One of the coolest sites I’ve come across lately is called The People Project. It’s a tremendous initiative which aims to build communities with people around the world. It’s an incredibly positive space - informative, supportive, and progressive.
Journalist Bree Marie, a remarkably talented writer and someone who embodies the spirit of everything The People Project aims to project, was kind enough to profile me for their latest issue and even more kind to allow us to republish the piece here on the Stage 32 blog.
I thank Bree for her time and for her thorough reporting! I enjoyed every second of our time.
Film producer, screenwriter, and former ESPN radio host Richard Botto also happens to be founder and CEO of Stage 32 – a rapidly growing social network for film, television, and theater creatives. Known to most as “RB,” the visionary and multi-talented Botto recently talked to me about his love for movies, his career in radio, his current work in film production, and his motivation behind the creation of Stage 32. Referring to his adoration for cinema and for the professional world of filmmaking, Botto told me: “I love the process, the chase, the creation, the collaboration, the hearts, minds, and passion of all the creative people I have worked with and those I will work with along the way.” Despite his commitment to cinema and to the creative process, Botto freely admits: “It’s a ton of work. You have to handle rejection. You have to be able to keep your head above water during the ebb and flow. But the purity of pushing something through the machine from concept to completion, from idea to screen is worth the fight.”
Richard Botto was Associate Producer of “Another Happy Day,” starring Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn, Ezra Miller and Ellen Barkin - which was exhibited in front of a packed audience at Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Botto recalled this experience with fondness: “The film was written by Sam Levinson, Barry Levinson’s son, when he was 23. It was his intention to direct the piece, and it took him a few years to get the project off the ground and gain some traction. Ellen [Barkin] was a big champion of the work and helped with securing some of the other talent. Everyone worked for scale. They believed in the project. It’s one of those true independent film stories where everyone comes together because they believe in the material and the vision of the filmmaker.” Production was incredibly fast paced, even by Hollywood standards: “Filming began in August and the movie premiered at Sundance in the middle of January. So, you’re only talking 5 months from “Action!” to premiere.” The long hours that the cast and crew put in obviously paid off: “Both shows sold out days in advance. And to be associated with that, the response, the applause, the interest, of course, was a thrill. And then Sam [Levinson] won the Best Screenplay Award, which served as a nice topper to the whole experience.”
As former editor and publisher of a men’s lifestyle magazine called “Razor,” Botto understands writing from both a creative and business point of view. He attributes his success, in part, to the importance of understanding all aspects of filmmaking: “… It certainly aided my filmmaking career. When you’re publishing a magazine, you really need to know everything about the business, including the creative end. How the editorial works. How you can best use the editorial demographically to help improve things on the business end. This informed my creative decisions when I switched chairs and became editor. I understood how both ends worked.” Elaborating on his film ventures since his stint at Razor, he said: “I made it my mission to learn everything about the business end of the industry. And I think if you are a writer or a filmmaker trying to get a script made or sold or a film off the ground, you are doing yourself a disservice and putting yourself at a disadvantage by not learning everything possible about the business. This is why so many brilliant concepts die on the vine, by the way.”
Richard Botto has received a great deal of recognition for his screenplays. His screenplay “End Game” was a finalist at the Creative World Awards in 2012, and his script “Rocket’s Red Glare” was a semi-finalist in 2012 at the prestigious Page Awards. I asked him to share some insight about the concept behind the script. He responded: “As for Rocket’s, it’s simply a story I wanted to tell and it includes some elements of my life, although it’s far from autobiographical. The story is set in Bayside, Queens during the bicentennial year of 1976. It’s a story about faith - religious, yes, but also the faith you put in people, your marriage, and your neighborhood. It's about decay - of the spirit, one's will, and the body. It's about boundaries - both forced upon and self imposed. It's about the loss of innocence as seen through the eyes of a child growing up in a nation in decline.”
As a writer, I was curious to know what he thought writers needed to do to master their craft. He answered: “I am no master. And I would argue that while there are some tremendous screenwriters out there, I doubt any of them would consider themselves a master either. Screenwriting is an ongoing education. It’s about telling an interesting story well. And that means understanding structure. It’s about understanding arcs. It’s about economy. Many screenwriters, especially those working at the highest level in the studio system, understand this not only in theory, but can execute and implement those principles better than most. But no screenwriter out there is batting a thousand.”
Botto told me that he was very young when he discovered his love for movies and his inspiration in the world of filmmaking: “I’ve always been a voracious reader. And I found film at an early age. Not just enjoying movies, but appreciating them. I think my earliest teachings, although not something I recognized at the time - just came naturally through consumption.” He explained that filmmaking allowed him to explore his interests and to find a medium to “pay it forward”: “I remember at a very young age my grandmother saying that I was going to grow up to be an attorney, so I guess the talking was always there as well. I never took any classes for public speaking, but I’ve always loved conversation and debate. But I also believe in sharing knowledge, paying it back, paying it forward, helping, assisting, guiding. It takes so little. And, honestly, it shouldn’t require effort. To me, you expend much more energy being cynical, negative, and rude.”
Many people recognize Richard Botto’s name (and voice) from his work as an ESPN and Fox sports radio host. Botto told me that broadcasting has become an important part of his life: “I had my own sports radio show on Friday evenings for almost a decade and I have to say that I looked forward to the last show as much as I did the first. Each show was guest and caller heavy, so it wasn’t just a “report the news, talk about the news,” kind of show. Because it was interactive, there was much more creativity that went into each broadcast. And that’s something I truly enjoyed. The banter - the reacting.” Botto’s charisma and passion for entertainment even earned him a spot as one of People Magazine’s “Most Eligible Bachelors” in 2003. He called the title: “Unexpected. And, of course, it provided some great bar stories.”
In 2011, Richard Botto went all in on his dream to create a social network - Stage 32 - the objective of which is to encourage creative amateurs and professionals around the world to collaborate. Members include writers, actors, directors, and producers - with backgrounds ranging from indie to blockbusters films. On the subject of Stage 32, Botto said: “The site is truly a labor of love and a venture I am overwhelmingly proud to stand in front of.” He continued: “… reflecting back on it now, it seems to me that there were many incidents along the way that fueled the concept. Having been around this business for a while now, having realized rejection, both my own and through the experiences of friends in the industry, having had phone calls go unreturned, promises not kept, and, finally, having seen so many talented – and I mean talented – people give up because they simply did not have the resources or connections to build a network that could make a difference, it just seemed to me that the scales were unbalanced in a way that favored a select few.”
Reflecting on the importance of bringing talented people together from a wide variety of creative backgrounds, Botto added: “… I felt what was missing was a hub for all film, television, and theater creatives to congregate, share ideas, and work together regardless of talent level or location. Creativity is global. Film is not just Hollywood. Theater is not just Broadway. And too often, ambition is stunted because of dead ends. We wanted to open more roads to success.” Botto’s aim was to create something new: “There are other social media outlets out there, but many are for friends and family, or for pushing out bursts of information. None are as focused and offer a support system for film, television, and theater creatives like Stage 32. Second, although I’m the CEO, I’m also a writer, actor, director, and producer. So, in short, I’m no different than anyone else on the site. I network just like everyone else. I scratch and claw to get my projects moving or to land my next role just like the next member. Third, our membership ranges from child actors to Academy, Tony, and Emmy winners. They’re all active and they all contribute...”
Talented amateurs and seasoned industry professionals alike have signed up to Botto’s network, including Dan Rubin, screenwriter of epic comedy Groundhog Day. Academy Award nominee actor Terence Stamp was quick to recognize the ingenuity of creating such an important network: “I was not born into the age of technology. There was nothing like Stage 32 available to the hungry young artist. Support and connections were made in the foyers of theaters or at the local pub most frequented by actors and directors, mostly out of work. Richard Botto has given artists a gift of the new age, a cyber connection that works on so many levels.”
Currently, Botto is also CEO of Fair Warning Productions, a film production company he co-founded in Los Angeles. When asked about the benefits of owning his own production company, Botto replied: “… on the surface, to be blunt, there aren’t any. Anyone can form an LLC and create a production company. What matters is that you create content. What that means for each individual is up to them.”
In closing, Richard Botto reflected on his journey: “From a young age, I always imagined directing. But, to be honest, I never thought it was something that was attainable. And I never ventured into screenwriting because that seemed even more unattainable. Who would ever let me film something? Who would I send my scripts to?” For Botto, his persistence and his love for the craft came to prevail: “Ultimately, I became a passive admirer of the greats. But it was always there. Always in my heart. That love. That desire. Eventually I found that path in the forest that led to another, and then another. And I’ve never looked back.” Regarding Stage 32, Botto concluded: “I always talk about how being a creative means being a collaborator on and off the set. But the reality is, life is a collaborative effort in many ways."
Please visit The People Project at thepeopleproject.com.
You can visit The Movie People at: thepeopleproject.com/movie-people.
And to learn more about The People Project’s Mission, please visit thepeopleproject.com/mission.
I welcome all remarks and questions in the Comments section below!