Hangin’ with Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing of Tremendum Pictures
Travis and Chris are incredibly awesome human beings. They both have a passion for life and love sharing that passion through the films they make.
Through a series of amazing events, these two partnered up in Central CA and sought to make their first feature film together, “The Gallows.” They had all kinds of miracles and hurdles along the way but made their feature for just over $100k and it grossed… $43 million at the box office! An incredible success story filled with all kinds of hurdles and hilarity. So many things came together for them to make this a reality.
We talked about storytelling as a whole and what they want to do together as Tremendum Pictures.
Hope you enjoy this podcast!
About “The Gallows”
“The Gallows” features four teenagers who are accidentally locked in their school building while rehearsing a play after hours. Thirty years before the events of the film, an actor was accidentally hung from the noose on stage during a showing of the same play. The school’s drama department attempts to put on the play to honor the anniversary of the tragic accident and put the past to rest. However, the trapped teenagers discover that the student who died might still be around. Terrifying events take place as the students try to find a way to escape from the school.
The found-footage style movie stars Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, and Cassidy Gifford-Weirda. Released in 2015, it was followed by a sequel in 2019. From a production budget of only $100,000, “The Gallows grossed” $22.7 million in North America and $20.2 million elsewhere, totaling $43 million worldwide. The film was released by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema, with the sequel released by Lionsgate.
Tremendum Pictures is the full-service production company co-founded by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. Chris and Travis met in Fresno, California, where they formed Tremendum Pictures in 2011. They combined Chris’ film and technical experience with Travis’ marketing and business background, working together as a team to start creating content. Initially working out of their apartment, this soon led them to co-write, co-direct and co-produce “The Gallows.” They managed to catch the eye of low-budget horror enthusiast Jason Blum of Blumhouse and Entertainment 360 before being acquired by New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. The film was the first New Line Cinema acquisition in eight years.
The sequel to “The Gallows,” “The Gallows Act II,” was filmed in secret, with an advanced screening of the film announced in 2017. Starring Ema Horvath, Brittany Falardeau, and Chris Milligan, the film was released in October 2019 in theaters, as well as on-demand and digital. Again written by, directed by, and produced by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, it was produced by Blumhouse and Entertainment 360.
More about Tremendum Pictures
Tremendum Pictures provides narrative, marketing, and design services. Other works in their narrative portfolio include “Prey” (2019) and the upcoming “Held,” the tale of a couple held hostage in an isolated vacation rental by an unseen voice commanding their every move. In addition to feature-length films, they have also produced short films in a variety of genres. The agency has also worked on marketing campaigns for brands ranging from spas and recreational companies to animal rescues and collection agencies. Their design work includes posters, visual effects, logos, and titles.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing have worked hard to produce success after success, from feature films to small business marketing videos. Their tremendous success with their first full-length film “The Gallows” shows that with only a small budget, they can do big things. Tremendum Pictures is able to take a budget of any size and work magic with it, using creativity and innovation to produce results that are worth more than money. Their original content ranges from compelling fiction to informative, factual content, showcasing their diversity and depth of experience. In less than a decade, they have taken their partnership from a shared Fresno apartment to a flourishing production company.
Travis, Chris, and Tremendum Pictures continue to work on short films and feature films, with their latest movie, “Held, “coming out later this year. Recently, the company has been raising money for the Central California Food Bank and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley. With support from their fans and by selling Tremendum Pictures merchandise, they have funded nearly 2,000 meals and helped families in need in the local community. Chris and Travis even personally delivered some of their merchandise via T-shirt cannon!
Find out more about Travis, Chris, and Tremendum Pictures on the company website at tremendum.com or on their social media pages.
Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing Podcast Transcription
Charan: Hey guys, welcome to the Lemonade Stand podcast. I am with two buddies of mine that I recently met actually probably in 2019, I believe, right? It was at a Sundance party 2019 that I officially met these guys, Travis and Chris, and they are amazing. They are Tremendum Pictures and they are known for producing a very low-budget movie called “The Gallows,” which was produced for $100,000 and grossed over $43 million.
Charan: Now whether you are just a regular businessman or a filmmaker, that is just huge. It’s the first low-budget film ever produced that went straight to a worldwide theatrical release, skipping all the festivals and all that stuff, going straight to the theaters. That’s a pretty impressive task and a pretty impressive feat.
Chris: There’s a couple other movies that have had low budgets that have done festivals or limited releases, but ours is the least expensive to go straight to that worldwide, which is really cool.
Charan: Which is amazing. I think of the first feature film I ever produced for $15K. It went into a very limited theatrical release of my parents’ basement with a projector. They were like, “All right guys, come please watch it.” We didn’t make any money. It’s amazing to see you guys succeed the way you have, because filmmaking is not easy at all, as it turns out.
Chris: In fact, we always say we have respect for people that make terrible films.
Travis: Even a bad movie is an accomplishment.
Charan: Yeah it’s a grueling process. Just when you think the hardest part, which is making the movie, is finished, after raising all the money, which is so tough, because no one wants to invest in the film, but you raise the money and then you make the movie, which is so tough, especially on a limited budget. You have to wear tons and tons and tons of hats. Then the hard part really begins, which is like now I’ve got to sell this movie somehow and make this a reality.
Travis: You’re invested in many ways.
Charan: Yeah, you are.
Travis: Financial. It’s from all-
Chris: Your emotional, spiritual, mental. Everything is being exerted and exhausted.
Charan: Exactly. You literally are going through a war in a weird way.
Travis: Yes. We had some friends that did their first $10 million movie that was more of a swamp studio movie. They were just like, “Oh guys, you’ve got to start doing $10 million movies. They’re so much easier.”
Charan: Geez. Thanks for the advice, guys.
Travis: Yeah, thank you.
Charan: Give me $10 mil and we’ll make it happen. No, I know it is very interesting because I remember doing these independent films and then ones that I produced myself as well as acted in. Then I went to LA and I was on these really big TV shows with millions of dollars of budget per episode, like “Silicon Valley,” “Criminal Minds,” those type of shows. Yeah, you’re so pampered. It’s kind of crazy. You’re like, “Geez, this is insane having this kind of money and this kind of crew can do.” But sometimes I feel-
Travis: They have [crosstalk 00:04:58] people for one specific job.
Charan: Exactly, exactly, and it’s interesting. One time I remember I was on set on a commercial. This lady was helping take all the cable away and everything. I said, “Hey I can help you with that.” She goes, “No, no, no. Please sit down. You’re the actor. Sit down, please.” I’m like, “Okay, got it.”
Travis: Stay in your lane, young man.
Charan: Stay in your lane. I know, exactly. It was actually a really funny story because I got very, very, very minorly injured. This door slammed into my finger because the director called action a little too late. It was pandemonium. It was pandemonium on this set because they were like, “Oh my gosh. What’s going to happen? Please sit down. Have some ice. Have some orange juice.” I’m like, “Guys, I’m totally fine.” I also knew I was producing an independent film at the time. I’m like, “This is insane. What I normally go through, this is nothing, guys, this is nothing.”
Charan: But guys, no, thank you so much for joining me. The Lemonade Stand podcast, it’s all about business builders or entrepreneurs or people who have a dream. They’re like, “Hey you know what? We’re going to go for it. We’re going to make this dream happen.” Especially against all odds, they go and do something and a lot of times people fail but then they’re like, “All right, well, we’ve got to do it again because we still have that dream and we still have that passion in our hearts.” I really felt just knowing you guys, knowing your story, it’s like you are the perfect fit for the Lemonade Stand.
Chris Lofing Talks About How He Got Started in Filmmaking
Charan: I’m really excited to talk with you both. Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about your beginnings of Chris and Travis, because Chris, you’re from Nebraska, I believe. Is that right?
Chris: Yeah, yeah. That’s usually where we start our story. It’s funny you say all that because it very much fits and feels like our story in a nutshell. I’m from Nebraska originally. Small town. Kind of town where you think no one would ever achieve anything or do anything.
Charan: For sure.
Chris: Great town, but just a small little farm town. I started making movies when I was about 13. I just was doing it with a home video camera, like you said with-
Charan: VCR-to-VCR editing, I’m assuming?
Chris: Yep. Your parents’ basement. I can totally relate. I debuted my first featured film that I just made and starred in and edited all myself in my living room, which was called “Joker,” and it was an origin story.
Travis: That was the second one, actually.
Chris: That was the second one? Oh the Halloween one first. I made a Joker origin story way before the Joaquin Phoenix one. They stole my idea. No, I’m kidding, because they actually had permission to do that. I did not. But anyway, I premiered my first movie to just 20 of my closest friends in my living room. At the end of the movie they were standing up and cheering. I was just, “Man, I know I got to do this for life. I love this feeling that I’m having right now.”
Charan: Did you know you wanted to make a movie before? Did you think, “I got to do this?” What made you pick up that camera to begin with?
Chris: You know, I’ve always been a fan of movies and TV. I’ve never been very good at sports or those types of things, so growing up I watched a lot of content, loved watching movies, and I think just for one Christmas I just asked for a camera. I was like, “You know what? I want to film some stuff.” As soon as I got that camera, it was just like, I don’t know, it was glued to my hand all the time. I was always filming skits and stupid things. Eventually I started getting more narrative content and more story behind what I was doing. So it just evolved. By the time I was … this was when I was 13 years old.
Chris: By the time I was senior in high school, I was like, “I know this is what I want to do.” So I went out to LA and I did film school for one year. It was just a one-year program at the New York Film [crosstalk 00:09:03].
Charan: So right after high school you went straight to LA?
Chris: Right after, yeah.
Chris: Big change for me coming from this small town in Nebraska going to Los Angeles all the sudden and being by myself. I didn’t know anyone. It was just a big shift, but man it was fun. We made a dozen short films in that one year span that I was in film school. Basically my thesis film, my final film of the year, final project at film school was I wanted to do something pretty ambitious. It was like a superhero movie, like a “Batman” or a “V for Vendetta” kind of vibe. I had no money though. The school doesn’t provide you with anything other than the camera and the gear basically.
Chris: So you’ve got to find locations and people and props and everything. So I’m like, “Dude, how am I going to make this big-budget-looking superhero movie with nothing?” I had a classmate who was from the Fresno area, Central California. He’s like, “Dude, go for Fresno and I bet you get your permits and locations and everything for free. Just go up and check it out.” So I was like, “All right, I’ll go check it out.” Sure enough, everything in Fresno was free. I got the coolest locations, and even some extra ones that I wasn’t planning on getting, and I wrote it into the script because they were so cool.
Chris: It was all free. That’s how I met Travis. I met Travis. He was living in Fresno at the time, and that’s where we connected.
Travis: Yeah, you can actually probably see a trailer for that short film. Is that on our [crosstalk 00:10:43]? Yeah for props.
Chris: It’s on our Vimeo, I think. It is on [inaudible 00:10:46] YouTube as well. “Cross” was the name of the short film.
Travis Cluff Talks About How He Got Started in Filmmaking
Travis: It looks epic, actually. So if you get a chance, check that out. Maybe we’ll guide to a couple of places when we have some video and stuff that people can check out. Yeah, so I had, before meeting him, before him coming up to Fresno to do his thesis film, I had been in a totally different industry in finances and marketing and all that kind of stuff.
Charan: Wow, so more like a practical career [inaudible 00:11:14].
Travis: Yeah. I wanted to be a rock star at one point, had a band in college and all that. I got married and had kids and stuff. That was important. I had one on the way at the time. I had around 2008, I decided I wanted to try out for this show. If you want to talk about some failures real quick.
Travis: I had invested in a company that a client referred me to, that was buying and flipping real estate. He had this two-year history and they had good Dun and Bradstreet ratings, had “Newsweek,” “USA Today” ads and all this. So I invested. For six months I was getting seriously good returns from this company and I took a second out on the house, did some other things, and then invested with the thought that after six months I’ll pay that back off and we’ll be in a good way. We’ll soon be set up a little bit in a good way. Well, it got shut down for being a Ponzi scheme.
Charan: What? It did?
Travis: Securities and Exchange Commission shut them down.
Charan: No way. Okay.
Travis: And then that became the first time that we were actually in debt outside of just our house. So it was frustrating. Kid on the way. Not only are we not ahead of the game a little bit, but we’re now in a hole. I saw a commercial for a new television contest show called “Wipe Out” on ABC.
Charan: Oh yeah.
Travis: You know that? Okay.
Charan: I know “Wipe Out,” but explain it a little bit in case of our younger folks don’t know it.
Travis: It’s an obstacle game show.
Chris: Sillier than “American Ninja Warrior.”
Travis: Sillier than … it was a precursor to that. Before that there was another show called, shoot, “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.” So it was the American version of that and a more family-friendly, less gross version of “Fear Factor.” It was the same creators, but you don’t have to eat cockroaches on this show. Just obstacles and things like that. It looked so fun on the commercial. I turned to my wife and said, “I would love doing that.” She said, “I bet you could win something like that.” I’m an agile guy.
Charan: Are you pretty athletic? Did you do a lot of stuff like that?
Travis: I’m good at a lot of different things. I never really mastered any one of them. I was a late bloomer.
Chris: He has like a “spidey” sense. He’s naturally heightened awareness of everything around him. That’s a good way, I think, to explain it.
Travis: That is it, pretty accurate. I wouldn’t say I’m the master of any specific sport and it took me till late in high school to get better at it. But since then I feel like I have a sense about most things. I said, “I think you’re right.” So I auditioned. I went down, gave them what they would want to be on TV. They want characters, memorable characters. So I gave it to them. I went down and they asked me to be an alternate on the first episode. Turns out someone didn’t show up and I got to be on the first episode to record of season two.
Travis: So season two happens and they didn’t air it until the 14th episode in. So season two, episode 14 is the one that I’m on. I went on “Wipe Out” and I gave them and the world exactly what they wanted. Maybe not what they needed, but what they wanted.
Charan: What they wanted for sure, yeah.
Travis: And I won.
Charan: That’s amazing, man. That’s incredible. You went for it and you won.
Travis: And I won.
Charan: Can we see this on YouTube somewhere? Because I would love to see this on YouTube.
Travis: Yeah, if you look up “super shorts Travis Cluff” or just go onto any streaming service that shows the episodes. You can find probably a couple of small bits of that. But whatever you see, it’s all going to be good.
Charan: Oh I’m sure it will be.
Travis: But it’s really funny and yeah, so I won $50,000 from that. I was able to use that to help settle some debts and do some things, and basically avoid bankruptcy, which is what I was really trying to do, and to move forward. But from being on that set, I had so much fun. It was just totally … in my mind it was like, “This is what I’m going to pivot to for the rest of my life.”
Travis: Then I heard about this kid coming up to film his thesis here in my town where I am in Fresno. I said, “Okay. Let me meet him. Let me figure it out.” In fact, the person who referred me said, “Hey, there is a guy bringing his film up here. He needs stuntpeople. Do you do stunts?” I said well-
Charan: “I just did ‘Wipe Out.'”
Travis: I’m a professional now. I won “Wipe Out,” I’m a professional stuntman. I set up a choreography rehearsal at a local boxing gym. From there we became friends and he helped me with this other film that he worked on. It was like my film school. And then we collaborated, created our company, Tremendum Pictures, and we started developing and going after our very first film together as a company, which was called “The Gallows.”
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Talk About “The Gallows”
Chris: And like you mentioned before, “The Gallows,” what happened from there is that it’s the least expensive movie ever made to go straight to a worldwide theatrical release. So we’re-
Charan: We have to dive into that a little bit. Because that’s such a blanket statement like, “Yeah, we just made this little movie,” and now Disney owns it or something like that. It’s like what? How did that happen? How did that journey go down?
Chris: It did not happen overnight. “The Gallows” was a long process, mainly because we essentially … I’ll dig into this a little, but we essentially filmed the movie twice. The very first version of “The Gallows” very much like, it was just us grinding. It was me and Travis, two guys on our crew who knew nothing about making movies, because they were just up here in Fresno, just helpers really, and then the four actors, and because it was found footage and very improv heavy, they were recording a lot of it. They were making up a lot of the lines and dialogue and everything. Anyway-
Travis: Yeah, we were really just giving the plot points and the important things that they all needed to hit, allowing them to be elevated versions of themselves.
Charan: Okay. Interesting. Yeah.
Chris: The finance for that version came together, by the way, when we filmed a spec trailer, or a teaser trailer, which you can find on our website. It’s the original trailer we made for “The Gallows,” or “Stage Fright” as it was called back then. For 250 bucks we spent on this trailer. We spent money on-
Travis: [crosstalk 00:18:03] catering and a lens.
Chris: Yeah, that was all we spent on this trailer.
Charan: That’s amazing.
Chris: It was to pitch this idea that we had. From that trailer, we were able to get $100,000 in investment.
Travis: Well, we were going to go for like 35. I’m like, “We can do this for 35.”
Travis: Chris showed the trailer to a friend and the guy was like, “Dang that looks like you made the trailer for a couple of hundred grand.” We’re like what? He says, “You could get $2 million for this.” We’re like, “$2 million, I don’t know how we would do.” At least go for a couple of hundred grand and then we decided on, “Well let’s shoot for 150.”
Chris: Right. We shot for 150. We ended up getting a guy here in Fresno interested who had helped Travis with his previous movie. We just showed him the trailer and he was like, “All right guys, let me think about it. I’m willing to throw a little bit at it but probably not more than $10,000.” We’re like, “Hey, $10,000, that’s …”
Charan: $10,000 is great, yeah.
Chris: But then we met with him and we showed him our business plan, which the business plan was … I mean, look, no matter how naïve it was, it was exactly to make this low-budget film, get a worldwide theatrical release. All the steps that we had laid out are what ended up coming to pass essentially.
Travis: But this was at a time when we knew no one in the industry.
Chris: No connections.
Travis: Had no connections. We were literally making all this up as went.
Charan: Dude, I love that, because you are creating your own path as you go, right?
Chris: Exactly, yeah.
Travis: From the entrepreneurial mindset, or the business perspective, or just the goal setting, we really were like it’s the story or the analogy of driving at night. Your lights can only go so far, but that’s all you need to see to keep moving forward. If you have an end goal in mind-
Chris: And the trust.
Travis: … you may not know the entire route. You may not have the perfect bird’s eye view of your plan, but if you’re making the steps and taking the steps … taking the steps but also making them. That’s an interesting point. You have to make steps and create ways, but if you can do that, all these stars will align, and a lot of things did for this. I really think it has to do with, and I’m not just saying this because it’s us, because if someone else did this, I would be like, “That’s absolutely right. They were motivated. They worked hard. They didn’t settle.” I feel like anyone who does that, unless they’re wildly off about their own abilities or passions, I think anyone who goes for that can achieve it or find some way of getting in the right channels to make it happen.
Charan: You know what? I actually had a conversation, and I actually mentioned this in another podcast, but I had a conversation with Ben Stiller, and he said those exact words more or less.
Charan: Yeah he was all about creating your own path and persevering. Those were his words. It is so true because yeah you do not see the entire future. You have no idea what’s going to happen. You have no idea the shifts that have to be made. And you guys, I’m sure, have had to pivot as you’ve gone, right? You’re like, “All right I want to go this way a little bit,” but then you’re like, “I’m going to shift a little bit this way and I want to shift a little bit this way.” But as you kept doing that, as you kept being flexible, I’m sure your skill from “Wipe Out” helped, Travis, with that flexibility.
Charan: But honestly, as you’ve been able to move and shift, you were able to achieve something that a lot of people were not able to do because they freak out. They panic, they fear, and they’re like, “I don’t know how we’re going to do this,” so they stop halfway through.
Travis: There are some hurdles that I think could knock anyone out or wipe anyone out, if we’re going to use that.
Charan: We are, but go ahead.
Travis: Continuing from that point where we met with this investor and we showed him … He had a couple of high-school-aged kids that were like, “Dad, this is really that trailer. Did you see that? I want to see that movie.” The very next morning, we woke up to an email from him saying, “Hey look guys, I talked to my accountant and I can’t do 10. It looks like I was able to shift some things around. I can do about 20, 20k.” We were like, “That’s fantastic. Thank you so much.” That was our reply. He also said, “Hey, do you mind if I mention it around the office to some people?” We said, “Go right ahead, thank you.” Lunch time he sends another email. He’s like, “Hey I think we’re at about 50,000, guys. Can I go outside the office?”
Travis: We’re like, “Bro, go outside the office-“
Chris: “Dude, go where you need to go.”
Travis: “… go down the bus station, go across the street, go wherever you’re going to go, but keep going.” We were a moving train. We were going to move forward regardless, but things kept rolling in and we did some meetings as we went, but we were all leading up to production. The second day in, we got the last investor check for like 15K from someone. It was $115k total. We managed to get your drama teacher in for five, which was great.
Chris: The high school drama teacher.
Charan: Amazing, yeah.
Travis: But everyone else was basically a referral from the one guy.
Chris: These were all people who had never invested in movies or content or anything. They were just people here in Fresno with small businesses, small business owners who just liked our trailer and believed in the pitch.
Travis: Well, the main guy, his business was a collections attorney.
Charan: Oh okay, yeah.
Travis: So if we didn’t make good on what we were planning on doing, then someone’s wages were going to get garnished, if you know what I mean.
Travis: Even though we didn’t have jobs. We don’t know whether that could be done.
Chris: But flash forward six months, we had a completed movie from that $100k and we shot it again ourselves with the actors. Basically we cut another trailer from the actual film this time, and that trailer we put online. We decided to try to promote it and get buzz as if this movie was coming out from a real studio, as if it was a big thing, even though we had no distribution behind it. We were just trying to get viral feedback or awareness.
Chris: So we actually started getting calls. It was working. We got calls from people in the industry. Different production companies and distributors asking to see the movie.
Travis: Asking, “Do you have a movie? Can we see it?”
Chris: One of those people was a guy by the name of Dean Schneider at Management 360, one of the management companies in LA. He really wanted to see what we had. So we drove down to Beverly Hills.
Travis: Yeah, he’s like, “Are you guys in town?” We’re like, “Yeah of course.”
Chris: “Oh yeah, of course we are.”
Travis: “We’ll be there.”
Charan: “Dude, yeah, of course. We’re at your office already.” Yeah.
Chris: “We’ll stop by the office.”
Travis: We drove down in the van, the old Chevy Astro van, stayed the night in the van, as we did on several occasions while we were working on sound design.
Chris: It was just so jenky, us walking into this fancy Beverly Hills office coming out of this van.
Travis: I think I had forgotten to brush my teeth and I was like, “Man I need some gum.” At the counter the lady was like, “Can I get you guys anything?” I was like that’s very-
Charan: Very polite.
Travis: … thank you. Actually, do you have any gum? She was like, “I’ll be right back.” She offered water. [inaudible 00:25:18] water and the gum. She came back and offered me the whole pack of gum. I was like, “Man, this is great. An entire unopened pack.”
Charan: That’s amazing.
Chris: But anyway, Dean loved the movie. We gave him a copy of the movie and he said the person that needed to see it was Jason Blum of Blumhouse.
Charan: Blumhouse, yeah.
Chris: So they got it to Jason Blum.
Travis: Well, just so everyone knows, Jason Blum was the one who brought “Paranormal Activity” into the forefront and from there he created his brand, which is Blumhouse, and that’s just become a juggernaut in the industry. From that stems “Insidious,” “The Purge,” the “Halloween” reboot, “Glass,” “Split.” We could go on and on. “Whiplash,” Academy Award-winning films.
Charan: Wow, yeah, okay yeah.
Chris: This was in 2012 as well. So the “Paranormal Activity” was at its height.
Charan: At its height, yeah.
Chris: I think the second one had just come out or something. Maybe the third. I can’t remember. So anyway, Jason liked the movie. We had a test screening for the film. It scored about 10 points higher than they anticipated.
Travis: They thought it would score high for people that would recommend it or definitely recommend it, or thought it was very good or excellent. They thought it would do okay but it actually did higher than most horror films and 10 points higher on the number than they had projected.
Chris: It was our first time doing a test screening, so that was interesting.
Travis: We didn’t know what any of that meant.
Chris: Didn’t know what to expect. We were pleased with the results.
Charan: 10 points are extra credit? What is that?
Travis: Yeah and it was first time meeting Jason at the end of it. Just a funny little thing was that they-
Chris: How much time do we have, by the way?
Charan: Dude, just keep going, man. I am …
Chris: I didn’t know if we were timed or anything.
Charan: No. This is great.
Travis: So they do a Q&A with a focus group at the end of the screen. They’ll get surveys from everyone, but then they’ll take 20 people aside and ask them questions and get a dialogue going. What they liked, what they didn’t like, what they would change, and they could vocalize it. Well what was this movie like? Anyone have a movie it reminded them of? They were like, ” ‘Paranormal Activity.’ Obviously the sound-footage style [crosstalk 00:27:43].” I had thought so too. So most of them thought it was like that.
Travis: “Did you like that? Is that good? Is that bad?” Everybody [inaudible 00:27:52] he’s like, “Man, I just saw ‘Paranormal Activity’ and this was way better than that one.” We were like … [crosstalk 00:28:03] Jason Blum is like …
Chris: And he asked the question, “How many of you think it’s better than ‘Paranormal Activity’?” It was 18 out of 20 hands raised up.
Charan: No way.
Travis: Our manager, Dean, was like, [crosstalk 00:28:16]. Jason Blum is back here. It was just a compliment.
Charan: That was one of those moments, right, it’s like is this really happening? Is this really happening in our lives?
Travis: We got the king of it behind us. We just got told in front of him how much better-
Charan: Your movie was than his.
Travis: … ours was than … some of it.
Chris: But the consensus from the test screening was basically the movie was good, but Jason wanted to try to make it even stronger for a theatrical push, to make it really hard for a distributor, a big studio to say no to it. Part of that was reshooting some things to make some of the parts less shaky. If we got a little bit more money, maybe we could have another chance at this scare or that scare. What would we do differently?
Travis: Yeah, what would you do with a little bit more support?
Chris: More support. So we were like, “Sure, we’ll do it. We’ll do what we have to.” There was a “come to Jesus” moment at one point where we were like, “Do we do this? We spent already so much time and effort on this film and now they’re asking us to reshoot.”
Travis: It feels like backtracking.
Chris: Right, like backtracking.
Travis: You don’t want to do that. You never want to do that. But we’re sitting in the car after that screening and it’s like, “But our investors, our actors, our families, ourselves.” Of course, we’re going to do everything we can to make it be as big and as wide of a release as possible, and we’re not going to [inaudible 00:29:50]. So that was the moment where we realized we’re going to have to go back into it and open it up and try to do even more and even better, and revisit a lot of things that we’ve already been there and done that. But it became easy, after thinking of those people and those things, became an easy, no-brainer of a decision to go for it.
Charan: Yeah, that’s such a tough decision, man. I mean it’s a good decision, but it’s a tough decision because you feel like hey you’ve already come this far. The movie is packaged, just take it. Just take it and go.
Travis: Just take it.
Charan: Let’s just rewind time a little bit and dissect some stuff.
Travis: And he said it would do good. He said it would do really good at festivals and will make money as-is.
Charan: As is, okay, okay.
Travis: So it was a matter of good being the enemy to great. You know what I mean?
Charan: Yeah, for sure.
Travis: So we said, “Well that’s good to hear, but it’s not great to hear. So we’re going to vote for great.”
Charan: Did they give you more money then to revisit that film?
Travis: They ended up giving us about another $100k to work on and tweak the things. Essentially it turned out, as he’s about to explain, to be $100k for something kind of completely different.
Chris: Right. So this is where the extended timeline really came in. We were anticipating shooting maybe 35, 40% of the film at most.
Travis: Reshoots are [crosstalk 00:31:20].
Chris: [crosstalk 00:31:20] which is still a decent chunk, but we got the actors together—and note that this was only six months that had passed since finishing the film—we got the actors together.
Travis: Three weeks before [crosstalk 00:31:35].
Chris: Three weeks before we were going to start, we got them together. One of the actresses looked totally different.
Charan: Oh no.
Chris: She had changed her appearance.
Charan: No way.
Chris: We’re talking tens and tens of pounds lost.
Charan: Oh wow.
Travis: A lot of her scenes we were planning on keeping with a few additional things for her, but they weren’t really going to change.
Chris: We were now in a dilemma because she would not match anything that we had in the movie at all. So we were like, “Shoot, what are we going to do?” Our managers and the producers were like, “Guys, she doesn’t even look the part anymore,” and we agreed. We were like, “Yeah, she’s supposed to look like an average Nebraska cheerleader.” But now she looks like a LA model. It didn’t even fit.
Chris: We thought she looked great before as well. For us we’re like, “Oh she looks great.” And this is cool. It was definitely one of those moments again where we were like-
Travis: We will now have to reshoot 80, 85% of the movie. Ended up reshooting about 90, 95. But we were going to have to reshoot a lot, so it was like, “Oh my gosh, what do we do?”
Chris: So we ended up recasting that character.
Charan: What a blow that must have been for her as well, right?
Chris: It was quite the blow. Unfortunately we made the call to her-
Travis: Oh yeah.
Chris: On April Fool’s Day.
Travis: We didn’t know.
Chris: We were so [crosstalk 00:33:05].
Travis: He was [crosstalk 00:33:08]. We were freaking out. We didn’t want to tell her this. We didn’t want it to be this way.
Chris: Yeah, we didn’t even know. We weren’t paying attention to the day. We called and then one of the other actors, I guess she had called one of the other actors afterwards. He was like, “Dude, did you know that you called her on April Fool’s? She thought it was a joke.”
Travis: It really upset Chris.
Chris: We were like, “No, we’re so sorry.”
Travis: We delivered it seriously because it was serious. It was a problem. It was bad.
Chris: It ended up being a blessing in disguise because we ended up recasting Kathy Lee Gifford’s daughter, Cassidy Gifford. She’s the one that’s on the poster for “The Gallows.”
Travis: She did a great job.
Chris: She did a fantastic job, jived with the actors really well, and ended up in the press and marketing of the film being just a superstar because she was on all the talk shows with her mom and doing a bunch of great press for the film. Just really a great person to work with and really elevated the movies.
Travis: Just a good, sweet, kind person.
Chris: But basically we shot the movie twice. The theatrical cut of “The Gallows,” the version that came out in theaters, is not the same one that we shot first. And if you actually get the Blu-ray copy of the movie, you should do this.
Travis: You should get this.
Chris: Both version of the movie are on the Blu-ray. You can watch the original version of the film with the original actors.
Charan: With the original actress.
Travis: [crosstalk 00:34:29] no. Deleted scenes? No. Alternate movie? Yes.
Travis: They’re both on there, but it’s very interesting for a filmmaker or anyone that is into that kind of stuff-
Chris: An opportunity to shoot their movie twice.
Travis: Yeah. I mean it’s interesting to be able to see both, like people can on the Blu-ray, is pretty cool.
Charan: You hear about these things on epic scales. Like when “Back to the Future” was originally filmed and Eric Stoltz was first cast.
Travis: Five weeks.
Charan: For five weeks of filming and then they’re like, “Oh man, it’s just… Comedy is not translating. It’s not working. He’s doing a great job but just not right for Marty McFly so they recast.”
Travis: We actually met one of the producers on “Back to the Future” and some of the stories he had were just insane.
Chris: Oh it was just crazy to hear him talk.
Charan: Oh man.
Chris: He’s such a legend.
Travis: But we ended up reshooting it and from there [crosstalk 00:35:31] we test screened it again, and then had jumped another 10 points in the screening.
Charan: No way.
Chris: And soon after that, Jason put together a special screening for distributors. We had Universal, WB, New Line-
Chris: [crosstalk 00:35:46].
Travis: All of them.
Chris: All these distributors come to see our movie with an audience, who is about a 300-person audience. Screening went great. People loved the movie. People over there who were distributors were impressed. The one that really was the most impressed and ended up getting the movie was New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. More crazy stats were there too. It was their first acquisition in eight years. They had never done a [inaudible 00:36:15] or a movie with Jason Blum.
Charan: No way.
Travis: They ended up, WB really rallied around it as well, their parent company. So WB came on. That was their first thing.
Chris: They were really setting it up to be Warner Bros.’ version of “Paranormal Activity.” They marketed the thing like that.
Travis: All those stars came and then boom, they just lined up perfectly.
Charan: So what year was all of this, would you say?
Chris: This would have been 2014.
Travis: Early 2014 or late 2013, and then we had a couple of meetings with New Line.
Chris: We ended up doing a few more reshoots with-
Travis: They wanted to add a couple of things.
Chris: We added a few scenes, tweaked it. We did an alternate ending. I think there’s an alternate ending on the Blu-ray as well.
Charan: Geez there’s an alternating ending.
Travis: And then we did another test screening and it was like five, six points even higher.
Chris: It got even better and everyone was feeling super confident for the release. It was cool but it was a long process, man. All in all it was about four-and-a-half years that we spent on that film from inception of the idea to its release, four-and-a-half years. It’s a long time.
Charan: So many hurdles, right? “Do we want to keep going or do we not? Do we want to keep going or do we not?”
Travis: And plenty we didn’t bring up. I mean we lost our primary location two weeks before filming started on the first round. But we had it, like we had it… Risk management with one of the schools was going through everything. They were like, “We’ll be drawing up paperwork,” and then some board member called and said, “We’re actually going to make a horror movie at our school?”
Chris: “We can’t have that.”
Travis: “The school is bad enough of a reputation right now.” I was like, “Whoa, they don’t even believe in this [crosstalk 00:38:08].” There was a whole other thing. I was like, “Man, they’ve got issues themselves.”
Chris: Being a filmmaker yourself, you know how it is. It’s every day.
Charan: It is. It is so nervewracking to-
Travis: Bring out the hurdles.
Charan: … have something like that happen.
Travis: [crosstalk 00:38:22] too early so we can get them out of the way.
Charan: Yeah, exactly. Well you know, it’s interesting because my skillset in filmmaking is acting first and then producing as well. And even with producing, I would not say I’m a very experienced producer. I have produced. I have raised a bit of money, but I’m more of a connector. I assemble the team together and everything. But acting and producing at the same time is tough. It is so tough. After doing that with my first feature I was like okay. When I do my second feature, when I’m acting, I’m relinquishing all responsibility of producing to somebody else because it just gets in your head space to try doing both of those things.
Travis: Yeah, that’s a good idea. We should try to do that too.
Charan: I’m telling you next time, that’s what you got to do.
Travis: We produce and direct.
Charan: Okay, you guys do both.
Travis: We produce and direct.
Chris: And everything else.
Travis: Like a lot of stuff. We’ve got some great team that we’ve built that are awesome, but there’s also just little things that we help with because on our movies the budget is small enough that everyone’s wearing 10 hats, and it’s not so lavish that 10 people can deal with one hat. It really is that way. We are also helping make sure [inaudible 00:39:40] is ready and this and that, and all kinds of things. Not to mention what we do in post.
Travis: But anyway, it is difficult. It’s crazy. We are building up to the point and hopefully getting bigger budgets so that we can just be more of a pipeline of films where we have multiple people working on them, and we can just more supervise things to help make sure that Tremendum stamp is on it so that we know it has that kind of quality and commercial viability that distributors and studios are looking for, so it gives them the biggest chances. But the more we can focus on that, the more we can churn out, the more can be done.
Charan: Yeah, no, and I’ll tell you what. It’s so amazing. I was on your website looking through some of the stuff that you’ve sent me in the past, actually, some of the sizzles and whatnot. It’s so good. It is so good. I forgot that Brandon [inaudible 00:40:42], who is a buddy of mine and is in one of your shorts.
Travis: Shorts, yeah.
Charan: I’m just like, man, it’s so great the way you were able to tell your stories. It’s so compelling. That’s a tough thing to do. Just for even the business aspect of things. Being a good filmmaker is tough. Being able to capture someone’s attention, being able to suck people into a story to your characters, that’s a real challenge. So to be able to do that is amazing.
Travis: Thanks, man.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Talk About Other Tremendum Projects
Charan: Yeah and I want to ask you guys, just shifting topics a little bit. Is horror where you guys want to always stay? You want to shift to other aspects in Tremendum? What do you want to do?
Travis: Great question. One of the deciding factors to do “The Gallows” the way we did is that it was also a business and marketing decision, that if it was solely up to us, what is the genre that would give us the best chances of breaking in without being able to afford a famous person and something that could go international without having someone in a different country having to understand the humor or the drama or whatever behind it. So we decided horror was the genre to go. We’re fans of it. It’s fun.
Chris: And [inaudible 00:41:57] footage was hot at the time. It was, like I said, “Paranormal Activity” was really what was the thing at that time. We looked at that style and not only thought it was something we could do, but it was something we could do cheap and out of necessity as well. What else can we do? We don’t have any big expensive cameras. We’ve got this little tiny camera. We can do something with this.
Travis: We took that and that’s where we went with it. Of course, you get kind of pigeon-holed or put into a niche market by everyone, but we love all things and we know we can do all things. Indeed you may say we believe in many good things. Anyway, we believe we’re capable of doing all genres and we want to do all genres.
Chris: We’re fans of all movies. Some of our biggest inspirations are the guys that are making movies on these big-budget, blockbuster, popcorn-scale like Spielberg, Chris Nolan.
Charan: Chris Nolan. I was thinking-
Chris: These are our favorite movies to watch and those are the movies we want to make one day.
Travis: We do want to get into movies that you can watch as a family as well that aren’t so lame, and they’re not overly grotesque or language or any of that. All our movies, even though we got R on both “The Gallows I” and “Act II,” we made them for PG-13 and watching them, you’ll be like, “Why was that R?” It was a heavy PG-13 in that it was very scary for that high-school-age group. In our mind, it shouldn’t have gotten the R, but the studios were like, “Hey, this other one got R. It was fine. Let’s not …” We contested it a little bit but not so much.
Travis: They kind of just stuck with it to keep the momentum going, and then on the sequel the same thing. Lionsgate was like, “Don’t worry about it.” They didn’t care, actually. I think they thought it would help.
Chris: All of that too, the MPAA just doesn’t make any sense.
Charan: It doesn’t.
Travis: It doesn’t make sense.
Charan: Yeah and I mean honestly you go to a different country and ratings are totally different there anyway.
Travis: Oh yeah. Ours actually got PG-13 in several countries outside of the US.
Chris: Even behind you, [inaudible 00:44:16] we did start it together.
Travis: Although we called that.
Chris: I did call it because of that one shot. That one shot.
Travis: The mirror. You know what I’m talking about?
Charan: Yeah, I know the mirror, yeah.
Travis: The mirror, but then the guy in the … anyway. That one was just too much.
Chris: But the rest of the movie is-
Travis: Totally PG-13.
Chris: Totally PG-13.
Charan: Totally PG-13. I thought there was going to be like man, that cop, he is so foul. That’s rated R right there, the cop that they got. That was the first time I’ve ever played a police officer, so I was very grateful for that opportunity.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Talk About Storytelling
Charan: So let’s talk a little bit about just storytelling in general. What, in your mind, constitutes a great story for you? What is compelling? Obviously you guys have had success and you’ve found ways to tell a story that really suctioned a lot of audience and people in. How have you been able to write your own stories that have been fantastic and compelling?
Chris: That’s a great question. I think for us it comes down to a couple of key things. Whenever we’re making a film, I think one of the first things that we always think about is, is this an idea that can be marketed very easily? Can you see the trailer in your head? If so, that’s a great start. You know you’ve got an idea or a concept that is cool and a hook that a studio or a marketing department studio could really grab and make content trailers, marketing materials out of, and will hook audiences and get those butts into seats.
Chris: I mean honestly at the end of the day it’s a business and that’s where it needs to go to function.
Travis: Don’t think of it as, “oh great, they’re just thinking about the business and marketing of it.”Try not to think of it that way. Think of it as, “We like to see movies that are like that.” So in order to see the end in mind, we have to envision how could we get people to feel that way or what’s the trailer that would … so we work it backwards like that. We don’t think what’s the strategy and we have to put this wedge into this, which is what studios do. They just like, “Well, let’s check all these boxes and make the content and the algorithm says this.” That’s what a lot of them do.
Travis: For us, we want to find out, like Chris was saying, what can really captivate someone in the trailer, and then is it a concept that we-
Chris: Feel like hasn’t been seen before.
Travis: … feel like hasn’t been seen before and is compelling to us.
Chris: Right. You can think of some of your favorite trailers and favorite movies. The concept or the hook that gets you in that trailer, those are some of the ones that are the most memorable and making most excited to go see it. Like “Inception” trailer.
Charan: Oh man.
Travis: No one knew what the heck was going on but they were like, “Man I’ve got to see that movie.” Then you go in and it’s this great incredible character piece and story. Not just one character but many characters.
Chris: But that’s just one component. I’d say that’s one of the big boxes that we have to check whenever we come up with something and we get excited about and we want to pursue. When it comes to the actual storytelling beyond-
Chris: … the marketing piece, I think for us it comes down to really the characters, the interactions that they’re having with each other, and ultimately having something that will make the audience feel something. For us, just as humans, the stories that stick with us are the ones that made us feel something. Whether that was fear, whether that was love, whether that was happiness, sadness, whatever it is, it’s affecting you in some way and leaving a lasting impression on you. That when you walk away from that story, changed in some way, for better or for worse.
Chris: I think that is something we’re always looking at, too, because we see a lot of scripts and a lot of content that is kind of cool, but it doesn’t have that depth to it.
Travis: I guess everyone wants that. These are things that everyone wants.
Chris: Whether you achieve it or not.
Travis: We’ve seen plenty of things where it just feels like they just phoned it in. We see it with a lot of older actors where the nostalgia is supposed to bring us into the theater, but then there’s a lot of scenes where it could be told in a much more dynamic way, but they’re sitting on a bench.
Charan: It’s just not dynamic, yeah.
Travis: It’s like, come on, this guy was … I want to see him-
Chris: There’s a lot of strategies to employ to try to achieve that. There’s casting the right people, directing them in a way where you have them emote that emotion. It’s just right. Interaction with each other.
Travis: Having a solid team that gives a crap about how the production is going to turn out. Everyone on our team, everyone that we work with, they want it to be the very best version of whatever they’ve done, whether it’s cinematography, whether it’s wardrobe, makeup. I mean everyone involved is like, “We’re in this.”
Chris: That care and that passion of a project comes across. A mutual friend of ours, Bart Johnson, actually, was telling us a story. He did a movie with us up here in Fresno. Had a great experience. He had a great time and he could tell that we really cared about the project.
Charan: I mean he loved working with you guys. He was telling me how much he loved working with you.
Chris: We did too, with him. And not long after that, though, he did another movie. I can’t remember with who, or some other group.
Travis: It was more of a made-for-TV type movie.
Chris: But he said that the crew and everyone making the film was far more experienced than us. They’ve been in the business for 30 years, but he was like, “The experience on set was so underwhelming. Everyone was doing everything by the book.”
Travis: It was like, “No, we got it. Let’s get the next thing.” He’s like, “You don’t want another? I feel like I can dig a little bit.” No, that’s fine.
Chris: Very “check the box.”
Travis: Very “assembly line.”
Chris: The lack of passion on set was very obvious.
Travis: They’re all great people.
Chris: Great people know their stuff but it was just like, “This is a thing we’re doing.”
Charan: It just turned into a machine, like a routine thing that has to be done and then you move on, but there’s no life in it.
Travis: Maybe that’s a luxury. Maybe that’s a luxury. It’d be nice to be able to just do the thing, but for us it’s always like, “Man, the budgets are tight enough and we’re financing it.” We financed the majority of the movie we did with Bart, which—just as a plug, “Held,” H-E-L-D, keep your eyes out for it—we just got a sales rep for it that’s well known and we will announce some of these other things when we submit it to some festivals. We’ve already got some feedback from industry people that they are really digging it.
Charan: Oh man, I’m so stoked.
Travis: You can look forward to that and Bart’s performance.
Charan: Yes, because the thing is everyone that really knows Bart knows him from “High School Musical “movies. He’s just so much more capable of his range. In fact, I’m sure he didn’t tell you this story, but he had me do this audition with him, which involved holding a gun and all this stuff. He wanted to do it out in the middle of nowhere in a canyon. I’m like, “Bart, we’re going to be waving a gun around doing an audition in California. This is ridiculous. I’m so scared for my life doing this audition with you.”
Charan: But he is, he’s very talented. He can emote a lot of great things. I’m sure you guys know firsthand.
Chris: This role in the film is very different for him. Very different than “High School Musical.” So I think that was part of what makes it cool to watch, but I think part of why he really was excited to do it.
Travis: Another thing that we look at is giving people opportunities that they never otherwise would have had when they work with us. Because we were given opportunities that most people never would have had, we took a lot of them and we made a lot of opportunities, but we did get those from Jason Blum, Management 360, from New Line, WB. So we’re grateful for those. We also want to pass it on. “Held” originated that way. That movie was started … a neighbor’s sister was walking her dog and I thought, “That was our neighbor we hadn’t met yet. How you doing?”
Travis: Turns out she’s from here but she lives in LA. She’s an actress, and she wanted to write a movie. I said, “Well, guess what? We’re producers.” That led to a year later we’re filming a movie that we helped cultivate.
Chris: Yeah, her movie.
Travis: Her movie, and it’s this great story that she wrote and really showcases her talent, giving her an opportunity to be a lead actress in a feature that most people don’t get. And if you’re not Michelle Pfeiffer, you don’t get opportunities like that. So that was great. Then also to have Bart join in and give him a role. We actually asked him, “What’s a role that you always wanted to do but never had a chance?” He’s like, “Something gritty. Something a little bit darker, maybe.”
Travis: We’re like, “Cool.” Couple of weeks later we said, “Hey we have this script. What do you think?” He’s like “Guys, let’s do this.” He came on in it to win it. Not some huge budget. Just going for it. But he knew that we were going to take the care and time that we needed. Jill knows we [inaudible 00:54:06] for each other to make it as good as we can. So that turned out to be great. Giving opportunities, providing them, seeing ways where we can maybe help some of them rebrand or do something that will shake up what people know of it. I think his audience will be blown away by it.
Charan: Oh yeah. It’s going to be … I’m so stoked for him. The guy is so talented. I’ve done plenty of video auditions with him when I was living in LA. Just seeing the way he would portray his characters, I’m like, “Dang, dude.” He just needs the right vehicle, so I’m so grateful that you guys were able to give that opportunity to him, and hopefully he can help your film be awesome as well, which I’m sure he will.
Travis: Well there is kind of a Bart train going on. So there’s more to come with the Tremendum/Bart Johnson relationship. There’s more movies that he could lead that would have a grass roots swell. People him. He’s a beloved person.
Charan: He is. He’s very beloved.
Travis: In social media spheres, and deservedly so. But there’s a whole series of films that he could lead, action, whatever. Kind of like Statham, Jason Statham-type movies. Like, “Hey I want to go see Statham kick some butt.” We want to see Bart kick some butt, and he’s going to have those opportunities.
Charan: I’m still waiting for the day that the puny Indian analyst becomes just the biggest … I’m just putting it out in the universe, putting it out [crosstalk 00:55:43] universe, and we’ll get started.
Travis: That’s right, man.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Talk About Finding Joy in Uncertainty
Charan: Well that’s awesome, guys. I just want to ask a couple more questions. This has been amazing and I’m learning so much, and I’m hoping that our listeners and viewers are also learning a ton. I want to shift to a little bit more of a personal note just between the two of you guys and everything like that. Right now it’s a very crazy time of life. The world is kind of shut down. California, I’m sure, has even tougher standards than I’m having in Utah. What do you do to find joy, especially during uncertainty? What have you guys done?
Travis: We don’t. We’re pretty much miserable.
Charan: You guys sound miserable.
Travis: I’m kidding. That’s a great question, yeah.
Chris: You know honestly, this time, during COVID, and I feel like a lot of people can relate, it has been full of joy for us. Obviously people who have contracted the disease or who have health concerns or what have you, prayers with them, God bless them. I hope everyone has a speedy recovery and hope this virus goes away soon and that a vaccine is found. For all of us that have been just locked inside with our families, it’s been actually really cool to spend more time with our families and do more surprisingly unplugging a little bit, even though you’re surrounded by your devices all day.
Travis: Yeah, we have a garden.
Chris: Like Travis planted a garden.
Travis: Seeds that I got from the emergency preparedness guy from church two years ago. I was like-
Charan: All right let’s do this thing.
Travis: Let me throw them in a patch of dirt in the back yard, and I’ve got a pumpkin this big. It’s going to be like a 300-pound pumpkin. I’m going, “We made our own pumpkins for Halloween this year. That’s pretty cool.”
Charan: That’s awesome.
Chris: We’ve been able to take some camping trips.
Travis: Some hikes.
Chris: You can go hiking. Things that I just think we would have easily said there’s not time to do, or just not made time for, if things were back to normal. There’s certainly challenges. The entertainment industry, right now, it’s on its head.
Charan: For sure.
Chris: Who knows where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen.
Travis: For us specifically, it’s a little bit different. I find that we’re not in the best spot. We’re not celebrities. We’re not millionaires. That’s a whole other story, but we didn’t get rich off the first movie. It was a success and we participated. We were able to put a good down payment on a house that allows us to have some space, because when we made it, it was a 1000-square-foot, three-bedroom room with… his bedroom was our office. I had three kids at the time and there was one bathroom. It was bad news when we were making that thing.
Travis: But we’ve since been able to afford a bigger house. We have a yard and some things that we’ve been able to do, but we’re not totally set. We’re still grinding it out. We’re still doing things. We look to people that are set and we’re like, “Man, it’d be nice to get there.” We’re thankful that we are in this spot where we are. We’re not in a worse spot. Because a lot of people are in a tough spot.
Charan: They are, yeah.
Travis: They don’t have savings that will last them for another six months or a year. They don’t have it at all, or they’re in the hole. Some of the things we’ve found joy in, not just thinking about and praying for, because we believe praying for it and having our minds on those things works. We do believe that that works, as it works for us in setting the universe straight or aligning the stars, we believe that. But also in taking action. Some of the stuff we’ve done, and we just recently launched this month a campaign. We want people to be part of the Tremendum team. We want them to feel the Tremendum vibe, and the word Tremendum, it’s a word that means a feeling of awe associated with an overwhelming experience.
Charan: Oh I love that. That’s great.
Travis: That’s what we want our movies to be. But we also want life to be this awesome, overwhelmingly joyful, positive experience. Whether it’s one big one or a collection of little ones, whatever it is, we want to find and seek out those moments to do that. So we launched, the beginning of July, for the month of July, to help recover from COVID and lockdowns and all kinds of other things that are going on, we decided we were going to give half the profit of all the sales of our new gear we just launched. We got hats and stuff prior to COVID. We just got busy with the movie and post-production that we never launched.
Travis: We’re like, “You know what? Forget it. Let’s give half the proceeds to the Central California Food Bank that’s providing food for families and the Ronald McDonald House of Fresno as well.” We were like, “Let’s see what we can do.” We put out a couple of fun TikTok-type videos and challenge videos that showcase the gear. Check on Facebook on our Tremendum page.
Charan: Oh I’ve seen. I’ve seen you guys are shooting shirts into people’s homes. It was amazing. I was like, “Why am I not in Fresno right now?”
Travis: Yeah and then we did this “Wipe It Down” that’s funny, if you haven’t seen me on that one-
Charan: Oh I saw that one too. I was like, “Dude.”
Travis: You saw that one? Nice.
Charan: I was like, “This is some of the most entertaining content I’ve seen in a while.”
Travis: That kind of service brings us joy.
Charan: I love that.
Travis: That’s joy. When we go and give that money to those organizations, that’s going to be joyful. Hearing the reactions of people to the videos that we’ve made: “Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard that I nearly peed my pants, and then I was scared so much that I nearly peed my pants.” That’s been really a lot of fun to try to keep that going. But also we have great neighbors. They bring us food from their garden. We take them pie. We really try to get out and do things and just spread love.
Charan: What I love about everything you guys are saying is you’re doing everything and you’re staying out of your mind that starts telling all these stories of nothing is going to work out, everything is scary, and everything is awful, right?
Travis: We have those days.
Chris: We have those days, man.
Charan: I think we all do. We all do. But it’s great that you’ve found time to be present with your family, which is first and foremost, right? You’ve gone camping. I’ve been camping recently. I go play tennis every single day. I just do a lot of fun stuff like that to keep me joyful, but what I also love that you guys are doing, you have a fan base that you’ve created. You’ve got a team and now you’re wanting to just create as much love as you can. Every single day you’re either pushing out your merch, but profits go to the food bank. I think it’s amazing. You’re constantly thinking outside of yourselves. I think that’s the first key I’ve learned for finding joy is to find ways to serve other people.
Chris: Yeah, I appreciate that. We try. We try.
Charan: No, it’s great. I keep thinking I was born in India. Where I was born, I grew up in a family that had a little bit of money. Enough money that we could have the opportunity to come to America.
Charan: In our home, there was this concrete wall outside. It’s like a fence. That was what it was. On the other side of the wall on the street were tons and tons and tons of families living in cardboard boxes and using our wall as part of their home, and the rest was a cardboard box. I have no idea why I was born with the family that I was born in. Why wasn’t I born in the family that had the cardboard box, that didn’t have the opportunities I had?
Charan: I always think about those moments, because here I am living in the US, having a lot of opportunities, and yes, things are not perfect here at all. We’ve made plenty of mistakes and we’re all facing a crisis, but I think that having those opportunities to serve using those gifts that you’ve been given and the blessings of meeting with Jason Blum and all those different studios getting your leg up to do all those different films, and now being able to help other people along the way, lift other people up. I think that’s fantastic, man. I don’t know. I’m super grateful and I only wish you guys more and more success because I know you’ll spread that success to other people.
Travis: Thank you.
Chris: I appreciate that.
Travis: And we hope to. We hope to. Since the release of “The Gallows” in 2015, five years ago on the 10th, in 2016 we shot a sequel.
Travis: But we had great people we worked with, a great actress. She texted us today. She’s busy. She texted us today but she’s great. She’s fantastic. Emma Horvath. Find her, follow her. I don’t know if she does all the social media stuff. She should but she’s, anyway. That movie was done. It finally got released by Lionsgate just this last October 2019, but we shot it in 2016. That just tells you how long some of these things take. She’s got a main role in the new Amazon “Lord of the Rings” series. So she’s going to be-
Charan: You know what?
Travis: … She’s going to be probably an Elvish princess or something.
Charan: Can I tell you something hilarious about that? The showrunner of that show is one of my very, very close friends.
Travis: I think Bart mentioned something about a [crosstalk 01:05:36] friends. That’s great.
Charan: I actually stayed with him in New Zealand. I just barely went over there in November and stayed with him. So he was taking me around set and showing me around. I might have met Emma.
Travis: You need to give us the hookup.
Charan: Dude, I know. I’m hoping that he hooks me up as a hobbit. He said there were brown hobbits and I’m counting the days that that happens.
Travis: Well hey, yeah let’s plan a trip.
Charan: Let’s get back to New Zealand. That would be the best, yeah.
Travis: My wife is a rugby coach. She’s the National Championship Fresno State Women’s rugby coach. We would love a reason to go to New Zealand and catch a couple of [crosstalk 01:06:16] games. And then also be witness to a brown hobbit.
Charan: Be a witness to a brown hobbit. Yeah that show is utterly massive. I’ll just say that for sure. It’s going to be … it is utterly massive. My buddy, JD, who is showrunning it, you couldn’t have picked a better guy to run a show like that. He’s very humble. He’s just like you guys. He’s awesome.
Travis: Since a couple of other things … since that time also, so there’s “Gallows” sequel and there was another movie called “Prey,” which was a jungle movie that was great, but that one’s on Amazon right now as well as “The Gallows Act II.”
Travis: So it’s interesting to see, sometimes we feel like, “Oh we haven’t got anything done in the last …” What have we done in the last five years? Then we’re thinking, “You know what? Shoot, you’ve produced several things. We’ve got several movies that came out.” You have to not get down on yourselves when you think nothing is going on and then realize you know what? Look at the positives. What does… the energy flows where focus goes. Is that the saying?
Chris: Yeah. Energy [crosstalk 01:07:28].
Travis: Energy flows, your attention goes. Yeah. So if you focus on the bad, it’s just going to get worse.
Charan: It’s going to get worse.
Travis: If you think of all the positives, if you count your blessings, if you look to the good that you’ve done and the accomplishments, you’ll find that you know what? You have been doing things that are fulfilling and you can continue to do that.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Give Advice to the Younger Generation
Charan: I love that. My last question was going to be what would you give advice to a younger generation, but I think that right there is great.
Chris: Big part of it, man. It’s a big part and honestly we’ve spoken to a lot of groups and many of them young high school groups, college groups, film students. More so than any of the film advice we give, it’s really more of that kind of advice. More goal-oriented, more gratitude-oriented, positivity in mindset, and really utilizing that method of approach in your psyche, really envisioning the things you want to achieve and trusting that the work you’re doing is going to help you get there. You don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to know … what was the… Martin Luther King? “You don’t have to know the whole staircase, just take the first step,” or something like that. It’s so true. I think that’s the best advice we usually try to give.
Travis: Also another thing is it’s who you are, not what you’re going to do or whatever. I mean that’s important as well, but who you are, the thing we do and who we are that led to a lot of the stars aligning is that the first investor called us to say he had $10,000. Why? Well because when we filmed something at his house, even though he’s got a housekeeper, I stayed after everyone left and washed the dishes that we used.
Charan: That’s awesome.
Travis: He’s like, “You don’t have to do that.” I said, “No, we want to leave things better than we found them.” It’s the treat it better than expected. It’s overdeliver or underpromise and overdeliver. It’s go the extra mile in doing something for someone. It’s make the actors choose to take a backend piece or take the day rate. Make them choose one or the other. Then when our actors on the first “Gallows,” when they chose taking a backend instead of any … they were going to do it for free essentially.
Travis: But what we did was, when we wrapped them, we also paid them the day rate. They didn’t know we were going to do that.
Charan: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Travis: They committed to the movie and we in our hearts were like, “Well we know they’re struggling actors. Not only are we going to share in profit with them, or in the participation, but we also are going to turn around and be like, ‘Because you had faith in us and you took that leap with us, we’re going to give you the day rate that you would have had, had you chosen that.'” It’s like little things like that where you just … responsibility, reliability. We’ll take a less-talented, reliable person than one of the best actors or the best DPs or whatever that’s unreliable.
Travis: It’s all those little things that to us are so important for us to show that we are capable of doing and to portray, and that we look for in other people.
Chris: Specifically to film or acting or anything in entertainment, we always encourage people, just go make stuff. Just go do it.
Travis: You’ve got 4K on your phone.
Chris: There is nothing stopping you from going, starting your own YouTube channel, making your own skits. Just exactly what I did but with even better technology. Go make stuff. Go get your friends together. Write your own monologue, write your own scene, star in your own movie or edit your own movie, whatever it is that you’re interested in, and just start learning. That’s the best way to get involved in entertainment or in the content.
Travis: If no one’s going to make it happen, don’t wait around for someone to make it happen for you. You are the person to make it happen. You are the calvary. You are the one in charge.
Charan: Mark Duplass, man. I love that speech and obviously you guys do too.
Chris: Yeah dude.
Charan: Oh that’s awesome. Well guys, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you all today and I feel like the listeners are going to love this as well because you’re so insightful and so full of wisdom. But not only that, you add the component of service as well, and I think that’s super important, because it’s not just about getting glory for ourselves. Right? It’s about paying it forward and [crosstalk 01:12:19]. What’s that?
Travis: Although that does feel nice.
Charan: It feels great. It feels great. And then now you can share with other people, so that’s awesome.
Chris: Thanks, man, appreciate it.
Charan: Travis and Chris, thank you guys so much. You guys have any last words or comments or anything like that?
Travis: I would just say look, we obviously want to increase our fan base. We want to have as many people come along to our journey with us, and we want to do more where we work in the shadows. We’ll go dark for a time and then we’ll be getting stuff done, but we really do want to be more inclusive. We think, who the heck are we? We’re a couple of dudes. But we’ve come to find out that sometimes we won’t invite someone to do something because we don’t want to impose, but that person has told us later, “Dude, I’ve just been waiting for you to invite me to do something and I’m mad that you haven’t. It’s not an imposition. I want to be part of it. Don’t think because you can’t pay me or because this or that or because it’s a weird time of night or it’s early morning that I don’t want to be there. I want to be there.” So we don’t want to deny people that. We love having people that feel that way.
Chris: It’s a lot of fun. Being on set or being involved in moviemaking in any way can be a ton of fun. We always encourage people to follow us on social media at Tremendum Pics or Tremendum Pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and Chris and Travis, we have our own personal pages too, just to follow our stuff. Follow if we’re looking for extras. Whether they’re in California or Utah, we’re hoping to do more productions in Utah as well, so it’d just be good to be on our radar on social media. We always post when we’re looking for folks and people to get involved.
Travis: And just any little bit of putting eight stars instead of 10 … eight stars. You can put 10 but make it believable. Put eight stars on the IMDBs or on the Rotten Tomatoes.
Charan: Yeah, yeah, that’s so funny. I always tell people I was in a scary movie on Netflix. It wasn’t Netflix-produced. It was made in [inaudible 01:14:34]. Netflix acquired it. I always tell people it got five stars on Netflix. They’re like, “Dude, that’s crazy, that’s great. Five-star rating on Netflix.” I said, “Well, to be fair though, only one-and-a-half of those stars were colored red. The other ones were right, but five-star rating.” They were all five.
Travis: It had five stars but only half of them were yellow or red.
Travis: And also to combat a lot of the haters out there, because those are the ones that really talk a lot, we have recently been encouraged to be a source of positivity and goodness on the internet and on social media that those things have been … all good things are intended for good, but they can be flipped bad. But use those things to bring about more positive and do more things and posts about whatever it is that is compelling for you and positive for others to see that are in your life, so you’re not sitting there wondering, “Am I alone?”
Travis: No, you’re not alone. This person believes that this is good and this is helpful, and these are the things that brought joy in our lives. These are all great things and good questions that you’ve asked. We’ve committed, just even yesterday, our family committed to being more positive and putting things out on social media that are going to have a positive vibe amongst our peers.
Charan: That’s awesome. Guys, seriously
Travis: [crosstalk 01:15:57] Tremendum Pics.
Charan: Tremendum Pics.
Travis: Give good reviews on things, even if you haven’t seen it.
Charan: Awesome. Well thanks so much, guys, for chatting with me today. It’s been a real pleasure and I will let you all know when this goes live.
Charan: And yeah, thanks again. All right?
Travis: Awesome. Appreciate it. We’ll talk to you. We’ll be in touch. We’ll stay in touch.
Charan: Okay, absolutely. Take care.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand podcast, and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback in the reviews, and if you or someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.