Dustin Lee & Jon Jivan Talk “The Hobbit” Fan Edit, How They Worked With The Musicians From A Ryan Gosling Film, And Staying Creative

About a year and a half ago, when I first had the idea to do a podcast about filmmakers, Dustin Lee and Jon Jivan from Maple Films are the first guys I thought of to be guests. They’ve been long time participants of the 48 Hour Film Project in Cleveland. They took the Cleveland film scene by storm with their first entry in the 48HFP, “Transistor”, and ended up winning the Best Film award that year and moving on to Filmapalooza. Since then, Maple Films has been “the team to beat”, winning numerous awards each time they make a film.

Because of their early success, Maple Films was asked to take part in a special filmmaking invitational produced by the 48HFP and sponsored by A&E. From this competition they made their film “Super Pimp”, which ended up winning the A&E Reality Show contest and went on to win the Filmslam Audience Choice Award at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival. Since then they have had a number of their films screen at CIFF and have been regulars in the Cleveland 48HFP. Their most recent entry, “Clickbait”, took home the Best Film prize in the 2017 Cleveland 48HFP and will be screening in just a few weeks at Filmapalooza in Paris, France.

By day, Dustin and Jon work in the film department at Kent State University. In this episode, we cover a lot of ground–everything from how they stay creative while working a “day job” in film, to Dustin’s popular The Hobbit fan edit, to how they were able to work with the artists that worked on the soundtrack for the Ryan Gosling film Drive. This was my very first attempt at doing a podcast interview, so please be kind! I’ve invested in a new mic and have a better setup now. But this was a GREAT interview with Dustin and Jon and I couldn’t keep it hidden away any longer.

One more note: this was recorded in the summer of 2016, and Dustin talks about working on the Family 13 Productions film “A Quiet House” with Robbie Puzzitiello. “A Quiet House” went on to win the Best Film award at that year’s Cleveland 48HFP and screened at Filmapalooza the following March in Seattle.

Selected Links

Maple Films website 

Maple Films on Facebook

“The Hobbit” fan edit 


“Night Drive”

“The Astronomer”

“20th Century Man”

“Super Pimp”

College (the band)

“A Quiet House”

Show Notes

1:15 When people ask what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
3:05 Do you find that creating films for someone else day in and day out takes some of the magic out of making movies?
4:08 How they use short films as a creative outlet
4:48 The overlap between their creative work and their day jobs
5:31 What was the career path that led them to being full time filmmakers at Kent State?
8:13 What’s a typical day like?
12:02 How they make short films to be able to get into film festivals for free
12:52 Freelance and creative work
13:58 How they get creative inspiration
15:54How they got the artists that worked on music for the Ryan Gosling film Drive to let them use their music for free
18:02 Finding time for side projects
19:56 How they choose which side projects to work on
20:20 The most important aspect of any film
21:24 the story behind Dustin’s fan edit of The Hobbit trilogy
26:33 The legal challenges of creating a fan edit of a film
28:10 Inspiration behind “The Astronomer”
30:38 The backwards crowdfunding strategy they use to raise money to make films
32:14 how they developed their signature film look
33:33 the one kind of shot they almost never use in their films
34:53 Biggest mistakes getting started in filmmaking
35:43Why they don’t go back and tweak their films once they’re done
37:08 How they can tell in the first shot whether or not a film is going to be good
38:53 The one thing an audience will never forgive in a film
39:58 Why they won’t even pick up a camera to shoot until this one thing is in place
41:58 Favorite Films
43:06 Whose career would you model?
44:28 The gear they couldn’t live without
45:20 Any software that you use?
46:18 what they do differently than other filmmakers
47:38 one piece of advice to filmmakers starting out
48:58 Why you need to watch a lot of films

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