need the actor telling you how the script should be changed or the prop guy to tell you how to do a stunt sequence.  All that nonsense should have been taken care of during preproduction at the table read or during the storyboard process.  When production starts, everyone has a job and a mission to see the movie through and assist the director achieve his vision.  It’s very much a team effort.  Everyone should be respected and appreciated. And, staying true to your vision will keep production on schedule.  Start second guessing yourself and the process will slow down.

 Well thank you John for taking time out from your schedule to chat with me about your work. I know I always find it fascinating to learn a little more about filmmaking and each time we chat I most certainly do learn a lot. I’m sure people reading this will take away some wonderful information.
Always a pleasure to chat Thank you for the work you put into “Dirt Cheap Therapy”. I watched the film a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, it did indeed make me laugh. I most definitely hope that at some point there is a follow up which I know the films producer (Dexter Goad) has spoken off on the films commentary track.

Added Note; Anyone who wishes to hear more from John Foutz can check out the FromPage2Screen Movie show (Itunes, and Spreaker as well as Stitcher Radio) on which John as well as some of his colleagues have made appearances.
You can also find Johns Internet Movie Database page at

Also please check out Johns website at http://www.foutzstudios.com/ or follow him on Twitter @johnfoutz

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