Steve Stanulis, trailblazing actor, producer, and creative force behind Stanulis Productions Inc. and Chaos Production Inc. has appeared in several major studio movies such as ‘The Interpreter’ and ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,’ acclaimed indie films (Cupidity, Over the GW), and TV shows (The Sopranos, HBO series The Deuce). He also branched into production, starring in and producing the short films Dick & Jane and Because of You, and the award-winning feature The Invisible Life of Thomas Lynch.
Originally a decorated NYPD officer, Stanulis changed his career path when he got injured on the job. After studying at Manhattan’s HB Studios, Stanulis pursued his long-standing love for films. His passion eventually led him to getting co-starring credits in Aftermath with Tony Danza and Anthony Michael Hall, Darkroom with Elizabeth Rohm, Sam, executive produced by Mel Brooks, and American Fango, winner of a dozen Best Feature awards. Stanulis also starred in and produced the comedy-drama The Networker, co-starring William Forsythe, Sean Young, and Stephen Baldwin, directed by indie icon and frequent Stanulis collaborator John Gallagher. It was released in September 2017 by Sony’s The Orchard, making three consecutive films (Sam, American Fango, The Networker) acquired by Sony companies in less than a year, a truly unique achievement.
As a producer, Stanulis founded Stanulis Productions, Inc. in 2012, with the feature film Long Shot Louie, starring Jake Robinson (The Carrie Diaries), winning Best Drama at the Williamsburg Film Festival. In 2016, he produced and starred in Say Something, co-starring Marc John Jeffries, a cautionary anti-terror drama filmed in Times Square, receiving massive media exposure and also available on Amazon Prime. He directed the feature-length musical documentary Legends of Freestyle starring Lisa Lisa and C & C Music Factory and created the pilot for the TV series The Fifth Borough, starring Cathy Moriarty, Richard Grieco, Vincent Young, Vincent Pastore, and Joseph D’Onofrio. Stanulis recently created Chaos Production Inc. and announced his first project, the horror movie Clinton Road, which he will direct, starring Ice T, Vincent Pastore, Bo Dietl, Ace Young, and Fredro Starr.
Stanulis’ creativity is inspired by his experiences as a former NYPD policeman, Chippendales dancer, and bodyguard for several A-list celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kanye West. FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Steve to discuss his journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:
Can you describe your journey to becoming a producer?
I always believed when I broke into this business that you have to make yourself indispensable. The thought of waiting for my agent to call or putting my destiny into someone else’s hands never sat right with me. So I decided to produce and make myself more valuable to the powers that be in the business.
What methods do you use to communicate effectively with directors, actors, crew members, and writers to discuss production details?
I always like a hands-on approach when discussing a new project I am producing. I want to share my visions with the writer, director, and most importantly, the actor. I love getting feedback on character development and like to give everyone the comfort to provide their creative input, which I believe is essential to making great content.
What do you think is the most important skill to have when producing something for television or for film?
The most important skill to have is no matter how big the production is; you’re always going to run into issues, whether it be with the cast, a location, or a food allergy. No matter the issue, never let anyone see you get flustered, and always be prepared with a plan B. I think that usually comes with experience over time.
What do you think is the most difficult task of a producer when planning a production?
The most difficult task behind the scenes is ensuring all the proper funds are not only in place but allocated accordingly. The second equally important task is scheduling your DOODS with your “Anchor” actors in place within specific time frames that coincide with your main locations.
What is the first step you take when working to secure financing?
Dealing with a studio like Lionsgate, for example. Letting them know the budget and genre and who they deem means the most, both foreign and domestic actors, to properly set your budget to assess potential earnings while mitigating risk.
How do you go about establishing deadlines for a project, and what do you do to keep it on schedule?
I am very old school in the sense that once you set a hard date for something, it makes it real and gets everyone on the team in the mindset that it’s go time!
Given the choice, would you prefer to miss a deadline to make a project perfect or meet a deadline but compromise the quality of the production?
Luckily I have never been in this situation. But if that were to happen, I would definitely miss the deadline and then compromise the integrity of the project.
Can you tell us about a time when you needed to change your style to accommodate the communication style of one of the critical members of the production team?
Every new project brings different people to the cast and crew. You are dealing with many personalities from different parts of the country. Some might not have the same mindset or do things differently. I always start off being the most professional I can be with everyone and try my best to read the room. Usually, I assess from there but if you are a professional and you treat everyone, with respect at all times I feel it goes a long way with the whole team.
What do you look for in a script when deciding whether you would like to join a project as the producer?
What I look for in a script is simple: does the genre and certain script have marketability and will it make money! Or is the topic of the script timely with what’s going on in the world today.
How do you deal with unforeseen strains on the budget and/or timetable during a production?
Like I mentioned in a prior question, I have been absolutely blessed that I have yet to go over budget. I hope next time we speak I have the same exact answer (laughs).
What projects are you working on right now?
Right now we are about to release a film called “Monica” with Emily Browning at Patricia Clarkson fall of 2022. We are working on a tv show called “Great Kills” closely with Peacock. As well as a pretty controversial documentary called “15 days with Kanye.” Those are the immediate ones n post production we are off to an amazing 2022!