Information And Application for
Stephen Simon Film Mentoring Program
Manifesting Your Film Project
“In early 2011, I was set to produce my first film project when I first consulted with Stephen Simon. Stephen immediately saw a better way for me to accomplish my goals for the movie. He showed me how changing the focus of the film, including altering the tone dramatically, would help me to deliver the unique film that I was looking to create. He recommended a specific writer and director, one who would be able to help with improved arrangements for locations, equipment, etc. It was obvious that he had my best interests at heart and wanted me to achieve my filmmaking objectives. As Stephen and I continued our conversations, I became increasingly grateful to have his heartfelt, professional input. Following Stephen’s advice, I changed course completely just two months before production began. We are now in post-production. I am thrilled with the director Stephen recommended and the film itself looks fantastic. Stephen’s wisdom, wealth of knowledge, experience, and humor made the whole process not only rewarding but great fun. I tell everyone that thanks to Stephen’s insights, guidance, and recommendations, I feel as if I’m producing my second or third movie, not my first. I’m so much farther along already than I ever thought possible. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better mentor than Stephen Simon!”
President, Las Vegas Convention Bureau
Producer, “The Keeper of the Keys”
A Message From Stephen
For years, I’ve mentored writers, directors, producers, and others, all of whom shared a passion for film making. Assisting you in the manifestation of your own film project is why I created this Film Mentoring Program.
The Program requires a substantial commitment and mutual willingness. If the Program is for you, you will probably know right away from reading the description below. If you want to talk to me about becoming your mentor, there’s an application form at the bottom of this letter to request a personal interview.
With my best wishes for you to manifest your film dream,
Do You Feel A Calling To Share Your Film With The World?
Over the years, I have received hundreds of requests to read books and scripts, review film production and marketing plans, look at rough cuts of films, etc. Even though time restraints have prevented me from getting involved in these projects, it always excites me to see someone following their passion. On the other hand, it also saddens me when I hear about people wasting thousands of dollars and months of effort trying to develop their film projects, when a few words of good advice at the right time could have paved the way for them. As I resonated with these feelings, I began wondering what I could do to try to make a difference with a few people and projects to which I could devote my attention and energy. Out of that wondering has come this Film Mentoring Program.
What I Bring To Our Relationship:
I have very unique life and professional experiences to share with you.
My father S. Sylvan Simon was a major film director and producer in the 1940s who made films with stars such as Red Skelton, Abbott and Costello, Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, and many more. My stepfather Armand Deutsch made films with Grace Kelly, Robert Taylor, and others.
Frank Sinatra was my “godfather” and I grew up around Old Hollywood stars from Elizabeth Taylor to James Stewart and dozens more.
In my own career, I ran the creative side of the production companies for two legendary Hollywood producers: Ray Stark (The Way We Were, Funny Girl, Annie) and Dino deLaurentiis (Serpico, Three Days of The Condor, King Kong.) My first film as an executive was Smokey and The Bandit and I worked on other projects like the The Electric Horseman, The Goodbye Girl, and others.
I personally produced films such as Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, All The Right Moves with Tom Cruise, and the Academy Award-winning What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Annabella Sciorra.
In 2003, I co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle, a DVD distribution business that is now in its eighth year with subscribers in over ninety countries. Along with our wonderful acquisitions staff, I choose the four films we distribute each month and host the monthly taped discussions about each film.
I’ve made films with budgets ranging from $500,000 (Indigo) to $90 million (What Dreams May Come).
Oh, and I used to be a lawyer (but please don’t hold that against me!)
Through these experiences, I have been intimately involved for the last thirty-five years in almost every possible aspect of the film making and distribution process.
(For my complete bio, please click here.)
What You Bring To Our Relationship:
There are several main factors that you should consider before applying for the program:
•The first key factor is your own commitment. This program is for people who are sincerely dedicated to making a difference in the world of film. Before you apply, do a ‘gut check’ with yourself: decide if you are willing to make a real commitment to your maximum contribution. You will need to make this commitment and stay passionately focused on it during the Film Mentoring Program…and beyond.
•The second factor is the kind of film that you are offering to the world. Are you looking to entertain people, help them feel better about themselves and their world, illuminate human experiences that can fascinate and inspire others, or perhaps help us laugh at and with ourselves? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes”, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking to make films that exploit rather than uplift the audience, I am not your guy. In my own career, I have made some films that embrace some of the darkness of our humanity; however, in What Dreams May Come, for example, there is also a pathway to love and redemption. I would be of no use to someone who simply wants to make a film like Saw which I see as a purely exploitative exercise that has no regard for the negative effect that the film might have in the world. Does your project carry the intention of touching and inspiring people deeply and making a difference in their lives? If so, this Mentoring Program is designed specifically for you.
•The third factor to consider is whether you are willing and able to dedicate approximately two hours a week to working with me privately on the phone and perhaps several more hours each week working on your own.
•The fourth factor is a tough one for many people. How good are you at receiving constructive criticism? Film projects go through several iterations on their way to fruition so being flexible is critically important.
Many years ago in my Ray Stark days, I worked on several film projects with the legendary Neil Simon who wrote classics such as The Goodbye Girl (the first film I ever worked on), The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park, and many more. When Neil was ready to start revising a script, he would invite the actors in for a reading. I was always amazed at how brutal he was about his own material. He would make notes in his own script such as “bad”, “not funny”, “rewrite”, etc. When the reading was over, he would thank everyone and set out to do another rewrite. When I asked him how he could always be so objective about his own work, he answered: “ First of all, what I think is funny is completely irrelevant. If people laugh, the line is funny. If they don’t, it’s not. It’s then my job to write a new line that does make people laugh. And most importantly in making changes to my own scripts, I always pretend that I’ve been hired to rewrite the script of someone I don’t like!”
An ability to listen, be flexible, and adjust is a critical ingredient for the collaborative art form of movies.
•The fifth factor is the one that “the book” says I shouldn’t even mention until the very end of this document or even until after you have applied: your desire/ability to afford professional mentoring. In all transparency, I don’t want to mislead anyone into reading more about this Program without knowing that it is not free. There’s an old saying: ‘There’s good, there’s fast, and there’s cheap. You only get to pick two.’ If something is fast and cheap, it’s not likely to be good. The Film Mentoring Program is fast and good—so, as you might guess, it’s not inexpensive: $5000 per month or $12,000 for three months.
Please carefully consider whether you are willing to make all those commitments and take the next step toward the manifestation of your film dream before you apply for the program.
Still with me?
What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
Many writers, directors, and producers, etc. have brilliant ideas and gifts, but are woefully unskilled at things like structuring, person-to-person communication skills, marketing, promotion, etc.
Using myself as an example here, my biggest weakness in film making is my utter ineptitude with technology. No matter how many times a cinematographer explains camera lenses to me, I can never quite grasp the concept. Someone recently asked me what cameras we used on Conversations with God and I couldn’t even begin to answer him. Oh, and all the technical aspects of post-production? That’s even worse. While I love the creative aspects of the editing process itself and feel extremely confident in my instincts in that arena, ask me a tech question about post-production and I turn into a babbling idiot.
Knowing how inept I am at technical issues means that I need to be honest with and lean on others who do have expertise in those areas. As a result, there is much less stress because my co-workers know that I will not pretend to grasp something that I don’t really understand.
On the other side of the ledger, I consider organization, structuring, development, casting, and creative editing to be my greatest strengths.
A clear-eyed understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses is critically important for our work together.
What Is The Content Of The Program?
• I will spend twenty hours per month on your project, including two hours per week of one-on-one phone conversations. Our phone sessions will generally last about an hour each, unless we’re working on script notes. Those conversations might last as long as two hours.
• If you want my input on your script or a book or article that you want to adapt, I will read the material thoroughly and discuss it with you in detail. This process might also include a page by page work through of new drafts of your script.
• If you’re in pre-production (as Robin Jay was), production, or post production, I can advise you all along the way. This might include cast and crew recommendations, viewing early cuts of your film, and advising you on your next steps.
All that being said, every filmmaker and project is completely unique. If you would like to apply for this Program, please fill out and submit the form below. I’ll be in touch to set up a phone interview so that we can discuss together if and how we should proceed.