Film Mentoring Program
with Hollywood film producer Stephen Simon
(Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come, All the Right Moves)
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.
I co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle, a DVD distribution business that just completed its 16th year. 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 also directed two films (Indigo and Conversations with God) and written two published books: The Force is With You and Bringing Back The Old Hollywood.
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 forty years in almost every possible aspect of the film making and distribution process.
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 or Skype 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.
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.
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 or Skype conversations. Our phone/Skype 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, 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.
- If you’re looking for someone to help you distribute your film, I have close working relationships with people who can help you do just that.
- If you’re looking for a director, editor, etc., I have some people I trust that I can heartily recommend.
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. 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.
All that being said, every filmmaker and project is completely unique.
If you would like to apply for this Program:
Be sure to include your preference for a phone or Skype connection. I’ll be in touch to set up an interview so that we can discuss together if and how we should proceed.
Lastly, there’s an old saying: ‘There’s good, there’s fast, and there’s cheap. ’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: $5,000 per month or $12,000 for three months.
Film Mentoring Program: Reviews & Feedback
“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. 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 felt as if I was producing my second or third movie, not my first. I’m now 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”
“It is said that the best teachers will show you where to look but won’t tell you what to see. Stephen is that kind of teacher, the best. When I first submitted my completed script I thought I would just need some minor tweaking, but I was in for a big surprise. I ended up rewriting most of it! I am very grateful to have been mentored by Stephen. His instinct, experience and expertise have helped me immensely. Under his guidance, I have been able to learn so much about screenwriting as well as story development. I will soon be working with him for film direction and I can’t wait to start. He will be strict with you but in a very loving and supportive manner. My whole experience in working with Stephen has been nothing short of wonderful and I highly, highly recommend him to others whether you are an experienced writer or a novice! You won’t be sorry. Thank you Stephen, for everything!”
“I love my film so very much, but I’ve known it has needed a serious rewrite to make it tighter. I know that A list celebrities will want to do my film once it’s where I need it to be and this is the film I hurt to make. The problem is, when you love a film this much, it’s hard to know how to make the changes you want without destroying what’s there. I’ve talked to dozens of people about this, had multiple table reads, and everyone just basically loves it and has minimal say on how to fix the issue (that I know is there). You know that point in scriptwriting where you start to think maybe it just needs to ‘go in the drawer’ for awhile and you’ll come back to it later?…well…I was maybe a month from there but I just got off the phone with Stephen Simon about my baby. The baby I’ve been struggling with how to do the rewrite for a year and ONE PHONE CALL with him and I have a direction that not only makes sense and I can totally do, but it makes my heart sing. I can’t believe that I didn’t talk to him sooner. Also, I can’t recommend him enough. If you are looking for a script mentor or a how to get your movie made in general mentor you should most definitely work with him. #somuchgratitude #letsdothis! “
Film Mentoring Program Application
Stephen Simon - Biography
In over 40 years as a producer, director, and production executive, Stephen Simon has been involved in the production of over 20 films.
Stephen personally produced such acclaimed projects as the Academy Award® winning What Dreams May Come (starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.), Somewhere in Time (Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour), and All The Right Moves (Tom Cruise).
Stephen was also co-executive producer on fan favorites Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (Keanu Reeves), produced She’s Out of Control (Tony Danza), executive produced Body of Evidence (Madonna), produced the first original film to premiere on the Internet (Quantum Project), starring John Cleese and Stephen Dorff, was an executive producer on Linda McCartney for CBS Television, and was nominated for an Emmy Award as one of the executive producers of Homeless to Harvard for Lifetime Television.
Stephen was the head of production of the film companies owned by legendary Hollywood producers Ray Stark (Funny Girl, The Goodbye Girl, The Way We Were) and Dino De Laurentiis (Serpico, La Strada, 3 Days of The Condor).
As an executive, Stephen supervised the development and/or production of films such as Smokey and The Bandit and The Electric Horseman.
Stephen also directed and produced Indigo and the film version of Conversations with God.
In 2004, Stephen co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle (www.spiritualcinemacircle.com), a monthly DVD distribution service that became an immediate international success. The Circle just completed its 16th year with subscribers in all fifty United States and dozens of other countries.
Stephen has been a voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences since 1984.
Stephen’s first book, The Force is With You, was published by Hampton Roads in 2002 and his second book Bringing Back The Old Hollywood was published in 2011.
Stephen was born into a successful Hollywood family. His father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a producer/director who made films with stars such as Abbott and Costello, Lana Turner, and Red Skelton. He worked as both a producer and an executive at Columbia Pictures under the legendary Harry Cohn, producing films such as Born Yesterday, the 1950 film that garnered a Best Actress Oscar for star Judy Holliday.
Sylvan Simon died when Stephen was four years old, an event which compelled Frank Sinatra to become Stephen’s “godfather”.
Stephen’s mother Harriet remarried Armand Deutsch, a film producer at MGM who produced films with stars such as Robert Taylor, James Stewart, and Grace Kelly.
Armand Deutsch adopted Stephen, changing Stephen’s last name to Deutsch. In 1996, Stephen legally changed his name back to Simon.
Stephen earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from UCLA in 1971 and a Law Degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1974. After being admitted to the California Bar in 1974, he practiced law briefly before entering the film industry in 1976.