To call Kevin Tostado an overachiever would be quite an understatement.

Not yet thirty, he has an impressive list of credits on IMDB and has conceived and directed an award winning, feature-length documentary, titled Under the Boardwalk: The MONOPOLY Story.  You couldn’t ask to meet a nicer, more thoughtful person.  The following background is compiled from various sources and is followed by a Q&A I conducted in Irvine a few weeks ago. Kevin is the founder of Tostie Productions, a high-definition film and video production company based in San Diego, CA.  But strangely enough, before launching a career as a filmmaker, he earned a B.S. degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering.  While in his senior year as a member of the inaugural class at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA, he co-wrote and directed a full-length independent feature, Yellow Lights.  This movie took home awards for "Best Feature" and "Best Cinematography" from Indie Fest USA 2007 as well as Telly and DV Awards.  Kevin also was a producer for "The Olin Experience," a documentary short about student life at Olin College from a students' perspective which Olin College still regularly shows to prospective students.  In addition to his work on Under the Boardwalk, Kevin has worked as a camera operator, director of photography, and assistant director on music videos, webisodes for NBC's "Heroes," police training videos, webisodes for AT&T featuring paralympic athlete April Holmes, Disney Channel commercials, and independent short films. 

   Where were you born and raised?
Kevin Tostado:    I was born and raised in San Diego, California.  I went to college back east, just outside of Boston and after graduation decided to move back to San Diego.

OCS:    What attracted you to a college in New England?
Kevin:    Actually it was a specific school, a brand new school called Olin College of Engineering and I would have been attracted to it no matter where it was as I got to become a member of the first graduating class.  It gave me the opportunity to have a hands-on approach to my education and I got to know all of my professors by first name and they knew me by first name as well.  I had dinner at the president’s house about four times during my time there. Where else does that happen?  They also supported independent passions on top of whatever you were doing for school and that’s where my love for film continued to grow and turned into something that I decided I wanted to have as a career.

OCS:    Was there a particular project that really heightened your passion for film?
Kevin:    During my sophomore year I started the Olin Broadcasting Club and as a school of some 150 students at the time, there weren’t too many people interested in film or television.  I ended up writing and producing a news show about the school that we would air on the local public access station every couple of months just to keep the local residents informed about what was happening at the school.  It was my first foray into professional production.  Looking back they weren’t of great quality but it was a start.  I was getting hired around the campus and neighboring schools to tape various events and make DVDs of them, getting my feet wet in the production business.  In my junior year, a buddy of mine and I decided we wanted to make a short documentary about the school from a student’s perspective to help with recruiting.  Then we decided to doing something fictional, maybe a short, be we decided we might as well do a feature length film.  So the summer of our senior year we wrote a feature length script, shot it over ten weekends in our senior year, while we were getting our engineering degrees.  By the time we graduated we had a rough cut.  We finished it over the summer with me back in San Diego, shuttling files back and forth over the Internet with him in Boston.

We entered it into several film festivals, including Sundance which we definitely didn’t get into.  It didn’t shatter our dreams so we continued to submit to other film festivals, I think about 21 more and got into the very last one we submitted to, which was the IndieFest USA in Anaheim.  There, we won Best Feature and Best Cinematography.

OCS:    So what was next for you?
Kevin:    Encouraged by my success with my first film, having already moved back to San Diego, I started looking for jobs and landed a job as a production assistant for Stu Segall Studios which had produced Silk Stockings and Renegades and Veronica Mars I worked in the administrative offices as a PA on some telenovelas they were filming for MyNetworkTV.  After completing work on one telenovela, I became a camera production assistant for a second televenola, which I enjoyed being on set a lot more.  After those shows ended, I was taken under the wing of a camera operator and worked on several additional projects including several webisodes for the show Heroes.  The next time we did some work for Heroes, the camera operator wasn’t available so they had me be the DP for those shows.  I was looking for steadier work and that’s when I met Craig Bentley at an MCA-I meeting and learned he was looking for an associate producer.  That was about March of 2007.

OCS:    How did you come up with the idea for Under the Boardwalk: The MONOPOLY Story?
Kevin:    In my senior year at Olin, I started playing a lot of Monopoly to improve my skills as a player as I knew there was a US Championship coming up and wanted to get in shape for it.   I had actually applied to graduate school at UCLA and as part of the application process you had to submit a treatment for a project so I quickly wrote up a page and one-half treatment about doing a documentary about Monopoly.  I didn’t get into the film school but a couple years later when I was trying to figure out what my next film was going to be, it was obvious I should do a documentary on Monopoly figuring if you were going to commit a major part of the next two years of your life on a project, it should be something you care about.  The timing was perfect as the next championship was coming up in 2009.  I then reached out to Phil Orbanes, the foremost expert on Monopoly and convinced him to come onboard as our advisor.

OCS:    What was the most challenging obstacle you had to overcome with Monopoly?
Kevin:    Getting permission to film the championship in the first place from Hasbro, the company that owns Monopoly.  It took a year and a half to get that permission with hearing a lot of “No”s along the way.  Finally I went out and shot some footage at my own expense to show them what the tone and quality of the documentary would be to get them be willing to trust me.

OCS:    With a limited production budget, how did you get all of the coverage you needed?
Kevin:    For the US Championship, we found out who the 28 finalists would be with just a few weeks to go before the event would take place. Since the competitors were spread out all over the country, it was next to impossible to film in person with all of them. However, right around that time, the Flip cameras had just started to become mainstream and so we bought several of those and sent them around the country to players who we wouldn’t get to film with in advance. While the quality of the footage wasn’t as high as our principal cameras, we were very happy with the footage that we got back and there are several shots from these cameras in the film.

For several of the countries where we wouldn’t be filming in person, we tried to sending the cameras internationally to some of the competitors for the World Championships but ran into a lot of issues with customs and other fees and didn’t have the same success with acquiring footage that way.

OCS:    What are on your short and long term horizons?
This fall, I'm going to be partnering with Mildly Fearsome Films to produce a webseries called Research. They're the award-winning filmmaking team behind the musical short Sudden Death! Long term, I hope to continue producing high-quality feature films with bigger and bigger budgets. Someday, I'd love to do an action-adventure film set in Egypt.

For further information about Kevin's activities or to contact him, visit the following sites:

Saturday, July 20, 2024