Meet FC Member Holly Stadtler
May 10, 2019
Holly Stadtler began her career in news and worked for six years for NBC Nightly News in Washington, DC as a Unit Manager and Production Manager. She was in the oval office when President Ronald Regan gave his farewell address to the nation. She was also a camera operator for Willard Scott of the Today Show during a 4-month long NABET strike and also during this period filmed many well-known politicians, scholars and others (including former President George H. Bush when he was Vice President).
From news, she moved into documentary production at the Discovery Channel where she worked for 6 years before opening her production company, Dream Catcher Films, Inc (now Dream Catcher Films Entertainment, Inc).
Holly has interviewed biologists, scholars, politicians, and unsung heroes and traveled to some of the world’s most magical places while enduring air sickness, relentless mosquitoes, frostbite, and intense equatorial heat. She has spent sleepless nights under the African sky as lions and hyenas prowled through camp, strained for hours in blinds waiting for animals to appear for the lens, and logged countless hours on the phone, at a computer, and in airport terminals.
For the last 4 years Holly has been traveling North America in an RV with her husband and their border collie hiking, biking and watching wildlife. But she recently reopened her production company and looks forward to developing The Green Box: At the Heart of a Purple Heart with co-producer/director Vicki Hughes.
We recently chatted with Holly about her career and her new documentary film project.
How did the story for “The Green Box” come to you?
My friend, and documentary filmmaker Vicki Hughes, helped the author when he was writing the book years ago. I received a digital proof before it was published, and I read it aloud to my father. Alzheimer’s kept him from reading, and it was a wonderful experience to share the time and story with daddy and hear his reactions, as a Navy veteran (although he didn’t serve in WWII). While reading the book I was imagining the scenes on the screen, and I knew Jim had a good story, one ripe for TV and cinema. During that time I had taken a break from filmmaking, and my husband and I were traveling the US in an RV. But after 4 years of living the dream, we needed to get back to work. I met Jim a few months ago, and Vicki and I decided to try to get the film produced by September 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
How does this film and its subject matter align with the other documentaries you’ve made?
This film resonates with me because, like my last film, the protagonist is a courageous individual who served his country honorably in the face of great personal danger. It’s an honor to tell his story. But like most strong stories, there’s a conflict. The reason we’re telling Robert Kurtz’s story is because he died young. While his plane was shot down during the war, he survived and was taken to a POW camp (the infamous Stulag Luft III, where the “Great Escape” took place). And though he was liberated and returned home, he died at 33 of a massive heart attack which we believe was the result of his war experiences. So like my other films, here’s a story of an unsung hero whose courage is inspiring. And like many veterans of WWII, his story is a testament to the strength of our convictions and the lengths Americans will go to protect our freedom. But there’s great cost involved for courage.
You’ve been in the documentary film (and broadcast media) worlds for some time now. Can you speak to how the process of documentary filmmaking and distribution has evolved?
In my career I’ve seen the business model change dramatically. When I first started in 1997, all of my films were work-for-hire projects for cable networks – meaning I brought them the idea and they paid the full budget for all rights, all markets, all media. During the recession of 2007, it became harder to get full funding from one source and the markets had started being carved out in the late nineties. So co-productions were the norm. It was hard for me to go from being a storyteller to being a hustler trying to cobble together various entities to cover the budget. And I resisted self-financing a film for many years. Fundraising is complex, stressful and not my forte, but this current project is another attempt to cobble together money from multiple sources if we can’t secure a broadcaster upfront. (Note: if you’re a professional fundraiser, contact me!!)
What aspect of making “The Green Box” has proven to be the most challenging and the most rewarding?
Since we are in the early days of fundraising, it’s hard to answer. But at this writing, I’d say the biggest challenge is to bridge the gap between the encouraging comments—“What a great project and trailer”—to “here’s my donation!” As for the most rewarding, I’d have to say it’s the veterans’ reactions to the book and the friendships Jim is building.
What is the current status of the film and what is your timeline for completion?
From now until August 2019 we are trying to raise $55,000-$70,000 to fund a two-week shoot in Europe around the 75th anniversary of Robert Kurtz’s plane crash in Austria (8/3). On that day a fierce air battle brought 7 B-24 Liberators down, plus 8 German fighter planes crashed.
After that shoot, we’ll have months to raise additional funding and shoot in the US, with editing in early 2020 and a completion date in time to capitalize on the anniversary of the end of the war (September 2020).
Can you share a few thoughts on FC’s role in this project.
We are very excited to have Filmmakers Collaborative support us as a fiscal sponsor. We know many donors want to make tax deductible donations and working with FC affords them that capability. But in addition, we appreciate the organization’s decades of experience and level of support provided. I have been using the foundation database to search for possible funding sources quite a bit, and I have enjoyed watching the FB video of a funding strategist for tips. Also, both Laura and Kathleen have answered my many questions in a very prompt timeframe. So it’s a great partnership.