Running a Film Studio with Yariv Lerner

This week, Giles Alderson chatted with Nu Boyana Film Studios’ Yariv Lerner about what it’s like to run a studio, the difference between producing and exec producing, what made him decide to make The Dare – Giles’ debut feature film, how to handle difficult situations on set, when to step in as a producer but also when to step back, his new training program – Film Forge – and more.

‘I feel my job is often pushing boulders uphill and once they’re at the top of the hill, you let them go and then you’re on the other side trying to catch them. That’s what running a film studio is like.’

How It All Begun

Yariv had an online yoga streaming company, and was ‘very involved in every level of decision making – from the packaging to the presentation to how we filmed it.’ 

He started becoming involved in Nu Boyana around 2011 when he came to the studio for a yoga video. The studio was a family-run business – managed by his father, his uncle and two partners. Yariv started helping out more at the studio with ‘bits and bobs. I went into camera, DIT, post and then for Expendables 3, got the job of ‘the making of’ video.’

His uncle Danny had become quite sick, and so Yariv took on more of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities of the studio. When Danny went back to the States for treatment, Yariv stayed and started running Nu Boyana. 

Changing Things

He learned a lot on the job, supported by his great team; but he also started to make changes to the way that the studio worked. When his uncle was running it, ‘the studio was servicing only Millennium projects, we did three or four a year.’

Yariv realised that they had a movie-making factory and that there was the option to be able to do more. ‘We were at about 25% capacity, so we opened the doors to a lot more productions. And that was my focus, to bring other productions in.’

The studio has now shifted to 75% other productions and 25% Millennium.

Making The Dare

Julian Kostov, a mutual connection, introduced Giles and Yariv to each other. And due to a gap in their filming schedule, Giles was invited to pitch to Nu Boyana.

‘At the time we were doing Day of the Dead, which was a remake of a remake, and the rights alone were $600,000 and so I thought to myself, what if we did a movie for less than the rights, which was what The Dare was.

It was a bit of an experiment. You had a great network of actors, which was key, you had a vision, the script was there; and so in that gap, I gave you the studio services and we paid and raised the money for the crew.’

Yariv also liked Giles – he says that he had passion, a strong vision, was enthusiastic about the whole process and was flexible.

‘You had all these things going for you that made it seem that you were going to be good to work with. And those are the elements I’m looking for in filmmakers.’

From Producing to Film Forge

Because of his immense knowledge, and the fantastic success of the studio, Yariv decided to take what they had and develop it further.

‘You need a start in life and that’s my philosophy behind this film school.

It gives others a start in life. The thing that I received, I’ve got to give back to other people, which is why I work with first-time directors. I have had great gifts given to me – the studio, the personnel, 14 years of experience and I feel like I’ve got to pay that forward.’

Keeping it Local

‘The philosophy behind the school is my uncle’s philosophy. When we first came to Bulgaria, I’d say it was about 15% local crew and 85% foreign crew and over the years now it’s 95% local crew and 5% foreign crew.’

And so the philosophy is to give people the knowledge, the inspiration, the know-how, the ideas and 14 to 20 years of experience.’

The film school is structured with mentors, who have years of experience, providing international students with the opportunities to learn, hands-on.

‘We’re trying to get them onto set as soon as possible. We don’t want four years in film school. Then come here and do an internship – a five-day blast of knowledge – and then we put them onto a set with a department and get them working. It’s a doorway. And then it’s up to you to decide if it’s what you want.

We’re trying to open up avenues in the industry by giving back.’

What Yariv wants in a Pitch

‘The most important thing with a pitch is integrity. You’ve got to fight for your story. Because if you’re a pushover from the start, you have no story anymore.’

He also says that it is vital that you are properly prepared. ‘You have to know the story better than anyone else. You have to be present, obviously, you get nervous, this is normal, but be present and engaged and read the room.

I usually try to go into a meeting prepared. I have an idea of what I want and I’ve done the research before I go into it. I won’t just take a meeting off the street because I get so many pitches all the time and I usually redirect them to our development department.

So when I’ve made the decision to meet someone, I’ll have known already what the meeting’s about. There’s an agenda in place.’

He also looks for passion, ‘that’s going to come through the camera. If you have passion, you have emotion. Big action sequences don’t mean anything.’ 

And most importantly, ‘scripts on their own are nothing, directors on their own are nothing, cast on their own are nothing, financing on its own is nothing. The pieces together make a movie. The more you’re prepared, the more piece of the puzzle you get together, and the easier it is to make.

Want more? You can listen to the full podcast with Yariv, here.

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