Apr 8, 2021
J.D. Lifshitz and Raphael Margules are the founders and executives of BoulderLight Pictures, a horror-centric production house in Los Angeles. Under BoulderLight, JD & Rafi have put out over 15 movies including: Becky, Pledge, Contracted, Dementia and most recently, The Vigil. When asked who the next Blumhouse will be, Jason Blum, without question, said BoulderLight pictures. Between their shrewd emphasis on economics, eye for bold talent, and recently launched international sales arm, JD and Rafi are a force to be reckoned with - and it seems like they are just getting started.
In this interview, we talked about their filmography, the launch of BoulderLight, and strategies for aspiring producers, on this very special episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show. Now without further ado here are JD Lifshits and Raphael Margules of BoulderLight Pictures.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with JD and Raphael.
Your movies must have urgency. You know that feeling when you hear about a project, or see a trailer, or read an announcement for a movie and you cannot fucking wait to see it? You ever find yourself actually wishing that they announced the project closer to the release date because of the pain of having to wait for it? Those are the kinds of projects you need to make! Nowadays, with the ubiquity of streaming, audiences have an infinite cinema library at their fingertips, they need to not only know about your project but they have to be extremely excited about it and dying for it to be released. As JD and Rafie mentioned, the way to do this is to create things people haven't seen before - a compelling hook, a completely different take on a reliable trope, anything that hooks the audience. If your movie feels cliche and part of a sea of sameness, you may get a decent review, or the attention of a few odd audience members who stumble upon it while looking for something to watch on Saturday night, which is fine. But the real name of the game is for your project to be so compelling and exciting, that people are counting down the days for it release. A natural extension of this rule is present in the next point.
If you're not in love with it, it probably wont work. It's a cliche at this point, but to make movies, you really have to love it. Making films is extremely difficult in every single stage, and one of the only ways to get through the difficulties associated with filmmaking is to absolutely love it. This is also necessary because the audience will always be able to sense your passion in the film itself. You can feel the excitement and sheer glee of filmmaking with directors like Spielberg, Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, and PT Anderson. That's because these people are in love with their movies, and this passion is completely infectious to audience members. If you're taking on a project as a career stepping stone or a way to make a quick buck, in all likelihood the energy of the movie is going to be flat and so will its ratings. Plus, to get your movie greenlit, Producers need to see your enthusiasm for the project in order to invest in you, because they know that the going will get rough two weeks into production, and you need the kind of heart for the project that will enable you to push through. There are plenty exceptions to this rule, but as Quentin Tarantino says, "if you really really love movies with all of your heart, then you can't help but make a great movie." Passion has to be alive in every frame of your movie and if you do this right, in all likelihood, audiences will be passionate about your movies too.
Ask for advice, not favors. This is a big piece of advice that JD realized at a young age when he reached out to Eli Roth on MySpace and got an answer back the same day. JD asked Eli for advice and as a result, Eli became his mentor and tremendously helped guide him through the ups and downs of Hollywood. Having someone like this in your life is priceless. Everybody needs a Yoda, so think about finding yours. The best way to do this, is to ask people for advice, not favors. Go and get yourself an IMDB pro account for $20 a month, and send an email asking for a very specific piece of advice that wont take any more than ten minutes to respond to, but make sure it's something unique and not something they've addressed in a previous interview. What you do not want to do is ask them to read your screenplay, listen to your pitch, or make an introduction to someone who can help you get your movie made. Any mentor worth their salt gets bombarded with pitches all day long. Instead, ask for short but sweet pieces of advice, then take their advice and let them know what happens, and begin a correspondence.
Nothing matters in this business, move on. As we've discussed extensively, Hollywood is a very tough place with a lot of tough people. Everyone struggles, gets yelled, at rejected, insulted, lied to, or treated unjustly sooner or later. JD talked about getting aggressively yelled at all the time by executives and just shrugging it off and pushing forward because none of it really matters. As he said, don't be afraid to get a little coffee thrown in your face. And he's absolutely right. Hollywood is a walled garden, and frankly a self-filtering ecosystem, so there will be an equal amount of people who will test your mettle and people who are downright rude assholes. Who cares, take the blows and move on. Don't let it discourage you, deject you, or slow you down in any way. Real abuse, of course, should not be tolerated, but get used to being knocked around a lot so you can develop a thick skin, because without it, you wont make it for two minutes in this town.
Produced by Simpler Media