*SPOILER WARNING*: This interview contains spoilers! If you’d like to avoid spoilers:
Step 1: Watch Jack Of All Trades on Netflix (Canada and US), Super Channel, iTunes, Hollywood Suite, or anywhere movies are found.
Step 2: Come back here and dive in!
Good? Let’s go!
Jack Of All Trades is at once an exposé and a labour of love that brims with heart. After making waves, first on iTunes then on Netflix US, Jack Of All Trades celebrated its homecoming this week with its Netflix Canada debut.
The documentary begins by taking us to the golden years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the fervour for baseball cards had reached a fever pitch. Following this era of ardent obsession, baseball cards had a sudden and crushing fall. How did an entire industry that had, at one time, barely satiated the ravenous hunger of fans meet such an end?
This is what co-directors Stu Stone and Harv Glazer, producer Adam Rodness, and co-producer Karie Stone set out to investigate when making this documentary. In Stu and Karie’s case, the baseball card industry hits particularly close to him. Their father owned several popular baseball card stores in the Greater Toronto Area during this era. As kids, they helped out at the store and attended card shows with their Dad. Tragically, this seemingly idyllic time in their lives came to an abrupt end when their father left the family and halted communication.
25 years after that difficult time, Stu, now a successful LA-based actor and filmmaker, returned home to Toronto and happened upon boxes and boxes of baseball cards from back in the day. The cards propelled him to look further into the industry’s rise and fall, taking him on a journey that he never could have predicted.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Stu and Adam before Jack Of All Trade’s Netflix Canada release. There was no shortage of things to talk about. Check out our interview below:
Toronto Film Files (TFF): I watched Jack Of All Trades last night and I was NOT prepared for how emotional it was going be. Thank you for sharing that with me and for sharing that story in your film because I’m sure that was not always easy.
Stu Stone (SS): No, definitely not. Definitely not but appreciate it. Happy that you got to finally see it!
TFF: When I began the documentary I thought ‘This is cool, I’m gonna learn a lot about the rise and fall of baseball cards’ which is something I admittedly don’t know too much about. So I was super interested in that. But then the film became much more of an exploration of your own personal experience, Stu, and your family’s experience. At what point did you completely say to yourself ‘This is the way this film is going and I want to explore this’?
SS: Well, when it presented itself to me, it was presented in a way that caught me off guard but once we went and we did it, I realized what was going on. I realized it was a much more powerful story then what I had set out to tell. So it turned out to be a much different movie and a much better movie as a result.
TFF: For both of you I’m sure it was an incredibly emotional and powerful time. I imagine it was not always an easy decision to make, to walk down that path and decide to make it part of the film.
SS: We always kind of figured that my Dad would come up because of the card business and we were making a documentary about cards. Obviously, it became much deeper than that. Before I went in and met my Dad, Adam [TFF NOTE: Here’s your friendly reminder that Adam is Stu’s brother-in-law] went in and saw him before I did, to sign off paperwork and stuff like that. So Adam had a whole other experience that most people haven’t heard about. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. I’d be curious to know what happened in there when Adam went and saw him.
Adam Rodness (AR): We rolled up to this hotel. I went upstairs, found his room. He opened the door. It was a kind of awkward “Hey man, how you doin’?” and he invited me into his room. We didn’t really say too much actually. I said we have a couple cameras downstairs and they want to ask you questions about your relationship with Stuart and Karie and the baseball cards shop and we want to talk about the era and how you were involved in it. And he’s like “What else does he want to ask me?” and I said “I don’t know. I don’t know what else is going to come up. It’s going to be an organic conversation because you guys haven’t had this conversation ever but I need you to sign off on these.” He was very open about it. He was like “Yeah, let’s have a conversation.” He was looking forward to seeing his son… I could tell you that everyone in that room – there were two cameras pointing at Stu and Jack but everyone else was looking the other way. You could cut the tension with a butter knife. It was pretty intense for everyone there. I had to leave at one point. I was like “This is crazy.”
SS: Like Adam’s saying, I wasn’t alone in the room. There was a bunch of people in there. At one point I looked over and everybody was crying. The camera guy was crying. The sound guy was crying. Everybody was crying.
TFF: I would believe it. There’s one shot just before you take your seat next to your Dad when, just quickly, we catch a glimpse of your face, and my heart just broke in that moment, Stu. For anyone watching, their heart would go out to you because that is such an intense, intense moment. I’m sure it was for everyone in the room as well to be there and witness that. And for you too, Adam, this is basically your family as well. I’m sure it was pretty tough.
AR: Yeah, we wanted to tell a passion story, whichever way you look at it. Stu and I do horror movies. We do magic shows. We write some weird stuff. This is something that was like another type of genre film but we always look for what’s going to be the best story to tell and what story should be told. The film kind of generated its own self-help group with people reaching out to our social pages and to Stu sharing, like “I also had this experience. I have the experience of not having a relationship with my father.” It’s caused people that have seen the film to reach out to Stu and be like “You’re not alone. There’s more of us.” The story connected, with empathy, from a huge audience. No one was prepared for that when they saw the poster for the movie about baseball cards.
SS: I went from never talking about this [his family’s experience and his Dad’s estrangement] ever in my life to only talking about this. I saw my Dad and then we’re editing the movie so we’re watching it again and again and again. It’s like I had to re-live that moment 200 times. Going to the screening and sitting with an audience watching it, I have to re-live it over and over again. It hasn’t lost its effect on me. I’ve seen the movie a billion times and I still can’t believe it. You don’t get used to that.
TFF: Collectively, how did your whole family react to seeing the film?
SS: I would definitely say it was a mixed reaction. Right now everybody’s gotten used to it and everybody’s sort of accepted it. It’s out in the atmosphere now. It’s snowballed so we can’t do anything. It’s too late now. It was very difficult for my Mom to watch. Definitely there was an uncomfortable time for me and my Mom after she saw the movie. She didn’t really know what she was signing up for.
AR: I don’t think anyone did.
SS: I didn’t know either. Everybody sort of had to relive it. Not just me. My sisters. All of the people who knew us. Everybody had to relive stuff that nobody really talked about. I had this bar mitzvah, like a really over the top type of bar mitzvah. Now that I look back at it, my Dad went out with a bang. Threw this crazy party and like a week later, he peaced out. That bar mitzvah was never celebrated or talked about again. The tape went into a box. The pictures never got put up on the wall. It wasn’t like a happy thing. When we first edited the movie, the bar mitzvah footage wasn’t even in the movie. I didn’t even have the bar mitzvah tape until we went and looked through those boxes. The bar mitzvah tape was in the boxes.
TFF: So that was your first time reliving it after many years?
SS: It was insane. [Co-director] Harv went and looked at the whole thing. The next day I went and he was like “You’re not going to fucking believe this.” Listen. I have no pictures of my Dad. There’s no videos. There’s no pictures. We told a whole story for 80 minutes about my Dad and the only thing you really saw of him was from this bar mitzvah video. If you watch the movie again, pay attention to the bar mitzvah footage a little bit more.
TFF: I found myself rewinding the bar mitzvah footage a lot.
SS: All the signs for what’s to come are all in that bar mitzvah. It’s crazy. We probably could’ve pointed a bigger finger at it in the movie but it’s just crazy. The whole thing’s crazy.
TFF NOTE: We cut to a
chat commercial break where we discussed the filming of the final scenes. Then we jumped back into our conversation:
SS: That experience of burning the cards – it was just such a cool moment. It was a really healing kind of special moment not just for me and my family. I think everyone that came to that bonfire that day, that crowd is made up of friends and family, they all felt it too and they didn’t even know that I’d spoken to my Dad. Everybody sort of had this “coming-of-age” experience together that day. It was really special. Adam, my sister Karie, and I went to something called ‘The National’ in August this year. It’s like the biggest baseball card convention. It’s like the biggest comic con but for baseball cards. The Superbowl for baseball cards. The movie had just come out on Netflix in the States. We walked in the place and it felt like everybody, there’s like 100,000 people there, had seen the movie.
TFF: Oh my gosh! That’s incredible.
SS: We really did feel the impact the movie had just by the reactions we were getting walking around in this place. A lot of people come up to me specifically: “You have no idea; my father took off” or “I haven’t spoken to my Dad” – it’s crazy. But seeing the cards companies there – I felt like I had to do some real damage control because they were pretty upset with me over the movie and not just because of the exposé. They were mad because we burned the cards! I spent a lot of time apologizing and explaining myself and now at the end of the day everybody’s cool. I’m happy to say that our relationship with Upper Deck is great. [Our relationship] with Topps is great. Everything is much better than it was. Had we not gone there they might still hate me. Now at least they kind of understand a little bit more. There was a guy named Chris Carlin from Upper Deck that we interview in the movie. He sort of takes the fall for Upper Deck. I felt really bad for him once I spoke to him. He’s like “I’m a really good guy! You made me the bad guy in the movie!” I felt bad because this guy works really hard. He didn’t even work at the company in 1989. He sort of took the heat [for Upper Deck] in the movie. We’ve made up since. We’re cool.
TFF: Oh that’s awesome. You guys had a peaceful ending.
SS: We did. When I went up to him, he was not thrilled. I was like the last person he wanted to talk to. I’m pretty sure he got shit at the company and people were not thrilled about it but, like I said, once I started speaking to him everything was cool. He understood. I was like “It’s a movie and the burning of the cards was for me and my family – this is our story. It was a fitting way to end our story.” He was cool with that.
TFF: I do think it is really brave and generous, honestly generous, of you to share that story because it gives people permission, people who probably never got that permission, to share their own stories of their own experiences with their families. What was it like when you first screened it in front of a wide audience?
SS = It was weird. The first time we screened it was at a film festival –
AR = In San Jose
SS = It was in a theatre full of strangers. When the lights came up after the movie, everybody was crying. And then we screened it in Toronto and that was nerve-wracking because it was people who actually know us and don’t know anything about this story.
AR = The movie initially got into a film festival in San Jose called Cinequest which is an awesome film festival. We were like “Holy shit we’re going to San Jose to premiere the movie. That’s incredible.” And then that’s all that the movie did. For like a good two years. The movie screened at this festival and then we’re like “Oh well, we’re not getting anything else here. Super Channel’s going to air it. We’ll see how many people get to watch it on that platform.” But other than that we’re going to hold our own theatrical screenings to make sure that people get to see our work because as a filmmaker that’s really the only point. So people get to actually see your movie, which is a really hard thing to do. So after Cinequest, that was it. That was done. Finished. It was like, “Alright, guys, great job. We made a movie. Let’s move on to the next thing.” After we put it up on iTunes the whole thing kind of blew up. People started to tweet. Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm Instagrammed Stu. He DM’d him and said “Oh my god I love this movie. This is the greatest movie.” He posted and things started to pop up. Celebrities were sharing, and people of notoriety were talking about it. This little movie that nobody was supposed to see, that was made with $90,000 of Canadian grant and tax credit money, all of a sudden got a call from Netflix to say “We’re going to give you an exclusive deal in the US” and that was the turning point. There’s no such thing as an overnight success because it took five years from when we started the movie. We’re finally now able to air it in Canada. Nobody really in Canada has seen it and that’s where we live and that’s where the story is based out of. Finally on Wednesday [November 20], this whole thing is going to re-live itself again. Now when it comes home, to our hometown, I think it’s going to be a different situation in a good way. These things are just insane in how they grow. Making a documentary is kind of insane because you don’t make any money at it. They’re usually these little passion things and hopefully you get to show them off at a film festival. And this is like, the opposite. This is like the little engine that could. That’s what we’re most proud of. An actual wide audience is going to be able to see this movie.
TFF: You both have so much to be proud of. This is incredible. It’s already had its debut in the US. Now it’s coming to Canada on Netflix. That’s an amazing, amazing thing. Do you remember the moment that you got the call from Netflix? Do you remember how you felt or what you did in that moment?
AR: We were attending the Banff [World] Media Festival. One of our TV shows was nominated for Best Children’s Series [TFF NOTE: The show is called The Thrillusionists and you can learn more here]. So Stu and I were on a whirlwind. We were on top of the Rockies. We’re in a huge award ceremony and our kids’ show that we made for no money was nominated for an amazing award. We lost, but we were nominated. We were going back to the airport and we got the call. And it was our co-director, Harv, who had inside news from our distributor. And he tried to fake us out I remember. He tried to make it seem like no one was going to pick up the movie. Then he couldn’t say “Netflix bought it.” Everyone started stuttering over the word Netflix.
SS: If you’re making documentary movies in 2019, the number one place you could be is on Netflix. That is where people go to watch documentaries. We never thought we’d get to do that because they passed on the movie twice.
AR: Yeah, they passed on the movie before.
SS: I thought the movie was done. We all thought the movie was done. We put it up on iTunes because no one wanted it. It was like “Fuck it, we’ll put it up on iTunes. See what happens.” We have a Jack Of All Trades page on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and there’s not a million people following those accounts. There’s like a thousand people, two thousand people, that follow it. And we’d been promoting it for years. Finally, when it came up on iTunes, it was like “Here it is!” Those people all went on iTunes and downloaded it. When a Canadian documentary all of a sudden starts getting a thousand sales on iTunes, alarm bells go off. All of a sudden, we started charting on iTunes. Then celebrities started seeing it, as Adam said. It caused the movie to go up the charts to the top of the charts. It was magical. It’s really been magical. It was a huge victory for us. Because we worked so hard and it’s really like a thankless job sometimes when you’re doing independent movies because you put everything into these movies and you don’t know if anyone’s ever going to watch them. This has been such a big victory for us and for our movie that we worked so hard on. It’s changed the game for us since that happened. The bar is set pretty good for us to come back with another project and luckily, we were already getting ready to shoot our next movie when this Netflix sale happened. We just finished filming our next movie which we’re editing now. Within the next six months we’ll have another movie out hopefully. There’s more eyeballs on our stuff now which is really really great. Everybody who does independent films in Canada – they work their asses off. There’s always 120% effort by people who are getting underpaid and overworked. That’s from the top of the call sheet to the bottom. Getting a Netflix deal and having millions of eyeballs on your movie – it’s priceless. That is worth more than anything. It’s been amazing. Absolutely amazing.
TFF: I’m so, so happy for you guys. You’re absolutely right. There’s so many people here in Canada that would love to be in the position you guys are in right now. But as you said, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
SS: It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of crying. It’s a lot of laughing. It’s a lot of yelling. It’s a lot of fighting. It’s a lot of shit to get these movies even made. I’m very lucky to have a partner like Adam. As much as I feel like I’m a hustler, Adam is a hustler on level one million. He has forged a ton of great relationships in the industry in Canada, especially here in Toronto. We’re always meeting with people, pitching with people and stuff. Now it’s getting a little easier to get in the door because this movie has had the success that it has. That makes Adam’s job easier. That makes my job easier. It’s a blessing. We wish this success for everyone. I hope everyone that makes movies can experience this feeling. It’s just so cool. So, for people who are making movies out there: keep going.
TFF: You have some really cool interviews in the documentary. I mean, you have José Canseco – that’s crazy. And Foul Ball Paul. And then, of course, the individuals from Topps and Upper Deck. Did you go into this knowing those were the people you specifically wanted to talk to? Or did they come up as you were shooting?
SS: When you’re making a documentary you can plan all you want but your best plans are going to change. There’s no script. When we first discovered the cards had no value and we were going to dig deep into it, Adam had me create a whole list of people that I would want to talk to. And I gave him a long list of baseball players, companies. Very few people wanted to talk to us.
AR: Nobody knew who we were. The way that we do it, it’s like a game of numbers. The more people you reach out to, the more likely you’re going to get a response from somebody. Personally, for me, I just don’t stop hounding people. *laughs* So I’ll follow up with you until I get a response back. You won’t have a reason to say no to me. So that’s how I went out and did it. We tried to get people to introduce us to different people. A lot of them were literal cold calls. Like José Canseco was a cold call. He was just awesome enough to agree to talk to us on camera.
SS: Once we got José though, we were able to drop his name to a couple of places. *laughs*
AR: Yeah it was like: “We’re not doing it.” “José’s doing it.” “Oh José’s doing it? Well, come on over!” That’s how our whole company started was on a cold call, no joke. Just started cold calling distributors and telling them that we have movie ideas. We actually got a few meetings and then we landed a deal. That’s what it was. That’s exactly how it started. A cold call, no joke.
SS: The first interview that we landed was with an author by the name of Dave Jamieson who wrote a book called Mint Condition all about the baseball card industry and the scandals. He now works for The Huffington Post and we hit him up and he was so excited that someone wanted to talk about his book.
AR: Not only that but we also flew him into Toronto.
SS: Yeah, we flew him in. That was the first guy that we spoke to. People starting popping out like “We want to talk to you.” Including the person we never thought we would get in touch with showed up in Toronto: my Dad. So you wanna talk about planning. He showed up in Toronto while we were making this movie. It’s just like magical at that point if you think about it.
AR: We were going to fly myself, Stu, a camera guy, and a sound guy to central Canada. We narrowed it down that he was probably in Saskatchewan or Alberta. That’s where he is so let’s just start canvassing neighborhoods, go find him. That was the plan. Then we found his number and that whole thing plays out in the movie.
TFF: It gives me shivers.
SS: Also that card show that we went to, that first card show we went to sell our cards, me and Karie haven’t walked into a card show together in a hundred years. The one dealer happens to recognize me and Karie from when we were kids and knew my Dad. You can’t plan that. Our other movies, there’s a script. We know we’re going to shoot for a month then we’re going to go edit it. With a documentary you just shoot. And then you’re done shooting and you have garbage bags of footage and you have to put the puzzle pieces together. We shot so much footage. We could cut an entirely different movie and tell a completely different story with the footage that didn’t make it into the final cut. That sort of carried over into our new project too which is a blessing and a curse. It’s such an incredible way to shoot. There’s no restrictions. Like when we went to Dallas to visit the different card companies. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We just showed up in town. We didn’t even rent a car, we had a local guy in Dallas, an old wrestling pal of mine, a pro wrestler, drive us. Just for me, getting to talk about baseball cards, and talk to companies and have that access, it was like 12 year old me was so excited to be able to do this. It was just such a cool experience.
TFF: The film does go into a much more personal space but at any point, even before that came into play, I’m sure there were times that you felt like you were hitting road blocks. Like, “we can’t get an interview with person” or “this company won’t release this information”. How do you motivate each other to push through those road blocks?
SS: When we hit road blocks, Adam takes a rope, throws it over, and climbs over it. Then throws the rope back over and yells at me to climb over it too. We don’t have time for road blocks. We’re so driven by our desire and our need to tell a story and to make our movie that we can’t take ‘no’ for an answer and you just have to keep going.
AR: Each of our projects – like I talked about this not being an overnight success – each of our projects, it takes like five years pretty much to develop something, pitch something, have people say no to something, go back, re-work on something, then take it back out, and people say to us “How do you guys do it?” The trick is we have to have a dozen things on the go at once. Again, a game of numbers. We try to always have four things that we’re pitching. Keep on developing things with different companies, in Canada and the US. That’s the way to not get blocked. The more projects you have, the more likely someone’s going to like one of them, and something’s going to happen with it. Take The Thrillusionists. We had this show with CBC. We started working on that literally six years ago. It took us six years to get it on television. It was insane. The Scarecrows we shot three summers ago. It just came out on Super Channel two weeks ago. You just have to keep the momentum going. It’s hard because if you don’t have a dozen things on the go, then you’ll get lost, and people will forget what you did last and then you’re starting from scratch. There’s no time for road blocks. That’s exactly right.
If you haven’t already, you can watch Jack Of All Trades on Netflix in Canada and the US, Super Channel, iTunes, Hollywood Suite, or anywhere you find movies.
Jack Of All Trades
Directors: Stu Stone and Harv Glazer
Producer: Adam Rodness
Co-Producer: Karie Stone
Breakthrough Entertainment and levelFILM
Can’t wait to see what Adam and Stu are working on next? The guys are working on another film that’ll be released later next, but it’s too top secret to talk about! Stay tuned to their website for details.