Director Zoran Lisinac Talks Casting YouTubers In Movies

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Zoran Lisinac is one of the biggest supporters of YouTubers — but not in a traditional way. He’s a producer, director and screenwriter who casts them in his films.

Case in point: Along the Roadside, his recently released film debut which stars Iman Crossan, Daniel Grozdich, Brock Baker, Jess Lizama and Gloria Shuri Nava. And you know what? Zoran is looking to make more movies with more YouTubers. Sounds like you should be getting your sizzle reels ready, YouTubers.

Starting his production company Metakwon, Zoran ran with the more traditional route of content creation — nearly bypassing YouTube entirely. But now that he’s fully aware of the space and the content creators and their considerable talent, it’s safe to say that Zoran will be recruiting from the YouTube ranks for a long time.

Along the Roadside, which tells the story of two unlikely souls coming together as they search for different answers in life, was a hit on the festival circuit, picking up five awards for its efforts. English might not be the first language for this Serbian immigrant, but he certainly speaks the language of filmmaking fluently.

Success can be a lot of different things. What do you feel Along the Roadside’s successes are?

It means a lot that the movie got picked for both domestic and foreign distribution and that it got endorsed by some renowned industry professionals as well as some great festivals (won 5 awards) and critics. However, I get the biggest kick out of stumbling upon somebody’s comment on the movie and talking about what it meant to them. The high point was of course seeing my parents in the first row of a packed theatre (550 people) among friends and other family and inviting them to “dream in public.”

When you cast YouTubers as stars, were you thinking about their big subscriber numbers? What made you choose Iman and Danny?

At the time when I was casting for Along the Roadside, the only YouTuber I had in mind was Gloria Shuri Nava (now Gloria Henri – glowpinkstah) and purely because of her “Chole MakeUp Tutorial” video since it cracked me up and I wrote the part with her in mind. Iman came in late in the process (we were already going over contracts with a “Hollywood” actor when Iman sent his audition, which blew us away). However, Iman did hear about the script from Danny (GradualReport) who got the part after his Mom asked me to hit him up and he auditioned… So it all just kind of happened… other YouTubers (HiimRawn, JessLizama, Brock Baker, MijitoLex) were introduced to the project by Iman and they’ve all auditioned… and they were all great and professional. I am very happy I’ve stumbled upon the YouTube world as I’ve become fascinated by it, its style, its new way of communicating the feeling.

How has your life changed since Along the Roadside?

It has changed quite a bit… in some basic ways (making a living from writing/directing and producing) and in some more nuanced ways…I mean, we are in a constant state of becoming.

What is your best story from the set?

Oh man… when a legendary Serbian actor (from Palm D’or winning “Underground”) answered the the phone (land line) at this house we were shooting in, started speaking to whomever was on the other end in Serbian and short after hang up. That yanked me back a bit since I was stressing like crazy to make the day (9 pages of heavy dialog in exterior with lots of set ups) and reminded me that you only make your first film once… and that enjoying the process is as important as what comes out of it… and indeed I look back on those 28 days as the best time of my life…

I will also never forget being a co-pilot to my brother (the producer without whom the film wouldn’t have come about) who was driving the RV (which he learned a day before) throughout the night on no sleep from north California to LA… a bonding experience for sure. There was also this time when in order to keep me awake while driving one night my AD (Kun Shin) was asking me questions.. as I was powering down the questions had to get a bit racy… till this day I am trying to figure about just how much did I tell Kun that night.

Wait, that’s three stories… but all part of a bigger story, right? 

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What’s next for you?

I’ve got no choice but to keep creative.  I’ve partnered with a new media startup called Backlot Digital and we’re looking to produce Movies, Web Series, TV Series and even a Comic Book Series. And a couple of Soundtracks ;p

 

Cool, right? The film is available online at www.metakwon.com or on cable VOD or any bigger store (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, WalMart etc).

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