MPTV Grad's Podcast Helps Other Filmmakers

Listen to the journeys of those working hard for their passion


Image courtesy of Timothy Plain.

Up-and-coming filmmakers often face numerous obstacles as they pursue their passion. Raising money, casting actors and handling rejection are just a few examples. It’s a world Timothy Plain, who graduated from Academy of Art University’s School of Motion Pictures & Television in 2001, knows well. And the reason he and fellow filmmaker Alrik Bursell recently launched a weekly podcast called Making Movies is Hard!

The idea for the podcast came about after the two met through Slated, an online entertainment industry marketplace. They discovered that they both lived in the Bay Area and were interested in making the same types of science fiction-fantasy movies.

“We got together and couldn’t stop talking,” said Plain, who is a full-time producer for local advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners. “We talked about our frustrations, what worked for us, what didn’t.”

Their relationship solidified when Plain hired Bursell, a freelance producer, to work on a short film he’d recently completed: Over My Dead Body. (The movie will be screened at the San Jose International Short Film Festival on Oct. 24.) During one of their meetings, Bursell said he was thinking of starting a podcast about the challenges of trying to be a professional filmmaker. He asked Plain if he’d be interested in participating.

“I thought it sounded like a good idea and we started recording the next week,” Plain said. “We really didn’t know if it would work—we just started with the premise of two filmmakers sitting down and talking about their experiences.”

Looking at Sundance Film Festival statistics also fueled Plain’s interest in creating a podcast. Some 12,000 filmmakers submit to the prestigious event each year and less than 200 are accepted.

“I’ve submitted several films to Sundance and been rejected,” Plain said. “I realized there are tons of other filmmakers out there who are just as frustrated by how hard it is to get into Sundance and other high-profile festivals.”

He added that there’s also a lack of people like himself and Bursell—filmmakers who aren’t novices but haven’t yet made that breakout picture—talking openly about their struggles. “Most of the time, you’re hearing from someone who’s already been in Sundance,” he explained. “They’re basking in the glow of success. Hearing from people who are in the midst of trying to make it as a filmmaker is special and needed.”

To date, Plain and Bursell have recorded 17 podcast episodes. In each one, they focus on a specific challenge filmmakers at their level face. Topics covered so far include the advantages of living in Los Angeles, the difficulties of making a feature-length movie, and coping with rejection and failure.

In an episode about securing funding, Plain talked about his Kickstarter campaign for his movie The Spirit Machine. In just 21 days, he raised $96,000, a record for a short film at the time. He did it by reaching out to friends and business contacts by phone or email instead of just posting requests for donations on social media.

In another episode, he and Bursell discuss how they define success when they’re not at the point they want to be as filmmakers. “It can be really hard,” Plain admitted. “Sometimes it’s just about setting a small goal and making that goal. Success is a series of goals and reaching them.”

While the Academy provided him with a solid foundation in filmmaking, Plain stressed that getting lots of hands-on experience is also key: “We talk about that a lot on the podcast. The more experience you have, the better you get. I used to believe that you’d make your first movie and be a big success—that’s not how it happens.”

While they don’t yet have the film careers of their dreams, Plain and Bursell do have a successful podcast. “We’ve been blown away by the response,” said Plain. “Right now, we have about 100 downloads every week and people are writing us and asking questions. Our next goal is to bring in other voices to offer more perspectives.”

Learn more about Making Movies Is Hard! at: