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Whatever your feelings about Hollywood, it’s impossible to deny its influence on all of us. Even though many purposefully disregard Hollywood’s conventions, methods, and structures, we’re still affected by them. And to be honest, there’s a lot we can learn from them. We’ve recently been digging into Blake Snyder’s classic screenwriting book Save the Cat! And while much of it is as “Hollywood” as you’d expect, there’s a lot of gold in there too.

On a whim a few years ago, Eliot Rausch borrowed a 7D to film the final hours of his friend’s dog, Oden. When he woke up the next morning, Last Minutes with Oden had 30,000 Vimeo views, and Eliot’s directorial career had accidentally been launched. But that’s the way things seem to go for Eliot. Without trying to control or manipulate his career path, he’s inadvertently become one of the most well-respected independent filmmakers in the business. After working for major brands like Nike and Under Armour, Eliot is now taking a step back to rediscover what brought him to storytelling in the first place. This is our conversation with the legendary Eliot Rausch.

It’s impossible to say what makes a film great. Useless to prescribe any rules, since often the best films break them anyway. A more helpful discussion, then, might be to talk about what makes a film bad — and what can be done about it (this is the helpful part).