Career:  Writer|  Producer
Website:  bylinefilms.com
Mantra: Do what you love, and pursue excellence at all costs.
Interview by: Kristin Read

How long have you been writing/producing/directing on your own?

I jumped into this full-time after college, so for the last 11 years. I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was 13-14 years old, albeit it was a Hi8 camcorder, but that’s where it all started. Throughout high school and college my love for filmmaking grew. Let’s put it this way, when all my friends were getting cars, I bought an editing system instead. Just the 9GB hard drive alone cost a grand at the time.

Were you self-taught or have you received formal training?

I have a degree in media communications from Wheaton College, and completed a summer production workshop at the University of Southern California, but I’ve learned the majority of what I know from experience. When I was in college we used to do these things called “movie weekends,” where me and six or seven close friends would write, film and create a fully produced movie over a long weekend. It quickly grew from six to seven people to around 20, and it went from a five-minute short to an 80-minute feature. People would stay up 20 hours and work in shifts to complete those projects. We were passionate about what we created. 

Is Byline Films your primary businessventure? What else have you done?

With my first production company, I felt I hit a ceiling trying to break into commercial projects. So I went in with a partner, found investors, and started a local Spanish TV station. We were carried on several cable systems as the affiliate of a Caribbean-oriented network trying to reach [predominantly Mexican] Latinos in Dallas. It was a tough sell, and we ended up pulling the plug after around three years. I’m grateful because it was a huge learning experience for me—I consider it my personal executive MBA in advertising. I realized the quickest way to learn is when you and your investors have money on the line . . . That experience was also a segue into producing a bunch of local TV spots. So when I went back to producing and directing full-time under Byline films, I had finally broken through the TV ceiling.

On set, 2012.

On set, 2012.

What brought you to WELD? Why do you enjoy working out of this space? What have you gained from being here?

Working at the TV station was the first time I experienced the energy boost you get from working around others every day.  I was tired of doing weeks of pre-production alone, shooting for a couple days with great people, then going back to the cave and editing by myself for several weeks. It was very isolating and I knew I needed a change. I visited one collaborative workspace in Dallas, and was still uneasy about it—it felt like a glorified coffee shop. But then a friend told me about WELD.  I checked it out, saw the co-working space, the energy of those that were there, the available studio, and the COFFEE! I love it. It’s great. 

What is something new that you’ve learned about yourself or your craft in the last six months?

When you wear a lot of hats, you still have to realize that biggest hat you have on your own is sales and marketing. Without that you’re stranded. So on the reboot of my business, I take every sales call, respond to every e-mail, and keep a disciplined sales schedule no matter how busy I am on a given project. I can focus on making an amazing end product, but if I don’t have something to go on to next, what’s the point?

Pizza Hut: Adventures of Ted the Delivery Guy, 2007

Tell me about The Ranch (circa 2005 leading to 2013).

Two years out of college, I was telling friends in Dallas about the “movie weekends” I created in college, and I shared with them a very loose script that I had written. The Ranch was my first effort to write a true screenplay. The shoot itself took about 10-days, and I cast my brother as the lead (he went to college for acting). Shot it, edited it, and it developed into an 82 minute film . . . I think of it as a glorified grad student film. It was a fantastic learning experience that helped my brother get discovered. I don’t think effort ever goes unrewarded—sometimes it just plays out differently than we might expect. 

Working as a freelance artist in any medium is incredibly difficult—What keeps you pushing forward when stresses, creative walls, etcetera are in the way?

I run into that all the time—feeling like I’m putting forth superhuman effort without the proper reward. So for me, it’s that I get a kick out of doing things really well. At some point, it’s not necessarily about the client anymore, it’s about creating something that you are proud of.  I learned from someone I respect that if you do your best possible work on low budget jobs, although it can be stressful, there is an invisible ladder that you climb . . . you eventually look back and realize how far you’ve come, even if you don’t realize it when you’re climbing step by step.  Suddenly, the “big budgets” of 5 years ago become this year’s small projects.

HOT Watch Kickstarter Promotion, 2013

HOT Watch Kickstarter Promotion, 2013

Any cool projects you’ve recently been a part of?

Yesterday I just finished the Kickstarter video for the HOT Watch, a competitor to the Pebble smart watch. It involved a studio shoot at WELD, product photography, actors, graphics, music licenses, animation work. You can hold the watch up to your ear and make a private phone call . . . It’s so James Bond. You should definitely support them on Kickstarter next week. I also just wrapped up a TV Spot for a local attorney, and am working on a video for a site that’s similar to LinkedIn, called matchmygolf.com, so keep an eye out.

What’s a lesser-known Grady fact?

I recently finished my latest screenplay, which has been a passion project of mine for almost 6 years.  It's sort of The Social Network but instead of creating Facebook, they're creating the Matrix—with hints of Cocoon.  Anyway, it deals a lot with the relationship between science and morality in the coming singularity between biology and technology.  Ready and excited to begin pre-production . . . And, of course, complete another narrative film.  Been way too long.

Doug Klembara