"STUCK" Interview w/ Director Derek Mari


Derek Mari is one of our production assistants by day and an independent filmmaker by night. He’s kind of like our dark knight where he’s the hero Verité deserves, but don’t need right now… except we pay him to edit Talking Voices, so we technically do need him.

But you get the idea: he’s kind of awesome and his new short film “Stuck” is something to be hyped about.

Today, we got to sit down and chat about his new production and what it was like to write it, promote it, and even incorporate members of Verité into the film.

Check out his film and interview below and make sure to vote for his film for the Los Angeles CineFest Audience Choice award (link in the bottom of the blog).

You just released your new short, “Stuck.” Can you tell us what that’s about?

D: It’s about a rideshare driver, so someone who drives with Lyft or Uber, named Andrew and his female passenger who takes advantage of his objectivity of only knowing him that one night and asks him questions about her personal life to get some answers.

What gave you the inspiration behind this story?

D: I actually used to be a Lyft driver and I’ve never had a bad experience with it. It was the coolest thing. I was meeting 10-15 people each night and some rides would only be 5 minutes long, but people would really open up and tell me personal things. I thought it was so interesting that people were so willing to do that. So a lot of the dialogue from the script is taken from different people that I’ve met all into one scene.

There is obviously different ways to approach writing a story, so what made you take those experiences and execute a dramatic feel?

D: It was just kind of the theme that I really wanted to talk about. The theme I was going for was that feeling when you meet somebody and it affects your life in some way, whether if you’re prepared for that or not. It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to pull that off in a comedic way or anything, but because that’s not the way I wanted to tell it, especially with the personal encounters I had. They were never like that. They were were more serious and they moved me in the same kind of way.

So how was the writing process like after deciding what you wanted to do?

D: It was really fun. I wrote it back in April. I just had so much dialogue that I just had this massive outline of what I wanted the characters to say to each other and thoughts that I wanted them to express. So I started piecing them all together, figuring out what worked and what didn’t.

And then one night, I stayed up on a school night till 5am just typing away. So I looked over it again the next day and thought, “Wow, this is horrible,” so I fixed it up and then my good friend Patrick Wala, the Director of Photography, came over and talked more about it. Brenna O’Neill, our script supervisor, chatted over Skype for 5 hours reading it and editing together and all. It was really collaborative, which I had never really done before, especially with my own stuff. So it was really cool, I think it helped a lot.

And you crowdfunded the short, right? What decided you to go that route and how was it like?

D: For the production itself, we funded that completely ourselves. The camera, the equipment, all that stuff, we rented all of it ourselves because this was more of a passion project, we didn’t want to ask people for money. But once we were totally done, we actually spent more than we thought we would. We were looking into festivals and some festivals were pretty pricey just to submit, not knowing if you’re even going to be accepted. So we decided it would be good for getting the word out about our film and put it on Indiegogo to spread it, and it also makes people like they’re a part of it. Y’know, people watch it and they’re like, “Oh, I helped that become a thing,” as they see their names scroll up through the credits to show they helped out.

And I think it was up on Indiegogo for about 15-20 days, which I thought was perfect. I hate asking people for money and posting it online (laughs). I feel so uncomfortable especially when you’re near the end going “You can STILL help us,” as if you haven’t already done enough. But yeah, I liked the route we went.

How did you distribute it to the public?

D: There wasn’t much plans of an elaborate distribution strategy. I mean Indiegogo helped a lot because people were constantly sharing it to get their friends to support as well. But then we just decided to release it online and put it up as soon as possible. So after the Indiegogo campaign was done, we just put it up on Vimeo so people could watch. A lot of indie filmmakers ask for money to view their stuff or whatever, but we didn’t want to ask people for more money. The money was to get the short out there, it was never so people would pay to watch. We just did it for free because, like I said, it was just a passion project.

You touched on it earlier, so how is it going with the films festivals?

D: Well it’s still really early and we submitted to a few, but if we get a positive response, we’ll send it to more later on. But we’ve gotten accepted to three so far. We will be hearing back from the rest within the next couple of months up until February. But one of them coming up is Cinefest that has an audience award portion that we’re nominated in where people can watch it online and vote for their favorite, which is going on right now. (Link is in the bottom of the interview)

I noticed that the Executive Producers of the film is our bosses (René and Donald). What was it like working with them and how did Verité help you?

D: They like to deny it and say they didn’t do much but they actually did. We used some of their equipment for the shoot and they were so supportive emotionally when I was coming into work (René walks in). René, I’m talking about you.

R: Don’t believe anything he says.

D: I’m talking about when I came in the next morning after only 3 hours of sleep, you guys were so supportive of the whole film and process. And they even helped with the Indiegogo and just helped all the way through, promoting and supporting. Yeah, they’re great guys, I like them.

R: I like what I’m hearing, keep talking (laughs).

Is there any other future productions going on right now?

D: Patrick and I work well together because we think alike and are always on the same wavelength, so we’ve been talking about some really weird stuff. Like some stop-motion animation that we’ve really been looking into, but other than that, we’re just brainstorming some stuff right now so it will all figure itself out eventually.

You can catch “Stuck” screening at on September 12th at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

Go vote for “Stuck” for the Los Angeles CineFest Audience Choice Award for short films here!


Follow Derek on Twitter: @directorderek