Out Of The Box:
Movie In A Box
By Mende Smith
Movie In A Box (MIB) founder & president, Roger Roth can be seen weekly in the mega-popular web-series The Gentlemen's Rant, created by John Elerick, originally developed and produced at Waterline Pictures before deftly securing a production deal with LA’s Maker Studios. Roth began his sojourn into filmmaking at age eleven, with innovation on his mind. Honing in on the necessaries of film production, his concept to modern filmmaking is evergreen. Reap interviewed MIB’s operations manager, Kyle Pavey about the new alternative to fleet filmmaking and the trend of streamlining multiple projects in the indie film tool shed from one onsite source that is making indie films more practical than their billions-over-budget counterparts.
The basic concept of MIB is simple: Accessibility. Roth’s development team will bring your idea from the page to the screen--even delivering the whole works right to your set location. From consulting to delivery, a seasoned team of MIB experts will work with you and your people to deliver stories cinematically with ease that comes from investing your time and your efforts using tried and true methods that streamline the process and eliminate waste. Roth could write the book on indie filmmaking and the manual on ease of production. Like anyone in his field, Roth has acquired a lot of equipment along the way--then he got the idea of renting it out to fellow filmmakers.
He also bought a few trucks to go along with the growth of his company and his dream was to be able to have something that could be shared. Therein the concept of MIB was born. On Demand for any project, the idea of having everything ready to go all in one truck and just roll up on a moment’s notice and shoot at feature scale or feature quality seemed like a miracle.
“The ultimate goal for Roth was to make independent films and have everything in one truck,” says collaborator and operations manager Kyle Pavey. “Once he had accomplished this for a few of his own films (including Getting Back to Zero, which is available now On Demand in many markets and Hulu), he had to share the wealth. The truck was not built out the same way that it is currently, in its current form, it has been created in a streamlined fashion since I came on board, So, what happened is Roger had this idea and said, ‘Hey, I want movie in a box where I have all my essentials in one truck and I can wake up in the morning and have an idea and go out and shoot it and shoot it like I’m shooting a movie, not shoot it like I’m shooting camera news.’ He wanted to be able to have the full scale of it.”
So, after Pavey and Roth discovered that there was a market for renting the core essentials for filmmaking to others, identifying the necessaries in one all-inclusive package for what filmmakers (along with some of the other partners needed) to accomplish a film project.
“We basically said, ‘We know what we need, now how can we get all of that into one truck?’ The truth is, you can cram it all into a truck but how can you work off that truck and not have different departments bumping into each and stepping over each other’s feet?”
By working together on the front and back end of production, they learned that it was possible. Making all of their own scheduling errors on their own projects, they are able to make preparations for client’s films. “You have to be careful on how you create it within that truck so it’s easy to use and one of Roger’s directives to me in that was, ‘Hey, I want to be able to shoot a whole movie, but I want to be able to roll up to the side of a street, hop out, just take the camera and the sound off and go in and get a shot and if the guys need, to be able to work off of the truck or work from a stage.’ So, I kind of took it into twofold and it is built out on carts, so the movie guys that are used to pulling their truck up, downloading the carts, and wheeling all this stuff close to set are very happy with the way this is because they can do that and they’re accustomed to it,” Pavey says. “At the same time, Roger can go out and have 40 lights on board and doesn’t have to take these carts off and get them up close. He can come up to a scene and get shooting.”
All of this takes place in a standard 10 Ton grip truck. The MIB team only has one outfitted currently, but they have trucks to spare. “ We used to say, ‘Built for our network and available for yours,’ we built this so it could do what we needed it to and Roger could deliver content and so forth, but we also offer creative services, where if you want us to come out and Roger direct and bring the gear, you can get a whole package deal on that and we can deliver finished content.”
Clients can hire MIB to shoot commercials too. With the on-wheels production facility, the gear, the truck, and the crew. A cash forward enterprise, MIB handles all the hairy details, work deposits, and negotiations. MIB can offer one discounted price or one packaged price for all of their equipment, have it roll up to scene and be a pretty big impact for what they get.
“Here is a little footprint,” Pavey says, “I took a photo the other day, at the end of my street, there was a Dominos pizza, and I walked by and saw 7 trucks out front and they were, I guess, shooting a commercial or something there. I took a picture of it and texted it to the guys and I said, ‘Here’s seven trucks’ and I’m looking at the gear they have pulled out and I’m saying, here’s seven trucks that I see outside the restaurant doing what one of our Movie in a Box trucks can do, and that’s kind of the point.” Pavey laughs.
MIB is still relying on internet marketing rather than aggressive marketing campaigns, and Pavey admits that the company is still in its infancy, and that neither he or Roth felt strongly about the social media piece of the venture initially. Many clients have come to them directly by word of mouth, and have done some direct selling as well, pitching services to production companies for indie films. “We’ve got some guys that do SEO and Google Ad campaigns and working on things like that where they’re rebranding and doing a lot of the internet-driven stuff, so some of it we do a little bit here and there, but we’re not pushing the gas pedal as hard there currently.”
Clients have began to trickle in for services and the company is beginning to see the results of their structure pay off. One of the first projects completed through MIB’s Gear Equity Program, was to provide the equipment for Amazon Studio’s first test feature, The Nevsky Prospect. The film shot in LA and in Russia. “We offered it to them, this was before I got there on the scene, so it was before it was in its current incarnation, but we had offered it to them as the truck and all the equipment based on their needs. They never ended up using the truck. They just came and pulled equipment that they needed from it and then, of course, took that equipment and shipped it to Russia and back, but that is kind of another feather in our cap, is being the equipment provider for Amazon Studio’s first test feature,” Pavey says.
The ultimate goal is to have an entire fleet of trucks, fully outfitted for filmmakers and to grow the size of the business slowly, to learn from the mishaps as they go along and be able to change up the fleet as needed. MIB is still growing to fit into the filmmaking industry. The website offers a number of basic and advanced packages from planning services to process to post-production.
“The other kind of grand idea--and it’s a ways off--would be that maybe one day there’s a Movie in a Box in different towns and that could be one way to coordinate partnerships across the country. Sort of like an opportunity to work onsite or remotely, building new partnerships along the way. That was a concept that Roger always envisioned as well, but we’ve got to master LA on it first,” Pavey says.
Roth’s approach to streamlining production is not necessarily the first of its kind, but Pavey assures that it is the most effective. Pavey adds that they have not seen anyone else doing film production at the scale that MIB is. The largest advantage that MIB provides is the opportunity to fix production costs. While coordinating a budget, whether it is a one day shoot with a fly pack, or an eight day shoot, the MIB model truly is truly unique. “The film market in LA is a different animal,” Pavey says. “We get calls from other places and they are blown away by the scope and quality we provide. We are renting out cameras like the ones they used to shoot The Hobbit. The feedback I have gotten from producers has been great and we are going to just keep getting better.”