Chris Stacey, Cinematographer and Viral Content Creator | RUHM Podcast
Chris Stacey is no ordinary cinematographer. When not creating commercials, documentaries, and major motion pictures for the silver screen, you'll find him adding a touch of Hollywood magic to multi-million-dollar homes in Southern California.
In this episode of RUHM Podcast, Tim and Chris discuss the creative process behind making viral real estate films such as “Teach Me How to Duffy” and “Selling Sunrise”, a parody of the hit Netflix series, Selling Sunset.
The two recall their kismet meeting which led to a partnership of filming Orange County’s most expensive homes, opening their Newport-based production studio, CineNewport, and sharing a vision of shooting movies in their very own backyard.
Chris helps us explore the delicate balance between paid work and artistic pursuits, leaning into your community and skillset to make magic happen, and how film can be used effectively in today’s digital world.
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Tim Smith 0:00
I'm Tim Smith of the Smith Group, here at CineNewport presenting our podcast RUHM where we highlight and expose to the world the great stories, people, places and properties of Southern California. Today, my guest, great friend and filmmaker Chris Stacey.
How you feeling brother?
Chris Stacey 0:21
Feel pretty good. Pretty good. We're here in our space, we're finally utilizing it for what it should be utilized for.
Tim Smith 0:27
So let's talk about that. So we've had CineNewport for just over a year and a half, and we started talking about this as a bigger vision. And obviously, we get busy in both of our daily lives. Like, what was your vision for CineNewport?
Chris Stacey 0:41
Well, it started out you needed a place to put your car.
Tim Smith 0:44
My Can-am, my motorcycle, that's right.
Chris Stacey 0:46
So if you were gonna do that, I was like, why don't we get a bigger place, we can put a studio and you could park stuff there. And we could build it out, because I needed a new space. I was leaving my space in Dana Point - my studio space - and so it worked out good. And I think, the idea was a place for us to create content. I don't think we were selfishly building it for us.
Tim Smith 1:06
Well, it quickly evolved from my storage unit to not having any space, to building this beautiful cyc wall. We have the lounge, the kitchen in the front, so we have a space to come, to create. And really, like, that's what it's about, right? Create..the artistry of film.
Chris Stacey 1:23
Yeah! And it's a place for us to just be creative. I mean, during COVID, when it was really at its peak, we had all our kids' birthdays here. So I mean, it became a really utility knife of a space for us, but I think in in the grand scheme of things, we want this to be a creative space.
Tim Smith 1:39
And like, honestly, for studios, though, we weren't even really anticipating the demand we'd have from outside for people wanting to use it, because there's just nothing here in Orange County. How has that surprised you?
Chris Stacey 1:51
I don't think it surprised me. There's a lot of film work that goes on in Orange County, at least commercials and things like that. And a lot of people like us just don't want to drive to LA to go and work, and so the studio here gives the local people who don't want to go to LA gives them the ability to shoot and record audio and have the equipment they need to get things done here locally. And I think that's a big luxury, like when we were talking yesterday, that like 'I didn't know this was here' and so you know, we always get those type of people who are excited that this is here and that they can utilize the space.
Tim Smith 2:31
And what started out as kind of our own organic studio - we put a lighting grid, you have all the camera equipments, and so now we're having people want to shoot commercials here. You know, Reebok, Kareem Abdul Jabbar came in here. We've had huge photo shoots for product and every time it seems like we turn around, yeah, somebody else is like, hey, I want to rent your space.
Chris Stacey 2:50
Yeah, and we just don't have the manpower to be able to control that. So. So I mean, these are good problems, growing problems to have. And I think we really wanted to use this space in the end was for us, right. And I think that's the main selfish use that we have for it. And you know, here we are finally, utilizing the space, painting the walls a nice olive green, we have Pacific Staging and come in and make a beautiful set for us and we're going to do your podcast.
Tim Smith 3:15
Right, which I'm excited about. So before we before we start there. All right, let's talk about our meeting. So I'm gonna give you a little background. I don't know, I think it was 2005, 2006. I'm like, I just had this like really deep impression that everything was going to become about film. And everything in real estate was going to become a video. So I started trying to like, I mean, organically find people that could shoot these property films and the problem was at the time, the equipment was heavy, the turnarounds were forever. And every seller was like, "I love the idea but I want to list my house on Wednesday and I want your film done on Thursday".And so I was having crews come from LA, I was having students from Chapman and USC trying to do it.
Before drones you were in helicopters. Hanging out the windows trying to get the shot.
Yeah, my first one was a helicopter over Irvine Cove for a client that I mean, that was probably the first film where I was like, "Whoa, this is different". And at the time, I say film instead of video. I just think it's a better way to explain it at the time. It was like nobody was doing it. And like it took us six weeks to do it, and it took us like triple the budget that we thought and I was thinking I can't do this. And I just don't have time as a real estate agent, as I'm showing and doing this stuff, to go spend time doing film. But as soon as we launched it and the response was like so dramatic. I'm like I'm on to something. And so I worked with different crews for a while and then tell them the story about how we got connected.
Chris Stacey 4:50
We randomly got connected. I had some friends Alani Media, Noah and Joe Alani, they were good friends of mine and they were like really amazing surf cinematographers, and they have a production company here. And so they were, they had a meeting with you. And I think what I didn't know is how sought-after working with Tim was, you know, like, here's this guy. And so they had a meeting with you and they hadn't done any real estate stuff before and they kind of, you know, you basically said, okay, you know, maybe a couple more years, and you guys will get there because they just didn't have it.
Tim Smith 5:22
Well, that was my problem. I just couldn't find anybody that was creative enough. They had the experience. That could do it quickly enough.And so I kept on like, bumping. I felt like I was dating. I was dating all these different - and I had a crew out of LA that were amazing, but they were shooting like all sorts of movies and TV shows. So like, I would get, "We can work with you the third Tuesday of December". You're like, what?
Chris Stacey 5:49
Yeah, that's not gonna work.
Tim Smith 5:49
Yeah. So I kept on trying to bootstrap this, and so, in my mind, I think I created you, because I was like, I need a partner that's creative, that doesn't work in real estate. But that is an epic filmmaker. Yeah, that's super creative, that can work on the fly. That could work fast. And so I just kept on and I don't think that I ever actually put that down on paper. Even though in my mind, I just kept on meeting people to try to see if it would work.
Chris Stacey 6:16
I was on your vision board.
Tim Smith 6:17
You were on my vision board for sure. Right?
Chris Stacey 6:19
This wasn't the first time.
Tim Smith 6:21
Entrepreneur's vision board. And so I don't even know how I met the Alani's.
Chris Stacey 6:25
So they I think they showed up in an open house of yours or something - the one you were doing in San Clemente for the old Nixon estate.
Tim Smith 6:31
Yea yea, Marty Colombatto.
Chris Stacey 6:31
Yeah, and so, they met with you and you kind of were like, "Okay, maybe do a few more things, and we'll get you there". And then I had a lunch meeting with them after and I don't remember what it was, but they were like, "Have you ever done anything like that before?" And I'm like, well, I haven't done real estate but Id done a bunch of like big promotions for hotels and sky rises and things like that. And I'm like, you can send him this and see what he thinks. And so they sent it over.
Tim Smith 6:31
I still remember looking at that.
Chris Stacey 6:36
And I got a call. I think you called me like an hour later. And I was like, okay, you know, I was like, I don't know, real estate. I never. It was funny, my my father-in-law, back in the day used to tell me when I first moved here, I mean, he was like, oh, you should do real estate films because he was a real estate agent in Ancaster, Ontario. Tom White Realty, great guy. But he was like, "You should do real estate. It would be a great way for you to make money on the side". I'm like, I'm not doing it. No way. Yeah, I'm not doing it. I'm just not, you know, I'd rather starve. So. So we came into the meeting, we met and I didn't like I said, I'm pretty sure I was wearing board shorts and flip flops. I was like, "Hey, nice to meet." I didn't have any idea what kind of scale business you were. I didn't do any research. And you know, you guys kind of liked what I had to offer and we made our first film.
Tim Smith 7:48
What was the first film?
Chris Stacey 7:50
I don't remember - we did it with photographs.
Tim Smith 7:53
Wasn't it on circle?
Chris Stacey 7:54
Circle Drive in Laguna Beach.
Tim Smith 7:56
Yes, it was an epic house. Desiger's house.
Chris Stacey 7:59
Super small but yeah, we went and shot that in an afternoon and I remember, you going to like the team, "I think he's pretty good". And so..
Tim Smith 8:10
Well, I remember when got it back and how quickly it was. And I wasn't involved, which I don't really want to be involved, unless you think I need to be involved. And I still remember the vision when the girl is like swimming out on the bluff and I see the film. I'm like, dude, we just nailed it. Like this is exactly like what I'm looking for. And it was like, interesting, because, I think this goes back to anything that you're trying to create. If you're really willing to put down what it is that you're trying to design and you do the work, it's like the law of the universe attracts. And it attracted us together. It was like a kismet meaning. And it's been - what year was that?
Chris Stacey 8:49
It's got to be at least five years ago now. Right?
Tim Smith 8:52
I think it's more than that. I think it's like seven. Seven years.
Chris Stacey 8:55
It's been a while.
Tim Smith 8:56
But what's interesting, is so we start making films. Yeah. It just seemed to work. We didn't really have - I mean, you know, there's partnerships that work, there's partnerships that don't. But let's talk about some of the highlight films because there's been, I mean, the the big thing for me is, you only work in our space. So you're not working for other realtors, because this is like, kind of the bread and butter while you're doing other stuff, which we'll talk about. But the thing that I love is we'll go, we look at a house, we'll chop it up think of ideas and 95% of the time you come up with an idea. I'm like, that's it. Nailed it. And then we have the idea. But then, you know, I think the process that we have is really fluid from a standpoint of, you know, we're not necessarily - I mean, we're just doing this quickly. Yes, like the night before you're getting like the talent. We kind of have the ideas. Yeah, and I mean, it's a real it's a real compliment to you after you know, the years of doing it. I didn't realize how rare you are. You're like a unicorn. You're going to show up onset, we're going to film something in seven hours, we're going to have some, we're not going to have it all mapped out. We're not going to scripts and it's going to be fantastic. How do you have that gift? Because we've talked about it. And now that I've worked with so many film guys, and I've seen other people making films, it really is truly a gift.
Chris Stacey 10:18
It's like, yea I don't know, it's like playing jazz a bit, right? Like you just kind of don't know where it goes and you know, your instruments and know your skills enough to be able to just freestyle a little bit. And I think it comes from my experience. My background originally came from music, I started in music. I think that really taught many times. So I started out, I was a musician, I had a band. And I led into that by doing music videos for my band. You know, and so that's where I got my my lead in.
Tim Smith 10:47
What kind of band was it?
Chris Stacey 10:48
We don't need to talk about that. That's for another episode.
Tim Smith 10:52
Listeners - what kind of band was it?
Chris Stacey 10:54
It was like live Hip Hop type of stuff. And so.
Tim Smith 10:57
Kind of rap. You were a rapper.
Chris Stacey 10:58
Rap. Yeah, I was a rapper. Yeah, you know, all the things you do.
Tim Smith 11:01
We're gonna cut some of the music videos, this will be classic.
Chris Stacey 11:06
Tim Smith 11:08
Enjoy. Okay, so started in music.
Chris Stacey 11:10
Yeah, so started in music videos, and I think music started out as timing for me, right. I mean, understanding, timing, understanding pacing. You know, that translates into what what I do now, as far as editing, as far as pacing and a scene, all that kind of stuff is understanding what what the right feel is what the right timing is. So I think music taught me that. And then I think from that I transitioned to the shooting music videos, and I did tons of music videos back in Canada, I don't know, I've probably done 150 music videos, maybe not that many. But, you know, that really gave me the ability to have to work quick, because you had one day always to shoot a music video, limited talent and had to be creative. It had to be fun, it had to be beautiful. It had to be engaging. And so that gave me the ability to really shoot well.
Tim Smith 11:55
So coming from the creative side when you're doing this, because I think I've seen it, you have all the pieces, but you're working through like a vision, right? Like talk more about that.
Chris Stacey 12:04
I think the vision for me, that I think maybe separates me from other guys is I can see exactly what I want and then I shape the lenses, I shaped the scene until I achieve that through the lens. So I think it's about vision. I think it's about understanding what you want to see, what the end goal of a scene is, the end goal of a product is, and having that end goal in mind. And everything you do from the minute you get there, the minute you can see the idea is that pathway to be able to get you to that point/
Tim Smith 12:34
So that's the hook - beginning with the end in mind. And it really drives every scene, it drives how many times you're making it when you're shooting, because a lot of times, I have the vision, I just don't have the same creativity that you do to capture it. And it's almost like you're seeing it already edited in your mind. Yeah. And so then you're like, no, we got to do this. Let's talk about one specific film. Because I mean, it was kind of the film that I think put us on the map. And it was really like a comedy of errors. We get this listing in Newport that's a brand new home on three lots, right?
Chris Stacey 13:12
I don't know which one it is yet but I'm still waiting.
Tim Smith 13:14
This is Craig Atkins house.
Chris Stacey 13:15
Okay, so we're talking about Craig's.
Tim Smith 13:16
Yeah, so we get this brand new home on three lots in a location on the harbor, that I think some in Newport Beach would say we were bananas for trying to get this price. And so part of the vision of this was: How do we create something that's going to hopefully go viral and it's going to allow us to market outside of Orange County because the Newport Beach buyer is just not going to see our price point. And so what do we do to do that? And we found that this was a few years in, we found that sometimes the films that are just the same, they just don't get the energy. So we're mapping it out with a seller, the seller really wants to do you know, a multifaceted film, like showing the life of the kids and like, this is what you could do. But then we don't have any time to film?
Chris Stacey 14:05
No, we didn't have access to that house long enough to be able to do it.
Tim Smith 14:08
So we cut it. And you come up with this idea that I think you came up with a few years ago.
Chris Stacey 14:13
Yeah, it was definitely maybe within a year probably of us doing it. And I knew if I did drugs, I probably would have come up with a doing that. But I don't, so I was trying to figure out how to - I don't even know where it came up. I don't know if I was listening to the Dougie on the radio or I couldn't tell you.
Tim Smith 14:31
Well I remember when you told me about it, we were in a boat, right? And you said what do you think about this? And I'm like, I was like, Dude, that that's like nails. Now I didn't have the time to really think about how good it could be, but like, but we were really looking for the right property. And that's one of the parts of the process. It's like you don't want to use an amazing film on a terrible property, so you have to match the property with the idea.
Chris Stacey 14:57
And I think it takes a bit of an outsider to take a step back and look at what Newport Beach is. Yeah, you know how ridiculous these electric boats are - as fun as they are in the harbor. But like these unseaworthy vessels that everyone spends $30,000 on that you just rent.
Tim Smith 15:12
Chris Stacey 15:13
Or $80,000, depending. You know, I mean, you're going, I mean, it's kind of crazy, right? And Newport is really the center of these things.
Tim Smith 15:22
To give a little.. So, Marshall Duffield, the way they created Duffies - and I know him - fantastic human being and probably the most fun guy, you could ever go on a trip or do anything with. So the way that the Duffy came about is they actually, his dad was out in the desert. People love to have a place out in the desert, and he would fix boats. And he basically went out to his boat every time that he had to go fix a boat, and he ended up fixing his boat before. And he's like, why can't we make this thing like a golf cart? So while he was gone.. while his dad was gone, he went and put a battery in a boat, and then he cruised around in his boat all weekend. And then when his dad came back - this is the story I remember, I don't know if it's true - his dad was like, mortified. He's like, "You put a battery in a boat, like, you could have got electrocuted". And then that was the Duffy electric boats. Now here, everybody calls every Electric Boat "Duffy". It's like Coca Cola, right? There's a lot of colas. And so you go to other places, the East Coast. But now Duffy has become a household name. So you give that little premise to it.
Chris Stacey 16:26
Yeah, and then you hit off? And I don't know, I just kind of was like, what if we did "Teach Me How To Duffy"? And I think that's where it started. And usually in creativity, everything you know, it either is a scene, or an idea, or a line. And you just kind of have one spark of an idea. And that's usually the easiest part. Right? Of being creative, you come up with your one little idea.
Tim Smith 16:46
Right. And then the practical sets in, like, how are we going to do this?
Chris Stacey 16:50
Tim Smith 16:51
Okay so take us back. So, we squash the film that he wants to do, because we have one day to film. And so this is like, I think it was like a week before? Because then you have this idea, then you're like, so take us back where you were, we have a week and a half to come up with this idea.
Chris Stacey 17:12
Yeah. And so I went over to Ryan Marshall's place, a good friend of mine, who was in a band called Walk Off The Earth, right, a big band. And so I have the idea and I kind of wrote the rap. And so his his son-in-law, or step-son is Myles Erlick, who was just in West Side Story now and all this kind of stuff. So I have this creative community around me that, you know, we all came up with Canada, and a lot of us ended up down here.
Tim Smith 17:47
Hey, that's just a hook: Find your community. Whenever you're doing anything, the bigger your community, the stronger you are, the better you'll be.
Chris Stacey 17:53
Yep. And so yes, I had the idea. Myles, I think redid the instrumental because at that time, we didn't have the rights to do the song. So we remade the instrumental.
Tim Smith 18:05
Well talk about that. So yeah, we had to remake the instrumental because if we were going to do a film with their instrument.
Chris Stacey 18:11
It would have cost a lot more money because you're paying for the rights.
Tim Smith 18:13
Or we would have had to take it down.
Chris Stacey 18:14
That's right. So when you're doing this kind of stuff, you always want to recreate and make it a cover. Right? And so we redid the beat and wrote the lyrics.
Tim Smith 18:22
I still remember the night when we're going over the lyrics putting the lyrics and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, this is hilarious. And we just kept on chopping it up. And the lines were just perfect. And they were very simple.
Chris Stacey 18:35
Yeah. And you didn't even want to - you were unsure about even recording your rap. And it was the last thing we shot on the day, because you were so unsure if this was like.. you're like, "I don't know, if I'm rapping". You've always wanted to do rap stuff and a music video, but when it came down to it, you were nervous.
Tim Smith 18:51
Nervous?! I wasn't even going to do it. I'm like, "No, I'm not doing it. Can you imagine how people are going to feel I'm rapping in the end of this video. That's bananas." Preposterous.
Chris Stacey 19:00
I think it's great because you're pushing yourself. Right? If you don't push yourself in anything..
Tim Smith 19:05
Okay, so that goes back to this. Like, I have not wanted to do a podcast. And I think what it does and even that, it starts like picking at the scabs on your insecurities and you being vulnerable. But I found that the experiences that create the most fear, matched with the most excitement, are the things that you need to do in life. And I mean, you really have to do it, like starting this podcast was just like, I mean, I can't tell you. We've been talking about me doing this for years, and I just do anything I can to avoid it, which I think is human nature. So I think in situations, any situations in life, where you're on that edge of that cliff and you're feeling massive fear, massive excitement, though because you can kind of see the vision through the fog. Those are the things you need to lean into.
Chris Stacey 19:59
Absolutely. And so we leaned into them.
Tim Smith 20:02
And so from my perspective, so you start making this rap. Once you started with it, this was like a Tuesday. By Wednesday, you'd already had the instrumental redone. By Thursday, you already had the rap re-done. You already had all of the guys. We had the premise, but we didn't have the Cali Swag District band because they wanted like 50 grand or something.
Chris Stacey 20:25
Yeah, but it was a good thing, in that my music video background came and I kind of knew some people in the industry. And so I was able to find them, reach out, and got a hold their management and I was like, "Hey, this is what we're doing". And they came down, and we sent them the song like the night before and they recorded. They they were singing on the chorus.
Tim Smith 20:46
But first they said no, because they wanted too much money. I'm like, I can't afford to pay these guys that. They were a great band. And then you kept on talking to them. Yeah. And then even like the night before they were gametime decision.
Chris Stacey 20:58
Yeah, it was like it was still a gametime decision. And then when they came down, they were so excited to be a part of it. But I remember the manager coming he's like, I didn't know it was gonna be like a full song and a video. I thought it was like a little clip. I'm like, so I think we got away with murder a bit with them. And but they came down and added so much to it. They brought their cars down.
Tim Smith 21:16
So yeah, so from my perspective. Once they got to a digestible number, I'm like, "Alright, let's do it". And then we had already kind of planned we were going to do it without them. But then when they decide to come down, it was like, everything was perfect, because we had these dancers that were like the Newport Beach kids. And then they brought the car down. I actually had a vision in my mind, what if they brought a car down? We never talked to him about it. They bring this unbelievable, you know, convertible, Cadillac, and it was like, I still remember we show up in the first scene we're filming right over there by Lido village. And I'm like, dude, just the first scene was like, oh my gosh.
Chris Stacey 22:00
And that wasn't scripted. I mean, we just were winging it. And I was throwing lines out at Trevor, who's now on the Disney Channel. He does all the zombie kids movies. So I mean, all the guys, it's, I mean, yeah, we created something fun, but it's also about the team you put around because I mean with Trevor and Myles and the Cali Swag, guys. I mean, they're like some of the most talented guys. Myles and Trevor, you know, and they're hilarious, and they're talented dancers and musicians. And so you put all those right elements together, right? And you hopefully, like I said, you're playing jazz. You bring in your different musicians.
Tim Smith 22:32
The night before, we're trying to get Duffies from Duffy.
Chris Stacey 22:35
Tim Smith 22:35
We're like trying to we're filming in restaurants where we don't have permits.
Chris Stacey 22:39
Like the Cannery, and you know, it was great. I mean, all these funny places. And it was just a mix of people we knew. We just did a film for the VUE Newport and so I got to know the owner of the Cannery because we did just these interviews with him. So I just reached out to him. I said, "Hey, can I come in and use the Cannery"? No problem. It's not open, until whatever. So we jumped in there, and yeah, I mean, you know, we shot the thing.
Tim Smith 23:06
And then even the day of like, when we were going to end up at the house, we really didn't have any people. So I called my wife and her friends. Everybody showed up.
Chris Stacey 23:15
Yeah, I think maybe we had like 10 paid extras who came out? And then it was all your friends and my friends. And we just showed up and had fun. And you know.
Tim Smith 23:24
The last seen, when I was not going to rap, and I can't remember the guys name from the Cali Swag District when I'm like, I'm not doing it. And I don't remember exactly what he said, but he's kind of said "don't be a ___". Yeah, like, you're gonna do this. And so we did it, and we filmed like maybe two times.
Chris Stacey 23:40
There were two takes of it. And the guys like jumped around you. And I'm like, what if we just did like, because it was what midnight or one o'clock, I don't remember what time it was. And so I was like, "Alright, you're just gonna come walk towards camera, like an old Beastie Boys video, and I'll put all the guys behind you like crew shots. And they'll just be you know, throwing their hands up and we'll just see how it goes". And you know, and in the end..
Tim Smith 24:02
Well, what was amazing when I saw it, because I think we finished on a Saturday you cut it by Tuesday.
Chris Stacey 24:07
I had to leave. I was going to Israel for a documentary, and so I wasn't even there for the release. Once it went out. I was like, here's the video. Good luck. You're on our own.
Tim Smith 24:17
But it was it was interesting, because that week turned into be like the most tumultuous week and this is where it goes back to "unless you're willing to take risks, you're never getting the rewards". And I remember you were gone and we were texting I'm like, you know, we launched on Thursday. It started just like, I mean, everybody was responding, right? And then I get a call from the Wall Street Journal and then we get Mansions Global, and then New York Post. And before I know it, it's on every news station in Newport Beach. We're watching - me and my kids - are sitting there watching it. Every news station had its like, look at this creative way that a real estate agent is marketing a house and it went bananas, even to the extent with the owners. It created a lot of flack for me because the husband was out of town, and his wife was there with their two boys and she calls me one night at 11:30. She's like, "Hey, Tim, there's, there's a bunch of guys in a Duffy, drunk, booming the song telling you to come out and dance". And she's like, "What should I do"? I'm like, let me call the cops. So we call the cops. Yeah. And I was like, oh, no, this is gonna go bad. And the husband was like, dude, this is creating way too much problems. We can't do it. And I don't remember exactly what happened. This is what I remember. Because he was basically saying, take it down.
Chris Stacey 25:39
Right, I remember.
Tim Smith 25:39
And this was like, I mean, I think over 50 local, national and international media sources had already picked it up. Like you can't like take it down, this thing is going.
Chris Stacey 25:49
Yeah, it's gone already.
Tim Smith 25:50
And so, but I think what I remember is he had some YPO buddies in Miami or something that were I think at a forum, this is what I remember. So well, I'll have to confirm it. And they were there were seven or eight guys that were all really wealthy guys that were in a forum meeting. And they watched the film and they said, "This is the most amazing marketing" six guys or seven guys in Miami hearing about a house in Newport Beach. And that's what for him. I think he's you know what, we gotta let this thing live. And then what was interesting just to kind of circle back, we end up attracting two buyers, through the way we you know, get the get it out there - geofencing conquesting - one from Peru, one from Utah, both billionaires in the third month, they get in a multiple offer situation and that house sold at the highest price in the history of the harbor at the time. Right? Which, we wanted to get more you always want to get more, but it was like a real success. I mean, the only bummer for me, it's I don't know how many millions views it had before we had to take it down. Yeah. Because we remember the buyer that bought the house, he's like, Hey, this is ridiculous. Like, yeah, everybody that comes by my house. Even the tour boats are talking about this is the Duffy house, and so we had to recut it and relaunch it. But it was one of those examples. Your vision, we take a risk. You work hard. And it supported us.
Chris Stacey 27:12
Yeah. And I mean, I mean, it really it changed your career. I mean, I don't think - the way I look at it, I don't think if you took me out of the equation and the creative videos we do, I still feel like you probably still sell the numbers you do. So I don't think it changes your business, but it gives you a step-up on everyone else and separates you from them. Because I think you're a unicorn. As much as I'm a unicorn in what I do, I feel like..
Tim Smith 27:40
You can't discount what you're doing because you were a big part of this.
Chris Stacey 27:43
This is how I get my Christmas bonus, by the way. So keep going TIm, keep going.
Tim Smith 27:48
So, in like real estate, they always say it's 'who you know'. Right? But what I realized is, it's who knows you. And everybody in Newport Beach, and I think every agent around the US, this introduced me to them. So this is, who knows me.
Chris Stacey 28:07
Well. And that's it. I mean, I remember going to the Anaheim game, we went to the Ducks game for Coldwell Banker night or whatever, when they were all there, and you were like a celebrity walking in there with all these agents. "Can you say Duffy - show us the moves". And this is even like a year later, people are still talking about it and it's still one of those things. Now it's like how do we recreate that for other buyers? Which is, you know - you talk - a good example is like the Walk Off The Earth guys who are there to create viral videos. These guys they did the five people one guitar, great friends of mine, I've done all their videos for them. You know, and how do you recreate the one special thing that happened? And you don't really. Have we had lots of other big hits and really funny things? Yeah, but nothing's taken off like the Duffy. But sometimes you only need one to get the ball rolling.
Tim Smith 28:56
I kind of do feel like a one-hit-wonder. But we've had some really good ones. The most recent one in LA I think that we launched last week - it's got the same legs. It's been great. For 802 Foothill.
Chris Stacey 29:07
I know, now the big problem is at least with the Smith Group films is coming up with new ideas. It's like, once you've done so many, it's like...
Tim Smith 29:14
Well imagine this: Every listing appointment I go into, people are like, "Oh, I want you to make that film." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I don't even know how to even get there." And to think about how arduous of a process it is, and then it's not really about like you can do the work, but the people have to respond.
Chris Stacey 29:31
Yeah, that's it, right. You know, what's going to connect? What's going to be funny? And, you know, I mean, we never thought that Duffy was going to go off like it did. I mean, I knew it was funny. I knew the talent was there, I knew it was good, but it was like you never know that something's gonna go viral. You know, you never know. It's like, Who knew that the monkey picking his button smelling it was gonna be the funniest video on YouTube. You know, they just don't know the monkey didn't know that. We were just like the monkey - we didn't know.
Tim Smith 29:55
But that's what's fun, trying to create that, like, it's come to - in my career - I actually, like, I'm looking for properties constantly, that we can match one of our films with, right? It's like, sometimes I'll be walking through a house and the sellers will be talking to me. I'm just like, visualizing, like, what kind of film or are we going to create here, which is a lot of fun, but it's also like a challenge because some houses aren't even film worthy. Let's be honest.
Chris Stacey 30:25
No, yeah. And I mean, we can't do a film for, I mean, how many homes do you sell a year? 250? Next year 700? Yeah, that's right. We can't do 250 films a year. I mean, that's working, you know, it's just not scalable to be able to do it. So you got to pick and choose what the good films are, and what the properties are that match with that and go from there. And sometimes, just a simple lifestyle film is great. The other times, something really funny are usually the house speaks to us. It's usually you know, it's weird how that happens.
Tim Smith 30:54
It's like, it's almost like it's aching for us to tell the story.
Chris Stacey 30:58
Like, but like the one we just did the selling sunset kind of rip-off.
Tim Smith 31:01
Chris Stacey 31:02
That's right. But, you know, I was just, we were struggling, like, what can we do in Beverly Hills? We were coming up. Are we going to do our favorite movie scenes in there? Like, how are we going to.. you know, it was like introducing you to Hollywood and introducing you to Beverly Hills in the LA area. I'm like, I don't know what we do. And like, I think I was just driving. Michelle was always bugging me. Have you come up with an idea yet? Michelle is your Marketing Manager? Have you come up with an idea? Because I'm like, no, no, no. And I'm like, I swear it was with her bombarding me. I was like, I don't know, what if we just did a rip-off and did a parody of Selling Sunset?
Tim Smith 31:38
What'd she say?
Chris Stacey 31:39
And she goes, "Oh, my gosh, that's gonna be hilarious". And that's how it starts. And it's like, you know, the creative process. You know, you never know where things are gonna come from.
Tim Smith 31:46
What go to that for one second. Yeah, I don't wanna make this too long. But so when you had the idea, I'm like, "Oh, my gosh". I like loved it, but Jason and Brett Oppenheim are good friends. Yeah, I love the guys and the funny thing is is like, I love people that do real estate different. And like differently. And their show - no matter what anybody thinks. It's like, revolutionary. It's genius. There are two twin brothers that are former attorneys that have these beautiful girls out just hustling being aggressive, and they got a Netflix show. I mean, people love that show. And it's not even here. It's like people throughout the world love this show. So it's like, I want it. I like I was just teetering and conflicted. I'm like, I don't want them to think that I don't like them or make fun. But I'm like this, is this going to the thing? What's best for the house? What's best for the seller? How can we make a film that's going to create the most energy, and usually they have to be a little unconventional, and I think the thing that really like made me happy because I was sweating it when we were launching this, because I didn't want them to feel like I was -- because I love the guys, right? But I was just like sweating, like what this could turn into, even though I knew like, this is the right thing for the seller. And this is the right thing for the house because we want to create energy. And it was - we did it very respectfully. The film quality is always the best. I don't think people understand like, you're only filming on RED cameras, like when you go out there, like you have this level, this standard, that nobody has - especially in real estate. And so sometimes I'm like, "Okay, we don't have to get the scene out again". But I love the standard that you have because it matches my standard with myself.
Chris Stacey 33:30
Well, and that's I think that's probably why it took us so long to end up doing this is we have a standard of how we want to do things, right? I mean, right now we got a RED camera, a RED camera and a RED camera. We've got big aperture led RGB lights and Sennheiser four sixteens, I mean, we have like real equipment. We're not doing this on iPhones or with SLR's, you know, when we do things, we do it right.
Tim Smith 33:51
Which I mean, I understand the trending stuff, but like, we want to do our own -- this is the way we do things.
Chris Stacey 33:57
That's right. And that's and that's where, I think that's why we align. I mean the quality that you hold yourself to as far as how you sell homes, how you deal with people, how you run your business is the same thing how I see things and that we have a standard of excellence of how we want to do things. I'm not going to do it unless I do it right.
Tim Smith 34:18
So commercial for you, for all the people listening, what are some of the things? So we have this partnership and the studio and the production company in real estate, but talk about some of the other things that you're doing because opportunities are now coming exponentially. Which is a bittersweet for me, because I know I lose you. We always have us and the end goal is to make our own films in Newport Beach, because we have the properties, we have the area, and the world loves Newport Beach now, but talk more about kind of some of the other things that you're doing.
Chris Stacey 34:49
Yeah, I mean, you know, on a commercial side of things, you know, I've gotten amazing clients like Shopify and Ceridian or some big tech companies, so I'm flying around the world doing commercials for them and work for them. You know, a million other, you know, companies and products depending on the time year.
Tim Smith 35:08
Well, one of the challenges in scaling our business, is like, the amount of people I have calling me to say, "Hey, can you make a commercial for this community"? Can you make a commercial? Can you do this? All of my clients now running businesses are asking me - professional homebuilders, which we've done a bunch of stuff for them - and like the big ones, like the William Lyons, the other ones, right? The problem is, it's like, what do you choose to focus on? Because we could be like running around doing projects and commercials making great money? But it's like, you got to stay intentional about your path and choose what to focus on.
Chris Stacey 35:45
And that kind of leads to what I've been doing for the last year on-and-off, which you missed me for three months, I was in Louisiana, and I was shooting a film called The Blind. And so it'll be in theaters on September 23, and it's Phil Robertson's story. So the Patriarch of Duck Dynasty, it's his story growing up in the swamps, from the 1950s to 1975, where he invented his duck call, which kind of changed, changed his life.
Tim Smith 36:17
Okay, so talk about your skill set and how it really matched because you're making this epic film on a very small budget. Right? I mean, relative, but it's just you're trying to create this amazing motion picture on a budget that's like a 10th of what anybody else would expect. Right? So how did your skill set help in there? And you were hired as Director of Photography. So the production company was director of photography, so talk a little bit about that?
Chris Stacey 36:46
Yeah, I mean, I think it was a really good fit for me. Because, because I know how to move quick. So we had 25. - it probably ended up being - the whole film - was probably just shy of 30 shoot days. It's just under $7 million to make the movie. And, you know, and 25 days was our principal photography, that's not a lot for a big motion picture. Usually, it's 40 days, and you have $20 million. Yeah, at least 20 for like a simple drama. You know what I mean? So, so I think my skill sets coming into that I think was was helpful is that I'm able to move quick, I've got that vision, I'm able to see what I want and how I want to do it. And I think the main thing, you know, when Brittany, who's the producer, one of the producers, approached me to do it, I think it's just about being likable and being able to handle stressful situations and being able to stay cool. And I think that's probably one of my biggest skill sets is that even though like, we're going 10,000 miles a minute, and there's every problem that can be thrown at you on a movie like that from tornadoes we had to deal, to swamps, to snakes, to bugs, to, you know - cast not showing up or whatever it is - right? You know, being able to take all those things on your shoulders, and calmly be able to deal with them. And I think that's a skill set that...
Tim Smith 38:11
Slow it down, get the shot.
Chris Stacey 38:12
Yeah you know, you're not going to get the shot any better if you're freaking out and yelling at the crew. So I think my ability to be able to slow down and think about things and, and be able to do that calmly and effectively and still deliver beautiful images was was probably my best skill set on that.
Tim Smith 38:31
I mean, you're doing like you and the Director worked really well together, like, and he was letting you have some latitude, which is fantastic. You're doing the post-production. So you're playing all these other roles while you're doing it. And it's, that's it's that's an interesting premise in life. There's, you know, the book that I really loved, when I was just out of college is Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And it says you can either focus on your circle of influence or your circle of concern. Basically, you can, you can be a victim and like, "Oh, this has happened", or your influence grows. And I've watched through the process, your influence in this film has grown throughout all parts: post production, jobs that you weren't really hired to do - your influence helped to make it and as good as this film does, which I think it's going to be fantastic, I think it's just important to remember, you were working on a budget that is much lower for a film like this. And I think it's going to be like a sensation. When can people expect to see this in the theater?
Chris Stacey 39:30
Yeah, it'll be in theaters. Yeah. September 22, I think is the release date. So it'll be in theaters this fall. Coming up, the trailers will probably be like, beginning of the spring, the first images coming out. And you know, as soon as we're able to share, I'm sure well. We'll throw it up, so it'll be exciting.
Tim Smith 39:47
I mean, when you're going through this, is there an option that it goes to like a streaming platform?
Chris Stacey 39:53
For sure, so there's been a couple big offers already for the film, and a few of the other distributors and stuff are waiting But I think there will be a theatrical for because I think the Robertson and the Duck Dynasty audience is still so big when you think about it, their podcasts, you know, are still reaching millions of people each week.
Tim Smith 40:12
I mean, the thing that I love about it, and I've seen it, but I can't wait to see it is it's just a story of someone really changing. And the more I've learned about the story through you, it's like Phil Robertson, right? He changed. And I mean, there was an I'm like, actually fearful because I know it starts out this romantic - I'm gonna live forever. And then it goes to a really dark place, which, life is messy. Like nothing is ever as it seems. Right? And I think it's easy from an outsider's standpoint is, "Oh, maybe he should have stayed married or this or done that". But now he's changed and they've been together, now, how many years?
Chris Stacey 40:53
Oh, well he's in his 70s and they were married when they were teens. Like Phil had, they had their first kid while Kay way still in highschool.
Tim Smith 41:00
She was 17, right?
Chris Stacey 41:01
Yeah. So they've been together for a long time.
Tim Smith 41:04
But this story is like, I just absolutely love this story. So I can't wait to see it. So let's talk more about you prodding me.
Chris Stacey 41:11
Alright, let's yeah. Now - because we were getting there and then we went on a huge tangent - let's circle back. So RUHM? Why RUHM?
Tim Smith 41:17
So I'm going to be honest, there's some guys that I've known for years, they had a brokerage called RUHM and they were film guys, too. And I they were one of the suitors when I was trying to get to create films together but they could never make it. And I loved the name, and their brokerage disbanded, and as we were thinking about it, about what to do, I'm like, everything happens in a living room. In a family room. Yeah, in a kitchen. Like the conversations, the closings, the everything. It's where connection, it's where things are happening. Yeah. So I just love the name. And I think RUHM is an amazing name. And it's spelt, it's spelt R-U-H-M, as long as I can. I gotta make sure I talk to Mark - that it's not trademarked. And we can use that. But besides, but we can change it. So this is also in flux as we do everything.
Chris Stacey 42:02
Tim Smith 42:03
And so I just loved it. And so then we came with the concept here, we have the cyc wall, the studio, we have some stagers, they're going to set up our living room every time we do it. And so we'll have different living room scenes. I love your neon sign. We're going to have it, and hopefully, I mean really the the genesis for this is - and I feel maybe like a little impostor syndrome. Like I don't really feel like people want to listen to me. That's been my big thing. I don't want to ask people., they'll probably say 'no' to me. They'll probably say no.
Chris Stacey 42:35
But every person we've asked..
Tim Smith 42:36
I mean, it's been like, you know, we've filmed five now and they've been amazing. And every person we've asked has been not only been willing, but excited to do it. And then they come in here, and we kind of blow their minds with the scene and the set. And they're like, "Well I want to start a podcast". I mean, so it's really worked out. But the whole reason for me is like, I want to grow my business, and when I look at what I do, I love what I do. I grew up, I found a job that was a perfect skill set. And I wanted to make a lot of money. And there should be nothing wrong with that, because it's the scoreboard, right? It tells you -- it dictates your actions. But the more people I've realized that we can serve, and I really do, and this may sound arrogant, I feel like deep down I am every seller's best option in Orange County if they want to sell their house for the most. We will create the best content, we will get it out to the widest audience, and my skill set and my negotiating abilities after all these years are the best. And so it's like, this is a way to grow that brand, selfishly, because that's what we do. But it's not really selfishly, it's to create more opportunities for my team so everybody can grow. But the bigger thing that really, finally made me decide to do it: From like 2010 to 2020 selling homes in Orange County - this is just my data, I don't know the other agents data - about 10 to 12% of the buyers that bought our listings, or that we worked with were not from California. COVID started.. And that was one of my challenges over my first 20 years - I'd get all these big buyers coming internationally and they would always end up in LA or San Francisco or New York or Malibu, because it was a little sleepy here. Right? It was too much of a bubble. It was kind of too safe. People wanted a little more swaggy, I don't know what it is. Well, when COVID happened. The paradigm of living changed dramatically. And the safety issues and things that are happening in major metropolitan areas. People started like redefining how they want to live and the biggest thing was working remotely, right, I think it's here to stay in some way. I know people are back to the office...So from the time COVID started till now over 50% of the buyers that are buying our listings and that we're working with, aren't from California. That doesn't even include LA and Northern California, which they're coming in droves. Right? So it's like, this was the time for us to tell the stories of Orange County, Southern California - to introduce them to the people, the places, and the properties.
Chris Stacey 45:20
And it's amazing how many people, how many amazing people, live in this - just Newport Beach in itself - not only coastal Orange County and coastal Southern California. But some just amazing people and places, and you've always been such a huge advocate for Newport Beach and Southern California and South Orange County. And just Orange County in general, you're like the biggest spokesperson for it.
Tim Smith 45:44
So this is an idea I've been thinking about. You don't really know. So the series is like 1883 and Yellowstone in 1923. This romantic idea of going to Montana. When you look at the history of Orange County, with the Irvine family, the Irvine Ranch - the Moulton Ranch.This happened hundreds of years ago where The Moultons, after the Revolutionary War, you had Bunker Hill you had Moulton Hill. Lewis Moulton moved, he came here and he went through Panama, came up and ended up in Santa Ana. And then, this is like the total entrepreneur. He left a life of comfort, of wealth. They were wealthy and he moved out and found the prettiest coastline. And he came to Santa Ana, and he bought sheep. He was a sheep herder, and his story needs to be told. And we need to tell it. Because it's like, 1883 is great., and Yellowstone is great. But let's talk about..
Chris Stacey 46:43
Yellowstone on the beach. 1882 sounds better to me.
Tim Smith 46:47
Amazing! So you have these amazing stories. And what's happened with Orange County - the history has just been great. And it's so real estate abundant.
Chris Stacey 46:57
Absolutely. So I think that's kind of where we are.
Tim Smith 47:01
So now we've started, we went through our first day, this is our second day, we'll, see how it gets launch. And I'm actually feeling just like I did when we did the Duffy or the Foothill or that same thing: Face the fear, lean into and it's working out. So I'm excited to work with this and I think that as we continue to go, we'll have great ideas, other people, amazing guests. And it's here to really let the world know about how great Southern California really is.
Chris Stacey 47:32
Tim Smith 47:32
That's it. Anything else we want to end on?
Chris Stacey 47:36
I don't think so.
Tim Smith 47:38
I just want to end one more thing. So what's the next one year and ten years, because we still haven't talked about my second mountain and yours?
Chris Stacey 47:44
That's true. Yeah, I mean, our second mountain and my only mountain at this point, and maybe maybe real estate will be mine, so I can accumulate some more wealth, but you know, our second mountains are our movies. And I think you and I have always had this vision of partnering not just in real estate stuff, but in the bigger scale of things and actually doing movies and trying to shoot movies. The one thing that's hard being a family man, and going out and directing and shooting films, and traveling as much as I do, is that I'm away from my kids. So you know, the one thing you and I have talked about - we love Orange County so much, I moved here from Toronto, you've been here for so long - and that is like we want to make movies here. There's great stories here. There's great locations, there may not be tax incentives yet, but we're gonna try to push Orange County to get some real good ones. But we want to make movies here.
Tim Smith 48:35
And this goes back to anything, and especially the thing like - why haven't we? What's stopping us? What's preventing us right now? Because we have three amazing ideas. We've already started writing some scripts, like what's stopping us?
Chris Stacey 48:49
Time, yu know?
Tim Smith 48:50
Is it time?
Chris Stacey 48:51
I don't know. I mean, that's the hardest thing with us is like, life gets in the way of our visions and passions. I think, you know, for me, the biggest problem about Orange County for me and my wealth level is it takes a lot of money to live here and live here well, and put your kids in private school at Sea Shores, or Harbor Day, or whatever it is - it's a lot of money. So for me, it's keeping that monthly nut filled with all the commercial stuff, and the real estate stuff and all the other things, and then when you have these passion projects that you don't get paid for, for so long. You know, it's, I think if we were living in Louisiana, we'd be able to make movies all day long. You'd only have to sell two houses a year and you could live like you live now. So I think that's one of the great things about Orange County, it's probably one of the best places to live in the world.
Tim Smith 49:40
You know what my truth is? Fear, bro.
Chris Stacey 49:42
Tim Smith 49:44
Because it's like anything. It's like, you know the definition of "sacrifice" if you look at the Latin word -- It's to give up something good, to receive something better. Right? And I'm not saying we have to give-up, but one of the things I'm fearful of - what what if we go through this, what if we sink a bunch of money, and what if it sucks? What if we like can't get tax credits? My thing is like, this podcast, it's one of those things where I think that this is what we gotta do right now, I've decided. Because what's the difference between just a dream and a goal?
Chris Stacey 50:18
I don't know.
Tim Smith 50:19
A dream is something that just doesn't have a timeframe. Right? It's just like, we have this dream it can happen here. A goal, in my opinion, is where you actually put a timeframe. So when - let's make a commitment right here on camera - when are we going to start filming our first film or series in Orange County?
Chris Stacey 50:42
Summer 2024. Because it's not gonna happen this year. This year is already...I think we need to write, work on it, and then 2024 I feel like we'll be filming and releasing in 2024.
Tim Smith 50:55
So do you want to film summer or winter?
Chris Stacey 50:58
It's beautiful both times. Depends on the film!
Tim Smith 51:03
Summers going to be difficult though, because that's when we get all the tourists, yeah. I'm gonna say we're gonna start it September 2023.
Chris Stacey 51:12
All right. There it is.
Tim Smith 51:13
September - what date? Let's say September 11, 2023. September 11, 2023.
Chris Stacey 51:20
Tim Smith 51:20
Hey, thanks for joining me. Thanks for being a great partner. I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of these together. So tune in for the next one.
Chris Stacey 51:27
Yeah, thanks brother.