The DJN chats with the Michigan State graduate and producer of the independent film, New Money.
Photos courtesy of Kale Davidoff
1. What led you to become a producer?
I’ve wanted to make movies since middle school. And I always knew that meant going to New York or Los Angeles. But when it came to applying for schools, I only applied to Michigan State University. That kept me in Michigan which turned out to be a big help for my career. I started college in 2008 right when Michigan implemented a huge film incentive and movies began to flock to the state. Things were booming then and it provided opportunities for newbies like me to get a start in the industry.
Like most, I wanted to write, direct, edit movies. But my first gig was working as an intern in a production office, working under the producers and production manager. And that internship led me from production office to production office, where I learned over time (and am still learning today) the ins and outs of producing and production. I slowly realized it was something I had a knack for and my interest in that particular aspect of the industry became my focus. By the time I was done with college, I knew producing was the track I wanted to go down.
2. What was it like starting out in LA?
I’ve been out here for two years now. I always wanted to make it work in Michigan but after the incentives went away and the productions left town, there wasn’t any work for me there. But the transition to LA was pretty easy. Professionally, I had the benefit of eight years of connections in the industry working in Michigan. So when I came out here, I got in touch with people I had worked with before and they helped me get settled. My girlfriend had been here a year before me so that also made it easier to make the jump to the West Coast. In general, though, I’ve enjoyed LA a lot more than I thought I would have. The people out here are really welcoming, and there’s a ton to do. And, of course, it’s hard to beat the weather.
There are so many people out here from the Midwest and Michigan. A lot of people I know from high school, MSU and the film industry are here with me; it’s great to see those groups all come together. In fact, in December, I hosted a Chanukah party with friends from West Bloomfield, MSU and work. It’s moments like that that make LA feel like a warm, welcoming second home.
That being said, I miss Michigan every day. I hope to go back and produce another indie feature there soon.
3. Which films have you worked on so far?
I have worked on films like Youth in Revolt and Miley Cyrus’ LOL as well as Iron Man 3, Batman v Superman, and two Transformers films.
4. Your latest film, New Money, features director Jason Kohl, who is also from Michigan. How did the two of you connect?
Jason and I had done a short film in 2012 and in 2014 he approached me about producing his first feature-length film. It’s crazy to think that was almost five years ago and now the film is being released. It’s amazing how long the process is.
Most of my career, I have been working in the production offices on films, and this was my first time producing a feature of my own. We filmed it in Lansing and the Detroit area in 2016. It was an intense 21-day shoot with no margin for error. It was tough — we had to be focus and well planned. I’m really proud of what we accomplished.
5. What has the response been like from film festivals?
The response from film festivals has been really great. This was the first time I really did the film festival thing. At first, I was intimidated, but people aren’t there to be critical or exclusive. Most people at film festivals just want to talk and get to know other filmmakers.
We premiered New Money at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallin, Estonia in 2017. That was pretty incredible. Here we have this small movie that takes place in mid-Michigan and we are screening it in this Baltic country. You could tell it was resonating beyond cultures, which was really something to see. Everyone there was so great — it was an experience I’ll never forget.
Then, we premiered New Money in the U.S. at the Newport Beach Film Festival in 2018. And last fall, the film won the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. That was truly special. It was such a great festival to be a part of, too.
Like any art, movies are constantly humbling because you’re always going to have people who don’t like what you create. And that can get to you and make you question if it’s something you should be doing. I think festivals are important because from what I’ve experienced, the people there are very supportive. At Memphis, someone came up to me after our screening and, knowing this was my first time producing, told me they loved the film and that I should keep doing it. Those moments are really necessary.
6. What are you hoping audiences will take away from the film?
I think we have a film that’s relatable to many and remains constantly relevant. New Money deals with the transferring of wealth, the drug crisis, the cost of higher education and more. These topics are as relevant today as they were years ago when Jason wrote it. So, there is a lot that I hope people take away from the film and I think we’ve created a movie that explores these issues from sides that may surprise some people.
7. What’s a favorite spot of yours in LA?
Oil Can Harry’s, which has disco and karaoke! That’s where I’ll probably go to celebrate the release of the film.
Kale Davidoff is a producer of the independent film New Money, which will be released by Gravitas Ventures on April 16th. Born and raised in Metro Detroit, Kale is a proud Michigan State Spartan with a degree in Media Arts. He lives in Los Angeles and works in the film industry as an assistant production coordinator. When he’s not working, he spends most of his time searching for a proper Greek salad.
New Money will be released by Gravitas Ventures on April 16th on Blu-Ray and DVD as well as Video On-Demand platforms including Amazon, iTunes, YouTube.
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