Some say chasing dreams is pure lunacy. Stu Pollard said, “WATCH ME”.
Born & raised in Louisville, Kentucky, this KCD graduate went on to Georgetown University & then the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in pursuit of the firm foundation he would need to launch his career in independent film.
After years of working for dynamic film groups & consulting, Stu launched his company, Lunacy Productions, in 2015 to break away from the traditional independent film making model. His latest project, Rust Creek, is the eighth feature film he has produced, all or in part, in Kentucky!
We sat down with Stu to talk all things Rust Creek & hear his passion for the art of film making & investing in the future of film in Kentucky & beyond!
The Producer…Getting to Know Stu
We are PUMPED to see this thriller with a twist, but we also wanted to get to know more about Stu outside of his latest project. Fortunately, he was able to carve out time between the holidays & film promotion to share some more of his story & his goals for the future.
When asked about the origin of his interest in filmmaking, Stu shared, “I love making things and I love telling stories. Filmmaking has always been fun – a creative & powerful way tell stories using images and sounds – but I also enjoy the project management aspect of it. It’s a ton to juggle and, for whatever twisted reason, that, too, has its own form of appeal. I also get to work with incredibly talented people and play with some pretty cool toys. But just like every job that may look cool on the surface, filmmaking has its own unique set of challenges – many of which I didn’t anticipate. There are lots of highs and lows. So at this point, twenty years in, I can say for sure I’ve stuck at it because I love it.”
Over his twenty year tenure in the world of indie film, Stu has had the opportunity to work with many incredible professionals on both sides of the lens. “Getting to work with actors like Mark Duplass and Melissa Leo (True Adolescents), Jon Hamm and Chris Messina (Ira & Abby), and Stacy Keach, Gil Bellows and Jennifer Westfeldt (Keep Your Distance) has of course been something I’ll always look back fondly on. Meeting Ted Sarandos of Netflix before anyone knew what Netflix was is always a fun story to tell.” We agree.
Getting any project from concept stage to completion is a win for Stu, but he calls Rust Creek a highlight of his career because it was “easily the most challenging project I ever been a part of” & “it tested me in ways I had never been tested before.” Stu shared, “Watching screenwriter Julie Lipson see her characters come to life on set was one of many experiences on that film I’ll always cherish.”
In this season of his career, Stu spends time thinking about the future of film & how he can help shape the landscape of film in his home state. First & foremost he works to create opportunities for people interested in film. “Several of the production assistants on Keep Your Distance (2005) cite that film as their first professional experience and have since gone on to very successful careers in the business (including some who have directed and produced their own features). More recently, many of the team on Rust Creek drew inspiration from the fact it was their first time working with women helming the positions of director and director of photography. Hopefully that’s something we’ll see more of on a local level as well.”
In addition to creating opportunities, Stu seeks to invest in the community. He secures local investors who can watch their investment come to life & be reinvested the local economy through the many cast & crew members who come to live in the area while working. Stu recognizes that in independent film “everyone on the team is investing in some capacity – time, talent, or treasure” & he aims to be sure all of them feel that the project was worth the undertaking.
Lastly, Stu seeks to ensure everyone impacted by the production process is treated right. “Kentucky is my home. So I always want to make sure that, whenever we make a film here, we treat our cast, crew and community with the highest levels of professionalism. At a minimum, this should mean that the next show that comes to town is greeted with the same high level of enthusiasm and courtesy that we always enjoy.”
Stu shared, “Independent film is tough. We’re always trying to make a lot happen for a little, always asking people to give their all even when we can’t afford to pay their typical rate. In exchange for that, my colleagues and I always try to do everything in our power to create as positive a work environment as possible. That means well-run (and safe) sets, good food, an attentive ear (especially when we need to correct something), a thoughtful wrap gift, a crew photo, making sure as many cast and crew as possible get a chance to see their work on the big screen – ideally all of that goes into letting everyone know that their contributions are appreciated. A good bit of that is accomplished by leading by example, and by just being considerate. I can’t say we always get it right, but we sure as hell always try to. And given the massive influx our state has seen in production over the last few years, I’d like to think that those who’ve had the chance to work with us appreciate our manner of doing things all the more.”
Stu walks the talk & as a thank you to all the first responders who helped ensure the safety of his cast & crew on Rust Creek, he’s buying a ticket for any member of the Fire Department, Police, or EMS to see the film at Village 8. Just present your valid professional ID & your ticket will be taken care of!
Stu knew the Rust Creek story, based loosely on something that happened to him as a young man, had great screen potential. When he shared it with screenwriter Julie Lipson she “immediately ran with the idea of a female protagonist facing her own mortality for the first time, and the story progressed from there with her writing drafts and [Stu] giving notes.” When Lunacy launched in 2015 the story became a favorite of Harris McCabe, the new head of development. “He took it under his wing and made sure it was always one of the scripts we were talking about when we were talking about when we met with directors. One of those directors was Jen McGowan, who loved the script from get-go. Her enthusiasm was infectious and once she was on board, the proverbial train was just about ready to leave the station. Similar to Julie, Jen’s perspective on the story elevated it in so many ways.” The impact of Jen’s point of view was evident while making the film & now Rust Creek is invoking strong responses, particularly among young women.
The feedback from early screenings has been exciting & Stu is proud of this project in many ways. The plot is relevant & the conversations the team has had on the film festival circuit have been very enlightening. The team also stuck it out through every challenge & accomplished the vision for the film. The two women at the helm, Jen McGowan (Director) & Michelle Lawler (Director of Photography) never wavered in their belief that it would not only get done, but be great. Stu also takes great pride in the fact that Rust Creek fully “walked the walk on the gender equality front.” He commented, “A lot of people pay that lip service, but we actually did it. And the film is better because of it.”
If you’re interested in getting involved in filmmaking in the Louisville area, Stu recommends starting with networking. Go to local screenings & festivals, join groups like the Louisville Film Society, & check out films at the Speed Cinema & Village 8. Get online often & look for events & opportunities to connect on the Kentucky Film Office & Louisville Film Commission sites.
It’s also important to study. Don’t go get another degree, but watch films, tv shows, shorts, etc. & read scripts & books about filmmaking. “Develop an appreciation for what stories move you & why. Then go back & really dissect those.” Ask why the filmmakers did what they did & think about how you would have done them. Develop your own aesthetic. There are also tons of blogs/vlogs out there with regular content updates that can help you develop as a new filmmaker. Lunacy Productions has an active blog & YouTube channel with awesome insights into the making of Rust Creek, as well as general principles of filmmaking.
He also recommends getting out there & making stuff! Thanks to the evolution of smart phones, it’s never been easier or cheaper to create. Even Stu makes fun videos with his family on his phone all the time. If you have a vision, go for it, just be safe. “No shot is worth putting yourself or someone else in harm’s way.”
Being dependable, accountable & patient are also key to developing in the world of filmmaking. “Reputation is everything. Especially early in your career.” When an opportunity does present itself, you must demonstrate your work ethic & be the person who always “puts more in than you take out.” Ask what you can do to support the team you are part of. “Make the most out of every opportunity and know that any job, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, is an opportunity to learn.”
Lunacy Productions has several new projects in development & we can look for the new comedy The Barnaby Legacy, a bourbon-infused Kentucky project, to begin filming this fall!
While Stu is primarily based out of LA, where he also teaches film while making them, he loves coming back to his home in the Highlands & going to the places he loves most in The Ville. Cherokee Park is one of his favorite places to go for walks, as well as The Parklands, where some of Rust Creek was actually filmed. He’s loyal to local & you can often find him taking meetings over coffee at Heine Brothers, Safai, and Fante’s. He loves his bourbon & frequents The Wine Rack on Frankfort Ave. when he needs to pick up a bottle. He also enjoys Bourbon’s Bistro right down the street as “an endless resource of information about all things brown water.”
Stu is a lifelong fan of Pat’s Steak House, & some of his other local favorites include Louvino, Stout, Nachbar, Cumberland Brews, Nirvana, Falls City Taproom, & Jack Fry’s for date night, where he also filmed a scene for Nice Guys Sleep Alone. Jucy’s BBQ is also very high on the list, “because it’s both delicious and they serve pies from Amy Jane’s, a local baker he’s a big fan of.
Moving into the new year, Stu is pursuing better work-life balance. While he loves making films, he also wants to spend more quality time with family & friends. He also has a family history project in the works involving “digitizing and organizing the histories of several families so they are preserved and easily accessible for generations to come.” He said, “It’s a monster of an undertaking, but it’s also a very fun way to utilize many of my professional expertise and resources in a way that helps connect a lot of people who mean the world to me.” Like the rest of us, Stu also aims to get healthy, & take better care of himself. He’s on the move a lot, which makes things challenging, but he’s hoping this is the year he makes it happen!
We had a blast getting to know Stu & hope you gained some insight into both his world at Lunacy Productions & the indie film scene.
Rust Creek opens locally at Village 8 Theaters on Friday, January 11th & is available for digital download now HERE. Make plans to see this film & support the dozens of Kentuckians in the cast & crew!
BONUS FEATURE: Cast Spotlight With Daniel R. Hill
Daniel R. Hill is a native Louisvillian with a Master’s in Fine Arts, a love for Shakespeare, & theatrical skills for days. Now an LA-based actor, Daniel loves working all over the country, & was especially excited to come home for the filming of Rust Creek!