Missouri State University
Josh Pfaff

Josh Pfaff

Filmmaker finds success in festivals

Electronic arts student Josh Pfaff discusses his senior project — the short film "Counting to 1,000" — and leading actor Cailee Spaeny, who has been cast in Pacific Rim 2.

How did you find actor Cailee Spaeny?

She contacted me about shooting her music video while I was casting for "Counting to 1,000". She was always going out to audition in (Los Angeles), so she was going to make it. We were just proud of her.

Has her success affected the film?

"Counting to 1,000" has received more interest because she mentioned us in her interview with Variety.

What about Ran Cummings, who plays the male lead?

I looked in dive bars for actors, for people who were distinct and had some earth to them. Ran was a friend of my girlfriend’s and I talked to him for an hour in a bar. He had this presence, this confidence.

What classes at Missouri State helped you prepare?

Scriptwriting classes with Diana Botsford helped a ton. I also took a scriptwriting intersession class during the summer with Richard Amberg, who helped sharpen scripts before producing them in the fall.

All media courses because you get to know different classmates that are interested in the same topics as you. Independent study courses to work on different senior thesis projects was probably the most helpful.

If you want to direct, I highly encourage taking an acting class or two. It really helps being in an actor’s shoes for directing.

What were some of the pitfalls of filming?

Expecting the unexpected. There are so many little things you have to deal with and delegate. I think what makes or breaks a film is surrounding yourself with crew members who know more about their craft than you.

How did you raise money for the film?

Missouri State helps by allowing us to borrow equipment, but students have to budget funding. We did two Indiegogo campaigns. One before shooting, which was the majority of it, and one at the end to finish up all the post things. A portion of it was my own money because I felt like I needed to have skin in the game.

Building a career 

Josh raised $7,000 for the project. He and his crew built the sets. The actors volunteered, and his mom provided catering for the cast and crew for the ten-day shoot. The film won a Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Award and Award of Excellence at Best Shorts Competition. It’s been screened in numerous film festivals.

Josh has since started a video production company, Locke + Stache, with alumni Chris Olson and Austin Elliott. He says the low cost of living in Springfield means he can offer lower bids than competitors living in more expensive cities. He said that half of his clients find him through his website, and many live in other cities.

“Now with cloud tech and things being online, it’s like, do we have to be there to do good work?” he said. “We love traveling, and we are a flight away.”