Starting a Production Company From the Ground Up: The Joseph Sorrentino Story

Joseph talks about the birth of My Little Rascal Productions, what’s next for them, and how you, too, can get started.

Tired of waiting for their story ideas to be picked up by Hollywood, Joseph and his wife, Lisa decided to blaze their own trail. In 2014, they founded My Little Rascal Productions and since then, have made three short films using the resources from their surrounding community. They prove that there’s never been a better time to get out there and capture your audience and that anything is possible if you know where to look.

Recently, I got to chat with Joseph about his start, his past work, and get some insight into what it takes to run a production company.

Lyric: How did you know that this was what you wanted to do?

Joseph: Well, we (my wife and I) didn’t. I started writing screenplays and trying to send them in to get noticed. And it’s a very vicious cycle as far as nobody wants to read you if you don’t have an agent and you can’t get an agent because nobody knows you. So one day we were just sitting there and my wife said, “What if we make our own films?” And I just looked at her and laughed and I said, “Yeah, okay. Who would we use for actors? I just lost Jack Nicholson’s phone number!”

But then, as we actually started to talk about it, we saw that in a small sense, it was actually workable. Find actors, which we did. Find people who are cinematographers, which we did. Find people who are sound engineers, which we did. And once we had everything together it was like OMG we have a script, we have everything Hollywood would need to make a film. And that’s how we started.

L: So you took it from an idea to the real deal. How long was the turn over from idea to movie?

J: The ideas were already there. Once we started with the casting and–the first place we went to was Craigslist. From there we got people who are acting and they informed us about film.org. We found that there is such an acting community out there of people who  just want to work. They just want to be seen and do their thing. And we live in Lancaster, so we drew a lot of people from Philadelphia. They actually call it Phillywood because there’s so many people who want to act from that area. I’d say from the time we come up with the idea, within two to three weeks, we had a cast and crew assembled to do our first film.

L: What would you say would be the most important skills to develop as a screenwriter?

J: To be able to write. A lot of people have great ideas as far as writing goes. But to take them from your brain to put them down on paper and then look at them and develop a story for that. That’s the biggest blockage right there. 

Once you cross the bridge and show yourself–whoa! I can write. I can get from point A to point B. Then you start thinking about, “Okay, how do I get from point B to point C?” which would actually be filming.

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L: So what are your daily duties? What’s your day to day like?

J: We do our working jobs. Our daily 9-5s. When we have downtime in between our films, we make contacts throughout this hidden industry. Everybody is always looking forward to the next film. Now we’ve been doing this for about five years. I think we’ve gotten better and better with each film. We’ve shot about seven shorts so far. And both my wife and myself have written two separate screenplays which we’re going to be looking to film this coming year.

L: That’s exciting! And I did watch your short film, House Call. Can I just say? I loved Freezie (PICTURED BELOW). Poor thing.

J: Who doesn’t love Freezie?

Freezie

L: How’d you come up with the idea and how did you get that started? 

J: The idea of House Call, I came up with one day. The whole thing was supposed to take place in a doctor’s office. I had use of it in my previous film, Precious Moments. Then, he moved so I said let’s just change the location. So we did it in my residence. We thought, “What would be scary about this?” People who go to other people’s homes and don’t know what’s on the other side of the door. So that’s how we came up with the concept.

It was the actor, Barry Tangert, who played the doctor, who kept coming down into my garage and we fleshed out ideas, came up with scenes. He kept fixating on Freezie which was one of my Christmas ornaments we used every year. He said, “Can I use him as a foil?” And looked at him and I laughed. I said, “Really?” But he was fascinated, he had to have him. So I said, “Okay, take Freezie.” All the dialogue between him and Freezie came out of Barry himself.

L: Oh wow! A really creative moment. Now, tell us about My Little Rascal Productions. What is next? I did watch your trailer for the upcoming movie, Hunger. It looks pretty creepy but a little romantic. Tell us about it.

J: Yeah, Hunger was a little out of the box. As far as horror or paranormal would go, it’s more about–as the trailer showed–love goes on, even in death. We had a ball filming this and we put it in festivals. It won two awards for best actor, David A Valez. And best kill. It got six nominations across the board for other things. 

SFX wise; my wife does all that work. It’s something that we’re very proud of. It’s getting a lot of different buzz than we’re used to. We send our films out for feedback to different people on Twitter. This one is horror but not anything like you see in House Call. We’re excited about this and we’re going to keep making these short films until one of them hits. Like the short film Mama or Lights Out. That’s our ultimate goal.

L: So you’re going to stay in the realm of horror movies?

J: We love horror. You know, people can write romance, drama, mysteries and all that. And that’s a talent in itself. But, when you can come up with, from your imagination, something that not only scares you but can scare other people and give them that effect? If I can bring a tear to your eye, rather it’s through love or through horror…I think horror is the harder one to draw emotion from. You’ve got to be really good to do that.

L: A specific niche to be able to catch that human emotion of just fear/terror and unsettlement almost. Do you have any advice for any up and comers? People who want to start their own production company or just starting to get out there?

J: Yeah, follow your passion. If it’s something you want to do and you believe you have a talent in doing, don’t let it go. Don’t get discouraged because you’re going to run into a hundred-thousand obstacles in your path. That’s just the nature of the business and it happens with the biggest. So, if you love it, if you think you can do it, just do it.

L: Anything you wish you would have known when you started out with this dream?

J: You see, I don’t think this was actually possible twenty years ago to do it the way we did it. Had it been? I would have had my first feature by now. But I think the timing was right where we are now to find people who are cinematographers at a decent price. To go out and buy your own equipment and do this? It’s an enormous cost. The timing was right to find people who have all that and want to work and produce these kinds of films.

L: It’s a big market out there right now. Content is needed. And we’re just trying to supply that demand.

J: Absolutely. Everybody’s chasing a dream out there.

L: Is there anything else we should know about yourself or My Little Rascal Productions that we didn’t touch on?

J: We have worked with Daniel Brown on 6 of our 7 films. The last 2 films House Call and Hunger we worked in collaboration with his company, Wide Eyed Pictures. Daniel takes on the rolls of Cinematographer, Director and Editor.  He is an amazing talent who pushes to make our short films the very best they could be. We couldn’t do it without him. I would also like to give a shout out to the crew. To write a screenplay is a talent in and of itself, but without them it’s just words on paper. Everybody else comes together to make your film. All the actors, sound people, production assistants. These are the people that make it come true for you. They make it possible. 

L: Well, I appreciate your time. I wish you all the best of luck at My Little Rascal Productions!

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