From "Goof Off" to "Barnyard": One Director's Animated Rise
- Thursday, July 27, 2006
Annabelle: What was your first big break?
Steve: I started working at the Comedy Store in Las Vegas and L.A. I had saved $25,000 and I thought that I could either go to film school or just make a movie. I pained over that decision for all of 29 hours and then I did what I now know is one of my traits, which is to say, “I’ll just make a movie.” I wrote the thing in a week and was shooting it two weeks later. It was crazy, but it was fast and furious. I was driving around in the middle of the night looking for places to shoot.
I edited it, then I bought out a screening room at Disney and cold-called acquisitions studios. They all said no, then a few reluctantly agreed to come. Then a few more. So I screened it and suddenly I started getting offers, and all the people who had said no to me were giving me advice. It was an awful green thing that actually had funny stuff in it, and I got offers for people to buy it. While I was in the process of making that decision, one of the print places I had dropped it off at lost it. It was essentially stolen from me.
Annabelle: What happened to the film?
Steve: Some dude took the movie to Cannes, made foreign pre-sales then called me and offered me 20 percent. I’m like 20 years old and I’m saying, “Dude, I’m gonna sue you!” but no lawyers would take my case. The guy wasn’t even a citizen of this country. They told me, “He’s got it. He’s out of this country. Your film has been exposed. You’re hosed.”
Annabelle: Did he make money off of it?
Steve: Oh, yeah. Like, he sold it to France for $60,000. Spain for $120,000 – and all the other countries. Which was a lot of money – especially for me, doing stand-up comedy. It was huge. I was p----d off at the world. I was in a funk. I had no money. I had cancelled all my road gigs and was flat broke and wallowing in the negative. I went to this place where I’d get these 37 cents bean cups. While there, I had a life epiphany. I thought, "People are calling me. I can still do stand-up. And, if things get worse, I can always come back here and get another bean cup." It was one of those things – a great low moment that I realized wasn’t really a low moment at all. There were a lot of people in the world who were a lot worse off than I was. Ever since then, I’ve not had a very desperate attitude.
Annabelle: So you’re an optimist.
Steve: People wouldn’t even call me an optimist. They’d call me an idealist. I really believe everything can have a great landing. I’ve even incorporated a severe look into life where, when, say, I’m dealing with a back-stabbing person, I think, “Could be something good going on!”
Annabelle: But you’re not so naïve.
Steve: No. After that experience, I became incredibly knowledgeable about the business side of things, about distribution and rights and everything else to do with film. I was so set up for being able to deal with good people and sharks. And that’s the way the world works. We get perks out of successes but we get perks out of failures.
Annabelle: What’s your biggest failure?
Steve: You know, I can’t even use the word. I haven’t had a failure in the traditional sense. Even the smallest things we’ve done have done well. And that’s not because it’s great – I think it’s because it’s authentic. We’re really trying to do something that will turn out cool, and it finds its audience.
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