Kelly Schwarze’s key to success as a filmmaker and video production entrepreneur has very little to do with Hollywood. “The big difference between what we do and what Hollywood does is where the zeros are,” says Schwarze. The company he co-founded, Indie Film Factory, is situated just outside Las Vegas, where Schwarze was raised. “It’s a unique culture,” he says. “A lot of people from Southern California and New York will come to Las Vegas because it's still relatively affordable to live here compared to most places around the country.” That makes it more economical for Indie Film Factory to produce its own films (mostly in the sci-fi and horror genres) and for independent filmmakers who are on tight budgets to rent studio space.
Schwarze started his first company, an independent motion picture company, more than twenty years ago. He loved making movies, but it was tough to generate revenue with independent films. So he added a video production operation to monetize his space and equipment, and to finance the creative work that he loved. As his budgets got bigger, he was able to hire better actors and the company grew substantially.
Indie Film Factory, the brainchild of Schwarze’s wife, Charisma Manulat, was founded with a similar model — the idea was to make films, but also to rent studios and equipment to filmmakers and do some commercial work to keep the lights on. “We built the business on production support services, so we rent our studio facility to filmmakers all over the world who come to Las Vegas,” Schwarze says. The company has also served as the production arm for various television shows and has clients such as The History Channel. “We’re a service company but we also produce our own content and that’s become a huge part of our overall growth over the last eight years,” he says.
“Oftentimes, you think of entertainment or the movie business as being in a different kind of universe. But it can be very similar to people who own a cannabis company or a restaurant chain. [Through Rolling Stone Culture Council], you figure out where your values lie in conjunction with other people.”
Serendipitously, Indie Film Factory had produced a film in 2019, right before the pandemic hit. “We did really well streaming our films because a lot of people were at home watching movies,” Schwarze says. “We shot Abigail Haunting in 2019 and it went to the top of Amazon within the first week of its release. And while the company shut down for a couple months in the beginning of the pandemic, it was able to rebound quickly with work from companies that were eager to produce videos and web commercials. “We have a client called Nectar Bath Treats and their business exploded during the pandemic with online sales,” says Schwarze.
In addition to his film and video work, Schwarze is an author. He’s written several books on filmmaking “so that some other poor soul can avoid making some of the mistakes that I’ve made.” He’s also penned several by-lined articles on filmmaking through Rolling Stone Culture Council.
During COVID, Schwarze ventured into a new literary arena – the middle grade market. Myron Pesky and the Horrible Bully was published in November 2022. “It allows me to make sense of my own childhood through this fictional journey,” says Schwarze, who has a nine-year-old daughter. “I’ve committed to writing at least five of these books and I’ve had so much fun. And I don’t have to worry about where the camera goes.”
As a member of Rolling Stone Culture Council, what Schwarze appreciates most is that “it allows me to connect with a different type of business audience. For me, it’s been most interesting to hear the insights of other people in other industries,” he says. A frequent contributor to Expert Panels, he’s always on the lookout for new information and perspectives for his fellow contributors. “Oftentimes, you think of entertainment or the movie business as being in a different kind of universe,” he says. “But it can be very similar to people who own a cannabis company or a restaurant chain. You figure out where your values lie in conjunction with other people.”