BPS 302: Writing the INSANE World of Machette with Alvaro Rodriguez

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Alex Ferrari 0:18
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.

Dave Bullis 0:56
Joining me tonight is Alvaro Rodriguez. Alvaro is a screenwriter who is currently working on season two of from dusk till dawn the series. His career in film actually began when he began riffing on a Spanish guitar for the heroes musical theme and his cousin Robert Rodriguez debut film airmail Yachi, which began a collaboration that has lasted over two decades. Alvaro, how are you sir?

Alvaro Rodriguez 2:01
I'm doing great. How are you?

Dave Bullis 2:04
Pretty good. So the weather in PA has gotten a lot better over the past few days.

Alvaro Rodriguez 2:08
That's good st here in Austin.

Dave Bullis 2:10
Oh, nice. You know, I actually want to talk to you about Austin, before I get to that. So could you give us a little more detail about your background? You know, and how, you know, every how you got started in the film business?

Alvaro Rodriguez 2:23
Sure. Well, you know, I grew up with a love for movies. And I grew up with a love for reading, writing, and always wanted to be a novelist. And would, you know, say, Well, I know, it's a hard road to try to to do. And, you know, I probably end up being a teacher, which I was for a time. But I want to, you know, keep writing. But I had this cousin Robert, who, you know, when I first remember spending any time with him, we were kids at my grandmother's house and in South Texas sitting in the back of a truck. And he was talking about this new movie that had just come out, which she hadn't seen yet, but seemed to know everything about how the director had done this shot and how this was done, and all that stuff. And my job was just on the floor, but out of the truck, because I realized I finally found someone who loved movies, baby boy. And that movie was called The Escape from New York, John Carpenter's. The early 80s. And, and it was just like, you know, a lighted off in my head, I was probably in the fifth grade or so. And I started to write my first little scripts, and written a parody of the TV show Dallas. And just thought, you know, this is great, I'm gonna write scripts, Robert will direct them and the Sister Angela, his older sister, my older cousin, she'll start and then she wanted to be an actress. And it actually did happen. And she, she became an actor, she was in several movies, and including a movie that really well called shorts. So it was it was amazing. It was amazing to see that all finally kind of come come through. But and then, you know, later on, I didn't use it for his first show or anything, like you mentioned. And but after that, we started collaborating on a script together, which never got made cultural death was part which we wrote for an actress that Robert had met, and thought was going to be the next big thing. And she was Salma Hayek and ever since then, I just, you know, was writing on different projects with him, you know, reading themes or dialogue or, or ideas for the movies, like for rooms and road racers, and then later plants, and then the roof shorts and machete together.

Dave Bullis 4:38
So and, you know, where did it you know, well, actually, you know, I'll get to that later from Gustl. Don, because I don't want to get too far ahead. But I mean, that's absolutely amazing, you know, no, you know that you're able to collaborate with a family member. And it was so amazing. He's able to open all these doors for you. And you know, that that mean, you know, and that's, you know, a couple of things I want to touch on. So there's just Really quickly, are you at the South by Southwest festival right now?

Alvaro Rodriguez 5:03
I am did yeah, we're shooting shooting my episode protested on second season second episode right now. And this happened to coincide with Southwest festival. So then able to go and do some screenings and and, you know, networking and stuff like that it's been fantastic.

Dave Bullis 5:25
So are you filming this series in Austin?

Alvaro Rodriguez 5:28
Yeah, the entire show shoots in and around Austin. Robert has his own studio troublemaking Studios, where he shot many of the films. And here in Austin, which is right next to Austin Studios, where we also have set and we're shooting in and around town and different locations. Machete was shot entirely here in Austin to on those on those stages, and then around town. So it's amazing. It's amazing to be able to have that kind of those kind of facilities and just a great crew, break people that that, you know, Robert uses, again, and again, on all these different projects. So it makes our TV show look like a like a big feature project.

Dave Bullis 6:19
That's amazing. We would work with the same crew and everything over and over. You know, that is a great benefit. And also, it's great that, you know, he has a studio right there in Austin. You know, the reason I asked where you're shooting was because, you know, with all these film tax credits, and that there's, you know, the debate about you know, do they work? Do they not work? You know, I know, sometimes you get thrown through a loop, you know, we know, like Season One of Banshee was filmed in North South or North Carolina. And season two was actually filming here in Pennsylvania.

Alvaro Rodriguez 6:46
Yeah, probably Austin is Austin has really become over the last couple of decades. Quite a film and television production. You know, this new series on ABC American crime takes place in the best of California that was shot entirely in Austin. Hopefully, they'll be back for season two. And, you know, it's it's really amazing that they're in Austin, you know, it just has developed a really strong reputation for film and television. A lot of people want to be here. We have guys in our, in our cast that are, you know, bought license here. And you know, are and I've heard same stories from other other crew members on other projects that they've worked on. And from other people that, you know, awesome is a place where, you know, actors want to come work there. And because they have such a good time in the city and city is very open to, to all those kinds of things to great creative, creative Nexus here in Austin.

Dave Bullis 7:49
Yeah, I've always heard that. And I've always heard that slogan, Keep Austin weird.

Alvaro Rodriguez 7:53
Yeah. So we're doing our part, we're doing our part to keep it weird.

Dave Bullis 8:01
So what's one of the coolest things that you have seen thus far at the South by Southwest festival?

Alvaro Rodriguez 8:07
Well, last night, I went to a screening that was touted as a 30th I think the 31st anniversary screening, the road warrior with George Miller, director in attendance. And we got to see kind of a sneak after the film of the new Fury Road, the new Mad Max film, we got to see about seven or eight minutes of that. And then a special trailer that was just cut for South by Southwest and Warner Brothers spec a brand new prints of the film. So it just looks absolutely amazing. And of course road warriors such a huge influence on both Robert and myself. And Robert actually got to, to do a, an episode of his series on the overlay called the director's chair for his interviews, different directors. He just aired the latest one a week or so ago with Francis Ford Coppola. And he got to film an episode with George Miller. And, you know, it's just it's just amazing to see, to see something like that in 35 millimeter, I think they said is the only film at South by Southwest that was reading the 35 millimeter on the big screen in in a beautiful theater downtown Austin, the Paramount which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. So it's just like, you know, that's, it's a really amazing account of priceless experience to see something like that.

Dave Bullis 9:37
I mean, I know you can't go into detail, but you know, um, you know, what did you think of a couple of minutes of the new, the new Mad Max, you're allowed to say?

Alvaro Rodriguez 9:46
It was amazing. It was really amazing. I mean, it was such a, it was it was such a tease. It was it was like please give us more please give us more.

Alex Ferrari 9:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Alvaro Rodriguez 10:09
You know, because it just, it looks beautiful. And I'm Hardy, Tom Hardy, who plays Mad Max with tastic show he's thrown the entire cast. It just has. It looks like a road warrior, you know, turn it up to 11. And you know Thunderdome everything and blast, that's just, I can't wait to see it opens may 15. And it just looks absolutely amazing for fans of that, that kind of film. I can't imagine that anybody's really going to be disappointed. It just didn't look. Looks stellar. I couldn't wait to see it after that case of it last night.

Dave Bullis 10:48
And that's good to hear coming from Nashville fan of the original as well. You know, because, you know, what the, you know, the sort of the trends you see now in film is, you know, there's a lot of remakes. There's a lot of you know, old properties established properties that are getting, you know, made updated, like, you know, a minute where even TV shows, but you know, it's good that there are, you know, personally like 21 Jump Street, I thought that was hilarious. Like, you know what, I mean, I went in there with almost no expectations. And I came out and I said, Wow, that was actually pretty damn good.

Alvaro Rodriguez 11:21
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's the thing, you know, the remakes and reboots, and reimagining is often get, you know, short shrift, and people say, you know, there's been more well, you know, just because of con voters may True Grit doesn't erase the first film, you know, doesn't erase the original. And a lot of things, you know, writing and entertainment and stories are, it's such a, it's already inherently a system of recycling, you know, that this system of, of taking something old, and giving it a new spin and sunlight. And obviously, you can fall on that as a crutch, but I think we need to have talent. And, and this will sort of, like, make something better, or make something with your own touch. And you have someone like George Miller, who's, you know, at the helm of, of taking Mad Max and doing the reimagining or reboot, or whatever you want to call it. That, you know, you're in the hands of a master. And, and there are so many, you know, it's a whole new generation who weren't able to experience vote order, the first time it came out, and the context in which it came out, you know, in the context in which it came out, it was like this, you know, this post apocalyptic future that we seem to be so close to now. And that's one of the things that, that makes, I think, the movie resonant, and the original again, and giving, giving new ideas for, for what the reboot is going to be, you know, so I have, you know, I don't have the same sort of negative outlook on those kinds of things, I guess, you know, some, some people call things complete che and I say, No, it's not a cliche, it's a universal truth. Just go with that.

Dave Bullis 13:16
Yeah, you know, and I agree with you, bro. You know, sometimes what I seem to see from even my friends is, there's two kinds of attitudes they have, either they go like, they either say, like, we see something like, you know, like a big budget blockbuster, whether it's a superhero movie, or you know, transformers, what have you. They'll say like, you know, if they didn't like it, they'll say, Oh, well, you know, what, what did you expect? They know that blah, blah, blah, you know, or the other one is, it's overrated, or, you know, it's this or that. I mean, it just seems to be like, if they like when someone does try something new. They're sort of like, you know, you do something new. It's almost like there's a trend, you know, in movie reviewers have been like, Oh, my God, why were they doing this? And then, you know, that's where you can say, like, hey, we tried to do something new, and nobody wants to go see it.

Alvaro Rodriguez 14:02
That's true. And there's this thing, you know, and Dessel Don is reimagining as a television series, the reimagining of the movie, and taking that world further, you know, so, in so many ways, you know, we're guilty of it too, but we're trying to do something else with it, you know, we're trying to take it further and, and develop characters bring in new characters that just utilize that world and we have to get the other thing to remember is exactly what you said, this is a this is in so many ways that business, and sometimes it's easier, it's a different, it's an easier sell to sell someone something that they think they already know. And but it's just the now it's it's the same, but it's different. And it's it's that kind of ability to take take something that some people already are familiar with, and give it back to them in a new way. And I think that when when you do that, well, people respond to it. Well, and that was one of the great things about working on the show is that You know, it was very apparent very early on, that everybody involved in the cast and writers and the directors that were brought on board to direct episode, they were all coming to this as a, as a bit of a passion project. Nobody was really there, in my opinion, just kind of picking up the check and you know, walking away from it. Everybody was really invested in, in, in the project. I think he just you get it, you get a sense of that when you watch the stuff. And so, you know, I think that's, that's the best you can hope for this finance for.

Dave Bullis 15:36
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And you I've watched the whole the whole first season. And I can definitely tell you know, you have both of the main of the gecko brothers. They both were one looks like Clooney, one looks like Tarantino, I thought I mean, that was excellent casting, by the way. I was like, Well, I mean, I could see, you know, the, the, you know, finding someone looks like Tarantino, he has a unique look. So I was like, Man, that was it must have been either the easiest casting session ever, were the hardest casting session ever. Because, you know, I mean, either you have to look through a ton of headshots or like, only to get, you know, to closely resemble, you know, actors who submitted. And you know, and when I watched them, I watched it, you know, especially the first couple episodes, it takes place, you know, that same little convenience store with the sheriff. And, you know, and, you know, it was, you know, very well done. And, and then there's also, you know, for those who haven't seen it, there's also a whole layer that you've added to the TV show as well.

Alvaro Rodriguez 16:33
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, an eye opening in that opening episode, which is very based on the first five or 10 minutes of the film. In the film, a character from Texas Ranger Oh, McGraw's play by Michael Parkes, and he gets killed off in that first 10 minutes of come. And we had, you know, Don Johnson playing the character on our show, you know, he's a tremendous actor in it to begin with, but we were going to extend his role so that even though his character died in the first episode, he was in flashbacks for the next few episodes. And you got to see more of that character. And that's a lot of the fun of the project like this, too, is that it exists in this special, you know, world called the Tarantino universe, you know, they guarantee universe you know, or McGraw shows up and planet chair or McGraw shows up in, in other other Tarantino things. So you've got this kind of continuity of story and things like that these characters just kind of show up in these different Tarantino kind of related things. And so, it's, it's amazing to, to have a small part in that, in that world.

Dave Bullis 17:46
Yeah, and I think you've done a phenomenal job. You know, I, you know, I, when I first heard about, you know, this was on series, I, I was like, it was just gonna be a continuation, you know, this is gonna be a prequel. And then I watched it, I was like, Oh, wow, it's really interesting what they've done here. And they sort of

Alvaro Rodriguez 18:05
I was just gonna say, back in the day, you know, back in the late 90s, I actually had Robert was out out in Japan promoting a film he did call the faculty and we were messaging each other online. And he said, you know, dimension there, Max, we're interested in doing a couple of sequels decimal dot, probably will be straight to video and shot back to back and asked me if I had any ideas. And so I pitched an idea for basically it's sort of spaghetti western prequel to decimal gone, which we ended up making as decimals on three, the hangman's daughter, with Michael parks playing a real real life character named Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared in Mexico around the time of the Mexican Revolution. And so, it was great to have already kind of had the background of doing research the story also sort of the genesis of some tiny Danica pandamonium character played by Salma Hayek and original film, and cat came up with this different backstory for her and researching all the sorts of Mesoamerican mythologies of an aspect in mind things and special ideas about what these these creatures were, that inhabit the bordello south of the border. And so coming to the show, again, it was like taking some of the some of those same ideas going so much further with Herman and creating, you know, more backstory and more more, sort of lines of story and plot and character arcs and all that kind of stuff. That really was respond to work with, and coming up with ideas for for for the season, especially since you know, after the first season, the movie is over. We kind of took that movie and turned it into 10 cups of television. Obviously with a lot of new material. A lot of new characters added the character that will move all around the place

Alex Ferrari 19:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Alvaro Rodriguez 20:09
Just one to three characters that Cheech Bernie plays in the film, Carlos, in the movie is new, there's so much of a character in our show cause to become a main, a huge part of the show, a big anchor for the show. And now it's easy to like, you know, the world is open again. And so to be able to create the season March, you know, that takes us completely out of the movie. Now, the following these characters and allowing the stories and storylines and arcs to grow from characters, instead of just following what we had already seen, was a great challenge. And also just a great opportunity to try to do something interesting and

Dave Bullis 20:53
Just allow for a win when you're, you know, working together, imagine, you know, before each season, you know, you and all the other writers are in the room together, you know, how much how much outline do you do before you actually all get started writing your own episodes,

Alvaro Rodriguez 20:53
It was it was really kind of an amazing process, we had had kind of an eight week, stretch last summer, to just talk out where we were going. And one of the one of the I think really invaluable things that we did was, we brought in each of the main therapists, each of the main actors in one at a time to come into the room and talk about their character. Tell me and tell me what you thought about season one? How do you feel your character feels at the end of season one? How does your character feel about other characters on the show? What did you like about season one? What did you not like about season? Two differently? What kinds of things you know, would you like to see your character doing and stuff like that, and that really kind of gave us a lot of ideas. And we started out with with, with some ideas about where we thought we would go in season. But, you know, it was a it was a really evolutionary process and a really collaborative process. I think that was that was amazing. And, and then as far as outlining, now, there's so much of, you know, like, they say, so much of writing is rewriting so much for writing, it's also a prewriting process, before the scripts of, you know, writing outlines, having them, you know, brought to the table having them torn apart and rebuilt, you know, ideas that we had for a big finale that that might get just pushed, you know, further or closer to, you know, before the end of the season. So we can even go further from the big idea that we had, and all those kinds of things, you know, it's a, it really is sort of, you know, nothing is written in stone sort of thing as we're in that process. And things are very fluid and flexible, with the, with the idea of being open to open to trying to collaboratively and individually, Bring, bring your A game and keep constantly trying to challenge ourselves to make things better. One of the things our share winner has kind of instilled in all of us, this idea of, you know, our shareholders, depending FroKnowsPhoto has worked on several shows most of us, you know, great record and television. And one of the things, you know, he would say is if someone brought an idea that everybody thought, hey, that's a really good, that's a really good idea of characters, you know, do that, let's you look and earn it, you know, let's not try to put a pin over here and say, by this time this has to happen. But let's really see if we can get our characters to that point, organically through the characters themselves. Getting to that, to that good idea, you know, so it's a, it's a, it's a, it's a real challenge. And, and but, you know, it feels like, you know, we're all working together to do to try to do that.

Dave Bullis 23:57
And, you know, it's really great to have a showrunner, you know, with a lot of experience, you know, to actually sort of guide it along. I mean, you know, I've actually talked to other writers or other shows, and they've mentioned how important that person can be because, you know, like, you just said, you know, people have to earn it. And you can't sort of force it just because, hey, it's a cool idea.

Alvaro Rodriguez 24:18
Right! Yeah, no, absolutely. And that, and that, I think that spirit really continues on you. And as we're shooting an episode, you know, we come up with an idea, even as we're shooting and say, you know, maybe this needs to happen. Well, it's, you know, that's not trying to force it, let's, let's really try to find a way to make it to make it seem like a natural organic part of the story. And so, you know, there's that and we're just really, really fortunate and, you know, to creative these populations are great, great crew, great actors, great directors, photography and great directors on our episodes, to really kind of I try to, you know, to do the best that we can with, with, with ideas and with the scripts and, and, you know, try to put out something that people will will be intrigued by and want to keep watching.

Dave Bullis 25:14
So, you know, allroad now that you have, you know, you you, have you episode everything from the writers meeting, you know, how do you personally sit down to write? I mean, do you? So, I mean, I know, you've probably have a couple of points, and a couple of things that you have to incorporate in the episode. But do you? Do you sort of break it out into the eight parts, like the age structure theory? Or do you just do the traditional three act, or do you not do any of that and just go go for it in,

Alvaro Rodriguez 25:43
Oh, you know, we definitely stick to a structure, you know, on our show, we kind of go with what we, you know, presented a five act structure. And, and the outline will reflect the ACT breaks, and, you know, sometimes there's a fluid and those change, always try to have a really good strong act out. And then a strong Act in, you know, in between the breaks and stuff like that. So, you know, the outline process is fairly rigorous, and, and it's really as detailed as we can possibly make it. And then other things, there's leftist, you know, with our terminology and the writers opportunity to, you know, kind of, when you're writing the script, to actually find something that, you know, will, will not maybe not have been in the outline, or not as clear in the outline, that suddenly, in the writing of the of the script itself, you know, but, as far as the writing process, you know, it's, it's a lot of crying a lot of procrastination, a lot of, you know, suicidal thoughts, and then somehow putting together something that, that, that, you know, it's going to be challenged again, you know, and I think that's, in a lot of ways, that's a, that's a liberating part of the thing too, you know, realizing that, that, you know, it's our duty to try to give the best that we can, but realize that, you know, it's always going to be improved upon, it's really always going to, it's still a valuable thing, and up to the moment, that's the issue. Because there are things that happen. And new ideas that come in one of the one of the great things about this particular season is that we were able to have, you know, all of our scripts written before we actually started shooting. And so that allowed, you know, for a certain amount of, you know, being able to go over the entirety of the season, and the scripts, and really try to, you know, make sure all the setups were set up, and all the payoffs are paid off, you know, and, and everything got hit. So it, it you know, it sets the bar pretty high. So hopefully, we can, we can, we can make that jump.

Dave Bullis 28:06
So, you know, as your writing style sort of changed over the years, you know, from, you know, obviously was within your IMDB and your your first actual writing credit is, you know, from dusk till dawn three Hangman's daughter. So when you move back to where you are now, has your wedding sort of process changed a lot.

Alvaro Rodriguez 28:28
I think the process has probably changed a bit. And I think that the style has probably changed. And I remember back to that time, you know, one of the executives who was at the mansion at the time, said, you know, your script is great, and it reads almost like a novel. And I realized that I was, you know, I really wasn't trained as a screenwriter, a lot of this was, you know, kind of learning by doing. I didn't, I never had taken any kind of screenwriting classes or anything like that, and didn't go to school. I was an English major. But I had a lot of background and both, I had three semesters of creative writing as an undergraduate in poetry of all things. And then I was also an entertainment journalist for the student newspaper, it was just an entertainment editor. And, you know, and had done some new stuff, too. I was working in newspaper while I was writing vessel, Dawn three. And it felt like, you know, those things, which I thought of this happen, were actually strong primers for screenwriting. Because in screenwriting, it's so much about the essence of things, and such a skeletal structure that the poetry lent lends itself to that because in poetry so many times you're trying to break, you know, sensations and images and emotions in a reader in a few words as possible, creating these images in as few words as possible. And in journalism, you know, it's kind of this this just the facts, ma'am, kind of reporting, you know, which also lends itself to screenwriting. So those were those were, those were actually powerful, you know, sort of setup tools for me

Alex Ferrari 29:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Alvaro Rodriguez 30:09
But, you know, even then I feel like, like I learned to kind of find my voice, I think my voice was, was there in that in the first strip in payments, or wasn't the first group that written this first group that got made, and to kind of hone that down and keep trying to, you know, to, to convey as much information as possible in the most economical way possible. And, and try to really find the power of the language, in order to convey in the readers minds, that might be a reader picking up the script, and is the one who's going to pass it on to the next guy are not, or to actually have a shooting script and have, you know, the director read this and say, you know, this is how we're going to do this, or the director, photography resistance, they just have, it's going to be shot without using, you know, without telling them exactly what they're going to do, but just to be able to sort of suss that out for themselves in the script that you've written. So yeah, I think it's definitely evolved to use that word and as part of the process, and, you know, I hope that I can keep, you know, keep evolving, keep getting better at what I'm doing.

Dave Bullis 31:29
And, you know, I mean, it's, it's amazing that, you know, you always, you know, finding new ways to improve. You know, I've noticed that too, you know, you touched on something about, you know, you said the script read read like a novel. You know, as I as I do more screenwriting as well. And even read scripts, I've realized, I've finally realized now that actually reading screenplays that have either been produced or not produced, but have been like, you know, either bought or optioned, really gives you gives you a view into that world that, you know, any screenwriting guru or whatever can't give you if you know what I mean?

Alvaro Rodriguez 32:06
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think that's the thing too, I spent, I spent a long time once I started really writing and you know, hanging his daughter, and after that, of amassing a library of anything I thought was useful. But among those, you know, practically every book on screenwriting ever written, and I was always trying to find, you know, I was always trying to find shortcuts, maybe not the right word, but but sort of techniques or ideas of things that could help me, you know, in the process, and the problem with that sometimes, and it was for me was that, you know, it can become a crutch, it can actually become kind of a stifling, habit stifling. And when I was writing, and I would be like, you know, I don't know what I'm gonna do next. But I know the answer is probably on the shelf over here somewhere or these shelves, or this whole, you know, this room of books. And, and I think that the more that the more more that you actually do in the process, the more that you're actually involved in the writing process, the less that you feel like you need those kinds of things, because you've already sort of, you've made them a part of yourself, their inherent in your own sensibilities, because you've been a reader your whole life, you've read, you read scripts, or you've read novels, you've seen movies, you understand the language of film, you understand the language of screenwriting. And, and I think you're sort of getting to that point where I was kind of using the example of when I was an undergraduate, when I first got to the University of Texas, I tested out of 16 hours of Spanish, you know, and I never had to take like, I never had to take Spanish at the college level. And I felt like I never really got as intensive training in Spanish as I could have. And it wasn't until years and years later, I was finally like reading books in Spanish and realizing I wasn't translating into English in my head, as I was reading, I was just understanding. And I think it's the same thing with with the writing, it's like I, I already had the language of screenwriting, and the language of cinema in my brain, and I just needed to kind of tap into it and realize that all of these things are many of them. Were already inherently a part of my, my own sensibility.

Dave Bullis 34:24
Yeah, and, you know, I realized it too, is that when you, you know, sort of, when you start doing it, and you know, doing it as the most important part when you start getting in there and actually writing and, you know, being resistance and, and, and, you know, you start to realize you don't need those signposts as much, you know what I mean? So, you know, you I'm sure you've heard of, like, you know, there's certain rules like, Oh, by page 17, this has to happen. And, you know, and you realize that, you know, those guideposts aren't like definitive rules. They're just, you know, either, I guess you could say principles or you know, someone was just like, hey, Look, I noticed that on page 17 of these scripts this happened. So therefore, here's the rule.

Alvaro Rodriguez 35:04
Right! Well, I mean, that's the thing. I mean, I did, I did take workshops later on, especially like, I didn't save the cat workshop here in Austin with Luke Snyder when he was when he was still alive. And, and it was, it was, it was the first screenwriting workshop I'd ever done. And it was so amazing to me, because what Blake had done in his broken in the workshop was to take, you know, the sort of the sort of 15 beach, and how to show you how, you know, if you could look at drawers, and you could look at, you know, a comedy, and you could look at a horror film, you could look at it, whatever genre it was, you could always sort of find these sort of 15 things in it. And the way that he described them, this is, you know, it's like the casual Fridays version of the, you know, story or blue hunter or whatever, that, that it was, it was so accessible, you know, and, but I think, think about those things you choose that you really kind of have to take them as, as a descriptive and not prescriptive, you know, it's describing a thing that already exists. And when you, you can definitely apply them, and they can help you in structure. But, but don't be so confined to, to a page number or anything like that, just like, just know that this is sort of the way stories have been told throughout time. That's why I feel like so much of it is inherent, it's not telling you stuff that you already know, but putting it in the language that makes it sort of accessible and easy to understand, you know, so I think, I think all those things are valuable, I don't discount them in any way, shape, or form. But I think that you realize that, you know, it's kind of telling you things that you sort of already intrinsically know, and maybe have just not thought of in those terms before gives you gives you a terminology, it gives you a way to name the parts of the body of your story. And, and realize, hey, you know, the knee bones connected to the shin bone, and that, that's that that's the way that the body works. That's the way story word. And if you you know, if you put these pieces together, and realize that there's a framework, then you can kind of, you know, mess around with that and switch things around and, and surprise yourself, even with the hopes that that that's going to surprise the reader and surprise your audience. And I think the other thing is to not discount at all the value of actually working with actors, and actually being involved in the process. So that, you know, only for me, I was always kind of describing myself as a guy chained to the laptop in the dungeon. And these are all just the voices in my head I was writing out. But when you actually, you know, onset. We're out actors like Don Johnson, or Robert De Niro and machete, you know, is doing lines to route and bringing in his own sensibilities to them and stuff like that. It's like, it opens up, you know, it's like, we're on the chakra level. He was just like, shut up, your mind explodes, you reached the crown, and you've reached Nirvana when someone like Robert De Niro is doing your dialogue, and bringing this whole other sensibility to it, but you didn't see, even as you were writing it, that can influence the way that you approach writing, in poetry and dollar approach writing scene or whatever it happens to be, you know what I mean?

Dave Bullis 38:22
Oh, yeah, it's a very good point. Um, you know, sometimes, I'll sit in with script readings. So, you know, I, I actually, I co founded a writers group two years ago, and we still meet, you know, we meet twice a month. And, you know, when everyone's done, we actually staged readings, especially with good actors, and have just ever, you know, reading in a conference room altogether. And, you know, and it's, you know, the writers who, actually, who wrote that particular script, you know, they're always frantically taking notes, because you actually hearing now, you know, different voice added to that, you know, because again, like you said, they come to, you know, putting their inflection on on the character,

Alvaro Rodriguez 39:00
Right! Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And just, you know, even things that you thought work on the page that don't work, in the reality of situation, or, or, and that's another thing, too, is like, just an example of last season. Working on an episode that I've written with Robert Patrick, and we were rehearsing the scene sitting around the table without Patrick and NASM, done for Brandon Sue, who would play Kate and Scott for this is children on show. And there was a moment I was just kind of kind of glanced over Robert, and he just had this look on his face. And I just told him, I said, you know, I can't even look at you because you're so you're so intense right now. I mean, you can do more with one look than than if I gave you a page of dialogue and realize that the physicality of the actor is something that never could sort of under underestimate in, in in the writing process.

Alex Ferrari 39:59
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Alvaro Rodriguez 40:08
And realize that you have to, you have to leave something for the actor, be simple for the actor to do. Recently in Los Angeles, I went to some screenings of films that John Borman made strikingly, Marvin, particularly point blank, and a movie called Helen Pacific. And Glenn Epstein, I think his name is had written a biography of Lee Marvin told the story about a senior blank blank in which we Marvins character, Jesus comes back to the his wife, who basically set him up or watched as he was allegedly killed and left for dead. And he comes back just to see her and realizing, or thinking that he's going to kill the guy who tried to kill him that he's been now shacked up with his wife, and had this scene where we had all this dialogue, me Marvin had all this dialogue with his wife, and he just asked if he could not say any of it, and just have the conversation beyond from the wife side. And, you know, it's just his wife kind of talking to him, as if they're having a conversation, but it's only her lines, and he's just giving her the CSIS look at and he's just, he's just acting without dialogue. And you see how much how smart that is, first of all, and how brave it is, for an actor to say, I can do this without words, I can do this with my own physicality with my own presence. Without, you know, without having to just say everything that I feel, I can show you that. And to think about that, as a writer is, you know, it's, it's an amazing sort of lesson and realizing that, that this, this really is a skeleton. And it's the actors, and it's the directors of photography, and directors in the lighting firms, everybody else puts the flesh on those bones. And, and, you know, it's something I think about, you know, in the process of writing fine to kind of leave that leave that space. You know, that's what the whitespace is, I think, you know, on the page, but whitespace is, is the place where the actor shines light spaces where it's not, you know, sort of snapping isn't the dialogue for how well you wrote this action line. The actors themselves, characters that are that are breathing between this in between. And I, I talked about Jonathan Wichman, song about the Velvet Underground, he has a line in there, where he says, they played less notes and less more state. And that sort of thing I tried to do in screenwriting, kind of pointless notes and leave more space, that space there for, for the actors to inhabit. And I think when you really have a strong theme, like that, the theme, I think, it's my favorite scene in that episode, where these characters are sitting together, realizing that they're, they're kind of stuck in this place, and, and stuff, Gecko is kind of forcing them to confront their own demons. And there's only one one thing that that the valley This is good, but it's, it's, it's really what the actors bring to it, it's really so much of what they're what they're showcasing their own panel capabilities. You know, provides a lesson to me as a writer,

Dave Bullis 43:29
It's sort of like adding that layer of subtext, you know, and it's sort of, you know, finding a way to actually say things that actually coming out and saying them and all the things below the surface. And, you know, I've never actually seen that movie, but I will make sure to actually check that out. Because that would, you know, that's a way to, you know, to tell a story.

Alvaro Rodriguez 43:49
Yeah, point let me and I think he also gives another example another movie that we Marvin did with the director Richard Brooks called the professional which is a Western it's also I'm sure it's a big influence on on planning Tarantino and things like that too. But point blank to the professionals and talents Pacific which is basically in a lot of ways a silent film, to actually live in and to share the filming the Japanese actor are stranded on an island in World War Two. And you know, one of the speaking with women speak Japanese for this remade in a way as enter the mind and 80s Bible from theaters. With Denis play the new Boston is a sci fi movie, we're human and alien or crash landed on this planet. And, you know, you just, you're just such strong lessons for a writer, to look at structure to look at how stories are told, and to look at the, you know, to be reminded of, of how much can be done with silence or how much can be done with with work with with with the telling story, or Robert told the story. I'm not yours actually in the director's chair or not, that's something that Francis Coppola had told him and he was doing the interview about, you know, something that he liked to do with the actors is shooting an entire scene without dialogue, just as a, just as a rehearsal as a practice. And laboratory, he never, he never actually done that before. But he was really intrigued to try it. You know. And, and I think that those, you know, there's something, there's something that can be gained by that. There's, there's definitely a lesson to be learned. From the writer standpoint, and from the directing standpoint, to you know, that you're not dependent, what was coming out of the actors. Now, as much as you are, you know, remembering that this is cinema, you know, this is a visual medium. People remember shots, people remember quotes from movies all the time. But, you know, when you have a scene, and you let the actors sort of really inhabit that thing, and you don't not in a hurry, I'll cut. You know, you can find some impressive moments, and hopefully, remember them in a way that will illuminate your own writing. At least I did.

Dave Bullis 46:11
And that is a very interesting technique as well, you know, what I want? And one of these, you know, film books I have? No, you can't see it right now. There's a whole shelf of screaming in books behind me of films and everything else. Once again, I'm sure I'm sure we have probably have almost the entire same library. But but, you know, there was a technique where the guy actually says, watch your favorite film without sound. And, and, you know, and yes, just see how every scene plays out?

Alvaro Rodriguez 46:39
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, one piece of advice that I've often given people, you know, either in a workshop that I've taught or, or LED, or, you know, people have asked me about, you know, writing something, and I said, Well, you know, like, you've seen lots of movies. So what's your, you know, think of a movie that has a great scene and that you really love, and then try to find the screenplay for that movie, and read the scene, read and read. What does that look like on paper? You know, you have this favorite scene from, you know, I don't know, The Exorcist or to live and die in LA or freakin examples. But, you know, what does that look like on paper? Well, it was just an action scene, one of the action laundry lines, and then what how does what does that look like? And just to see the thing that you've always seen, completely visual, visually? And what's that look like? When it's words on paper? You know, and, and to see how that was translated to become the scene that you loved in the movie? I think that's a that's a really strong lesson for kind of just just to experience that in a different way. And that's,

Dave Bullis 47:52
Yeah, and I agree that something I've done too, is actually go out and find the screenplays of things. Like I Speaking of which, you know, you know, the Oscars weren't too long ago. As soon as I watched Birdman and the Grand Budapest Hotel, I was like, I gotta see these screenplays. Right. I think those two and whiplash are definitely the best written movies in the Oscar race. And those are three screenplays. I was like, I just want to see how they did this. And, you know, it's phenomenal. And actually, I had one of the writers of Birdman, Alex and Dan Alerus, on here, about 15 episodes ago, and he was, you know, as awesome be able to pick his brain, but it is yours. Because, you know, you're the guy who actually wrote You know, you know, you know, these films that you know, we're talking about, so you can actually tell us? No, this is what I did, you know, and speaking of which, you know, I want to ask you, you know, about machete, and, you know, I wanted to ask you, you know, did you come up with this, you know the inception of this idea, or was it was it, Robert or was it was it your brainstorming

Alvaro Rodriguez 48:55
It was always Robert, it was always Robert and Danny. I mean, I think you know, when Robert first met Danny pareho when you can so edition for Desperado. And you know, the storytellers with Robert took one look at Danny's you're the guy. Rob. Danny was auditioning for a character called the boss which means knives. And he's a nicer and Desperado. And then talking to Derek. Oh, hi. And, you know, Danny had been packing for many years already. Usually playing you know, bug number three, or you know, the bad guy. It's fall apart. And you know, Robert, just like you said, became fast friends with Danny and said, you know, it'd be great to make a movie in which you're the you're the hero. You're the guy. And I think that was sort of the inception of machete and Robert had written kind of a long treatment script and that kind of thing for for a machete character. And then when it came time to make the Grindhouse Rubbermaid plant chair punter gene and a deaf person is releasing several feature.

Alex Ferrari 49:56
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Alvaro Rodriguez 50:05
Then came up with this idea of really kind of going with the whole double feature drive in concept and doing fake trailers for movies that didn't exist. And so machete became one of those things. And it was like, well, great, we can just make the big trailer, we got to have to make the movie. But then, you know, even though Brian house, you know, sort of underperformed with the box office, the trailer from the shed, he sort of took on a life of its own on YouTube and things like that. And people really responded to it, it became a thing where it's not low, we're actually going to do and I started writing around the time of Grindhouse, I was there and wrote a little bit of dialogue is actually in the trailer with GH as the priest. And then you know, later on, just started working from the trailer, basically, and creating a new story, a fuller story out of it, and having creating more characters, the just all the character, the show boundaries character, that that Don Johnson character, all those kinds of things that just really evolved over time until we actually knew the phone. And, and you see, you know, you see how it turned out.

Dave Bullis 51:24
Yeah, I thought it was phenomenal. And I ain't you know, it, you know, it was the Grindhouse theme, you have the cuts and scratches. And you know, and you know, and it's just you know, Danny is the perfect guy to play a guy. I mean, he looks at a guy named machete.

Alvaro Rodriguez 51:39
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I just did a panel with him the Comic Con in Fort Lauderdale two weeks ago, you know, and someone from the audience asked, you know, what's your favorite character, and said, you know, machete, and Marcia Brady. asked him how that happened. And he said, Yeah, you know, my manager says, you know, I think we got a Superbowl commercial. And he was like, You're kidding, you know, what, what do I have to do? You have to be Marcia Brady, you're not gonna do it. You know, even that is just like, so amazing. It was so amazing. It's terrific. Glasses, should be a small part of the sort of persona that Danny has been able to inhabit as that character.

Dave Bullis 52:41
So when you know when they were filming with Chet de we you on set every day, or were you orgies a few days, or

Alvaro Rodriguez 52:47
A few days, I was on, off and on? It was you know, it was amazing. It was amazing. I got to be upset when Robert De Niro was there and talked to him a bit. And, you know, you're so you're so generous. And so, so commented. And I think the thing about, you know, the thing about him, too, was that, you know, he was feeling he had expressed interest in becoming involved in the project early on, to play the plays this genogram. And in the original draft of the script, the senator was just the guy to get shot, it was not really a character in the, in the script. So it really started having to try to build a character out of this guy. And so you know, that the thing that, you know, we understood from from Robert Janiero was that he wasn't interested in, you know, doing it unless there was really something there to do. And it didn't want people to fail. He was just, you know, picking up a check. And so, you know, started coming up with ideas and sending in dialogue and concepts and stuff like that. And we get responses, like, that's good, that's good, Keep coming, keep coming. And, you know, finally hit on sort of the finale of his character, and, you know, the speeches that I'd written for his character, you know, when you signed on, and one of the funny things in the, in the finale of the film after he's been shot, he's dying on the floor, on the ground, with Lindsay Lohan dressed as a nun hovering over him with a gun. He's sort of kind of blanking out, you start in my script, at least one draft of it. He starts reciting the act of contrition and the Catholic act of contrition in Latin, like he's reverting back to his actual, you know, he's not really a Texan and all this stuff. And Robert read the thing and he's like, Well, what the hell is this? It's like, you know, he's not really fixing he's he's reverting back to this, you know, New York childhood or whatever. It is all deploying either saying that contrition forgiveness before he dies. And it's like, that doesn't make you never going to do that. And then that one day and I got a call from Elizabeth Ramadan, those spirits are on the phone. But she's like, I want to read the need the Latin correctly talking about, like the Latin thing that the Nero says he's working with a priest, he wants to get it right. But that was the thing he was. So he became just completely prepared into every line of dialogue. And he did, you know, it was never a thing where, you know, I don't know, my line or whatever like that, please, you know, he was she was totally into it. And I think he had a really good time doing it, and certainly had, you know, it was definitely a highlight of my professional career to say, Well, I didn't really Robert De Niro, and Lohan and everybody else, but you know, he was definitely an actor. I grown up, you know, just loving every film that was done. And I was so impressed with with him and his presence. But had backstories I guess for a lot of the actors that I've worked with, have just been really fortunate to have people that just always think to bring their A game

Dave Bullis 54:04
And asked me such a high as a writer to to say, you know, hey, Alfa, who's your movie? Oh, we had, you know, Robert De Niro. And so and you you also you touched on your your Lindsay Lohan. And I'll see you at Steven Seagal movie as well.

Alvaro Rodriguez 56:32
Steven Seagal was great. We had you know, Don Johnson written some things, you know, Robert has spent a lot of time with Don Johnson before and, and so you know, we use some of the like little phrases that Don Johnson says in the sprint. And I was sitting with him one day on set, and he was like, Oh, I love this is great. You know, I say stuff like this, like, how does that blow your spirit up? And I said, I know. That's why we put it in to be very natural. It was, you know, just amazing. Really, I mean, even during the editing process I was sitting with, with my cousin, Rebecca Roberts, younger sister who was working on the film as well. We were watching the dinner scene. And I said, just stop for a minute. And she said, What's matter? That's Robert De Niro. Thing lines I wrote, you know, in my room, and now it's just like, I didn't need a minute.

But you know, it's great. And whenever stuff like that happened, it's important to just say thank you, I'd be amazed by it all.

Dave Bullis 57:44
You know, and that is that is absolutely amazing. And, and, you know, like you said, it's also as I've been finding it to, to have gratitude as well and always miss and live in the moment and not, you know, just sort of when you see Robert De Niro and just want to stop it there. That's, you know, that's amazing. Albro

Alvaro Rodriguez 58:02
I was just Yeah, I still get goosebumps. Thinking about it. You know? And it was, it was a great experience. And, you know, the movie did well. And, you know, I was just really proud of the way it turned out and realized that, you know, the last draft is the final edit of the movie. You know, there's so much of that movie that some so many ways that movie was improved by by the editor, and really making me come together. And, you know, it's far from a perfect movie, but it's definitely something I'm proud of. And, and, you know, it was a great experience.

Dave Bullis 58:44
And, you know, I particularly like the the the final battle between Seagal and Trejo because if you ask me in a million years, I never would have guessed that, you know, those two ever would have crossed paths and you know, in any movie because they sort of do different movies, you know, but they were able to come together for machete machete. And it's just, you know, I thought it was very well done. So and Scott was still doing his Akito and, you know, Trejo still swinging the mushroom in the mid shut days. He's so confused. I thought it was very well choreographed as well, I thought was phenomenal.

Alvaro Rodriguez 59:17
Yeah, well, thanks, Jamie. And, you know, that's again, it's like, you know, part of that part of the whole process of machete to is realizing for fairly early on, this was going to be in so many ways to kind of kitchen sink, rewriting. It's like, nothing is off by and nothing is out of bounds. Everything Is Everything is possible. You know, you could have a scene where a guy would close down a building with someone's intestines. Or, you know, Michelle establish those cops you know, or the fake cop through to the back of the seat and in the backseat of the car and then steers the car by turning is the surely through the guy, you know, and stuff like that. And it's and

Alex Ferrari 59:59
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Alvaro Rodriguez 1:00:08
You know, so it was, it was, it was pretty liberating in that way to them realizing that you're gonna have this, this pretty the final showdown were going on. anything was possible, you could have, you know, sword fight with machete and, you know, and the integral in his story, you know, it was just turning everything up to around him, I hope.

Dave Bullis 1:00:34
So, you know, when you were actually writing it, did you actually know Scott was gonna be cast in that part? Where did you actually, you know, sort of, you know, a follow up that part later on, when Scott was cast

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:00:44
A little bit of both, a little bit of both, I mean, the character was starting to be there before it was the goal. And then knowing it was the goal, things were, you know, were enhanced in attitude, it was, it was really fun that was part of the process with, with the movie itself. And even from Lindsay Lohan's character to I mean, Robert, told me if I can get Lindsay Lohan to play this part, but it's not even a part. You know, we got it, we got to try to, you know, give her some stuff and, and just sort of, you know, hit on these different little ideas that this kind of gave her gave her her own heart. And, and, and told a little story, you know, so it was great. It was, it was it was, it was so much fun to be a part of that, that process.

Dave Bullis 1:01:32
And, you know, that's great that everything was able to come together, you know, very, very, you know, it's something that, you know, you've been involved in moviemaking for, you know, doing with two decades now. And you know, you know, whatever can go wrong will go wrong in a film set. And, you know, or even even beyond that, you know, even when things are in development, it's so good. You were able to put it together. But I mean, again, if you have any listener out there has not seen that yet. I urge you to go out there and check it out. It's phenomenal. You know, we've been talking for about an hour now. Would you mind just taking a few quick questions that got sent in? Sure. I'm sorry. That was an hour flew by? Yeah, it always seems to work out that way. Which I don't know, if I just asked the right question. Or, you know, I just sort of I don't know. So, but you know, I'm glad it flew by? Because I mean, it was one of

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:02:25
The conversation. Yeah, it's the conversation, you know, when you when you talk and you have your conversation, you you're not looking at your watch. So that's what, that's good.

Dave Bullis 1:02:35
So our first question is alvaro, would you ever consider directing your own film?

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:02:41
Absolutely. Absolutely. I definitely am interested in doing that. Years and years and years ago, I had written was actually my first screenplay. And I was hoping to directly it was going to be very low budget, very independent Texas based project, it never really got off the ground, but sort of as, as training for that I went and made a short film on video that no one has ever seen, no one will ever see. But you know, and it happened so quickly. It was not much of a lesson to me, except to realize that I needed a lot more experience. You know, and that for a long time, I just, you know, whenever I was asked that question, I would say, you know, you know, I just right now I'm just really trying to focus on being a better writer, that's still my answer, I'm still trying to focus on being a better writer, but I'm definitely interested in doing that. Down the road behind the camera. And, you know, I think that's part of the new part of the great opportunity of working on decimal, Dawn is that, as a writer of the episode, we're sort of writer producer, you're they're upset, you're, you're working with the actors as much as you want to be. And so I've had very hands on experience in terms of working with the actors, or rehearsing with the actors, you know, even helping block scenes, and things like that, that. That, to me is like, again, sort of more fuel for the fire really wanting to take the opportunity to try to do to derive as well, I mean, I guess it's, it's the thing to have that less than that, I feel like I have learned or am learning about the sort of the sort of things that are sort of that I have the language or cinema in some way already in my brain. And I can, I can approach these things in that way. You know, we're still with a, with a very open, very open heart and mind thing and I'm always going to try to be learning. I'm the director and training or writer and training or whatever, you know, but I'm learning by doing and trying to be as involved in the process as possible.

Dave Bullis 1:05:07
And that's also you going to actually you're actually going by, you know, writing era directing your own film. Yeah. Because honestly, because then you could VOB like, you know, your, your cousin or Tarantino was, you know, write and direct and, you know, really put your stamp on the film, kind of like, you know, the tour theory of filmmaking, but this time, you know, you know, you can say that, because, you know, you have the writer director, you know, and you, you know, you

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:05:31
Yeah, well, you know, the theory is that wonderful, is a wonderful concept. And I certainly think that it holds true, you know, in a lot of ways, directors, especially those directors, you know, they definitely have a stance, but I think that the thing that maybe I realized, coming out of from the, from the perspective of the writer, and just sort of being a fly on the wall, sometimes in an onset, or whatever, in any kind of environment, when you see the process, you know, it's so filmmaking and television is the most collaborative, creative form that there is my mind, it is, through their collaboration, nothing is possible without, you know, everybody input everybody's efforts to make this thing happen. You know, if you really want to be an authority, you know, write poetry, because no one is ever going to say, you know, I'd really love to write a poem with you, you know. And, and I think that's, I mean, to me, that, that's, that's, that's, I think, that's a lot of ways why, you know, Robert, as, as really dependent on and creating relationships with people with whom you can work again, and again, actors and, and people behind camera, because there's a sort of shorthand language that the defense developed. And there's a, there's a sort of unwritten expectations on what people are bringing to the table. And, and doesn't mean that he doesn't direct, the RSC does, but but he is able to, to, to get what he wants, by, by virtue of having a really strong cast and crew. And, and be the first person to acknowledge that it may not have been that way, in the early days, because he was so he was so hands on. And so, you know, with El Mariachi and the short films that he made the for them, it was always a thing of, he was really trying to become a master of all trades, not just a jack of all trades, but a master of all of them, because he never knew what was going to be the thing that was going to get him a job. You know, maybe people will hate my movie, but they'll love the way it was shot. And I'll get a job as a DP. And they knew they'll hate, you know, they'll hate the way it looks, but they love the spirit and the dialogue, and I'll get hired as a writer. So he was always, you know, really trying to find the best in himself, to fill all those roles, to see which one was going to be the one thing that people responded, and they happen to respond to all of it, you know, in so many ways. And, but, you know, now in the, on the big scale, it's really impossible to do that so much anymore. And, you know, I think that, you know, whenever you see these speeches, when people are kept awards, and they, you know, they think, you know, the writers or they think the producers, and they, they thank the people who put this thing together, and it's, there's so much community experience. I think Orson Welles that every movie is a miracle. And the miracle is that you get all these different people who may have all kinds of different opinions to work together out upon. And that's really, I think, what sort of unites them and get everybody working for the good of the, of the project and doing their best.

Dave Bullis 1:09:07
And just add on you said, you know, the director is a guy that sort of leads a team and builds a team. That's so true. And, you know, one thing that I, you know, I've always heard is the idea of genius surround, which means, you know, always hire people that are smarter than you are. And, you know, that and that way, you know, you know, and they said, you know, we part of the director, directors job, it can be taken care of, just by hiring good, you know, having a great script, have a great cinematographer, and then having great actors and then you know, you pretty much you know, it's only yours to mess up from there.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:09:46
If I were to go direct the film right now, I would have no idea you know, what kind of lighting am I going to use? Or what's the right terminology for this piece of lighting or that piece of lighting or this this lens or that lens? I would have no idea at all.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:10:10
You know, I might have, you know, a very, very, very basic idea. But I mean, again, that's the thing I, you know, it would be a matter of really kind of surrounding yourself with people who know what their, what their tasks are, that's great. And they know their strengths. So you're trying to put together a team that not everybody has the same strengths, but because you put together a team, now you're, you're pretty badass. And it's just your job to make sure that, that it all comes together in the way that you want it. And you keep pushing until you get what you want.

Dave Bullis 1:10:48
Yeah, very well said. And, and our next question is, Alberto, what advice could you give for someone trying to break into Hollywood?

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:11:00
You know, I always felt guilty about that question, because, you know, I didn't, you know, in a lot of ways, I'm broken into Hollywood. And what I have done is, you know, been able to do the work with Robert on many, many projects, I'm now working with other with other people on other projects, and doing other things off the ground features and stuff like that. But, you know, obviously, I feel like, I had a, you know, a huge door opened up for me that I scrambled through. But, I, at the same time, you know, you mentioned 20 years of experience, but a lot of those years, I wasn't making fun of those years, I was not, I was not as involved as I as I could have been, I never really kind of took the bull by the horns and said, You know, I'm going to go to LA and I'm going to try to, you know, work my way into the system, and everything has a time in place. But I would say that, you know, to kind of follow up with Virginia surrounds, like is this Detroit, you know, it's there's so much in this, in my experience that, I don't know if I can speak to the business, but I'll definitely say in my experience, that you cannot undervalue the power of relationships. And every, every time that that I have had any kind of success, any kind of forward movement, it's always been built upon relationships and meeting, putting yourself in a space where you can meet people, and, and, and, and find common interests and things that you can do. And then one of the huge things for me was, when machete came out, in 2010, I was invited to be a panelist at the Austin Film Festival. And I really literally was the guy changer, the laptop in the basement for such a long time. Even though I've already done that for about three years earlier. I was suddenly, you know, up on stage, you know, doing panels with real working professional screenwriters that I somehow tricked into thinking I was one of them. And, you know, it really opened a lot of doors for me, because I became instant friends with a lot of people I'm still friends with today that have helped me in so many ways. In the sciences, you know, that I used to go to California, and, you know, and try to set up meetings, you know, from the point the plane landed, so I have coffee with one guy says, Oh, you need to go talk to this guy, that you should meet this person. And then coffee and breakfast and lunch and drinks and dinners and after things and just like really networking, putting your best foot forward, you know, and thing of being a bridge builder, and, and trying to, you know, define those things, you know, find the ways that, that, that that will help you get where you want to be, you know, and I found that, you know, having boots on the ground in California and Los Angeles, especially, there's always has been over the last couple of years, but actually, it's been huge for me. It's almost like uncanny sort of chain of chain with things that someone I didn't know, you know, last week, two weeks later was saying, you know, I'd like to work on a project with you, or would you like to be involved in this? Or would you would you give me some ideas about this, and then something happened. It's just, it's pretty amazing. But I think that's the thing is, you've got to put yourself in a position to create that kind of environment. So, you know, it means starting joining small in the main starting in a local writers group and do that and find it find the people in the writers that you really complement with that. And I know that that are, you know, bring something to the table, you don't maybe even work with them, or maybe even work with you. And, and just start, you know, really start building, building your relationships as you're building their own talent and building your skills. And then just push. And that's I think that's the thing, it's pushed as much as as much as you can. I don't know, I don't know what else to say about it. And for sure, I wish everybody good luck. And we're living in an age right now with the demand for content, I don't think there's ever been as high as that. The opportunities have never been as plentiful as they are, right. I mean, in a lot of ways, and I think that, that just sort of the willingness to, to say, I'm ready, I'm ready for work I'm ready for for, you know, I'm ready to take this to the next step. And join yourself in the next is good advice, as I think I think

Dave Bullis 1:16:10
And, you know, again, you know, Cisco Networking meetings, and you know, just finding out what you can do for people and being a bridge builder. And, you know, again, I think that's key, not sort of so much asking why other people can do for you what you can do for other people. You know, people don't want to, you know, be sold to constantly it's like, you know, like, when I talk to people on social media to Alvarez, a, they I always tell people do don't constantly promote yourself, you know, don't constantly talk about this, you know? Because that's just the turnoff. No, no one's gonna follow you just to hear all about you constantly.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:16:44
Right! Right. That's true. I mean, I think that's the thing that, you know, social media is still in its infancy in a lot of ways. And, and that's that, that is a lesson that people are learning, I'm learning it through. And I think that there's this thing about social media, if you really kind of, I think, try to use it in your, in your best interest is not always to be self promoting, but to be sharing, you know, to share other people's successes, you know, and promoting other people's other people's projects and stuff like that. So when someone you know, friend of mine post, you know, my friends, were trying to have a Kickstarter, really trying to get this project off the ground, you know, if I have 20 bucks, I'll throw it into the alternative, I've never met these other guys, or friends, or my friends, you know, I'll throw in the money, and I'll promote it on my Facebook page, or whatever. But you know, if I can do that, you know, I just, you know, I want to share, you know, whenever I do social media stuff, whether it's like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever, you know, they're, you know, you could be able days, or you can just be all about me, me, me. And I definitely do some of that and say, Oh, look, you know, here I am in the writing room, and on some semi exotic locations, and Angeles or whatever. And, or I'm saying, you know, you need to be watching this show American crime, it's a British show on television right now, and people are really going to dig it. Because I have friends that are active on the show versus guys made show. And that's just like, you know, that's the kind of thing that I'd like to do, and just try to, you know, try to, you know, kind of spread the goodwill. Yeah. And then, you know, you're just like, there's so many people in so many connections that you can make, I mean, I've never met you in person, I only know you from from Twitter and things like that. And I wouldn't be doing this podcast with you. Otherwise, you know, so on. And it's an amazing tool. And it can it can build relationships, and connect people together in ways that, you know, would have been impossible 10 years ago. So I think it's great.

Dave Bullis 1:19:10
Yeah, and I find a lot of guests through Twitter, too, because that's how I think we initially met. And then And then now, yeah, you're right. It's you know, and using Twitter as a networking tool has been awesome for me. Just meeting people and just seeing what they're working on and stuff like that. I've actually tinkered around about actually writing a book about how, how I use Twitter as a networking tool.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:19:33
Great. I do. Oh, thanks. Definitely tweet about it.

Dave Bullis 1:19:38
Well, thank you. It's all it's all my pile outro of like, you know, the 8 million. It's like, okay, that's a good idea. Maybe I should do that. It's, it's one of those things, you know, I'm gonna get around to Sunday right now, you know, I'm just focusing on some other actual writing things. But we've been talking for about an hour and 80 minutes or so,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dave Bullis 1:20:11
So, you know, and I know, you know, you're busy. And you, you know, I don't want to keep you too much longer. So, you know, in closing, is there anything that we didn't discuss that, you know, you wanted to mention or talk about?

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:20:23
I think we covered it, I just, you know, I would just say that, you know, it's, it's, like I say, I'm, I feel like, I'm not, maybe not, I'm the last person to give advice. But you know, because I still feel like I'm, I'm trying to be learning every day, I'm trying to keep that, that, that perspective on everything. But I know that there's things that I picked up that if I can impart to someone else, and they can get something out of it, you know, I think that's great. I mean, it's like, you're gonna use what you can use and, you know, which get us to throw it away, you know. And I think that's the same thing. There's so many, so many things that are out there for aspiring writers, or writers that are trying to break into the business. You know, but, you know, just because, you know, you've read it in a bookstore, it's, you know, you've got to make the experience will be valuable for yourself. You know, I did teach for a short while I taught a course, at Texas a&m Galveston study, still sports of all things. And I had the students read this book from a Herman Melville novel that nobody reads anymore called Redburn. But a boy's first journey to see. And he's taking his, he's going to Liverpool, and he's taking his father's guidebook to Liverpool. And when he gets to the city, and he opens up the guidebook, he realizes the city has changed. And that, you know, as far as guidebook really wasn't much helpful to him anymore, and he had to find his own way, in the city, there were some things that were some sort of landmark, but the city changed. And I think that, you know, the lesson I was trying to impart that time, it's like, I'm giving you a lot of ideas about how to kind of manage your time how to study how to kind of working through how to do all these things, you know, you might find that some of them are most useful for you, you got to find what works and not be afraid of trying new things, and being open to experiences and, and really trying to build on the one on on your base, and never sit back and say, you know, I know it all. And people would just have to recognize my genius. It's a constant. It's a constant learning process. And I'm still doing it. I wish everybody social media and trying to do those things, the best of the best of luck and doing

Dave Bullis 1:22:59
Very cool. And you know, that's a very, very awesome positive message. Albro very positive. That's good. It's gonna be about the positive. Because, you know, there's far too many negative people in this world. So, you know, I want to say thank you, thank you very much, again, for coming on. Thank you. Appreciate it. Oh, you know, my pleasure is all mine. So, you know, where can people find you out online?

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:23:25
I'm on Twitter and I was busy. I'm on Facebook, I think the same thing, and I was funny around, I don't have a site or anything like that. But, you know, I'm often doing different events and not really doing anything at Southside. But every year I'm pretty active with the Austin Film Festival, doing panels and roundtables and, and you know, every October you can definitely find me around there. But, you know, look, look me up and keep an eye out on the race network for Destiel dog Season Two later this year. Hopefully, we've got some good stuff in store for fans of the show. And you know, the original the first season is already on Netflix in its entirety. Or if you're like, you know, really angelegt you can you can get the blu ray or DVD set with all the extras and commentaries and fun stuff like that.

Dave Bullis 1:24:33
You know, and also I'll make sure to link to everything in the show notes as well so you know, everyone if you you know, if you don't ever have been to El Rey network or you've never actually you know, seen an average Twitter, just look click on the show, just click on the links in the show notes and you'll be taken right there. And also most of the link to desolder on Season One. So again, if you haven't checked that out yet, please do because it's very cool, especially if you have enjoyed the the Each movie it's based off of. And it like everyone I've said it just expands upon that. So, in closing, everyone, thanks again for listening, you can find me at Dave bulls.com and Twitter. It's at Dave Bullis should be at Dave underscore bulls. And you know, there's you know, tons of show note links that if you want to stalk me on any other social media sites, they're there as well. And so cool outro thanks again, buddy. And, you know, I wish you the best of luck with you know, season two of Gustl dawn. And you know, if you ever want to come back, man, please let me know that was always wide open.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:25:37
Thanks a lot, Dave. I really appreciate it. Talking to you.

Dave Bullis 1:25:39
Yeah. Good talking to bud.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:25:41
All right. Take care.

Dave Bullis 1:25:42
Have a good night, buddy.

Alvaro Rodriguez 1:25:45
Thank you.

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BPS 301: I Wrote a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do with Clarissa Jacobson

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show, Clarissa Jacobson. How're you doing Clarissa?

Clarissa Jacobson 0:15
I'm doing great. I'm really happy to be on your show because it's so freakin awesome.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. We were talking a little bit off air. And I appreciate all the kind words you said about the show and your you know, that you've been listening to for a while. And you found me through distribution, where a lot of filmmakers end up finding me when they start running into that wall.

Clarissa Jacobson 0:36
Leaving gray area is since it's no fun, and nobody knows anything about and we're all terrified.

Alex Ferrari 0:42
Right Exactly. And then of course, after you listen to me, you're even more scared. Because Because I tell you the truth. I'm like, No, you're never gonna make money here. This is how they're going to screw you. They're don't sign this here. And and

Clarissa Jacobson 0:54
Knowledge is power. Even It's scary.

Alex Ferrari 0:56
I'd rather you I rather you be scared than lose your movie. So but um, but I'm happy to have you on the show. And yeah, you reached out to me about your book that you wrote called, I made a short film. Now, what the eff do I do with it's a guide to film festivals, promotions and surviving the ride? Based on the title alone? I said, Well, I have to have her on the show. I I mean, because I was like, this seems like the kind of gal that I can vibe with on the show. Because it's it's no nonsense.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:29
Yeah, that was my title. And then I just never changed it. And it's super long. So now I just call it my WTF book.

Alex Ferrari 1:37
Exactly, exactly. TF. So, so many. So so many filmmakers do make short films. I mean, I have a long history of making short films and having some success with them early on in my career. But there is so much misinformation about short films, how you what you do with them, can you monetize them? How do you run the festival circuit is you know, where do you go with it? All this kind of stuff. So before we jump into the, into the weeds, how did you get started in the business?

Clarissa Jacobson 2:04
Well, I when I was a little kid, I thought I wouldn't be an actress. So I did the whole acting thing. I went to acting school. You know, I went to Indiana University and majored in theater. And then I went to American musical and dramatic Academy in New York City. And I did that whole thing. But I was always writing. And the thing about acting is you need so many people to to do it. You know, so I had all this pent up pent up artistic energy all the time that it can never use because if you're not in a play, or you're not you just can't use it. And I stumbled on so long story how I met my mentor Joe Bratcher who teaches twin bridges writing so on. But I he offered me a class and I was like, Well, I'm an actress. I don't write, you know, like, I'm an actress. But I took like, yeah, and I took a few. But I was kind of getting that burned out stage where I was feeling like the bitter actress, you know, but I was always trying to do my own projects. And then I started screenwriting with him and I just never looked back. And I had like, you know, that weird come to Jesus moment where I had to like, because I always like want to commit to one thing and really be good at it. And I was like, you know, freaked out going, Oh my God, my whole life is saving actress, I'm leaving that behind. I'm a failure at it. And my friend was like, you know, life is like a tributary, you're just taking another, you know, waterway. And that was like 1415 years ago, and I don't miss acting at all. And I just love screenwriting so much. And then I made a short film for a variety of reasons. And that's when I really realized Holy shit. I'm a filmmaker. Like, that's where I fit like, 100% I fit as a filmmaker. I mean, screenwriting first and foremost, but I, I don't want to just give my screenplays over. I like to be part of the whole process. I just freakin love it. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:49
That's awesome. That's awesome. And yeah, it is, you know, a lot of times you walk into this business wanted to do one thing, and then you find yourself doing something else. And it's, I mean, I walked in wanting to be a director. And that still still was my goal. But I fell in love with editing. Because Oh, I can make a living. And I can learn and I can make connections. I'm like, this seems like a good job. And I I get some carpal tunnel. I work in an air conditioned room. I'm good. I'm good to go enough to be on set all day. As a PA because that's thinks you know, when I first started, I was like, three o'clock in the morning call. What did Oh, I'm getting $75 Well, that's fantastic. And by the way, that was $75 back in 1995. Whoa, that's $75 today $75. So fun money man. That was something like that was some mad money back in the day. But um, so So you so let's discuss your book, how I made short films. I made I made my short films on what the heck do I do? How to we're gonna go over a bunch of stuff. But one thing is a question that we always get people asking me about is branding. Because I've done I've done it a decent job branding my show and branding myself over the years. How do you brand a short and your opinion?

Clarissa Jacobson 5:07
Um, well with my situation I just looked at this the story and what what little thing that I could pull from it that would be that people could latch on to and that was my lunch. So my movies comedy horror about lunch, ladies. So first thing I did is I was like, okay, where does my film take place it takes place in a school. So when I made the website, I don't know where I learned this, I learned somewhere along the line that you, you always do the same type of fonts, you do the same. So I got started doing like, you know, it was going to be the century schoolbook font, it was going to look like at school, it was going to have the same attitude as the film. And when when I talked to other filmmakers, short filmmakers about branding, I say, you know, don't don't like freak out about it. Like, you know, you don't have to be some marketing genius or whatever you have to find like that thing that you can pull from it that other people will react to. So like for me, I my life actually reprehensible. They're, they're like, really, they're the bullied all the time. So you kind of you feel for them, but the reprehensible so like I, I kind of went the opposite. I branded it in a way that like, everything was, if they got in a festival they cheated to get in, everything was so I just found that like little niche kind of thing that I could hang my hat on. And then when I would do all the Instagram posts, the Facebook posts, all the products I took, I find that a lot of people just throw stuff together, I took like a really a lot of time, making sure that everything like fit together matched with the fonts look to get looked good, and that it was consistent across all the social media. And even my blogs, like I mean, if you wrote like over 200 blogs during the course of it, but like if you look at my beginning blogs, there's there you can see how it's helped grows. So like I would say you don't need to be at 100. When you start, you just start somewhere and you you branded in a way that also it's information that you'd want to see. Like you have to like create a look for your film, whether it's comedy or drama, or whether ever when you're creating content, that stuff that you want to look at that you would want to look at. Because I see a lot of times people just want to like announce stuff. So

Alex Ferrari 7:27
So it's basically graphic graphic design 101 is basically like you're thinking about everything you just said is graphic design 101, which most filmmakers don't think about, because they're like, oh, I'll just throw it up there, I'll just take a still and I'll grab whatever font that I find in in Canva, or in Photoshop and my cracked version of Photoshop that I got somewhere on my old Mac, and they just slap it up there. And that's where I always find I think that's really separates. You know, projects is the design of the branding how it looks before anyone even sees the movie. More people will see the website, definitely more people will see the trailer and the poster. And that will tell me like anytime I get sent video of a gets sent pitches for being on the show. I'll look at the trailer. I'll look at the movie poster, right? And the second I look at I'm like, no, they obviously don't know what they're doing purely on the scope of the design. Because design is so powerful of a way to kind of introduce you to your world. And if you haven't done a good job with your posts, your your website, your trailer, chances are, I've never I've never once seen an insanely well done short or insanely well done feature that the poster in the trailer sucked.

Clarissa Jacobson 8:48
Right and, I think it's too like you have to come from such a place of creativity like in that you have to think of the branding as just as creative as the film. And you know, like I fought it, I didn't want to do it. Don't want to do this. Don't want to do that. But you know what, like, I just sucked it up, you got to just suck it up. And you have to find a way to make it joyful. So what I did was I found a way to make it joyful, so and I would send out my postcards because it's about lunch ladies, I would wrap them in in butcher wrap. I would send like the pins in like little wax paper bags with little stickers, you know, like, just what would amuse me, you know, and try to make, make it fun. Because if you're not having fun and you're not being creative with it. It's not going to resonate. So that comes from that authenticity of like what is fun, like what excites me about how to how to do it and so that was kind of like always my thing like if if I was creating something or sending something out what I want to receive this and you know, people would say, you know, nobody, nobody cares are just gonna rip through that paper. I'm like, Yeah, but I know when that the programmer opens that package. They have a little smile on their face. You know? Put a smile on my face.

Alex Ferrari 10:02
Right, exactly. And sorry. So the other question is this branding? This is where a lot of think a lot of filmmakers make mistakes, too. Is there a lot of times they'll brand their film for the mass audience? But you need to understand who your audience is. Is your audience. The public? Or is it Film Festival programmers? Or is it studio execs? Or is it financiers? Like, you've got to really understand your audience? Is that a fair statement?

Clarissa Jacobson 10:29
Yeah, I think so. And I and I, you know, and I just think there's like a big thing to be said, for consistency. And putting yourself out there. I mean, I have a whole chapter on this about the fear of putting yourself out there, because everybody, you know, it's so much easier to shout someone else's work out than your own. And you're afraid that people are going to go, oh, I that person is so egotistical, because all they do is talk about their film. But you know, at fucko you got to talk about what you love. And if you have a passion and an authenticity, and you're putting it out there and spending time, like it takes time to like, make your product look good, like did not just slap together to, you know, stay up a little a little later that night. And like make sure you have the right stuff that you're sending out. You know, like, it takes time in that passion and putting it out there. Like people will respond to it.

Alex Ferrari 11:24
It's you know, that's called hustle. That's called work. And yeah, a lot of filmmakers they, they feel that that once they're done with the short, I'm good, I don't need to do anything else. And that's the I don't want to do the non fun stuff. But

Clarissa Jacobson 11:37
That's what you got to make it fun. That's what I did. I try I made I made I made it. I made it as fun as I could. Right and, and i Nobody thinks that's fun. They can throw like, Oh, you have a talent for it. I'm like, You know what, everybody has a talent for it if you want to do it,

Alex Ferrari 11:49
Right. I personally love the branding. I love the marketing of my projects and things like that, because it's, I just think of it as just an extension of the creative process. Yeah, for me,

Clarissa Jacobson 12:00
That's exactly the way I think of it.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
I mean, you look at you look at Fincher, and he's really in a David Fincher, he's really involved with his marketing, Stanley Kubrick was heavily involved with the marketing from the trailers to the artwork to everything, every aspect of the marketing process of his films, because he saw it as well. So to Fincher that way, and I not that I'm putting myself in the same category as Rick,

Clarissa Jacobson 12:24
Right, you're absolutely right, you have to have that creative. Yeah, I mean, that's the best thing to think about. It is like, it's just an extension of the product, you know. And I think, too, you need to know what you want to do with your short, like, if you you don't want to if you just want to go to film festivals and part of your ass off, and you don't care where your film goes, and you don't need to do all that stuff. But if you have a vision that you want it to be like a proof of concept, or you want people to notice you, then you have to find a way to connect the whole thing together make it part of this. I mean, to me, it is part of the same thing. It's not as fun as making the film. But no, it's part of it.

Alex Ferrari 13:00
And I think the the big benefit that everyone has nowadays and now I'm going to put on my old man hat because back in the day, back in the days in the 90s it was a lot more difficult to put something together online. Oh, yeah, I remember. I mean, yeah, when you still had dial up and like DSL, okay, stop and

Clarissa Jacobson 13:21
Rent a camera to like, do a little video.

Alex Ferrari 13:23
No, no, there was no video. We were 10 years away from YouTube. Okay, that's where we that's where I was. That's how old I am everyone

Clarissa Jacobson 13:32
Like my acting things. I mean, I'm aging myself, but like my acting things, and you had to do like a thing. And I had to like hire somebody to bring a little camera. Oh, yeah, a little tiny tape or

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Mini DV tape and they would have to transfer it to a VHS. Exactly. So but the point I'm making here is that when you when you, you now have the ability to make yourself look much larger and much more established than you might be? Because if you've got good design, and you've got a solid website and you've got a solid trailer, agents, managers, financiers festival festival programmers, they'll look at that and go wait a minute, they must know what they're doing. Because that is the depth honestly, a good design and good branding will set you apart you have so much bad

Clarissa Jacobson 14:27
Even just doing it.

Alex Ferrari 14:29
So that so it so there's different levels, not doing it doing it badly. And doing it really well. Yeah, even doing it bad that like well, at least they got a website they must have done. Right. But if you do it really well and that's from my experience. I mean, I was with my first short film in 2005. I was I got into like, I think three or 400 film festivals with that with a with it was a different time. It was awesome. It was a different world back then. But a lot of times it was about The website we put together which was a flash, it was a flash website. But it was so far beyond anything short film should ever have. plus all the extra stuff I did for and everything. So it looks so much bigger I was getting called by like Oscar winning producers. They're like, what's going on here? Can we can we produce your Oh, that's a whole I'll write another book about that whole story. sure one day about about what happened with the journeys I went through with that project. But it was about the festival, the trailer, the branding, and I did it instinctively. I didn't know any better. I didn't go like I got a graphic this economic. I did it instinctively. But

Clarissa Jacobson 15:37
I was the same. Mine was like such a design. Like I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my film. And I was like, if if this fails, it's going to fail. Because not because I didn't do everything I could to make it succeed. So if it fails, then I can go okay, well, I did everything I could write. So it was such a desire to have it succeed. That I just was like, I had to figure and figure out how to make a website, I figured out like, I didn't know how to use Twitter. I was like, pound what they're like, No, it's hashtag. Like, I didn't have a Facebook page. I was not interested in Facebook. I didn't. I was terrified to like, you know, to talk about it a little bit, you know, because everything, she's gonna have an ego, but the passion to get it out there outweighed my fear. And then I became good, getting good at it became better became better and better at it, you know, the more passionate but Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 16:31
Now speaking of social media, do you think that you need to create a specific social media presence for each film? Or do you create a brand around yourself as the filmmaker and promote all of your projects through that, that those social channels?

Clarissa Jacobson 16:48
Well, I think you could do it either way, like I have. I'm a co creator with my partner, Shane Webber and we have trouble minx. But I still, you know, we have like everything. We have our projects all there. But I still like have a separate website for lunch, ladies, we're doing a feature and I have a separate, separate thing. I mean, it unless you're like Richard Linklater, right, like everybody knows who you are. I think it's I think it's harder to like drive people to it, than it would be just to send somebody your film and just go hey, guess what, go to my website. And they don't have you know, lunch ladies movie calm, and they can just look at their versus going to my rebel makes website, trying to find where it is trying to find what it's about. And you can put a lot more information.

Alex Ferrari 17:35
Well, yes, but not as much on the websites. I agree with you on the websites. I'm talking about social media. So mean, like, Oh, do we have it do have a lunch lady Twitter account, which has maybe x amount of people on it? Or do you go to rebel minx and have that as your main

Clarissa Jacobson 17:50
One for the films because that way you can gauge who's involved in the films, okay. versus, you know, versus just it might just be your they might be in the one film and another so you know, how many you can gauge how many people are into it? I think it's easier for? I don't know, like, it feels like it's, it feels very professional to have a film website. Like, I don't I mean, I haven't really looked at like, you know, the big films out there. But I would bet that like, like, let's say Warner Brothers puts out a film. I bet all those films have their own social media just feels more,

Alex Ferrari 18:25
But they also have $200 million back.

Clarissa Jacobson 18:27
They don't cost anything to open it up Twitter counters or anything. I just work.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Yeah, it's it's a lot of work. Absolutely. I think it all depends, too is how much how long? What's the long game here? Because if it's just the one movie because it takes so long to get one movie made, let alone trying to do like two or three. So focusing all your energies at the beginning on individual projects would be great. But then you could also coincide that with a company site or branded site like, like trauma. I'm thinking like trauma films. Yeah. If you're making the same

Clarissa Jacobson 18:58
Thing because trauma has I mean, differently good trauma has a very specific niche style, right? If you're a filmmaker maybe who just does so like I have a comedy horror I have a historical horror, I have a feel good drama I have. There's my films are different. So it'd be hard for somebody who likes I mean, you know, they might people I think would like that like my stuff like my voice, but they might not necessarily like my drama, they might only like my comedy horror. So then, um, you know, I just feel like I can groom people so much more just having, you know, but like, like a trauma. You're expecting a cert in there. All those films are kind of the same, the same vibe. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 19:37
I agree. So if you are a filmmaker who's going to be like, I'm going to be a horror filmmaker. And that's all I'm going to do. That might be something. Yeah, I can see doing that way. Yeah. Or if you're a comedy, and all you do is comedy, there might be something of but if you want to, you know, move across. I gotcha. Gotcha. Now, the big thing with with short films is film festivals. Like how do I get into film festivals? How do I submit the Film Festivals. What's that? What's the it's a land. It's a landmine, field Land, land field related land, field minefield, a minefield of all sorts of do's and do nots and secret. Like you shouldn't do that. But no one's ever told me that before and all this kind of stuff. So what advice do you have for filmmakers submitting to film festivals today?

Clarissa Jacobson 20:24
Well, first of all, and I think I read this in a book a while back and that but I kind of perfected my way of doing it is to have to have a list. But you you can you, you have an Excel spreadsheet where it tells what the early bird is the you know, the so that so that way you can track you can look at that spreadsheet every day and track to get your films to get your film in the early bird. So you can save money that way. And you can kind of organize it by you know, by what you want from your films. So like, Are you a person who wants to have maybe be nominated for an Oscar so like, for example, I was like, Yeah, fuck yeah, I want to be nominated for an Oscar. I'm gonna go I'm gonna go for all the Oscar films for sure. Right? Don't put those all on my list. And then I'm going to go for you know, I'm going to do I did a little research about you know, you like great horror festivals. And so I knew I wanted to be a bunch of horror. So I put those on my list. And then I started really getting into the idea. pretty early on that I was going to get subtitles for everything because even though that's a little bit upfront, you put like 100 bucks or whatever down for 200 bucks for your subtitles. In the end, it saves you so much money because so many festivals across the world are free to enter. And so once I got on the bandwagon of getting first of all, just getting your English subtitles is amazing because once you get your English subtitles, a lot of film festivals will just take your film. Foreign festivals will take your film as your film with the English subtitles and make subtitles for you. So I think that the first festival I got in that was I submitted it with English subtitles was more beat on then they wanted Spanish subtitles. But then all the festivals after that, that I entered, they all made the male made the subtitles for me and then opened up this incredible world in Europe where all the festival first of all, like I went on other other sites because people want always want to just go on Film Freeway, well, there's fest home, there's short film depot, and you can find like the most amazing freakin festivals on there. But your film has got to have some subtitles. But by the time you're done, you're you're you know, so I would what I would do is I go on those those sites and I'd look every week and see what the what ones coming up work, you know, and then I see is that right for me. And if it's free to enter a couple bucks, what do you have to lose nothing, if you got your subtitles. And then you're also having a long game if you have your subtitles, because then if you get picked up by a sales rep, or you do it yourself, then you can, which is harder to do it yourself to get your film distributed in Europe. But if you have a sales rep, then they can go and sell your film in France and Germany, because you already have the subtitles. So I you know, so like, and the other thing is, is a lot of people would say to me, can I have your list? You know, because I want to know, I want to know which ones to enter. And I would say Well, first of all, every film is different. So my film was a 18 minute film. So I didn't there was festivals, I couldn't enter because it was too long, too long. My comedy horror, and in AI and the thing about doing your own list and going out there and researching and like looking at these festivals and see and looking at their websites is pretty soon you start to get a real feel of what's out there, what your film might be right for now, you're always surprised by what your film gets in, like, sometimes you think Oh, for sure that's a shoo in. And other times you don't you know, but you do get a feel, you do get a feel. And I can't say enough even though it's a lot of work to create a list, you know, about what first of all the film, the festivals that you think will fit your film, the festivals that are free. The festivals that maybe are Oscar and you you make that list and you also put the early bird down. So you know that you know how much money you're spending or you know how to weigh it. Once you've made that list. It's like you kind of feel I mean, I like I really got like a real feel of what's out there. And what in what to submit to and how and how to do it, how to get stuff going. So I think it's really important. Like I get filmmakers all the time. I'm like, hey, you know, like, I'll see their phone be like, I bet this film would be great for this or this or this, like I'll give I'm happy to like tell people that. But I but I don't like when people say can I have your list? Because I'm like, how is my list that specific for my film going to help your film? Right? You have to take that time. You have to take that time to create that list. And I was coming from Ground Zero to like I had never been on the festival route. I didn't know I mean, you know, I knew I knew Sundance.

Alex Ferrari 24:50
Yeah. Yes. The five the top five. Okay, no, Toronto. Yeah, yeah, Rebecca

Clarissa Jacobson 24:56
Just got to get out there and just kind of like and then another way that I did it too as I decided that I wanted my lunch ladies to go all over the world. So I'd be like, Oh, God, I gotta get in a festival in Venezuela I haven't been an investor woman is and which ones these have not been Venezuela yet.

Alex Ferrari 25:10
She's still trying, but they didn't they didn't pay your weight. All right, you bet you paid your own way. No, no,

Clarissa Jacobson 25:15
I mean, I met like my, my film, like, I had this feeling like I would create, I created a map of where they had been, because I loved the idea of them going to these, you know, places like in December, it's going to be in Bali. I mean, it's going, you know, so like, There's something so amazing about having your film be seen all over the world. So that's another way to do it, like has your film been seen in Spain and to not get to not give up because it can take a while to break into a country. And then once you break in, it's like, the programmers all talk to each other. And they get to you, they hear about you and the Europeans especially like, I feel like the programmers there really talk to each other and really share films, and really, they'll play your film more than once. So you know, that's another way to do it, too, is like geo geographically or like, which states have by knocking into if you can't decide which ones to enter, you know,

Alex Ferrari 26:05
So the thing, I think one of the big problems that filmmakers have, as well as they always focus on the top five, or 10, the Sundance is and the slam dances and these, these kind of festivals, and the I always tell them, like the chances of you getting your film in are so astronomical. I mean, it was like 30,000 submissions to Sundance last night. And, you know, 110, including shorts get in. So it's so astronomical to get into those kinds of things. And they feel like they're failures when they don't get into the big, the big 10, or the big 20, even bigger, and I always tell them, It's not about you. It's not personal, it's not about your film, you're not hitting what they are looking for that year, that year, they really might be into this kind of film, with this kind of filmmaker attached to it. It's political, it has little to do with the quality of your film, to be honest with you, because I've seen a lot of good projects that don't get in. And then I see projects, sometimes it like, I never forgot this. And forgive me if there's a filmmaker who did this, but I couldn't. I was so angry. I was at Sundance, was such Sundance, and I went I went to the shorts of a shorts block. And I see is called Batman goes on a date, a Robin goes on a date. Okay, and it's Justin Long as Robin and Sam Rockwell as Batman. And, and, and Robin and Justin is like, you know, trying to go on a date, and then Batman's trying to basically move in on Robins date. And that's the short film. And I'm sitting there going, if that was done with anybody other than Justin and Sam rock, it would have never made the Sundance block. And I go, that's just that just upset me. Because I was like, I don't have access to SAM and Justin, especially in 2005. So that it just was like, but that's the way the game is played. It's unfortunate. It's unfortunate. Sometimes, you'll get you know, and then sometimes you'll get the Cinderella stories and sometimes you'll get people that don't have names, get into those festivals, of course, based on their quality and things like that. But that was just one example. It's like, oh, it's not really about my project.

Clarissa Jacobson 28:18
I I find that like you have to go for the big ones. Sure. Because it's fun. But also sometimes like there's ones that are like just so that opened up so many freakin doors. I've had festivals that have opened up so many doors you know that that maybe if that you know cuz I've seen I you know, I talked about this so like, you know, I didn't my film did not get in Sundance. Okay. But,

Alex Ferrari 28:49
Mine either by the way, you're in good company,

Clarissa Jacobson 28:52
You know, but then my film got in Claremont fron and that was the festival that I needed to get it going. Sure. But But, but you know, there's plenty people I mean, come up front is the most amazing festival. There's plenty people don't know, Claremont fry is right. So you know, I got you know, I'd get in that one or I get in some small or into some small festival that I couldn't get in. Or I'd enter another festival that nobody had heard of, but that festival would open another door for something else. So like the idea is like to check out the festivals and make sure they have a real thing going you know, to know that they're legit or not to feel good fake or, and to really just be thankful when you get in them and not. You know, like it was it was a total crazy thing when it got in that one and I wasn't even in the competitive section. And it still was like the most amazing thing in the world. But like, I didn't get in South by Southwest I didn't get in you know a ton of it. But there's always a festival that's that it's for your film and you just got to get out there and just submit some MIT submit and realize, you know, like when I actually did a whole, a whole chapter about that, about why your film doesn't get in festivals, because it's a mindfuck. If you if you go down that path to start believing that your film was bad, you'll drop out and I talked to people that will be like, Oh, I've entered 10 festivals, and I only got one. So I'm dropping out. And I'm like, you know, the average is 10% of the festivals that you get in. So that means you're gonna average film gets in only 10% of the festivals. Oh, yeah. Just get out there and keep, and you can't have, you know, like, there's people that I know, that's a small festival, you know, some of the smallest festivals have been the most amazing.

Alex Ferrari 30:36
Three are the best. They're the best it was ever. I went to I went to when I with my first film, I, I got into so many festivals, but I got into my first 35 festivals turned down from all the major festivals because I had a 20 minute, right, you know, action thriller, not the film festival grading, you know. So, you know, I got into a lot of genre and all that stuff. But after 35 episodes at 35, festivals, I'd spent about $1,000, in submission fees. So I was just like, I didn't know anything about anything. I was just trying to

Clarissa Jacobson 31:10
Bring up the free festivals in Europe.

Alex Ferrari 31:12
I mean there was no free festivals in Europe. I didn't know about any of that stuff. And subtitling costs $10 a minute. So back then it was a whole other world. But then after a while, I said, Well, I got into 35 festivals, no festival that I'm going to get into from this point on is going to explode my career is the way I thought about it. So I'm like, right, I just boycotted paying for festivals anymore. So I just said, I'm not gonna pay for any more festivals. Now. Right? What I did at that point is I didn't stop submitting, I submitted to everybody. And because my branding and my marketing was was so on point with the trailer, my trailer was watched 20,000 times back in 2005. So it was a whole lot like, you know, it's I think it's one of the first trailers ever on YouTube. I'm so old, is I looked it up. I looked it up the other day. I looked it up the other day. And I was like, oh my god, am I the first movie trailer ever on YouTube? And I found, I think Sony Classics had put one up. Oh, my God, I love it. So so it's still up there. And it got like 20 30,000 views back then I've seen and it's a great trailer. Yes. So it was so because of that, I was very confident. I was like, hey, look, I already got some of these other vessels. So what I would do is I would submit to everybody, I mean, I did not discriminate, I submitted to everybody that could be submitted to, and then they would go back and like oh, we like your film, I'm like, great. If you if I'm accepted, I'll be more than happy to pay your submission fee. But I'm not gonna pay a submission fee. If for the mere chance of getting it because at this point in the game, I'm not gonna throw another three or 4000. Right. And I it worked enough that I got into another couple.

Clarissa Jacobson 32:53
And it does get Yeah, I mean, the truth is, is like, you know, if you get that roll going, then people start to come to you. Right. And actually, it takes a little bit, you know, like it's building you know, Jerome Kershaw and calls it a pedigree, it's building that pedigree, I didn't realize that that's what I was doing. When I was like, you know, emailing every single day, you know, someone to write about my film, no matter how small it was, like every single day, like just just building these reviews, building these reveals just creating this buzz for my film. So that after about I would say it took it took a while, but about six or seven months, then I started having people come to me saying, Can I see the film, you don't have to pay the you don't pay the submission fee? Can I see the film? You know,

Alex Ferrari 33:36
It takes a minute, it takes a minute, but once you're able to build up that momentum at a certain point, and don't get me wrong, I got a lot of film festivals. I was like, yeah, no, we need you to pay the submission. I'm like, that's fine. I'm not going to.

Clarissa Jacobson 33:47
And you hustle in the beginning and you always gotta hustle through the whole thing, but it does. But when it starts snowballing and you start getting like people excited and hearing about it and stuff like that, then then it becomes even becomes even more worth it. You know, cuz getting some positive reinforcement.

Alex Ferrari 34:02
And some of the best experiences I've ever had at festivals are always been the small ones. Because it's, it's, it's kind of a mom and pop. Like, you know, everybody, everybody knows you. They treat you like family. Whereas in some larger festivals who shall remain nameless?

Clarissa Jacobson 34:18
Yeah, I can go over that with you.

Alex Ferrari 34:21
After Yeah, I mean, there's a there's one specifically in LA.

Clarissa Jacobson 34:26
I think. That same one. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 34:29
And that specific one in 2005 It's not Holly shorts, by the way. I love Holly shorts. It but I I do 1005 I submitted and got accepted. And it was a fairly big one. It was an Oscar, whatever qualifier and all this kind of stuff. I flew my ass across the country. Put myself up in Hollywood. Can you imagine I was in a hotel in Hollywood. Me and my friend. I never forgot it. We might meet my producing partner we got into this hotel room and the beds. Like

Clarissa Jacobson 35:10
Shut the window.

Alex Ferrari 35:11
No the beds were they were so they were so close to each other it almost seemed comedic.

Clarissa Jacobson 35:17
Like you want trains and automobiles?

Alex Ferrari 35:20
Like is this is this a cleaning closet? And then like out front when I walk into like, you know Marilyn Monroe stayed here once I'm like I'm sure she did but Jesus guys so it caught it cost us a couple you know, by 1000 bucks. 1500 bucks, if not more back to go over there. So we get to our screening. We were in a block with everybody else. And then at the end, no q&a. No q&a, only thing I wanted. It was a q&a. And I talked to the the programmers there and then everyone's like, Sorry, can't do it. We're running late. I'm like, dude, and oh, by the way, I wasn't even the worst another another poor filmmaker in that block flew from Spain. And he didn't get his his and he only had the one screening. There's nothing so yeah, and that's off air. I'll tell you some other stories. But But, but but but, but some of these smaller festivals like there's a wonderful festival down in Florida called the Melbourne Independent Film Festival. I know those guys really well. They love filmmakers. They treated me like like gold. And they're wonderful. There's so many great film festivals out there that that will treat filmmakers well. So don't always look at the big boys the big boys.

Clarissa Jacobson 36:35
Oh, you do you do a nice little mix and then yeah, and now that they have you know fest home and Short Film depot, you can enter the foreign festivals for like next to nothing. And in I've had just met so many amazing people. Yeah. Let's talk many amazing people in the foreign festivals.

Alex Ferrari 36:53
So let's talk let's talk a little bit about the experience of working a festival because a lot of filmmakers just go there with their eyes full of shiny golden lights. and the like. Oh look the

Clarissa Jacobson 37:04
Right expectations like I had to Morty to see

Alex Ferrari 37:07
Exactly, you're like, oh my god, this is gonna be a mate's gonna be like up because all you think about a Sundance, so you think everything's gonna be like, I'm gonna walk the red carpet, there's gonna be people taking pictures of me everyone's gonna want to talk to me about my genius, and about my my artistic expression and how amazing I am. And then eventually, obviously, Steven Spielberg, or somebody is going to watch me for sure, obviously, from going to that first festival. So when you get there, so can we talk a little bit about how to actually work a festival, how to take advantage of what they have to offer and things like that, because a lot of filmmakers just go they're completely clueless about what this is, and what the true opportunities are. And what the true complete delusions?

Clarissa Jacobson 37:54
Yes, absolutely. So one thing is that you can do is you can always work a festival, even if you're not there. Oh, so that means that when you talk to the programmers, so they know who you are, like, don't be a pain in the ass, but you know, talk to them and say, you know, can I send postcards? Can I can I send a poster and I mean, I've sent them to Europe as many times as I could, because if because if you're not going to be there, at least or postcards will be there. And I will tell you like, even if you're not there the first part of the week, and you hear coming the second part of the week, you want your postcards there on the table, I've had distributors that have gone to see the film, because there was a postcard on the frickin table even though I wasn't there. So that's the first way to work your festival is to make sure you know and you got it you have to ask sometimes festivals don't want your swag and they don't want all that but like, you know, get up try to have a presence, then, you know, earned learned early on don't have expectations about how you think it's going to go. So I have a funny story about Morabito fest, which I just I love it so much. But when I went there, I missed my film both times the first time I got in an Uber X. For the first day I was in such a bad. It was like you know that James Bond movie, I got stuck in a Day of the Dead parade and I was running and I was sobbing and I was like me put me Gouda, which was the only Spanish words I knew. And I was running and I was like I couldn't the taxi cab driver dropped me off on the side of the freeway. I ran up I ran into this huge parade. I got to my film right when it was over and got to do the q&a with mascara running down my face. Said the second time.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
I mean, it was a horror comedy. So that makes sense.

Clarissa Jacobson 39:30
What is it 2000 3000 miles to know I know to do this to do this, right? And then the second time the film play twice. I was like I'm gonna get there really early. So I got there really early, you know, like had a gin and tonic like talk to people. And then I found out two minutes before that it was canceled. Yeah. And then I got in a second Uber accident on the way home. So like you'd think this would be like the worst situation right? Well, it wasn't because first of all I like I said I was telling you earlier I had stood in line for the opening night and I met my director there that of my current film. So if I hadn't gone to morbido Fest, I never would have met him. The grammar was just so wonderful like I I talked to him so many times, they've been so supportive, I wrote about them on my book. So you could look at that experiences like, oh my god, that was the worst experience in a world because you have this expectation that you're gonna go to the more Beto fast which is this amazing festival in Mexico City, you're going to be like hobnobbing, and you're going to Oh, and also I went to there was supposed to be a party and I went, I was there by myself and I speak Spanish and we're supposed to be a party. I go to the party, and the guy goes, no party here. No party here. So I went to a bar by myself drink a margarita. And the next morning, I saw on Instagram that they were all partying at the place where they told me there was no need. So that kind of like week but like, but at the same time, like that's when I was like, I already kind of gotten gone to a few festivals where it was like your expectation of what do you have no freakin idea what its gonna be but like, if you can just open it. Open yourself up to it. Something always something amazing always comes out of it. Even the worst festivals I've been horrible festivals where I meet just one person that's so freakin amazing. And they become like my best buddy. And they helped me so much. So the first thing is to try not to have expectations and know that something positive will always come out of it. And then you want to be as prepared as possible with all your stuff. So like, there was many times when I was the only one there with a poster

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Oh my god a poster and an easel postcards all that.

Clarissa Jacobson 41:27
I mean, it sounds simple. It's a pain in the ass to bring it but yeah, if you have a poster and evil people will see will tend to go to see your film over other people's films.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
Right, exactly. And it's, it's, it's just an interesting the whole thing I remember when I first my first I never forgot my first film festival ever got into because I didn't know anything about premieres or if there was premieres or anything like that. So I submitted and got into the Ocean City Film Festival in New Jersey. It's amazing way to make it. I won Best Director. Right, like right first first festival. I don't like a set. I'm like, This is gonna be easy. Like, obviously, everyone's seeing my changes. Like everyone's seeing my genius right away. This is Oh, I should be directing a studio movie within a year. And then I didn't get another award for a year.

Clarissa Jacobson 42:26
That's hard to like when you get in the you don't get you get rejected. But then you get then you then you don't you know, because it comes in waves get kinds of waves, you'll get accepted to a bunch and then it'll be like eight or nine rejections. Oh, yeah, it's it's never gonna get in another festival.

Alex Ferrari 42:42
No, no, it's crazy. But so but the best part was when I looked them up. And again, guys, this was 2005 when I looked it up on their website, which if you can imagine what a 2005 website done by somebody who doesn't know what a website is? It's absolutely brilliant. It was my film was being played at like Billy Bob's Crab Shack. And that was where they were holding the festival. They were like, basically just projecting it in the back of the bar. And this guy, and I think that went on for like two or three. I think it went on for two, three years. And then what a great story, but one I wish I would have gone. I wish I would have gone it would have been amazing. But yeah, but you just never. You never know who you're gonna meet. My best. My best story of working a festival is working Sundance, because I didn't get into Sundance, but I worked it. So in 2005 when my first film came out, my first short broken came out. I flew to Sundance, even though we got rejected, and we were just gonna like make sure everybody at Sundance knew about our film and we literally walked Mainstreet on Park in Park City, with a DVD portable DVD player really was showing people showing people the trailer. And we had postcards all over the place. And people are like, Where can I see this? And I would just send everybody to our website. And I got so much attention. We actually got more attention than most of the festival film.

Clarissa Jacobson 44:04
Yeah, you have to put yourself out there. You know, like, even if you're afraid and believe me, I'm I. I mean, I was so happy to be like out there doing it. So like, sure, you know, up but but I but yeah, there is fear like that. Yo, how am I going to talk to people, you know, and it's like, you just got to talk to people. You don't just pitch pitch. You get to know people and you like, and sometimes it's even better if you don't have your sometimes it's even better, it's fun, or if you have your team with you. But sometimes it's better even if you're by yourself. Because you need more people that way.

Alex Ferrari 44:35
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that it was at that year that we did I think one year we actually wrote We created our own passes. So my parties, so we actually created of like this ridiculous pass. That would not fool anybody. But again, this is 2005 so Sundance was a little bit different. And it just said All Access. That's all it said. It was just an all access. You have no idea

Clarissa Jacobson 45:00
But that takes so much chutzpah like I love that. They're probably like knew knew it was bullshit, but they were like, Oh man, we got to let these guys in because it's been

Alex Ferrari 45:08
You have no idea how many places we got in to. Because we acted like we were in the festival and we're like, oh yeah. And we will leave our postcards it like Sundance's like headquarters and then like, back in the day, like, Who's this guy? And you see it all in the garbage cans we pick them out of the garbage can we like it was just straight up. It was just straight up porcelain like hard, hardcore stuff, but we met or hustle but we met producers distributors that way we had it led to me flying up to they flew me up to Toronto to when we were going to try to make the feature and all this kind of craziness all because we went to a festival that we weren't accepted in. Yeah.

Clarissa Jacobson 45:49
And you work it you talk to people you like got a really I mean, it was parties we were we were like when I was at Monster palooza. I just walked up and down the line. Because I knew that people were there not to see films. And I just was like here, here's a lunch ladies here. Now we please show up my show.

Alex Ferrari 46:06
So this is so this is so this I'm going to tell the story. I'm I don't know if I should tell this story. But I think

Clarissa Jacobson 46:10
Yes, please do. If it's embarrassing tell it

Alex Ferrari 46:12
It's not embarrassing. It's actually a it's a hack. It's one of the many hacks discovered at Sundance.

Clarissa Jacobson 46:19
The to hacks, man. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 46:20
All right. So that was about it. But it does affect somebody else. So we knew so so because we were hustling so much. There was this one agent at CAA that we met there at some parties. And he was, he was a prick. And he wasn't very nice, but we knew his name. So what we would do is we would go to a party up in the hills at one of these giant houses. And they're like, where's the list? And like, Hi, John, John Smith from CAA. And they're like, go right on, and Mr. Smith, we would get there early before John would get that that was like because, because he treated us badly. So then what we would do is, so I would get in, and then I would walk in and find an exit or somewhere and I would let my buddy and I let my buddy and on the side. So we're there. Like I'd never forgot it. We were at this giant house, in the middle of you know, up in the hills in Park City. And we're like partying next to like, Paul Walker, Elijah Wood. Paris Hilton was there at the time, like, all awesome, man. I mean, we were just like, fifth. It's awesome. Oh my God, I believe we're here. Like love that you did that. But that's it. But you know, there was I was younger, I was more foolish that thing times with different guys times were different. But don't do that to any agents that cool guys, please. But, but it was a way it was. And we and one other trick that we did is we got to Sundance probably a date too early, while they were setting up. And we became we became friends with the door guys. That's smart, too. So we walked in, we became friends. We befriended them, we bought them little drinks here and there. So when the parties were happening on Main Street, we just walk up and like Baba and Baba would let us right in. And that was and that and we were able to get into parties that we had no business being in whatsoever. None. None whatsoever, like people are like is that why are these people? What the hell have these idiots? What's all access? What is that about? So? Oh, no, I should write a book just on my Sundance adventures. That's why I made my movie ego and desire because I'd love I just love.

Clarissa Jacobson 48:32
Yeah, I just started watching it. So fun. I think girls are pissed off, get all the credit.

Alex Ferrari 48:40
Because that never happens. Never happens in filmmaking ever. Never. He goes, he goes in filmmaking. Never in a million years would that happen? So, um, so let me get oh,

Clarissa Jacobson 48:53
And show up. The other thing too, is to show up, like can cost you $1,000 Go to the festivals like I mean, I saved a little nest egg. And I found out you know, using Scott's flights, which is amazing that you could go to Europe for pretty much the same price as you can go to New York City to see a festival because a lot of the foreign festivals will pay for your hotels or they'll put for for you know, food or whatever. You know, and I just can't tell you like how valuable it was just meeting just going and meet new people.

Alex Ferrari 49:23
And especially if you're if you're not in LA or New York or Austin or or a hub where there's a lot of filmmakers or in Atlanta. You you get to interact with your kind. Your your people, you meet other filmmakers, you meet other producers, you meet other writers and the networking that you do at these festivals. Even if it's a little hole in the wall festival is important. There's somebody there that you can meet. You have no idea who you can meet there. And sometimes there's a panelist who's on a panel somewhere and you walk up afterwards, and you and you introduce yourself and it's a Weird thing at a festival? Like you couldn't do that on the streets of LA. But no. But at a festival, it's acceptable to a certain extent. Like if they're at the bar, you can walk up to them. And Oh, totally friend.

Clarissa Jacobson 50:13
What do you do? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 50:15
Do you have any advice? All that stuff? By the way, if you do meet somebody at a festival that's like, you know, big writer, big director, producer, don't just start asking them for things. Please know where and Can I buy you a drink? You know, what advice do you know? What advice do you have for him? But don't go hey, can you see my movie? Hey, can you Hey, hey, I got this script. Don't.

Clarissa Jacobson 50:37
Don't you know, the other good way to is, I know, this goes without saying, but this happened. I mean, this happened. And I talked about this in book two. Another way to make sure that you work a festival is is freakin support the other filmmakers see their films. And when you go to a block and your film is played, don't get up after yours is done. Watch the rest of the films. Right? Do that not like really? Nothing is like worse will than going to a block and somebody gets up in the middle after their film is done and doesn't watch the rest of the filmmakers to support them.

Alex Ferrari 51:12
Yeah, there's there's that Yeah. Yeah, I've been in those. I've been in those as well. And

Clarissa Jacobson 51:18
Makers are your like best.

Alex Ferrari 51:20
The worst is when you get to a film when you're at a film festival, and like the only people in the audience are you in the crew. And that's and there's like, Okay, we bought 10 tickets. Okay. I see there's some sort of

Clarissa Jacobson 51:33
Every once in a while, there's a small audience and yeah, which is great, which is great. And you're like, Oh, bummer. It's a small audience. But I've learned to love small audiences, too. Because sometimes, you could have a huge audience and not a single person could do anything for you, you can have a small audience, and there's somebody there that can help you in some way or wants to help you. Right? So never look down on even a small audience. You just don't know who's in that audience.

Alex Ferrari 51:55
I'm gonna I'm gonna tell one more story. When I was at the Toronto Film Festival, in 2005, or six, somebody, one of the producers who I was working with at the time to like, Hey, we're distributing this film. Here's a ticket to go see this film. It was like a, an independent film. I'm like, Cool. So I went, and we sat there. And I was with my partner, my producing partner, and we look in the back and the like, is that Roger Ebert? sitting in the corner of the theater? And he goes, I think it is, I'm like, let's go up and talk to him. This is before the movie starts. Like let's, let's go up and talk to Roger Ebert. So we walk up over to Roger Ebert. And Roger, you know, we're like, Oh, my God, Roger, you're like the best. Like, you know, we're such big fans of yours, all this stuff. So we're talking to Roger Ebert. And all of a sudden, and then we start, like, we start yapping about our film, like, Oh, we got this, we've got our movie. And we did it for like $8,000. And it's got like 100 visual effects shots in and we shot it with its digital camera, and it looks like film and all this kind of stuff. And we're disputing things off. There is nowhere in my mind that I believe that Roger Ebert will ever watch my film. That's not even that that has not even crossed my mind at all. I'm just depressing. I'm just expressing. I'm just expressing I'm just expressing to Roger Ebert, who was an idol of mine, what I've done as a filmmaker, right in the middle of the conversation, I see something change in his eyes, and he kind of tilts his head, and he goes, Can I take a picture of you guys? And I said, Sure, Roger Ebert. That would be awesome. That was he had, he had his, like, he carried around the, you know, this is before iPhones. So he carried around his, you know, his, his digital his camera with them. So he, and he, you know, we take a picture, he takes a picture of both of us. And, and the only ignorant thing in my mind is like, well, now I can ask him for a picture too, because he asked for one of ours because I wasn't going to ask him for one until this happened. Because I'm not that guy didn't want to like you get big. But he took one of me. So now it's fair. I want to take a picture with you. And he's like, Sure. So I got a picture with Roger. And and then he's like, you know, this story would make a nice little story from my blog, about up and coming technologies, and all of this cause all the up and coming technologies and filmmakers using this. I'm like, great. Would you like to watch our movie? Bam, here's a DVD. And we happen to have our DVD with us. And he's like, Sure, I'll take this. So we took it. And we're like, great, you know, because originally, as we were talking and talking, he's like, Guys, I can't I can't watch your film. I it's not in the festival and I there's so many hours in a day I have and we're like, Roger, of course you're not going to watch our film. You're Roger Ebert. Why in God's green earth would you watch our little $8,000 short film from West Palm Beach, Florida. Like, hey, makes no sense. I made him want to watch it. Um, so then he grabbed it. He took it and we're like, okay, hold on. Ever watch that, but that was really nice of him to do that we got a picture with Roger, but that's all we got. So we fly back to Florida, when we land, our emails blowing up because everyone's like, Roger Ebert reviewed your film on his blog, and wrote a story about

Clarissa Jacobson 55:15
The jackpot.

Alex Ferrari 55:16
I'm like, what? And we went to his website, and oh, my God, it's there. It's still there. It's still it's still there. He wrote a long article about a bunch of films he watched. And he in that article, he also wrote about us that he watched the film, he gave us two lines in the movie, effective and professional. What did he say? Oh, got it. I used to repeat it, like on verbatim, but he's like, Oh, the mastery of horror imagery and techniques. I'm like, holy cow, Roger,

Clarissa Jacobson 55:49
But he was he was vibing on your authenticity and your passion. So I would I had similar things happen like that. No, but it was situation at Claremont fron were friends 24 There's a million filmmakers. And they came up to me and I got to have my little film on Fritz 24. You know, what it was to me sedative section. But he said, I said, Why me? He goes, because you were so passionate and excited about your film. So that like translates that's uh, you know, that's, you know, bringing it up. I'm sure. That's why he probably was like, There's no way in hell, I'm gonna see these guys film, but your passion and your authenticity about it, not pushing it. He was like, I got to see this.

Alex Ferrari 56:26
And I'll never forget, I will never forget that to the day I die that a giant like Roger Ebert that's insane. Gave a little a little he sprinkled a little magic dust on on us. And then from there ever was still the best bet still the best film critic in history of film critics. Yeah. But he because of that quote. And because of that attention. I that was my lead with zactly every festival I'm like Roger Ebert reviewed it, Roger Avery, because

Clarissa Jacobson 56:55
See, that's what I mean. Like, when you You never know, like, who's gonna be there. And what you're in is going to be I mean, I've talked about this before, like, I've been in festivals, you know, with films that have gone to Sundance where they, the people in Sundance did their film, they did nothing with their film, they didn't promote it, they were just like, if I was in Sundance, right, their film didn't go anywhere. It just wasn't Sundance, that was it? Right. So. So you know, like, you don't have to get in sun. You know, it's what you do with your film where and who you the passion that you exude when you're you're there. And you you meet? Roger you, but

Alex Ferrari 57:28
It was the most and it was such an it was like, like you were talking about earlier is like, how do these things happen? There was no reason for us to be there, there would have been never asked juried in everything. Everything just happened. Like I met this person that

Clarissa Jacobson 57:41
They feel like I feel like you just drew that dude to you

Alex Ferrari 57:44
No, there's there. Yeah, there was an energy there thing there no question. But then you're like, Okay, here's the ticket to the screening of this obscure independent film from Australia, then, and then I just happened he showed up and showed up and oh, my God, there's

Clarissa Jacobson 57:57
The universe gave me the ticket. And a lot of people be like, oh, you know what, I'm just gonna go have a drink with my buddy. You know, you know, like, I'm gonna go next door that Oh,

Alex Ferrari 58:06
And that and that that one moment, or that one moment opened up so many doors, and I got called by, like I said, Oscar winning producer.

Clarissa Jacobson 58:15
Oh, my God. Yeah. Example the proof for

Alex Ferrari 58:19
Yeah, it was in for a short film. That wasn't in the festival in 2005.

Clarissa Jacobson 58:25
He doesn't even he doesn't he doesn't learn there. He does. Yeah, I mean, he does, I think, only times I've ever heard him even

Alex Ferrari 58:31
Reviewing a short. And when I say review, I use that term very loosely. He watched it and gave me to

Clarissa Jacobson 58:36
Talk about it. And he said nothing about it, and you can use it. And it was positive. It said something positive.

Alex Ferrari 58:42
It was sneaky. And he was so kind. I could have said negative. But he was the thing about him is he he was kind when he didn't need to be kind. He was supportive when he didn't need to be supportive. And that is that is the hallmark of a great, great person in our business. Because and I've heard this, I've heard similar stories about Steven Spielberg, constantly do out. I interview many of his collaborators. I've spoken to many people who've worked with him on the writing side, on the cinematography side on the producing side. And I hear the same things about Stephen that he does things behind the scenes that you're just like, oh my god, he has no reason to be. He there's no need for him to

Clarissa Jacobson 59:29
Always here. Good stuff. James Cameron.

Alex Ferrari 59:32
James Cameron. Well, James Cameron, let me I'd love Jim. I mean, Jim is Jim he's, there's no other filmmaker liking

Clarissa Jacobson 59:39
Stuff, good stuff behind the scenes about him. I've heard good stuff, too.

Alex Ferrari 59:42
He helps. He helps when he can help. I've heard there's also those legendary stories about his temper onset. But, um, but he's he's mellowed over the years and I know a lot of people who've worked with Jim as well. Um, I actually know what it is neighbors cuz he told me stories I was like, he has what? What does he do? That's amazing. But there's there's these giants who who are kind when they don't need to be kind, you know, I got a I got a an autograph from George Lucas in middle of from when he was only gonna have to that's just his book I wish I was a Stanley Kubrick. But But yeah, like he didn't have he didn't have to be that nice. So there's these giants who are nice and are that don't need to be nice and that's such a refreshing thing and Roger Ebert story is one of those. But anyway, so that's something we could keep. We can keep yapping about this for hours, where can people where can people buy your book?

Clarissa Jacobson 1:00:48
Um, so you can get it at my website? HeyImClarissaJ, or you can get it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble target Sunbury Press published, so you can get it there. If you get it from my website, I'll send you some lunch lady swag. Book. If you get it from Amazon, you probably can get a cheaper you can get it on Kindle. You know, so yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:11
Is it an audio book yet? Or not yet? No, it's not you right now. But right now that my but when you're stopped when you stop talking to me, you're going to start recording your audio book. And we'll talk about it afterwards. If I ask you a few questions, ask all my guests. What advice would you have for a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Clarissa Jacobson 1:01:35
The biggest thing for me always is to surround yourself to find a class and surround yourself with people that will hold you up and help you and to keep learning.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:44
So what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Clarissa Jacobson 1:01:50
That I am enough. And everybody talks a lot about filmmakers and artists having egos. But, you know, there, I always felt and I know a lot of people feel this way that you just I just wasn't no matter how many classes I took that I just on, no matter how much I did it that there was that I just wasn't enough that I could, I couldn't you know, and then when I just kind of set back into like, I'm enough and they're either gonna get me or not get me. Things started to turn for me, like when you when you can find that belief in yourself. And I have this like, I have this crazy story like when am I in my 20s. So I, I when I was an actress, I wanted to be unmad TV. And I like this is a perfect example. I want to be a man TV and I just bugged them and bug them bug them for an audition. And I finally get to go to the audition. And you had to do three characters and an impersonation. So I decide that I'm going to dress up as my character which was a bingo lady, that the bingo lady and carry a suitcase with all my clothes and do my whole like little stand up thing with them. So I show up to the audition. And I'm the only one dressed up. And all these girls are kind of talking. And I hear like the lady at the front desk doesn't know that here, but I hear her go. Clarissa Jacobson's here, you should see her right. And I felt so mortified and so embarrassed. And so just being in that place of like, Hey, I'm awesome. I showed up. So I went and I did my audition. I did okay, it wasn't. I just was like, I was off. I was off because I was upset about it. I didn't get I didn't get on my TV. But years later, I read that Pee Wee Herman did the same thing for Saturday Night Live. And the difference between him and B was he was so completely in his own like, Fuck, yeah, I'm showing up in my clothes. I'm going to do my thing. And he owned it. And I look back as like a younger artist about thing just not owning. My does.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:46
Yeah, that's that. Yeah. It was so funny. Because I've actually, in my first feature, I worked with Deborah Wilson and, and Joe Michelle McGee on both mad TV alumni. Oh, really? Yes. And they've told me stories all the time about oh my god, it's the golden days of Mad TV and stuff.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:04:03
And I just was like, if so many times if I had just owned because I actually had a frickin good idea of I mean, it was good enough for Peewee Herman. It's just being haters. They were just being haters, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:14
And if you could just be authentic with who you are. That is what's that's what makes you stand out. Yeah, you're authentic and you own your space like Andy Kaufman come out. I mean, come on. He mean, like you look at Andy Kaufman, he owned everything he did, to a level that is beyond normal human capacity. And he did it. He did it in such a level that they're just like, well, we he's we don't understand what he's doing. Let him sit next to that record player and sing my and Mighty Mouse just like it's you like, Oh my God. It's like, but that's the authenticity.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:04:49
So the new idea, don't let the haters get you down.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:53
Own it, own it, own it, own it. If your three of your favorite films of all time.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:04:59
The magic second film Santa song Gray. I don't know if you've seen that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:03
Vaguely sounds familiar.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:05:05
Okay. A girl walks home alone. And I'm 16 candles.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Nice mix.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:05:17
John Hughes is a genius. John was right teens like even today nobody writes teens like John Hughes.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
Amen. Amen. But Clarissa thank you so much for being on the show. It has been fun. It's been a joy talking to you. And I hope I hope a whole bunch of filmmakers go out and read the book because it is a guide to really helping you through these treacherous waters and spiders. And I appreciate you so thank you again for being on the show.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:05:42
Thanks so much, Alex. It was really fun.

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BPS 300: How I Wrote Erin Brockovich with Susannah Grant

In the male-dominated world of Hollywood, Susannah Grant has emerged as a powerful force, breaking barriers and reshaping the landscape of screenwriting. With her unique storytelling abilities and uncompromising vision, Grant has become a trailblazer, paving the way for women in the film industry.

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Alex Ferrari 1:39
Well guys, today on the show, we have Academy Award nominee, Susannah Grant, and Susannah wrote the Oscar winning film, Erin Brockovich, as well as 28 days with Sandra Bullock in her shoes with Cameron Diaz catch and release with Jennifer Garner, Charlotte's Web, the soloist with Robert Downey and Jamie Foxx, and so, so, so much more. Suzanne and I have a deep sit down conversation about her process, her journey as a screenwriter and advice that she gives to up and coming screenwriters trying to break into the business today. So without any further ado, let's dive in. I'd like to welcome to the show Susannah Grant. How you doin Susannah?

Susannah Grant 2:26
I'm great Alex, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 2:27
I'm doing very good. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I've been a fan of your work from 20 days to in her shoes. I love romantic comedies. Of course, Erin Brockovich. Even Pocahontas, too, when I was doing well in the 90s

Susannah Grant 2:43
I had some troubles

Alex Ferrari 2:46
I'm sure you do. I'm sure you do. But even the you were coming in on Pocahontas. You were coming in at that wave of the 90s. Yeah, eight late 80s early and and The Little Mermaid Lion King Aladdin, it was just like each does printing money.

Susannah Grant 3:02
But yeah, they weren't they they were doing really beautiful work and bringing back the movie musical, which was fantastic. And so I was really happy to be a part of it. And, you know, it's not how it's not how we would make a story about Native Americans today, which we've? Yeah, there have been some advances. There has been I learned a ton. I learned a ton. I have not gone back into animation, because animation is not covered by the guild. So oh, it isn't? I don't know. It's not it's actually covered by a different union, oddly, which has to do with the history of animation, but no writing for writing for so. You know, I look at Linda Woolverton who wrote these huge Disney movies and the amount of money she has not received for her work that she would have been a union project. Anyway. That's another story. But I have not worked in animation since largely because of that, but but it's a really rigorous place to start, because the tradition of animation is is that the story artists tell the story, storyboard artists, that was how it was done early in the day at Disney and Howard Ashman and Alan Menken brought in writers and that was the beginning of this sort of renaissance that they that they brought in. So we were writers, I had two partners on that Carl binder and Philip was ethnic and but there were also story artists who considered themselves writers. So you would, there was a lot of tension in it, which was, you know, good and bad, but there was it was incredibly rigorous. You know, there's no scene in that movie that was written any fewer than 3035 times it was just over and over and over for your first gig. It's really good. It's a it's like a boot camp, you know,

Alex Ferrari 5:00
How does I mean seriously because I was gonna ask you about Pocahontas. But since we started there, why don't we just keep going? The because I have friends who are animators I've been inside the Disney Studios, I see how they work. And he told me all about the process and the directors and how they work with the storyboard artists. But it must be frustrating as a writer to have storyboard art basically storyboard artists dictating story as a right, and it must have been just been this really interesting thing to deal with as a young writer as well.

Susannah Grant 5:33
Yeah, well, and I haven't been there in the sort of post Pixar Universe. And, you know, I don't know how they're doing it now. And at the time, you know, the animation tradition is very profound and sacred to people. So you don't want to dishonor that I was, I was still in film school, you know, when I got that job. So to get the job. You know, I my first year of film school, I won the nickel Fellowship, which is a fellowship that the academy gives, and that just gives your work, more visibility. And then you start meeting folks. And I did and I had, I was in school, I was still in school, I had a second year of film school. So I would get offered jobs that just smelled like really bad jobs that would go nowhere. And I had the luxury of being able to say no, because I was in film, I was in school, you know. So it had to be appealing enough to pull me away from getting my masters, which I want to get. And then eventually, you know, after I said no to a few things from Disney Animation, I learned quickly, that saying no, doesn't mean they'll never ask you again. It just means they'll offer you something better. So eventually, they came to me, they came to me with some ideas. Like we don't even know what this is. It's just a word. You know, whales, just whale. And I thought now I know, that meant that movies never ever getting me. By the way. All the things they pitched me before this. There were about five of them. None of them have gotten made. So I actually had a wonderful teacher in film school named Jerry Cass and I would sort of floated by him and he'd go, Nope, don't do it. Don't do it. And then they called one day instead, this one has a release date. And I thought all right, Jack out of school early for something

Alex Ferrari 7:30
The whole polka. Yeah, the whole the whole Pocahontas thing. I think it works. Yeah, I think we haven't released it. It's gonna go.

Susannah Grant 7:36
Yeah, yeah. So you know, I was new, and I was green. And I was humbled. And I had two other writers who are great pals and great writers. And, you know, anytime it gets rough, for God's sake, you're doing a Disney animated movie. And you're, you know, I was, I was never unaware of how fortunate I was. So even on the difficult days, I was happy to be there.

Alex Ferrari 8:01
Yeah, it's it's a magical place. I've been in and many times at Disney animation. And it is, it's a beautiful, wonderful, and I've heard stories I remember tangled, was in development for 10 years, really everything on it. I saw them I saw the art was a completely different from what we saw, a year before release, stripped it all start again. And they did that with every single movie since not why they are not precious.

Susannah Grant 8:33
And the great thing is when you're working on one of them, you know, when we were working on Pocahontas, Lion King was in its finishing stages. So we had the advantage of being adjacent to that work, which was tremendous. And then hunchback was behind us. So we were aware of that as well. And so you ended up part of this continuum

Alex Ferrari 8:58
Was a magical time. It wasn't that that those that five to 10 year window of Disney animation was pretty remarkable. It's hard for people to understand, because it was pretty much dead in the water. Yeah, it was. It's a little mermaid showed up and then we're like, oh, okay,

Susannah Grant 9:14
Until Alan Menken and Howard Ashman came in said, we can

Alex Ferrari 9:18
Katzenberg and Katzenberg came in and started doing some stuff and there was a

Susannah Grant 9:23
Professional meeting was a meeting with Jeffrey I think it was at 7:30 in the morning on Mother's Day, Sunday.

Alex Ferrari 9:30
Of course, of course,

Susannah Grant 9:31
There was some rigor to that,

Alex Ferrari 9:35
To say the least. So your first writing gig was out of school was straight into Disney Studios working with it. So after you're done with that whole process, you then started working on television, you went into party five,

Susannah Grant 9:47
I really hadn't had a plan to work in television, you know, I've been my sort of House of Worship growing up as it was was a movie movie theater.

Alex Ferrari 10:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Susannah Grant 10:10
So that felt like the sort of form of American storytelling I was dying to be a part of, and contribute to when that was a conversation I wanted to be a part of. But I got this pilot shown to me that was made by Chris Kaiser and Amy Lippmann called Party of Five. And it was beautiful. And it felt like my sensibility and they were the best people in the world. And I didn't you know, Ben, so I went and did that for a bit.

Alex Ferrari 10:41
You did that for a few years. So let me ask you, what were some of the biggest lessons working in that writers room and, and really kind of, because it's one thing is being a feature writer, and another one's being a TV writer, it's it's a grind, it's a daily grind, with television, as opposed to feature screenwriting, which is, take your time, you can

Susannah Grant 11:03
Also have daily grind. It is, it is no I was opposed to the lonelier daily grind.

Alex Ferrari 11:09
Right! But a lot of times, if you're doing a spec or something you could do you could be on that spec for five years. This is like there's a deadline, and you gotta go, you gotta go. Yeah, what you learn.

Susannah Grant 11:19
It's funny, when I look back at it, I really think of the lessons I learned less being about craft. And being more about how do you how do you choose to live this writer's life, that was a remarkably wonderful group of people were kind to each other and supportive of each other and funny, and you could you could share your ATSC with them. And they would only love you more, you know, and this is exactly the kind of environment you want for a beautiful collaborative workplace. And it's sort of set in my head that as a bar, and I've really actually been quite fortunate in that I've had very few professional collaborations that have not felt like that. I mean, I've had them, you know, and you sort of work through them as quickly as possible. But but that was the biggest lesson there that for me, not for everyone, there are people who thrive in chaos and conflict, and their best work comes out of it. For me, that is the environment that brings out my best work. So that was one lesson. And the other was, you just keep working on it till it's good enough, you know, you just keep working on it until it's good enough. And I would put the scenes up on my wall that because you sort of outline it together. And I would have a bar for myself, I wouldn't put a red checkmark on it saying it was done. Until I had surprised myself in the scene and turned it into something that I hadn't anticipated, or found something within it that I hadn't anticipated would be there from the outline, you know, so it just I, I found a, I guess a bar that made the work feel alive and interesting, as opposed to flat and dead, you know, the scene where x happens? Well, if it's the scene where x happens, how can you make that alive? How can you surprise yourself? How can you surprise your viewer? How can you find an element of it that you didn't know was going to be there going in, you know, which is the most exciting stuff to watch where humanity sort of peaks out unexpectedly?

Alex Ferrari 13:38
So you mentioned that, you know, you've obviously had some not so harmonious color or collaborations? I think in the business in general, we all have that we all have to deal with that at one point or another. Do you have any advice on how to walk that path a bit and depending on collaborators and who you're working with? Because we're talking about there's a difference between a pas collaborating with a director and a writer collaborating with a director or an executive producer on the show, things like that? How do you deal with that higher level when you're with collaborators?

Susannah Grant 14:09
Boy, it really all depends on who that collaborator is and what their particular approach to work in a work environment is. I've had ones where I've worked with a director where it felt like I had to say it's delicately ego was a big, big presence in the room at the meet Oh, no. And, and then just by sort of sitting there, it felt like there were three people in the room at the beginning me the director and the ego but if you just sit there Oh, calmly and say and just don't Don't, don't dance with it. You know, don't don't dance with it. Don't engage it. Don't fight it. Just it it if if the creative vision matches gradually, sometimes that will just ease its way out of the room, you know, but sometimes it won't. Sometimes it's just like, sometimes you are working with a chaos monster. And you will never see eye to eye. You know, there were a couple projects where I look back on it. And I realized I was holding on to my job so hard that I lost grip of the, of the film, you know, and sometimes you're there. There's one movie I look back on, and I think, oh, I should have walked. Not for me. But maybe maybe if I had walked, the director is isn't original to like, I would never walk off an original. But maybe if I had walked, I mean, the director is always going to win, right? Maybe five walks, they would have found something that wasn't what I wanted it to be. But was better than what it ended up being which was sort of a mishmash, you know, I'm trying mishmash between that directors idea of what it should be in mind. You know?

Alex Ferrari 15:59
And when something like that happens, how blamed Are you as a writer to for the

Susannah Grant 16:06
Good and bad of the good and bad of the sort of director worship is that? Not so much. I mean, it was a good spec, it was a good, it was a good original script. And it wouldn't have gone into production if it hadn't been and but it's just one of those things. If you guys, you don't share a vision, sometimes it won't come out the way you want it to.

Alex Ferrari 16:34
And a lot of times I've noticed is that ego when the ego is the third, I love that term, by the way, the third egos the third person in the room. It's because of either fear or insecurity. And once they feel that, like, oh, this person is not going to hurt me that we're on the same page. It does kind of recess a little bit.

Susannah Grant 16:50
Yeah, I had the really wonderful good fortune of working with Curtis Hampton. He was just wonderful, wonderful man and wonderful filmmaker. And he had a I think I learned a lot from him. Because he would point out something in the script that didn't quite work. Right. Makes sense. And I would say yeah, it does. Yeah, it does that fight, hold on. And then he'd say, lean in really kindly and say, no, no, no, Susannah, this is a good thing. This means we get to go find a better thing together. It's great. And he would see every problem. And he would always say no, no, no, this is a good thing. And you make a home movie with someone who thinks that way. And it starts to inform your own thinking, and you start to see problems as good things and, and I think that does feel less threatening sometimes to partners. If if you walk in saying, I know that things can always get better. Let's keep making it better till we run out of time. You know, and

Alex Ferrari 17:50
That's, that's kind of the TV mentality as well as the TV writer because, yeah, not as much the screen not as much the features writers at from my experience, and from what I've who I've talked to, it's not as much as it should be. But it's well, sometimes,

Susannah Grant 18:04
I mean, feature writers are so rarely given the opportunity to have that to in their work. So and, and often have the experience of it not getting better or not getting closer to what they had wanted it to be at the outset. But further from it. So, you know, working with Curtis was it was a blessing because that's not the norm. I think that's credibly lovely and generous.

Alex Ferrari 18:31
He was wonderful. He's a wonderful, wonderful filmmaker. Now. You know, you did write a little film called Aaron Brock something or other. little while ago. How did that project Erin Brockovich come to, to life because you are credited the only writer and that's what I'm assuming this is an original, or were you hired?

Susannah Grant 18:50
Was an original Yeah, it was, but it was. I had I had just written ever after. And it was very much I love and I'm not the only writer on that the director came in and he did some rewriting with his partner. So they're pretty credited writers on that. But, but I just done that and it was I love it, but it was very sort of precious and delicate. I mean, it's she's MIDI two, which is good, but I just wanted to I just had in my head that the next thing I wanted to write was I had this phrase kick ass brought in my head. And I don't know why I was like, I don't know, I just some kick ass bra. And I went to have a general meeting in Jersey pictures. And Gail Lyon was there and told me this story and they had met Aaron, through a chiropractor, because you know, that car accident that starts the movie actually walked Aaron's back out, and she then would go to a chiropractor Well, Michael Shamburger, who was like the President or something of Jersey at the time, his his wife went to the same chiropractor. So that's how they heard Aaron's course,

Alex Ferrari 20:03
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Susannah Grant 20:12
Oh, hey, gay had optioned it. And I was, you know, I don't know that. I mean, maybe Pocahontas had come out. But it certainly there was nothing that would suggest that I was the right person for the film, except for that I knew that I was. And and they I think they said at the time, well, actually, we're out. We're out to Cali, Cory. All right. All right. So in two weeks, I called up and said, hey, just wondering if you'd heard from Cali? And they'd say, yes, yes. Now we're out to scout Frank. And I'd sit for two weeks, and then I call back. And it was, I think my polite persistence wore them down. I just kept calling and saying did did that other superstar writer pass yet? And eventually enough of them pass? And I had checked in often enough that they said, All right, well, we'll let you meet her. And then Aaron and I got on like a house on fire. So so

Alex Ferrari 21:09
It just took off from there. There's no There's the dialogue in that movie is so beautiful. I love I still remember that scene of like, numbers. I'll tell you some numbers. That whole I was just sitting there in awe because I was like, that's such a wonderful comeback to a guy, obviously hitting on her in this. Yeah, it was so so beautiful. And Julia Roberts was a

Susannah Grant 21:36
Performances her and senior just wonderful and directed it perfectly. And, you know, that's one of those. Yeah, I had two films in production at the same time. And one of them I was on the set many of the days. And the other one I was also pregnant, so I wasn't there that much, honestly. And, and and then Erin Brockovich was shooting at the same time, and I was never on that set. And Erin Brockovich looks exactly like the movie I had in my head. And the one where I'm on the set every day looks nothing like the movie that I had in my head. So, you know, does being on the set? Make a difference? I don't know. You know, I don't know. That's can sometimes but if it's not the right, team, so why don't you

Alex Ferrari 22:29
It was Steven got what you were doing? And that you guys were both mind meld it apparently, that got that vision which

Susannah Grant 22:35
He saw what I saw. And I don't know how much of it was suggested on the page. And how much of it just was the luck of you know, two people who who happen to see something the same way though, though, didn't really talk about it that much, you know,

Alex Ferrari 22:53
Right. So what was it like working with Steven, because that was a heck of a year for him. If I remember correctly, he also has a traffic track. He also did another little movie called traffic the same year it was like, well, that's unheard of what he was what was going on in his career at the time. And he's a legendary filmmaker, and he's these fantastical.

Susannah Grant 23:11
I didn't work that closely with him. So

Alex Ferrari 23:13
Really, it was just not at all really. That's fascinating. To me, you met with him obviously a bit. Yeah, I did. Yeah. You met with him. But he just read the script is like, I'm good. Let's go.

Susannah Grant 23:25
Yeah, basically. I mean, nothing's Nothing says simple. But yeah.

Alex Ferrari 23:31
Fair enough. Fair enough. So then the Oscars come around. And you get a nomination? I did. And what is what's that, like? At that point in your career? Only? Like, what, five, six years in? At this point?

Susannah Grant 23:47
I don't know. It was I don't know, I guess I guess. Interesting at that at the premiere. Um, I saw Amy Pascal, who was always has always been extraordinarily lovely and great. Man, we've had a nice, done a lot of nice work together. But I saw her this was early on and I knew her and after the premiere was filing out of it, and she pulled me over and she said this never happens. I thought well, maybe it does. And maybe it will again like she was just telling me this is remarkable. Appreciate it. You know, it's it's it's wonderful. It's it's great and strange and and you think this is you know, something I've dreamed about and then also doesn't matter at all, you know? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 24:41
Were you that clear. Were you that clear headed at that time in your life? Because I know as we as we all get older, we look back and like you know, but when you're younger coming up like the Oscar the Oscar the Oscar, you know,

Susannah Grant 24:52
Yeah, it is probably about my family of origin but those were not our values like growing up they just They just weren't not better, not worse. They were just all there. So, um, I did you know, I brought my brother and sister to it and I thought they thought it was a kick, you know, so it's fun. It was a fun ride. It was, it was. So it isn't like, I don't want to denigrate the academy at all. It's it's a lovely thing they do. And it's, it's nice. And it's also incredibly surreal. We were sitting at the ceremony, my husband and I and and he said, Boy, if you dropped down from outerspace into this theater, you would think that this is our God.

Alex Ferrari 25:42
What an amazing what an amazing observation. He's so

Susannah Grant 25:51
Lovely, and and the, the academy is great, and the, you know, to have the fellowship of, you know, all these remarkable people who've told the stories that ordered your brain growing up and into adulthood is just incredible luxury, and to be part of that community.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
And to be fair, and to be fair to your husband, he's not wrong. He's not wrong at all in Hollywood, that is, other than the dollar. The Oscars are quite close second. So you go through the ceremony, you go through all of this, you know, all the hoopla then because I've had many Oscar winners and Oscar nominees on the show before and I love asking what happened after how did the town treat you afterwards? When you got you know, all this? Because the spotlights on you and it's just a window, and there's a window of time, where you're the it? Girl, the guy? What was that? Like? What was that kind of journey for you?

Susannah Grant 26:53
Honestly, it just I'm a bit of a hustler, and I don't ever like honestly any don't like thinking about awards? I don't have any. I mean, I'm, I'm thrilled to have received some awards in my time, but I don't have any of them any place I can see them. Because it just don't. I don't know that that would do anything good for my head. So what I am aware of is that it up your price. Like it's great. Your agent asked for more money. And I think writers should get more money, always. So if you can do that, if you can bump up your price.

Alex Ferrari 27:37
Great, then just keep rockin and rollin.

Susannah Grant 27:41
Because I'm being more diminishing of it. I guess what I mean is it probably did stuff but I'm so afraid of resting on laurels. And it never ever, ever makes the writing easier. In fact, I think it might make it harder if you pay attention to it. So you know, it doesn't make any difference. If you were out, you know, at the Vanity Fair party till to the night before your sit down your computer. It's not going to be one iota easier. Not one iota. So in terms of my work, no difference.

Alex Ferrari 28:20
Yeah, it, it almost. The work itself, it almost seems because again, speaking to so many who have done gone through what you've gone through, it seems almost like a burden in a certain way. Because now

Susannah Grant 28:34
So it wasn't a burden. You know, Cameron Crowe's burden.

Alex Ferrari 28:37
Yeah, it was exactly but but the the the, the the burden of like, if you get it if it gets in your head of like, oh my God, what's next? All I have to do this or I have to do it does kind of tweak with you a little bit. But one thing that I've really fascinated by talking to so many, you know, accomplished screenwriters like yourself, and filmmakers, they're still in neuroses in their work they still don't think in many ways that they're like It's still tough. I still don't think I'm good enough. I still think someone's gonna walk into the room at any second and go what are you doing here? You're not supposed to be near security get her out. Is that kind of the vibe Do you still feel them anyways?

Susannah Grant 29:19
Well the second part not anymore you know the second guy I mean, I've been doing this a long time friends and we all we all security's not taking you know, but absolutely it's still challenging and you're still facing a wall every day but that's a the fun of it. does is it doesn't feel like fun, but it is what makes it interesting. And be I don't think the work is for me is much good without that. I think if I was sort of like what I was saying earlier about what I discovered about writing scenes in party five if I feel like I can do something and yeah, just whip this one off, it's not going to be good.

Alex Ferrari 30:03
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Susannah Grant 30:12
You won't and I always have to feel as if there's something I'm trying to figure out. And I like a little bit of, of panic associated with my, with my work. I'm very early on I knew herb Sargent, was Alvin Sergeant's brother. And I was talking to him very, very early on in my career, and he said, Oh, yeah, every time Alvin takes a job, he calls me up and says, I can't do it. I gotta give the money back. Now, I think Alvin Sargent has written some of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. And he was a lovely man. And I thought, okay, Alvin Sargent, tying himself in knots and saying he has to give the money back. Maybe that is not a glitch in the system in my system, maybe that doesn't mean I don't belong here. If Alvin Sargent has proceeded with that, and done the work he's done, maybe it is, in fact, an integral part of good work. So that was an early gift.

Alex Ferrari 31:20
You when you're writing, do you have the experience of sometimes being in that flow, where when you're done writing, you look at it and go, I don't know who just wrote that. But that's fantastic.

Susannah Grant 31:30
I don't look at my work, right, when I write it that carefully, what I tend to do is look at it the next morning, look at the prior day's work. And usually I go over the prior few days work before I start writing, and it is kind of exciting, you look at something and you don't really recognize it, that's pretty great.

Alex Ferrari 31:50
It does. It's kind of like we all strive for is to have that, that flow moment that you just are there and it just kind of goes, Do you what is your schedule? Like when you write? Do you actually have a time? Do you like, you know, like, Eric Roth has like this time, and since I understand

Susannah Grant 32:07
I've got a pretty set day, you know, I've spent so it's, I'm actually just getting back into it now, because I'm finishing post on a movie I directed, but it is I have a ridiculously early wake up. But actually, many writers I know have this wake, I get up at 430 and make a cup of coffee, I work for? Well, it used to be when my kids were at home, I would work for three hours. And then that was long enough to get into some sort of groove, so that I could, you know, go do the breakfast thing, get folks off to school, okay, and come back and still feel as if I was invested in the work and anything less than that, it would be hard to get back into it. So I needed about three hours to feel like, Oh, I gotta get back to work, you know. And then I usually write till about midday ish, you know, 12 one, something like that. And then And then, you know, business stuff, emails fucking around in the afternoon.

Alex Ferrari 33:12
Fair enough. So, let me let me ask you a very simple question. What? What is it about writing that you love? What keeps you because this is you know, it's though!

Susannah Grant 33:23
Very early on in life. Like, as a kid, I got this idea that this whole life thing was a massive rip off that you only got to live one of them. Like there's, there are infinite numbers of this was before the notion of multiverses entered our consciousness and who knows maybe that Chase has everything but but I thought it's just a rip off. I only get to be me. And I don't get to be that cowboy. And I don't get to be that. You know, that sanitation worker. And I don't get to be that like, how is that seems so unfair. It just seemed like someone had presented a massive, massive buffet and said you can have one shrink. And that's it, you know, and so I'm just imagining other existences started really really early and for a while I thought for a little while I thought I might be an I might go at it by acting and I did that for a little bit after school but it just dispositional II The life didn't work for me and and and I got I got bored doing it then I do a show two nights in a row and by the third night I think I just did this why am I doing it? I didn't have the right mentality of every night.

Alex Ferrari 34:50
Life on Broadway is not for you is basically

Susannah Grant 34:52
No like anything more than a two night run and I was out

Alex Ferrari 34:56
Very short career.

Susannah Grant 34:58
But then I was I was cuz you know, fairly lost in life and didn't know what I was going to do, because I didn't I also thought I might be a journalist, which is also another way to sort of gather up experience. And then that I that didn't seem like the thing either. And then I just like I moved to San Francisco, which is what you do when you have no idea what you're doing, because no one else there knew what they were doing either. And, and I was really lonely. So I tried writing a script, and I thought, oh, oh, this I could do this. I could do for a long time. Like, just keep creating a world over and over. Imagination. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 35:41
That's beautiful. That's really beautiful. It seems like you had a thirst for life. And this is the way you kind of suck them bone marrow, the marrow out of the boat of life in many ways.

Susannah Grant 35:52
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I do think it's important to say they were fairly torturous years finding that, you know, and I talked to a lot of young people who sort of you know, just just are hungry, understandably hungry, to figure out how to get to a place and you really have to go through some gnarly stuff to find out who you really want to be. And, and maybe they always want to say, Listen to yourself, maybe this will be what you want to be, but maybe something else will come out of the blue and be open to it, keep your ears open, because if I had just had, like, my nose to the grindstone with acting, would have had a very unhappy life, you know. So, so, you know, the uncertainty and the fear and the, the panic and sleepless nights and all that I think they're important to pay attention to, and they can lead you someplace good. You know, if you listen,

Alex Ferrari 36:53
If you listen, that's the very key point there. Now you got a chance to, to direct the film, your first film, which is catch and release, which I love. By the way, I saw that it's a fun little kids. Wonderful, little wonderful little film. What was your biggest lesson? Directly? Because I know you direct it a bit on television, but it's a bit different. Yeah, a bit different.

Susannah Grant 37:16
Well, really, it's my lesson from that film was less about directing, although there are a bunch of of those and more about being clear on the movie you're making, and Amy Pascal that was a Sony Movie, and she and I have talked about it since then. But that movie should have been a $5 million, Sundance movie, but she gave me I think it was $30 million to make the movie. And, and I kept thinking, I don't feel like a $30 million movie, but she's writing the checks, I'm not going to argue. Um, and then as we got close to shooting it, it became clear. And I guess we just hadn't spoken to each other clearly enough beforehand that she she had expectations of a kind of romantic comedy that I didn't think were inherent in the script. And so all during production, we were trying to sort of pull it into something that would hold on to what I loved and deliver on what, what she felt she had bought. And like I said, we've she and I have talked about it. Plenty since then it has a lot of lovely little moments in it. But I think we spent too much money on it, you know. And so it has an ending that that is sort of a classic romantic comedy ending, which wasn't where we started just trying to deliver on a sort of studio product that that it probably shouldn't have tried to be so that's that's the lesson there is just be really clear upfront with what movie you're making with the people who are giving you the money. Because eventually, they're going to want what they bought.

Alex Ferrari 39:00

Susannah Grant 39:02
You driving to the set every day like rewriting the ending way too much. But, but I had some great, great partners on that I had, I was working with the cinematographer named John Latham, I've worked with many times since then. And he made a bunch of movies and every now and then I would just sidle over and say so and just ask him a question. He always had a great answer. So when you're reading a script, when you're shooting a film, do you cow How can you tell which scenes are not going to make it in the final cut? And he said to me, Well, if it says, flashback and so since then, I've thought I put a very high bar on any flashback I use because somebody would make 20 movies before me said he shot a bunch of flashbacks that didn't make any cuts. Why is that? You know, just a lot of wisdom like that.

Alex Ferrari 39:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Night shoots yet nice shoots, rainy night shoots, try to get those out of the script. Reproduction.

Susannah Grant 40:16
Funny, you should say that I have pictures of us at night in, like drowned rats because we were in Vancouver, we're constantly but but I really love all the performances in that, oh, everyone does a beautiful job. And I think I learned also that I don't think I don't think I had fun doing it for about the first half of the shoot, I think I was so intent on being ready and prepared and professional and, you know, successful at the job that I that I forgot to have fun for a bit. And actually having fun for me is a really important part of that job. It makes you relaxed, it makes other people relaxed. It is a fun job. It's an incredibly fun job. So it should be fun. And, and, you know, relaxing, there's always a feeling I have at the beginning of any scene of oh, God, I hope it works. You know, before you shoot the first thought of it, and and the play when it doesn't quite and the play of finding, finding that, again, that unexpected thing within it and is really enjoyable, really enjoyable. Really fun.

Alex Ferrari 41:40
So as directors, you know, there's always that one day on set that you feel the entire world's coming crashing down around you. Now that's should be every day if you're doing your job, right. But there's that one day that you're just like, I don't know, if we're gonna make it today. I don't know if I'm going to make my day. I don't know if I'm going to get this shot. You know, what was that day for you? And how did you overcome it?

Susannah Grant 41:59
On catch and release? Yeah. You know, I I'm gonna preface this by saying that one of my app I've heard it's very good in terms of longevity. But one of my qualities is that I do not remember bad stuff that well. Oh, God, I know, I can remember there was a scene we were shooting. That was supposed to be the last scene at you know, I like I said, I just kept trying to deliver an ending that would fit with the movie and and we ended up reshooting it because I knew it wasn't that good. And the actors knew it wasn't that good. It wasn't what it should be. And none of us were saying it out loud. We were just trying to deliver on it. And it was this like, this big. It just it was it was it's that when you're the only thing that's uncomfortable is when you're doing something you're trying to tell yourself it's working and it doesn't. So I stopped I stopped doing that, then. Yeah, that was that was bad day.

Alex Ferrari 43:04
Sure. Yeah. When you go through when you're going through that, though, it does take a certain level of confidence within yourself. In the skill set, you have to either say stop, this is not working. We need to just stop it from here. But this was your first big this is my first thing.

Susannah Grant 43:17
I didn't know what to do that I would do that hurt beat now. Absolutely. Absolutely. Like we're wasting film or wasting time. Let's just stop and figure out if this is worth our while. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:28
And on the set with the with an amazing cast that you have aware anytime you've directed Have you had to deal with opposing opinions of what the story should be. And having to fight, whether it be crew members, whether it be studios, whether it be actors, how do you overcome that as a director?

Susannah Grant 43:49
Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't, right,

Alex Ferrari 43:51
You win some you lose some.

Susannah Grant 43:54
And you know, look, you have to accept that it's a collaborative art form, right? And you're hiring people not just for their face and body, but for their inner life. And and like I said with with the one I was those two films before, you never really know until you get into the sandbox with someone if they if you have the same idea of what you're building, you know. So and sometimes it turns into something else that is different than what you had in mind but is, but is really remarkable too. You know, there was one performance and I won't name it but the first couple of days I was thinking this is this feels really different than what I had in mind, but she seems really committed to it. It ended up being a fantastic performance. She won awards for it, it was it was so you know you have to leave yourself open to the idea that your partner has a great idea and it might be it might challenge your idea and sometimes Sometimes it makes it better. And you just have to be alert to when it's not doing that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:08
I think one of the themes of this conversation is listen to yourself, listen to the gut, listen to your instincts for both both those sides, whether it's something like I think this is gonna go awry and gonna crash into a wall, or I feel like there's something here. I don't know what it is. Let me just step back a little bit. And let's see what happens.

Susannah Grant 45:27
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's all you have, right? Everything came from your gut, it's just an eye, I think that the conscious mind, when it comes to creativity is probably the least important element, you know, I try to write the reason I write when I write at that hour is that I think I'm still kind of asleep, you know, there's part of your sleeping brain that's still engaged, and I, I get my coffee all set the night before. So I don't have to do much, I can go pretty quickly from sleep to work. Because I think your unconscious and your subconscious are more alive at that time. After before you've you know, made lists and phone calls and cooked eggs, and whatever else you're doing is boring.

Alex Ferrari 46:18
That's a very interesting thing, though, because you're right, you're kind of like in that in between sleep and awake stage, your brain hasn't really turned on yet. So it's the noise of the crap that we have to deal with the voices in our head and all that is a little bit quieter. So you can kind of just tap into whatever that ether is to get the ideas in the in the flow, correct.

Susannah Grant 46:41
Yeah. And you also can convince yourself at 4:30 in the morning that you're the only person awake on the planet. You know, this feels like, it's just you in the moon and yeah, great.

Alex Ferrari 46:55
Fantastic. Now, you also you also, you also worked on a little film called Charlotte's Web, which is such a beautiful film. I mean, it's such a beautiful story. How did you approach adapting? Literally one of the biggest classic children's classic books ever? How do you all wrote that

Susannah Grant 47:16
Was interesting, because in the beginning, I spent a lot of time in Maine on the actual lake or eBay row. So I'm very reverential of his work and network in particular. And I thought, okay, straight up, faithful, loyal. And I got about halfway through the script, and I read it and it was just dead, it was just flat, and dead and lifeless. And I thought, Okay. So I infused it with, just with just more life, and I thought, the book will exist, as long as humans exist, this book will never go out of print. Everyone will read it love it. This has to a different medium, it has to have different dimension to it. So I did that. And then I remember what happened, it could have been that I went off to make catch and release at some point, I ended up having to leave and Carrie Kirkpatrick came in, who's a wonderful writer and a very funny writer, and he, he sort of he brought a whole other, you know, element to it as well. So. So that's, that's the thing, you just can't feel like you are just typing the book. It won't have the life it. It needs is the same thing when you're writing a story about a real person, you know, you have to I, the first time I did it was with Erin Brockovich. And I knew her and I really liked her and really admired her. And I would start writing and I would think, well, I'm not, I'm not sure what she would do here. Maybe I should ask Erin. I'm not sure what she should do. And then I thought, God, I feel like I'm writing with handcuffs on. So I decided in my head there to Aaron's, there's the Aaron, whom I really enjoy and admire. And then there's the Aaron I'm writing and they're totally different. And I'm just going to trust that I know her well enough. And I am not. I'm interested in just representing her truthfully. But that's but it's but this one's mine. And and I ended up with a much more faithful representation of her then I would have had I not given myself that license.

Alex Ferrari 49:55
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah, that is a mistake. I think a lot of people who adapt do is they, whether it's a real life person or a real life story, or a book, because, um, I remember watching the Godfather behind the scenes and watching what Francis did with the book. And he just, I mean, what he pulled out what he wanted. Yeah, yeah, he was he was constructing a blueprint. And it was wonderful to see his process. It was,

Susannah Grant 50:28
Yeah, but you really have to be Master and Commander, when you're writing something you have to be it has to be your world. You're in charge, nobody over you. It's your and obviously, then it goes into production. And then you're making a film and then other voices. But when you are writing that script, you have to feel it's you're in charge. And you're the ultimate authority on it.

Alex Ferrari 50:52
Now, if you had a chance to go back and talk to that young film student free Pocahontas, what advice would you give her?

Susannah Grant 51:00
Yeah, well, none, because it worked out really well. Obviously, if I had known more than maybe I wouldn't have. I don't know, you know, I used to worry, I used to worry a lot about. I mean, I would, you know, I would turn in a script on Friday, and I would be apoplectic until Monday. And so I think I don't I don't do that anymore. Obviously, I want people to like my work, always. But I don't turn myself into, you know, knots over it. And I may try to tell myself, ease up a little bit. I don't know, maybe that level of anxiety is what pushed me to make my work better than it would have been otherwise. So I yeah, I wouldn't I wouldn't say anything different. Fair enough. I mean, you can't you I have no quibble with how my life is going these days. And if every miserable step along the way is what I needed to get here. I take them all, you know,

Alex Ferrari 52:06
Isn't that a great life lesson because a lot of people want to avoid all the bad stuff and like, but the bad stuff, what makes you grow it the bad stuff is what makes you gets you to that, but it also gives you character to be a better writer.

Susannah Grant 52:17
Yeah. And then when that's what you share, that's what people respond to, you know, the whole point of these stories is for people to feel seen, you know, people are people that just to make the world a little less lonely, you know, people watch something and say, oh, yeah, I feel that too. Maybe I'm not the only one who feels that maybe I'm not the only one going through this and you're not going to you're not going to do that without living part into the in the different difficulties of life, you know?

Alex Ferrari 52:47
Without question I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all of my guests okay, what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter starting in the business today?

Susannah Grant 53:01
I struggle with this one a bit because the OnRamps are are different now than they were when I was starting you can make your own films so cheaply now. And so I would I would tell people to do that as much as possible but the quality of your work remains the same the B hard on yourself I don't mean punishing of yourself on a personal level but be demanding of your work set your bar high. I do this thing at the end of every script when I think it's ready. I read it as if I were an actor, and I had a lot of options and and I try to figure out if I have a lot of options am I going to do this one before all those other great options and and that is a that's a way I hold my work to what I think is a higher standard so I would find those ways you can you can push yourself to make your work as good as it can be because Nothing's worse than putting work out there that isn't ready that you could have made better and then you're just disappointed in yourself and you're not getting yourself where you want to be be big. Do your best work do your best work rough and very school Marmee but that's what my advice

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Susannah Grant 54:30
Oh golly. Oh golly. I wish I paid attention to these before we spoke. I'm gonna have to come back to that one

Alex Ferrari 54:41
Will hold it will hold it will hold it. All right. What is what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Susannah Grant 54:50
That I can survive failure

Alex Ferrari 54:53
That's a good lesson to learn.

Susannah Grant 54:54
There are worse things than failure. And honestly, it can be rough if you are achieved When oriented and and failure reverse, it can be painful, but that failure is not death failure is often something you can learn a lot from.

Alex Ferrari 55:09
It is the process is part of the process, you have to feel if you win all the time you learn nothing.

Susannah Grant 55:14
And there are great there are there is gold and failure. It's painful. And it's the other thing is that our work is public. So, so failures public and so you feel embarrassed, and you know, whatever. But there is real gold in failure, looking at something and say, Okay, well then next time, I won't do that.

Alex Ferrari 55:36
And what are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Susannah Grant 55:41
Okay, well, first of all, every screenwriting logistical problem is solved somewhere within the script of Tootsie. So that's what it learned Tootsie, when you hit a wall think what did they do in Tootsie? And you'll find some way that one of those, I think it was six writers figured out a logistical challenge. So Tootsie is a good one. Witness because it's spectacular. And it shows you how little dialogue you actually need to make a moment moment meaningful. Gosh, it's hard. It's hard not to say Godfather Part Two, right?

Alex Ferrari 56:27
One and two, you could put on put together? That's good. Yes. If you put one or two are considered the same for me. Yeah, you can't. Well, I mean, that's, I mean, all

Susannah Grant 56:37
There are ones that I just adore. You know, All the President's Men. Every scene forces you into the next scene. There's no point you can't drop into All the President's Men and not stay till the end. It is the most propulsive movie and to look at that and think, how did they do that? Fantastic. And then there's gravy. I'm giving you more than three, please. Before it's running on empty by Naomi Foner. Yeah, just just the most beautiful movie and it's a great opening, you meet River Phoenix, and he's playing Little League baseball. And this is a guy who is not attached to anything because his family for those people that his his family is on the run. And he can't really play baseball because he's never been part of it. But he's playing anyway. And someone says to him, I'm not going to quote it accurately. But one of the first lines he says someone says to him, why do you even play and he says baseball is my life. And it's the most wonderful first line for a character because in that moment with this guy who has not been allowed to put down roots anywhere, in that moment, baseball is his life. And it's it's it's shallow. And he's it's such a great first character introduction. So that's another one too. I could go on all day, but we will

Alex Ferrari 57:57
I'm in Chinatown network. I may Shawshank. I mean, you can just keep going.

Susannah Grant 58:02
Yeah, work is the movie that got me into movies. I should have said that one is about Nashville, Nashville.

Alex Ferrari 58:08
Altman. I mean, I mean, the play. I love the player. I just love watching the player. They don't do those pitches. They don't yeah, of course. They don't do those pitch sessions anymore. Like they do the player do they? Think they do, but they don't buy pitches as much as they used to.

Susannah Grant 58:24
No, they don't. They don't want depends on who you are. I mean, sure. They'd probably not like that anymore. No, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 58:31
Those those. Let me ask you the days of like the 90s, the Shane Black days and Joe Osterhaus days where they were just dropping. Two mil, three mil, four mil five mil on spec scripts. Those days are pretty much

Susannah Grant 58:44
They are gone, I think, spec script and still do really well.

Alex Ferrari 58:48
I still got yeah, there's still there's a million, but they're rare before it was just like water.

Susannah Grant 58:54
I feel like I had this theory. In the first couple of decades of doing this that that was what I call called the pile of stupid money. And it moved. And when I first started the pile of stupid money was all in specs in film specs, right interest, and it was just like, I don't know where the money was coming from, but it was massive amounts for and then the pile of stupid money moved into TV overall deals and then just the crazy overall. I mean, I'm sure they for a while there the it was.

Alex Ferrari 59:30
Yeah, actors had actors, actors, actors had network deals like overall look, they

Susannah Grant 59:35
I don't know, I think I think those piles of stupid money might be disappearing in the corporate conglomeration of our business. I mean, they look a little harder at their spreadsheets.

Alex Ferrari 59:47
I was when I had somebody who worked who was the president of Richard Donner's company back in the 80s. Can you imagine? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And he's like I was there 10 years and I Googled What was it like working with Dick on some of these projects, and he's like, this is how it would go. He would read the script. He got Lethal Weapon. He read it. He said, I want to make this movie. He'd call up the president of Warner's he goes, I got a script. I want to make it and the president of Warner's goes full and no discussion of money. Whatever Riddick wanted to got. It's like never like, oh, you only can make it for 30. And but he was very responsible. He wasn't hitmaker and

Susannah Grant 1:00:36
He knew he had delivered consistently.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:38
Right. And he's Richard Donner, for God's sakes. So it was like, illegals. Yeah, that's when filmmakers run ran the studios. Yeah. Yeah. They don't know as much

Susannah Grant 1:00:48
You read the Mike Nichols biography and be done regard to the discussion of the catering table. It's a very detailed and beautiful biography. But I would think, man, you could not like I can't imagine getting that catering budget this was it that extravagant Oh, he had the most spectacular catering. Really? Lobster and sushi every day? Yeah, absolutely. Steak. I think that's the best.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:22
And then last question three of your favorite films.

Susannah Grant 1:01:26
Oh, well, I said them. Rocky, right up there. I adore Rocky. There's a bad scene in Rocky there isn't a bad scene in ordinary people. That movie is just perfect and brilliant. I'm going for I'm going for the unexpected ones. Like, I love all that. I love all the movies. Everyone loves. But, but my little secret treasures I think Truly, Madly Deeply is an incredible love that film of a film.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:01
God bless his heart. Yeah, he was yeah, he was an owl. Yeah. He was in that movie, wasn't it? Yeah, of course. Yeah. Yeah. Such a great film.

Susannah Grant 1:02:10
You know, I mentioned running on empty and witness and ah, the way we were. Is this just so beautifully written? There's a screenplay. There's an unconventional screenplay. The first time Yeah. I don't know how long it is. Maybe it's the first 20 minutes or flashback. Great. Maybe it's more.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:39
I mean, if you want to talk about you know, and I'm gonna I'm gonna pat you on the back here for a second. I mean, the introduction to Erin in Erin Brockovich. It's, it's, I mean, I've had people who are teachers of screenwriting, who teach that scene as a beautiful or almost perfect introduction to a character because you learn so much about her in a short period of time. It is condensed, it is wonderful. It is comedic you feel felt you connect with because if that scene doesn't work, you're done.

Susannah Grant 1:03:18
Yeah, yeah. They're done. Julia Roberts, guess what? That seems? Well, there's

Alex Ferrari 1:03:22

Susannah Grant 1:03:24
Yeah, exactly. But then there's also I like when movies do are. That's Thank you for saying that. But there's also in Silkwood. One of the first things, you know, one of the hardest, they one of the gnarly things to do is name all your characters, right. Like everybody knows who everyone is, you know, without saying Hey, Bill, and early on in Silkwood. They pull up to the the Kerr McGee entrance, and they're all carpooling. And they lean out the window and say their name so they can get into work. It's fantastic. It's just you set it up. It's done. It's perfect. Yes, yes. And then here's a really good one. Okay, Dog Day Afternoon doll. So, Frank Pierson came to AFI when I was there. And he taught me show that movie and he talked about it. And he talked about the very beginning. And you know, he comes in, and he takes the gun out of the flower box, and it gets all messed up. And it's very early on. And he was talking about that scene. And he said, the important thing to do was tell the audience, you can laugh in this movie. And I had to tell them right up front, and it does that it says it because if you hadn't had that, if you got well into what happens in that bank, and then expect people to laugh, they wouldn't have done it. So that's a good that's a good little lesson there too. Yeah, cuz that's an slightly intense film. Yeah. Yeah, but you feel free to laugh when when you can, because he said right up front. Go ahead. Yes, is that

Alex Ferrari 1:05:07
I can keep talking to you for hours. I appreciate you coming on the show so much. Thank you so much for being on the show for the amazing work you've done throughout your career and continuing to be an inspiration to so many screenwriters out there, my dear. So thank you!

Susannah Grant 1:05:18
Thank you Alex. It's very nice to talk to you. You have a great day.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:21
I want to thank Susanna so much for coming on the show, and dropping her knowledge bombs on all of us. Thank you so much, Susanna. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash 300. And I want to take a small moment to thank everybody who's been listening for these last 300 episodes. It is a milestone and I really, really appreciate all the support. We plan to continue to bring you amazing conversations, we actually have a few in the pipeline. So get ready for a few more really, really awesome conversations coming up soon. But I just want to say humbly and wholeheartedly thank you so much for allowing me to continue to do this kind of work and bring these amazing conversations to the screenwriting audience and filmmaking audience. Thank you again so much, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 299: Hidden Tools of Comedy for Screenwriters with Steve Kaplan

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Alex Ferrari 0:06
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:35
Today we are talking with Steve Kaplan, author of the book, The Hidden tools of comedy. He's also the creator of the HBO workspace creator of the HBO new writers program. So we'll be talking to Steve in just a second, I really had a great talk with him. And we also add a lot of fun little clips and things in there so that you can really get a feel for the topics we're talking about. Here's my interview with Steve Kaplan. Did you immediately open up a theater company or how that worked?

Steve Kaplan 2:06
Well, I actually came to Los Angeles. First. We in New York we did, we were running this theater called Manhattan punch line. And we used to do a one act festival every year. So a bunch of people wanted to bring a number of one acts out to Los Angeles. And so that's what originally brought me out there they I helped them put up this evening of one acts. And I knew I was going to stay. So I came out I did a little theater, but then I tried to get a real, you know, big boy pants grownup job. And it took me a little bit of time. But eventually, I hooked up with Chris Albrecht at HBO. I pitched him an idea. And he ran with it. And first we did the HBO new Writers Project. And that ran for a couple of years. And then he started the Aspen Comedy Festival. And in support of that, with a couple of other people, we opened up a performance space in Los Angeles called the HBO workspace. It's now being run by Comedy Central. And what we did was we helped facilitate their search for comedians and comics. And at the same time, we were producing shows and showcasing people, both for HBO executives, there for them to take a look at and also just to kind of be an asset and a service to the community. So so that's what originally that's what I originally did in Los Angeles. And then I, I got involved in management, talent management, and I after doing that for a couple of years, I realized hey, I'm no good at this. Because it's just

Jason Buff 4:12
Did you tell your clients that one day you're like, by the way, actually,

Steve Kaplan 4:16
Eventually, the the clients that were left to me I told but it the terrible thing about I wasn't an agent, I was a manager. And the terrible thing about being a manager. Is that your Yeah, especially for me because I took everything very personally. So if somebody you said that this person is not good for this job. Oh, I don't like the script. I felt devastated. It was like it was like getting broken up with by girl every every every week. And when a when a client's leave left me it was really like getting broke up with the girl, especially when they started the conversation. You know, Steve, I like you as a person. So, I, when I was in my dating years, I used to hear that a lot. So I realized that that wasn't, that wasn't my MATIERE it was kind of a zig when I should have zagged. And along the way, I had run into a guy. And, and, and a funny, funny story he was, he was showcasing a show and, and I happened to leave the middle of the show because it was not very good. And amazingly enough, years later, he got in touch with me to take a look at a script. So I looked at the script, and I gave him notes. And again, I, I was more cruel than God. And amazingly enough, a couple of years later, he said to me, and this is when I was really I was, I was about to say this, this whole management thing was moved. And he said, I'm working with Robert McCain. And I think you could do for comedy what Robert McKee does her story. And he said, Have you ever taught comedy to writers and I said, Well, I started out teaching comedy to actors. At my theatre company, I and and I worked on a lot of scripts with a lot of playwrights and I, as I assume I can, this this will translate over to writers. And from there it from that little seed, a mighty oak grew.

Jason Buff 6:41
Now, I mean, it seems such a for for somebody who doesn't understand the concept of breaking up comedy and you know, seeing what's going on and why it's working and why people are, are laughing at something. What what was kind of like that first step into teaching comedy, what were the first kind of like obvious things that that you found that people needed to, to understand about comedy?

Steve Kaplan 7:08
Well, I mean, the way you should understand that the theatre company that I was running, that I started with two other actors. Manhattan punch line was a theater completely devoted to comedy. So that's all we did. We produced comedy plays we we showcased improv groups, Michael Patrick Kane, who later went on to write Sex in the City, and two Broke Girls was was was one of the leaders of this improv group along with dama Rivera, who's now a very well known stand up comic, we produce late night shows with standups, including Rita Rudner, Chang Anderson, who's now a very famous playwright. And so that's all we did. And the first thing I noticed about comedy, is that it's fucking hard. And, and it's, it's elusive, I would, I would be producing a show. And I would be standing in the back of the audience. And the show that was a riotous hit on Thursday, was met with crickets on Sunday. And the actors would come offstage. And they would say, What a terrible audience. But I was standing in the audience, and I wasn't terrible. And I was prepared to enjoy it. I might not laugh out loud as much as people who hadn't seen the show. But I, I started noticing differences. I started noticing that there was a different approach to the material, a slight differentiation in how the actors were meeting the material, night by night. And that's what started me on the, on the exploration that that became a 40 week master class, which then became a weekend workshop, which then became a book, which translated into Chinese because God knows you need some funnier Chinese.

Jason Buff 9:06
Well, you know, you've arrived. Yes.

Steve Kaplan 9:09
And it's going to be translated to French. So so now we can be rude when we're fun. Maybe I shouldn't say I believe

Jason Buff 9:17
Finally the French will have common.

Steve Kaplan 9:19
I'm super Yeah, really. I'm supposed to be supposed to be going to Paris in April. So So hopefully, they will listen to that part of the podcast.

Jason Buff 9:30
When we have a big French, you know, listening Exactly. So.

Steve Kaplan 9:34
So I started to notice that, that there were certain certain things that that were, for the most part, unrecognized, or, or not thought to be important or vital. And these became what I call the hidden tools of calm

Alex Ferrari 10:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 10:09
I mean, all the actors and the playwrights that I was working with, you know, they'd all gone to college or conservatory. And they all knew who to Hoggin and Stanislavski and great playwriting techniques. But but there were certain things that they, they were not aware of that I started to become aware of only because I was standing in the back. And oftentimes, I was directing a play. And I would start to notice that, that there were things that they did that decrease the comedy, and things that they did that increase the comedy. So, I mean, for instance, one of the things that kills comedies, if, if, you know, the actor knows too much, if the, you know, in acting classes is called anticipating, but what it really is, is the actor is too aware of what's happening, what's going on, too, in fact, too smart. So, so one of the things that, that I started to realize that were there, there were these principles that had not been taught anywhere, or, for the most part had not been taught, and that great comics and comedians either picked up or knew by by instinct, but that could be analyzed and and, and presented and taught to people who hadn't spent their entire childhoods listening to all the George Carlin and, and Richard Pryor albums, for instance. Right. And oh, and you would like to hear one of these?

Jason Buff 12:00
Yeah, that would be that would be helpful. Yes.

Steve Kaplan 12:02
Okay. Well, podcast, okay. So so there's, there's the, there's the dynamic of straight line wavy line, then that's, that's my terminology for it, okay. Which basically means that rather than a straight man and a comic, everybody thinks that, you know, if you see a duo, there's a comic, a funny person doing funny things, and a straight man who's just kind of, or a straight woman who's just kind of setting things up. And I came to realize that that dynamic is false, that it's not about a funny guy doing funny things and other people just kind of setting them up. It's really about somebody who is blind to the problem or creating the problem. And somebody who's struggling with the problem, but unable to solve it because they're, they're flawed, they're, they're just a flawed human being. When when, for instance, when John Cleese started Monty Python, he said that when they started Monty Python he thought that comedy was watching somebody do something funny. What they came to realize is comedy is watching somebody watch somebody do something funny

Actors 13:21
Yes, you know, it's a man's life in England man in screen that I'm gonna stop this sketch down anymore this I'm gonna stop the whole program. I thought it was supposed to be about teeth anyway. Why don't you do something about Jesus go I'm not alone. Not sleeping with that producer again.

Steve Kaplan 13:43
Comedy is the person who is kind of like us, struggling with some idiot. So that if you put Jerry Seinfeld and Kramer in a room, yes, it looks like Kramer is doing all the funny stuff. But without Jerry being a human being kind of perplexed and amused and confused by Kramer there's no comedy

Actors 14:15
Life on the Red Planet I can't eat I can't sleep. All I can see is that giant red sun in the shape of a chicken What did you go down to the Kenny Rogers and complain? They gave me the heave ho. You know I don't think that Kenny Rogers has any idea what's going on down there? What are you doing? That's tomato juice. That look like milk to me. Jerry my rods and cones are off. Alright, that's it. I gotta move in with you carry on. I don't know Kramer My concern is that living together after a while we might start to get on each other's nerves. Listen to me, I got a great idea now you're heavy sleeper right when we just switch apartments or I could sleep in the park. You could knock these walls down make it an EIGHT room luxury suite. Jerry, these are load bearing walls. They're not gonna come down. Yeah, that's no good. I'm gonna have to drive that place out of business. Are you gonna do that? Like we did in the 60s, taking it to the streets

Jason Buff 15:44
That's one of the things that I you know, mentioning that I always remember like Conan O'Brien one of the things that makes his skit so funny is having something completely insane happening. And then you don't really laugh until the camera cuts back to Conan's reaction to it.

Steve Kaplan 15:58
Exactly. So if you start if you watch sitcoms, good sitcoms, you'll notice that that the the comedy really the comedy is the comedy circuit is completed when there's a reaction to the craziness, not just the craziness. So So what seems to be the easy part, the straight man really is essential to comedy and if you watch a good SNL sketch, and there aren't you know, not every SNL sketch is good, but now sketch is the comedy is the human being in the equation. It's the it's the person who's being weirded out by the weird stuff that's happening. And it's only underscored by the idiot who's not paying any attention. Right. So bear with me just the other night on SNL. You know, Adam driver was on Yeah, I guess he didn't get such great reviews. Somebody said, Well, it's not Trump. SNL bad. But but there was a there was a there was a great Aladdin sketch, in which he's flying on the magic carpet. And, and the girl I can't remember, I think it's Cecily Strong, I think that's who it was. Is is on the magic carpet. And first a bird flies into her, and then a bomb drops in her because they're over Syria. And she keeps on getting weirded out. And then she keeps on trying to get back into the romantic moment. And that is so human. And meanwhile, Jeff, you know, Aladdin, as played by Adam Driver is completely oblivious. So that's the perfect example of straight line wavy line, somebody who's on a straight track, like, has blinders on, blind to the problem, or creating the problem and somebody else who's struggling with the problem, but because they're, they're what we call a non hero, unable to solve the problem and a non heroes another is another thing that that or principle that that we talk about, in which it's not about being a ridiculous person, a clown, you know, a silly clown. It's really just about somebody who lacks some, if not all the essential tools and skills with which to win. So sometimes the most basic skill with which to win is simply knowing so so one of the best directions you can ever give in comedy is don't know so much. Don't know. And what that means is that if something happens, don't, because you've read the script, and you know what's happening on this page, and what's going to happen on the next page, don't react like you've got it, I understand it, be confused. Let there be doubt. Doubt is, is the friend of comedy of being being unsure is the friend of comedy. And being sure, being certain about things is dramatic, and it just become being self reflective is a dramatic moment. And what we found out is that these principles aren't just here's how you be funny. It's really about here's how you can modulate the levels of comedy or drama in a scene. You want a character to be more dramatic, make them give them more skills, make them more empathetic, more sensitive, more kind, more knowing, make them make them less comic, take away those skills, create a comedy create a strong straight line wavy line relationship, create a dramatic moment have everybody make you know make eye contact and be empathetic with each other and and have them have them share the scene

Alex Ferrari 19:59
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 20:08
So those those kinds of things don't apply just to comedy. But you can actually modulate the amount of comedy and drama in a scene by increasing or decreasing these principles.

Jason Buff 20:20
When you talking about, you know, you would see one show, and then you'd see the same show and it wasn't funny. For whatever reason, were those improv shows? Or were they literally saying the same things

Steve Kaplan 20:30
In that in that case, what's what's happening is, the actors will suddenly begin to adjust their performance, so they look less ridiculous, because nobody in the world wants to look like an idiot. And so in a comedy, sometimes the characters are doing idiotic things. But the actors will suddenly, suddenly just make an adjustment so that it's a little bit more understandable, appropriate, logical and rational. And so sometimes, that's why a script is sometimes the funniest the first time the actors get around the table to read it. Because the actors aren't aware of, of how stupid they're going to sound when they say this line. Once they understand how stupid they sound, they either make it sound stupid, or, again, to put on a mask to protect themselves, or they make it sound just slightly less stupid. Here's an example. It's hard to it's hard to think of a film or TV show where you can see somebody anticipating, although they, they used to talk about how they would have to trick the Three Stooges, into not knowing when the pie is coming. They knew when the pie was coming, it wouldn't be funny. So what they would say is that, okay, we're gonna hit you on 312. And they would hit him on two, they could, and these guys were hit with 1000s of pies. So they would go to great lengths to try to fool them when the pie was coming. Because if they knew when the pie was coming, it wouldn't just be that they would flinch. They would suddenly react that, oh, I'm gonna get hit. But a better example is, is like, bad comedy. Like, I'm not a fan of late Jerry Lewis. I love early Jerry Lewis. If you watch early Jerry Lewis, like at home in the army, I think the first movie he made with Dean Martin, he is so innocent, so sweet, so unknowing, but later when when, you know, the French have told him he's a genius. He's, he just twists himself into a pretzel, as though as though to say, if you just looked at me, you wouldn't see an idiot, so I'm gonna have to pretend I'm an idiot. Alright. So you know, just think of any bad comedy, you know, something bad with Rob Schneider. Grown ups to in which people are acting are pretending to be idiots. And my point of view, what I always tell writers and actors is that you don't have to pretend we are idiots. I mean, we That's who we are. We're human beings. We're, you know, these stupid doofuses who are bumbling around this, this planet, you know, hurtling through space, you know, making up all sorts of reasons why? And we don't know, we just don't know. So. So the art of comedy is actually the art of telling the truth about what it's like to be human.

Jason Buff 23:41
It seems like the moment somebody is trying to intentionally be funny, or you see something like, you know, you can kind of see that. Oh, look, they're trying to be funny right now. Right? Is the moment that it just, it's not funny at all, you know, and you seem to see that in a lot of these comedies that they're just like, especially let's say whatever Kevin James movie, you know, it's like, Okay, we're gonna have this wacky thing and then let's do all these situations where Oh, he's gonna be put into this situation in that situation. And it's just like, There's nothing funny about it. Maybe for like a five year old, but it just doesn't doesn't work.

Steve Kaplan 24:15
Well, I haven't seen Paul Blart Mall Cop two. I

Jason Buff 24:21
I have seen it.

Steve Kaplan 24:23
You have seen it? Yeah. Was it great?

Jason Buff 24:26
It was so good. No, I mean, it's like I love I love watching bad movies as well as good movies because you get to kind of like put it together and you know, I mean, it just it has a couple of moments but I

Steve Kaplan 24:40
Have not seen it. I've seen hitch

Jason Buff 24:44
I've seen hitch yes with

Steve Kaplan 24:46
What's the difference in Kevin James between hitch and Paul Blart Mall Cop two.

Jason Buff 24:53
He's got a slight accent and fake teeth. I think is the only difference.

Steve Kaplan 24:59
That's the Only difference?

Jason Buff 25:01
Well, I don't really remember hitch that. Well, he wasn't I mean,

Steve Kaplan 25:04
He plays this sweaty guy who wants to marry who wants to get with a supermodel? Right? I can't What I remember about hitch, okay, is that he was recognizable. He was like, one of us. Okay. And he was a little clumsy. But he but he wasn't such an exaggerated clown that he was no longer recognizable as human. Right? Whereas, I'm guessing in Mall Cop two, he does things that no, no sentient human being would do. Somebody thought, Wouldn't it be funny if,

Jason Buff 25:48
Right! Yeah, well, you know, most of the movies that, you know, and a lot of things all these situations happen that aren't that really aren't, you know, believable. So I think you're kind of watching it like, oh, that's kind of funny or whatever. But you don't, you're not brought into the story. You don't actually believe any of these characters are real. Right? You know,

Steve Kaplan 26:07
So if you look at a movie like the other guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. There's a moment in which in which they're walking away from a store and the store explodes. And they're on the ground and willpower is going it hurts them. And that's the essence of comedies noticing what's around you, and being and being aware of the inconsistencies, the absurdities what Dorothy Parker called having a sharp eye and a wild mind

Actors 26:44
Was closed at 11am on a Tuesday Oh, is a shithole. Love bombs walkaway movies without footsy when it explodes behind them, there's no word are called Fulshear when they flew the Millennium Falcon outside of the Deathstar, that was followed by the explosion. That was bullshit. Don't you know Star Wars that was? There's no way I don't have soft tissue. I just want to go somewhere and breastfeed right now.

Steve Kaplan 27:34
So so when a comment comes out in a club and says, and says, Hey, you in the front row and start to make a comment. That's the essence of comedy, which is noticing what's around you and not taking it for granted. And seeing the absurdity in it, and share and being confused by it. Not necessarily knowing all about it and being a dick about it. But but just kind of commenting on it in a way that both expresses what you feel and also questions it and doesn't, doesn't quite know what the answer is. Which is why I comic is what about that? What's the deal with? It's a question. It's not a statement. Once you're making statements. You're, you're you're a politician. A question is, as a comedian, I so yeah,

Jason Buff 28:26
I mean, what what do you think is? I mean, do you feel like, for example, when I'm writing I, you know, I'm also a writer.

Steve Kaplan 28:35
A lot of things great, by the way thing, I love it golden

Jason Buff 28:39
The comedy for me, like I grew up, always seeing things as being comic, you know, and when I was in as early as I can remember, I would be in just situations and just start laughing. And people would even get mad at me because I would talk into somebody and just all their little quirks and things would just like something would come out of that. And I'd start laughing and they'd be like, Well, what's so funny, you know, and medication get mad at me. Yeah, well, thank God. And when I when I write, it's like, it's impossible, even if I mean, the stuff that I write is more kind of character driven stuff. But it's the humor just comes out of it. It's like, I'm not even trying. And then once you have once you really feel a character on the page, living and breathing, just the humor just comes out of it without even trying to do anything, just their actions. And I've never looked into it deeper to try and dissect why it's funny, but it just seems like that. It's like, I don't even know why it's funny. But it's funny, the when you have like a real character, and they do something that you're just like, oh, that's, you know, that's that character. You know, that's how they do stuff.

Steve Kaplan 29:37
Well, in the course, what I say is that the the value of the course is is not to take what you do and change it entirely. It's not it's not a methodology. It's not. Here's how you make the sausage but it's it's a toolbox and you use tools when something is broken. So if you're writing and everything's working, great.

Alex Ferrari 29:57
We'll be right back after a word from our spot. answer. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 30:06
Don't look at it don't say, Well, what is Blake Snyder? And, and and Robert McKee and Steve Kaplan, no, just keep going. But when there's a scene that doesn't work, that's when you can use a tool. That's when you can try to figure out what we teach is what comedy is, how it works, why it works, what's going on, when it's not working, and what can you do about it? So, when you if you haven't, and it's not working, then you have some tools to try to figure out. Any you want the scene to be comic. That's when you can figure out well, what could I do here? Can I can I use a metaphorical relationship? Can I is should there be a straight line wavy line relationship?

Jason Buff 30:45
Now when you look at somebody like Judd Apatow and I just recently watched again, this is 40. It just seems like so much of that we're always kind of riding this line between what's kind of going too far what's going to be something too and you know, with a lot of the comedy podcasts to the comedy is not coming out of people trying to be funny. It's coming out of really difficult situations and people you know, fighting about things and whatever. What how do you look at that kind of comedy versus all these kind of stupid slapstick kind of, you know, silly call.

Steve Kaplan 31:18
I mean, my favorite comedies are the comedies that tell the truth about about people now it could You could tell the truth in a fantastical situation. like Groundhog Day, one of my favorite comedies, but one of my other favorite comedies his 40 Year Old Virgin, and one of the reasons I love 40 Year Old Virgin is because they don't make him a ridiculous character. You know, after the poker game, and yeah, he's kind of ridiculous. He's he's riding a bike. He's never he's, he's, he's, you know, he's frozen in this adolescence. But after the poker game, he's humiliated.

Actors 31:52
Answer this question. Are you a virgin? Are you a virgin? Yeah, not since I was 10. It all makes sense. You're a virgin. I am. Shut up. How's that happened? He's a fucking noob it that makes so much sense. Man. You guys are hilarious. To my Don't be mean. I'm not being mean. I'm not I'm trying to say I want to get you laid. Dude, I understand what's going on guys. So up your asses Come on, man. You can do better than that it's gonna be fine. They don't even remember. Those guys are cool.

Steve Kaplan 32:56
And you feel for him? It's not like I it's not like some I don't know, Rob Schneider. I assume he's a very talented guy. I'm just using. Rob, if you're listening to this, I'm just using you as kind of an icon of not good comedy. Without

Jason Buff 33:10
Rob. This is I don't know. For me, Rob. So Steve.

Steve Kaplan 33:15
So I mean, they're not just making him some idiot there humanizing him. And he goes, he he writes home. He's he has this primal scream. And it's so in touch with true emotions, what we would all be going through. And then he goes back into work. And he thinks maybe I'll just maybe they won't remember it. They say hi, how you doing? And all of a sudden everybody's ragging on him. And, yo, let's get the Birkin laid. And he score. And the thing that made me love the movie was was Paul Rudd running after him trying to help them. Right. Human sweet. Not ridiculous. So they never, you know, yes, there are some outlandish, very, very broad things in that movie. But for the most part, it's grounded in in a human condition in the in, in what would happen to us. Chris Rock was talking about the his evolution as as a filmmaker, and he was talking about that, that he's learned a lot from Louis C. K. And then now whereas in the past, he would go for any job possible. But now, especially with his I can't remember the name of the movie five things are, yeah, top five. That he basically said put somebody in a situation and say what would they do now? To me, that's the best way to develop a comic premise is you come up with a with a fantastic premise, something that's impossible or implausible and then put in you know, are typical comic comedy characters and then see what would they do now? What would happen now? And develop it? Like you say, through character as opposed to plot?

Jason Buff 35:12
Yeah, it's interesting. You know, going back to the 40 year 40 Year Old Virgin, one of the things that people forget about that is if you go later in the film, once his relationship with Catherine Keener develops, it actually becomes very, like, you know, it's still comic and everything, but it's more like, it's a real heartwarming story, you know, and he's, you know, showing the dealing with the daughter and all that stuff. You know what I mean? I love I love that scene where he's like, you know, I speak sarcasm too. And he's got, you know, he does a magic trick. And she's like, you walk around with an ear. You know, I mean, I love those scenes, but they're not like, you know, they're more of like a drama. You know, it's like a real story.

Steve Kaplan 35:51
It's, and, and because they because they don't feel the need to do a joke, or a bit every 10 seconds. The A favorite scene of mine is when he takes the daughter to the Planned Parenthood, the the, the clinic.

Actors 36:10
Now you're all here because you're interested in obtaining birth control. Any questions? Here's a cute story. I came home the other day, and he is with his girlfriend in my marital bed, doing things that are illegal in Alabama sex acts, right? Things that my wife won't do. Okay. Did you have a question? How do I get my wife to do that? Does anybody else have a question? My daughter is, for lack of a better word, dumb. How do I stop her menstrual cycle? Do you want her to stop having a menstrual cycle? I want to stop it maybe just for a few years? Yeah, I don't think that's a good idea. Does anybody else have a question? I have? I have a question. I think some of the people here might be sexually inexperienced. Is it true that if you don't use it, you lose it? Is that a serious question? No, it wasn't. Now, there are a lot of activities that you can engage in without having sex that are both fun and safe. What sort of activities I think everybody wants to know about the activities. Well, instead of having intercourse, you could have outer course. Outer course. Oh, what's that? Yeah. What is that? Well, outer course is anything that isn't vaginal intercourse. Prefer vaginal intercourse. You really does. Now there are ways of having sex without intercourse. Let's see there are things like body rubbing or dry humping. You could try home. There's masturbation. Masturbation, play with yourself. mutual masturbation play with a friend deep kissing. There's erotic massage. Oh, that sounds like it would be nice oral sex play. Sounds like my Friday night. Shut up. Set. We went to temple. Okay. Are there any virgins here who are thinking about having sex for the first time? So you're a virgin. I tap that. Oh, yeah, you tap that set? What do you think you're cool with your little jew fro? We don't say tap that. What? Are you talking about? Set? You know what I'm a virgin to were virgins to ya know, you know, and it's, it's it's a personal choice and Okay, um, I can't listen to any more of this because it's making me sick. So by you can get this information on your website. Oh, yes. Thanks. Nice meeting everybody. Any other questions? Give me extra large condoms. Set you got a tiny penis.

Steve Kaplan 38:45
And he's asking more questions than anybody else. But then he's sitting around all these people all these all the you know, the the kid who thinks he's hot stuff. And and the guy who just wants his daughter to be here, can we? Can we make sure that she doesn't have any sex till she's 35. And then on the drive home? The daughter just turns to him and says you're a virgin. Right? And he's and rather than pretending. Which which some, some script teachers will teach will tell you that the key to comedy is deception. And, you know, that's such a i Yeah, sometimes but, but if you take that to its logical, illogical, you know, to its logical conclusion. You never tell anybody the truth. And that's exhausting. It's exhausting. And what I love about the scene is he just says, Yeah, but don't tell your mom. Okay. Well, what are you going to do it while I'm getting around to it? It's so I keep on going back to that word. It's human. It's tells the truth about the human condition.

Alex Ferrari 39:59
We'll be right back. back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 40:08
Drama helps us dream about what we could be. But comedy helps us live with who we are. Comedy is the truth. Drama is the exaggeration. Drama is the idea of idealization of life wood that we were as tortured and as sensitive and as poetic and as intellectual as Hamlet. Right? We're watching Hamlet. Oh, what he's going through. Have you ever seen a production of Hamlet?

Jason Buff 40:34
I've seen the movies.

Steve Kaplan 40:38
Have you ever seen in the movie? Did Hamlet fart?

Jason Buff 40:41
Not in the ones I saw? I know.

Steve Kaplan 40:43
So what would you what do you think would happen if Hamlet's going to be or not to be?

Jason Buff 40:49
I probably would enjoy it a lot more.

Steve Kaplan 40:51
And but yet people do fart, right? Yeah. So so. But by making him more human, you make it immediately more complex. So I hate comedies that pretend. Or let me let me put it this way. I hate comedies, where every 10 seconds they're going, Wouldn't it be funny if this happened? Wouldn't it be funny if that happened? Because I'm more interested in what would happen if this really happened to these characters? What would they do? What would all these different characters do, because you don't have to invent shit, you don't have to make shit up, put three people in a room, they're gonna go in three different directions, half the time, they're gonna run into each other, because that's who human beings are. So just let them let them deal with the situation in their own way. If you if you haven't duplicated characters, you're going to create your conflict and your obstacles just because of the characters you have on screen or on stage. In that situation, I do a, an experiment. In my workshops, we call it the classic, the classic problem of the three lawyers, I have three people come up, I make sure that they're not actors or improvisers, I asked for writers who have never performed. And I tell them, they're all three lawyers, and that the most important case of their careers began in a courthouse, four blocks away five minutes ago. And I say that, through that door, whatever room that we're in whatever meeting room or banquet room we're in, I say through that door is is the cord has four blocks away, you're five minutes late, and then I then I have two of them leave. And I tell each one separately, that for some crazy reason, they have to be the second person out the door. I'll do that for everyone. I'll say, Listen, this is gonna be I'm going to give everybody something different. But for you, I just want you to know that for some crazy reason, you have to be the second person out the door. And then I'll bring all three of them back and I'll say start. And what will happen is, most times that they'll run to the door, and they'll stop. And the audience of course knows what's happening. And there there will be this great dance of trying to figure out how to get how to be the second person out the door if they're all trying to leave. And then I'll usually say to shout out you have you have the permission to win. In which case, I usually put two big guys and a small girl in the group. You see you're anticipating, right? Yeah, I'll say you I give you the permission to win. And usually one of the big guys will pick up the small girl throw her out, and then he'll be the second guy to go. And it's usually a very funny scene in a when I did this at DreamWorks once with three animators who have never performed. The one animator was this tall, skinny guy. And the two guys tried to throw him out of the room. And he put one foot on one side of the door and one foot on the other side of the door. And he was like, completely horizontal. It was it was amazing. I've never seen that before. And my point is that like a kid you don't need you don't need clever dialogue. You don't even need you don't need directors, you don't even need writers you just need characters humans in a situation with a with something unusual or not easy and see what happens and use and half the times more than half the time comedy work will occur.

Jason Buff 44:27
Now you raised an important important topic about characters and having two characters interacting. Do you feel like you need to have for example, one guy who's going to be the straight man, one guy who's going to be the, the, you know, the comic partner, whatever you want to say. I mean, when you're when you're creating comic moments, do you have to have that sort of conflict between your characters?

Steve Kaplan 44:49
When when you're talking about characters you don't it's not so much the conflict it's it's you want our typical character. If you think about any committee of truth, you would have the letters Holdeman and Wiley, tricky, clever servant, the young, innocent the fool. And you, you just make sure that you have those are typical types in in your story. I mean, who is the think of just in terms of Winnie the Pooh, who's your Tigger who's your er, you know who who's your who's your poo? Who's the tin man who, you know, this is Chris south who you know who talks about, you know, the Wizard of Oz method of character development. And who's the tin man who's the Scarecrow? Who's the who's the lion, the child, the the animal? The the thinker, so yeah, you're not no one is a straight man, Paul Rudd, is not a straight man in 40 Year Old Virgin, although he's more the voice of reason than anybody else. But he's got his own thing. Because he's pining for Mindy Kaling and he's this he's this romantic, who's who's all fucked up in his head. So So I don't think that the whole idea that there's a straight man is, again, is is a misnomer. And I think I think a false dynamic. If you take a look at the other guys, at any one moment, one of them is insane. And the other one is sane, but not quite knowing what to do in this situation. When Will Ferrell brings Mark Wahlberg home? He's married to some hottie, and all Mark Wahlberg can say Is she really your wife?

Actors 46:37
Hi. Hi. It must be Terry. I'm sorry. I've been hiding honey, but this dinner was tricky. For you. I'm Dr. Sheila gamble his wife wants seriously who is that? His old lady sweetie. It's a workstation. Got it? You come in here. Dress like a hobo. This distract? I know you're working. I'm so sorry. Come on. Seriously, come on. What? Who is that? See all the COBOL Jane. Get over here. No, no, no. Okay. Look, they're not all first round picks. Okay, come on. Are you gonna tell me who that is? You really are and why? I know. People are shocked because he's Episcopalian and I'm Catholic, but somehow it works. Are you going to change? I already did. It's no big deal. You look really really nice. Terry. You don't to be polite. Okay. She looks kind of shitty on speak to her like that. Alan. Look, if I put that in my Cosmo fashion app, you probably get a d minus Alan and his apps. He loves him. Yeah, he's designed three of his own. One of them. Can you tell one of them? You can take a picture of anybody's face. And I'll tell you what the back of his head looks like. Face back face back. Got some horrible reviews coming out of the gate. It's gonna hit it's gonna catch. Why are you with Alan? I mean, that's not what I meant. I meant. How did you guys meet? It's a really typical how we met story, Terry, you're gonna be bored by it. I was a dancer for the next while finishing my residency at Columbia hospital. Alan came into the ER with poison ivy on his rectum. Needless to say, I fell for him immediately. It's funny. It's like It's like a scene from that one movie. I always forget the name of it. With Meg Ryan. I don't remember a movie when Meg Ryan me to go with poison ivy. I think of it. So what about you, Terry? Do you have a girl? I did? Yeah. I suppose to get married. But she back down. It's complicated. Terry shot Derek Jeter Shut up. Ellen. This is before that's okay. Ah, she's got mail. That's the name of the honey. Tom Hanks. And Meg Ryan. He's gonna poison ivy with us. Yeah, yeah, way up there. Well, Terry, can't thank you enough for coming by what a what a wonderful, lovely evening. Thank you. So so nice meeting you, too. My pleasure. Thank you. Remember, all I ask of you is you don't let him get hurt Terry. She tells me that every day before I leave, I do. I come downstairs and I make him his fresh cut strawberries. And I say Listen, my little sugar balls. Whatever you do today, you just don't get hurt. Every morning, and then I show on my breast and I say these. These are waiting for you when you get back home. You know, Terry they're not the biggest breasts he's ever seen. But man are not by a longshot perky. And they are firm and they're yours. They're a nice lady. Thank you for coming. Detectives voice and gamble. Detectives why to gamble over. Founder red press right trying to vote for Ralph Nader. Hey, sugar boss. This is gonna be fingerprints in that car. And tomorrow. We're going to run those fingerprints through the system. If we get hit key is going to heat up faster than a junky spoon. You do one thing when you wake up tomorrow. Bring it bring it in. I goodnight. Thank you, Sheila. By Terry i Sheila. I'll never forget tonight by Terry. All right now Whatever go aside by Sheila sanitary I, Sheila.

Alex Ferrari 50:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 50:19
And it's hysterical because one of them at any moment is aware of what's happening around them without having the complete answer of what to do about it.

Jason Buff 50:31
One of the things I wanted to talk about too, is going back through the history and talking about somebody like Buster Keaton. So for him, he's always been kind of an example for me, of somebody for whom like, for example, you know, what happened with the silent films is he was hugely popular up there with Chaplin and everything. And the moment he was asked to speak, it changed the dynamic of his comedy.

Steve Kaplan 50:54
Well, that'd be the Great Stone Face and speak at the same time.

Jason Buff 50:58
Right! So I was curious about if you, you know, went into any sort of thing like that, that people have to be in the right kind of comedy for their kind of personality or whatever.

Steve Kaplan 51:08
Oh, well, we do talk about the history of comedy, just in terms just in terms of the development of western comedy that comes from these are typical characters, then that, you know, was kind of codified in the committee, but really goes back all the way to the Greeks, where the the, the new Greek comedy was all about our typical characters. Cowardly braggart soldiers, lecherous old man or miserly old men. And you see, you see these characters in Shakespeare? You see them in more gear, you see them on sitcoms, Who's the idiot who's the the wisecracker? Who's the, the, the space cadet? I mean, that's, I've just described friends. So, so what you what you want it what you what you want to know, Is that is that these are typical characters appear and reappear and reappear in dozens of movies. And they, they're there for a reason. Because of those. They embody certain aspects of the human condition, personified. And it's a good idea to have a good mix of them. Do you need all of the all of the different character types? No. But when I read scripts, sometimes I'll say you have three, three best friends, you really need three best friends, and they're all exactly the same. Maybe, maybe one should be different. Or maybe they should, maybe they should be different. For instance, here's, here's a, we do a comic premise exercise, where, where we have, we break people up into groups, and they, they work on common premises. So let me give you a premise. It's not a great movie. But this is something that actually that a group actually came up with. So here's the premise of this comedy movie. A college football team discovers that the only time that they can win is when they get the nerd laid. Now that's already a good start for premise because it made you giggle. So tell me who's in this movie?

Jason Buff 53:26
Well, you've got the jock, you've got the best friend.

Steve Kaplan 53:29
Excuse me. What position is the jock? Quarterback? I guess quarterback? Who are his friends on the team?

Jason Buff 53:34
You got the big, fat guy.

Steve Kaplan 53:38
Okay, well, I mean, who else?

Jason Buff 53:40
See, but I don't know anything about football.

Steve Kaplan 53:43
You're already there. Okay, you have the linemen and who else should be there? Is a big fat guy who's who's the other friend.

Jason Buff 53:50
Gotta have the skinny guy.

Steve Kaplan 53:51
That's okay. This week. Okay, who? So you don't know anything about football, but, but the. The team can only win when they get the nerd late. So who else needs to be there?

Jason Buff 54:02
Well, you got to have your nerd. You're the nerd. Okay. You got to have the most attractive girl in the school.

Steve Kaplan 54:07
What position what what does she do? cheerleader of course cheerleader and then who's the who's the then there's a coach. Right? Okay. Sure. Okay. And how is the cheerleader connected to the coach? Daughter, daughter. Okay. Because one of the things that mo year teaches us is that comedies a closed universe because the old guy who's wandering around, enact one always turns out to be the uncle of the two orphans in Act five. So you have the quarterback, the linebacker, the wide receiver, that's the skinny guy, the nerd the cheerleader, the coach. Okay, nerd Steve Carell. Quarterback Paul Rudd. Line, big lineman Seth Rogen skinny guys, Romany? Malco cheerleader a young Catherine Keener Coach James, just give me the cast, a 40 year old virgin there's a reason Why these, these? These are typical characters appear and reappear and reappear because they tell stories. You can tell any story you want. If you have all the right characters there.

Jason Buff 55:13
That was pretty mind blowing. I like that was our TED Talk moment for the conversation.

Steve Kaplan 55:18
Well, top head tilted, I applied. They haven't gotten. I thought that would be a great TED Talk.

Jason Buff 55:24
Well, they listen to this. So you know, just just wait. It'll happen. So Ted listens, as well as the French. Yes. And Rob Schneider, and Rob Shire. Rob.

Steve Kaplan 55:34
I love that you copy guy that was the best thing on SNL.

Jason Buff 55:42
So I want to talk for a second also about Ben Stiller. Because you mentioned Ben Stiller in your book. And one of the things that I have skimmed the book, unfortunately, my, my credit card got had some problems at Amazon. So I had to go back and change some things and then buy it again. And then I was cut the clock was against me. So I'm gonna, yes. But I do a lot of my stuff is from other podcasts and from, you know, YouTube. So luckily, there's a wealth of knowledge out there. Okay. So if any of my questions sound exactly the same as some other people?

Steve Kaplan 56:20
Oh, no, no, I don't. I don't think I ever insulted as many people on other podcasts as I have on yours.

Jason Buff 56:27
I am honored. Thank you. Well, I wanted to talk about Ben Stiller for a second because, you know, you talk about him. And one of the things that I remember when Ben was, you know, my buddy Ben, first kind of was getting popularity was that the kind of comedy that he was doing? was so like, not obvious, I guess you could say it was just he was so much the character and so uncomfortable. And so kind of, you know, different than what I had seen before. And there probably been other people who have done that kind of comedy, you know, like, There's Something About Mary and stuff like that. But I just for some reason that just stayed in my mind is that being, you know, Why is that funny? Why is what he's doing funny. And you know, why is just his nervousness or his like being in that situation, making me laugh, and I had never really felt like that with anybody else. You know what I mean?

Steve Kaplan 57:24
Well, I think because one of the things that he does well, now he's a smart guy, right? I mean, he had his own sketch show on Fox, when he was in his 20s. He's a smart guy, but he lets himself be seen as less than smart. Very well. In There's Something About Mary. He's about to go on a date with Mary and Chris Elliott's telling him, have you pulled pulled the pot? Have you spank the monkey? Have you flogged the dolphin? And rather than Ben Stiller going, What are you talking about? He goes, ha, ha, and what are great comedy lines, because they see something they're just not quite sure what they're seeing. And he lets himself be tucked into, you know, masturbating just just before the date. And, and it's, it's ridiculous. It's, you know, it's it's gross out humor, but there's something very vulnerable. And, and, and, and not in charge. That that I think appeals to all of us because that's how we feel we feel that we're not completely in charge that we're that we're less than, and he embodies less than in a very unforced way. He doesn't pretend to be less than he just is. There's one of my favorite moments in There's Something About Mary is when they do the flashback, and he's about to ask, take Mary out to the prom, and it's got these great braces on and he's wearing this taupe tuxedo goes to the door. And David Keith, who I believe is playing with dad comes out David Keith is an African American. Mary, of course is Cameron Diaz who's not African American. So he you know, Ben Stiller, looks at David Keith looks up at the door number am I in the right place? Usually that gets a laugh just by not being sure. And then David Keith says she's already gone to the gun to the prom with Woogie goes we'll get ya Woogie. And then, and you can't really see this over a podcast but I'm kind of grinning. Sadly again, okay. And I usually when I do my workshops, by the way, I have a workshop coming up at the end of January, which we'll talk about hopefully at the end of the podcast. I usually freeze frame on that

Alex Ferrari 1:00:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 1:00:09
And I say, if the movie ended there hasn't has any broken your heart. That's the essence of comedy, is the essence of comedy is not to pretend that there's no pain. It's all silliness. The essence of comedy is we're always in pain in life is a painful, painful deal. How are we going to deal with it? What are we going to do? The comedian is the courageous person who gets up in front of a group of strangers and admits to being human and, and basically says, you know, gives us shrug and says, you'll live. It's tough, you get kicked, but you'll live. And that's a very life affirming way of looking at the world.

Jason Buff 1:00:50
So that was written as a drama, and not a comedy.

Steve Kaplan 1:00:54
Well, if it was written as a drama, he wouldn't be an idiot, he would know more. He would be good looking, he wouldn't be wearing braces. Like I said, if it was a drama, he would be something that we would aspire to. As opposed to something who we can recognize as us.

Jason Buff 1:01:12
Looking at movie that I always saw

Steve Kaplan 1:01:15
Maze Runner or Virgin. Those kids are gorgeous. You know, in the Apocalypse, are we all gonna look that good? I mean, of course, am I gonna have tap teeth? You know, in a dystopian future I wish that would be great. Survive.

Jason Buff 1:01:38
One of my favorite Ben Stiller performances is in Tropic Thunder. Oh, my fit one of my favorite movies when he is you know, captured and they make him reenact his character. Simple track. I'll check that, to me is like the pinnacle of his his career.

Steve Kaplan 1:01:55
But, but the moment that I love is when he and Robert Downey had the conversation about why he didn't get the Oscar.

Actors 1:02:02
Yeah, exactly. You know, there were times when I was doing jack that I actually felt retarded like really retarded. I mean, I brush my teeth retarded. I robust retarded in a weird way. I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb to be more. Yeah, to be more radical. Exactly. To be more an imbecile. Not the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived. When I was playing the character when he was secure, and I mean as Jack, Jack, stupid ass Jack, trying to come back from that. In a weird way. It was almost like I had to sort of fool my mind into believing that it wasn't retarded. And by the end of the whole thing, I was like, wait a minute, you know, I flush so much out how am I going to jumpstart it? I think it was just like, yeah, right. He was fighting and bathtubs laughing Yeah, so. Yeah. But simple. Jack thought he was smart. But rather than thinking was retarded, so you can't afford to play retarded. being smarter. Playing a guy who ain't smart but thinks he is. That's tricky. Tricky. Is that working mercury? is high science men's art form. Yeah, you notice that's what we do right? Yeah, yeah. Hats off of going. Especially no not academies about issue about what this series you don't know. Everybody knows you never go full retard. What do you mean? Check it out. Dustin Hoffman. Rayman Looper turned appetite is not returning. Cat to picture you caught autistic show. Now. Tom Hanks Forrest Gump. Hello. Yes, we thought it may be braces on today. But he charmed the pants off next to them. They want to ping pong competition that ever taught him. He was goddamn war hero. You know when he retired war heroes. You went full return. Never go full retard. You don't but yeah, Sean Penn 2001 Is the memo word for retired, went home.

Steve Kaplan 1:04:12
And that's such a beautiful moment because it's the first moment in the film where they're really just relating to each other and they're connecting and they're not. They've left their their rivalries go and and Robert Downey goes You don't know. Todd, you went full time. So halftime, you can't go pull Todd. Great. Great. I mean, those those human simple human moments where people share what makes them vulnerable, what makes them silly, what makes them lost? What makes them human? And that's that's why in terms of straight line, wavy line. You You know Mark is funny, but you can't have Mark without Mindy. You guys Have a human being in the equation at every moment. So even your ciliates character can have a moment where they're human. And they're having a human experience while everybody else is acting crazy around them. And that's why the division a funny guy, and straight man is incorrect because everybody gets to has a chance to be funny. Everybody has a chance to be, you know, the same one.

Jason Buff 1:05:29
Well, tell me if you had the same feeling as I did, but watching that if you've got Robert Downey Jr. You've got Ben Stiller, and then you've got Jack Black and Jack Black to me. Like, most of the stuff that he did in the film kind of fell flat though. I don't know how you you kind of perceive that but just seemed like one more person there that like didn't necessarily, like add to it. I don't know.

Steve Kaplan 1:05:50
Well, I mean, I can see that point of view. I'm not going to argue that he's the best thing in the film, but he's there because you needed a primal character. Okay, again, we go we go back to, to our typical characters, the archetypes that come Madea, you have your clever, tricky servant. That's Robert Downey Jr. You have your nerdy guy, that's Jay bearish owl, you have your idiot, that's your full yet that's That's Ben Stiller, then you have your primal character, you know, and he's got he's got primal needs, I need I need my drugs. And, and added that next comes comes the comes this disjointed, dysfunctional family that all comedy aspires to all comedy, especially teller comedy, aspires to create dysfunction, large dysfunctional families that that we can relate to, and in some way, enjoy being with because they remind us of our dysfunctional families only we don't have to be with them that much. So So yeah, so is. You know, is that Oscar? Oscar nominated performance? I'm not sure. But I see that I see the use for him. Because you need that unbridled energy. Now, is that unbridled energy the best it could be? I don't know. I wasn't crazy about the bat, the blonde buzzcut. But, you know, I mean, I was just wondering if there was something we were not available? Right. I mean, that would, that would be John Belushi or John Candy or Chris Farley. That would be their role. That's what they would be there for. And maybe they would have brought a little bit more what I call the shrimp factor, you know, so shrimp was the stooge that made you care. So that's what John Candy and Chris Farley would do, they would make you care. And Jack Black, I guess just make you care that much, because Jack Black, if I'm going to analyze it, from your point of view, Jack Black, gave was too much of performance that he was outside of, as opposed to owning it. He wasn't sharing his addiction, he was making this character's addiction, the focus, and when you distance yourself from your character, and you distance yourself from the audience, there's there's that distancing factor that doesn't work for some people. In 500 BC, the first comedy written, the actor comes out and talks to the audience directly in a different way than they did in Greek tragedy. There's a connection that comics make with their audience. It's an actor centric art. And it's about telling the truth about what's happening right in front of all of us. I'm an actor, I'm on stage. You're watching me, let's go. And so there's truth there. And so you might be, you might be reacting to the fact that he wasn't as connected and as truthful as the other actors. That's my guess. But it didn't bother me as much. But I can see from your point of taking a look, from your perspective, I can see what you're talking about. Yeah,

Jason Buff 1:09:10
I mean, it just kind of fell flat. Sometimes I'm going to

Steve Kaplan 1:09:13
He just was he fucking sucks.

Jason Buff 1:09:17
I mean, it's kind of like late Jerry Lewis. Like you're saying, it just felt like a performance, you know, anyway, right. I'll get off that. All right. We're at about an hour. I wanted to make sure that you discuss the things that are coming up with you and how people can get in touch and sign up for your classes. You want to talk about that a little bit. Yeah,

Steve Kaplan 1:09:37
I'm Libra. I'm lonely. I like long walk it with one walk on the beach. No, no, no, no, I'm happily married. But you can you can tweet me at at SK comedy. That's s k comedy. Comedy with a C because I'm not a hack. I don't do that comedy K thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 1:10:10
My website is Kaplancomedy.com one word.com. And you can email me at Steve at Kaplancomedy.com. And right now, in January 30 and 31st in Los Angeles, we're having a workshop at the Marriott Burbank, and you can register for it online. And if you're in Ireland, we're going to be in Ireland in early June, London the week later, I think we're going to be in Paris in April. And we're going to be in Denver in October. And you should read my book, The Hidden tools of comedy. We it's translated into Russian, Chinese and French but for you for the indie film Academy podcast, listeners, we have it for you in English. And it's available. It's available on on Kindle, you can download it but make sure that your credit card doesn't get screwed up like Jason's and and it's also available through Amazon. And you can also buy it on our website for an autographed copy.

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BPS 298: Creating the Cult Classic Sharknado with Thunder Levin

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Alex Ferrari 1:33
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:37
Do you like sharks? Do you like NATO's? Well, my friend, you are in luck today, because today we are talking with thunder Levin, screenwriter of Sharknado and Sharknado. Two, I was wondering if you could talk for just a second about your experience when you first got into Los Angeles and what your expectation was versus what you actually found?

Thunder Levin 2:00
Sure. I got to tell I in late 1986, with my student film in hand, and I was quite prepared to send it to Steven Spielberg and say, Where have you been?

Jason Buff 2:14
We've been waiting for you. Right. That's what usually happens.

Thunder Levin 2:17
And that that did not happen to my great surprise. Although I did get a very nice letter back from his director of development at the time saying we thought it was a very well done student film. And so then I said about the hard slog of trying to make connections. And I guess it took about three or four years of just sort of knocking on doors before I got my first directing job. And then that didn't go very well. I was sort of outmaneuvered politically, I went into it being I guess, very naive and thinking everybody was there to help me realize all this nonsense, and no, everybody was there for for their own causes, or at least especially the producers. And so that did not go very well. And so then it was sort of a case of regrouping, and I started writing more. And it was a long time before, before other things started happening. And I started doing corporate promotional videos for a living, which actually is a fairly good living, if you can make it work. But it wasn't what I wanted to do. And so years went by, and I finally I was in my mid 30s, when I thought, you know, this is ridiculous, we got to make something happen. If nobody's going to hire me to do it, I ought to make my own film, which had always been the plan. It's just, you know, that was a Sunday kind of thing. Someday, if things don't work out, I'll just make my own film, and I'll show them. And then finally, I realize, you know, someday is, was a couple of years ago, I gotta get going, and tried to raise money to make an indie film and did not raise enough. And so that project collapsed. But some of the investors that I'd contacted, you know, who had, who had pledged funds, remembered me a year or so later, when I had another project. And now I seemed like, oh, well, he's done this before, even though we hadn't actually gotten the first film made. So there was there was some recognition factor when I went back to them a year or two later and said, Hey, let's, let's make this film. We can do it for less money than that other one. And, and it's going to be more commercial and all these things. It was just the funding, um, it was it was more of a niche, a niche film, but I don't think that's why it fell apart is a little science fiction film. But I think it fell apart because we were trying to raise close to a million dollars. And I just didn't have the connections to raise that much money. But then the next one we tried to raise money for which was a zombie film was much, much more modestly budgeted. We went in saying we were going to make it for 100 Round, but we would have the option of raising 150. And so we we eventually got to 100 grand. And we said, Okay, we're invoking our option to raise 150. Because we think it'll be a better film that way. And, and we raised 150. So it was much more doable and seemed like it'd be much easier for it to make a profit.

Jason Buff 5:20
So you worked as a producer on, you're talking about mutant vampire zombies from the hood?

Thunder Levin 5:26
And yeah, and so I was one of the I was, I guess, credit was, I'm the executive producer on that. George Saunders was my partner, he was the producer. But I ended up raising about 95% of the money. And so really, it was, it was a nuts and bolts from the beginning to the end, kind of production for me, and I learned a lot doing it. I don't ever want to do it again. I know there are people out there who enjoy putting the deal together and working all that stuff out. That's that's not really the part of the business that intrigues me I like, I like making movies, I like the creative part. I like coming up with a story and figuring out characters and casting and working with crew and cinematographers and sound people and artists, actors, and, you know, seeing it all come to life. Putting together the deal doesn't really doesn't really excite me that way.

Jason Buff 6:22
Can you talk for just a second about how you were able to put together that kind of funding. And I mean, I know it's not the really fun part of filmmaking. But one of the things that I've been trying to focus more on is talking about the non creative aspects and the more business aspects of putting together a film. So can you can you discuss just a little bit about the process of actually putting the film together and raising the funds? And what kind of, you know, things like, did you have to make it an LLC and the legal aspects of it?

Thunder Levin 6:51
Sure. I mean, I guess the first thing for anyone to remember who's going into this is it's a film business, not to film art, not to film craft to business, first and foremost, at least to people who are going to be investing and people are going to be buying films. So you've got to put together a package that makes sense from a business standpoint. So it's not about gee, this is and this be a really cool story, because investors probably aren't going to care about that. Some of them might, but most of them are, most people who are investing money in a project want to make money. So they need to see that, that you have some grasp of the business side of it. So the first thing is to do your research and figure out what movies are selling. What movies are getting made on the low end, and what are selling in the marketplace. And of course, the marketplace is changing in the midst of changing drastically, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, it was all about what can you get on the shelf at Blockbuster? And of course, that's not the case anymore. It's about how do you get attention for a movie that's, that's on VOD, or on iTunes or Amazon or what have you. And the business really is sort of reinventing itself right now. And even the studios are, are scrambling to figure out how all that is going to work and how to make money from it. So it's a it's a weird time to be making an indie film right now. But what we did was to research to put together basically, we put together a business plan. And the things we had to include in that were, how's this film going to make money? What you know, what's the physical process, we're going to form an LLC, a limited liability company, the investors are going to be the limited members. And the producer and I were the general members, which meant that we, the the investors would only have their investment at stake. They couldn't be touched for any losses beyond the money they put in. But they would have no particular say, in running the company. And George and I would run the company. And we our investment would be sweat equity, the effort we put into making the film. And so then we put together this business plan that would that listed movies that we thought were similar to our film, and we did research on okay, what is the low end that these investors can expect to make? So we did some research on similar movies that hadn't done so well, and how much money did they make? How much money did they spend? What's the high end? You know, and of course, at that point, what we were all pointing to as a high end was The Blair Witch Project, been made for like, you know, 60 grand and made $100 million, you know, and of course, you you fill it with caveats, like it's unlikely that the film will will achieve that kind of success and your money is at risk and you could lose everything and you keep saying that over and over again.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Thunder Levin 10:09
To protect yourself legally, but at the same time you have to paint a rosy picture or else why would anybody invest in your movie? And what is it about our film, what elements of our film make it likely to succeed? So okay, zombies were hot. So it was a zombie film, we would, we would guarantee that we would get at least one name star in the film, it would be shot in 12 days on $150,000. So the the financial risks are very low compared to the potential rewards, things like that. And basically, we we did some research online, and we talked to other people who had done this before. And there are, you know, business plans out there that you can get a look at. And we synthesized the best elements from a bunch of different business plans that we looked at. And we, we got distribution charts from the Hollywood Reporter, and from one of the Box Office Mojo and a bunch of these other things to show how similar films had performed. We put together a budget, we put together a cast list of the kinds of actors we thought we would be able to get for the money we had, we put together a schedule of how the investors could expect to see things proceed. So okay, once all the money is in, it'll take this long to prepare and cast the film, and this long to shoot it and this long to do post. And from the time it's finished in post until the time it's out on DVD will take about this long. And once it's out on DVD, how long do we expect it to take to recoup its money. And then of course, there was the business side of all the way we structured it was that all funds that came in from sales of the film would go to the investors first. We wouldn't get anything until the investors had recouped 110% of their investment. So that was sort of their protection that we weren't sort of, you know, going to run off with the money or anything. Investors had the rights to, to audit the books, things like that. So we set it up to protect the investors it as much as possible to give them first position. Oh, actually, it was second position after any debts that the film might have incurred?

Jason Buff 12:28
Did you have a distribution model in place at that point?

Thunder Levin 12:30
We did not have a distributor signed, we had a couple of distributors at that point that we had individually worked with before I had experience with before. And so we mentioned them and said that the film will be taken to these distributors and to others. At the time, we felt like we could probably get a better deal on the distribution. And if we didn't pre sign with an investor in retrospect, that was probably a mistake. But we felt that any investor looking at just our script, and our little package with with, you know, filmmakers who were essentially unknown, would not give us a very good deal. But that if we went out and made a really good movie, then we could command a higher price. In retrospect, it probably would have been safer, probably would have been better to take the safer deal and make a deal upfront we we did have a couple of distributors who expressed some interest upfront. And that would have at least guarantee at a certain a certain minimum income.

Jason Buff 13:34
Now, can you talk about what what it feels like as a director to walk onto the set for the first time? I mean, I know you had directed other things, but this was this was probably the biggest thing you would direct it at that point, right?

Thunder Levin 13:46
I'm not sure it was necessarily the biggest. It was the first film where I essentially had creative control. And so that was a big deal for me. And it was certainly the first film that I was solely responsible for from beginning to end. And it was interesting, because in my position, I had been telling people for years and years that I was a great film director, but really had no way to prove it. You know, it was just, you got to take my word for this. I can see it in my head. I know what you know, I know what it's gonna be like, it'll be great. You'll see. And so in a way when things didn't go terribly wrong in the first our shooting, it was it was just sort of a great vindication for me that that shoot actually ended up being probably to this day, the best film set I've ever been on. I spent a lot of time putting the crew together and interviewing people and people were getting paid, you know, crap. I think most people were making 100 bucks a day. But I spent a lot of time interviewing people and making sure we had people who were going to be really excited about doing it. Everybody was essentially moving up a step. or getting their, their, their break, getting into the business at the entry level or, you know, like the cinematographers or people who had not shot features before, but had shot really good shorts, or really good music videos. That was, that was the kind of people we were looking at costume designer had only been an assistant costume designer, things like that. So everybody was looking at this film as a really good opportunity for them, even though they weren't making much money. So we had we had really good spirit on the set, everybody got along really well. There was a great sense of community. And we were all just really working hard to make this thing the best it could be. And so my experience on the set as a director, there's an hour of sheer terror at the beginning of the shoot, where oh, God, do I know what I'm doing is everything going to fall apart have are all the pieces in place versus going to be an utter disaster. And once you get past that, and for me, actually, that that's kind of a daily thing. I mean, I've directed several features now. And every morning, I feel the same way until the first shot is in the cache. And then everything is fine. But that that shoot that it was just a wonderful sense of vindication. It's like finally, I was doing what I was supposed to be, you know, this, this proved not, it was less about proving to other people. And it became a confirmation to me that what I've been saying all these years, was actually right. And that this was what I was meant to do. And that here was a place where I was at home. And I didn't have to kowtow to people who didn't know what the hell they were talking about. And I didn't have to support somebody else's vision. I was doing what I was supposed to do. And it was working. And so that was a that was a very powerful, sort of reaffirmation for me. And then when the shoot went so well, and everybody got along so well. And despite doing it on an utterly insane schedule, everything worked out. It was it was just the most wonderful, wonderful thing. And to this day, I'm very proud of that film. I mean, you know, it's a low budget, zombie horror comedy. And it's, it's silly, and it's, you know, it doesn't look like a million bucks. But I'm really proud of it for for what it was, I think it was a great film. And I will put that up against Shaun of the Dead or zombie land any day. It doesn't it doesn't have it doesn't have quite the production value of zombie land. But I think the characters are just as engaging, if not more. So. I think the story carries you along. Very few people have really seen it. But the comments that we see on on the various internet forums when people actually do watch it, I'd say 95% of them really, really get into it. All the comments, we've had been very positive. So it was a it was a great experience from beginning to end. Except for the fact that it hasn't turned a profit yet.

Jason Buff 18:07
Now as a Spielberg fan, I was it was kind of cool working with see Thomas, how did you ever like talk to him about what it was like working on et or anything like that?

Thunder Levin 18:16
Yeah, yeah, we, we had a few conversations about that he had. Tommy has stories about everything, because he's not only has he been in the business since he was a kid. But his, his father and even his grandfather, I think we're both in the business of stuntman. So he grew up in Hollywood. And, and he has a lot of great stories. And I remember one that he was talking about was that Spielberg had a trailer on the set that was filled with pinball machines and video games. And so So, you know, in between shots, the kids were all in there. And it was basically like their own portable arcade and they just had a blast playing games while the crew was you know, setting up the next shot.

Jason Buff 18:59
Now when you get on a set, who are the people that you're really relying on that you kind of lean on throughout the day?

Thunder Levin 19:06
Right! Well, for me, the main collaborator on a film is the is the cinematographer. To me that's that's the most important working relationship on a film for a director. The other one, of course, is the first the first ad cuz he's the one who really runs the show. A lot of young directors from films coming out of film school or just you know, people who want to want to make movies. They don't realize just the extent to which they are not in charge. The director is especially a good director, if he knows what he's doing. He will allow the first ad to do his job and his job is running the set. And you know, you need to have your vision you need to know what what you're doing and what's coming next.

Alex Ferrari 19:57
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Thunder Levin 20:06
And be able to express that clearly. But the first ad is the one who's really sort of directing the troops. And And if he's good at his job if he or she is good, if the first idea is good at his or her job, it frees up the director to not have to worry about a lot of that stuff. And to focus on working with the cinematographer. And working with the with the actors. And those are the, for me, those are the key relationships, the cinematographer is going to be translating your vision onto the screen. So you have to have a good relationship with your DP. For me the key I've always started working with my DP at the very earliest stage that I can I'd like to have my DP in the room when we're doing storyboards if I'm doing storyboards, in fact, for me, the best situation is if my DP is also an artist, and can do the storyboards himself. So we'll sit in a room and we'll go through the script, and I'll walk out my vision and what I think the shots will be. And I'll describe them to them. And maybe I'll draw stick figures. And then, if the DP can draw, he will do storyboards because I can't draw to save my life. So I'll draw a stick figure of what the shot should be. And then he'll look at her and go, Oh, fuck is that? And I will explain it to him. And he said, Oh, yeah, it'll look like this. And he'll draw it out. Or we'll have a storyboard artist in the room with us, who will draw it out. And then maybe the DP will make a suggestion, well, what if we did it from this slightly different angle, or what if we move the camera here, I like to collaborate with my DP as much as I can. So that, really the way the film looks becomes kind of a shared vision. And that way, when we get on the set, I don't need to explain anything, he knows exactly what it's supposed to look like exactly where the cameras supposed to go exactly where he wants the lights to go. So I don't need to worry about explaining that to him, all we'll need to do is adjust for, you know, those situations where the location, or the set requires that something be changed from what our original plan was, and then we'll figure that out together. And then he can worry about all that. And I can go work with the actors, on their performance and their blocking, and so forth. So for me, the most important relationship is between the director and the DP, then between the director and the ad, that's got to be a working relationship, you're not you're not too concerned about a creative relationship there. But you've got to be able to get along. And he's got to be able to, to understand the way you work. If there's friction between the director and the first ad, things tend not to work very well. And I've experienced both of those where I've had really great relationships with my ad, and not so great relationships. And life is a whole lot better when the director they get along. And then the other kid, the other key relationship on a set. And this was something that maybe surprised me a bit in the early days was the relationship between the director and the star, especially in these low budget films, where you have just one name actor, and that actor has a lot more, a lot more clout on set than then some directors might like, because probably, he's the reason your film got funded. And he's the reason your film is going to get distributed. And he knows that. So having a good relationship with your star, where you're both working towards the same vision is really crucial. Because if you get on if you come in to it with different visions, and he's pushing to get it his way, and you're pushing to get yours, and he has a certain level of control, because you know, you can't physically make him do something, he doesn't want to do that that can become an awkward situation, too. So making sure that you and your star are are on the same wavelength. And that you both see at least his character, the same way can be very helpful. And the star can become a great ally, too. Because on a low budget indie film where you're trying to shoot the film in 10, or 12, or 15, or even 20 days, you really don't have time to do the kind of dramatic work with the actors that you'd like to do. And so your star, if he really understands his role, and you guys are on the same page with it, he can then become a very helpful force for working with the other actors as well. Because what one would expect in an indie film, especially in a B movie, where you tend to be casting someone in the lead, who has probably already had a career and has been doing it for a while, because those are the people who who will sell a low budget movie.

Jason Buff 25:07
Did you ever find yourself maybe over directing or doing things that they didn't really need you to do? Or did you learn?

Thunder Levin 25:13
No, just the opposite or, in fact, is that you can actually do less, because they know what they're doing. And they can also pass along their experience and their their years of wisdom to the less experienced members of the cast, because on a, on a low budget indie film, you're probably going to have a lot of actors who haven't done this as much. And so having a good relationship with your star, he can sort of carry some of that burden for you. And he can, he can talk to some of the actors about what they're doing, and the little, the little techniques of acting that he's picked up in his years of experience that will help them do what you need them to do. You know, and you've, you've got to, you've got to balance that by making sure that everybody in stands that understands that you're in charge, and a good star gets that. And he won't question you publicly, you know, I had a moment, a moment on one of my films, where, you know, now I don't even remember what it was, but it was it was a case of the star sort of questioned something, you know, and I took him aside, and he was a guy who, who, you know, made dozens of films and and had a very successful TV series. And I had to take him aside and say, Look, you know, we can, we can talk about this as much as you want. If you don't like what I'm doing, we can we can work it out together. But you can't question me in front of the rest of the cast and crew. And here's like, you're absolutely right, I apologize for that. And then you were showing me and we had a very good. And here he was, we were literally out in the middle of the jungle, and we did not have a stunt coordinator on that film. And so Adrian Paul kind of took over that role for us. And he would help the other actors with with the physical stuff that they needed to do, thanks to all his experience, you know, on Highlander, mainly, because, you know, he spent several years doing endless fight scenes and stuff. So he was, he was really good at that. And he was able to help the other actors in ways that I probably would not have been able to. And even if I had been able to, I certainly wouldn't have had the time because there's so many things. I've often said that directing a feature film is probably the most all encompassing intense experience that a human being can have short of going to war, there's so many things that you have to keep in your head, so many things going on at any one moment aren't doing what I needed. And I would have had to go back and talk to them. And there would would have cost more time. But actually, my star was was talking to him and was bringing them along. And especially if you're working with if you're doing an action movie, as most of mine have been, and your star is someone who's done a lot of action work before, then he can also be very helpful with the physical stuff. Both see Thomas how on mute and vampire zombies. And also Adrian Paul, who was my star in a Ye, you know, they both had a lot of action experience. And so they would they would help the other actors. Okay, here's how you, here's how you might want to run through the scene. Yeah, we're running through the jungle. Well, how are we going to make sure we don't trip and fall over this, you know, Vine here, there's a lot going on. And it's a funny thing to think about how much time it takes to simply be able to run through a patch of jungle, this is something you don't think about when you're watching an action film. But simply being able to run through the jungle for 100 feet without tripping on something is, it's harder than you might think. And so having somebody with a certain level of experience at that kind of thing, how do I slide down this hillside without falling over and breaking my ankle? That neck can be very helpful, especially when you don't have a huge stunt team. You know, working with everybody on on one of these films, you're you're lucky if you have a stunt coordinator at all, much less a whole stunt team to work with each of your 10 different actors in a scene that are you are responsible for that it can really get overwhelming and you tend to develop tunnel vision to to a certain extent. And I know it happens for me that I am totally focused on the moment we're putting in front of the camera. And if somebody asked me about another moment in the film, I'm like what? Ah, there's there's another moment.

Alex Ferrari 29:55
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Thunder Levin 30:04
And I'll have to, like make a physical conscious effort to to change my focus and think about this other thing that needs to be addressed. Yeah. So on a, we were out in the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica, there's very little film infrastructure that I want there is is based in the capital of San Jose. So the people there San Jose, it's just a city like LA, people there have no more experience working in the jungle than anybody here would. So even our quote unquote local crew was still out of their element. So yeah, Adrian was very, very helpful on that production. And it was it was great working with it.

Jason Buff 30:45
Now, why was the decision made to shoot in Costa Rica? Is that just because the screenplay or was there some sort of financial incentive for for shooting there?

Thunder Levin 30:54
That was actually a weird, a weird situation. That decision was made by the partners at the asylum. And that was an asylum film. And they had shot several films in Belize, which, honestly, is where I expected to shoot the film. But they wanted a different look, because most of their jungle films have been shot in Belize. And so they, they started looking around at different places where we could shoot a jungle film. And we were talking about the Dominican Republic to and we were talking about Puerto Rico. And I was kind of interested in Puerto Rico. Because I had another project and indie project that I'd been developing that I thought we would probably shoot in Puerto Rico, because it needed both jungle and a Spanish colonial city. And so you got both of those in Puerto Rico, plus, they speak English. Plus, it's close to us. Now, there are no import restrictions or anything, because it's part of the US. And it's so close by plan that you could fly equipment and stuff. So Puerto Rico was interesting to me. But it made decided that Puerto Rico was probably going to be too expensive. And I think there were union issues there, too. So they were looking at Dominican Republic, and then Panama got into the mix. And then finally, the decision to shoot in Costa Rica, oddly enough, was made for two reasons. One, was that one of the partners at the asylum, his father, I think, owns a house in Costa Rica. And so somehow that made it better. I guess they just had a connection there. And then they got in touch with a local production company in Costa Rica, who kind of sold them on shooting there. And as it turns out, it might have been a mistake, because it turns out that Costa Rica is not an inexpensive place. And we were there during Prime tourist season. And there was no local crew in the jungle. So even the local the quote, unquote, local crew, we were hiring all had to be transported from San Jose, they all had to be put up in hotels, you know, normally think, well, we're going to hire a local crew, they'll just be living at home, and they'll come to the set every day. But it wasn't like that. So so the expensive shooting in Costa Rica, and everything's very expensive there. It's not, it's not this third world country where you can hire labor for 10 cents an hour or something. What little film production there is there was mostly TV commercials, and an actual Costa Rican television programs. So they were all used to work in sort of a normal day in a studio setting and getting paid decent rates. And we were coming in with this, this crazy low budget film that was going to be shot out in the middle of the jungle, and we wanted people to work for what to them was very little. And so it was it. Costa Rica actually was a wonderful place. But from a production standpoint, it actually kind of worked against us. And it ended up costing a lot more than anybody expected. But it was beautiful.

Jason Buff 34:03
When you're shooting in the jungle, how do you scout out locations? Do you just kind of say, Okay, well, here's a river. And we can shoot it like this. I mean, is there are you shooting it kind of in the same area? Or do you? Do you have like a location manager there that it's dealing with that sort of thing?

Thunder Levin 34:19
Yeah. It's funny. We didn't have an actual location scout, we hired a tour guide, who basically took people just tourists on tours. And we hired him to show us all these places, you know, and so during pre production, he took us around, we needed a waterfall. We needed a river. We needed a dense jungle. We needed an open clearing. So he took us around to a bunch of waterfalls and rivers and things like that, that he knew about. But yeah, we all we had to get it all in one basic area because we couldn't afford time wise or money wise to be traveling all around the country. And we were fortunate we found this A, I guess was a plantation I guess it was a sure it was a coconut plantation, I forget what they were growing there. But it was there was this plantation where part of it was cultivated. And then part of it was just wild jungle. And they happen to have a cave, which we needed, and there was a river on their property. And so we talked to the owners of this, this land. And we were able to end up shooting about 80% of the film on this one plot of land, where we had most of the things we needed. And then that really saved us because before we found that we were going to be moving around constantly. And that would have just cost way too much time getting to new locations each day and setting up all over again. And you know, the producers kept saying, Well, it's a jungle country, just pull over to the side of the road and shoot. And it's like, no, you can't do that. For one thing. At the side of the road, the jungle was so dense that you literally couldn't get into it, you would have had to hack your way in with a machete, you know, you want you want the actors to appear to be running through dense jungle, but it's virtually impossible to get your equipment in and shoot that way. So you need a place with paths and roads, and, and dirt trails and stuff where you can get to places that look like they're in the middle of the jungle, but are actually easily accessible. You know, we're where are 50 people going to sit down and have lunch on their break? And how are you going to run electricity in? And where are you going to lay dolly track and all this stuff. So shooting in dense jungle is pretty tricky. But we were lucky in that we found a lot of beautiful locations very close to each other. But the days where we had to move and go to a different location, like we did for the waterfall. It was it was pretty hairy. And finding all these things because they were they were widely spaced was was tricky too. But it all worked out. Was your

Jason Buff 36:57
DP working with like, big 5k lights and things like that outside? Or did you try to use mostly natural light when you could?

Thunder Levin 37:04
No, it was mostly it was mostly natural light. In fact, one of the interesting things was we have this scene inside the cave that was supposed to be lit by glow stick. Now these chemical light sticks. And at a certain point, we decided to just light it with glow sticks. And we bought the brightest glow sticks you could find and we wrapped a bunch of them together. And we actually shot one scene where they're walking through this dark cave lit entirely by glow sticks with people holding them near their face and stuff. So that was kind of cool. You know, I know we had we had a very minimal lighting kit. And we were really only using it. I mean, you know he'd set up a backlight occasionally. But we were in the jet. And when we were outside in the jungle, we were mostly using available lighting. Because it was a matter of Well, where are you going to run power from? Can we get a generator into this place we were there were there were days were you know, the only way to reach where we were shooting was in a four wheel drive pickup truck, there was no way to get a grip truck there. So transporting a lot of equipment just wouldn't have been practical. So a lot of that film, the vast majority of that film was shot with available light and reflectors. And every once in a while we'd set up a couple of couple of lights here and there. And then inside the cave, where we needed actual light. That was that was one day where we we brought in a generator, and we had to do a real lighting setup. And then there was some stuff that we actually shot in the city. You know, there were there were sets and, and buildings and so forth. And those we had lighting, but that, you know, we weren't in the jungle there. And we were in a controllable situation.

Jason Buff 38:48
Now, can you talk for a second about how you developed a relationship with the asylum and how you first met David lat. And those guys,

Thunder Levin 38:56
That was a very slow process, and it wasn't intentional. I met David lap before the asylum existed basically, I had had a day job that I won't even mention what I was doing. So embarrassing. But while I was there, I made friends with this woman who was a talent manager. And she knew David, I don't really know how she knew David. But she knew David lat they were friends. And so eventually she introduced me to him and we started talking. And nothing came of that this is actually I think one of the most important lessons for somebody coming out to Hollywood to try and get into the business is to just meet as many people as you can, because you never know what's going to turn into a great connection. So I met David lat and and I just knew him he was just somebody I knew and we would talk every once in a while when we were visiting with our mutual friend. I didn't really time with him on my own per se i mean i My girlfriend and I were invited to his wedding

Alex Ferrari 40:00
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Thunder Levin 40:10
You know, and on, audit off over the years we'd be in contact. Maybe we'd go to parties, the same party as occasionally because we had mutual friends. I ended up the friend who introduced us ran a coed softball team, and David's wife played on the team. And I played on the team. So so we were just in contact, on and off for years. And and when the asylum started, I think it was called something else. They were actually doing arthouse films, you know, and I talked to him on occasion about trying to get something going. And and it never really amounted to much. And I guess I was just, oh, that that friend of Donna's, who wants to be a director. Right. And so I don't think he really took me terribly seriously. But then once I made the zombie film, and I could actually show him something, I could say, Here, look at this, I can do what I've been saying I could do. And he looked at it. And there was a movie proving that I could do what I said I could do. And he couldn't sort of ignore that anymore. And by then the asylum had sort of become this low budget film factory where they were churning movies out in large numbers, and they had plans to expand and make even more films. And they had just hired a new director of development to guide that process. When I made the zombie film, and he said, Okay, it's pretty good, I will put you in touch with my director of development. And, you know, when he puts out a call to writers for script ideas, you'll be on the list. And so we went through a few different scenarios where I got an email from the Director of Development saying, hey, we need to, we need some ideas based on this, this concept, you know, and there were a few where I pitched ideas, and nothing ever came of that. And then finally, there was they were going to do a knock off of Fast and Furious Five, I guess. And I was into cars, and street racing, and so forth. And so I pitched them my idea, and they went with it. And it just sort of we develop the relationship from there. And I wrote that first script for them. I wrote that in, in 10 days, because we spent a while talking about the story. And by the time they finally approved what the story was going to be, they called me into the office as they said, Okay, we want you to write this for us. But we need the script in in 12 days. And I was like, I've never written a script in less than two months before. But okay. And what's worse is that it was right before Christmas, for some reason, I always seem to be writing scripts for the asylum right before Christmas. And I had a Christmas party planned. And so I lost a day and a half, two days, chopping and getting ready for this party. So I really had to write that script for 200 miles per hour, in in 10 days. But I did it. And I got it to them. And it was what they needed. And that led to another and another, and eventually to this sort of insane moment where they said, Okay, we want you to write a movie called Sharknado.

Jason Buff 43:29
What's your process? When you begin writing? Do you try to outline everything before you ever start writing? Or do you? I mean, what do you do before you actually start working on the screenplay?

Thunder Levin 43:40
It depends on the situation. Because if I'm writing on assignment for somebody, then I'm going to be having to fulfill their needs. The Asylum has a very specific process, they start with a one sentence logline that they will provide usually, and they'll ask for a one variety of one paragraph pitches that would fulfill this, this concept. And then they'll pick one of those one paragraphs, and I'll say, Okay, now write a one page story with a clear eight act structure. So write a one page story, and then they'll give you notes on that. And once they're happy with the way the one page goes, they'll say, Okay, now write us a three page outline with more detail and break it up into the the 8x. For for TV movie, because most of their stuff, you know, they're hoping they can sell it to sci fi or whatever. So it needs the TV movie structure of 8x. And so then you do this three page outline for them, and then when there'll be notes on that, and then they'll finally approve that, and then you go to script. So that's the way I have to work for that. When I'm doing a spec project. I prefer not to do that. What I generally do On a spec project, is I'll have a basic idea of what the story is going to be. So I'll probably have that one paragraph idea. And then I'll go to, to an outline format, where what I do is I make up a sheet with lines labeled one through 90. And each one of those lines should correspond to a scene on the general assumption that it'll be about one scene per page. So I've got 9090 scenes. And usually, the opening of the film will just be in my head. Because that's the the impetus for the story. And so I'll fill out, you know, the first 12345 10 lines with a one sentence description of what is that scene. And then usually, if you know what your story is, you know what your beginning is, you probably have an idea how you want it to end. So I'll go in and I'll plug in, okay, what's the climax of the film? And that'll be like number 8586 87. And then, okay, what's the turnaround in the middle, and so somewhere in the middle, and this will be less precise where it goes, I'll say, Okay, now this happens, you know, and maybe there'll be a couple of intermediary moments. And so I'll have this one sheet of 90 lines, where there's a bunch filled out at the top, and then a few interspersed in the middle, okay, I know this kind of thing has to happen somewhere in here. And then there'll be more detail towards the end. And on a spec script, I'll just start writing the script then. And usually, as I start writing, more ideas will come to me to fill in those blank lines in the middle. So probably by the time I've finished the script, I've also finished the outline. And I'll be able to move things around. I don't do the index cards, like, like a lot of film schools teach you and I know a lot of writers do.

Jason Buff 46:56
You just let the structure come out.

Thunder Levin 46:58
I liked it. I liked this outline. Because I want the structure in front of me, I want to physically see it all in sort of one gaze one glance. So it's having it fit on one sheet of paper, or sometimes two sheets of paper taped together. I like to be able to see the structure of the film in front of me.

Jason Buff 47:18
Do you have any basis? Did you just kind of feel out the structure? Or do you have like beats that you'd like to hit by specific point? I mean, I hate to say something like save the cat or whatever. But you know, anything like that, that you ever use? If you're in a bind, and you can't really figure out what's going to go somewhere? No,

Thunder Levin 47:37
I've never read says the cat I've never read truly, I've never read any of these screenwriting guys. In fact, it's funny because I've been talking to a film school about possibly teaching a class for them. And I want to teach a directing class, but because of Sharknado, of course, it's to their advantage to have me teach a screenwriting class and, and I keep telling him, I don't know anything about spring, I just sort of do this instinctively. So no, I don't, I don't really do that. I just get an idea. And then I'll get an idea of who the characters are, at least who the main characters are. And then I just sort of watch what they do. And I write it down.

Jason Buff 48:18
Any tricks for characters are like, how do you keep characters consistent and really develop your characters?

Thunder Levin 48:24
I really don't know how to articulate how I do that. It's just, I mean, I just put myself maybe I'll put myself in the head of the lead character, and try and put myself in that place and say, Okay, what would I do if I were this person in this situation? And then for the bad guy, I'll think, Okay, what wouldn't I do? I don't know, I really have never analyzed that. It's, it's a much more organic process for me. I mean, I could tell you how I direct a film. But how I actually write one of these scripts. It's it's just sort of a thing that happens, you know, and there are certain rules. I mean, obviously, you know that you have to establish all your characters and the the impetus for the story all has to happen within the first 20 pages and preferably within the first 10 There needs to be some action in the opening. At some point in those first 20 pages, the hero makes a decision that propels you into the story, or propels the hero into the story. The dilemma has to be presented to the hero and then he has to make a decision as to what to do and that changes his world somewhere in the middle. There has to be a turnaround where suddenly things aren't going to go the way the hero had hoped they were going to go and then as you get towards the three quarter point in the story, you know that there generally needs to be an all is lost moment where it looks like everybody's gonna die.

Alex Ferrari 50:00
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Thunder Levin 50:09
And then that propels you into your action finale where the hero does something and saves the day. That's about as close to a formal structure as I really get. And, and then it's just a matter of what happens. And now again, when I'm writing for the asylum, and they have this very strict eight act structure, that's a bit different, because I know that each act is going to be about 12 minutes long, the first act will be a bit longer, and the last act will be a bit shorter. And in each of those acts, there has to be an action beat. So that needs to be fulfilled in the outline stage.

Jason Buff 50:48
So you're writing for commercials? Or is it like, is that the breakup?

Thunder Levin 50:53
Well, they don't want you to write for hard commercial breaks. Although on on Sharknado, two, I started doing that. Because sci fi, when they air, these movies will often put the brakes someplace other than where you thought they were gonna go. But they still want it structured so that every 12 minutes, there's a there's an action beat, and sort of a mini climax. And then each one would get progressively bigger until you reach the app. So you do, especially for the ones that they know are going to sci fi, you do have to delineate your acts. And they all need to be about the right length, you know, so maybe one act could be a bit shorter, maybe you could have a 10 minute act. If you have somewhere else and act that's 14 or 15 minutes, but that's about as structured as I get.

Jason Buff 51:44
Now, when you wrote Apocalypse Earth. Did you read that? Right that at about the same time as Sharknado?

Thunder Levin 51:49
Yes. And it should, it should be noted that it was not called Apocalypse earth when I wrote it, it was just called a ye. And there were a variety of things that he was going to stand for. And basically, when people asked me what did it stand for, I said, almost everything. Apocalypse Earth was actually a tag that was added on during post production by the assailant. And at first they were going to call it alpha Earth. And I was like, No, we can't call it alpha her if that gives away the twist at the end. So apocalypse, or at somehow I thought, well, there's this big Apocalypse In the opening scene. So if we call it Apocalypse Earth, and people see that maybe they won't be looking for the twist later on. But yes, I was. Let's see, how did that how did that go? They came to me, I was talking. It was after American warships. And we were talking about what my next project for them was going to be. And we were talking about a giant monster movie that they wanted. And so at first, I agreed to do this giant monster movie. Now, that's not how it worked. We were talking about what we were going to do. And we were still tossing around ideas. And they came to me and they said, We want you to write a movie called Shark storm. And that just didn't sound very appealing. It seemed like Shark storm. Okay, well, there, there have been a lot of movies about sharks and storms. And just like what why would we need this? It didn't appeal. So I said no. And we kept talking about, about other projects. And, and we started talking about this giant monster movie that they wanted to do, which I guess was gonna be a mock Buster of Pacific Rim. And so I started working on that, and sort of a vague concept form. And then they came back to me. And they said, Okay, what we really want you to do is Sharknado. And I said, what the sharks have to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? And they said, no, no, no, not Sharknado Sharknado tornado full of sharks. And I said, That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Jason Buff 53:58
And that makes a lot more sense.

Thunder Levin 54:00
And if I can write it that way, then sure, I'd love to do that. Because the asylum tends to play all their movies completely straight. They don't like they don't like to stray into into farce or comedy, unless it's a comedy, which personally I have always taken issue with, because I think if you're going to make a low budget movie, and you know, it's going to be low budget, and it's going to look kind of cheap, then it's better to get the audience laughing with you than achoo. That was certainly the approach I took with mutant vampire zombies from the hood. And so when they said Sharknado, I was a little concerned that they would want to play it completely straight. And I just didn't see how you could take a movie called Sharknado and play it completely straight. And they said now we understand it's called Sharknado. And there's going to be a certain tongue in cheek element to it. And so with that comforting thought, I agreed to do it and originally I was supposed to direct it So I guess this was, this would have been the summer of 2012. And so the outlining process went pretty smoothly. And then the script writing, the first draft went very smoothly. And it was done in in a relatively quick period of time. And there weren't a lot of notes. And it was just done. And I was going to direct it, except that I felt a little burned on American warships, because I thought I, what we had done on set was really was really a good movie. And then I thought, the visual effects, which we'd really been depending on, kind of let us down. And if I'd known their process a bit better. That was that was the first film I directed for the assignment, I've had really sort of known a bit better, what we were going to be dealing with, maybe I wouldn't have left the film, so dependent on the visual effects. And so I was looking at the script I'd written for Sharknado. And thinking, there's just no way, there's just no way that this can be done on the kind of budget they're talking about, at least I don't see how to do it, I could do it for 20 million, maybe I could do it for 10 million. It's really $100 million film. And, and so I I sort of shied away from directing it because I didn't want to be in that position again. Because even though the script had this tongue in cheek element to it, I still, I didn't want to be unintentionally bad, you know, the stuff that was going to be cheesy, had to be where I intended it to be cheesy, I didn't want to be in a position where I just didn't have what I needed to make it the way I wanted it to look. And at the same time, I had been getting utterly enthralled with Game of Thrones. And I had this this sort of craving to create a whole world. And I've always been a science fiction guy. So I went into the director of development. And I said, Look, you know, we've got this Sharknado, and I'm supposed to direct it. But truth is, what I really want to do is make a movie where I can create a whole world and have a society in it, and just sort of build something from the ground up, call alternate reality. And he said, Well, we've got this project, that it's the one sentence description, is a group of refugees from Earth have to survive on a hostile alien planet? And that just sounded perfect to me. But I said, Yes, I'll do that. And so I started writing that, and that would have been, I guess, September of 2012. And so I wrote a UI. And as that writing process was going along, they scheduled the shoots of a UI, and Sharknado for exactly the same time, they were both going to shoot in January. And so I was forced to choose. And at that point, I decided to do a EA and I wanted to do this science fiction film in the jungle. And so I said, you know, I, I respectfully withdraw from Sharknado. I hope somebody else makes it work. And I'm gonna go off to Costa Rica, and shoot my science fiction movie. And in retrospect, I don't know if that was the stupidest thing I've ever done or not. You know, because if if I had written and directed Sharknado, then I would be the one getting all the attention for it. And maybe I'd be hailed as this, this great genius. Whereas now Anthony and I are splitting the attention for, but at the same time, you know, you wonder maybe things went the way they were supposed to go. And maybe it wouldn't have worked if I directed it. Who knows if if something Anthony did you know and dealing with not having the resources he needed to properly create this, this insane situation that I had written? You know, that it could well be that that is what endeared it to people. So maybe things worked out for the best, and I'm getting the attention from Sharknado. But I also have this serious science fiction film that I can point to and say, See, I can do that too.

Jason Buff 59:30
Now when you saw Sharknado, was it pretty much kind of how you would envision it or is it very different from your your idea?

Thunder Levin 59:37
Well, Anthony didn't want me to see it until it was done. It was funny because we met for the first time in the editing room. We were sharing an editing suite. I was cutting a at the same time he was cutting Sharknado and I was in there working with my editor and this guy walks in and he walks up to me and he says I want to punch you

Alex Ferrari 1:00:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Thunder Levin 1:00:10
And I didn't know who he was. And I said, Oh, okay, why? And he said, I directed Sharknado. I said, Oh, well, then you are very right.

Jason Buff 1:00:21
That makes sense.

Thunder Levin 1:00:24
So that was the beginning of what has become a great friendship. But he didn't want me to see it until it was done. So I didn't actually see. I mean, while we were editing, you know, I would look over my shoulder because we were sharing this editing suite. And so I would occasionally look over my shoulder to see what had become of my words. And some of it looked right. And some of it was like, What the hell is that? You know, because there was there was a car chase, and I didn't write a car chase. What was that about? You know, and obviously, they didn't have the wherewithal for it to be raining constantly in every shot, and for Los Angeles to be filling up with water, which was this giant disaster that I'd written. So when I finally saw it, I saw it with the public along with everybody else, I was just at home watching it on TV,

Jason Buff 1:01:12
There wasn't a premiere or anything at the at the asylum or anything was done.

Thunder Levin 1:01:16
There wasn't what what happens out here is we get the East Coast sci fi feed. And then there's the RE airing for the West Coast. So the plan was that people were just going to watch the East Coast feed, you know, wherever they were, then we were all going to get together to watch the West Coast feed at a party. But then the, you know, during the initial broadcast, this whole thing started happening on Twitter. And it just sort of became insane. And so I was on the computer and I was corresponding with people and tweeting, and getting phone calls for people saying, Can you believe what's happening and all this stuff. And so then I had to run out at the last minute to go to the party for the second airing. And I got, I guess it was going to start at nine o'clock here. And I got in the car and I got on the freeway. And for some reason, I guess there'd been an accident or something. But the flu was at a dead standstill. And after about 20 minutes of this and realizing I'd already missed the beginning. I just gave up and went home and got back on Twitter and get back on Facebook and email where the world was still blowing up. And very strange things were happening. And I was corresponding with Damon Lindelof. And I was starting to get requests for interviews, and it was just sort of the most surreal night I can imagine. But yeah, for the so for the first 20 to 30 minutes of Sharknado. I was sitting there going, what? That's not. That's not what I know, wait, what, but after that, after about the first 30 minutes, it settles down to be basically the way I wrote it. I mean, it doesn't look like what I saw in my head because I still had this huge disaster movie, Los Angeles is filling up with water kind of thing. You know, as the background I, to me, it was a it was a two layer thing, there was this realistic disaster movie going on, where Los Angeles is flooding. And then on top of that there was this ridiculous element of sharks falling from the sky. And so obviously, the realism of the of the disaster scenario was not achievable on the budget they had. And so I can't say that it looked the way I saw it in my head when I wrote it. Except for certain moments where we're really did. But on the whole, you know, I was, I was a little frustrated that they couldn't really achieve that kind of level of destruction and disaster. But still that they kept to my script from from about the 20 or 30 minute going on. And I was no longer going. Wait, I didn't write that. Anthony changed a fair amount in the in the opening.

Jason Buff 1:04:13
Do you think they carried off the tone that you had the kind of comic tone but not like the actors took it seriously, but they were within a world that was kind of, you know, chaotic, or, or absurd, in a way? Yeah,

Thunder Levin 1:04:26
I mean that the tone was what what I intended. The production value was where I wasn't what I had envisioned. But one of the reasons that I ended up not directing it was because I knew there was no way to achieve what I had in my head. So I think it all worked out for the best.

Jason Buff 1:04:43
Now you guys went back and making Sharknado two was the process completely different now that you had had all this success with the first one?

Thunder Levin 1:04:52
Yes. It was. It was interesting because the first One, nobody paid any attention. To me, the outlining story outlining process, you know, there were there were a few notes. And then it was like, Okay, go ahead and write. And then the first draft of the script, the asylum had a few notes, which I addressed, then sci fi had a few notes. And then it was done. And you know, nobody thought anything of it, it was just this ridiculous little moving. By the second one, of course, it'd become this phenomena. And so everybody had their eyes on it. And every little thing that I did, was being examined by, you know, half a dozen different people who all had to have input on it. So it was, it was a much more political process, getting the second script done. And of course, there was a lot more riding on it, because the first one, nobody thought anything of it. And the second one, suddenly, suddenly, it was going to become this franchise, if we didn't screw it up. So so there was there was a lot more pressure, there was a lot more eyes on the whole process took a lot longer getting the getting the script done. Now, what

Jason Buff 1:06:06
Well, does it feel like when all of a sudden people are, you know, noticing you and wanting to interview you, and you get all this recognition? How does that feel? Is it a good feeling? Or is it kind of? Does it give you anxiety? Or no?

Thunder Levin 1:06:20
The only anxiety has actually has happened in the last couple of months, where somehow my home address got out on the internet, I guess. And so I've been getting fan mail at home. And that's a little disturbing. Fortunately, it's all been good. There haven't been any death threats. But the fact that somehow my address got out there, that makes me a little bit anxious. Other than that, it's just been wonderful. You know, I mean, I came out to Hollywood expecting to be the next Steven Spielberg and imagining something like this, but imagining it happening 20 years ago. And so after years of struggling in anonymity, while I still hope, for a level of success and public appreciation, I'm not sure I necessarily expected it anymore. So when it when it finally started happening, it's just been wonderful. But I had been, you know, sort of preparing myself for this kind of career, you know, for 20 odd years. So I think if it had actually happened, when I was young, when I first came out here probably would have messed with my hand, I think the years of, of struggling, have allowed me to stay a lot more grounded during this whole process. And just sort of take it for what it is and enjoy it. And not let myself get too carried away with it all. But you know, it's a wonderful thing. You go to these conventions and lining up to get your autograph. And telling you how much they love the movie and what fun they had with it. And little kids do they remember, at Comic Con, not this last summer, but the year before, after the first movie had just come out. I walked on to walked onto the floor at Comic Con The first night I got there. And it was about the clothes, I'd gotten there really late because there was traffic or I don't remember what it was, but I got there late. So I just figured I'd take a quick walk around the convention floor. And I'm walking through these tables of displays and stuff. And the very first little snippet of a conversation I hear as I'm walking past somebody is this guy say, yeah, and then he dives into the shark. And then he cuts his way out. And that was literally the first thing I heard as I walked through the congenic convention floor Comicon. And now it's just surreal. And then the next day we were doing this poster signing. And you know, we'd been signing pretty consistently for like half an hour. And I was kind of surprised that people were still coming. And so I took a break and I went out to look for the line to see where all these people were coming from. And I couldn't find the line. All I saw was the big crowd of people filling the hall. And then I realized that was our line and they were actually lined up out the door to get these posters. And mind you I and and Tara weren't even there. It was me and Anthony, and Jason Simmons. And, and one other cast member, I think. So the big stars weren't even there. And we have a line out the door of people to get their Sharknado poster. So I was just like, What is going on here? This is amazing. And then this, this mother came up with a little girl who must have been about, I don't know, six or seven. And she was dancing around going Sharknado who's Jack Daedalus, running around in circles. And it's just been a remarkable experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:59
Well be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Thunder Levin 1:10:08
And it's just so it's just really wonderful to see that people have gotten into it like this and have embraced it in the spirit that we intended. Just a wonderful feeling.

Jason Buff 1:10:20
Well, it's funny because my, my son's completely obsessed with tornadoes right now. And his favorite movie is Twister. He's six years old. Okay. And last night, I had Sharknado on, you know, doing a little bit of research. And I was like, son, this is a tornado, but to tornado with sharks in it, and he just about lost his mind. That was the first thing he said this morning. He's like, Dad, can we watch Sharknado. And I was like, after school, maybe it's, you know, a good time. I'm sorry. So I had one more thing that you had mentioned something in an interview before, that's kind of a different topic. And I just wanted to ask you this real quick, and then let you go. You had said that, if you could do things all over again, you would have made a feature film a lot earlier in your career. And I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about that?

Thunder Levin 1:11:10
Well, like I said, there, it had always been in the back of my mind that if I didn't succeed, if I didn't get where I wanted to go, following the traditional route of trying to get a film, getting somebody to make a film, getting a production company or a studio to hire me to make a film, that eventually I was just going to have to raise the money and make my own. But I guess I kept putting off that moment. Because that reaching that decision sort of implied that I had failed up to them that nobody was going to hire me to make a movie. And so, so coming to accept that and saying, Okay, I'm gonna have to take matters into my own hands, took longer than it probably should have, if I had made that zombie movie five or 10 years earlier, then the things that came as a result of it would have happened five or 10 years earlier. And, you know, hopefully, I would be five or 10 years further along in my career than I am now. Because because everything that's happened, from making movies to the asylum to the success of Sharknado, all of that can be traced back to the to that zombie film, where I proved that, yes, I can actually make a movie. So if I, if I had done that sooner, then maybe I'd be further along now. And maybe I'd be making big studio films now. Or at least maybe I would have spent an extra 10 years doing what I wanted to do rather than just struggling to make a living. So I do sort of regret not having made that film earlier. The question arises, you know, would I have wouldn't have been as successful if I'd done it when I was younger and had less experience and less maturity? I don't know. There's no way to know, of course, I think it would have.

Jason Buff 1:13:07
Don't you think technology also kinds of play plays a role to a certain extent, I mean, that that it's so much cheaper to?

Thunder Levin 1:13:14
Yeah, we were, we were able to make that film cheaper than if we'd shot it 10 years earlier, and had the shoot on film, actually, even five years earlier, because we were, we were sort of, you know, we weren't the first indie film to shoot on HD, but it was still a relatively new thing. And so the technology was still actually sort of a question mark. At that point. I remember we, we built a computer to edit it. It was like, Okay, what what does this computer need to be able to do, and I ended up spending like five grand to build a computer. And now you could do it for, you know, 800 on a laptop. So yeah, I probably would have been more expensive, if we'd done it sooner. But at the same time, there was more money available, because films were more expensive than and part of the so called democratization of film that's come with the digital revolution. I think there's a little less respect for what it takes to make a movie. Now people think, Oh, well, anybody with a video camera can make a movie. And that's not true. And unfortunately, I think people think, oh, it's really cheap to make a movie now. And that's not true either. Certain elements have become less expensive. You don't have to process film stock. You don't have to buy film stock. You don't need to print your movie at the end. Renting a high end HD camera costs as much as renting you know, a pan of flexio stew. So that hasn't changed too much. If you're really trying to do it at a professional level. Yes, you can go out and buy a cheap HD camera now. I mean, you know there there are phones that will shoot 4k video. But but they still have crappy little plastic lens It's not like you're really going to be able to make a movie that looks like a movie, on your camera phone. So yes, certain elements have gotten cheaper, you know, you don't need to rent an avid anymore, you can do it on, on any home computer, you can edit a film. Now, digital effects can be done on less sophisticated computers. But you still need the really good software, and you still need people who know how to use it. And, and so the craft hasn't changed, it hasn't gotten any cheaper. But unfortunately, people seem to think it has. And so, you know, it used to be the people in the film industry got paid pretty well. And part of that was the assumption that they had a craft that they had learned over many years, that was a was a rare skill. And part of it was the fact that you're not going to be working 50 weeks a year. So you need to be paid enough when you are working to live, you know, in between projects. And one of the unfortunate things that's happened in recent years is people seem to have forgotten that these are still hard won hard fought skills that take a lot of time to perfect. And not just anybody with a computer, and an iPhone can do it. You need to know what you're doing. But because of the technological advances, there's a there's a change perception, I think, of what's involved here. And so people think that they shouldn't have to pay for all this stuff. So you see all these visual effects companies, you know, winning Oscars, and then going out of business, because they're forced to do things so cheaply. And you see people making films on their iPhone, and then they get surprised when they can't sell the movie to a distributor. So it's been a double edged sword, I think. And yes, certain aspects of it are a bit cheaper than it used to be, but cost like sets and feeding your crew, and hiring actors and hiring crew and putting them up if you're in a different location or building sets, or finding locations and paying for none of the costs of this stuff have changed. Movies are expensive, it's very hard to make a good movie cheap. You know, every once in a while it can be done if you have a concept that lends itself to that like you know, The Blair Witch Project then, or if you're making a movie about two people sitting at a table talking. But but to make to make a popcorn movie still costs money just just because the cameras in the editing equipment are a bit cheaper now doesn't really change that.

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BPS 297: No-Budget, $600 Camera, 3 Lights & Still Sold Worldwide with Elliot and Zander Weaver

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Alex Ferrari 0:02
Now today on the show, guys, we have really inspiring and unique filmmaking story. Today's guests are Zander and Elliot Weaver, the mastermind independent filmmakers behind the feature film cosmos. Now on a daily basis, I get pitched just tons and tons of filmmakers wanting to get on the show. And as much as I want to help everybody out, I gotta, you know, I got to make sure that the stories that I put on the show are really good and really inspiring to the tribe. And I heard about Zander and Elliott's film Cosmos just by running around the internet. And what made their films so unique is that they shot their feature film, just like I did on a Blackmagic Pocket camera 1080 P. and that alone is not enough for it to really grab people's attention. Because like I've said before, no one cares about what you shoot it on, as long as it's a good story. And these guys were able to shoot a sci fi adventure film, Allah Spielberg's a mecca style about three amateur astronomers who intercept a faint signal from an alien race, and stumble upon something potentially world changing. Now they shot this entire film for about 7000 bucks. And I was so blown away with how good it looks.

And what's even more impressive is they got distribution, and they're selling their movie around the world, and making apparently good money with it. So the film was shot with three people in a friend's garage on a $600 camera, three LED lights and a decade old software post production software package, they shot with two lenses, one old and one cheap. One was a Tamron 18 to a 200 zoom, which they bought for about 100 bucks, and some vintage glass from the 60s from a brand I'd never even heard of. This is the kind of story we as filmmakers need to hear. We don't hear these stories very often. But I want to highlight these guys so much and I can't wait for you to hear their inspirational story. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Zander and Elliot Weaver.

I like to welcome Elliot and Zander Weaver, man How you guys doing? Very well. Thank you, Alex, thank you very much for having us on the show. Oh man. Thank you for being on the show man. You know, it's, I get I get I get bombarded with requests to be on the show all the time. And they're like, Hey, I made this really low budget movie and, and I, you know, and that was cool, like five years ago, like I made a movie for five grand like, that's, that's cool, but I get 30 of those a week. So it's not I need something a little extra. And I actually you guys came up on my radar with your film Cosmos a little while ago, we've been trying to do this for a while now. So everyone listening, the reason why it's taking so long as schedules, technology, all sorts of things to finally get to where we're at. But I saw what you're doing. And I was pretty blown away by not just the efficiency and the cost and all that stuff that you did, you did a movie for about 7000 bucks, as you told me, but the camera you used and we'll talk about that, and five years. And I say that with like, oh, God help you. You know, all that stuff. I feel it, brother, I feel it's, but I just love what you're doing and the quality and everything looks so great. So we're gonna get deep into Cosmos today. But before we do that, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 6:14
Well, we ever since I think this is a story of many people who make movies and love movies, we've been doing it since we were kids. You know, since we were the first film we actually made, Elliott was five years old. And I was three. And we got the home video camera. And we made a film called when the toys came, came to life when the toys come live. And I've toys in our bedroom came to life. And after that we were just we were hooked and all through high school, we were making shorts with our with our mates and making music videos for them and stuff. And we decided to just go straight from high school and jump in, you know, we didn't go to a film school, we didn't go to a university. There aren't really the same kind of level of establishment like there are over in the US for film school options. So we were just we just thought we'd jump straight in get some experience and start trying to you know, find our feet in the industry really. But yeah, passionate since since very small, very, you know.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
So the question is, did you sue Pixar for stealing Toy Story from you guys is the question. Oh, yeah.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:18
But you know, we're working on it.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Because obviously, I mean, I broke the story here that Pixar stole they saw your short stole your idea and has made billions of dollars

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:31
that were like seven or six and we were fuming in the cinema. We were like ready to walk out. This is our first taste of you know, the sippy cups flying everywhere. It was just it was just rough back then I'm saying filming out of his birthday party.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
Can you imagineit to be fair, I'll give them that? They did was the production a little bit better than yours just slightly.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:59
Slightly. Alright, so

Alex Ferrari 8:01
let's um, let's talk about cosmos. How did Cosmos come to be?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 8:08
Cosmos came about because we were actually trying to set up another project. As Anna said, when we left school we tried to set Well, when we left school, we both tried to jump into it and sour hearts on directing a feature film, you know, finally getting around to this thing that we wait to get out of high school to do. And we set this project up, we started writing a script. And we we kind of faced that challenge that all indie filmmakers face, which is do we write a script we know we can achieve? Or do we write the script we'd love to see and look to me, I love to make but and we'll cross that bridge later. And of course being like 19 and 21 years old, we wrote the script we wanted to see, obviously, you know, we'll cross that bridge. And then we had to cross that bridge. So we were talking to finance and we were talking to investors and we got a crew together. And it was all looking really good. But understandably we were we were young guys, and we were asking for something like 5 million quid for a budget or something because they all snowboard for the people. We got involved, it was going really well. And all the investment people kept going. This is fine. Your story sounds great, fantastic. Crew look good. But you know, you haven't done this before. And you're young, and it's a lot of money.

I mean, a reasonable.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
I'm just I'm just saying it's like the equivalent of saying, hey, I need 5 million to build a house. I've never built a house before. I've seen it. I've seen it on TV, it seems fairly easy. So and by the way, by the way, at the end of a $5 million house, you have a house at the end of a $5 million movie. Maybe you make money, maybe you won't.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 9:41
So we were like, okay, you know, reasonable reasonable concerns. They kept saying go away and make a film and prove that you can make a movie and we were frustrated because we were like this is what we're trying to do. Anyway. We put that initial film on the shelf which was called encounter, went back to the drawing board and went okay, let's, let's probably do what we should have always done. Look at what we've got available. You know, we've got lots of computer screens, we've got a station wagon, you know, that's kind of Volvo car. We love astronomy and all this sort of thing. What can we do? Robert Rodriguez filmmaking? What can we make a movie out of that we've already got. And that's how Cosmos was born. And our initial concept was to make it in about 12 to 18 months, and then go back to those investors and go, Hey, there you go. Like there's a blu ray told you, we could do it. Let's get back to business. But because we wanted to do it the way we wanted to do it, where we could prove we had, or hopefully prove that we knew what we were talking about, and we can take a script and deliver it, we wanted to basically do as much of it as we could ourselves. And that meant it took a lot longer. But we fell in love with the project. And we just ran with it. And it took five years in the end. But we're thrilled with with the journey.

Alex Ferrari 10:49
So you so you, I mean, I'm assuming you made this on the weekends, and whenever you had spare time and stuff like that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 10:57
Yeah, well, initially, we did. So the first, basically the first year and a half of work on the film, the casting, finding locations, costume, making the props and everything. And yeah, the first year and a half of the movie was was done in our spare time while we were freelancing, and we run a production company as well independent production company that makes TV documentaries, then from the end of 2015 onwards, we were like, if we're going to make this happen, we've got to commit to it. So we went full time on it. And we, it sounds a bit rock and roll. It's not rock and roll. But we we lived off the royalties from our documentary production, which is something that we talk about, to filmmakers a lot. We say, you know, if you're looking for that liberation, to be able to spend the time making your feature, film, your narrative feature, consider making some TV documentaries and getting them out on the market and letting them do some work for you. So those documentaries gave us that freedom. And for the next three years, or two and a half years, we work full time on the movie.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
Now what was the crew situation like?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 12:06
The situation was limited, right? So we had on the production crew, there was three of us. And that was our set myself, Zander and our mom. And we did. Right, we did everything. So we we rigged all the gear, we lit the sets, we rigged the mics we shot we did all the props, we did a lot basically we directed as well,

Alex Ferrari 12:32
there's that there's that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 12:35
And with a shoot the shoot was 55 days spread over a year. Basically, we shot in blocks. And that was dictated because the actors, you know, were busy, and they had other commitments, and we tried to work around their commitments. And then in post production, it was just, it was predominantly the two of us, Sandra and I. And then we worked with a composer over about three months to do the soundtrack. So again, it was just xandra night for, like 28 months of just post production just staring at computer screens and just chugging away through, it seems like a really, it's a it's a mad way to make a film. But again, from the very beginning, our objective was we want something that we can show people, and that they can look at, basically, they can't take anything away from us. They can't sit there and go, Well, you know, it was well edited. But that was because you hired a professional editor wasn't it, or it's well graded. But that's because you hired a professional calibrator we wanted to for better or worse, whether it ended up being a good film or a bad film, we wanted to have something that we could show these investors and they could go. So apart from acting in it, and writing the soundtrack, everything else is you and we can go Yeah, now, on our next movie, we don't want to do that we want to work with people who have honed their craft and their masters of their skill and they can bring so much to it, but at least hopefully demonstrates that, you know, we have an understanding of visual effects. And we have an understanding of editing and we have an understanding of Foley and all this sort of stuff. We don't want to do it professionally. But at least we can be part of those conversations as directors. That was the end anyways. So

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I mean, cuz I mean, I've heard of these stories of projects going on for five years, and it generally never ends. Well. It generally doesn't end well when you hear like yeah, been making this movie for five years and like oh, okay, and if it's something I've worked I've worked on features that took that long to make and it just never got released just they paid it they did it and they just couldn't get it sold because it was either too bad or for whatever reason, so that you guys actually got it to the finish line. And and it looks as good as it did and it made as much noise as it did. Is is a feat in itself. Man. It really really I mean you are guy you guys are definitely the indie film hustle. personification? There's no no question about it, because to stay on a project for five years, man, you got to be committed. And that also says a lot about you as filmmakers. You know, if I'm an investor, I'm like, these guys are serious, man, they stuck on this thing for five years better or worse. And there's a reason why it took them this long. It's not because they were crazy, because it didn't have any money. And if they would have had a decent budget, this could have been done within a year all in. Yeah. So now you chose the Blackmagic Pocket camera, which has just a dear place in my heart because I shot my last film on the black bag. It's a pocket camera as well. I've been saying this for a while. It's a stunning image. It's gorgeous. It's tennety p i don't care. It's gorgeous.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 15:44
I yeah, we totally agree. We think it's this unsung hero of the film world and it's completely it's quite overlooked actually. Yeah, we saw when when we shot the film in 2015 we started shooting the film in 2015 and the pocket camera the original pocket camera I think was it did it come out in 2013

Unknown Speaker 16:05
something like that. Yeah, something like that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 16:07
Yeah. And we we we saw the footage coming through online or people doing camera tests and we were just absolutely blown away by it. We just thought it just has such this filmic quality to it just looks absolutely lovely. So as soon as we could we could we were freelance cameraman at the time and we we bought a camera to use for work and then we were like this is it we've got to use this for Cosmos so it served us incredibly well there are there are you know bumps in the road with the camera battery life for example is no good the screens a bit iffy and all that kind of stuff but once you've got those things in place Yeah, what you've effectively when you buy the camera is this beautiful sensor really and we were we were very happy with the results of the film so much so actually afterwards we approached after the film was released we approached Blackmagic sure they gave it to give away to the filmmaking community which was wonderful like to have that association and that affiliation with them was a real moment of pride.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
Yeah, what I love about what I love about the camera yes the battery power I use the juice box so I just like used to have that. I just I put it in with the juice box at last I we shoot we shoot six hours.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 17:16
Oh yeah, it

Alex Ferrari 17:16
keeps going. It just goes and goes and goes with the juice box. It was solid that part and then I got the was it did you guys get the speed booster?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 17:26
We did we did get a speed boost. Yeah, meta bones. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 17:28
the meta bone speed booster just automatic gives you another step and a half. It's wonderful. And yes, the monitor in the back can have issues can have issues but you could plug it in if you're if you're so inclined, a little little monitor, pop it out or something like that if you want to. But the speed that you the the speed, you can move the size of it. I mean, and now that I mean now they have the 4k pocket camera or actually the six k pocket 4k is old school now that the six k pocket cameras well, so they have these other versions are a little bit more beefy. But this has this super 16 dial it's a super 16 image. It's a sensor it's a super 16 sensor. So for me like with my film, I wanted that like 1990s Sundance indie vibe with a little bit of green I actually added it was too clean I added grain to the image and post but it's such a beautiful camera now what lenses did you use?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 18:24
We shot most of the movie actually on a single stills lens that we had a 28 mil 1960 stills lens that we just talked. Yeah, and it just like you said it, I don't know what it is about that sensor. But the way sort of the light blooms it does have like a grainy, although it's obviously digital noise it does have a grainy look to it. It looks like film grain.

Alex Ferrari 18:50
Yeah. But it's what it is. But it's pretty clean. But it's pretty easy. If you shoot it right, it's clean. And but the aesthetic of the image has that super 16 clean look. And you and if you just add just a little bit of digital grain to it which a little film grain onto it on top of it, it could just take it to that

Elliot and Zander Weaver 19:12
that other beautiful it worked it was perfect for our needs. You know, cosmos is a film set predominantly in in this car you know in the station wagon so we had to get a camera and all the you know a slider and stuff inside this car and shoot in the confines of the vehicle and to have this small camera was just absolutely you wouldn't have been able to do it otherwise,

Alex Ferrari 19:36
you would have to like cut the car in half and fly you know fly in and out and all this kind of stuff. Like I actually Yeah, like I own the Blackmagic 4.6 K camera, but I chose to shoot with a little camera because of the ease. Even if you would have had a red or an Alexa you couldn't have shot this film.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 19:56
We couldn't we say that to people sometimes and they kind of look at us and they go What do you mean and you Go. Well, I mean, it's tough to get a camera in a car. Like it's not it's actually our car. It's not a set. Car chop the roof off, we've got to drive home. So, yeah. And also up and again, some filmmakers look at you like, you know, you've landed from Mars, because Yes, he does. But he doesn't he doesn't matter to me and it doesn't matter in general. But be there is something beautiful about like film is high resolution but it's soft. It's a delicate image. It's not pin sharp, crystal clear high fidelity. And I think the 1080 p Blackmagic. It has the same texture The film has it's a bit a pinch sharp image if you want it and it's clean, like you said, but

Alex Ferrari 20:48
it's soft, it's it just softens the edges in a way that film does. I mean, they I've talked to Blackmagic a lot about this when I work with them. And I've told them that camera is just like an all of their actually all of their images, they always have this, this kind of like beautiful like it's like red is frickin just scalpel esque. In their image. It's so crystal clear. It's a bit it's a bit much where Alexa is also a soft image, but the Alexa costs 80 to 100,000 as opposed to the black magic and and all of that Now, one thing I found interesting about your story is that you guys, you had a soundstage obviously they don't tell you don't tell don't say this publicly, but you had a soundstage It was your garage, you actually built a garage soundstage where you shot a lot of the filming. Can you explain that processor? service?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 21:44
Yeah, yeah, well, we did the Garrett's actually a friend of ours. So we have one of the challenges that we faced is that the actual set of the movie is the is this car. The vehicle that we would use to get from the garage every single day. So you know, at the end of filming, we would end beginning of the day, we'd get there and we get all the gear out and we set the props up in the vehicle we shoot. And then by the end of the day, we had to direct everything, put it all back in the car and drive up, we could leave it all set up. That would have been but but the film takes place across one night effectively. And instead of having the car out in the middle of a field and shooting actually in the middle of the night. For the interiors. We just drove it into this garish, we put up a black psych and we shot during the day and faked it as if it was at nighttime and it worked superbly well. But we all we did all start going a bit early by the end of it because we weren't seeing any daylight it was middle of the winter here in the UK and we drive it in the dark shoot in the dark all day and drive out in the dark. So yeah, we craved the lunchtime daylight that we got every day.

Alex Ferrari 22:53
Now, I want to go back real quick. The whole 1080 p aspect Did you shooting untended p affect your D your distribution deal? Your sales? digit they go oh, no, we can't take your film because we need four k? Can I just want because this is a myth. People think you have to master in 4k, you have to shoot in six or now 12 K or something like that. I want you to I want you please tell the people please tell the people the truth didn't matter.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 23:24
No, it doesn't matter. Well, it didn't matter to us. We spoke to a handful of distributors, we spoke to a handful of sales agents. We even got two distributors bidding against each other for the film. And even when we settled on one and assigning all the deals up, not once in the sort of six months that we were doing distribution. And since have we been asked about what resolution The film was shot on not once did they ask us during the negotiation process? What what resolution is that? You know, what did you shoot on? It didn't matter. And in fact, when we got the deliverable, the tech specs in the tech specs for our distributor it actually said if you have shot your film in 4k, can you please let us know because we will have to set up a special pipeline for you. Basically, not many people do that. You know, in other words, not many people do that. And we'll have to go a special route for you. So yeah, not once were we asked Is it into k four k six K, they just they watched the screener. And that's all they really want it to talk about. So we often get asked to we get emailed by people going oh, you shot on the six k i read you shot on the Blackmagic six K and we're like no, no, we shot on the television. And they're like no, no, the

Alex Ferrari 24:44
same thing

Elliot and Zander Weaver 24:47
will happen right now get in touch and they'll say we watched the movie you know really impressed with what you achieved with the limited resources and UI Oh, that's amazing. Thank you. And they say well what do you what what camera Did you see on you tell them and like Elliott said They assume success. Okay, 4k, you know, it's the 10 ACP one and they go really I'm shocked and say, well, you you watched it. So like, do you like did it work for you? Did it distracts from the story for you? Or did you just watch it and enjoy it and not really worry? So yeah, I think it's very easy to get lost in the kind of K war with all the modern technology. But ultimately, I think as storytellers I focus should be more on the script and the acting and the soundtrack. Stop it on how many cakes stop

Alex Ferrari 25:29
it stop it, sir. You're talking crazy talk, sir. Crazy Talk. It's all about the cameras. It's all about the gear. If you've got a 12 K camera. If you have an Alexa with $100,000 lens on it. That's all you need. You don't need a story or acting that said that automatically makes your movie good isn't that that's what I've been sold. That's what I've been doing. Am I wrong?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 25:55
asked you know what codec we shot? We shot people go shot raw then right. And we we asked we shot pro res Lt.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Well, that's not that's not honestly. Okay. Now I'm gonna have to say that is kind of crazy talk. Why didn't you shoot it? Come on, guys. You could have shot raw, well, wait a minute, but you edited and Final Cut, which we'll get to in a minute. So raw would have been a big pain in the butt for you.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 26:15
It would have been it would have been I mean, we just we did our own little camera tests. We put our nose to the screen and we were like

Alex Ferrari 26:20
LTE, you should have LTE not even pro res just to tell the difference. Lt. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 26:26
we did HQ pro res and not an Lt. He tests and we were like, looking at our monitor, you know, our Mac monitor going up? Which one is this? I can't tell.

So we also like wanted to just like we wanted to, we're big fans of like committing on basically what it looks like and how it is lit and the color and you know, and so because that's those are the directions that we look up to from our childhood. You know, they didn't have that kind of flexibility that is now available to filmmakers. And I think it can hone your abilities in your craft. So to some degree, we wanted to test ourselves and go look, we're gonna bake this and we're gonna just shoot, and what we get is what we get, and we're gonna live with it. And that's, that, to us is part of the thrill and excitement of filmmaking. It's crazy man.

Alex Ferrari 27:13
Crazy talking guys crazy talk. And but you also have a limited theatrical right? We didn't Yeah, how could you How could you do that with a 1080? p? That's not possible, sir. How could you do that?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 27:25
Wow, great question. Yeah. held up beautifully on screen. We did actually do an upper as two cameras. Yeah, for the DCP using DaVinci. resolves upscale, which is nuts. In fact, I've heard that many people are selling the Blackmagic, six Ks and four KS, going back to the originals and just raising them because they prefer the image, how it looks on the original. But yeah, we had a limited theatrical release, the movie was in nine cities across the states, which was just mad for us, right? We are not anticipating that like two kids from Birmingham, UK, making a movie of its gonna be shown in cinemas in America. That was that was a dream come true. And we've seen it, we saw it twice on the big screen. We had a premiere here in the UK premiere out in Los Angeles as well. And it just really holds up incredibly well considering and I just, I just wish that filmmakers could, you know, stop worrying so much about it because of the kit that we've got available at our fingertips now. It's just so incredibly powerful. And there is just no excuse, I think

Alex Ferrari 28:34
no one and that's why that's another reason why I wanted you guys on the show because you shot with this camera because I shot with the camera as well. And everyone says what, all the same things you would get I've gotten with my film. And and I did the same thing like cuz on my monitor here where I calibrated it looked great, but when I was I premiered at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood with my father and I was like, this is amazing and but to understand I was terrified I just upwards I did a dp a DCP up to two k I'm like, Is it gonna work? And it's I don't know what it's gonna look like I'd like it's gonna be super grainy and like, Okay, well, it's supposed to be kind of grainy because I wanted it. And when I saw projected in the Chinese and I just sat there before the audience came out that we did a little Tex Tex scout on it. I was like, oh, Mike, it looks amazing. It's gorgeous. It was so and we did the DCP to the to the Vinci and I was just blown away. It's honestly I've shot with all the cameras known to man 3560 and I've tried everything. It's probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever shot that film. It's such a great camera and that's why I wanted I want people listening to understand. You can buy that little camera right now on eBay for six to $800 maybe less, maybe less. You can find you can buy the full like a full kit for like 1000 1200 bucks and that comes with like, a lot. I mean I bought my I bought mine off of ebay I bought it like it for I think 1000 bucks, but it was like a full kit case, batteries, all of that stuff and then to rig it out. It doesn't cost that much like you. Yeah, if you need if you need a matte box, I got my matte box for like 150 bucks. Yeah, it's it's you can really you can pimp it out, man, you can pimp it out. Really? Really?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 30:25
We made our camera rig. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 30:28
yeah, I heard about that. Yeah, yes. So please tell it tell us about your your rig sir. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 30:47
we actually put up a video on our Facebook page a few months back just to show people because they kept we've spoken about the fact that I've made this rig. And I don't think some people believe that it was actually true. But yeah, it's one of those very kind of Heath Robinson held together with gaffa tape kind of affairs, really. But just you know, when I was looking online, we didn't have a budget for this movie. I was looking online, and there's some wonderful rigs out there. But I think there's like two kinds, right? There's, there's these lovely machine milled beautiful things, right, that are quite expensive. 1000 bucks. Yeah, but cheap, plastic ones, and you think they're gonna snap when I first use them. So I just thought, because we had some very specific requirements with Cosmos getting in the car and being able to adjust the rig setup and what we wanted to do with it. I was like, why don't I just make a custom one. So went to the hardware store, got some word, got some copper pipe, got some nails, and just put it all together early. And you can see the behind the scenes. It's not pretty, right? It's not but

it's as part of the fun of this film. You know, we are very proud and very like, humbled by how well it's done. But we're also really excited because we've done it in sort of the most kitbashed ad hoc way, you know, we've got a cardboard matte box, and we've got ankle weights on the back of our rig. And we're using a wheelchair for a dolly and it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to us. And it was film about it wasn't about standing behind a camera with a cap on and posing and looking cool. It was about making a film no matter what. And it wasn't about being cool and being seen with a red epic or Alex Yeah, we'd love love to work with that, you know, it would be a dream, but we fought we fought went that. That's sort of the image of feeling good about ourselves in exchange for actually being able to get a film made.

Alex Ferrari 32:44
Yeah, no, it's in that when I saw when I saw the behind the scenes and I saw you guys in a wheelchair. I was like, oh, Robert, Mr. Rodriguez has helped us out so much. Because he's, I mean, I'm a bit older than you guys. So I came up around the same time Robert did I speak of him? Like I'm my friend. I'm not but but Robert. Bobby, Bobby. Bobby, no. Robert, he did the wheelchair thing with his with El Mariachi and I did a wheelchair thing every everybody of my generation did the wheelchair like we and to be honest with you this is what how I got because wheelchairs are expensive. They're not cheap. So what we did this is back in 1994 I think we went to the mall where you could rent a wheelchair for the day for $1 25

Elliot and Zander Weaver 33:32
Oh wow.

Alex Ferrari 33:34
But we just took it home

Elliot and Zander Weaver 33:37
Wow. morally questionable.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
No, wait, wait, wait used it, returned it afterwards got my dollar I got a quarterback because I returned it. So the essential rental would be it was just a because no one does that like and there's also the 90s and they didn't you know and it's a different world way less less cameras let's cameras in the you know, security cameras less security. It was it was the Wild Wild West. But yes, that's that was what I do.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 34:08
Right. That's the indie film hustle.

Alex Ferrari 34:09
No, man. I since I've been I've been I've been living the brand since 92. Sir. What is the biggest mistake you made making this film? I'm sure there's a list. But what's the one that you like? Oh, um,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 34:27
I think I think the biggest well, so this is this is an interesting question. The thing that we often say we would do differently is we would just get some help, right? We would raise a bit of money, right? very obvious, like two people, three people. But the challenge that the reason it's not that simple, actually for us is because part of part of the marketing for Cosmos has been leveraging this kind of indie film spirit. It's been Connecting with the filmmaking community by saying, look, we're just doing this with nothing follow us along, be part of it. And, and so if we'd have done it, how most of the people do it, when they put a band together and they kickstart and they raise $1,000, then you're just the same as everybody else, right? So to some degree, this nuts stupid way of doing a movie was took ages, but it paid off because it's allowed us to open up conversation, we're talking to you now because of it, we wouldn't be otherwise. So I would say if I wanted to get it done quicker, with less stress, just collaborate with more people get it done sooner. But you know, I'm very proud of like, the way we've done it and and the experience that we've obtained from it, it's just like, God, it's a measurable way to just have a bit of a glimpse in and understanding about all these elements and aspects or it's like the ultimate film school. So it I, you know, it's a really interesting question.

Alex Ferrari 35:59
What did what did mom do, she was a third crewman who woman

Elliot and Zander Weaver 36:05
was essential so our mom professionally Not anymore. But before we were born, and while we were kids, she was a professional TV makeup artist. So we the one of the main disciplines that she had on the film where she was hair and makeup, and that obviously, you know, sort of rolled over into continuity so she was keeping track of all the beard length and the hair length and the colors and all that sort of thing. And then we did also just like rope in and pull it a good use doing the clapperboard every now and then sometimes holding the boom and sometimes running the smoke machine man. She was sort of almost like the third director really we were we were all in it together but she was also we often say she was the onset mom and every set needs a mom you know and all the older guys they kind of she mother them and they adopted her so we all we had this sort of family family unit on the film. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
Now what did you guys use for smoke machine? Did you actually like buy one of those like party smoke machines? or?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 37:10
Yeah, we had we already had like a Mr. Like a disco smoke machine type thing. But we tested outside we're like, this is just not not gonna happen. Like in the windy British winters like okay, it's

just lit a cigarette. That's not gonna work.

So actually, the single biggest expense on the movie, we bought a gas powered our temp smoke machine. Yeah. The propane ones. Yeah, the proper drums, you know, and, and, but for us, we, we could justify it in our heads because we were just like, this is gonna give us a production value. We're going to be out in a forest and it's going to give us the depth and allow us to kind of make it look like we have more likes than we do. And we're big fans of like having that smoke medium to light in and all that stuff. So for us

it was it was about it was over 10% of the budget. Yeah, on this moment.

Alex Ferrari 38:03
But I want to get it I want to ask you something because I've shot with a ton of haze machines and smoke machines in my career. And you guys didn't shoot RAW. So I know from shooting with smoke machines that smoke doesn't take direction quite well. How? How Tony Scott shot every scene of every movie that he ever did with a smoke machine or a haze machine and it looked perfect every time how he did it? I don't know. I could only imagine I've had struggle with full crews. How the hell did you wrangle smoke or haze in a shot? And how did it not how did you match it in post? And how did you deal with it in color? Because sometimes if it's one shots hazy and then the coverage is not hazy. How do you like how did you do it?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 38:54
Well, it's difficult

Alex Ferrari 38:56
it was hard to sell Alex I have to tell you it was ridiculously hard.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 39:00
It was impossible. We almost Set everything on fire and third degree burns and the whole lot really no yes so we did get quite good at like timing the smoke machine so you can we could sort of like leave it off on its own and it would just trickle out and it's very against the rules of owning a propane gas. smoke machine is never leave it unattended but you know, we were all grown ups we were only a few feet away.

We all think we do like a blast right? We do. We'd like one of us would run around with a smoke machine blast into the grass and all that kind of stuff. And then you sit back and it should be this enormous fog cloud right here behind the camera ready actors are we ready? wait for it Wait for the moment wait

for the video. And then just when it was right we went for it.

Alex Ferrari 39:50
I have to I just have to point something out that you were judging me morally about my my wheelchair scam, sir, you left row pain machine unattended, sir Which actually could have killed people. My little scam did not kill anybody. And it was returned sir. So I both of you, I just I just wanted to point that out.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 40:10
I take everything back I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 40:13
So yeah, so that even even in post though, like, matching, matching that haze

Elliot and Zander Weaver 40:21
did it for the most part we it was okay. For one reason or another, we didn't have too much problems, but we did this there is always that you know, there's always that balance isn't there when you come to your color grade and you

think you did a bit of smoke stuff in it. Yeah. pasting backgrounds and paste that can you just take the smoke from behind this guy's head in this shot? Yeah. And put it in this guy and he would just be like,

Alex Ferrari 40:47
okay, yeah. I mean, it's, it's, I just want people that hearing this understand shooting with a smoke machine or haze machine is not easy, and it's time consuming. It is. You shoot it up. Settle. Wait, wait, shoot. Oh, cut. Do it again. And then like, Oh, you I've only done an insight. I've never done it outside. So I can only imagine shooting it outside where you guys had

Unknown Speaker 41:16
action as well. Like you'll be for 10 minutes. And then suddenly, you put the smoke machine over there. You know, it's it's you chasing your tail all night long.

Alex Ferrari 41:27
Now, can you talk everybody because you guys did purchase a very high expensive wind machine. So can you tell people what that wood machine was?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 41:36
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, you know, in the, in the spirit of all high end special effects that you see in all the blockbusters. We we went into our garden shed and we were digging around and we were aware that you know once upon a time we were the proud owners of a leaf blower. So we got that Dyson leaf blower out gave it a bit of a blast and thought okay, well we can't record any dialogue while using this but we can have winds so yeah, that was one of one of our jobs. In fact, my job on the end of the shoot I was directing and blowing hot dusty air into the faces of the actors so you were just directing right yeah.

Alex Ferrari 42:16
Smith and it was Yeah. You want him to cry so you just show just slammed dirt into their eyes basically at high speed.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 42:29
Yeah, teary, glassy eyed look. That's great. Oh, sorry. No, you've just got your face amazing.

Alex Ferrari 42:38
Now what I want to talk about post because what I read what you guys didn't post again made my heart just just warmed my heart because you were using two pieces of software that I use on I look I'm a recent convert from Final Cut seven when I say recent was probably like four or five years like four four years ago maybe I think four or four years ago I think I switched over to editing four or five years ago I switched to editing to in resolve strictly but I had seven solid and with 10 ATP when you guys were shooting a pro res so I actually I mean with my first film I had to actually go to resolve because I was shooting RAW on the sim the old Cinema Camera the original the original 2.5 k Cinema Camera so I had to go rock because I'm like I finally have to leave poor Final Cut seven so you edit it in Final Cut seven and then you colored in color to Apple color if I'm not mistaken right

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:41
sound design in Final Cut seven as well.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
oh yeah oh yeah

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:45

Alex Ferrari 43:45
so you guys are doing and what year was this?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:49
This was yeah started a

Alex Ferrari 43:53
truly truly no excuse so as I'm saying cuz I I did all this in like 2006 so there is there's no excuse no base you have what you had and that's again that's another great lesson here. You have it you own it use what you got

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:09
that's it that's what it's all about and for us we we we produce all of our documentaries using Final Cut seven this system and again our philosophy is just like look there's been Oscar Oscar winning movies that have been edited on Final Cut seven we have no requirement to push to a new piece of software we're not shooting in 4k or 8k or something crazy. Shooting 10 Hp if it's good enough,

or parasite when the best time Yeah, john. Seven.

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Yeah, no parasite was edited.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:43
Yeah, it was so

Alex Ferrari 44:46
easy. I didn't know that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:48
Yeah, it's still strong is a

small band of FCP seven users and

Alex Ferrari 44:53
like come on, keep it alive.

Software is a great piece of software, though. I do like music. Have a little bit better than color, I have to say,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:03
yeah, we're in the process of kind of switching over to resolve for all things, all things generally really, you know, cutting and grading as well. So, I mean, just black magic all the way.

Alex Ferrari 45:15
And that's another thing that people want people to understand is like, if you if you stay within the Blackmagic ecosystem, man, it works beautifully, like you, you shoot RAW, bring it into resolve, and you can do everything in resolve and then you don't have to actually even go out to online anywhere. it all stays in visual effects are connected sound is connected. It's it's a pretty amazing piece of software.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:39
You're talking some kind of unknown future world to us, Alex, we're still dealing, Final Cut seven and kind of

get a floppy disk. Floppy? No, no,

Alex Ferrari 45:51
get the zip, get the zip disks or get the zip disk. The zip disk in the jazz? Do you know even know what a jazz drive is?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:58

Alex Ferrari 45:59
Do you know what a zipped is? Do you know what a zip disk is? You guys are so young. You're so young.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:07
Copy this right?

Alex Ferrari 46:08
No floppy disk was a 1.2 meg, if I'm not mistaken, disk that are held like 1.2 make the zip disk held 100 Meg's plastic disk. And then the jazz was the big brother of the zip. It was all by iomega it was a company this now I'm just I'm dating myself. And only like 5% of my audience is going. Oh, I remember that. No, I'm much, apparently much older than you guys extremely much, much older than you go. We

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:39
used floppies at school putting our coursework on floppy disk. The USB flash drive thing was like, wow.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
Science Fiction, isn't it?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:50
Yeah. Now it's like, oh, he's

on USB stick. We were talking to someone not long ago. And they were talking about mp3 players when they listen and what was it and they said, Oh, you say they were saying something like, Oh, yeah. parently there was a time when mp3 players couldn't do this. And we were just like, oh my god. Like, there wasn't a time when mp3 plays existed. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:12
yeah. Yeah, there was this thing called tapes. CDs, records, eight track. I yeah, a track vaguely in a car in a car. When I was a kid. I remember. Ah, anyway, I'm so I'm so I'm so effing old. I appreciate you. You reminded me. Thank you.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 47:31
I said so children have a tape. Recording you you mixtapes on?

Alex Ferrari 47:36
radio and waiting? Yeah, waiting for the radio, just like I hoping the DJ does not say a damn word over the song.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 47:45
The song in your life? This isn't right. Where's that?

Alex Ferrari 47:50
Because you hear that said 1000 times and you're like, Hey, welcome back. Like he's just waiting for that.

Oh my god, I used to do that all the time. So weird, because you guys, you guys were the DPS in this as well. And it looks By the way, fantastic. It looks gorgeous. So that's extremely impressive. You got what I love about the film is that you you really made it used so much production value, but yet in a very condensed very small space. Really, it was a small group of characters. And a lot of people think that you have to make a very contained movie like yours, which is contained but it wasn't contained. There's like big outside scenes, and there's excitement and things like that. But it doesn't have to be in a room. I mean, you you can think outside the box a little bit. And it's still you did a car. But it was a car with outside and you know the sky and there was a lot of production value and all this stuff that you did with it. But we did look at the film is really great. When you got into color, though. How much did you do? it? Was it like you guys were close to where you want it to be. And that's scary, man. I'm like, I'm just I'm letting you know, I've been a colorist for 1012 years. I have to shoot RAW because I need that. The freedom to like save me. For me. thing to do. Yeah,

it is the correct sensible thing to do is what you're saying?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 49:18
I mean, why not? Is the real answer to that question. Why would you not use those tools that are available? But ya know, we shot as we previously mentioned, we lit with the colors. We wanted it. You know how we wanted it to be lit with big fans of splashing color in their sky? Yeah, Tony. I mean,

you know, and we're not likening ourselves to No,

Alex Ferrari 49:41
no, no, no, it's just like Tony Scott. This is what I do. No, no, we understand. Yeah, we understand Tony. Rest in peace, Tony. But I mean, Tony and Ridley both. Yes, yes.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 49:54
So yeah, we our goal was to just capture that as much as possible on location and then When we got to, to the color grade, for the most part, it was a few kind of vignette power windows here and there. We pushed we did a thing. We did some tests early on, when we were comparing the Blackmagic footage to film footage. And we noticed that film had like a kind of slight greeny yellowy tint in the highlights, that's something we just saw. And so we just pushed a bit of that in the saturation of the contrast ever so slightly, it was a very time consuming process, because it always isn't it with the with the color matching and everything. But in terms of how, how much we push the image, we didn't do a huge amount to it. We were quite delicate with it.

Alex Ferrari 50:42
And how about visual effects? Because there's a couple of visual effects in the movie. There is

Elliot and Zander Weaver 50:46
70 visual effects of the film, how many? 170? Yeah, nice. Most of them are not visible there. We call them invis effects, because they're just not even supposed to be noticed. They're like set extensions, and skylines, and stars in the sky, and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, I handled the visual effects. While Elliot was doing all the sound design and the Foley for the film. I did the visual effects on blender, which is fantastic open source. VFX software is just getting stronger and stronger. And man, it's exciting to see what they're doing with it. pioneering stuff. And, yeah, and After Effects as well. But for the most part, like I said, it was some stuff extensions and skylines. But there were more involved things. For example, the front of the telescope, we replaced the front end of the telescope in the movie, because it looked pretty awful. Actually, it was a it was a visually a tripod carry tube. And we created a prop for the front to make it look like a telescope. And then we got into the Edit. And we were like dad just does not sell

rubbish, rubbish,

rubbish, absolute trash. And so he turned to me and he said, Can we do something about that? So I had to figure that out. It was very much a learning process as we went. But yeah, I always say that like, when it came to the visual effects, it was something I was doing for fun before Cosmos was even a consideration. So if you ever get that kind of tinge of excitement about anything, just just explore it a bit because filmmaking is such a diverse discipline there's so many different elements to it, chances are it'll come back and help you at some point

Alex Ferrari 52:27
and you get so you can't then after effects you become a competent After Effects visual effects. 3d in Blender 3d, Final Cut, edit, and color and then you also mastered sound and final couple, which I know is ridiculous. Because I've done it myself. It's not really built not built as audio. Not at all. Not even a little bit, not even a little bit. And then you guys also did Foley as well.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 52:52
We did a lot yeah, we did the Foley and I did that. So it was it was doing the visual effects like I was stomping around and rustling and breathing into microphones and all that sort of thing and

Alex Ferrari 53:03
amazing 66,000

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:03
sound effects were put in onto 100 audio tracks.

Alex Ferrari 53:08
So what what machine were you running because I know Final Cut seven fairly well that's going to tax the that's going to tax the software, sir. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:19
I don't I just an iMac and iMac.

Alex Ferrari 53:23
That's an iMac with a with an operating system that still runs Final Cut seven because now officially, it's dead. Yeah, you can't upgrade. Yeah.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:33
We have to IMAX right. This one today and the one we made Cosmos on which we cannot change.

Also, the Mac is like dead now you turn it on and you just try and open up chrome or something. You just think we kill this computer trying to make that film? Yeah. It just wants to retire. It wants to graze.

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Is it something about Baxter? Or is it something to say I still have three towers of old max that I just I can't get rid of them. I just there's there's just something like I can't there's no I can't get rid of my Mac I don't like just just in case you need that CD ROM for some reason. You know,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 54:17

See the floppy disk drive on it. So you gotta keep gotta keep the options open.

Alex Ferrari 54:26
Just in case, everything goes to goes to hell. You got Final Cut seven. Let's rock and roll. Now, and so you finish this whole movie, you're ready. It's been five years. And you're like, Okay, let's get this out to the world. Tell me your adventures in distribution. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:01
Okay, yes, so we finished the film. And we then set about putting together the marketing materials that we thought we would need in order to get a distributor. So we did our own poster, and we cut our own trailer. And we put a screener together and all that sort of thing. And then we decided to, in the spirit of the film, continue to do everything ourselves. So,

Alex Ferrari 55:25
of course, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:28
Why wouldn't we have learned our lesson after five years? So we started, we actually tried to submit or we did submit the film to probably a dozen film festivals in sort of the tear of film festival that you hope your film might

Alex Ferrari 55:44
sell Sundance, Sundance, Sundance, or South by Southwest, you don't you donate it to Robert Redford's retirement, understand, as

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:51
I'm sure he appreciated that, we obviously got flat out rejected from from every festival we submitted to. And then we decided to just sort of, we were going well, we're gonna go to we try to get into festivals, so we can connect with distributors. But I wonder if we can just connect with those distributors directly. And we spoke to a few filmmakers, that we knew we've done that route. And that's what we pursued. So with our marketing material, and a screener of our film, we set about reaching out directly, and sent out some introductory email, sent out some screeners and just started talking to people really, and we spoke to sales agents as well and try to suss out whether that was the right route for us. And in the end, we, we we got we actually got two distributors competing in a bidding for the film and push that up the or, you know, yeah, push the bid up and make it more favorable for us. And then ended up going with one that we felt offered something that was worth, you know, the deal worth signing up to. And, and that's what we did, that process took about six months from, from the day of finishing the fill to, but that's

Alex Ferrari 57:01
nothing. But that's nothing for guys like you you've already taken. He's taking you four and a half, five years to make a movie six months of distribution. That's nothing.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 57:09
I sense of time. It's like, we were like six months. Yeah, it was an interesting process for sure. But we used IMDb pros free trial to create a list of distributors that you know, in the in the kind of realm that we were looking for, and we just, we just went down that list. And ultimately, it worked out and we found a home for Cosmos that is done for the most part what we wanted it to do, although no distribution stories, plain sailing, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Yeah, I haven't heard of one of those. yet. That ever it's like, yes, it was fantastic. They only gave me money. I actually didn't know what to do with all the money and attention I was getting was generally not not not something you hear. But but generally speaking, though, you're happy with where you went with the distribution company and how things have been how it's been put out into the world and everything like that, because I look, I've seen it everywhere. And I've seen it pop up a bunch of different places. So I'm assuming that you guys as far as marketing is concerned,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 58:14
yeah. It is. It is for sure. Yeah, we will. We will. We we've got us ventures. And I think their model is very much given to the producers, they know their movie, they can market it, you know, we'll put it on the platforms. And so as far as we're aware, most of the marketing of the movie is our work really, you know, we put the post in the trailer together, we did an ad spend on some social media to try and get it out there. And we're just trying to engage with the filmmaking community and share the process read as much as we possibly can. But you know, we are, we're certainly happy with the reach of the movie. It's available on you know, many platforms. In the US. It's on like Hulu, TV, it's on prime streaming and Vimeo. It's a all the all the all the S VOD, and VOD options that you could hope for, to be quite honest. But there's also certainly a strong argument for that kind of independent distribution route where you handle yourself if you do all the marketing anyway, right? Like, why not? Why not made that final step for us. We our goal was very much to be able to finish the movie, give it to somebody else have control over the marketing, because we didn't want it to be in someone else's hands were worried that it could be marketed incorrectly. But but to not, to not have all that time spent on getting that movie out there. So it made sense to hand it to somebody else because we wanted to start writing a new project to start moving forwards and not get kind of like bogged down in the in the personal distribution of the main thing

Alex Ferrari 59:50
now but the other thing is to you guys have a very different endgame for this film. And that's something that's really important for filmmakers to understand listening is that your goals with the film We're not to make a million dollars, or you know, or be, you know, rich or anything like that off the film, money's nice. We would like to have money if we can't keep going without it. But because I'm assuming you don't want to do another five years like this, I'm assuming this is it, you're not doing any more. No more of these movies, you have to promise me no more. But um, but you but your goal was to get it out there and and get your name out there for people to see you to have conversations about other projects to talk to other investors. That was the end game for this film, correct?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:00:38
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, the film has, the film has been out six months now. And we are starting to move into a phase where the film is making us money, which is great. Because that's a real uptick. But you You're right, our goal was, we have the philosophy that like, we couldn't buy our way into the movie industry, even if we had loads of money. So we've got to find something of value, beyond the finances that would allow us to progress as film directors. So if we could trade, the financial reward for the exposure, and hopefully people are liking the movie and the word getting around, and maybe people in industry hearing about it and going Oh, yeah, I've heard about this film, actually, that was more valuable to us as filmmakers. And and we do try and stress that to people we talk to and, you know, on things like this, that we're not at all sort of suggesting, but this is a business model for

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
the $77,000 five year model than No, not so much.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:01:42
We were you know, we run a production company. Aside from this, we got other projects and other fingers and other pies. The reason we wanted to make this movie initially was as a bargaining chip to get that initial film off the ground. In the end, it was just supposed to be something that we could barter with. But now you know, it ended up becoming something bigger. And it's actually acting in a way as like a crowbar. So open industry doors, and since the film has been released, we've had people from, you know, Hollywood, email us and you know, we've been talking to managers and we're potentially talking to people and it has, it has given us that sort of springboard. So yeah, we we traded the finances for potential, you know, to be able to help a career move further on.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:31
But the other thing is that you also didn't make a $200,000 movie and had that goal, then you made a $7,000 movie. Yes. You know, very, very Robert Rodriguez esque. A nice round seventh house.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:02:46

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
Exactly. No, that's, that's amazing, guys, you guys are definitely an inspiration, an indie film inspiration. And in, you know, it's, it's an you did it in today's world, but get a little bit in the past, because it took me five years to do. But but all the things that you did travel to this point right now. And the, the basic spirit of what you do is, is getting out there and doing it. And not everyone needs five years. Some my son might need seven. But um, but you did it and you did it on your own terms. And you told the story you wanted to tell, and it's doing exactly what you want for it. And you can't really ask for. I mean, you could ask for a bunch more. But generally speaking, you got what you aim for.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:03:34
Yeah, we absolutely, we actually got a lot more than we aim for. I mean, we've walked away with a movie that people are watching, and they're enjoying it. And we have people contacting us every single day to say, you know, I checked out your movie. We're in lockdown. And it's brought me hope and it's brought, you know, and it sounds corny, right. But like, ultimately, as filmmakers, our goal is to, like tell a story that people connect with and to hear that people are enjoying the film, and wanting to kind of connect with the community and be part of it. It's just, it's an absolute dream. And on top of that, the actors that are in the movie, they're like family to us, you know, like, we've been to weddings, and we've moved houses and we you know, we're all part of it together now. And it's been a testing experience, but it's just an incredible one as well. Very, very lucky.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:24
Now, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions as my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:04:32
Blimey. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:37
Take five years, take five years and

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:04:39
go to take me nuts. I would say be be passionate. Because I think there are a lot of people, you know that and I talk to a lot of people we've crossed paths with filmmakers. And I think you can and also young crew, you can sort of sniff out the ones You kind of want to be in it because they think it's cool. And I'd love to walk the red carpet. And I'd love to be it's a glitzy glamour industry. And then you can also immediately tell the people that don't care about that at all. They're just, they have to do this because they love it so much. And I think, I think that people who are in positions of power can tell why, why you're sitting in front of them. And if you're passionate, and you love it so much, I think that that you're gonna win them over. So I'd say be passionate about what you do,

I say, really identify what it is about making movies that it's gonna make you happy, though, why do you want to do it, because if you're doing it for the end goal, if you're doing it, because it's going to get you somewhere, someday, that's just not really going to get you through those challenging nights where you're, you know, you can finally get seventh crashed on you for the 100th time and you're in the middle of a render, and you just lost your head. You know, it's to me, a big thing that I've learned through the making of Cosmos has been about just enjoying the process. Don't forget that it's filmmaking that you love. Not the next movie, not the movie you're making 10 years, not where you'll be or what you could be doing some day. It's right now. And if you're on set with a camera, and you're making a movie with actors, you're doing it, you're just doing it. So just enjoy that and try to hold on to that through the whole process.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:25
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:06:31
things take time? Yeah, I'm gonna say exactly that. Patience. Yeah. God. Yeah.

Patience, persistence. things take time, things take longer than you ever thought they could just accept it. And don't face it. You know, you're doing the best you can.

I remember hearing, there's a phrase that I we our dad used to tell us, he heard and he told us, and he said that people overestimate what they can achieve in a year. But underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. Yeah. And it's like, that's, that's great. I remember leaving school 18 and be like, this is it. You know, by the time we're 22 should be

Alex Ferrari 1:07:08
any time now Oscars, should I should I get the tux now? What should I do? Now? I'm

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:13
32. It's been 14 years since I left school. And I've just, you know, it's been six months, we've released our first film, it took a lot longer than we thought it would, but we didn't give up and we all now hear. So patience. Don't give up. Keep working hard. love what you do. And it will come

Alex Ferrari 1:07:30
and three of your favorite films of all time.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:34
Definitely et

Alex Ferrari 1:07:35
Yeah, I figured, man, I don't know. I feel when I saw cosmos. I'm like, Oh boy. These guys love that Spielberg boy, they just love it.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:47
Steven Spielberg. Yeah, I mean, it's good. It could easily be three Spielberg films be top three. But I tell you what, we watched the other day again. The first time in a while Meet Joe black.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:59
Of course. Yes. Cool. Yeah, love. I love your black

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:08:02
love me. 201 movie. Wow, incredible. Um, but yeah, you go and pick some pick one.

It's hard to pick a favorite man. I tell you what, not picking a favorite movie. But another good Martin breast movie Scent of a Woman. Oh, yeah. And seen anything Spielberg jaws close encounters are classified as so good, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:30
I mean, you can watch jaws right now. And it is perfection. It's just the shark. I don't care. It's just perfect. It's exactly what it needs to be. I don't want to see g shark. I want I want I want that shark. It's It's so so perfect. And did you know I'll give you a little bit just trivia. The scene in the boat where they're drunk. It's the night before the big thing and what's his name? Oh, the old Robert. Robert Shaw is doing that whole, like, long diatribe about like the dialogue. He's like talking about that. That was actually written by john Milius. Ray Spielberg called them like the night before and said, Hey, john, man, we got to shoot the scene tomorrow and we need a scene and john is not sure and he wrote the scene out for him.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:09:23
Just tie this up for it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah. What's like it's like you calling one of your mates and going Hey, dude, can you can you help me out with this shot but that's who they were they like the yes young filmmakers

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:09:33

That's amazing. I mean, it's funny because we will have this we'll talk to the film, you know, Trump's gonna make yourself and you'll have this phrase like, what's a perfect film and people say jaws and suddenly everyone goes up jaws jaws.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:46
Mommy jaws is a perfect is it? Yeah, there's, I mean, Spielberg has a few perfect films. I mean, there's he's, he's got a couple in his you know, and, I mean, I could go into the Kubrick I can go into Fincher and I can go into Nolan. I can go tomorrow I can go into Marty. I mean, Coppola, I mean godfather obviously.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:09
We love Gladiator as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:10
Like Blade Runner. Blade Runner. Alien aliens if you want to go down.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:19
overlooked isn't a camera camera.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:21
So this is the funny thing of okay. And now there's just two. This is from geek stalker guy, so just bear with us. Cameron, I went Titanic came out. I people were like, you know, I don't know how old you guys when Titanic came out?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:36
Yeah, okay. Have you seen it?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:39
Yeah. So, so Okay, so nine, so I was a bit older than you 97. But when when to everyone, it was a big hoopla $200 million is gonna bomb who's gonna want to watch Titanic? I mean, we all know how it ends. Like, why would you do that? And I just kept saying to everybody who was saying that anyone I talk to him, like in Cameron I trust.

Yeah, I love it. Cameron I trust because he has yet to make a bad movie. And if you look at his filmography, from the abyss, aliens Terminator, Terminator two True Lies. Amazing. He just always delivered it just always. So then, when fast forward a decade, and then avatars they're saying the same thing about avatar. I'm like, Hey, can I trust Cameron? Cameron, we trust. He's one of the most underrated filmmakers. I think in history, he's the most one of the most successful filmmakers in history. And the funny thing is that and I always tell people this like, do you understand that nobody else can make avatar? Like there is no Spielberg Spielberg is not getting half a million half a billion dollars to go develop a new IP new technology about blue people with arguably no major bankable stars like major stars involved no other like you said born with nothing that could support a half a billion dollars that today Yeah, today stars, you know, yeah, so nobody, not Peter Jackson. Definitely not Fincher, definitely not Nolan. like nobody else to do it. Other than someone like James Cameron, and there is nobody else. And when you when you realize, and I've heard these interviews, like when you're the only person on the planet that could do something like there's no there's not an argument here. Could Spielberg make a movie like avatar? Yes. But not by himself. He doesn't have the skill set. camera isn't like a whole other level, like with the technology and and you know, and Nolan and all that, you know, there's just nobody else that could do that film. No one else would write and get a check for half a billion dollars.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:12:52
Now you're right, actually, that's something you quite easily overlook because you just go

Alex Ferrari 1:12:57
Yeah. You take it for granted. You just take it like Oh yes, James Cameron, but there's nobody else.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:13:04
I love watching behind the scenes footage of especially on an interview series in the water camera on his shoulders. His waders just did you did you?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
Did you guys listen to my interview with Russell carpenter, the DP from Titanic. So you have to have to listen to about to quit Cameron's story. And every one again we are now you guys can leave. It's now just between us. We're just we're just talking now because we're geeks. Russell Carpenter gets called in to his Malibu house. And it's like, we're gonna do True Lies. It was about True Lies, because he didn't realize that he did Titanic and now he's doing all the avatars. And he calls them up and James Cameron just brings them into his mansion in Malibu, and they're walking around and he's just talking to Russell like, he got the job. Like, there's no offer. There's no nothing. He's just talking to him. Like he's been hired. So we get out he leaves. He's like, I think I was hired. And and. and Cameron during that time, even during the Titanic time, his his reputation is he's rough. Let's just call his rough. He's a little bit of a taskmaster. Let's call it Cameron's legendary for being that dude on set. And so then his students realize and everyone's like, how's it working with James Cameron? He's like, it's great. I have no problem. I don't understand what everyone's having such an issue with James like, we've been shooting for a couple days. It's been peaches. It's been great. So they're in his Malibu house again, his screening room in Malibu, and there's in there seeing dailies and he's shot comes up from Arnold and then I'm gonna guys everyone Prepare yourselves I'm gonna curse I don't care. So I'm just quoting Mr. Cameron at this point. And he goes, What the fuck is that? And Russell's a he starts like big and the production designers. They And the first ad is there and a couple of their keys are there. And he goes, Hey, Russell, I just spent $20 million in the biggest movie star on Earth. It'd be nice if I could see his fucking face. Oh, wow. And then all of a sudden the next shot comes up and he just goes to town at every single shot and Russell's just like, okay, okay, so he leaves. He's out in the parking in the parking area. And he's like, he's calling his wife's like, I've been fired. I've been fired. I've been fired. I've just been fired. There's no way I can go back. I mean, obviously, James Cameron wants to get rid of me. Then the production design in the first day they come out and it goes, Russell Russell, he does that to everybody. Because none of us he didn't call all the other DPS has worked with he does it to everybody. He calls up the DP from the from like the Abyss and he goes, does he goes, did he try the whole? I want to see the face guy. Yeah, he does. He does it to everybody. It's not you. You're fine. Just keep going. And that is James Cameron.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:16:00
We saw recently, we saw the some of the behind the scenes from the Abyss as

Alex Ferrari 1:16:05
I was about to say that. Did you see that documentary? Did you see the set up? Or did you see the documentary? Did you see? Yeah, you've seen the whole documentary, right? The whole like,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:16:15
why am I looking? I mean, all the way from the beginning, right, Cameron? You go Oh, yeah, the guy that made avatar you go No, no, no, no, no See? This? Like, Oh, yes, a nuclear silo? Let's fill it with water and build a set. Why are you talking about

Alex Ferrari 1:16:28
he's been, and I'll give you one more camera story. And then we will end this interview. Because we could just keep talking for an hour. Can I read it? I read one of Cameron's biographies on the Abyss if you saw the behind the scenes of this, and by the way, anyone listening here should go watch the Abyss if you haven't seen it, and get the DVD and or Blu Ray, and watch. arguably one of the best filmmaking documentaries I've ever seen up there with hearts of darkness for Apocalypse Now. It is amazing to watch. You just sit there with your mouth on the floor the entire time they're doing it. And the suits at 20th Century Fox, it was way over budget, it was like a 50 million at that time was like 50 million bucks $60 million to make the movie. And it was just going up and up. And like, you know, the tarp broke and the filtration system broke. So people, and they had to buy these really expensive, like design these really expensive suits so people can not only see, and we can see their faces. So he has like he's so on the line item. It's wardrobe. It's wardrobe, but it costs like $10,000. And everyone like no one knows what's going on at the studio in the studio and like they're somewhere in North Carolina. And so a suit flies in. And if you saw that the behind the scenes cameras, you know, you're underwater for 10 hours. So you have to decompress for two or three hours underwater, so you can come up without getting the bends. And Cameron was doing this all day every day. He was he was in the water more than anybody else. So he was a taskmaster. But he was proving he's walking the walk. So this he he's just getting out of this decompose the composition and he takes off that that that you know that that element that he that they built right. And this guy comes up who's obviously a suit an executive, he comes up and goes, Hey, James, I'm here from the end before he could finish the sentence, James took the helmet and slammed it on the guy's head. So now the guy can't breathe. Because it's without oxygen. That thing is airtight. So now he can't breathe. He grabs him by the by his tie, and Dre and lifts them over like he's dangling from the edge. And if he falls into water, the dude is gonna die. If he falls into water, unless someone gets to him, he's gonna die. And he dangles them there while the guy's like barely breathing for like 10 seconds. Then he pulls them back in, rips the thing off he goes, if I ever see you on my fucking sin again, I'll kill you. And

now you see, this is the 90s. Guys, this is early 90s. This is a whole other world. I don't suggest you do something like this. But these are the legendary stories of James Cameron. This is one of a billion of them. But I have heard or read about over the years. And I know a lot of people who've worked with him. And every single time I I meet with somebody like I had another guy. Okay, one more story. And that'll be the last James Cameron story. A buddy of mine. He was at the DGA. And he's a DJ director, and he's, you know, he's a good director in his own right and has a couple films under his belt and he's big and music videos at the time. And I think it was Spielberg and Cameron. I think in Jackson or something like that, where they're giving a talk to the other day. And they're like, yeah, you need to do this and we're doing this is the new way and do this. And my buddy comes up he stands up he goes, Hey James, that's really nice because you're James Cameron. I don't have access to that kind of stuff. Like in front of everybody called out James Cameron in front of all these other directors. James goes, Well, what are you doing tomorrow? Do you want to come set? That? No, this is this is avatar before anybody knew what the hell avatar was. Before anyone knew what the technology all you heard was rumors about what the technology was that was being built. And I even heard I was here at that time I was here in LA. So I heard like through the grapevine, like James Cameron's doing something like this now. So he shows up, shows up onto set, which is the what is that the volume, the volume, right? And he's the volume. And there's this and they're basically developing technology. This is all brand new technology they're developing. So behind them in the soundstage is like three rows up with just computers, it must have been 40 people with wires and computer gears and just servers and shit just because you know, and you see James Cameron with this monitor in front of them. And in the monitor wherever he moves the camera. You see, avatar, you see, whatever that I forgot the name of the planet, Pandora, you see Pandora, right? So you see Pandora in real time. In real time, you're seeing everything in real time. So he sees everything, but it's all virtual. So then, my buddy standing behind him because he's shadowing them. He stands behind and he's watching. And he goes all right action. And it's the scene where they like they arrived the first time the helicopter and they jump out that thing, right? So he does and he goes in the take action and they he jumps off like a stool. He jumps off the camera, and he runs and he runs into a digital tree. Like he runs into a digital tree. And it goes, Hey, Jimmy, can you move this thing? About 20 feet that way? And he goes, sure, James. And all of a sudden, like from God, a mouse from God comes into the screen, clicks on this tree in real time, lifts it up roots and all moves it over 30 feet and plants it over there. Let's go again. These like and then they do it. So then my buddy comes up to him after like a few hours of this and they're like prepping something and he goes James man, this is. This is pretty cool technology man. And this is where you understand where James Cameron is in a completely different playing field than any of us are. He goes, you know, it'd be really fucking cool. If I didn't have a cable to this damn thing. This cable has been driving me nuts. I wish we could figure out a way to do this without a cable. It's the most cutting edge technology in film history at the moment. And he's like, but the cable is buggy.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:22:32
not perfect yet. And that's

Alex Ferrari 1:22:36
and that is and that is James Cameron. I'm sorry, everyone for listening if you're still with us, and we turned this into a James Cameron love fest. I apologize for that. But, guys, guys, where can people find you? What you doing your film all that good stuff?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:22:52
Well, we have a website Cosmos movie official.com, where you can find out where you can check out the film and follow us on social media and even buy some merchandise. If you fancy

Alex Ferrari 1:23:01
works. Are you selling

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:23:02
merch? We're selling caps, and they're they're flying off the shelf. But yeah, we're on all social media and we make we make it our personal quest to reply to every single piece of correspondence we get. So if you have any questions about the process, or about your own movie, and how distribution might work, or this or the other, just get in touch, we're always happy to talk genuinely,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:26
thank you guys for being an inspiration to the to the film tribe and to filmmakers everywhere. We need stories like this, to keep us going. Because it is a fairly depressing time that we're in currently. And, and before before, you know the situation that we're all in. It was still depressing. 29 eight it was still fairly depressing for filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers and making money and making your movies and all this kind of stuff. So these are the kind of stories I like to promote and and really give people inspiration to go out there and make their movies. And you guys are the personification of indie film hustle. So thank you guys so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:24:07
Well, thank you very much for having us. It's honestly it's awesome to be on the show. Thank you.

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BPS 296: How Master Storytellers Keep the Audience Engaged with Richard Walter

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Alex Ferrari 1:34
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.

Richard Walter 1:39
This concluding academic year July 1 is the new academic year of course, is the this is the concluding 38th year. So I've seen a lot. But I'm recalling years and years ago and one of the things I've seen is all about 25 years ago, actually probably a little longer than that. The Arts at UCLA all across the campus were reconfigured. And the film school, which was part of the theater arts department was turned into a long I was turned into a separate two separate departments. Film TV, digital media on one hand, that's my department, and our sister department, the theatre department and we are together in the School of theater, film and television. And years ago, when we were still a theater department, there was a retreat up to Lake Arrowhead. There's a very beautiful upscale and gorgeous conference center up in the mountains, just about an hour, hour and a half on the campus. And the whole subject that was discussed up there for the weekend was the spelling of the word theater. There were some people who wanted to change it from the ER to the ar e. It's terribly unimportant, but I am on the side of the ER people. Well, there was this right after two days of robust and vigorous and eager discussion. It was decided without any equivocation without any hesitancy to discuss this further at another retreat. Yeah, I mean, it's like it's been said of the universities, that universities is like a corporation, except if there's no bottom line, and there's no calendar. Now both of those things are completely untrue. Today, you know, there are universities, especially here in California, but all across the country are very much in touch with the notion of the bottom line as we really you know, support for public education retreats and not only university level, but much more grievously, I think at the K through 12 lead level, and calendar is very much attached to budget issues and so on. So fascinating place to spend a life that said there's no escaping the you know, these bureaucratic issues, they're not your may unique to public universities or private it's the universities but all institutions, corporations, nonprofits, governmental agencies, you know, nothing ever runs real smoothly and people should stop expecting it to you know, and, and kind of make do because what else can you do? So, in any event there I am very sympathetic with the organizing principle of my life has always been no meetings. I don't do lunch as much as I can avoid it. For example, yesterday I was at an awards luncheon, how to be there. I am also the Associate Dean now of the School of theater, film and television and I have to be there for the awards ceremony, you know, to give out scholarships and stuff like that and celebrate the students But I'm reminded of a line and one of my favorite lines in all of movies. And Oliver Stone's Wall Street, there's a line. There's a moment where Gekko, you know, Michael Douglas, I'm sure you've seen the I expect you've seen the movie. He's on, he's feeling like 11 phone calls at the same time. At one point. He says lunch, you know, clearly, somebody's invited him to lunch, in his lunch. And he's got his his lunches for wimps. And he hangs up, you know, and I say lunches for wimps, I believe, you know, my first obligation to the university as a professor in a research institution like the University of California. The first the second obligation is teaching, the first obligation is what they call in the traditional disciplines, research. And in the arts, they call it creative activity. But that's the first obligation that I have. And I can't do that and that all the faculty have. But we can't do that if we don't have the time to do that. So you One doesn't need to be a warrior for one's writing time. If you follow what I'm saying. I'm just responding to your meetings. Our previous chair, she had a sign I loved it, because because she had a sign on her desk on a little table at her in her office that said, this meeting is costing and then there was a blank, you know, filling, filling the number up next to $1 sign. So I'm very sympathetic with what you're talking about.

Dave Bullis 6:33
You know, there was a book I was just reading Richard, it was called The Power of No. And basically, it's that one word you could use to just sort of the crux of the book is if you say the word yes. You inherit all that person's problems. So like, if I asked you, Richard, what would you like to go to lunch? And you say yes, well?

Richard Walter 6:51
Well, you know, it's funny because the there's a self help guru who died I think last year as a very well known Stephen Covey wrote a book that is translated into like 167 languages, you know, several of which are not even identifiable. I mean, he sold millions and millions of copies of this book, and it's called something like the seven habits of highly effective people or something like that. And in that book, he says, at one point, he has a he has something called six words, for serenity. And he they are on less, do less, saying no. And that's what you're talking about. I have had to learn how to say no. You know, it's a necessary condition. When I'm asked to do things that I just can't do, rather than sort of play along, go along, and so on, you know, there's all kinds of ways to say it to a student, I just got a request, for example, for the summer student, and you know, the rifle. I love the greatest thing about UCLA, and the greatest thing about teaching is the students. And I love I love our students, but there is among young people and, and maybe college students in particular, maybe especially prestige students in glamour programs like UCLA, I mean, it is the, you know, those major film schools, like my own alma mater, USC, like NYU, like, like, certainly, like UCLA, we are the glamour corner of higher learning. So the people who do get in, it's very competitive. They, you know, they they're very gifted, and they used to get getting their own way. And I think maybe they're uniquely entitled, you know, they have a sense of unique entitlement. So somebody just announced to me, and this is somebody I really rather fond of in a very fine writer student in a program that he's decided to take an independent study with me this summer. I don't get paid for that, by the way. He will. And of course, I have to consent to it. He can't just announce it, although he thought that he could, that he's just entitled to it. And he's going to, if he has his way, you know, meet with me this summer and discuss his outline for a screenplay after I look it over and then we'll meet several times, I'll review the pages and give them notes and, and so on. I do that, you know, for eight writers every quarter. We're on the quarter system at UCLA routinely. But I'm not gonna do that this summer. You know, I'm working on my own stuff. I have all kinds of things planned, rather than just saying no, what I told them was that I wished I could do that, which is only partly true. And however, that I would not be able to give him and his screenplay, the time and the attention to the consideration, that they both merit so that's a polite way to say no, you

Alex Ferrari 10:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Richard Walter 10:09
But you do need to learn how to say, No. And I've also said in Hollywood, dealing in the movie business, you're a hard No, no, this is not for us. As painful as that is, it's not as painful as one usually here is when one submits a project, either to potential representatives or to a production company, one usually hears is this. Know what I mean?

Dave Bullis 10:40
The silence is deafening,

Richard Walter 10:42
Very shrill, very shrill silence. So I'm sympathetic with what you're talking about. You do need to I mean, I consider it actually part of my life, my pedagogy, if I could call it that my teaching philosophy is to teach students. We are a professional program or graduate program, we offer the Master of Fine Arts. I tried to teach them by example, how they need to be warriors for their own writing time. I once had a definition, I used to clown around about a definition of a writer. A writer is somebody who's always available to pick up relatives at the airport. And I preach to writers that if they when they complain, you know, like, I can't get anything done into the family, he wants me to, you know, they think I'm available because people say, Well, you are available. I mean, you did you pick them up, I didn't do so why, you know, if you don't get it, you're gonna get it, you know, you why it's one of my principles in which is if you want to be treated as a professional writer, you have to treat yourself as a professional. And the fact is people who are going to pick up relevance at the airport, what they don't realize is they actually glad to do that. Because it allows them to avoid doing what every writer wants to avoid doing. And that is writing. And not only that they get to do to feel virtuous about it. And to get the gripe and catch and carp and complain about everybody impinging on their time when in fact, they're terrified to sit alone in front of that word processor, you know, and their relatives coming in from out of town has given them the excuse not to do that, if you follow me.

Dave Bullis 12:24
Yeah, I absolutely follow you. Because there's a book that I read the The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Richard Walter 12:32
He's a genius. Pressfield he's just I love that book.

Dave Bullis 12:37
Absolutely. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with him briefly. And I told him, you know, reading that book was an epiphany for me,

Richard Walter 12:44
Oh, absolutely. I just love the book. In fact, I was just quoting and somebody, I do a lot of consulting off campus, I give notes to writers who have deals at studios, you know, it's becoming more and more routine in Hollywood. Now, even when you have a deal. You know, typical writing assignment is what they call and it's whatever is negotiable, you know, as long as the guild minimums are being observed, the typical assignment is what they call a draft and a set a draft is a draft of a screenplay. And a set usually consists of what somebody will call a rewrite and somebody else and then we will be haunted by what somebody calls a Polish, but of course, the guy doing the polish and the guy doing the rewrite have different views of you know, what, what it should be, let it be called, but often between such such stages, smart writers will go to somebody like me, a script doctor, a script consultant, and say, listen, they owe me You know, I owe I owe them this draft beforehand and and asked me, you know, I want you to ask me the hard questions because the studio asks them and, and so on. So I was talking to and but I also work with writers who, you know, who are independent and who can afford my very, very high fees to give those kinds of notes. You know, it's easier for a writer who's getting a quarter of a million dollar fee from Paramount Pictures, that didn't happen, then somebody's out of out of their own pocket. But I do work with writers off campus, as I say, who can get in if I'm attracted to the script? I think it's something that I want to you know, if you feel merits encouragement and then of course, it costs a lot of money so I was working with somebody I'm working with with a particular writer was in the Midwest and she I just sent her back a second raft of notes. Oh, it's about a 15 page document going through her her script and talking about it in general but also going through the pages note, you know, page by page and and indicating we have certain issues that are arise some of them as trivial as typos and some of them you know, fundamental issues about kind I returned story structure and whatever. And she she complained to me that she was really disappointed that there's more work to do that she thought she had the whole thing set up. And that she's kind of sorry that things aren't proceeding according to schedule, you know, in the way that she predicted, and I immediately thought of Pressfield, who I know what he would say Stephen would say that her only amateurs and dilettantes think that it goes, you know, in a steady, predictable, reliable way that it's not Herky jerky and frustrating, every inch of the way, you know, Pressfield would say stop trying to feel good about it, you know, feel good about having done it. But don't feel good about doing it. Nobody does. No writer does it. One of my first principles is all writers hate to write. We love having written, but actually sitting down and addressing the pages. That's what Pressfield calls resistance, there's always resistance sitting there. And I have a lot of experience as a writer. Over my my years, I've been writing professionally for more than 40 years. But my own experience is leveraged by the experience I've had with other writers working very, very closely very intimately with writers on campus and off campus. And so my, you know, I have the experience also of of all of those writers. And that's the way it is for everybody, for everybody, including the highest handed, you know, highest minded, most successful, richest practitioners. It's always that way. And people have to, you know, stop trying to feel good about it.

Dave Bullis 16:45
You know, it's like Stephen said one time, he said, you know, if you can beat resistance, inch by inch, and you can actually get something made. And you can actually, you know, you sit there and there's a polished manuscript, and he says, Congratulations. Now move on to the next one.

Richard Walter 16:59
Exactly. I quote a student of mine, he wrote two scripts in class that became gigantically successful films. They became franchises. One is Highlander. Maybe they called it the Highlander, and the other one is Backdraft. I mean, Backdraft became a meant amusement park ride. I mean, it's gigantic success. And so here was this 26 year old rider, multimillionaire already. I was reading an interview with him in the press, this is some years ago. And he was again, just like writers complaining and you think you'd be jumping for joy and you know, whistling a happy tune. Now, he was talking about how they had betrayed him at Fox, how they had discovered NBC and burned him at Warner Brothers and lied to him with Paramount and on and on, you know, all of these dramas and you know, lakhs of these crimes that have been visited upon him, this poor poor guy, this poor multimillionaire 26 year old screenwriter. And then he pauses in the interview, and I swear, if you held the interview, this was a press print piece. If you held the news page close to your face, you could have felt the waft of his thigh if you felt the breeze on his cheek. It was at that level in the context and what he was saying, was quoting me he was in awe, but I can just hear after he's griping and complaining he says, ah, but I can just hear my professor Richard wolf of UCLA saying that Greg don't even know it's a privilege in Hollywood even merely to be mistreated this way. Again, what Hollywood will do do the worst thing Hollywood will do is not mistreat you but ignore you. I had an experience I met with Restless oil, Julius Epstein. He's he and his brother. And another writer wrote Casablanca and among many other things, that the Julius was involved in he lived he was working well into his 80s the past a few years ago now rest his soul he when I first time I met him I said, Oh, Mr. Epstein. I'm so excited immediately only you know all I hope all of all I or any my film phony pounds, when we hope for it is once in our lives, we should touch something as you did with Casablanca that's timeless that's eternal. That is going to, you know, touch the hearts and minds of generations. Something like that. Yeah. I wouldn't be nice if I could report to you that he said, all thanks very much kind of you to say so. I mean, courtesy 101 You know, he's a writer. You're gonna understand he grew up in Brooklyn, but he spent 70 years in LA, but he never lost his the Brooklyn drawl that he had

Alex Ferrari 20:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Richard Walter 20:09
And his reply to me was at Casablanca schmetzer Blanca they flipped that up. You know what apart with fluid rain says such and such a day to day, but oh no, they weren't with my brother Philip me we had a thing with and here he is complaining, you know, more than a half century later, like 6070 later about how they messed up his movie what movie Casablanca and all I could think is my God, I wish somebody would mess up my movie like they mess up Casablanca. So, you know, again, only amateurs in dilettantes Thank you just settled in eagerly in front of the word processor. And, you know, you take a deep breath, and you kind of just get into your creative zone, and it just kind of flows out of you magically, you know, just think that way. Think that way. And the other thing is, people are never you can't get no satisfaction, if a MakerBot the Rolling Stones, it's never as good as people think that it should, as the writer, herself or himself thinks it ought to be. It's always better in the mind. You know, when it's not an actual tangible thing, holding your hand, it's always more perfect than when it's a real thing. And so there is a quality of frustration and disappointment that walks hand in hand with creativity. And professionals know that they accept that they tolerate that they endure it, they don't like it. And amateurs deny it.

Dave Bullis 21:41
You know, it's amazing that the scream out of Casablanca, actually, at a Feb problems with it. Because, you know, that's the movie, that's the go to movie that, you know, almost every screenwriting professor I've ever had, or, you know, book I've ever read. That's one of the go to movies that they use as a paradigm for listeners that this is what a great movie or I'm sorry, this is what an excellent movie is, you know?

Richard Walter 22:05
Yes. Well, it's what a great screenplay is. And it is a great movie. And it's beautifully acted and beautifully directed. I quite agree with you. And yet the actual writer of that is, you know, think fast. So, so, but then there is also a trend that kind of, that I've detected among writers where if you talk to a really successful writer, and you have to go, what's the favorite thing that you've read, they're gonna pick their most obscure, least successful project, you know, while most to make up for the disappointment that they experienced, when it was, was released, as I say, one prays for disappointment when well, because you'll never be disappointed if something isn't released, you know what I mean? So, again, I tell my writers, and I tell my colleagues around the table from time to time at UCLA, on the faculty, that fantasy is for your screenplay, for your life. Reality.

Dave Bullis 23:04
So, you know, as we we talked about, you know, just about writing and, you know, some disappointments, you know, in your classes, what I wanted to ask, you know, was, whenever a student comes to you, you know, how do you know, what's a good concept and what's not?

Richard Walter 23:20
Well, you're not you don't you never know, what's a good concept? You never know, I'm going to tell you two concepts right now. That are the stupidest concepts for movies, you will never hear a stupid or common concept for movie than, than either these ready? I mean, let me let me let me before I say that when he let me mention, Blake Snyder and save the cat, he argues that if you're a writer, and you have a concept, you should run that concept past some, some other people, he actually says you should stop people in the streets, and especially young people, and tell them, Hey, can I talk to you for a minute, I'm a writer, and I have a notion for an eye, you know, for a screenplay of a concept. And I'm wondering, I'd love to, you know, talk you through it for a minute or two and, and see what you think of it. Wherever, wherever you think I'm like, you know, the mistake to move forward? Or is this a worthy thing? Imagine you're walking down the street and somebody comes up to you, and wants to run a concept fast you and you and you're generous enough? Most people probably would say, all right, all right. You know, let's see where it goes. And you did that. And the guy gave you the following concept. You're ready. I'm ready. A man stutters, but he has to give a speech. So he hires a speech therapist, and they work on the speech and then he gives the speech. What if somebody, what have you said to the guy well, I gotta tell you, honestly, you know, you seem like a really good guy. And, you know, that's just, I mean, who could possibly care about what you just described? What if he then said He will Oh, well, you know, thanks just the same but respectfully, let me tell you that I happen to think this this when it's all done, it's going to win the screenplay, you know, Best Screenplay Oscar, and Best Movie. You'd figure crank up the lithium on this guy's drip. It's madness, you know. And yet, I don't have to tell you what movie that is, I'm sure. I'll tell about this. Somebody comes up and says, I want to do I have an idea for a cable series, I think it's going to be 62 hours, it's going to run for, you know, five seasons or six seasons gonna be 62 hours of programming. And here's the idea. A here's the concept. A high school chemistry teacher gets a cancer diagnosis. And he, he decides in order to provide for his family to partner with a former incorrigible students go into the meth trade to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. One of these will have certainly much of a concept that would wear one of these they live and it's going to turn into 62 hours of unparalleled genius. I don't mind telling you, I am one of those people who regards Breaking Bad as one of the greatest achievements in the history of civilization. In fact, last Saturday, I was at just a week ago, today, I was at the pitch Fest in Burbank biggest screenwriting festival they have every year, and I'm actually met. Tom's now is Peter Gould, who are the forces behind Better Call Saul, which of course grew out of Breaking Bad. And I just trembled to meet them, you know, as I have to have to shake the hand that wrote those one of those beautiful Breaking Bad episodes, they were prominent writers, producers, and I occasionally I think directed some of the Breaking Bad episodes. So it's not about ideas. It's not about concepts, it's about story. Story is all it's about stories, everything. And that's what we preach at UCLA. And, you know, the proof is in the tasting. We've we've, you know, there's a lot of evidence that we were wrong about that.

Dave Bullis 27:14
Yeah, I, you know, I saw the some of the accomplishments, you know, they, some of your students have done, and that is just phenomenal. And, you know, that's why, you know, you were the guy that I wanted to talk to you or, you know, when I was, in the early stage of this podcast, you were one of the people that I actually marked down to talk to, and I'm so happy that we actually got to talk now.

Richard Walter 27:35
And I'm flattered by what you're saying. And I thank you kindly.

Dave Bullis 27:39
Oh, completely. My pleasure. And, you know, just to continue talking about your class, you know, you mentioned before an outline. So do you have your students actually, you know, sort of, flush it out, flush out their stories to an outline or, and how, if so, how detailed? Do they have to go with that outline?

Richard Walter 27:57
Well, the first answer is, yes, I do have them do an outline. But I also tell them to throw away the outline, once I get started writing. It's not terribly detailed. When we have our each quarter, we have 310 week quarters at UCLA, where most institutions have two semesters, you know, 15 week semesters. And at the big I work each quarter, I've taught the course now over 100 times, with students, eight students around the table writing a feature length screenplay. And each one has to, we meet once a week for three hours, the whole group, but while I do meet with them, multiple times during the quarter independently, individually, and auditorially, one on one where we review the pages together, you know, I read their pages, having read the pages I meet and give them my notes. We I have everybody has to bring the second week of that class, they have to bring in a maximum two page, kind of a beat sheet, sort of a scene list. It's not really an outline, but it's sort of document that that helps the writer have a general direction that the script is going but then I tell everybody to stay open to the surprises. The last thing you want to do is drag something back to you know, an earlier notion that you had if it's working better in a new fashion, you know, I never knew a writer who wasn't surprised by lines of dialogue that our characters spoke. You don't seem to invent by themselves, you know, by twists and turns in the story that they didn't they weren't even aware of even though they are creating the whole thing. There is a kind of a magic to it. I had Neil Simon come to class to talk about comedy.

Alex Ferrari 29:56
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Richard Walter 30:05
Imagine being in a writing class and having you know, Neil's comedy, it's like being in seminary. And you know, there's an answer. And at two o'clock in room nine, the Lord will be doing a q&a, you know. And I asked Mr. Simon, I said, Do you laugh at your own jokes? And he said, sure I do the first time I hear them. And I think that's a great line. It's as if his jokes are not made up by him, but but told to him by the characters that he creates. I don't know any writer who hasn't had that experience. So, yes, I do think you have to have an outline. But I think you have to then sort of throw away the outline and expect the script to unfold in a way that will surprise not only people who read it, but the person who wrote it.

Dave Bullis 30:55
Very true. And there was a book and I can't remember the name of it off top my head, I think maybe in the artists way. But the the author of that book, Julia Cameron, yes, I Yes. And one of the methods that she described in that book was basically, you know, just sort of starting and just going and don't worry about the, you know, having a plan, you know, meaning like, you know, what a detailed outline mean?

Richard Walter 31:18
Well, there's something there's something to be said for that the El Dr. Rao, who's not a screenwriter, to my knowledge, but a very, very successful novelist who some substantial number of his novels have been made into movies. He's probably best known for Ragtime. He, he says driving, he compares riding to driving at night. You can only see as far as the headlights reveal. But that's long enough. That's far enough to drive. You know, the whole journey. He also describes Ragtime how he came up with Ragtime. Which is that he was in his he lived in New Rochelle. I think he still does number show, which is in Westchester County. It's a suburb of New York City. And he lives in a home with kind of a early 2020 century home. And he was just stuck. He was in his writing room. And he just didn't know what to write about. And he was in deep, deep dark depression and despair, the way writers get. And he finally just wandered around his study, and could think of nothing to write about. So he put his head against the wall, he started to like bang his head, literally bang his head against the wall. And finally he decided, Well, hell with it. He's just going to write about the wall. And he thought about the wall that he was, you know, pushing his forehead up against. And when it went up when the house was built, and that happened to be around, you know, in the period that Ragtime is built what was going on in New Rochelle at that time, and there was a parade, and this one Fraternal Order of something and rather and, and suddenly out of out of banging his head against one random ebook comes Ragtime, which is a gigantic number one New York Times bestseller. And it's insanely successful film directed by Milosz foreman. And one of this came about by you know, banging his head against the wall. So, so, again, the you were asking about, Oh, yes. But getting started. There's a writer. Do you know the name? Anne Lamott? Yeah, and Annie Lamott, she's best known. She's a wonderful novelist, but she she's probably best known for the books she's written about writing. The best known is called Bird by Bird. And she Annie preaches that every writer should allow themselves what she calls a shitty first draft. You got to get it down on the page and stop. You know, being disappointed that it's not genius yet. There's another book I think is very interesting. It wasn't written about writing. About 30 years ago, there was a best seller by a writer named Mark McCormack Mark McCormack actually was a sports. He invented modern day sports management. He really started in golf, and he's the guy who, you know, got multimillion dollar contracts for ballplayers and really went a long way towards getting rights for ballplayers that they, you know, used to not have. I remember, almost a half a century ago, I was working on a Jerry Lewis picture. I was the dialogue director on a journalist picture of Warner Brothers and on the Hill Jerry likes to slum with ballplayers. And so he had the star of the Dodgers at that time Willie Davis on the movie. And Willie was a holdout that went there. You know, it was pretty free agency. And all you could do is refuse to play so he had held out for this country and finally he is driving over to the studio one day. We were shooting in December in January, you know, offseason for baseball. I heard on the radio that Willie had he signed his contract. So I asked him when I got to the studio, I had no right to ask them how much What the What do you think he got for the 1970 season? He was 29 years old, he had hit almost 400. The previous season. He was in his prime. He's one of the best players in baseball, what do you think was his salary? For the 1970? Season? Take a guess.

Dave Bullis 35:23
I'm gonna take a guess at 30,000 for the year,

Richard Walter 35:27
That's a really good guess that was not as bad as that it was actually 50,000 Well, people will guess oh, you know, quarter million, half a million, you know, million dollars, and so on. When I mentioned this, it had to do with Oh, yeah, Mark McCormack writing about sports management. He wrote a book called, he went to Harvard Business School. And he wrote a book called, what they don't teach you in the Harvard Business School and was kind of street savvy, you know, wisdom for MBAs, and CEOs, you know, and CFOs, and CEOs, and CEOs and whatever, you know, major executives. And we were saying at one of his rules, is, it's quite wonderful. I believe that and works very well for people in the arts, including writers and here it is, don't let excellent stand in the way of good. You got something that sort of works, go with it, you know, at least for the time being. And then you come back and rewrite. But I think that's what slows people down. Sometimes they and stops them cold, you know, is it's not excellent, every inch of the way as they go, it's merely good. And I'm saying if you can be merely good. Give thanks to God and move on.

Dave Bullis 36:50
You mentioned Bird by Bird, though it's funny you mention that because I was actually talking to people about, you know, books on writing. And you know, and I and you know, usually the book, if we just talked about writing as a whole the number one book I always hear about Stephen King's on writing.

Richard Walter 37:04
That is my favorite book by Stephen. It's a brilliant book. And by the way, you'll recall what he has to say about ideas he launched his whole career with carry that was his big success. His breakthrough and by the way, you may remember from the book that he'd gotten some distance into it, many despaired of it, he threw it away, and Tabitha, his wife, Tabitha King, found it in the garbage and took it out and read it. What's this? And she said, What's this? That's one of the garbage she said, that's just not we're gonna have them the band name she's wanting to get it was great. You should keep going. That's how carry came about. But do you remember how it started? Stephen was living in Maine where he still lives. And it was a high school teacher and he always wondered what the he knew what the boys room and the boys lockers looked like. But he was curious what the girls bathrooms in the girls lockers looked like so one day when the after school hours when school was closed, but some of the teachers were still there. And the lockers in the bathrooms were were deserted. He went into the women's you know, the girls bathroom and the girls lockers. And he discovered guess what they're just exactly like the boys lockers except for two differences. One is that in the showers, the boys lockers had gang showers. You know, just a great big room of novels, you know, on the wall. And the girls had curtains they had you know, modesty curtains, they were they would tracks on the on the ceiling of the shower room. And that provided for curtains so that they had, you know, more modest experience when they showered. The other difference was that was that in the girls? locker rooms and bathrooms there were these little vending machines. You know what I mean? And look at Carrie it's all about this girl who comes into menstruation and doesn't know what it is. Is mocked and ridiculed by the other girls who see her in the shower and they can see blood running under the curtain if you saw the movie for remembered or if you read the book, just looking at the locker room leads to a thing which he sold back then 40 years ago for $400,000 adjusted for inflation to be about $3 million today. And it all came down from curtains and tampons gazing amazing.

Dave Bullis 39:41
Yeah, I remember the opening to that movie and it did heavily involve that and I you know and you know even the remake, which I remember pieces I don't remember as much as the original but you know that had I think that it's a similar similar beginning.

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Richard Walter 40:07
So open Yeah, well, I don't see the remake. But I remember since he's basic in the beginning as she's very beautiful now she's, you know, the movie, she's in the shower, at school. And there were other girls on the showers and suddenly blood is running. And she clearly does not know what this is about. He's never been taught by her parents or anybody else about menstruation. And she thinks there's something horribly wrong with her that, you know, she's evil and, and, and then the other girls see the blood and they see that she's upset about it. And you know, there's this terrible bullying attitude that emerges among adolescents, men and women, and they start to attack her and so on. I mean, that's what drives the whole movie. Anyway, this movie about revenge isn't dead. And she ultimately, you know, Avengers them at the end of the the movie, but it all derives from from that very, very simple premise. And if you describe that to somebody, superficially, they would think it's pretty helpless. So again, I think that the one of the biggest mistakes that writers make is to assign too much value. Too much credit to the idea. I like to tell writers, when you have a great idea, if you have a really great idea for a movie, that's all you got. I mean, what remains after that. The, you know, the incidents, the anecdotes, the events, the characters, the dialogues, a disgrace, I mean, everything remains after that. The idea is really rather useless, what what has value is the story and think about it, you can tell the idea for a movie in a in a, you know, a minute is about 40 seconds more than you need to tell an idea. But to tell the story takes you you know, as long as the moving. For example, I was talking I was saying to somebody the other day, what I had just said to you a little while ago about talking about The King's Speech, I was describing to you a man, a man stutters. He has given speech, he hires a speech therapist and gives a speech. So somebody's like, Yeah, well, you left out that the man who stutters is the king of England. And man, it's the 1930s and war clouds are gathering in, you know, on the continent, and that he's having a romance with Wallace Simpson, a, you know, an American commoner, and so on until that well, that's the story that isn't that the story, that's not the idea any longer. It's the story. And that's where the value is.

Dave Bullis 42:40
You know, somebody wants to told me that ideas are a dime a dozen. But at that, at that point, you're overpaying for the idea.

Richard Walter 42:49
Yeah. Well, I'll tell you something, I have a sideline I have, you know, well, I am. If you ask me what I do, I would say I'm a writer, if I if, if I were in the elevator, what's your response respond, you know, but the truth is, I also am a an educator, pretty well known educator. But that's not the end of it. That's just the beginning. But I'm also a consultant. And I consult in, you know, I'm a public speaker. And I'm a media commentator, I do a lot of appearances on talk shows, television, radio. And as a consultant, I do two kinds of consulting. One is, I've already told you about where I work with writers. I consult with writers as a script doctor, I give them support in working out their, their scripts. And the other kind of consulting that I do is in the courts. I am a court authorized expert in intellectual property law, particularly copyright infringement and plagiarism, who wrote the movie. And I have testified and I've been an expert witness in all between 30 and 40. court cases over the years, where there's litigation over, you know, who wrote the movie, somebody thinks the movie was stolen from them. And over my over the years I've on occasion been retained as a witness by plaintiffs but also by defendants. I was a witness, for example, in the very legendary case at Paramount, involving Art Buchwald, the famous humorist, and the Paramount the producer of the movie coming to America and any movie Eddie Murphy movie, and any movie Murphy were Buchwald sued claiming they'd stolen it from him and so on. I testified that you know, they didn't steal it from him that it was a different movie, but I only mentioned it because it is the MIS appropriation of value regarding ideas that has if I could put it this way put orthodontia on my children's teeth and paid for their fancy ass nosebleed costly private school education. My wife and I looked like it's a grown up now God bless him. But we used to joke that we saved up enough money to send their kids to college, but we spent it all on high school, you know. And what I mean by that is people attach too much value to the idea, they had an idea for a movie, they see another movie that has a similar idea, and they think it must have been stolen from them. When they don't get that it's just an idea. Ideas are not protectable it's the expression of the idea over the length and breadth of a narrative. where the value is, you know, you have to show what the courts call substantial and ideally, strikingly similar examples from one to the other, you know, not just that the boy and a girl fall in love, they break up and then they get back together again, you know, so So this misunderstanding of ideas has put a lot of money in my pocket.

Dave Bullis 46:03
You know, it's, it's funny, you mentioned that, because about, maybe two summers ago, I actually met a professor who teaches at Yale, and he actually also does, you know, does copyright and things like that. And he was actually involved in the avatar case, because some some writers came and said, James Cameron stole their idea for Avatar. And they wanted, you know, they wanted a couple million actually, you know, more than a couple of million dollars, but, and he was involved in that whole litigation.

Richard Walter 46:33
Interesting. I don't mind bragging that it's just a student of ours, named Lita, Kellogg Ritas. Very successful writer, she wrote much of Avatar, Jim gives her credit not as writer but she does have a producer credit and it's her own card, her name, stands all alone on the screen. But the fact of the matter is, she really wrote a lot of that mo she's not suing a complaining, you understand she idolizes Jim Cameron, and I think he's great. I know him too. He's been very good to us and our students in a program and, you know, Lita was paid millions and millions of dollars for her work on Avatar and she's she's not not complaining. But yeah, I believe that any any big movie? You know, a lot of people know about the the Buchwald case it was covered. You know, the coming to America case that I mentioned earlier. It was covered gavel to gavel It was held live gavel to gavel on the trial on on CNN, I remember. And a lot of people don't know that. That particular litigation was one among seven or eight cases where people had claimed, you know, other people that claimed they'd written the movie, you know, independently. There's an expression that every success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. In other words, if a movie makes no money and nobody hears about it, no one will sue. But if you have a great big hit like Avatar, there's going to be bunches of lawsuits. I know that my old classmate, George Lucas, from USC film school, we were Film School students together all those years ago. There have been multiple suits and Star Wars was stolen from him, you know, from them, I I remember that he went up to Canada to it would have been easier for him to just settle, which is what they usually do. But he's a very funky, feisty guy, George. And nobody's going to say that, you know, he's not going to going to consent to anybody. You know, he's never going to agree with me that he ever ripped anybody off. And so he actually went to the trial, and somebody had come claim that he the plaintiff had had invented the Wookiee, and George has stolen that from him, you know? So it's like when my son was little If he couldn't find his baseball, maybe they stole my glove. You know, it couldn't be that he misplaced it, you know? So people always think that there's something similar it must have been stolen from them. Occasionally it happens but it's most exceptional. And when you mistake the exception for the rule, you fall on your face every time

Dave Bullis 49:22
Very true. You know, and the more I hear about you know, cases like that, you know, Richard the more I hear that it is either you know, a hey, you know what, two people you know, great minds think alike as they say so, you know, it is possible if you know, two people that live in you know, maybe the opposite ends of the earth came up with a similar idea, you know, I mean, I mean, you know, you and I could go to the video store with their video stores are still around, you're not gonna go to Netflix, and we could see there are there's, there's a plethora of movies that maybe share maybe the same scene or maybe share like the same plot points or maybe share the same, you know, character characteristics. Beautiful!

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Dave Bullis 50:11
Along those lines

Richard Walter 50:13
Again the only thing I totally I totally agree theme many movies have the same theme Jaws I happen to know now one blank record about lead who who wrote yours Of course he was adapting to Peter Benchley book was was telling me that the conversations with Bentley Joe Jaws is based on a play by the great Norwegian playwright Enric Gibson. And the play is called an enemy of the people. It's a very well known, you know, sort of a classic play I guess it's 150 years old or something. And it's set in a health resort health spa that's famous for its waters, that there are healing waters people come from, you know, 1000 miles you know, to have their their maladies healed in the waters, the magical waters of this particular health spa. And the protagonist in the movie is dr. Stockman, he's the Medical Director of the baths. Now this doesn't sound at all like Jaws. But consider this, at the beginning of the movie, he discovers the doctor does that the waters are actually polluted. And that making people ill. And this is a really important discovery, when he announces that he thinks people will honor him, because he's saving a lot of people a lot of illness and even death, you know, because they'll stay out of that bad water. And it'll also get the resort to do whatever it needs to do. If it can be done to you know, repair that right. So that doesn't sound terribly like us. And yet it is because we the reaction of the health spa and the community around it that lives off the income brought in from tourists coming in to be guests at the spa. They instead of honoring Him, they they, you know, degrade and they deride him and they declare him an enemy of the people. And that's exactly the deal with Richard Dreyfus. And as the sheriff in Jaws, and John's, if you remember that, that he realizes it's the start of the season, it's a beach town, and suddenly, there's a dangerous shock. And if word gets out that there's all of that danger, and people aren't supposed to use the beach, well, they're not gonna do a beach vacation, at least not there, you know. So instead of honoring him for making this really important, lifesaving discovery, they, they degrade him, they humiliate him, they scorned him, they mock Him, they love him. And so the theme is, history hates a truth teller, something like that. And that's the same theme for JAWS and for the enemy of the people, even though they are. So what's the difference between them, the difference is the story. Totally different story, the setting, the dialogue, the characters, everything's different, though they have the same theme. Quite, quite true. So you're going to see movies that have similar themes, but you can't protect a theme, all you can protect is a story and has to be substantive. This happens, that happens, this happens, that happens, the same stuff happens in both and then you're starting to get onto a you know, an enterprise that is protectable. It just a very yet very crazy arena. The truth of the matter is, studios, producers, production companies, networks, cable companies, they have no selfish interest in stealing material. They don't want to risk the 10s of millions of dollars that it takes to put together a series or a movie. Indeed that a billion dollars the nobody's gonna make that kind of investment and try to cut somebody out of 1/10 of 1% of that, which would be you know, hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of dollars or even millions of dollars for the script and put the whole rest of the project into jeopardy just trying to shave off a point or even two from the budget by stealing the script. You follow what I'm saying? Oh, yeah. You know, there's a not a lawyer, that I've spent a lot of time around lawyers doing this kind of kind of work and there's a there's a Latin phrase, I forget what it is or something like Cui bono. You know, who benefits from this? If you're you're looking at a legal case and you want to people Who's in? You suddenly discovering somebody dies, and you suddenly discover that they had a huge insurance policy. And it all goes to this particular beneficiary? Well, that beneficiary had a substantial stake and a great reward and this person dying, maybe, maybe she or he killed him, right. So, movie companies have a stake in not stealing material. Nobody benefits by that. And, indeed, they suffer greatly. So I think it does happen, but I believe it's vastly, vastly exaggerated.

Dave Bullis 55:37
You know, you mentioned you know, your classmate was George Lucas, do you have any other you know, interesting stories or any other funny stories about you and George?

Richard Walter 55:47
Well, you know, I am the uncredited writer of the first two drafts of American Graffiti. This there's no controversy about it. GEORGE doesn't tell it any differently. The there's nothing unusual in Hollywood about a substantial number of writers being paid for the services on a particular picture. And not all of them getting credit credit as a judgment that is rendered by the Writers Guild. So I yeah, I worked fine to George pretty well, we weren't very close friends in film school. But we knew each other and we were at parties together, we were in classes together, I was in awe of his achievements as a film student, as we all were back then at USC, his legendary student film Thx 11384 Ed, which became a feature length film ultimately not as good as the shorter version. But it was his first movie was done at Warner Brothers with Francis Ford Coppola producing I was, you know, in awe of his talent as a graphic artist as a filmmaker when I was in film school. When we work together on graffiti, I didn't really work closely with him. He had he was out of the country actually had the the long version of FX we called the FX Thx. He was bringing back to Cam, the festival he was traveling with his then wife, Marcia, they were backpacking around Europe, and they were going to end up at Cannes, and they needed a draft of graffiti in a hurry, and I was asked to write it in a couple of weeks, which I did on that first draft. And it did not he was not pleased with it, for he complimented it for me, he has over the years, complimented for its professionalism and all of that. But he was bothered by two aspects of it. One was the sex in it, you know, I saw it as a, a tale of, you know, adolescence, coming of age and all of that. And that's a time of sexual awakening. And, you know, if you look at George's films that kind of like clinical saran wrap, as far as sexuality is concerned, that sort of isn't any, you know, the sexual pervert, not really as kidding. But, but I think that you know, in my own but I've written at length about adolescence, my first novel was a coming of age, in New York City, and there's a lot of sexuality in it. Young people, flirting and more, and George didn't like that he's kind of uptight about those sorts of things. And the other thing he didn't like was that it wasn't close enough his own experience, you know, growing up in Modesto, Hey, um, you know, I'm a New York kid, I grew up in Queens and went to school, with high school in Manhattan, you know, and I didn't know anything about cars and, and stuff like that. So we never really worked together on it, except after the first draft, it was a two draft deal. We did, we did meet at my house. And then we met I remember, we had another meeting at a restaurant in Hollywood. And we spoke at length on the phone, after the, you know, during the process of writing the second draft and, and so on, I was well paid for the work that I did, and I'm not complaining. You know, again, the the credit decision is something that is rendered by the Writers Guild. And the, so it's really their judgment, not the studio's judgment, not George's judgment, and so on and so on. He's a powerhouse, you know, he's a kind of a gruff, nerdy, scratchy voice little guy, but I mean, he's, he's just the greatest genius I've ever known. I mean, the impact of that his work has had across I mean, who on the world who around the world doesn't know some aspect of the front of the Star Wars franchise hasn't been touched by some aspect of it, right. I mean, you know, don't you think it's realistic to suggest that millions of people have Who doesn't at least

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Richard Walter 1:00:11
Who do you know in all of human history who touched so many people have run into the consciousness and the awareness of so many people all around across the globe in so little time? As George did, I also believe that the influence that he's had the influence of Star Wars, I'm not really crazy about the movies. John Neely is our film, school alumni, you know, a fellow alumni, alumnus, you know, call them pap. I watch all of them. I've seen the first one, which is, I guess, the fourth one, by a certain measure and part of the second one and so on. But the the lesson that they put out there, I think, is a really, really affirmative feeling. positive message across the world. A very Judeo Christian message, which is that the power of love is greater than the power of hate the power of God is stronger than the power of Satan, the power of, of construction is bigger than the power of destruction. I mean, you know, you have a fairy tale. And so again, again, going back to the idea as we were talking before, what's the idea behind Star Wars? I'll tell you what it is. And you already know what it is. It's a fairy tale and space. The bad guys have ducked the princess and you know, the good guys rescue her. That Star Wars, isn't it? Yeah. What makes those two special in the answer is the frame by frame, moment by moment, scene by scene, action in it and the dialogue that the characters speak and so on. So, you know, George is a very, you know, he's not a very available kind of a guy. I don't think a lot of it, people would describe him as warm and cuddly. But when I worked with him, both on campus and off campus, that was certainly a professional arrangement and agreement and, you know, whatever disagreements that that were had were, you know, our experience, we're not unusual among artists working on a movie together.

Dave Bullis 1:02:31
Yeah, very, very understandable.

Richard Walter 1:02:33
And I was actually I, his house guest, I remember my wife and I, in August of 1969, he had already left LA, he was living up in Marin. And I love to say that my class at USC, we were the first to move on. When we came to film school, there was no tradition of moving from film school into the professional community. It's like I have an article right now. It's just come out, like, yesterday or the day before in the current issue, the most recent issue, which is just come out, excuse me, I've written by, which is the Writers Guild, monthly journal. And it's called Film School Haven or hoax. And I'm arguing that, you know, in and I'm arguing, because I have a vested interest in it. But I still believe it's observably, verifiably, empirically true that film school is not a hoax. You know, but very, very helpful in in getting, you know, people into the movie business. I stated in the article 1111 titles of movies, written I'm sorry, directed or Purdue and or produced by Steven Spielberg, that were written by, at least in part, by UCLA, trained writers who have on screen credits for those movies. 11 of them. Jurassic Park 123, Indiana Jones, two and three. That's five right there. The terminal Munich, Lincoln, one of the world's EagleEye EagleEye was produced by Steven Travis Wright was the writer our student a few years ago, what am I leaving out the Oh, the TV series amazing stories. Our students in the last six or seven years of a five, just in the last six or seven years five Academy Award, Best Screenplay nominations and have won three Oscars for Best Screenplay in the last five years. So scrape between now and then now being today and then being the time now almost half a century ago that I was going to film school in classes with George Lucas. The big difference is that film school has gone from being a dead end professionally to being the single most advantageous way to enter the film industry. So I like to say that our class at USC we were the first one As to go on to own Hollywood, except for Georgia loans Marin County. So, in any event, my wife and I in 1969 in August we took a motor trip just to vacation holiday up the west coast and we drove all the way up ultimately to the Oregon border. California Oregon border of the quad dunes. There are some beautiful sand dunes along the northern California Southern Oregon coast. Just exquisite. We camped along there and so but on the way we stopped the San Francisco and I remember I had we had brunch one Sunday morning in Sausalito with some old film close pals including Georgia and Marcia. Also John nearly as if you know that name. I referred to him earlier. John, you know, invented Schwarzenegger, you know, he did call Conan and bunches of other movies, he wrote John Salley, best known for his script of Apocalypse Apocalypse Now. There was my wife and I and George and Marcia and Amelia is also Caleb Deschanel who's probably famous, being the father of very famous actors, daughters. But Caleb is of course himself a multi nominated cinematographer. He is one of the most respected the most successful cameramen in the history of the industry. And they were so other people there was Walter Murcia is very famous, Walter actually won two Oscars for sound design and something else in the same year and money gotta come twice, to the stage to pick up his Oscars. He was there with his wife, Aggie, a British woman. And then there's also Caleb, as I mentioned, and a producer, and now a well known producer, David Lester, who produced all of Ron Shelton's film, you know, Bull Durham, and on and on and on. And I remember Marcia invited us to, to be their their house guests. We said, well, we're, we're moving on up the coast tonight, you know, I mean, right after this meal, we're driving north. She said, but on the way down if you want to stay with us, feel free. So we did, we were actually the house guests overnight, when he was living in Mill Valley, in Marina was before his gigantic success with live graffiti, graffiti wouldn't come out yet for about three years. I think it was in 72 71, or 72 73. It came out it was released in 73. So we were alone, you know, when a film school pals when I look back. At the time, we weren't really aware of it. You kind of look back to see it, but talk about Right Place Right Time, you know, I had come out to California for three weeks from New York. And at the last moment, I just fell into film school that I see on kind of a whim. And, you know, somebody turned around it was 10 years later, you know, had never really planned to settle in California, much less to become a screenwriter and much, much, much less to be a tenured professor, you know, and legal experts and so on. He has a great example of staying open to the surprises in a life narrative. I think, you know, I'm always telling writers in your dramatic narrative in your life narrative. Stay open to the surprises that all of the people I know who were enjoying what they're doing, are also surprised by what they're doing. They're not doing what they planned to do. People who do what they plan to do, are people I know a lot of such people and they offer the most what doctors I grew up in New York City and the big thing to be was a doctor. So I know a lot of medical professionals and they're very successful. They're very, you know, they're well paid and so on, but not a lot. Some of them are very happy, but not all of them, many of them are unhappy. This one wishes he was an oceanographer that one wishes he was a anthropologist, and all of them seem to wish they were also screenwriters. Sometimes it seems like the point is that, you know, there's a Chinese person or your dreams come true. It's a little scary when when you accomplish what you set out to accomplish an ended doesn't really feel right. I have a friend who just retired from medicine. He's done very, very well. He's respected. He's made a good living, but he's always been lukewarm at best about about his career. Never really enjoyed it. On the other hand, I know another doctor, a friend of mine who went to film went to medical school.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:53
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Richard Walter 1:10:02
But just didn't like practicing medicine when he liked was computers. And very early in the computer revolution, he got into the the writing of software for computerizing pathology labs, he was a pathologist, his specialty was pathology. And that branched on out to general medical, medical record keeping in general, they were computerizing all of that, you know, previously, a doctor would see a symptom and sort of think about it. Now, you can, you know, really search the databases. And this has resulted not just in convenience, but in the savings of countless lives, if you think about it. So my friend is we were visiting with him, he lives in Seattle, we, we were visiting with him and his wife, oh, dear old pounds of lawn some months ago. And his house is on Lake Washington, there's a dock behind it. And on one side is his power boat. And on the other side is his sailboat across the lake. And a little to the south is the Bill Gates compound. I mean, this guy has done really well my friend and he loves his work, and he didn't jettison his medical education. He very much exploited it. And that's not a dirty word. It just means make the most of it. He integrated it into his career, his very successful career, a career that he loves, that he just enjoys enormously. My point is, he's not doing what he expected to do. And he's loving it. And what I'm, what the point that I'm making is, it's possible to over plan, kind of outsmart yourself in life.

Dave Bullis 1:11:52
And also, you mentioned, Richard, you know, sometimes wants to be a screenwriter, you know, it's kind of like everyone, I think it was Joe Esther house, the the screenwriter of Basic Instinct, one said, you know, it used to be everyone wants to write the great American novel. Now, what's the great American screenplay?

Richard Walter 1:12:09
Yeah, no, Joe is a friend of mine. I know him well over a number of number of years. And I'm aware, aware that he said that and it seems to be true. It seems to be true people people want to, you know, there are more people who years ago would have been writing novels than writing screenplays. I do both. I've just finished a novel. And I've had modest success in both areas, and it's interesting, the guy was just lecturing on this. This is my subject. We could go at the pitch fest. We were talking about how it's funny. Let me put it this way. There's a there's a political figure. You've heard of Governor Christie from New Jersey. He's running for president. And he was I saw him sometime last week. Early in the week he was bitterly denying that he was what somebody had accused him of somebody could accuse him called him and characterize him as a particular word. Very, very evil word, the most evil word that you can use to characterize a political figure that these days in this country, can you guess what the word was? I'll tell you. Somebody called him a moderate. They said that he was moderate. That used to be like a compliment. You know? He was denying these the moderate and Why do I bother you about that? Because there's a word in Hollywood that Hollywood seems to have come to hate. Are you ready? Original. They don't want to do anything original. In fact, it's the disappointing release of Tomorrowland. Is that what it's called? Yeah, tomorrow. Yeah, with Clooney. That kind of disappointed. They say that they're not gonna do any more original movies. You know, because of Tomorrowland is originally there only want to do 10 photos, remakes, reboots, prequels and sequels, adaptations of material from other media. They don't want to do original screenplays. I think that's a real pity because what they're trying to do is play it safe. And playing it safe is the most hazardous course you can follow in an arc. You have to take the risks you have to embrace the risks invites the listening courage, the risks, it seems to me And nevertheless, it if you're a writer, and you have an original screenplay, what are you gonna do with that nobody's making original screenplays or certainly the studios are not. They're not buying spec scripts and turning them into movies. They're developing projects inside I had a writer who wants to. He's a huge fan of Batman and he wants to Does the Batman franchise and he wanted to pay me a substantial sum? To give him notes on that manuscript that he ran, I said that you, you can't do anything with Warner Brothers on the right. You know, Batman. So he said, well after what the Warner Brothers, but Warner Brothers isn't going to look at the Batman script, they're not going to buy it speculated that manuscript, they're gonna develop it with writers, they know who worked with producers, they know, those writers may very well be former students of mine, mind you, and I'm happy to brag about that. But they're not going to do this guy script, not only are they going to make it, they're not even going to read it, they're going to make a point not to read it. For reasons that go back to what we were talking about earlier having to do with litigation, if it's Batman, it's certainly going to be similar. It's going to have certain similarities to that doesn't happen to have franchise, don't you think? And then there'll be there'll be their lawyers at Warner Brothers will be telling you, you mustn't look at this. And you must notify him or send this back to him and tell him we haven't looked at it. We don't accept that until this material and so on, because he's gonna claim when the new Batman came up that we that we really used it. And we didn't, you know, that we just stole it from. So, we talked about originality. So how do you get around that as a writer? And the answer is, and I've had modest success with this repeatedly in my career. I don't consider myself to be any kind of superstar. But the The Wall Street Journal calls me they What did they say about me, they said, I am a writer of substantial, professional experience, you know, there's no literary laundry I haven't taken and I've written feature assignments, feature length, movie assignments, were all of the studios, almost every studio. And I've sold material to all three major broadcast networks. And I have had almost half a dozen books published by by all of them by major New York publishers, I've had bestsellers in nonfiction, my screenwriting books in print, you know, what, for 30 years, my last novel, read made the Times list. Best Seller was only for a week and only at number 13. But the you know, the Times list, it's not a not a small thing. And the reason I mentioned it to you is that my very first novel I had written as a screenplay, and I just couldn't. It's been said Hollywood is the one place on earth where you could die of encouragement. I had so much encouragement over that scribble of when he didn't have was a nickel for it. And finally, there was a strike and you couldn't market the Hollywood anyway. And so naively, I turned it into I use it as an outline for a novel and wrote a novel, I was naive about how cruel the fiction market is, especially the first fiction market. And that naivete served me very well, because I sold the thing right away. And, you know, had I been more savvy about the business, maybe I wouldn't have, you know, invested the time and effort it would take to turn that into a novel, knowing how grim the chances were, so you understand how ignorance is your friend. Now you say, is your pal. Now as soon as it was sold as a novel, it was sold as a movie. Warner Brothers, or somebody that had turned it down when it was a screenplay, bought the same screenplay, as soon as it had been published as a novel because was no longer original. It was now an adaptation. It had been tested in another market, the executives have every every day in Hollywood that an executive doesn't have to make a decision about anything is a victory for her. She hasn't put her neck out. She hasn't risked anything, you know, if you don't do anything, you'll never do anything wrong, right? So, and every movie that does get made starts with the anticipation by the executives who are responsible for spending the money to produce it. It starts with their expectation that it will fail. And they're trying to figure out how to explain away the anticipated failure of the movie. I don't see how that can do anything other than to suppress creativity and imagination and so on. But you understand how somebody could say if if, if the movie comes out, and it bombs, for example, Bonfire of the Vanities, which is reduced by a friend of mine and a colleague of mine, he's also a professor at UCLA Peter Guber, very successful producer. He was the head of Warner Brothers. He was at Columbia he's produced a lot of major major movies. Well, one of the movies that he produced it was a terrible mom. There's even a book written about about it was Bonfire of the Vanities. And when people said in theater, how could you invest so much money in this turkey?

Alex Ferrari 1:20:01
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Richard Walter 1:20:10
He can, I mean, you must be some lousy executive, we should get rid of you. He has a defense and the defense is Wait a minute. This was a best selling novel by Tom Wolfe. I also had Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks in the movie. The screenplay was adapted by Michael Cristofer, a very, very distinguished, respected writer, the director was Brian De Palma. It's not my fault. It's not my fault. You understand what I'm saying? So suddenly, because the with my own novel when it was sold as a movie, the producer who bought it could say if anybody asked him how to get to get by this, because they want any more books published this, you know, major publisher in New York published this. So I'm not the only one crazy enough to think that there's merit in this. So I've been recommending to writers. That's a contemplate. Write a Screenplay, but instead of showing the screenplay, writing original screenplay, certainly you don't want to do an adaptation of material that you don't own. I mean, they're like dragons. What are you going to do with something if you don't have the underlying rights? So so what I'm recommending is they write an original screenplay, but then instead of mocking the screenplay, at first, they use it as an elaborate outline for their novel, and write it as a novel, and then try to sell the work as a novel. And once it's sold as a novel, they can get action as a screenplay. I've done that multiple times now. And right now I'm working on just finished a novel that's based on a screenplay. I wrote the screenplay last summer. And now I'm finished a draft of the novel, it's just the draft, I still have to do a bunch of work on it. But once you've got the screenplay, most of the heavy list lifting has been done I regard just like we were talking earlier about the the most valuable part of the equation is the story. Once you've got the story or work down, you've got the characters, the dialogue, I mean, most of that's there in the screenplay, isn't it? The turn that into a novel is relatively easy underscore relative. There's, you know, relatively there's not a you know, no, no, writing is easy. But for me, the hardest part of writing is the heavy lifting is in devising, creating the plot because the Plot The story really involves everybody else. Story is character. Story is dialogue. Story is description. It's everything. I mean, it was the richest character. I mean, imagine somebody say, Well, wait a minute, Richie, what about character? isn't that important? Well, who's the greatest character? In all of English language Romantic literature is a hamlet. Certainly, Hamlet would be a good candidate, don't you think? So? What's the description? Have you ever read Hamlet? Do you remember the playwrights description of Hamlet? Here it is. It's three words Prince of Denmark. That's it. There's nothing about melancholy. So where does this hamlet come from? And the answer is from the story, the stuff he does, and the stuff he says inside the context of the story. So it's really, really all about the love of that story. So once the story is worth down, you have the opportunity to retell that story is a novel and it's just easier to write a novel it's easier because you're not stuck with just sight and sound like you are in a movie. You're not. You know, we mentioned George Clooney a moment ago. I read a screenplay called the American I didn't see the movie, the dreadful screenplay. Clooney was in it. I think the only reason George was in it because it was shot near his where he lives in Northern Italy and I lived in Lake Como at the edge of the Swiss border up there and he was shot it up there. That's the only reason I can imagine that. George would have been you know, had anything to do with this movie would be because it was convenient was in the neighborhood. So it's an area that there's a scene in the movie where the main character is sitting is at a cafe, ordering a bottle of wine, he's with a girl, and the waiter comes up and offers a taste of the wine and he samples the wine and it actually says in the script and he takes a sip of the wine. It takes slightly flinty with notes of chestnuts and cinnamon. Wait a minute. It's kind of new. I haven't anybody knows sitting in a movie theater watching them on screen with what something tastes like. You follow what I'm saying?

Dave Bullis 1:24:54
Yeah, I knew exactly what you mean.

Speaker 2 1:24:56
This guy this writer doesn't understand the most fundamental aspects of screenwriting, which is you stuck with sight and sound, it's just sight and sound. It's easier to write another because you're not stuck with you can say what somebody remembers what they think how they feel, you know, the greatest compliment that's ever been paid me is that final draft the software I'm sure you know of it. The screenwriting software has actually created, I don't know if it's available yet. We are creating, they are creating for me in consultation with me the Richard Walter templates, you know, like if you want to write a if you want to write a Simpsons script, for example, you can you can punch up symptoms, you know, there's a pulldown window in final draft, and you can go to Simpsons, and you click that and it'll immediately give you the formatting that that the you know, The Simpsons likes that the Simpsons uses. And I don't mind telling you that colleague of mine has won several Emmys for The Simpsons and a bunch of our students have written for The Simpsons and one of them this makes me sad because he died young in his 40s, a wonderful writer, wonderful guy very successful. In not just in TV, but also in features he wrote Thor, he wrote Supergirl, very, very fine writer. He he was a the the old producer, one of the colleagues, a producer of The Simpsons and a writer for The Simpsons. So final draft has a Simpsons template, they now have a Richard Walter templates. If you if you punch up me, you'll get format that conforms to my particular desires. For example, I don't, when if you write x e x, t, for exterior, you know, it's like x or int, I was taught that you don't put and I, I preach it, you should not put a period after that. And in Final Draft, if you go to the rich Walter template, it'll get rid of the theory that comes after exp. Now somebody might say, Gee, that seems like a pretty petty point. But actually, I think it's the most important the most profound point in almost creative expression. And the point is simply this there shouldn't be anything in the script that doesn't serve this script. That is to say, it doesn't move the story forward. And if you learn if you get into the kind of mindset that leaves out even the period after exterior, then you'll leave out lines of dialogue that you don't need, you leave that whole characters you they don't leave, you leave that whole scenes that you don't need. If you follow what I'm what I'm saying. So in any way, the only reason I'm telling about this is that in the Richard Walter template for final draft, they are now having, we're tweaking it and in the wide margin description of a word like realizes feels, remembers, thinks, appears it's gonna get highlighted. A little zigzaggy line underneath is some attention will be called to it. To ask the writer Do you really want to say this? Is this something that the audience can see or hear? Because if it's an internal, interior mental thing, it has no place in the movie. But in a novel, I mean, everything in it, that's interior, a mental movie has to come out of sight and sound. You know, the Maryland's eyes widen in what can only be the realization that Harry left the gun in the nightstand at the motel, you understand what I'm saying? It's gonna be told from a visual standpoint, answering the question, nevermind the reader of this ink on the page, I want to know how the viewer in the movie theater watching it on the screen is going to know this information. And but in a novel, you can just spill it out. And you can also write in the past tense, or in the future tense, I wrote a novel. Instead in the past, in the present in the future, and in the past, I tell it in the past. And in the future, I tell him in the future tense and in the present, I tell it in the in the present tense, she goes to the door, she opens if he stands, you know what I'm saying. So you don't have to worry about that in a novel you can get you can do anything you want. Also, novels are longer, and it's easier to write longer than shorter. Not everybody gets that. There's a it's like it's easier to ride a bike fast and slow. You know what I'm saying?

Dave Bullis 1:29:39
It's very true. You're absolutely right.

Speaker 2 1:29:41
The the there's a letter from Hemingway, there's a very famous letter from Ernest Hemingway. He was in Cuba. I think he was working on the old man in the sea. And he wrote a letter to his legendary editor Maxwell Bergens.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:59
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Richard Walter 1:30:09
It was nine pages long on and on and on, and on and on about this and that the other thing of aspects of the script of the manuscript attack script for old men to see and this and then finally, halfway down the middle of page nine, he says, Well, that's about it for now, Max. He says, Please forgive me for writing such a long letter, I didn't have the time to read a short one. It takes longer to be quick and to the point and to call and select and do the things that artists have to do. So I think it's really something to be said for writers taking another tack, trying their script out as a novel, trying to get some traction there. And if they do, suddenly, it becomes viable as a movie project, because it's no longer original, they've taken the quotes, curse, bones, quote, off of it, by removing its originality and making it an adaptation. So just some thoughts. Since once, you know,

Speaker 3 1:31:11
It's funny, you mentioned Richard, because I'm actually a final draft, not only affiliate, but I also am part of their, their program where we like beta testing. So whose program I missed? Oh, I'm sorry. I'm actually a part of final drafts. Final Draft? Yeah, not only their affiliate program, but also their Beta testing. So like, I get the new stuff before anybody else, you know, and give feedback. I haven't had a chance to actually check that template out. But went, but I'm going to keep my eye out. Because

Speaker 2 1:31:39
Yeah, you know, I've been working with all 100 series, who was one of their guys a great guy. And I don't know if it's available or not yet, I think it's an a, you know, like, you can sort of upload it if, depending what, you know, what version you have, and so on.

Speaker 3 1:31:55
Yeah, and because right now, the latest thing that I've been beta testing is, they have a new app out for the iPhone. And that's what I've been beta testing a lot of just, you know, giving them feedback. And, you know, Hey, I like to see this feature, I wouldn't like to see this feature, you know, stuff like that. And I'm gonna keep an eye out for that template. I'm going to execute, because if it's available, I will definitely upload that as well.

Speaker 2 1:32:20
Thank you. I'm honored that you would, it's not radically different. But I am a big believer in lessons more, no continued. Absolutely nothing. I've argued for years and years and years, that if you can embrace this very, very fundamental precept, which is what we were just saying earlier, that it's just sight and sound. And if you can add to that, just one thing, and that is that every sight, every sound must move the story forward, some palpable way, some identifiable way. It doesn't matter what you write, that doesn't matter what the so called genre is, it doesn't matter what happens, people will be drawn to you can even have nothing happened. And if somehow nothing happening, can move the story forward. People will pay very, very rapt attention to nothing happening. And I'll give you an example of that in a student of mine. God bless him he blurbs my book, very prominently Alexander Payne in one of his best movies, I think about Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson, I think it's Nicholson's best work. The movie opens with Jack just sitting alone. He's an insurance salesman, it's it's clearly his last moment, literally his last minute on the job before he retires. And he just sits at the desk, and absolutely nothing happens. But the camera kind of wanders around the room. And you can see the only motion in the room is the the sweep second hand of the wall clock, and it's ticking off the seconds, it's like 40 seconds before five o'clock. And when it hits five, he gets up and he leaves, you know, that's the scene. But it tells you so much about that man, and how punctual he is and how afraid he is and how this he is and how bad he is and so on that you get it, you get really, really drawn in into that. So that's why my template if you can get into it, if you can find it, you'll see that it's it really preaches minimalism, that you should keep everything off the page that you can keep off the page. You know, if you look at my books, you see the front page of a screenplay, I have a model of a front plate of strings, and then I have a model of what not to do. And the model of the what you should do is just the title of the script. The name of the writer, it shouldn't say written by, or even the lead by much less than original screenplay written by in case you think you're worried somebody might think it's a chicken sandwich sandwich or a bowling ball or something. Well, what if it just says by a written, written by, what does that tell you, it tells you nothing. It simply says, bottom dollar. You know, Sam Smith, we're gonna show you this script is called Buck bound dollar. And this guy, Sam Smith probably wrote it, you know, and then on, the only other thing you should have on that page is a phone number and an email address, your contact info, now if you have an agent, she's going to be sending out on her own, you know, she's not going to want potential buyers to contact the client, she's going to want them to contact her. And by the way, they also should not want to be contacted directly be suspicious of anybody contacted directly, whoever representative, if they're legitimate. If the producer was legitimate, they should be willing to and eager to call the producer, you know what I'm saying? So, so it's different if the thing is so that if it's a speculative script, it you just have the name of the script, the title of the script and the name of the writer. And as I say, a phone number one phone number, only one phone number, I have a bunch of phone numbers, I have my UCLA number, I have my home number, I have a cell number, I have a special number, my home office, they don't want all of that they don't want my mother's number, they don't want to my lawyers, I'm going to just one number, and one email address so that you can be found if people people are interested. And as I say, if it even simply says by somebody who puts that on the script on the front page doesn't get it that right on the cover of the script, there's information that serves no purpose at all, what is the likelihood that somebody's going to miss that, but get character and story and dialogue and all of the sophisticated and heady and provocative precepts and principles that apply to the autograph in the business of screenwriting? You know, it's, you know, not encouraging. So, again, that's what you'll see is very, very minimal. Anything that that can be lost, you should lose. And if you're in doubt about something, you sort of feel well, maybe you need this, but maybe then you lose it. If you're in doubt, throw it out. Just have stuff that absolutely must be there. And it's so easy to figure out what must be there. You just ask yourself, What if it was there? Does it still make sense? If it makes sense. Without it being given wasn't needed? If the whole thing falls apart? Without, you know, when it's not there, then it was needed? You follow what I'm saying? It's like there's a there's a joke. guy goes into a library. And he steps up to the desk and he says to the librarian, I'll have a hotdog and a coke. And french fries, please. And the librarian system, sir. This is a library. It's just Oh, I'm sorry. I have a ham. I have a hot dog. whispers it. You get the joke. It's like you're not supposed to talk loud in the library. He thinks that she's reprimanding him for talking too loudly rather than for ordering food at a library desk. You follow the joke? Yeah, absolutely. So the reason I tell you that joke is you can imagine if that were a screenplay, unfortunately, screenplay. You absolutely have to have the parenthetical direction whispers sure this is a library carry. whispering and then the line again, you with me? If if, if you don't have it, the person who's going isn't going to whisper and the whole joke is lost. So you needed the parenthetical. But that's the exception. One of my great battles is against parents medicals. It's a sure sign of amateurism when there are a lot of parents medicals. Riley drolly angrily smiling. You know, sadly, Shakespeare got through 36 or 37 plays. Not a single parenthetical, you know, Hamlet, melancholic, never. So you want the least. And you can figure out what the least is by asking yourself, What if this word here? Does it still make sense, then we didn't need it. So that answers the question that every artist is confronted with, which is what needs to be in the work and what doesn't. And why doesn't everybody do that? And the answer is it takes time to do that. And that's what people won't give it. They just won't give it the time that it takes.

Speaker 3 1:39:52
You know, one of my, one of my mentors, Bill Boyle, he actually wrote a book called The visual MindScape of the screenplay,

Alex Ferrari 1:40:01
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Dave Bullis 1:40:11
Many and he goes into that in depth that you have to take out anything that is not, you know, it's always about what's on the screen all. And it always and he's in that way. Because he says he always would see people hand in screenplays and they would say things that, like, you know what someone is thinking in a screenplay and he's like, show that stuff.

Richard Walter 1:40:35
Exactly. Exactly. You know, Evelyn remembers that the she left the car idling. Well, what does that look like on the screen? Somebody's remembering something, you know? And how are you going to know? Let's say the actor looks up remembering enacting for Dummies if there is such a thing, and is able to put on the remembering face if there is such a thing. Then how do we know what they remember it? Again, it's so simple. It's it's really very simple. Very simple to know what to do to succeed. Why doesn't everybody see because it's hard to do it. It's even though I get to it, but I know exactly what to do to hit a home run. I'm sitting here about two miles from Dodger Stadium. And I know exactly what you have to do. You have to get to bat around in the right place at the right time. The difference between me and you know, Babe Ruth is that he could do it. He didn't merely know how to do but actually could do it. I know how to do it, but I can't do it. I don't have the equipment to do it. So it's really you know, that's really all there is to it. And again, the reason people don't do it is they get in too much of a hurry. I had a writer just tell me it's already. This is already a third draft. Well, come on David cap. I bet you know the name K Oh, EPP, a former student of mine, a writer director he wrote, you know, Mission Impossible. Jurassic Park one and two. He right now he's a writing of the second chapter of the Ron Howard of the Davinci Code. I mean, he's a gigantic successful writer, also a very, very sweet man. He says the secret of his success is 17 drafts, he knows he can get through 17 drafts, he says it takes 17 drafts, to hear somebody complaining to me about their third draft, you know, they don't like hearing me telling them, you're just getting started, you're gonna if you could get one more draft out of this. And you'll only need about 30 more after that, you know, and that stops a lot of people. They just don't have the what some people call the zits flesh, you know, the ability to sit there. The flesh, tolerate just sitting there, reworking it, reworking it, reworking it,

Speaker 3 1:43:11
You know, in my own experience, you know, Richard, I wrote a, it was a comedy horror movie. And it was at a at a summer camp, and summer camp. It's a made up summer camp that I had. And the the, I'm about seven or eight drifts in now. And some people feel that the stress, some people have said, who read it, they said this in these drafts are better. Some are saying, you're starting to get maybe a little too far away from the original concept. And you know, and now, you know, I sort of judge for myself, I sort of have to say, you know, what, who's right in this situation? Well, you know, and I sort of go back and, and there was a one point I'm going to be honest with you, I was so burned out for rewriting this thing. I was like, I was fearing opening up final draft and looking at this thing again.

Speaker 2 1:44:02
Well, that's every runner has that experience, it's actually a good sign, but do go on.

Speaker 3 1:44:09
And at that point, I actually, you know, I printed it out. And then my favorite thing to do was actually just print it out. And I make marks with just a pen, you know, sort of I cut myself off from all technology. Just me and you know, 90 are

Speaker 2 1:44:23
Excellent, excellent thing to do. I also think it really makes a lot of sense to write something else, put it aside, work on something else, and then you'll be able to come back to to it with fresh eyes. You know, over the last number of years, I've become a fanatic crossword puzzle guy. I do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, every Sunday. And one thing that I learned doing crossword puzzles is you know, you go through, you get what you can get and then there's stuff you just can't get. And finally just reading all the clues and you fill them maybe a little Less than half the thing and you're just stuck, you can't get another freaking thing. You just can't. And you feel defeated and stupid and so on, you put it aside, just go and do something else come back to it later you sit down and suddenly, wham, wham, wham, wham, wham, this thing, guy thing, this thing. It all leaps, you know, into relief that you can write in and almost run your hand over and feel it like a freeze on a temple, you know, a carved marble freeze. And it teaches me that just like the body gets tired, the muscles get tired, the mind gets tired. And when you rest the muscles and they recover. So also can you rest the mind and it recovers and you look away from something. You look at something too careful, you really can't see it. You kind of look away. And then you look back there. It's suddenly as I'm reminded of when I was a undergraduate student in Binghamton, New York. As a you know, history major in college. Binghamton is in Broome County, New York. And I remember going through some original letters that had to do with Broome County history. And they had been written in like the early 1800s. And there was a, you know, they were concluded in some state archives and kind of the archive or something like that they were contained there. They were housed there. And they're written in this ancient kind of script, you know, handwriting. And sometimes I just can't read what it says, I remember my teacher telling me you're looking at it through hard look away from it, then kind of sneak up on it. And, and suddenly, suddenly, in context, it all leaps out, you know. So if you take time away from you, you really stuck with your script. You don't let your eighth draft and when I say you, I mean any writer. What about putting it aside for a while and work on something else, and then come back to it. And as far as you're getting too far away from your original concept, maybe there's something better than your original concept, maybe you've taken it to a place. That's even better for it to be one more thing on this on this subject. And it goes back to David kept in the 17 draft. He says very often, the latest drafts mimic the earliest drafts, you sort of get back to the beginning of it. And you get back to that context. That original love concept that you had. And that might seem like a ferocious waste of time. But it wasn't you needed to go through all of that to see that this is the way it really ought to be. I was talking to writer only the other week, a few weeks ago who was I ran advanced seen him in a long time a guy I know pretty well. But I'm seeing a long time. And he says well, much better now. What do you mean? He said, Well, I was stuck. For 10 months, this year, I was struggling with this script. And I just felt pressured and hesitated and stumbled and just couldn't make any progress with it at all. And it haunted me and tortured me. And then finally, two weeks ago, I just settled in and said, Screw this, I'm gonna do this. And I went right through it. And I got it, you know, and nailed it. And it's just great. You know, and that's why I'm upset. I don't understand why. Why is that upsetting? It sounds like, like a nice thing. He said, Well, I struggled with this thing for nine or 10 months. Why don't I just do this 10 months ago, you know, and I wouldn't have had all of the darkness and all of the pain that I had. And I said to him, you couldn't have done this 10 months ago, you need it to struggle and suffer, and have all of this pain and live all of this life of the last nine to 10 months to become the person that you are that could you know who's also the person that could finish the script to write the script. So that's the way it goes, you know, nothing new about writers beating up on themselves.

Dave Bullis 1:48:50
So what I ended up doing was I ended up actually, I did work on something else. I just at that point, I said, You know what, I think I should just take a break from this. And, and I'm thinking about coming back to it very soon. And cuz it's been about probably a month or more for him. And I think now it's probably better if you can come around full circle now. And I just again, start draft nine see where that takes me.

Richard Walter 1:49:14
Look, my first novel was, I told you about it earlier, I had written it as a screenplay and couldn't get any action on the road as a novel and then sold it as a screenplay. years later. I, by the way, taught me a lot of work, you know, it was an adolescent coming of age story. And given that in my drafts of American Graffiti, which is, you know, an adolescent loss of innocence rite of passage.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:50
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now, back to the show.

Richard Walter 1:49:59
Coming your way extraor I was able to get a lot of work I was kind of the go to guy for adolescent coming of age stories, loss of innocence stories in Hollywood. That novel after I saw and it's a kind of a, I grew up in New York City and I sang do up in the streets with friends of mine. And so it's just about the screw up group that never really succeeds. But they learned that if you sing in harmony, you live in harmony, you know. And after I saw it, I started thinking about it as a stage play. You know, some musical, but I, I needed a songwriter. And then after I saw Jersey Boys, I've seen it several times on Broadway. I realized no, it could be a jukebox musical. And so I, I rewrote it as I adapted it for the musical theater using existing tunes, you know, just like the Carole King Show and the Motown music musical. And Jersey Boys, you know, are just examples. There are a lot of them now that are not using original music. But that's why they call jukebox musical because they use existing tunes. I suddenly realized I could do it as a jukebox musical. So I rewrote it as a jukebox musical. Two years ago, it was a workshop at UCLA. There was a humble read through sing through, directed by one of the professors in the musical theater program in our sister department theater was the most satisfying, fulfilling creative experience I've ever had in my career. This humble little read through. Now there's a there's somebody eagerly showing the play around trying to get a production for it. Probably nothing will come of it. But but it might, you know, the crazier things have happened. But the point is, and the reason I bother you with it, telling you about it is Look how long I've been in business with this thing. It goes back over 40 years. Between the time that I first started outlining what became the screenplay, which ultimately became the novel and so on my most recent novel, which which I brag to you made the Times list. I also wrote originally as a screenplay. i And I'm talking about over 30 years ago, probably 31 or 32 years ago, I wrote it as a screenplay. It was optioned and dropped an option and dropped I made some money on it. It was optioned by, you know, an Oscar winning multi Oscar winning independent company, very prestigious companies. I made some money on it, but I never got anywhere with it and never got produced. So eventually a student of mine at UCLA, I was talking about the project, he said, he'd love to read it. So I convinced me to let him read it. And he came to me and he said, You should use this as an outline for a novel, A comic novel. So I did. And when that was done, I showed it around to the publishing business, and I couldn't get any interest in it at all. All I had with it was frustration and heartache. And they say disappointment, then, I mean, I'd made some money on it, you know, in the early days when it was a film script, and I got those options, but generally, it had been a pretty big disappointment. Then I met an editor in I'm sorry, I met a very powerful agent. I have been so privileged in my life. To do the things that I've done. One of them is, for five summers, I would take the whole family to Maui for the Writers Conference late in the summer. And if it had been in a Motel Six, that'd be okay. It's Maui, but it wasn't in the Motel Six it was in the Grand Wailea, five diamond luxury spa, hotel resort, you know, just an incredible place where I would meet all of these heavyweights from both literature and film. We mentioned Stephen King earlier, Stephen was there. And I mean, they had world class writers both in the movie business and in the literature business. And I remember I met an agent there and she said to me, I very powerful New York agent. And she agreed to I pitched the project to her and she agreed to read it on the mainland when she got back to the mainland. So I sent it to her in New York. And she called me up and she said, and this is like 20 this is 20 years after I had first written in and about 15 years ago, if you with me. She said, I have to tell you, I read your your TypeScript. And I think it's great. And I want to represent it and I'll represent it exactly as it is if you want me to. I'll send it out exactly as you've written it. However, I have an editor here in the office that I work with And I think you should get notes from Miriam. And if you don't like the notes you know, then how would that, you know, Rama lay off and I feel the book as is. But I have to tell you, Richard, she said to me that when my office work with Miriam, I sell this stuff right away. Now I charge 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of dollars for notes, and they're not charging me a nickel for this, you understand? Now, I want you to say to them, please, I'm not interested in rewrite had nothing but grief from this project. And I'm depressed and lost. At the moment, this moment in my life, and I hardly feel like going into some old you know, thing that's been nothing but disappointment all the way. And you've already said you'd show it as this or just show it as it is. I didn't say this mind you, David, I just was this was my thinking you understand? So I said to myself, don't tell her how much you hate the notes until you see the notes. In other words, wait for the notes. And then tell them that yeah, you know, you really appreciate Miriam doing what she did. But no, you want to stick with what you have and the hell with it. So you don't have to do any more work, right? And by the way, who the fuck is this Miriam, some 23 year old who just got out of you know, creative writing major from Swarthmore, or Bryn Mawr one of them Moore's, you know, don't they know who I am, and on and on, you know, that kind of insulated view of self that a writer can get become his own worst enemy. Of course, I said, none of that was that was my thinking. So finally, the notes come from Miriam. By the way, it's Marian go to rich, she's now a partner in the agency. It's good. This'll go to rich now. And I read Miriam's notes. And you know what, David, the notes, my heart sinks like a stone when I read these notes, because they have such good notes. And I know I'm looking at my worst enemy. And when I brush my teeth, and then I shave, if you follow me, if I don't get my butt in the chair, my hands on the keys and find the old files and get get back into it, right. So I certainly didn't want to do that. But I did. And by the way, the moment I started, I've written two three sentences, I suddenly was born again, the fog lifted, the depression was gone, I was healed by the wonderful nurturing juices that flowed through the system when you when you, you know, get involved in creative expression. And it took me a couple of months, you know, to get the, the the script attended to in the way that had been recommended. And then I got it back to the agency. And bingo, they sold it right away. As I told you, it's made the Times list. bestseller, you know, it's a Times bestseller. And there was a lot of movie action around it. But nothing ever came of it as a movie. Now, if all that ever comes of it as it was a best selling novel. That's such a bad thing, isn't it? But guess what? I'm going to London, I'm going to be at the London screenwriters festival in October. And a British producer called me. He said that he's he's actually American producer, but he's British based. He's London base. And he said he has. This was a few years ago, this was three or four years ago, he come upon the novel, and he thought it make a great movie. And he wanted to option the rights to it. Well, nothing ever came of that more frustration and disappointment. Now suddenly, he calls me, just coincidentally, I'm going to be in London in the fall. And he says Guess what he made a movie. With a he produced a movie that was directed by a new director, a short film. And on the strength of that short film, that director has been signed by a very, very prominent agency. And they have asked him to bring projects to them that he would like to do. So he asked this producer and producer called me and said, Is your novel still available? And it is. So right now, as we're talking, it's being shown not by me, but by a an artist who has been signed by a major agency who have asked him to show them stuff that he wants to do. Do you understand how much better that is for the material to be exposed to them that way then for me, the author to call their attention to it. You follow what I'm saying? Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And on top of that, it's, it's conceivable that they will be showing it to producers and production companies. I would rather be represented if anything comes of it by a lawyer, rather than an agent, but if they want to go out with this thing, and they approached me, they want to want me to let them represent them on and I'll do that enough in a heartbeat.

Alex Ferrari 1:59:58
We'll be right back after a word from Our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Richard Walter 2:00:07
It's better for me to have them motivated, you know, extra motivated, you follow my reasoning there. If they can represent me, as well as the director, they're going to be that much more motivated to sell the thing. So the likelihood is nothing will come of it. But here we are. We're talking in 2015. midway through the year, just about, and I'm still in business on this thing that I started writing in, like 1980. So you see what a mistake it is for writers to do what they often do, which is a write a script that doesn't sell, that's the end of it, they think it was a fair, mistake, mistake, mistake, mistake mistake.

Speaker 3 2:00:44
Yeah, and you know, that that's very true. I have a friend of mine, also who he's in his 40s or 50s, but he wrote a screenplay, you know, in his 20s. And then suddenly, you know, that's becoming a light again, and you know, you know, again, like you were saying, you know, it's, it's amazing how these things, get new life, you know, you're good

Speaker 2 2:01:07
With people's, you know, he won the Oscar for unforgiven. It was the best, best movie that year, Clint hung onto that script for 20 years. And Clint made another movie that was very successful, didn't win the Oscar, but it was very successful about the, the Secret Service guy takes the bullet for the President and in the line of fire. And that's another script that was hanging around for 1516 years, the writer of that script was packing his the trunk of his car and getting ready to go back into feet with his tail between his legs. Back to New Hampshire, when the phone rings, it's not possible oaklins company. And, you know, they want to know that they want him to know that they wanted to come in for some meetings about brushing up the script there, they now have a schedule, they're gonna go ahead and you know, produce it for 88 million hours, or something like that. You just never know, people don't understand that when a script doesn't sell, it's not the end, it's just the beginning, that script might sell eventually. But even if it doesn't, it's a sample of your craft, it could lead to representation, it could lead to a development deal on another notion that you have in mind, it could lead to a rewrite assignment. I've seen all of these things happen. They've happened to me they've happened to writers that I know. And that is why it is a terrible, self defeating mistake. To imagine that a script that doesn't sell that's the end of it. It's a failure. The very first script I ever wrote, I wrote in a class at USC, it was in the legendary. The instructor was the legendary Erwin on blacker was George's the teacher and John mulia is his teacher and on and on. The that script never sold. But I got top flight representation as a result of it, I got a onto staff that universal here I was a young kid, I wasn't. I was in my 20s. And I had an office at Universal with my name on the door to a parking place next to Paul Newman's parking place, I noticed a ridiculously generous salary, at least it seemed that way at the time actually adjusted for inflation was pretty generous. And it all came about from a script that has been sold, you know, to this day. So to consider that script to be a failure is noticing. Yeah, and very, very much business. The business is hard enough on writers writers don't need to be hard on themselves, is the point that I'm making?

Dave Bullis 2:03:49
Yeah. And that's that's an excellent point. And that sort of leads me into my last questions. I know, we've been talking about two hours, I haven't taken up a lot.

Speaker 2 2:03:58
Yet. We want to make sure we do cover we I do. Talk a little bit about the summer session that we offer. So go ahead and ask me a question. And then I'll talk a little bit about that.

Speaker 3 2:04:07
That's actually the question I was gonna ask you was, you know, I know you have an upcoming summer session. And this is the only time of the year where non UCLA students can sign up. And I wondered if you could just, you know, talk a little bit about the class and and you know, for anyone listening who's interested in signing up?

Richard Walter 2:04:23
Well, the first thing I'll say is just the housekeeping. If you want to find out official information about it. You can do that by simply going to my website, Richard walker.com. There is no asset at the end of my name, Richard walter.com. And I think the very first thing on the site is a link that will take you to the UCLA site that describes enrollment procedures and tells you a little bit of class it also tells you something wrong about this class, which is that there are certain prerequisites for the summer session, all prerequisites are waived. And the class is open to other classes is spent actually designed for the summer session, I've taught it for 30, over 30 years now. It meets starting on June 22, Monday, June 22. Monday afternoon for the and for the next five, that is a total of six, Monday afternoon sessions. It's not electrical, it's it's hands on writing course, where you get the main activity of the classes, the in class examination of in progress scripts being written by students in the class. So you get not only the support of the teacher, and the teaching assistants, but also your fellow writers around the table. And one thing that has touched me very deeply all these years easily is how generous everyone is all the writers are with everybody else, how much support that the writers give each other. I feel like I've learned much more than I've ever taught, you know, being at UCLA, and my students or my teachers. So you get all of that alive, it's not online, it's alive in a classroom. And it is a rare course in that. It's very difficult to get into it. Even if you're a registered matriculated UCLA student is very hard to get into an advanced film class, with senior faculty like me. So this is an opportunity to do that not only for UCLA students, but even for students who are not enrolled at UCLA. And by the way, everybody gets eight credits for it. Those credits are useful at anybody, for anybody at any university of California campus, but also that transferrable depending upon the attitude of the institution that transferable to other institutions. Though, I would say most people taking the class really aren't interested in the credits, they're interested in getting the attention and consideration that, you know, our regular students get when they write their screenplays. So it's a really upbeat, six weeks together, and it's limited enrollment, it's almost sold out. But there is still some room for some people I want, you know that I don't get paid per student, I don't get paid on a per student fee. I rather I get a flat fee. And the only thing I tell you that is that I'm not trying to self aggrandize. Here, I'm not against self promotion. And I'm not against making money. But I'm not I don't get any extra money if, you know, extra students enroll or anything like I just want anything like that. I just want your readers and listeners, the people that you reach, I want them to know that this is a rare opportunity. It's not that widely known, it is available to them. And we we crank up two weeks from Monday. It's not too late to register. people commute by the way. It's obviously most convenient for people in Southern California region, but they want people who commute from all across the country. I had somebody last summer commuting from Illinois, the previous summer, I had a couple of labor, a doctor and his wife coming commuting every Monday, they would fly in to LA from El Paso and take the plants and then fly back, you know, either late that night or the following morning. That's how motivated people want to take the class and I would commend it to you know, one of the people that you reach.

Dave Bullis 2:08:25
And, you know, I've actually I've known people who have actually taken the course. And you know, I'll probably I'll mention the names when we get off Richard Cooper, I know you probably remember a few of them. And they spoke very, very highly of the course. Oh, thank you. And, you know, and again, I mean, to work with someone who has actually been in the field has been in the trenches, it's just, you know, it's unbelievable. And, you know, I again, I will link to your your upcoming class in the show notes, you know, and everyone else who were coming to check out Richards book, essentials of screenwriting. I have a copy behind me, I swear, Richard, you can't see it. But it's on the the massive bookshelf behind me. But I've taken up so much of your time today, I want to say thank you very much.

Richard Walter 2:09:10
I enjoyed chatting with you. I really, truly did. David, I would love to have you back on if you ever wanted to. Absolutely. You know how to reach Kathy, she kind of handles my calendar. And I'd love to come back. It'd be a pleasure to do that.

Dave Bullis 2:09:23
Excellent. Because there's a ton of questions that we never got a chance to. I never got a chance to ask you because I mean, there's so many and there's so many things we could talk about.

Richard Walter 2:09:31
Well, one thing I've learned about the questions and answers, and that is really good answers just leave lead to more questions, you know, so and there's nothing wrong with that. That is the nature of learning.

Dave Bullis 2:09:40
Absolutely. You know, everyone you could check with Richard at Richard walter.com. And Rich exactly right. And I wish I want to say one more time. Thank you again for coming on. And I will thanks for having me, David. Thank you. Oh, it's my pleasure. I still look forward to chatting with you again.

Richard Walter 2:09:56
We will do it for sure.

Speaker 3 2:09:58
Amazing. Everyone, thanks again for listening. And Richard, I wish you have a great day. And, you know best of luck with all your projects.

Richard Walter 2:10:06
Back to you. And thank you so kindly Thanks. Take care now. Bye bye bye.

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BPS 295: Tales from a Million-Dollar Debut Feature Film with Giles Alderson

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Alex Ferrari 2:11
I'd like to welcome to the show Giles Alderson. How you doing my friend?

Giles Alderson 3:29
I am good. Thank you, Alex. It's an absolute delight, honestly, to be here with you.

Alex Ferrari 3:33
Yeah. Thank you for coming on the show, man. You know, we've we've known each other for a little while now. You have an amazing podcast called the filmmakers podcast, which I've I've been blessed and honored to be on as as a guest as well. twice, twice. Yes, I'm a I'm a two timer. Yes. Yes, I am a timer to timer. And, and we also work together a little bit on your documentary, which we'll talk about later as well. But before we get going, man, how did you get into the business?

Giles Alderson 4:09
You see, it's a it's a really interesting one for me, because obviously, the quicker version of it is as an actor for years, but getting to be an actor was a careers advisor in school. And she said to me, because I was like, I'm gonna be a footballer, soccer player. If this is all I'm gonna do, I'm gonna play for England as a goalkeeper. And she said to me, she said, Yeah, yeah, well, while you're waiting for that to happen, I saw you in a school play. And I heard you you know. Of course at college, while you wait for the football, and I went to this performing arts college and I fell in love with the people the girls the the idea of it and I wasn't getting any of the roles, but I wanted it and I got the bug and I fell in love and football didn't happen for May sadly, I still waiting, I'm still waiting in my you know, you never know one day. And then I got into acting. And from there I'd put on plays at the Royal Court in London and the Soho theatre, which I had written and that's sometimes direct them. And it was just an absolute joy to sort of be involved in behind the scenes. But I wanted to be an actor, not a filmmaker, people kept saying you should really direct shorts should go do something like that. And I shied away from it for so long. And luckily, I've managed to be in some great films, I want candy and the dams united and loaded TV. And the dam tonight was a football movie, a soccer movie. So I got to fulfill my two dreams of being a professional footballer, but actually acting away. And then we wrote a pilot for the BBC, the BBC, were interested in this pilot that our team at the time where we were writing, and I said, go off and shoot shoot a pilot, we've said, Okay, all right, great, we can do that. And the director pulled out almost last minute. So I went, I'm going to do it, I am going to do this. And I fell in love with directing. on the spot, I went, this is amazing. I didn't know what it was, it was just the delight of being on set and actually calling the shots and be in control with the addicted camera guy, you know, so actually, I just like to move the shot round here and call and they do it. And you're like, what are you actually doing what I'm saying? Does this make sense? And yeah, choosing the colors in the palette and the costumes. And I then spent the next part of 10 years trying to be a director. And it was very difficult being the actor. Because people were very much like you. You're an actor, mate, you know, and it was very hard to get take be taken seriously as a director. So whenever when for directing gigs, I just didn't talk about the acting. And I started to make music videos and promos and brand media and films for banks and whatever I could get my hands on to learn about filmmaking. And yet, that's pretty much how I got into it.

Alex Ferrari 6:56
Very cool. Now, your your first film is very interesting, your debut film, it's not the standard fare fair? For so. So can you tell the story about how you what was the story behind your debut film, sir.

Giles Alderson 7:14
So to get to my debut film, I it, like I said, it took a long time. And during that time, I got burnt so much by predatory producers, by my lack of understanding about what directors slash producers slash screenwriters should do and be, and I was forever in people's heads. And I didn't feel I belonged and constantly relying on other people to make those decisions. I was always hearing things third party, you know, someone else would have a meeting and get passed down. And now it's not working out, or they'll always be an issue. You know, we had Jason Statham attached to one project at one time, we had Fox attached to another project. And every single time I wasn't the person speaking to the person, if you like, there was always two or three people in between. And it was so much that here this third hand, and by then it'd been diluted and diluted and diluted, and I couldn't take it anymore. And some during that whole process I got ripped off on those projects got taken away from me, and I didn't have any control. So what I decided to do was take back control, I decided to write my own projects fully, I decided to produce my own projects. And I decided to say I'm directing this and no one's gonna take it away from me this time. And I learned massively about doing that. And that being strong and about being vibrant and about, actually, when you do that, people take you seriously, if you're they're going, I'm directing this, if you're not going to put the money in because I'm directing it, or if you're not going to be in it because I'm directing it, then you're not going to be in it. I'm not doing it with you. Whereas in the past, I was so scared. That I think is interesting. So are those two is one project we were doing, where I'd found the investor, I'd found the script, I'd found the actors and the big actors that got it all going It was great. And then suddenly, I get a call from one of the investors. One of the saying, oh, there's a bit of a situation I'm like, What do you mean is it speak to the producer, a producer was now not returning calls. It seemed to be that the writer and producer had gone behind my back and put the option in a different name and then brought my investors to them. And they invested in guides via and rang back up the investor. What are you doing? Why do you do this? And he said, Don't worry, we'll give you an associate producer credit. That'd be really good for your career. I ought to this is the time where I changed and I fought back and I said, I'm not having this anymore. I said I'll take you to court. I'm going to take this further. I'm not having this agents. We're being really dickheads and I just fought back. I said I've had enough and fought back. And it changed, the film didn't happen, which is sad in some ways, but also, you know what I stuck up for myself. And all filmmakers need to do that. About about this all the time. It's so true. It's your project. And if you want to go make a film, you have to be strong. And I don't mean be a dick. And I don't mean be obtrusive. And in the way, you've just got to be strong and powerful and passionate about your project that people want to work with you. And that's kind of how my first project the day came about. So I'm now in this place where I am struggling to get a project made, I'm struggling for people to take me seriously. And I went to see a friend's film called Emmet Gupta. And he'd made some big movies with some big people. And he just made this $100,000 romantic comedy. I said to him afterwards, I said, mate, that was fantastic. But why have you gone from making these two 3 million pound studio movies even bigger, in some cases with big names to making this with no names and no money? He went? Because I'm in control. And I got to make a movie, how I wanted to make a movie. And he turned to me and said, Why are you not making the movie? And I said, Oh, because because because he went go home tonight, find a project and go make it for whatever budget, you can go make it for, and then you'll be taken seriously. And I took him at his word. And that night, I went home, found a script that I was so passionate about. And I went out and I said, right, I'm going to make this movie. During that time, obviously, bits and pieces happened. And I said, I'm also going to write something myself. But that writer of that other project, I brought him on to my project, which was called the dare. And it was two ideas. I'd had sat in a notebook on my desk here. And one point I was reading through ideas, and I went, why don't I stick them together? This is for people in a basement. We don't know why they're there. And then above, there's an old man, and he's got a kid. And we don't know their relationship, but it's not his kid. And I thought, why don't I tie these stories together? Why don't they connect somehow. And that was that was like a light bulb went off in my head. Now I have this story. And within literally a week had written the whole treatment are almost 70 pages of this treatment. And I went to my, another producer at the time and things happened and fell down. And then I went back to this writer and I said you want to write this with me. And within a month, we had a really great first draft. And the story carries on from there and it gets better.

Alex Ferrari 12:18
There's all sorts of so what's the next step after that? So because I know you, you got this movie made? Yeah. How you got a man? It's not usual with the first time out? Director.

Giles Alderson 12:28
No, it's. It's really not. Yeah, quote, unquote, first time director. And this is this is interesting. So I'm now got the data. It's a script ready. There's interest. There's proper interest now from New producers. And people are very excited. It's a commercial prospect. It's a very sore esque gore film, but with much more psychological lead themes. And people are going well, we can make money here. This is great. But no one was actually putting your hand in the pocket. And my good friend Julian cost off who we acted together in a really bad advert years ago for Panasonic. He said, Well, listen, I'm producing now made loads of stuff in Bulgaria bits I've acted and stuff Can I can I send the script to the studio in Bulgaria? And I said, Yeah, of course, whatever, thinking nothing of it. And literally, I think a couple of weeks late, we got report back from the script readers over in New bayana Studios. And I'll tell you more about them in a second. But they came back with a great a really great review saying, Yeah, we could shoot this here. Does the filmmaker want to do it here get in touch. So Julian said, This is amazing. Look what we've got here. This is great. So we got in touch with the studio and their new Brianna. And they said, Listen, we love this, but we're not going to make this now. So come back in a year. Go try and make it then we'll make it with you. We potentially you know all that. We said Alright, fine. We knew that they were connected to Millennium which Millennium media who do amazing films or action big action film, Hellboy lepin is fallen Rambo recently. And we thought, wow, this could be a really great end. Should we wait a year? Because now we've got this other producer here in the UK? Who's saying I can give you 150 grand we can go make this by just didn't believe him. You know when you saw shocking, shocking, shocking, shocking, shocking, shocking. And I thought there was something about him that was just not right. There was just something and I but I was like but I want to make a movie, I need to make a movie. I'm desperate now by this point for those filmmakers out there, who know was going through who was going through that you're desperate to make a film. And it was my baby and I could do this and suddenly this guy is offering some sort of money to go make it. So we went through another month of pre production and we're about to sign the deal and go through this and to be honest, it could have been absolute shit show of it as you know, when you just think Is this real? is it now? Is the money really gonna turn up? Is it really gonna be 60 grand is people going to run away with this money that he's saying he's got and it all seemed really dodgy. There's some dodgy people involved in

Alex Ferrari 14:59
again. Shocking shocking, shocking again. So the money the money is gonna drop any day. Now that's, that's,that's the word

Giles Alderson 15:06
Drop every day. But we were very far advanced with pre production and looking at locations and all this and you know, blah, blah, blah. So Julian went Nope. I'm gonna go back to the studio again and just knock on that door one more time and tell them, we've got money. This is your last chance to make this movie. Do you want to do it? And he calls me back after he called them. He said, You'll never guess what? I said what? He said, If you fly over tomorrow, they're gonna see you. And I went, well, he said, You fly to Bulgaria tomorrow. And this is like 5pm at night, they will see. I'm like, Oh my god, I drop everything I look at flights are going Oh, god, that's way too expensive for my price runs. But okay, you've got to do this. This is an opportunity to go to a major studio.

Alex Ferrari 15:52
It's an adventure. It's an adventure. Oh, yes.

Giles Alderson 15:55
Oh, Gary, let's do this. So I practice my pitch a book. I said, let's do it. Let's do it. Let's book the flight. They said that pay for the hotel. I said, Great. I'll stay for the night. They said, If you and then I spoke to them. I said, Yeah, if you come over, here's the bright details. Here's your hotel details now. We will show you around the studio. So I booked the flight on the time that they suggested done. I'm sitting on this flight on my absolutely khaki myself. I don't know what to expect. This is crazy. I'm like, Oh my god, I'm actually going to a film studio to pitch my movie. Is this real? They like it. We know they like it. I get to the hotel. And they say, okay, vrF is the exact who's running the show. He says he's a bit busy right now. So just chill here for a bit. Okay, I'm now in Bulgaria in some hotel, I can't go out. I've got no money. I can't afford to literally eat. I'm like, Oh my god, how am I going to do this? And eventually shows up this this wonderful, charismatic, interesting guy. And he says like, hey, really laid back almost like in flip flops and a T shirt. And I'm like, really? This guy runs this studio. Okay, cool. Alright, fair hair tall as well, like a bear. I'm like, Wow. Okay. And he says, so. Tell me about your move. You know what? Okay, well, you've you've seen the pitch of what what do I need to tell you? What not? I know nothing. And deep breath, go for it. And this is huge advice I can give to any filmmakers is know your pitch inside out, be fully prepared to bullshit if you have to. But no, it's so well that it's like you're telling your mates down the pub? No, it's so well, that it's exciting. It's enticing. That they really think okay, this guy knows what he's doing because or girl girl because they're investing in you. And this is a secret. I've only learned recently, I got my movie made because of how I pitched it and how I talked about this movie and how I was passionate about it. Because if I'd come across all well, I just don't know. I'm kind of excited to make that with God with me. done. I'm done. I'm out the door. So I had to pretend to be a pretend and I mean, pretend because you're absolutely kicking yourself to know what you're talking about. I've not made a movie. I'm now a major studio. And they're going well. Should Why should I invest in you? Why should I put our hard earned money into you? So I gave my best pitch I did wrong as I could. And I sold myself to high heaven. He said, Great. Thank you. I like your idea. I like you. I need to think about this. And I said, okay, but you know, we've got a UK producer ready to go. We're about to sign the deal. Bullshit bullshit. But yeah, it's kind of true, but you know not? And he said, Yeah, but I need time to think about it. So if you want to take that deal take it

Alex Ferrari 18:48
You don't play you can't you don't don't be playing hardball did that. So So real quick, I want to I want to stop you there for a second because everyone listening there's a moment to play hardball or David hardball. But to play that game of like, Well, you know, there's another couple on the lot that wants to buy this car. And if you don't buy it now, by the next 20 minutes, it's gonna have to go Yeah, that only works if the person that you're selling to really wants and has no other options like they're in love with your project or your car for the for the analogies right now because he was like the studio head he had never even heard about it. Or at least that's what he said. and wanted to hear all of that. That's not the play and you could have very easily screwed up at that moment. It could have been he could have said you know what, why don't you just go off and do that. Thanks buying it. Just look is that fair?

Giles Alderson 19:45
Totally fair. totally fair. And luck was on my side that I again I came prepared as in not only was I very good with the pitch and passionate but I also came with a ton of photos, a ton of moods, a ton of images, even a real rip For you, I came with, what you come is if you were making the movie tomorrow, color palettes, costume ideas, casting ideas, even at that point, we've pretty much cast the movie. It everything I could think of, from listening to your amazing podcast, from listening to people and books that I've read about, or how to go in and pitch yourself. And just being clever about it and thinking. And my main tip there as well would be, I didn't just talk about the movie. And this is interesting in a really fine line, because it's just me and him in a hotel. You know, we hadn't gone to the shooter, he'd come to the hotel, and he said, we're sitting in this echo chamber of this really weird Eastern European gold light hotel that I was put in. And it's just me and him. So I also went on to his level, I also talked to him as the person, I tried to see who's interested in soccer. Now he wasn't, I tried to save his interest in whatever he was interested in. We talked about but I got him to like me, I got him to be interested in me as a person. Because he had no idea if I can make a move, he had no idea of my film was any good. Or if I could actually shoot anything. He was interested in me. And what cleverly he did was he kept passing the buck back to me and asking about me and what I didn't how I anything to not talk about the film, if you like some, I don't enough, have I done enough? So he says, Okay, well, UK, you've got the other film, maybe the other producers, but you choose what you want to do. But I'm coming to London in a month, I'm going to bring my other producer with me. If you're still interested. We're gonna pitch again. Then I said, I said, Absolutely. So first of all, though, I'm going to take you around the studio. And I want you to tell me if you think you can shoot your movie in the studio. Now, obviously, I'm because beautiful Oh,

Alex Ferrari 21:43
Beautiful Oh, masterful?

Giles Alderson 21:44
Well, of course. I don't need to see it. Obviously. I looked at the looked at the whole place. There's no question about it. When someone says can you shoot your movie in a studio? You? Yeah. So at that point, go? Well, great. Yeah. It'd be really good to look at some of the locations and the ideas. Yeah, great. Take me around. I walk into the studio, new piano studios is gorgeous. It's basically they've got New York set New York Street, it looks like New York, they've got London Street. They've got a gulag. They've got forests, they've got everything you can imagine a 16 studio spaces gorgeous. So obviously, I walk around like a kid in a candy shop going, Oh, my God, look at this place, proper tour with the proper people who run the studio. He or he has gone off now doing something else. And eventually I go back, I'm waiting for my flight. And they just sit me in an office for a while and he eventually comes back. He says so could you shoot your movie here? And I look at him in very seriously and look him in the eyes. And I say no. Absolutely. This is absolutely cesspool. It's horrible. And we have a laugh about it. And I said, Of course I can. I've got plans. I know how we could do the forest. You know, the usual. He says, great. Fantastic. Lovely to meet you. I've got to go. Good luck with the flight back. I'm coming to London in a month. Excellent. I go back. I'm like, what are we going to do to Julian? He's like, Well, of course we've got to wait. Now we've got to wait. So we've sort of fobbing the other producer off a bit. And I don't mean that in a nasty way. He was also all over the place. So it worked out well. A month later, he comes back to me, he comes to London, and he sits down with his line, please. And the same thing happened again, we hardly talked about the movie, too. I had two pictures if I'd never pitched it before. I had to describe it as I've never had before. We talked about everything and anything as well apart from the film. And he got to know me, he got to know Julian really well and his other producer was brilliant. And we got on brilliantly. And again, I still believe this. The real reason I got that film made was because he liked me. It didn't really matter about the film. Of course it did. Of course, it was important. What was important was me and the fact that he felt I've got to work with this kid for two, three. And actually, as it's turned out four years before the film's got released in the UK might come to that if you like why it took so long. And now we are and suddenly now after that mean, he goes great. Okay, well, we'd like to do the movie. And I I'm literally burning up inside and my heart is racing. And I'm putting I'm trying to keep it cool. And I go Okay, good. Good. All right. Yeah. Well, I think we can i think i think we could do so well, how you gonna deal with the other producer? When I think you're I think we'll be able to do,

Alex Ferrari 24:24
We're gonna make that work. We'll make that work on our end, and make it work on our end.

Giles Alderson 24:28
We'll make it work. And again, we haven't signed anything to the producer. And it wasn't like it was a anything. It was again, it was all pie in the sky and talk and I just another sort of fake investor producer. He's still not he's not gone and made any other films and he's not. So it was another one of those fake things. Sure. So I think on that way, and then I spent three months in Bulgaria. I'm prepping the movie in the movie studios talking about how we're going to make this movie as it was just incredible. You know, you literally walk it that you had no idea which studio is going to be mine and they're going to build it. We did that And how we're going to build the basement and build the farmhouse. And it was just a magical

Alex Ferrari 25:04
And this is your first film.

Giles Alderson 25:06
And this is my Debut Movie. And it's with, you know, Millennium media and it's with bt y, and it's in a studio in new Breanna. And there I am, this kid who's written something with his pal, Johnny grant. And suddenly now my other pal, Julian Costa is now producing this. If you like hollywood movie, and I'm directing it as my Debut Movie, and I can tell you now, I was shitting myself.

Alex Ferrari 25:32
Well, no, I mean, anyone listening here is like Jesus like this is it's the dream, but it's the nightmare all at the same time. I wanted to back up on something in your in your story where you kept saying that, like they talked about everything except the movie. Yes. And the reason and the reason of want the audience to understand the reason why they do that is because they already know the project is something they're interested in or have quality. That's not the, because they have 20 of those on the on the desk at dislike, you know, this is not avatar. I mean, yeah, this is this is they have 20 other projects, who are of equal or better quality, or marketability, or money making potential, it's all there. But the X Factor is always the filmmaker, it's always you. And I've been in those meetings as well, where they're just feeling you out, because I'm gonna have to go down the road with this guy, or this girl for the next year to two, if not longer. Can I work with this person? And regardless if it's the best script in the world, if you're a dick, yep, it is done. It's over. And that's why they kind of played that game because they were that you could tell that that's a See that's a seasoned producer. That's a seasoned filmmaker who, who walked you through those paces. And like and then made you wait a month on top of that, because he could have easily greenlit it while you were there. Of course, he could have just said, yeah, we want to do it. What do we want to do? No, he let you wait for a month. Let's see how this all plays out. This is all a game. And this is something that is completely unwritten, in, in the game play

Giles Alderson 27:10
In the game manual of making films. It's just unwritten that and I think it's vital. It's so important that filmmakers understand that it is them. They are the ones that get films made. They're the ones I produce movies. Now, you know, it's my journey of that, since that time has produced movies, and I'm working with people, I want to work with it for one. Know this, as well as making the films, one of the hardest things you might do. It's torturous, it's hard work. If you're in the trenches with someone who's a bit of a dick, not even a massive deck, a bit of a dick, you're going I can't be bothered. I've got other things I'd rather make my own project, and God forbid, maybe a deck on that, you know, I mean, it's like,

Alex Ferrari 27:53
so also as you and also as, as you get older, you just start your tolerance for that. Like when you're 20 something your tolerance for that is very high, like things I did in my 20s I look back now I'm like, Oh my god, I would never, but when you're young and hungry, you deal with a lot of stuff that you will not deal with as you get older. But yes, it's so true. So much like as as even in my post business, I would start work talking to potential clients, and I'll be just like, hmm, we could do this for this much. But let's talk about you. And I would just start feeling them out. And I'm like, Oh, no, this guy's gonna be a nightmare. If you do it. Yeah, I would have done it for 20,000 but it's gonna be 50 if I got to put up with you, I need to be paid for this pain.

Giles Alderson 28:40
Absolutely. Right. Absolutely. And and when I get an interesting when I was in that three month period, I actually think it might have ended up being longer. We haven't got a start date. And this was freaking me out because I'm now in Bulgaria away from my family, in a hotel room pretty much on my own a lot of the time getting ferried to the studio, and we didn't have a start date. Because the next London Has Fallen old movies come in or Adrian Brody's now shooting or Antonio Banderas is now shooting and the studio is being pushed. It's being pushed, it's being pushed. And this freaked me out so much that a one point sadly, my misses his dad died. So I was like, Okay, I need to fly back. But if I fly back, this could be a real problem. And the film Might Just Die cuz it's me pushing it here. I'm in the studio again, please give me a start date, please. My actors in our game? Is this really happening? The agents are knocking on the door and Julian's going, Oh, god, what we're going to do. So I said, I'm going to fly back. And I'm gone. And I kind of knew at that point, if they don't greenlight it while I'm gone, this might not happen and it was a risk. And remember, I think I was back a week and a half after the funeral, and I called up the RF and I said, the RF this needs to be the start date. And this needs to be when we start the Edit. Be cuz of my cast and because of the Edit, is this possible, please tell me this, this is a go. And he said, Okay, let's do it. And it was it was such a weird thing that that was the greenlight, that was the moment and whether it was me flying back and not being in the vicinity and not knocking on the door all the time and not being a pest and when I was doing that at all, I was just in this zone, but there's something about that that was really interesting. From that moment. It was all there's the start date, and then it moved forward. I just wanted to talk about x I found that really fascinating as a as a thing. Why did that happen and why? And that whole time the whole time? Really? I was thinking I'm a fraud any moment now There we go. Charles it's not you it's sorry, we made you open the wrong door

Alex Ferrari 30:43
Imposter imposter syndrome. And it's it is something it is a disease that runs rampant through the filmmaking community and screenwriting community. Is that whole like all they're gonna figure me out? Look, I still feel that way. Sometimes. We all do. I've talked to big, you know, I've interviewed big filmmakers, big screenwriters. And you know, I asked them sometimes either on the show or off the show, and they go Yeah, I still, I still feel like you want an Oscar? And they're like, yeah, I still kind of feel like you know, look, Henry Ford's It was a Henry Fonda. It was Henry Fonda. Every time he would go on to do a play, right before he would go on he throw up at 70 at 75 at 75.

Giles Alderson 31:28
I think Judi Dench still does. You know, we had Christie Wilson Cannes, the writer screenwriter of 1917 on the podcast recently she said the same thing she the constitute now writing Star Wars. She says I've constantly feel the imposter. I feel any minute now. They're gonna go You can't write? Why are you here. And we feel that too. And it but because it was my first movie. But it was just this really weird. I didn't feel like a prove myself in any way, shape, or form. And another interesting story with the era of another point, I was sat down with him. And he had made all these shorts award winning shorts and docks and promos and whatever. And he said, so I'm going to tell you what first ad does. I'm going to tell you who calls action I'm going to and I was like, Oh, no, I know. But you know, when you think, oh, if I say I know he's gonna think what? Hang on. But he just kind of explained what how a set works. And I thought, hang on, are you?

Alex Ferrari 32:26
Like I know nothing.

Giles Alderson 32:27
I know, nothing. You said before. And it was really interesting moment that I just looked at Judy. And he looked at me like Shut up. Just let him talk. And it was just amazing moment. He just go Okay

Alex Ferrari 32:38
So this is this. let's dissect that for a second. So this man is giving you seven figures, seven figures to make seven figures to make this film. Which is insane. It's insane. It's insane. I've worked on a project that there was a first time director that had a million dollars and boy that that didn't go well. Like really, really badly. So anytime you give a seven figure deal to have a first time director, I you know, it's you really are rolling the dice. So he, he basically gave you the shot based on the script. And you not your experience, not where you came from. And he was like, so confident in who you are as a human being. Things like I can teach you how to direct. I can teach you have vision and will get people around you and we'll get the movie made. But you have you're the driving force behind it, but you just need some help, technically, and we can help you with that. That is the sign of a very seasoned producer, someone and I've spoken to those guys that I've met those guys and when you speak to people at that level, you they're just at a completely different. Yeah, wavelength. Because normally you and I you know when we're coming up, we're dealing with the schmucks, the guys who like I'm like, I'm I got the money. I got this investor over here. I got that guy. And how much do you want 3 million? That's nothing. I spent 3 million. Throw that away in the morning. Ah, all that stuff. How much do you need? Like all that kind of stuff. And that's these posers are what most filmmakers deal with are Posers, people who are pretending, or they're acting like they're their big shots. But did you notice in your story so far, when you met this guy, he showed up in almost flip flops and a T shirt and he ran the studio? Why? Because he wasn't trying to impress anyone. He was so comfortable with who he was, and what he does, that he doesn't need to impress you. But the dude shows up in a $5,000 suit. You know, and from my experience dealing with these kind of big producers, they don't do that. They don't they don't show off like that. They'll just, they might be dicks. They might be arrogant. They might be other things. But they generally don't show what they do. There's so insecure, it's fascinating.

Giles Alderson 35:04
It's fascinating.

Alex Ferrari 35:05
But he was very secure,

Giles Alderson 35:07
I got my shot because of that absolutely agree he, he, he'd liked me. He believed in what I could do. And my vision and I constant was telling him my vision. I was constantly updating. I was doing storyboards for days and days and days. They gave me a storyboard artist for God's sake. And I was like, Okay, well, how are you going to do? So now I've got to think about how to draw it, you know, I knew how to make it look, but to draw it. So I'll use Lego figures. And this is really I went to the shop nearby, and I got a load of Lego figures. Because again, I'm in Bulgaria, not everyone's great English, you know that some people are brilliant, but not everyone. So when you try to talk to shot or a specific angle you want, it doesn't really translate. So I've got these little mini Lego figures. And I, I put a dagger in one of their hands. And I just kept moving them around this, you know, cuz most of it set in a basement. And I just take photos of it. Okay, I'm going to shoot from this angle. I'll do that. And she'd go, Okay, cool. And it made a huge difference to understanding my vision. And yeah, but you're right. He, he believed in me. And based on the script and me. And that is a huge lesson to any filmmaker out there is that is what it's about this world is that obviously, you've got to be talented. You've got to know what you're doing. And I'm sure he'd done his homework. But

Alex Ferrari 36:19
yeah, no, no, I promise you the whole I don't know anything that's now. No, I promise you he knew what was going on. He'd probably read the script, he probably listen to the pitch. He just wanted to hear you say it. There's no way a man like that's just going to show up going. Yeah, what's what so what do you about like, he's not going to get in a car drive to your hotel, it's that's no chance. There's no chance at all. But I want to make this very clear to everyone listening. Your story is an anomaly. It is. It is an outlier. It is not the norm. And from someone who's been hustling in the business for 25 years, you're the first positive example of someone having a million dollar plus seven figure plus film. And in their first film, and not just epically throwing the money away, your ego gets out of hand. But how old were you when you made this? is four years ago? So? Yeah, man, you're not a kid? No, I was definitely not okay. Yeah. See, it's it's a little bit different. I promise you if you would have been 10 years younger, this wouldn't have happened.

Giles Alderson 37:33
I agree. tell you he wouldn't. He wouldn't have. And I'm glad because back then when I was trying to make the movie, like, say, the eight year period of trying to do that up until four years ago, I wouldn't have been ready. In like I say, when I had Jason state. And when we had Fox, I wasn't ready for that. That's why it didn't happen as much as it hurt. And I cried in my pillow and all these things when it all fell down. And the other thing is, was I only had one project and I'm never doing that, again, have more than one of 10 so that if one falls down, it's not the end of the world back then I had one. But yeah, it is an anomaly. And I'm amazed and you know what, I worked so hard when we were shooting and I, I gave it everything and you know, fantastically it's done really well that so so

Alex Ferrari 38:15
how did it so why did it take so long to get out?

Giles Alderson 38:18
So it took so long to get out because it's a studio movie. And it we needed to do pickups basically, the last part of the movie originally was they come out of the cabin, if you like, you know not to give any spoilers away of the film, but it was snowing on the day we needed to shoot during our print principle photography. So we were like, Don't worry, we'll come back and shoot in a month's time when you've had look at the idea. You can do some other pickups, then he'd already promised me this was interesting. He only came to set twice or three times. And both times he literally almost walked right onto in the middle of where the camera is just walked on. And I'm there literally with with our young kid, he's playing young Dominic, and I'm, and I could see someone at the corner. I'm like, why is there someone stood there any minute now I'm gonna go I'm sorry. You can't be there. There's the camera coming through and stuff like that. And I'm directing this kid I'm really going into detail was a great moment for him to be stood there watching me really direct this kid to try and get the performance. And I look up and everyone's just stood there sort of half smile at me again. Cool. And he pulls me I'm so glad it was that moment and not maybe another moment where maybe not doing what I'm supposed to do or whatever. And, and he pulls me aside and he says, look, we're really happy where it's going. I'm going to give you two extra pickup days. And I went kind of have them now. I said Can I finish? I need them. I'm desperate. We we had originally we had one bit to shoot there really should take six days. And in the end we got two days at night. It was and it shouldn't have been in any way that I can go into that another time. But he pulled me aside I said you get an extra two days and I said can I have them now and he said no. You will need them later. I promise you when you look at the Edit, you'll need them. So Anyway, so I knew I had these two days. So when the snow fell for came, I was like, Okay, well, we'll have to pick that up in a month's time or whatever. So I'm now in the edit suite. I'm editing away. And Bulgaria still still in Bulgaria for this this point, it was pretty soon after I went back and then edited with my great editor, Holly Parker back in the UK. And during that time, though, there was no sign of any pickup times, it wasn't nothing I might want to have in the went, I'll finish the Edit first, and then we'll look at it properly. And a year goes by and oh, yeah, we've now finished. I think we had two months to do that. So we've done that. And they said, Great, we're now going to do look at the screening. And I went over to Bulgaria A month later. And they said right screen in front of all the execs and the big people I said, gave us notes and said, here's some notes. Here's what we're willing to change. And here's some hiccups we want you to do, I said, Yeah, great. They're all following my style. No problem, I was in a great place, it's like happy, then they just couldn't find time to shoot because the next day since day from film came in, the next fallen film has come in Hellboy then started shooting. And every time was like, we're gonna fit you in, we're just gonna. And then when they found a time actors weren't available. Now they're all doing really, really well. Or they've now cut their hair or all these things had a big impact. So it was a full year later when we shot the first set of pickups. Then we did another edit of the movie and put them in at that point Millennium said, we think you should reshoot the beginning. Because he comes across as a bit of a Dickey lead character It was a stag do I've got all my mates across to play the stag do guys. And they weren't you just gonna have to cut all that we want him to be a family, man. It's better for the story. And it was there were 100% right? But oh my god, it killed me to cut out this stuff, my friends as well. So there was another delay. Now we have to reshoot that we now need to wait for my actors and the studio space to shoot that two years go by? Oh my god,

Alex Ferrari 41:57
you're now you're doing other things during this time?

Giles Alderson 41:59
Of course. Now, I'd made another feature film during that time. You think it? Is anything gonna come out? What if you feel really silly? You know, I'd started the omegas podcast at that point. I'm talking about the data constantly. And I'm like, Is it ever going to come out? Is this ever going to happen? So I think it was, yeah, fully, maybe two and a half up to three years late before we now locked the final film. And then it was a case of now that's showing it, it can. Now we're showing it at these places, we'd already got sales in certain territories already. Just off the back of my first teacher I see teaser I've done three and a half years ago. So we'd already pre sell in so many territories off that. And it took that long, you know, that's just how it is. And in that it came out in March in the US and Canada. And now it's October in the UK. And that's full four years after we first started talking on leazes. It can go like I say I've had another movie two movies out in that time, one that we did a five month turnaround. This is for years. And that's your studio, my Debut Movie has come out after my second and third movies.

Alex Ferrari 43:07
So another lesson we should be talking to everyone listening. Patients shouldn't be so key vacations a lot of that time. That is what this business does. It will wear you down, grind you little by and it's not. Sometimes it's a big hit. But a lot more likely it's the paper cuts of something like this that could just drive you crazy. Imagine if you had been you were like working aside, you work in a Starbucks during this time. Because for whatever reason the your whole life is wrapped around this. You were smart enough to start working on other projects and get other things developed. A lot of filmmakers I know don't do that they'll just sit for four years.

Giles Alderson 43:53
I know I know friends who have done the same or know what this film to come out and be successful. And then I can get a big studio movie off the back of that. I totally disagree with that. I think you improve as a director by directing. If you're not directing, you're set on your bum at home. If an actor is constantly on set a dp is constantly on set they're constantly honing their craft and getting better if you've known directed for four years, God forbid you know let's say the day comes out and it's it was washed out. It wasn't any good. Now voice did for four years, and now no one's gonna hire me. But if I've made two three other movies during that time, people are now going Oh, cool. It doesn't matter what happened to that first movie, you've already had other successes or your failures or whatever they are. Why would you wait, the more I've directed the better I've got lacked

Alex Ferrari 44:40
The will then I'm going to I'm going to play devil's advocate and I completely agree with you. But I'm going to play devil's advocate. But Stanley Kubrick wait seven years between movies. He doesn't direct all the time. And I would answer. He was Stanley Kubrick. A standard for whatever Stanley wants We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Because I know there's a droid I know someone out there is listening going, Well, you know, like, some of these directors take three or four years between movies, you're not to be directing all the time. I'm like, Yeah, those guys have forgotten more about filmmaking than you will ever learn.

Giles Alderson 45:24
Absolutely. And you know what, those guys will probably be paid to retainer or they've been paid on scripts, by studios or on deals all that when you're not, when you're independent filmmaker, what are you waiting for? Go make another movie, don't worry about it. It doesn't matter. You have to be in control of your career. Because you this is another secret, and Alex is probably telling this many times is a lot of these people won't watch your movies. If they're out there being released. They know it's come out back and speak to so and so. So yeah, it was cool that that's all they need to know. They might watch the trailer, you think they're gonna sit through and watch your movie? why they're gonna talk to you about the new one, you've got the next one you've got. So it doesn't matter if you've made another three, four or five movies that maybe aren't as good as that one, or whatever it is. Doesn't matter. You're making films, and you get better. You work better with people. Yeah, more actors want to work with you. Because you've made more films, all these type of things, you meet more people, it's vital that you as a filmmaker constantly work that muscle. That's my opinion. I know. plenty of friends who don't do it that way. That's their prerogative and their choice. But I love being on set. That's why I produce as well because you can be on set right?

Alex Ferrari 46:35
Yeah, it's it's, it's the only thing that cures or at least treats this this. This affliction that we have that is called filmmaking.

Giles Alderson 46:44
Totally, totally. It really is. And just I suppose to wrap up the whole dare thing as much as it's not come out in the UK yet. It did massive numbers in Holland cinema was I didn't even know is on in the cinema in Holland. Huge numbers, I have no idea why have no publicity. Anyway, the good thing about this is this big talk of a sequel and all that. And we're really deep in you know, developing it. And isn't that magical, that some small idea had in literally my loft here two ideas, and it becomes something becomes something real and tangible that people can love and hate and disagree with and argue about. But hey, you get you get to be part of this magical world called moviemaking. And you don't do that by sitting on your ass. And you don't do that by going one day, I'll write a script and one day I'll give it to a producer. Now you've got to do it and you got to send it to those producers and find them and go to events that shit happens.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
And now during this waiting time, you also made a couple other like micro budget films, where would it so which is the one that which is the movie that that went to Showtime and sky? And how did you get that to work out?

Giles Alderson 47:49
So this is called a serial killers Guide to Life. Just after I finished shooting the first block of principal photography on the dare my good friends Dan cousins row said, Look, I'm making this movie called a serial killers Guide to Life. Would you come and help me produce it? Because directing it, he said, You know, there's a few of the producers on and stuff come and share the load. And I did and it was micro budget. But it was a wonderful experience for me. At the time even our producer inherited a load of other stuff to actually go on someone else's movie and not be creative. And do the nuts and bolts of making a film that literally how does the truck go from there? Who empties the toilet? Me? Alright, how do you know all these type of things actors need to get from there to there? Okay, it's raining. We need to get umbrellas out. We need to put tents and all this stuff. It's nuts and bolts filmmaking producing, a lot of people don't realize is producing. So I learned that. And I did it. And we had a you know, a great shoot. And the film turned out wonderfully and got selected for fright first and Scott awards across the board. And you know, for the

Alex Ferrari 48:51
How did. How did you get that microfilm to Showtime and the sky movies?

Giles Alderson 48:55
Yeah. So it was a case of getting with the right distributor with that case. So we did. We knew it was good. We knew that the buzz was great. We're sending out little teasers. And the buzz was really good on the film. So what we did is we kind of did a bidding war in a cinema in London in a screen room in London. And we got all the disputes to turn up. And there was some really lovely people came and saw and gave us some brilliant view. And again, this is a movie with no real names in it. Certainly not the time in now. The sister in fleabag sang Clifford, she's in the movie, but at the time it you know, he wasn't you know, wasn't massive. And just some brilliant actors. And yeah, and we then pitched it to them and pitched it to the whole team how we do this and we negotiate the deals and stand

Alex Ferrari 49:41
directly directly or with a distributor or directly with Skype

Giles Alderson 49:45
Directly with the distributors. Yeah, okay, directly talk to about how we're going to make this for how we're going to sell this film around the world directly with the distributor. So we did the contract stand mainly run that. And yeah, from that, that's how we got it onto sky. movies and TV shows.

Alex Ferrari 50:01
And what was your experience with this distributor? I always love to ask Was it a positive? Was it a negative? Did you get paid? Things like

Giles Alderson 50:08
Yeah, it's very positive horror films are very good in the UK and very well known for that. So we specifically targeted distributors who we knew. And I did my research and homework and said, who the dispute was worth for this type of film, because it's a quirky sightseers, Thelma and Louise type, right? Right. It had a quirk. It's slightly unusual. It's, it's got horror elements. But it's also you know, drama. So we made sure we investigate who these distributors were to make sure that they were right for the movie. And I rang so many friends who would work with them and said, Did they rip you off? Did this happen? And they said, No. This is how to behave. This is how to do it. So we did that we really did our homework, and it's paid off massively. And so we can go to life is done really well.

Alex Ferrari 50:57
Yeah, that's amazing. That's amazing. And I was a micro budget.

Giles Alderson 51:01
It was a micro budget.

Alex Ferrari 51:03
Yeah. And then you did another movie, during this time period, on our theory in legend, low budget.Because what because why not?

Giles Alderson 51:12
Because Why not? Because why not? And also, because when you'd like, say, when you're making movies, and you're around movies, and I produced another movie in that time, and I made another documentary called World of Darkness, and, and then the food for thought documentaries you're involved in as well, we were shooting and then signature entertainment, who a friend of mine was working with a lot said, hey, look, you're in the mix for the making this King Arthur movie, because you'd made movies. That was the bill and it didn't matter there hadn't come out, they could see the trailer, they could see the bits and pieces I'd made for it. And they certainly were really keen for me to come and direct it. And again, the same thing, I went in and pitched and went in and sold myself as how I could do this. And again, the same thing. They liked me. They liked me. But also, what was really interesting here is I felt much more aware of my own ability. And I know it's a strange one. But I was also very much more secure of myself.

Alex Ferrari 52:09
Well, of course, Look, man, you've gone down the path you've gone. You've already walked the path a little bit like yeah, I mean, before shooting for the mob. And after shooting for the mob, I was a little bit of a different filmmaker, you know, dealing with that adventure of the mob and meeting these big movie guys in LA and stuff. Absolutely. You feel something when sometimes you feel more confidence. And other times you feel like I can't do this. There's that as well. But now once you start getting again, you've got a feature under your belt to features and that's the thing I always try to tell people like you know, everyone talks about Robert Rodriguez, no mariachi, but it was his first film like it was 25 shorts. Before then he felt really comfortable with the gear with the visuals. He edited everything. And that's the thing you just got to get the practice in. And the same thing with screenwriting. I can't just write one screenplay.You got to write 20.

Giles Alderson 52:59
Yep, absolutely. Yeah. It's not going to happen for you. If you do that, oh, you wouldn't be massively lucky if you do that you like I said before the dare. I've made so many mistakes, so many issues. So many other screenplays that sat on my shelf now I'll never get made that aren't good enough. But I had to go through those failures to be good enough or to be anywhere close to good enough that someone will take a chance on you. And someone that took a chance on me with Arthur Merlin. And yeah, that's now mostly around the world, in the states in December. But yeah, I got to make an Arthurian movie about King Arthur. I mean, well, how brilliant. I've got to bring on my dp from the day, I got to bring in brilliant actors. I got to bring back Richard break, who stars in the dare and bring him as a Merlin and Richard shore, you know, and these people you just you want to work with and you're passionate about. And I tell you what, if you're good to them, and you treat them well, and you understand how an actor works, which is great, though as an actor as well, because I understand what goes through an actor's mind. I do understand when he covered in blood, or you've been screaming all day, how difficult that is, and how when you say I need another take, they are going to kick off at you and they aren't going to be angry. So you've got to be aware of that and plan your shoots and your shots correctly. Because of that, that these people once you're nice and good to them, they will want to work with you again. And it was so lovely. Richard break obviously has been in Game of Thrones and so many other amazing movies like Mandy and whatnot 31 and loads of really cool stuff that he's been saying in interviews now and he's been promoting Arthur Merlin he came to do it because of me. He wanted to work with me again. And this is just a really important lesson for filmmakers is don't be that deck that Alex always says don't do it. If there's issues on set, keep them to yourself. Don't be the big I am. This is a team game. I learned that is this team. Everyone's in it together from your your production assistants all the way up to your execs. Everyone's in this together and you need to be as careful with them as you are with the money. You know, it's everyone's important and I'm learning you've got to learn but don't be the big thing you know, the big bollocks out Absolutely no.

Alex Ferrari 55:00
So I have to ask you, so you did the dare. It started about this whole process start about four years ago. So I've been so when did you start listening to my podcast? Because I've been doing it for five years. So did you like this? Were you listening to the podcast while you were making this?

Giles Alderson 55:16
Yeah. 100% Yeah, amazing, huge inspiration. And you're an inspiration for starting my podcast and UK because I felt that wasn't an indie film hustle type thing in the UK is such that with an English voice, and it was only after I'd done the day that I felt even anywhere near able to talk about that sort of stuff. But no, I was a full on indie film hustle fan. Through that, let's see what inspired me massively you do we use one of the people who constantly banging on about go make your film, go do it?

Alex Ferrari 55:43
Well, you said you saw you were like listening during when I was making Meg,

Giles Alderson 55:48
When you were making Meg and and the episode you did with the forecast, for me was an absolute joy. I mean, all back then, was it was a huge inspiration for me. And I imagine lots of other filmmakers that

Alex Ferrari 55:58
I've had. No I always, the reason I ask is because there are other filmmakers that I've talked to that were like, yeah, you know, I made my I made my first feature around the time that you were making Meg, and I was listening to you while I was going through my stuff. And I always find it fascinating. It's just like, you know, for you know, this as well as I do, man. Like when when you podcast, he's just talking to a microphone. You know, and if you interview if you're lucky enough to do interviews, you get to talk to one other person, you really don't know how this once you press publish, you really kind of don't know what happens out there in the ether. And I always love hearing stories about you know, email, I get emails all the time, I'm like this or that, but specific stories about like you like, I was making this million dollar, you know, plus film in Bulgaria, while I was listening.

Giles Alderson 56:47
You know, I was totally in the rooms in these on my own in the hotel, listening to your podcast go. Right. Okay, this is how your guests have done it. This is what to go through. Because until you've made a feature film, you honestly do not know what it's like, that's really hard to put into words, we can talk about to a bloom of faith. And even when you did, I still didn't believe it. I still did not believe it. So again, filmmakers out there who have not made one, you'll think the same you guys just talk I'll be fine. No, no, no, no, no, you'll be dead. You will be your brain is fried. You have so much information you need to keep hold on.

Alex Ferrari 57:23
But the thing is, if you no that's the thing that you are making your first feature at a completely different level than I was making my first five grand mine yours. Yeah, a little bit more. With a studio and you know, storyboard artists and backlogs. They're building stuff for you.

Giles Alderson 57:43
But here's what I've learned. Alex, there's no difference. End of the race, of course. But at the end of the day, you know, hey, we got craft services. But the end of the day, we've, it's just you and the actors, you the camera and the actors. Technically, it doesn't matter how beautiful it is. It doesn't matter how amazing your shot is. If the acting is not right, the story is not right. No right care. That's why people love man, because he was you locked in a room doing it. And the story was brilliant. This is it. This is what filmmakers need to know is that it's all about the script. The script has to be the best it can be for the story you've got in the rest doesn't matter. You have to work brilliantly with your actors and get the performances you need so that people enjoy your film. And on an iPhone, you absolutely can shoot on your dad's old VHS camcorder. It doesn't matter as long as the story is good enough.

Alex Ferrari 58:32
I mean, it was I mean, you should show your size the VHS. I mean, let's just throw that out there, Mikey. There's other options. So go to Best Buy here in the States, and then return it in 30 days, and return it in 30 days, you get a free camera. I mean, there's these two. I mean, I don't I don't approve of that. But I've heard other filmmakers do cool things like that. And you were one of the few people ever to watch ego and desire on the big screen. And I had a short film or a film festival, because I didn't do a lot of film festivals with it. But you saw it at the world premiere at rain dance.

Giles Alderson 59:06
It was that the rain dance from France. We obviously promoted it on our podcast a lot. And a lot of the people who listened turned out it's the first time I met a lot of these people as well. And they were they're like, hey, so nice to meet you. And you know, as well talking about the podcasting indie film world is Yeah, you all connect, and this is what I've loved about doing mine and you coming on and everyone will message me and go, I love Alex's stuff. It's so great. You're all connected. But all the indie filmmakers I talked to and you talk to we all kind of know each other. We're all in the world of just going out there and making our showrooms. And what I've learned is that pretty much every single journey is different. Not one route is the same hey, yeah, you need money and you shoot a film showman but there's, there's millions of different ways that that could happen and fall down and go up and down. And that just says it all. There's no there's no secret. There's no like oh, that's the button to press

Alex Ferrari 59:59
the One thing I've learned and I wasted a lot of time doing this when I was coming up is I studied I read every biography about filmmakers I could get my hands on. I watched every documentary about how movies are made. And of course, I came up and I think you and I have similar vintages I think I might be a little bit older than you. But, um, but we came up around the time of the 90s where the myth of Rodriguez turned teen Kevin Smith, Spike Lee Sonnenberg Christian Singleton, those that group of the 90s Linkletter like all of the that that group, it was like, every week, there was a new appointed myth. And in you're like, well, if I, you know, I and I will maybe if I go down to Kevin Smith route, well, that maybe I'll get that way. Or maybe if I go down, mariachis route or, and before that, it was like, maybe I'll do what Spielberg did. I'll do that. And maybe I'll do what Lucas did, or maybe I'll do a couple of days. At the end of the day, there is no, you could study all of them. And you might be able to take a couple of ideas from each path. But the path that comes your path to look at your path. Yeah, there's no path like that. Look at my path, like my path. I was like, Oh, yeah, I made my first feature, because I was a podcaster. Like, after 20 odd years of directing commercials, music videos, and series and doing post on like, 50 features. And all this stuff I did. It was podcasting. That gave me the courage to finally go, I'm going to make my first feature, because I had it for I don't know what it was meant it mentally Dude, I don't know if this was with you. But with me, it was about, well, if it doesn't work, I could just go back to doing what I do. And I was gonna do it anyway. But like, I felt comfortable, I felt safe because I had a community, even even back then was 2017. So a smaller community than I have now. But it was still like, I'm just gonna do this and see what happens. And wow, what the hell

Giles Alderson 1:01:59
and also because you're, you're preaching to people, you know, you're talking to people about filmmaking. And then I can say the difference between you before you've made a feature or after your podcast. Do you know as soon as

Alex Ferrari 1:02:11
You could tell the different change? You could tell them? You could so tell the difference before and after I shot that first feature, the tone, and then with the tone of my pilot, I'm sure as yours as well. It's changed, like, yep, you go back and listen, those first few episodes first 15 to 20. I'm just with First of all, they're horribly hate sets. It's just I know, I mean, yeah, it's just brutal. But you can hear the angry, bitter filmmaker, they're a little bit more, I was a little bit more angry and bitter. So I always tell people, if everybody here knows an angry and bitter filmmaker, and if you don't know an angry and bitter filmmaker, you are the angry. It's true. So you can feel that bitterness a bit more, then, and the grizzled voice and all the stuff in the shrapnel. And that's still with me. But after you made that first feature, as small as that film was, as it's like, is this really quiet little, you know, you know, kind of mumble core style film that I made, which was completely I've never met anything like that. I was always doing action movies. It was just like, I want to get this done. And in afterwards. I can't explain it to people. I don't know if he felt like this because I think I stopped me for so many years and making the movies because I said well, if it's my first feature, it's got to come out like reservoir. Like it's got to come out like mariachi like I gotta come out guns a Blair and there's so much pressure to put on yourself as an as a first time filmmaker, you can't do that. Can't do that. Would you agree?

Giles Alderson 1:03:45
I totally agree. I think people put way too much pressure on their first feature. And I say this a lot to people I mentor and stuff like that now from the London Film, school and whoever else I'm mentoring, stop worrying about your first feature being this breakout hit. How you think of all the filmmakers out there in the world. How many of them are breakout filmmakers, but you can probably name the ones we've just named. There isn't many more. So out of those 100,000 films that came out last year. How many of them have broken out nor had they gone on to make other films? Okay, maybe 50% of them great, be that filmmaker, go make a film and make another one. Don't put everything on your first film being this huge success because you'll only fail by doing that or you'll never make a film. Well, I got I got lucky.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:29
Look, if you look at Nolan his first film as the following, not a breakout here. Not Not Not a break, not a breakout hit. You know, it wasn't a breakout hit. Then you look at Ridley Scott, because Ridley Scott is one of the most accomplished filmmakers. First time filmmakers in history. He had directed what 4000 commercials at that point in his life. And he did the Shootist, and the Shootist, a beautiful film, not a breakout Not a break, I had no so. But that was the myth in the 90s. That kind of, I feel that independent film became independent film in the 90s. And I think so many filmmakers still hold on to that idea of independent filmmaking. That doesn't exist anymore like those guys. And I said this so many times on the show, Kevin Smith shows up today with clerks, you'll never get seen. Robert Rodriguez shows up with mariachi Linkletter shows up with slacker, not the only one out of that crew that really might make some noise is Tarantino with reservoir? Because it's just such a tough one?

Giles Alderson 1:05:33
Man, he'd already written a big breakout hit. Do you see what I mean? It already done the first movie he wrote, you know he

Alex Ferrari 1:05:39
did to romance. He wrote romance and Natural Born Killers. So he was already a screenwriter at that point. Yeah, a publisher or a professional screenwriter, but it's just, you can't put that much pressure on you and us as filmmakers, we put so much pressure and so much stress on it. And when I finally just said, screw it. I'm just going to make a film. And I don't care how it. I mean, I don't care what happens with it. I'm just going to tell my story and go on. And my second film, ego and desire, was that in spades.

Giles Alderson 1:06:11
Absolutely. Brilliant. And I really enjoyed watching, you know, the premiere there in London was so cool. But the fact that you made that in a, you know, at Sundance, who does that, not for our listeners, guess what I'm gonna do if you're not inspired by Alex, you're not inspired by anybody. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:29
I pretty appreciate that.

Giles Alderson 1:06:30
Make a film. There you go. It premiered at raindance Film Festival, where he did that by just going, Hey, I'm going to shoot movie with actors. I've not met,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:40
actors I haven't met. And we're going to shoot in four days for about three grand while I'm shooting interviews for my podcast. So it was like a side hustle. So

Giles Alderson 1:06:49
and you you're in the movie as a podcast that which is even better. I mean, that was

Alex Ferrari 1:06:54
that was it was it's that's such a meta film. I can't even explain to you. But obviously, with all your future films, you need to use a star wipe, obviously a star, why is it move on?

Giles Alderson 1:07:07
I've got to move forward to that level. Once I've got where I need to be. It might take me a while few more films yet. But when you see that stuff

Alex Ferrari 1:07:16
That's in it, that's an insight, you have to see the film guys, it's an inside joke, Star wipe. But if you when the star wipe shows up, you'll just go.

Giles Alderson 1:07:24
Yeah, the the actual, you know, this, the actual star that they have, and then the star grows and goes out. I was looking forward to.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:35
We didn't have the budget for things like that. So we didn't have the time nor the budget for things like that. Um, no, I wanted real quickly want to talk about the vegan documentary? that yes, you're making. So what's the name of it? It's food for thought.

Giles Alderson 1:07:48
It's called food for thought. Yeah. And it's on health. It's on the plant based lifestyle we're having now and it's on animal welfare. And because I have a voice in the filmmaking community, and because I care, and I'm a filmmaker, I was like, Well, why aren't I making something that I'm passionate about? Because the dare is, hey, the desert, you know, a commercial type movie that has a message, but it's not, you know, it's not I'm not gonna change the world. It's not that, you know, it's bullying messages and all that stuff in there. But hey, I wanted to do something I was passionate about myself and Dan Richardson, fellow vegan said, why aren't we making a movie about this and what we care about? And we said, let's do it. You know, he's a big sort of face in that kind of world anyway, and he's, you know, born free ambassador. So we've got connections, and we were like, we've got cameras, we've got equipment, let's just go chew it. So again, with this idea to say, why don't we get a load of people who aren't vegan to go vegan for 30 days, we'll document their whole life. And during that we'll interview people who either care about this or feel that they their cancer cured them, or they got cured of cancer by going plant based, you know, we wanted to talk to these type people who go in plant based or haven't cared about animals made a difference. And we care about this. And we wanted to do something. And we asked you to be in the documentary as well, which you very kindly agreed to be interviewed. And, you know, and that's interesting during the dock, because obviously, we started talking on the podcast and found that you are vegan as well. We are like, right, you gotta be in the dark. So yeah, and we, we got some we were worried about because we've traveled around the world, traveled to Croatia, LA and Sweden and obviously London and South Africa. We were like, how are we going to fold this? This is just ours. And we want to do this properly make this really good. So we did a crowdfunder. We raised a really nice amount of money. But we were very clever about how we did that. And he specifically targeted, we would riches are in the niches as you always say, and we targeted the niches we targeted vegan groups. We targeted animal welfare groups, we targeted health companies, and we literally did different techniques for every day, how we were targeting them more They would invest and then there that would spread out into that market. And suddenly, we'd have money flying in from all around the world. And we ended up raising 75k on that crowdfunder, which is ridiculous and insane. But that's because we were passionate about it. And our story came across that way. And we really worked our asses off, it was literally like making a feature film for a month.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:22
I don't know, it's brutal, isn't it, crowdfunding is a brutal,

Giles Alderson 1:10:24
brutal carpet, it's horrible. We don't want to do it again, it's really

Alex Ferrari 1:10:28
it's rough, it's rough.

Giles Alderson 1:10:29
What what that meant was that we could afford to hiring a camera team, we could afford to fly to these places. And we can afford to spend that on marketing and use a lot of that money to market the movie and self distribute ourselves. And the only reason I wanted to self distribute this movie was because of Alex's brilliant book, Rise of the film entrepreneur. And that is fact Honestly, I appreciate that. about going on, we could we could just read we're gonna jump all over this when we were in can last year, not this year, obviously, demand just springs, we're like, we'll take this, we'll take more courses,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:00
oh, they won't give you any money. But they'll take it

Giles Alderson 1:11:02
They won't give him money. We knew that. But we weren't. But because this is the really weird thing about this, we'd rather this. And this is kind of not true. But we want more eyeballs on this. Because we want people to understand how the world is going to really implode on itself unless we all change and make a difference. So we want more eyeballs on that. So we also didn't want to self distribute this ourselves, if we didn't know what we were doing. And because of the book, we were like, we're gonna sell distribute ourselves, because we thought we can do this, Alex, I felt you gave us that power and passion that we could make the money from this. And I'm not mean then that money can then go back into as making more docs about this world and about how we can save the planet or save people's lives who are eating the wrong kind of foods who are not being careful who are ruining the environment and animals and treating them badly. And that we can do that. Why give it to a distributor who's going to run off with that money. And then we can't make more films from that, hey, people might know of the doc, but we want to continue this as a business and keep going. And you're inspired us to do that. 100% 100

Alex Ferrari 1:12:06
I am humbled. And I appreciate that. And I mean, obviously, because the book, obviously I talk about the vegan chef movie, and all and I want to make that movie.

Giles Alderson 1:12:15
So as a screenwriter who write that I'll make it.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:19
You know how many I you know, I think there's people out there listening who read the book. And they're just like, I'm afraid of doing that. Because Alex said at first I'm like, I am giving you free rein. It's a free idea. If someone out there can make the vegan romantic comedy that I've laid out the story pretty much it's laid out in between episodes and in the book and all this stuff. Yeah, go make it just let me know. I'll come on, I want you on the show. I want to and I'll help you help you put out the business, the film to printer business around it, just please. So basically what I laid out in the book, a lot of examples are with the vegan chef movie, which are like, and you could do this because it's vegan. And you could do that because it's vegan, you basically took that blueprint.

Giles Alderson 1:13:05
As he written this for me, vegan Doc, and he's written this book all about how vegan chef movie could happen. I'm like, well, we can follow all that we can do this ourselves, and hey, it's gonna be a ton of work. But interestingly, since making movies, I've now moved into helping other filmmakers get with the right distributors, and especially with all your wonderful Facebook group as well. There's so much amazing knowledge on there, and other filmmakers helping people. We and luckily, we've got amazing distributors on the day, we've got the horror collective who are just absolutely wonderful. And I can't recommend them enough. And what they do is they spell everything out and they give you a spreadsheet of where the money has been spent. How much money is come back in

Alex Ferrari 1:13:46
Stop it! Stop it!

Giles Alderson 1:13:49

Alex Ferrari 1:13:50
You mean you mean transparency with a distributor? Yep. sacrilege, sir. sacral is that they get kicked out? Did they kicked out of the distributors guild by doing things

Giles Alderson 1:13:59
like that? Yeah. Well, well, interesting. Isha kid used to be epic. And now he's, he's not he set up his own

Alex Ferrari 1:14:05
chikitsa she kids new company the whole That's right. I forgot the name. It was because he has a Yay. Okay. That's one of his branches of his new Yeah, he has no time. So so everyone knows she can spin on the show. She has been on the show a couple times. He's a friend. And he actually does care about filmmakers. And he's a There you go. He's, he's one of the good guys.

Giles Alderson 1:14:27
He's one of the good guys so I highly recommend if you've got a horror movie go to him. They've been brilliant. So because of making movies and helping other filmmakers, we've taken another movie to the horror collective which we are now acting as sort of sales producers reps sales. Yes, the more producers reps and sales, but we is the better word right? Sure, we I know I now understand that world mainly, you know from your book, but also from understanding that and it's so important to self distribution, even though it's going to be very difficult with the vegan documentary food for thought. It makes so much sense. For us to do that ourselves especially with Dan's reach, being born free ambassador and everything and with minding the podcast and my world out there.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:07
Yeah, and the budget and it's not an expensive it's already been paid for essentially. So you're in the black right away already. Yeah, there's so much you could do with that. You know, I one day we'll make make a vegan documentary but I just like I was just like, this makes all the sense in the world like it's I just think the blueprints laid out. I mean, there's so many of these vegan Doc's have just built out multi million dollar businesses around the fence. Totally. Totally. We could give you a percentage really, Alex. Just send cash, toilet paper, and ammo. That's all we need is smoke ammo, because we're American. Obviously, we're American. So we need we need ammo, toilet paper, and just it that's fine. cash cash, if that's fine. Yeah, no wiring, just straight. Actually pounds. If you could send pounds over that even be better. I'll fax them across. My friend, we could keep talking for at least another two hours. This is what happens when two podcasters get together. Gonna so I'm gonna ask you now, a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Giles Alderson 1:16:22
Great question. I love this question. I say educate yourself on everything you can about filmmaking. Don't go into this blind. Find a project that you love. Understand that market. So if it's a skateboarding movie, or BMX movie, perfect, because it's a niche movie, target that audience with it, understand what they like and don't like, get a BMX sponsor on board, whatever it is. That's the way to make a movie as a first time filmmaker, because now you're in a, you've got a chance of your movie breaking out. Not many films get made about gymnastics make one about that, you know, whatever it is be mixing. I think that that, to me is really important. And I suppose it's what I talked about earlier is don't worry about it not being a huge success. Don't worry about it not being on Netflix, and all your friends go in when can they stay on Netflix? Don't worry about that. It's all about your journey. As a filmmaker, I tell you what, if you want to be that filmmaker, director, screenwriter, producer, it's a long career. If your film makes massive straightaway, you might you might never recover from that is too big. Who knows? I mean, yeah, hey, we all want that. But it's a long journey. Don't forget that and find a project that's right for you find a screenwriter that you love. And I tell you what, you need to search for a little email out of Facebook out. I'm looking for screenwriters.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:40
Don't do that. Oh, no. Don't don't don't don't go Hey, I'm looking for a screenwriter. Don't No, no, no, don't do that. Guys. Please. That's, that's, that's, that's a recipe for disaster. Do some research. There's some good there's some good websites, blacklist slated stage 32, where you can network and connect with other screenwriters and other projects that you might be able to work with. But definitely do not. Go, hey, anybody want to make a movie yet? Don't do that.

Giles Alderson 1:18:11
Yeah. Find the right screenwriter, wherever that is, exactly. And then find the team again. So you speak to people go to events, there'll be people then there's another filmmaker, go, Hey, I saw you can I see your short and if the shorts brilliant, ask him who the DP was, and work with that. And there's so many ways you can do it. But that for me that's really vital, is know you know what film you want to make. And then really target how you can really make a business from that and great film from it.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:39
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Giles Alderson 1:18:46
sign contracts. I, early early on, I didn't do this at all. And it was a huge mistake. Like I say, projects got taken away from me. Things happen if I'd sign a contract with these people, it wouldn't have happened and even if that's on a napkin, and I'm sure you're gonna jump down and say No, don't do that. But whatever it is. But it I feel it's really important that you when you're working with people, things can go wrong when you're starting out. People do talk all the game. So if you've got something signed a lease, then you're not going to get burned. And within that, don't be afraid to walk away. You might have worked on it for so long. But hey, if it's not working, they're not the right people walk away. Because it's too short to be hurt. We messed around, go do something else have more than one project that took me the longest to learn. I spent eight years on one project, or waste of time waste more time. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:39
Yes. What was the biggest fear you had to overcome to make your first film?

Giles Alderson 1:19:49
I think it was my own fear of not being good enough. I think it was my fear of not understanding my actual ability and my own courage and overcoming That and like say not being scared. Okay, you were the actor. Okay? You wrote stuff, okay? You put stuff on in theater, but it was that fear of thinking you're not good enough. I tell you what if you've got a vision, and you've got an understanding of how you want it to be, so even if you don't know, technicalities or camera or you've not worked with access before, if you've got a vision and you're passionate, you'll be great, you'll be fine. And that to me is that was my fear, and had to overcome that. You know, once you're on a studio movie, you suddenly need to overcome that very quickly.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:32
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Giles Alderson 1:20:35
Okay, Magnolia, love it. I probably should rewatch it. Terminator two, and Slumdog Millionaire. Yeah. Such a great film. I love that. Such great. And plus, they're all very different genres. I notice. Yeah. Love romantic comedy. I'm a sucker for that sucker for that. Making some say

Alex Ferrari 1:20:59
you make a vegan, vegan chef romantic comedy any day now?

Giles Alderson 1:21:03
Well, there we go.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:07
And working people are

Giles Alderson 1:21:08
putting that out on Facebook.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:11
Yes, absolutely. And where? Where can people find you?

Giles Alderson 1:21:14
You can find me on Twitter is mainly where I do a lot of my social media stuff is @CharlesAlderson. On Twitter. Yeah, that's mainly where I am websites, gilesalderson.com but yeah, my films, the films that are out there. And you know, the author movie out through Madden, which is cool. And the podcast if you fancy it is the filmmakers podcast, which is on Twitter app filmmakers pod?

Alex Ferrari 1:21:40
Yes, I recommend this podcast. Fantastic. It's a fantastic podcast. And it's a great addition to the indie to the indie film hustle podcast, because if you get tired of listening to my voice all the time, it's nice, say the episodes without it. You could listen to those But hey, no, no, no, no. That's all they need is to listen to me here and then go listen to me. talk more about that now. It's enough. Jasmine, thank you so much for being on the show, brother. I appreciate and congrats on all your success and for everything you're doing for the for the film community. I appreciate you,

Giles Alderson 1:22:11
Alex, thank you. And honestly, same goes to you. You're an absolute inspiration and a joy. And you're wonderful guy as well. So well done everyone. Give it up to Alex. Welcome, buddy. Thank you.

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BPS 294: The Essentials of Screenwriting with Pilar Alessandra

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Alex Ferrari 1:35
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:40
On today's episode I'm going to be talking with Pilar Alessandra about screenwriting. I just read her book, the coffee break screenwriter, and I mean, it's it's an amazing book, it's got all kinds of activities you can do to kind of jumpstart your creativity and start really figuring out what your screenplay is about and what the characters are, you know, what their motivations are, what they want in the story, I really enjoyed it. And it's got a lot of stuff that I haven't seen another screen or there's a million screenwriting books, and I try to read as many as I can. And this one had a lot of great new stuff in it, so I highly recommend it. Here's my interview with the amazing Pilar Alessandra, like a typical workweek for you like what I mean, are you do you have like a pile of screenplays that you are going through? Are you talking with screenwriters on the phone, what what's kind of your world like there?

Pilar Alessandra 2:26
My world is a little bit busy, I wouldn't recommend it to everybody. Unless you're, you want to commit to workaholism. I consult on two scripts a day. And I run Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I run for different private writers groups this is these are things I actually don't advertise, they're made up of writers that I've picked out of clients that I think that are really at a certain level with their writing, and are also good and good in a room. So I run those private writing groups, four times a week. And then I also have six week classes that I teach currently teaching one on Saturdays 1230 to 330. And that's those tend to be first draft classes. And then I also do rewrite weekends and the occasional specialty class. I'm very, very excited because I'm also teaching TV class about every two months now. And it's usually a one day intensive. And then when I'm not doing that, I'm really lucky I get to travel and, and teaching other countries. And recently just got back from South Africa, which was amazing. I got to spend five days with an animation company called Trigger Fish, and 35 writers from all over Africa. So that was really cool. No,

Jason Buff 3:48
Is that ever intimidating to you? I mean, do you? You kind of pinch yourself and say, you know,

Pilar Alessandra 3:55
Yeah. Like every time I'm invited somewhere, I just think that they've just sent that email to the wrong person.

Jason Buff 4:02
Impostor syndrome.

Pilar Alessandra 4:04
Yeah, we kind of go through that for a little bit like, well, you know, there's, you know, like, no, no, you so, so yeah, I'm very, very lucky. And it's really cool. So, so yeah, I work really hard. But it's a it's a great job.

Jason Buff 4:20
So working with creative people, do you? Is there something that they have in common that they're looking for that they need in terms of they have a certain way of thinking they have a certain way of wanting to create and want to write, but they just need somebody to come in and organize their thought or something like that?

Pilar Alessandra 4:38
I think I think everybody wants to know, are they expressing their intention? They had this idea in their head or they had this person in their mind or they had this amazing scene. Is it there? And then one of the reasons I call this on the page, my business was because it really all came down to was it there was it on the page? It can it can live in your mind. Um, you can help a director brings it out or an actor, but if it's not on the page, then it's just not working. So that's what everybody wants to know. Am I seeing it? Is it there? Will audiences see it? And if it's not there, then we talk about what's the best way to express that so that they can get their intention.

Jason Buff 5:18
One of the things that I've had to learn over the years was okay, where's my talent? What am I good at? What can I you know, I can see, when I write I kind of see scenes, I see it. And it's almost a way of like, taking dictation, putting it on the page and saying, Okay, I've got a movie. Now, how do I take that movie and then structure it right and put it right, so that what I'm actually seeing is what I'm conveying to people, you know?

Pilar Alessandra 5:42
Right. And then there's the tricky part. Because if what you're seeing is sort of a list of things, I see things, I see that I see the other thing that can get monotonous and it can feel cuttable. But if you phrase it in a way, you know, I see it and it looks like this thing. You know, if you're using a simile that works for you, or a metaphor that people don't, don't appreciate, I think how how, how much screenwriters are writers, they have to find the right phrase, in order to convey visually, what's in their head. Because they're a list of things doesn't work. It has to be a sometimes just concise sentence. So so we're choices is everything. Ah, work,

Jason Buff 6:27
It seems like a lot, you can take a lot of liberties with certain things when it comes to kind of making your vision come to life. And I was wondering what you thought about that in terms of just do you find that there's a lot of as long as they're getting their vision through? They can kind of play with that?

Pilar Alessandra 6:44
Yes, if it's readable, it's working. If it doesn't make the reader stop, to notice the format, or look at the page number it's working. People are so hung up on, you know, is there am I doing the correct format, but I really believe over the years it has loosened up. Because at the stage that you're submitting your script, it's for people to grasp on to the story and characters, and then start pushing it upwards. So if that's not coming through, if they're not completely involved, it's not gonna go anywhere. They're not going to pass on it because you did some kind of incorrect formatting. They're gonna pass it, they're bored. So yeah, even. That's my call waiting, sorry.

Jason Buff 7:33
Everybody will just assume you use some bad language there. So

Pilar Alessandra 7:38
It'd be really funny if it just kept

Jason Buff 7:40
Okay, let's try to keep it on the table here.

Pilar Alessandra 7:45
Don't worry. Even David trotty, a, he wrote the screenwriters Bible, and he's, he's known lovingly as Dr. format. You know, he's, he's, over the years, said as much, you know, if it's working on the page, if it's, you know, the things the objects you want noticed are being noticed, and the visuals are coming through. And the dialogue is clear, and you're working down the page with, with a certain pace, it's working.

Jason Buff 8:14
One of the biggest things that I remember was when I was in my younger years, I re read, you know, Shane Black screenplay for lethal weapon, which is kind of like what everybody has to read when they're first starting out. And it just blew me away, like, you know, even noting parts of it, where it was like, you know, that he was in the kind of house that I would buy if I sold the screenplay, and like, all these little things that he put in, just to kind of keep people interested. And it just seems like in the good screenplays that I've read, it's all about just keeping people's attention. You know, building that tension, making sure that every, every scene has a reason to be there, and everything is pulling you in and just affecting you versus some of the more amateurish things that I used to read, which was, you would just have people talking and dialogue that kind of went nowhere, and people would be creating a world but they wouldn't necessarily be creating a story.

Pilar Alessandra 9:03
No, I totally agree with you. And, you know, fortunately, I think writers have, there's so much more out there now for them as far as resources go, that they know now, that di unit, just hanging it on dialog is not the way to go. There. The scripts that I've read over the years have gotten better and better and better. And the bad news is, that means your competition is getting is also getting better. So now when people sort of when it's not good, what people so now when it's not working page wise, it's not so much because people are hanging it on amateur. Late sorry, I'm getting a little tired. It's not that people are getting amateur in their writing. It's that they sometimes they're just is actually too full of bells and whistles now.

Alex Ferrari 10:04
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Pilar Alessandra 10:13
Now, it's like, I'm not going to tell you the story. I'm gonna go to a really cool flash forward. Now I'm gonna go back in time, and I'm gonna go from somebody else's point of view, I switched genres. I'm so clever. And so when that starts happening, that's sometimes what I see is screwing things up, not because you shouldn't be inventive, because you should, but because they're throwing all the cool spaghetti against the wall. And it just feels like spaghetti against the wall,

Jason Buff 10:42
Kind of the Michael Bay version of a screenplay.

Pilar Alessandra 10:46
I think what Michael Bay does, you know, he commits to, I don't know what they want, like if they if you know, the right No, Michael Bay movie, five committed to it. But if you're writing a Michael Bay movie, but it's half that, and it's half Tarantino, you know, and it's also a super indie at the same time. It's like, okay, make up your mind. It's that kind of spaghetti method. That could be a problem.

Jason Buff 11:09
Yeah, well, I remember when when I was in film school Tarantino was it Tarantino, it really just come out when I think Pulp Fiction was out. And Reservoir Dogs came out, I think when I was a sophomore, and it was funny, because, you know, I was taking a screenwriting class and every single person in that class started writing Quentin Tarantino screenplays, you know, and they had the dialogue between two guys that was kind of like, didn't really have anything to do with anything. And there was something kind of, you know, in the background that you were supposed to add, they just kind of missed the point of that and just went for the the funny dialogue versus it's funny dialogue, because you know, something bad is gonna happen. It builds that tension, you know, the kind of Hitchcock way of showing you something bad's gonna happen, and then having people do stuff, you know, they would just forget about that part.

Pilar Alessandra 11:53
Yeah, you've totally just nailed why that scene works, which is, it gets our defenses down, you think, wow, these are just two guys who were just talking about this guy, fun stuff. And then when you see the blow of the scene, which is, you know, they're on their way to kill a roomful of people. That is what that scene is about. That's why it has to be there. And you're right after that, people wrote a million copies. And I read them all because I was at the time, and they didn't have any reason for being there. They were just clever. And, and, you know, cleverness, without context without a connecting to anything. You know, it's a cute scene, but it, it feels, it kind of wrecks the screenplay feels out of place.

Jason Buff 12:46
Now I want to I want to step back a little bit and talk about your time at Amblin. And working with Amblin. And DreamWorks. And that's that period. And so if we can just go back in time a little bit,

Pilar Alessandra 12:59
Way back, and oh, my goodness,

Jason Buff 13:01
Well, I can't let it go. Because I'm a huge Spielberg into Mecca span,

Pilar Alessandra 13:06
You know, I first took on the job because it was really cool job. It was like, Oh, wow, this would be great. You know, I can, I can work from home and I can do the other things I was interested in and hanging out with my friends. But my work on workaholism, you know, soon. Soon got in my way, where I was reading tons of scripts for them. When I first started, it was the heyday of Amblin. Jurassic Park had just hit Schindler's List. And, you know, everybody was feeling really good about the content. And it was a real or sort of happy go lucky place. If I remember, right, I was in like MIT. And you could show up and on Friday, people were, you know, having a beer and, you know, it felt like, even high five. Yeah, you know, you go in every day, and the place looks a lot like the Flintstone compound to me, you know, these cute little hatches, and yeah, it was, it was it was pretty amazing.

Jason Buff 14:10
I think I remember seeing that and like a Barbara Walters special or something. Because, yeah, they had all the Jurassic Park stuff around and dinosaurs.

Pilar Alessandra 14:18
Yes. And it was it was such a cool place to be working in 20s. You know, I was like, wow, this is this is awesome. And I was definitely learning on the job. You know, I made some screw ups. But I also had, you know, a couple creative executives who really thought I knew story and, you know, would would, you know, give me some of their more trusted work and over there once you were trusted, and were working your butt off, you know, used to also start doing notes on existing projects. So that was interesting for me too. As a reader, what you're usually doing is going If yes or no, as somebody who's doing notes, you're saying, Well, of course, because it's a project. And this is what you can do about it, this is how you can make it better, which is very much the kind of work that I do now. And when it became DreamWorks you know, I got to be senior story analyst one of the one of a couple of senior story analysts, which really just met work harder. And, and then when Bob Zemeckis did have a deal with DreamWorks, and he was on a lot, for a while there, I was sort of reading a sort of a go between between both companies. It was interesting, just tons and tons and tons of content that was coming my way. And I was really getting, I think, pretty good at homing in on what made a script exciting, and and where it might not work for the executives I was working for. And that was what led me to create a bunch of writing tools that I used in classes and became the root of my book. But it was a great learning experience.

Jason Buff 16:11
Where were most of the screenplays coming from where they just people that were submitting screenplays or where they

Pilar Alessandra 16:18
It was all the big agencies of the time. CAA ICM, really Morris? APA, just just, uh, you know, the big ones, which I can't always say, in my opinion from, from reading somebody's scripts over the years is necessarily always a good thing. Because since, you know, since that work, and now that I've been on my own for so many years, and I've read so many writers who aren't represented or represented by smaller agencies, I have to say, I think sometimes the studios are missing out, because there are some wonderful work out there, that that isn't wrapped by a big shiny agency. And, and, you know, that's where a lot of unique voices are. So, you know, I've read some, I would say, over the years, even better stuff than I read back then,

Jason Buff 17:18
Do you think it's important for writers to try to get an agent so that they can get into that world?

Pilar Alessandra 17:24
Yeah, unfortunately, it still is, because you still need somebody who can champion your work and have the connections that can that can reach out for you. So yes, you still want to try very, very hard to get an agent or these days a manager, because a manager manages your entire career, and may understand that you have more than just one sellable project that maybe you have something that would be good as a writing sample, to get you work or to staff you up, or maybe you have an incredible play that needs to get get out there, or a web series. So that's what a manager does is, tries to get you out on all kinds of levels, an agent that turns around and tries to sell a script.

Jason Buff 18:07
Okay. Now, when you were reading the screenplays, would you Was there any? Is there any sort of moment when you would kind of know that it wasn't a good screenplay? I mean, is there a typical pattern that you would see in terms of you know, a screenplay arrives, you start reading it, and then you start seeing maybe like red flags?

Pilar Alessandra 18:28
Well, you know, there's something that happens in the second act. And it happened then. And it happens now, where I'll read something, it has a really strong first act, it has a great concept, but I kind of call it spinning its wheels in the second act, it doesn't really know what to do with that concept. And it starts playing one trick over and over again, and you start going, Okay, I've been here before, can we get can we get out of here? You know, can we get out of this mud and know that it's just spinning its wheels. And if it just sort of fails to ever sort of cleverly get out of there. Then usually that's that's that is a problem that I see. Sometimes, the problem is actually the third act where everything has been sort of interesting and fun and games. And you know, it's trucking along in the second half, but then there's no clever. There isn't a clever resolution. There's just sort of achieving resolution, you know, they get the treasure, they get the girl they live happily ever after. But there wasn't an interesting way of getting that treasure or the girl are living happily ever after. And the writers just hoping that the audience will be okay with that. And I don't think audiences like to be cheated out of a third act. So, so that could be a problem as well.

Jason Buff 19:46
It seems like a lot of times, screenwriters will keep setting up things and setting up things and making things like oh, well, I'm going to throw something in, it's going to make you it'll pull you into the story and make you more interested but it's not paid off at the end. There's nothing that it really leads to.

Alex Ferrari 20:02
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Pilar Alessandra 20:11
You're absolutely right. I think too, that's sort of the secret to coming up with a clever ending is mining, whatever you created in the first half. And so writers get stuck because they think that they have to come up with something completely out of thin air. And it's like, no, just look, look behind you. What did you invent along the way, the smallest thing could be an incredible payoff. And I think when we see thrillers that work for us, or even romantic comedies that work for us, they're often pulling from something that we didn't expect, but it was there, it was there, it was right in front of our nose. And then they use that to their advantage. In in, in the resolution. And that's what I teach in class. And I find that, you know, I'm constantly surprised when somebody does do it. Well, in a great script, I'm like, Ah, that was a great payoff. And in when I was working for the studios, that would get passed upwards. And now that I'm not, it's it I do see those scripts move on to success.

Jason Buff 21:12
Now, one of the things that full disclosure is that, you know, I'm, I've been working on a screenplay for the last two months, and I got your book in order to, to talk to you about it, you know, and I actually when I once I started reading it, it kind of blew me away, because it's exactly the kind of thing that I need, because I'm a very disorganized all over the place kind of person. And I absolutely love the concept of just being able to have somebody guide you through and say, Okay, let's focus on what's the logline. What's the idea? What's this? And what you know, talking about the third act, one of the things that completely made the screenplay, about 100 times better was the concept of working backwards from the third act. And it was just like, it was so great. Yeah,

Pilar Alessandra 22:01
TV writing. And, you know, over the years, my work has changed from just screen, just dealing with screenwriters, I would say half and half of it is it's TV. And that particular exercise works really well for TV writers too. Because if you're plot, plotting out TV, your ACT breaks or everything. And when you're figuring out your TV show, you need to think about act break backwards. So let's say you have five acts, if you ask, what is it, you know, what's my act break going to be? And then do that kind of work of well, how did I get there that will help you figure out how to tell your story. So so I'm very glad that worked for you. Because I do think that it, it is something that can help people in outlining, especially if they're not outline, or

Jason Buff 22:50
How long do you think people should be outlining before they actually jump in. I mean, one of the things that I have found for myself is I'll go through and I'll try to get everything together. But I'll still have a lot of scenes that I haven't worked out. And then once I start writing, it almost becomes like this improvisation, you know, and I want to make sure that I have the tracks laid out and I can kind of stay there. But I kind of go into these wild ideas, all of a sudden, I'll invent a character over here, and I'll have this happen over there. And it's like, oh, wait a second, I gotta get better. You know, I'm going off a little bit. But it's also good, I think to have that first draft out there. So you can just start generating all those ideas. You know,

Pilar Alessandra 23:30
I think what you said is perfect. I am not a believer, and 25 Page outlines, I think all you've done then is spend time on a 25 page outline where you could have been writing your screenplay. So in classes and in the book, it's very much what you just said, I provide a blueprint, so that you can see big picture with your with your screenplay or with your TV, pilot. And then as you're writing, I think you're right, sometimes the characters go a place you didn't expect. Now, if they're starting to go in a place that could completely modify that outline and you like it, go back into the blueprint, adjust it a little bit so that you can see what that butterfly effect is going to be. And then okay, you've got a new blueprint to work with, and go from there. But but your outline should be something that is changeable. Because I agree your writing is going to change that story as you go you sometimes to never really know until you're actually writing it.

Jason Buff 24:35
Do you find that people when they're writing their first draft tend to say, Oh, wait, wait, wait, I had an idea. And they want to go back and start changing things

Pilar Alessandra 24:44
Going backwards thing, it can be a problem. It's not so much that they usually go back and say, Oh, I had an idea. It's usually that they want to make whatever they did just perfect before they move on. And what ends up happening are those perfect first acts that we talked about, and those Oh, God, I'm so tired third acts. So I, I, if you if you have an idea, and you're like, I want to change the first app, because the idea now is is the better one to help you move forward, by all means, do it, just don't spend a lot of time rewriting all the stuff around it, just change that idea so that you can see now how it's going to retrigger. The second act,

Jason Buff 25:28
That's the mistake that I made for a very, I ended up rewriting a screenplay for almost a year and a half that I would go in, and I would watch a movie. And I'd be like, Oh, I really liked the tension in the scene and kind of like what's going on here. And I would be like, maybe I can use that. And I would go back and like, start changing the screenplay around a little bit. And it just became this gigantic mess. And so now that I write, when I write now, it's more pay a lot more attention to the outlining process and making sure that I don't get into it and say, oh, I want to change things, you know, halfway through,

Pilar Alessandra 25:58
Right! You got to get to the end, in my classes. It's all about in the first draft class, it's all about, you got to move forward and just finish this, we can go back and make a pretty later can go back and nuance it later. But it doesn't matter if you're most beautiful writer in the world, if you never had anything done.

Jason Buff 26:14
Now, in your classes, do you find that there are certain different approaches to screenwriting? Terms of personalities?

Pilar Alessandra 26:21
Okay. Yeah, I would say if I've got 30 students, there's 30 different ways in and there should be there should be you know, everybody's got to have their own style and their own stamp. So that's why again, it's important to loosely outline and not get hung up on saying to people, certain plot points have to be at certain pages, I believe, because they don't have to be, your story should be unique in its telling, not only in its subject matter. So we can talk about patterns that have been in successful movies and TV shows. But then, once you know that, once you feel confident in your outline, you should just go and see what happens. So yeah, there's a million ways to tell the story, fortunately, and that's what keeps keeps us watching movies and TV, because we just never know what the next approach is going to be.

Jason Buff 27:19
Do you find that some people are more into the structure side of it, and then other people are just more more like me, that are just like more creative and not really like? I mean, I remember I had a conversation with Cory Mandel. Intuitive versus conceptual. Yeah, that's what I was talking about.

Pilar Alessandra 27:37
Yeah, I love that. I love that approach that he has. And, you know, you can, you can say the dummy version of it, which I'll say, which would be like, inside out or outside. And you know, and there are the conceptual people. Those are the outside and people, the people who see big picture and see the outline, and then have a hard time sometimes finding the scenes and they have to work at the dialog and they have to really work at their craft. And then they're the people who are, as he calls it, the intuitive people I call it the inside out people who Korea's way smarter than I, the people who love their dialogue, know their scenes, but have a hard time seeing the big picture. And certain times can get lost in the minutia. And in, in my classes, I like to think that we do both at one time. I'll start everybody big picture. But as we are fleshing out the big picture, the craft issues are coming in, and we're dealing with them as we go. So that you're sort of having a flip between both minds. And, and you're not abandoning one over the other. But you really do have to get strong at both. And I think that's why the experienced writers over time have done that.

Jason Buff 28:56
I always think of it like, you know, somebody who's a right handed person having to sit there and try to write with their left hand for, you know, a couple of days to start strengthening that up.

Pilar Alessandra 29:06
It doesn't have to be as difficult as that. It could be 10 Your right hand do two things that one time. Can you multitask, you know, and anybody who has texted somebody, while they're writing an email, and posting Facebook, you're doing three things at one time, where you can probably look big picture out your script, and right from within, without having to completely go to your left hand. You know what I mean? It doesn't have to be as foreign as that.

Jason Buff 29:42
Now, can we talk a little bit I know you talk a lot about loglines. And I'm sure that you're probably a little tired of you mind explaining the importance of having a long, long logline and how that guides you as a writer,

Pilar Alessandra 29:55
No screenwriting teachers ever tired of talking about love lines, God, we love our love lines.

Alex Ferrari 30:02
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Pilar Alessandra 30:11
I think the reason that that everybody's so hung up on them is they serve a purpose for the writer and they serve a purpose for the listener for the writer, knowing what your hook is. And being able to articulate that in one line means that you always have a thesis statement you can go back to whenever you're lost in your writing process. So you can go oh my god, where am I look at your logline and say, Oh, that's what I wanted. That's what my intention was. So that's why it's important for the writer. For the listener. It's important because it's a mini pitch, we get an we get an idea right away of the kind of movie or TV show you're going for. And what's special about it, what's special in the what's a special idea? Not what's special fanatically, although that should bubble through, you know, what's that cool idea that we haven't thought about before. We want to explore more. And that's what happens in a logline. And that's why it's important.

Jason Buff 31:09
What is the key? Do you think to creating like, if you're a little bit lost? Are there some ways that you can create your logline or figure it out, because a lot of people will be will write screenplays, and they're in the middle of the story and what you know, one of the common things that you'll do is go up and be like, what what is your story about? You know, and and for whatever? I mean, people would do that to me, and I just be like, Well, do you have half an hour? Play? And I never, it wasn't until I started focusing on that idea of creating an idea logline that I, you know, I can be like, Oh, well, I really need to know how to say this quickly.

Pilar Alessandra 31:47
And it's about is actually a good way in to find your logline. What's your story about, it's about a person who experiences this thing. So they have to do so and so, or it's about a person who wants to do so something in a particular way, or it's about this group of people who in their attempt to do such and such end up in conflict. So, yes, just starting with it's about is is a great way in but yes, your the answer to that question is usually a sentence is not have a half an hour? Yeah,

Jason Buff 32:18
Can you walk through a little bit of how to deal with X structure and just structure in general for how to lay out their story?

Pilar Alessandra 32:26
Yeah, you know, I have a second edition of coffee break screenwriter. No, no, no, this was a bit. Yeah. But I just want to tell you what's

Jason Buff 32:34
Alright, well buy the book.

Pilar Alessandra 32:35
No, no, no, there's something that's gonna be in there that that I'm using in classes. Now that's not in the first one. And I can tell it to you right now, you don't have to buy the second edition at all. But I want to tell you, it's, it's just the idea that for screenplay structure, all those books, everything we've been talking about all the analysis really comes down to, in my opinion, for things, trauma, training, trials and triumph. And the idea is that in Act One, if you will, or the beginning of your pilot, trauma is that thing that sort of traumatized as a character into a new experience, and it can be positive, it can be negative, or it could be positive, falling in love with the trauma, then the training is kind of an on the job kind of training, where you're sort of learning about your new experience or your new environment by doing. And that can be seen as you know, the first half of Second Act or the first part of the middle for your pilot, then we've got trials, which is a real push back and testing. Really, you think you know what you're doing? Oh, yeah, well, here's this big conflict that's going to happen deal with that. And then we've got triumphs and which doesn't have to be happy ever after is just that solving of the problem that we talked about some kind of closure. And in a pilot that tends to be sort of a mini solving of the problem with a greater question asked. So trauma training trials and triumphs. You asked my take on structure, that's pretty much what it is. Tr words that I can say really quickly, and that sounds kind of cool. I like it. Thank you.

Jason Buff 34:16
You can put it on a shirt. Yeah, yeah. It kind of reminds me of the hero's journey a little bit.

Pilar Alessandra 34:22
Yeah. And I think it's sort of that idea of what's everybody saying? You know, we're all trying to say it a different ways. Well, I think you're really out of those four things. There you go.

Jason Buff 34:31
Okay, moving on. One of the things that I struggle with a lot is not so much the second act, but what you have in your book is the second second act.

Pilar Alessandra 34:40
That's that be that middle part for you? Yeah.

Jason Buff 34:44
Now that it seems like a lot of kind of screenplays, that's where they die in.

Pilar Alessandra 34:48
Well, that's where that trials part comes in. And it is that pushback. And that pushback can be from an antagonist, where somebody goes, You know what I see you Turning on the job and I don't like it, I don't want you to accomplish a goal, I'm going to do something really big. So enact to be, you might be thinking, Okay, wait a minute, somebody is really going to try and stop them in a major way. Or sometimes it's a characters flaw, that's the push back, you know, the character was doing really well, and even even sort of, you know, dealing with a flaw or overcoming it, but something about their nature just screwed it up, their flaw was triggered, and that's the push back. Sometimes it's an event that happens, we talked about that midpoint event that happens right before that section that focuses the main character and forces them now to really accomplish one mission, instead of several little moments of fun and games. And that can make act to be feel feel more important as well. And if you look at that, as pushed back, it's, it's the idea that, that that person now has this mission, and that's going to be really hard, is that they were learning on the job, they thought they got it, okay, now they have to do this. So those would be some ways I would be thinking about to heighten act to make it interesting and different. So that the reader doesn't go oh, here we are more than

Jason Buff 36:18
One of the things that I think a lot of writers get lost in. And one of the things that you guys do, I think a really good job of on the podcast is talk is analyzing what people are writing, how they've put it together and how if somebody is going over the top in terms of explaining what the details are in the room, every painting on the wall and everything like that, what what do you in terms of rewriting so that people are actually making progress? What is your advice for them,

Pilar Alessandra 36:47
I'm a big believer of essence statements? So instead of you said, you said, you know, all this stuff in the wall, and you know, the set decorating, so instead of set decorating your environment? Is there a comparison you have Is there a way of of describing it in one sentence, that is the personality of the room, the essence of the room. So I think an example that I use is, you know, Bill's office screams CEO. So if a if a room is if an office is screaming CEO, you know that we've got a big desk and a huge cheer and an imposing environment. And, you know, diplomas all over the wall, something like that, the set decorator can do their job, you don't have to say they're all those things. The personality is just there screaming CEO. So I'm looking for those personality descriptions for environment for your rewrite, an essence of character instead of just physical lysing them, those kinds of things, help paint the picture and make your writing better.

Jason Buff 37:53
One of the things I love about doing the podcast is I get to do a lot of research. So you know, I've been watching some of your presentations that are on YouTube. And I really loved what you what you said about you don't want to you want to make sure characters aren't just saying what they're thinking, you know, and that's a problem that people get into. It actually made me It reminded me of that. I don't know if you ever saw that SNL sketch with Joe Montana, where he just walks in and he's a guy that can only say what he thinks.

Joe Montana 38:21
You know, honestly, I could talk to you for days. The ad like the jumper bones.

Leslie 38:28
Same here, you know, I haven't even noticed the time where she jumped my bones.

Joe Montana 38:34
Whoa, I didn't realize how late it was. You know, you're welcome to spend the night here in the living room. If she says yes, I'm home free.

Leslie 38:44
Gee, you know, I really shouldn't. I don't want to seem to trampy

Joe Montana 38:49
Wow. Suit yourself. Okay, I will. Oh, great. That's my roommates do what a time for him to show up. Terrific.

Leslie 39:05
I'd love to meet him. And oh, no, he's gonna ruin everything.

Joe Montana 39:09
I think he really likes to is absolutely the most sincere, genuine, straightforward person you'll ever want to meet a real honest guy. What a jerk. He is.

Leslie 39:20
He sounds really nice. Yeah, it sounds boring.

Joe Montana 39:24
Oh, here he is. Hey, Stu, come on in. Oh,

Stuwart 39:30
I hope I'm not disturbing you. I hope I'm not disturbing them.

Joe Montana 39:39
God, he's gonna scare her away. This is Leslie. Leslie. Sue.

Stuwart 39:43
Hi. I'm very glad to meet you. I'm very glad to meet her.

Leslie 39:50
Nice to meet you. Guys.

Joe Montana 39:54
Leslie was going to sleep in the living room.

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Joe Montana 40:07
Unless that's a problem for you, in which case she could sleep in my room and I could sleep on the floor. Come on, you idiot helped me out.

Leslie 40:15
You know, maybe it would be better if I stayed in dance room because we don't want to inconvenience you.

Stuwart 40:20
Hey, it's fine with me if you stay in the living room won't bother me at all. It's fine with me if she stays in the living room. It doesn't bother me at all.

Joe Montana 40:29
Thanks a lot, Stu. Yeah, thanks a lot. Jerk.

Leslie 40:34
You know, you are so sweet. Boy. Yes, this guy lame.

Joe Montana 40:39
Well, listen, Stu, I think Leslie and I are gonna stay up a while and talk. So I guess we'll see you tomorrow.

Stuwart 40:44
Great. See you tomorrow. Great. I'll see them tomorrow.

Leslie 40:51
Listen, we'll talk quietly so as not to disturb you. Okay.

Stuwart 40:55
Oh, you won't disturb me. I'll be in my room masturbating. I'll be masturbating.

Jason Buff 41:06
It just call us. I'll send you a link to it. But it's like a thing that people, you know, if you're reading a screenplay, it's like, you know, I'm angry at you for this? Well, I think because you did this. But you know what I mean? So he talked a little bit about dialogue and the way people you know, use dialogue that's not just like on the nose and the different kinds of dialogue I guess

Pilar Alessandra 41:26
You're awesome. You know exactly what you're talking about. The the the fact that a lot of people don't understand that on the nose means saying what you absolutely feel it's so weird for, for a grown up to say exactly what they feel like we've learned how to lie. That's, that's what being a grown up is about. We've learned to say, wow, it's great to see you instead of oh, God, I can't believe it's you again. Because we're in such a civilized society. And, and, you know, that's why with comedy, often, the comedy comes out of somebody who's simply unfiltered, who's just telling the truth. So if you look at one example I given in classes, I show a scene from Silver Linings Playbook. And you know, what makes those characters so incredibly quirky. And funny, is the fact that they're in a romantic comedy. And they're saying things like, you know, there's they're just speaking the truth to each other. And it's just so weird and unfiltered and wrong. That is hilarious.

Actors 42:31
Okay, so coming over you okay with that? Sister, Tiffany, Tiffany and Tommy? Just Tiffany? What happened to Tommy? You guys, tell me that? Cops die? How to die. Please don't bring it up. No. How did he died? He said, I let her die. Hey, Tiffany, this is Pat. says no, Tiffany. You have nice. Thank you. I'm not flirting with you. I didn't think you were I just see that you made an effort. And I'm gonna be better with my wife and working on that. When I acknowledge her beauty. I never used to do that. And do that now, because we're gonna be better than ever. Nikki is practicing how Tommy die. What about your job? I just got fired, actually. Oh, really? How? I mean, I'm sorry. How that happened? Does it really matter?

Pilar Alessandra 43:26
It's, it's I should say. It's a completely new take on traditional romcom. Right. So yeah, I think that you have to be careful that if you're writing dialogue, and it's not intended to be funny, and somebody is just saying what's on their mind, it's going to seem really cheesy. It's going to seem like you know, Oh, I feel this mixture of attraction and revulsion right now. It's like, really, I Are you a human being? Don't you know how people really talk? Which is the lie. You know, instead of saying I'm feeling this mixture of a Jackson and revulsion, they might just say hello. And the the action underneath would show the subtext. You know, they might do something to express how they really feel. But that line itself is as simple as Hello. I hope that makes sense.

Jason Buff 44:22
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the, you know, as a screenwriter, you're always looking for things, to make your audience curious, to make them want to know more and to really pull them through the story. And you know, Spielberg is great at doing that. You always want to know what's going to come next. And when you when you have characters who aren't giving up everything and that you're, you know, maybe at some point, you're going to figure out what is actually going through their brain but I mean, it's, it's a really important thing, I think, to make people wonder, I wonder what that person actually is thinking, you know, versus what they they say,

Pilar Alessandra 44:55
You know, it's a great scene to go back to an old classic Spielberg scene. You that I just think shows that I don't know there's there's more subtext and subtlety in certain Spielberg movies then then people give those movies credit for the mashed potato scene in, in crawl. Yeah, you know, I love the mashed potato scene. Because there you are at a family dinner. And this guy becomes obsessed with building a mountain out of his mashed potatoes right in front of his family. And they're looking at him like he's the craziest guy in the world. When he looks up, one of the kids is crying. The mom's mouth is a game. And all he's been doing is showing what's in his head by playing with his mashed potatoes. And it's a great scene. It's just, it's, it just sort of expresses it all. Without having to completely talk about it. Now, it does trigger him to finally say, Okay, this is what's going on with daddy. But, but the story is really told before he actually says that.

Jason Buff 46:06
Yeah. Is that the same scene where he's like, you kids might have noticed the dead?

Actors 46:11
Yeah. No, cool. Well, I guess you've noticed something strange with Dan. It's okay. Still can't describe it. When I'm feeling when I'm thinking. This means something.

Pilar Alessandra 46:54
But if you started to see in the data, you kids might have noticed and blah, blah, blah, blah, would feel artificial. It would feel on the nose, we needed the expression of what was in his brain through activity first. And that triggers him to finally have to admit, okay, this is what's going on.

Jason Buff 47:09
Yeah, I mean, I think something that I did back in my early screenwriting life is I would try to make things sound natural, and how people you know, you're like, Okay, I want it to be real. So I'm going to, I'm going to write like, people actually talk. But at the same time, it's like, you can't do everything in your scripts, it has to be deliberate, you know, it has to be moving you towards something. So I would just sit there and write, you know, two people talking to each other. And then this would happen, then that would happen. In my mind. I was like, Oh, I'm just setting up this world. But it wasn't, there was no point to it.

Pilar Alessandra 47:40
Right! And, and how people really talk, I'm not saying that people in movies shouldn't talk the way people really, really talk, there needs to be an authenticity to the voice. But if we included every, um, and stutter, and you know, and all those things that we do, it would be really difficult to watch. Which is why we added a lot from the tops and bottoms of scenes, because often it takes us so long to get to the point where with scene work on screen, we're able to get to the point much quicker. And we can lop off all that hemming and hawing that gets us there.

Jason Buff 48:20
Now one of the another thing in your book that's really helped me a lot is the concept of goal, action and conflict. As you go through your scene, can you talk a little bit about that, and the importance of, you know, breaking things down into those idea of goal action and the conflict that it calls,

Pilar Alessandra 48:38
It's one of the ways I get people to outline and just figure out their central beats, so they can figure out what their story is. I asked, okay, well, you take all those scenes that you think are this part of the story, and ask yourself, What's the goal? What does the character want to do? What's the activity? What do they actually do? Not what do they think or feel or plan? And then what's the complication? What gets in their way? And if you can do that big picture, you can start to find your major beats. But you can also do that, in your scenes in terms of what is your character wants in the scene? And what and how do they intend to get it? So yeah, it can be done in the macro. It can be done in the micro, but it always sort of keeps you on story. So yeah, it says something I would just recommend, as far as outlining and for rewriting

Jason Buff 49:27
When you mentioned the idea that it's a macro and a micro way of doing things, what I ended up I was going through and I was putting together the different you know, in the book, it breaks it up into first act, second act, second, act B and third act. And so what I ended up doing though, was I found that even in a moment by moment level, I was looking at it, you know, so I would have like five or six different moments in the first act alone where I was asking myself, Okay, here's this character, what is their goal? What do they want? What is the action that they're taking to get that goal and then what conflict is that causing

Alex Ferrari 50:01
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Jason Buff 50:10
And it caused the scenes to be so much more dynamic. And you understood the characters much more.

Pilar Alessandra 50:16
I'm so glad that worked for you. I don't know if I want to go around going. It's the GAC system. A little bit,

Jason Buff 50:23
I got money making shirts. Can you talk just for just a second about once somebody has a final screenplay once you've worked with them, once you've gotten it all, like ready? What is kind of the next phase after that?

Pilar Alessandra 50:36
So I think are you talking about sort of like, how would you push a tour to sail?

Jason Buff 50:40
Yeah, I mean, I guess the idea is that a lot of people that listen to this, and you know, there's a couple of things I wanted to go into that I want, just in terms of like people who are not in Los Angeles who want to ride and people who are trying to sell screenplays. Are you finding that people that you're working with are trying to build a career as screenwriters like full time screenwriters? Or is it something that's kind of like a part time thing? And is it a viable option for people? I mean, what what can they do? Once they have a screenplay that you sign off on that you say, Okay, this is really good.

Pilar Alessandra 51:11
Well, let's talk about the people who don't live in LA first. There's all kinds of different feelings about competitions. But my feeling is, why not. When you submit to competitions, competitions, know, first of all, that you might not be in LA person, which actually is to your advantage, because they're looking looking for diverse writers. And that means diversity of experience in place as well. So that gives you an advantage. Another thing is, it's a writing competition, not a selling competition. So competitions are looking at your craft and and not necessarily you know, whether or not they want to take this on and thinking about oh, but there's a competing project. So both of those things can work in your favor. And once you do win a competition like that, it's become a bit of a vetting situation for agents and managers who may not have their own personal reader reader pool, and use competitions to as a reader pool and a way to help them find undiscovered material, so and undiscovered writers. So I do think that it is worth submitting to competitions, you know, high level competitions, not necessarily you know, your friends, cousins, competition, who's paying me 50 bucks. And you know, you want to make sure that there's some kind of pot of gold at the end of that rainbow for sure. So I would do that.

Jason Buff 52:36
Are there any competitions that come to mind?

Pilar Alessandra 52:39
Well, the nickel fellowship is definitely the most prestigious that's through the academy, Austin, Austin Film Festival, screenwriting competition is also prestigious. The kind of the ones that are typically time for people, those have been around the longest. And that usually means that they had the most success behind them. Blue Cat screen Screencraft is doing a good job as a new screenwriting competition because they are genre oriented. And that means that it doesn't have to just be a drama that wins because they have their own comedy or horror category just for those films. So So I think that's a good one. There's also a lot more open for TV now for competitions, and short films to a lot of short film competitions are out there, that will give you money to make your film, which is awesome, because making your stuff is also a great way to get people's attention. If you're from outside of LA, and you have a good camera and a really tight, smart script. And I'd be thinking about, you know, really short form content. And you feel like you could make it without mortgaging your house and put it on YouTube. And it's something that could get eyes on it. That's another way to go. People are looking for talent online. Another way to go if you're, you know, the the pitch fests, a lot of cynicism around them, that and I can understand because there's this sense that they can be a little bit of a circus. But once you are one on one with somebody, that's your opportunity, it can be a pretty intimate, intimate moment. And it's an opportunity for face time with industry that you might not have otherwise, I think it's replaced the query letter as far as being sort of a cold look at your work. So all those things can be good for people who don't live here. For people who do live here. They're doing the same thing, but also they're looking for who do they know who knew who knows somebody and they're trying to mine their contacts. And in that case, what they're usually doing is saying, hey, person who knows my friend. Not Can you read my screenplay, but I, could I take you out for coffee? And can I pick your brain a little bit? And if you make that relationship by the end of coffee, they might say, Yeah, sure, send me a script. But you don't want to start with a favor. You want to start with mining relationships. And that's what people in LA do. And why the caricature of that is known as, you know, as as being very smoothie. But really, you know, it's how an LA person moves up is they have to make their relationships and a lot of people in the industry live out here, and they got to make friends. You know, and I think making friends is actually not a bad thing. So yeah, so that's, that's my advice for moving things forward, just a little bit of it. Because the people who come on my show, they always have interesting stories about how they got in. And, inevitably, it's always some kind of random moment. But the only thing that ties them together is that their work was ready. When they got that opportunity, they had a great kick ass script, which is why I spent tend to stay on the content side trying to get people to write a kickass script.

Jason Buff 56:14
If people need to have a body of work. I mean, should they have like, some people say three screenplays or four screenplays that they can show?

Pilar Alessandra 56:22
I don't know if there's a magic number, but I do know that the first thing somebody says after they've read something is what else do you got? So you want to make sure that you're at least knee deep and something else before you, you know, paper, your script all over town? Because if the answer is no. You know, at least be like, Yeah, I certainly do got something else. And as soon as I'm done polishing it up in a room and finished the effort

Jason Buff 56:57
Well, you know, I know you gotta go so what? How can just so people can get in touch with you? I assume most people have already heard of on the page. But what what is? What's your info?

Pilar Alessandra 57:08
I don't know. I don't know if most people have on the page. That'd be cool. If they have but you haven't it just so you know. Yeah, there is a podcast called on the page. It's on iTunes. But also, I think a catch all for my classes, the podcast, my book. Also have some recorded classes for people who live out of town. It's just go to on the page.tv That's my website. It's got it all there. And and I'd love to work with you someday.

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BPS 293: Independent Filmmaking, the Hard Way with Josh Folan

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Alex Ferrari 2:21
I like to welcome to the show Josh Folan man How you doing Josh?

Josh Folan 3:22
Good, man. Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 3:24
Oh, thanks for being on the show. Brother. I'm a fan of your book. Still filmmaking the hard way I feel like we might it I feel that we might have been cut from the same cloth a bit because you're as jaded and have as much shrapnel as I do probably this

Josh Folan 3:44
is their picture I don't know it's all relative but I certainly have my share

Alex Ferrari 3:47
Yeah, your battle hardened sir. As they say you are battle hardened so I

Josh Folan 3:53
did 11 years into our 13 years in yc and then two more in LA now so 15 years on those in those two places doing this shit yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
Yeah, you've got you've got some scars got some scars. So first before we get started, man, how did you get into the business?

Josh Folan 4:09
Oh, I started I mean I backgrounds fine. I went to school finance. So have states and work briefly and that before moving out to New York for in front of the camera stuff, and I was there a couple of months Actually, I booked something for comedy central kind of sent me down the acting path, took some classes, will you mess for studios and some on camera stuff got a job on one of the soaps and working on there. I was on there for like three years on my children. ABC. And it was it was good. It was you know, reoccurring you five day player thing. It wasn't a contract or anything but it was a nice first real job for sure. And while I was on that show another guy and I started producing theater with the actual important soap stars there. They sell tickets and have fans that are pretty rabid. So we did okay with that and towards the tail end of my run on that. show a I did some really bad horror film six kids locked in a house kind of thing. And the other male lead and I had a had similar horror thriller kind of scripts and interned i evety, we decided to go out and try to raise financing for the two of them at once, as if having two products. So obviously in tears, because it's

Alex Ferrari 5:19
easier, it's much easier to get money for two projects, right?

Josh Folan 5:24
That actually would have been maybe smarter. We were thinking that just like having two options, like pick one, like they're, you know, apples and oranges or something. Did

Alex Ferrari 5:33
you think that at any moment, it was going to just like, like, when should the money drop? It should be dropping? Of course,

Josh Folan 5:40
you know? Well, I don't know. I honestly, it's so long ago. And I tend to be a I wouldn't say glass half empty, but the glass is exactly 50%. Right. So I don't expect great thing happen. I anticipate here in my nose. But there's certainly no way you can anticipate the number and the type of nose you're going to hear. Before you tried to raise financing for for film for sure. Especially with no experience, like, you know, it's it's like why in God's name? Would anyone give you money to make a movie until you shown you can do that activity? To bring it to fruition? You know what I mean? Like, why would anyone do that? So, yeah, it's it's not easy to start. And certainly we had our difficulties. But But

Alex Ferrari 6:23
isn't it isn't it insane that our business is the I mean, you don't hear someone going, I'm gonna go build a house. I need you to give me $400,000 I'm gonna go but I've never built a house ever. But I've seen HGTV. And I feel strongly that I have a vision and I think we can do it. And I know running

Josh Folan 6:46
with everything they say on the shows I wish would be set.

Alex Ferrari 6:49
But that's kind of the that's kind of the insanity of filmmakers in general. Like we I mean, I'm, I'm guilty of it, you obviously were guilty of it, we all

Josh Folan 6:58
have this, there's no way you get to that first step that first rung on the ladder without that blind leap of faith and just bumping your head into a wall until it happens, you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:05
and then every once in a while, that guy or that gal gets the million dollars because I've worked on those projects. Sure, it's some dumb money, said, Hey, I want to I want to invest in this kid. Let's go for it. And I've been in those projects and you just see this. Rarely does it come out. Okay. I mean, you're talking about miniscule.

Josh Folan 7:28
Yep, just the company even into even into my career that the project that I'm covering in the book here, I mean, to that we shot in 2015 17 and 18 Yeah, and that's, you know, over six years into my career on the first one there so I've been doing it for a while and done enough films to not shoot they're like I have no idea what I'm doing and even in those cases the money came to every one of them and like random ass unexpected ways that were almost exclusively a product or a function of just the the past until something bites and that's you know, you'll collect your nose to collect your nose Simple as that and that makes the the yes that much better. But understand that you're going to be collecting a lot of those and you know, you never know what the yes is going to be so expect knows

Alex Ferrari 8:16
expect those and expect to start collecting as many of them as possible because the more you collect the closer you are to someone saying yes, precisely.

Josh Folan 8:24
And it's quite law of averages

Alex Ferrari 8:26
on the lower edges and it could take not only it's not gonna take six months, it could take three or four years sometimes especially when you're starting out and don't have a track record. Now when you are so you're going to start your movie so let's say there's filmmakers listening right now that Okay, we have this movie we want to try to go raise money should you defined the audience for that film prior to the development of it even like should you know who you're going to sell this to?

Josh Folan 8:57
I think you know there's it never hurts it's never bad to do the work it's never a bad plan. I think with smaller projects you know it split first time like we you know we made a copy but God only knows how many pages it was business plan with all these sales projections where you're depending on completely unfounded comparison projects that was a horror film in your mind at the time it was a horror film oh well the my very first film was you know we it was we call it it's a it's a love story. It happens to happen in a really fucked up dark place between a serial killer and a prostitute was my personal so we were able to market it.

Alex Ferrari 9:35
So in the projections did you use Blair Witch?

Josh Folan 9:39
We probably did.

Alex Ferrari 9:41
Everyone, everywhere. I'm sure we did. Every everyone uses Blair Witch, a paranormal activity. Like the biggest unicorns in the last three decades.

Josh Folan 9:51
unicorn is a great word for it. Yeah. And you know, so I mean that Yeah, and honestly, it's just, it doesn't. It's not bad to know that stuff. So when you have the car conversations you have some sort of at least basis, you know, I think it's more important, I find when talking with investors to be wildly, especially going through it now a number of times to be wildly transparent, because it's actually more, I think attention garnering to have a conversation with someone who has money, particularly if there's someone who does any investing with regularity at all, to hear someone sit down, the first thing they say is you need to be okay with losing this money. That's like, that's something that they don't hear. Because they're people who are, you know, people are trying to be sold, or who are being sold things all the time. I don't hear that maybe ever, but let alone as the first thing said in the conversation. So in one in one aspect, it's it just gets attention and get someone to listen to you, maybe that's a, here's these this type of thing all the time, but it's also on us. And if you want to create any sort of longevity in this career, in this in this line of work as a producer, like you don't, especially if someone with money, you don't want to burn that bridge. So if you walk into it being completely transparent about what the the realistic side of this business, and and find people who want to invest in your projects, for a reason other than the independent film businesses about, unfortunately, I don't think in my opinion, you know, in the ultra low budget sector, I'm saying, you know, those projections mean more when more money is at stake when

Alex Ferrari 11:15
started, like bigger stars, or it's play, yeah, use things

Josh Folan 11:18
that actually can be quantified, because you can't quantify so many aspects of these very small projects, you know, it's up to 50k projects, you can't quantify these things with any realistic metric. So trying to qualify them with investors. And and and, and the way you put the project together, in some sort of ultra quantifiable way is completely unrealistic. And then there has to do it

Alex Ferrari 11:42
there. But they're the only way I can even think of doing that is if you have certain cast of involved and then you can use their former, a former projections of what they've made on other films in similar genres. And you can go look, we got lucky, you're not going to get Nicolas Cage in that in that movie. But let's say you get Michael Madsen or Danny Trejo and in that in that world, and you've paid him for a day to come out and shoot out the

Josh Folan 12:07
scenes, and these are quantifiable things in the foreign sales market, sure, but I think, you know, I think even that is, Oh, no, it's a small project. It's super unrealistic, you

Alex Ferrari 12:15
know? No, it isn't, it's, it's something, it's something you might be able to hang your hat on. But it's not something that it's

Josh Folan 12:20
especially if you're working, like I like to make, you know, festival targeted, kind of do clever people in rooms, talking kind of movies that have something to say, it's even more undefinable there, if you want to do Danny Trejo are working in these genre movies, these things that are do have a quantifiable foreign marketplace for them. Where that can be can be determined. But you know, I mean, I talked to sales agents about some of these movies, dramas and stuff. And they're like, it's, I mean, it's an execution base. That's what they call it execution based. So base means that they're not gonna give you shit right now, if you bring me a good movie, and it has something I can sell after you do it. Let's talk money in the development stages, they have no value, realistically, not me. So

Alex Ferrari 13:03
and I noticed that you keep your budgets low, under 250. Now, a lot of filmmakers listening will say, but Josh, I can't make my movie for less than a million. I mean, I just can't I need two and a half million to make this film, I have to have this to make it. I've been preaching from the top of the mountain for such a long time. Like, if you can make your movie for 15 grand, and it looks good. And you can sell it for 30 you are in a business. Right? You're not gonna live off, you can tell

Josh Folan 13:38
if that if you want that to be your mantra, then by all means, have it like you know, I'm not gonna, that's that's, you know, we talked about this kind of the, the film industry is such a, who the hell, you know, you just don't know what's going to happen. And you know, there's things do shoot to the moon sometimes and like, how am I gonna tell anyone what they're doing is wrong. Like, if that's your thing, and you think you can do it that way. And you whether you do or don't have a plan to get there, like, I'm not going to tell you not to do it. I will tell you realistically, someone who that's what the book is like, these are, these are the roadmaps to make your movie. These are three things I did step by step. And that's how I did it. Like, I hope you can learn from that. I can't tell you it's transferable every film project is its own unique problems. And good luck with it. You know, like all you can do is educate yourself as much as possible and bump into the shit you have to bump into on the way to the finish line. Hope you hope you get there. But you know it certainly if you are more realistic about putting together a project, especially if you don't have a lot of experience where you you don't have a track record that is quantifiable, like good luck. But it's a whole lot easier if you meter yourself and come up with an idea that can be done at an executable amount of money that you can convince whoever you have to convince around YouTube to finance it, that either you can make their money back if that is their core project. No. And that's something you have to determine feel and be responsible and honest about when when when you're When you're having these conversations, or if you find someone who's willing to invest in you or wants to invest in art or in the case of after Jane, that's a movie that has a borderline documentary component to it or, or social justice component to it that has, you know, our financing came to that, because it had something to say about something that matter to the women who paid for it. And and you know, they want to make their money back. Of course, everyone, no one wants to lose money. Unless you're I don't know, I shouldn't say that. Who knows?

Alex Ferrari 15:27
No, there's no I've met I've met a couple of those guys are like, Yeah, I just wanted a lot. Can I just come on set my next break, it's gonna make it the taxpayer, I just want to come on set, I want to hang out with the actors, and I want to do the red carpet, and maybe go to a festival or two, this is why I'm giving you $200,000 it happens. You know,

Josh Folan 15:42
that's, that's still not wanting to lose money. But it's not the reason they're investing in it. Exactly. And, you know, yeah, and afternoon was exactly what was absolutely an example of that. They wanted to tell this story about a group of women who advocated for women's reproductive rights in a time when they weren't being properly advocated for or being properly respected by a lot of people, you know what I mean? So that's why we got to make that movie because we found someone who cared about what the movie meant, not because we were trying to create a commercial product that was going to be financially viable in the long run, you know what I mean? Hopefully, we can make it happen that way, in the long run, but who knows, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:19
but who knows, but you have a niche, but you have a niche audience with that. I mean, you have a nice name and a small niche. It's a fairly large niche,

Josh Folan 16:27
especially right now. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 16:29
Especially right now. So it is a timely film. There's an audience for that film. And I think

Josh Folan 16:35
we did incredibly well with festivals and

Alex Ferrari 16:38
I'm sure no, it's a festival darling. So I was like, please,this is perfect.

Josh Folan 16:43
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, the funny thing is, you know, I came on to that after the script stage, for the most part we did we build with it a little right before we shot, but basically, that script was done. When I came on board as producer, and Kate and Rachel, the women who, you know, were the catalyst for, for putting that script together. You know, when they started writing it, it was pre election, they had no idea that it was going to become that. And that's a perfect example. It's another filmmaking lesson to like, the whole idea. When you talk to the sales agents, they'll tell you this thing is hot right now religious, faith films or, you know, films or any money right now, why don't you try to do one of those, and I can help you put that together. And you can chase that. But what are the odds that the thing that is working right now, three years from now, two years from now, when you get this whole thing to the line, and it's right, it's still going to be relevant, it's almost, it's highly unlikely. So you're much better served, in my opinion, making the films that you want to watch, that's what I make, I make movies that I would want to watch. And whatever happens happens, at least I can stand by knowing that. That's the core value of it. You know, that's the core purpose of this. And whatever happens, I have to accept it. But if you chase those things, and it goes wrong, like that's got to be just soul crushing.

Alex Ferrari 17:54
Oh, oh, trust pair about? Oh, yeah, we I think I've been there. I've you know, I, I tried to like when I when I was, I had a project that was floating around the town around town, we had talent attached, we had all this stuff, taking meetings left and right. And it was of the moment, which is, which is funny, because of the moment, it was a little bit ahead of its time. It was like maybe two, three years ahead of its time. And but it was still kind of like that whole vibe of what was going on this action movie I was doing. And then it was just like, oh, nobody wants a female lead action star. Like that's, we can't

Josh Folan 18:28
what you can't get made. You have one now. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 18:31
I mean, I can't You can't do that. It's not there's no box office stuff. So there was that whole thing. And then now it's, it's come back into vogue. So you just, you just don't know, I mean, look, when Passion of the Christ came out. First of all, nobody saw that one coming. And then all of a sudden, faith based, like faith based film started popping up everywhere, because oh, there's a market here. Let's make some money. And that's, that's what what happened. So you just can't, you've never never know. Now, what are a few things you wish you would have known before making your first film?

Josh Folan 19:01
You know, it's actually I just took a project such a short film for the first time film until I quit talking to them about whether or not it was a fit on both sides of the thing. They were asking kind of a similar question to that like what what would you what you know, what, what do we need to know that we don't know? And I'm like, the biggest thing probably you should know is that you need to accept what you don't know and stop trying to fix it. Like don't don't try to anticipate like shits gonna happen it's going to go back days are going to go awry, things aren't going to go according to plan. And the biggest thing you need to do is understand that you need to be open to whatever those constraints end up being and be adaptable. And like you know, you can I am a wildly over the top organized preparation mind individual contingencies for contingencies, etc, etc. So you can do all that and again, just like we were talking about with the the underlying business plan to a project, you should do all that work so you know what it is, know what the skeleton of whatever you're doing is But understand that when you get there on the day of that all goes out the window, just like a shot list like time might run out, you know, we might not be able to get that thing, we lose light, this goes wrong. This issue right now 4 million things can go wrong. So have a plan, but understand that that plan is probably going to be useless on the day of and understand that you have to be able to adapt to whatever the situation is. And there's no preparation for that other than being open minded. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 20:25
Right. And, and I, I noticed that too, because when I've been on set with directors, I always find that the directors who cannot pivot and adjust and roll with the punches, they they crumble, because they like but but I but I need the sun to stop moving. I'm like, well, dude, that's just not the way that works. They're rigid. If you're rigid in the filmmaking process, you're dead. You if Spielberg and Nolan have to worry about the sun, so do you? I mean, now, right? Yeah. And now, not now, not as much with the virtual production of the Mandalorian, where you could have a sunset for 12 hours?

Josh Folan 21:03
Sure, sure. Yeah, it makes something but even that case that you have to zorbing amount of money to facilitate that sort of,

Alex Ferrari 21:08
you still have 12 hours, you still only have 12 hours to get what you need. Yep, I'm sorry.

Josh Folan 21:14
Yep. No, yeah, I mentioned that we're going to ask for Jane, Rachel Carrie, the director that just, you know, first time feature, she done a pilot and a couple smaller projects prior to, but like, I just couldn't, you know, it's, you can say these things, and they might read them in books before they get on set. But you don't know how amenable someone's going to be. So you get there on the day of and you see, how can they actually deal with it? Can they solve that problem with a million people around them, asking them questions, etc, etc. and all that pressure being on him and she just did an amazing job of like, whatever, you know, we had, you know, we shot that a period piece, the late 60s period piece with 7072 locations like I'm 70 something locations, most are at some locations. 74 speaking roles. 24 shoot days, with, you know, a quarter million bucks.

Alex Ferrari 22:04
That was under those under 250. Yeah, oh, yeah. That's, that's impressive

Josh Folan 22:09
period, period cars. I mean, a lot of it, we, you know, we, to her credit to writing the script, she did a good job of keeping things internal, and, you know, contained environments that we could properly dressed, at least to some degree or another to maintain that we obviously weren't getting any sweeping street shots or anything like that with wine period cars, we had a few period cars, and those were their own pain in the ass and very expensive. But, you know, they were they were mitigated to some degree. But yeah, I mean, you know, whatever the with all those variables, whatever the hell came up, she was able to just go, Okay, well, what are our options? You know, and like, that's as a producer that is like that, that's the dream director, thing to come out of their mouth. It's like, what are our options? Let me choose one, you know, as opposed to freaking out and know, those options don't work. You know, which is not the way to approach this stuff. Because you can't it's it's of no benefit to freak out. We're not gonna get to the finish line. If you freak out. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 22:59
And I find that a lot of the A lot of times when you have those limitations, the magic shows up that would never have shown up before if you would have done it as you planned. It's never as good as what happened on the day because this actor Yeah, this act with this camera, this lighting this scenario, this magic, you've got to be there ready to capture the lightning in the bottle and not try to control everything. Unless you're Cooper coffee or Fincher. And then that's fine. And that's their process. But even then, I'm sure there's magic that happens on the day.

Josh Folan 23:32
Yeah, yeah, that's, that's, you know, that's that's how you get there being that creative, like, you know, keeping that muscle going and exercise. As trite as that may sound like that is the way you get good at this stuff is to learn how to adapt and deal with whatever comes up and yeah, the can story I've told probably a million times about that very first feature all God's creatures we looked at we wanted we wanted it we had this movie theater scene and we we want to claw machine in a movie theater lobby. And that was like that was very important that that happened in the movie theater lobby, because they're going to go see movie after it's so important to me at the writer and tell us everyone in the project. And we looked all over still in New York at the time, we looked all over finding a claw machine in the movie theater lobby love to shoot there for literally borderline zero location budget just not happening. Of course, we end up I lived on 100. And I don't know how you know, you're out in New York, but I lived up in Spanish Harlem at the time. And right in the corner. I lived on 100 and 10th. And first between first and second Avenue, and on 100 and 10th. And Second Avenue. There was a bodega with a claw machine outside that I walked by every day in pre production while we're looking for this location, and we couldn't find it. We couldn't find it. We couldn't find it and I was walking around one day and I was like we're making this gritty love story fucked up love story between these two dark people like a serial killer and a prostitute in New York City. It is 100% in line with what we're trying to do here for this scene to happen in this grimy outside some grimy bodega as opposed to in this beautifully lit pretty movie theater lobby. Oh my god, and I go in there Talk to the bodega guy into it in like five minutes, we have a solution. And it ended up catering to what the overall aesthetic of the film was infinitely more so than if we got the thing we thought we needed. You know what I mean? And, and that is a product of problem solving that ended exactly that ended up serving what our end goal really was. And we didn't even know it.

Alex Ferrari 25:17
So gotta be Yeah. Okay. Have that. Yeah, exactly. And have those antennas open. For when that happens. You got to be open to it. Because a lot of times, filmmakers are just like this. And they're closed off. And like, this is my fishing in I my vision that I've been with for six months, a year with this script. This is the only way it can be.

Josh Folan 25:39
I sat in that room all alone, and I had it exactly, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
To be a slot machine in a movie theater. And in the carpet needs to be read, like me like, and that's the stupidity that we do is for me, I did that too. Like we all did that, like, oh, it has to be this and it has to be that. But as you get older, and you do more of these things, you just kind of go doesn't have to be read. I think what we'll have to do we have to have blue, blue, fine. Let's move on.

Josh Folan 26:08
to other industries, though, like, you know, that's a perfect example, like what other industry would you be, you know, that rigid about every aspect of what, you know, what you're trying to do professionally? Like, it's such a weird business and that

Alex Ferrari 26:23
I mean, architecture and construction, I mean, essentially, you can't really freeball a whole lot. Once the construction is going on, like hey, you know what, I thought I wanted to move the wall over there. Like that's one of the businesses,

Josh Folan 26:37
but it's it's not it's certainly not it's it's more, it's not the norm.

Alex Ferrari 26:40
It's no, it's definitely it's definitely not the norm is definitely the norm. And also surgery. I would rather not my surgeon that kind of like, you know, man,

Josh Folan 26:50
I got some friends that work in medical device sales and stuff, and I've heard some crazy stories.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
Now, um, one thing that we that a lot of filmmakers Don't even think about, and it's not talked about a lot is how can a production protect themselves legally? Before going into production in production and post production? Like, what are some of the some tips on how to protect themselves legally, you know, basic stuff. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Josh Folan 27:29
For small budget projects, the best answer to that is good, good, good, good, good friend, that's a lawyer. Right? Of course, that's the answer. Because it's tough to find good legal advice, inexpensively for sure. Um, you know, I mean, you know, do your homework, there's enough at this point, there's no such thing, I think in 2021 of the beautiful things about working in film now as opposed to what it would have been like, pre internet days, which I don't even know most mostly, but listen, this probably came you can see that but you know, when I was first getting started was right kind of infancy stage. And I was like some of the things we had to do location scouting, trying to find some of the some of the things that we need is more production variables. Like without the you know, I don't know how that ever happened without the internet to be honest with you, but Oh,

Alex Ferrari 28:09
I remember it. I'm old enough, sir. Yeah, I remember. Oh, yeah. I'm a bit old. I'm a bit older.

Josh Folan 28:16
My late 20s So I didn't. My my I remember film fucking difficult.

Alex Ferrari 28:21
I remember film I remember filmed. I remember having to go into a dark bag and change film mags. And you only had 10 minutes at a time. It was BB. It was incredible time. It was insane. Eric is it was a barbaric time, where sometimes the PA would open up the can and ruin the last 10 minutes of footage. And you lost six hours. I've been there too. Oh, yes, it was it was a joyous time.

Josh Folan 28:48
Yeah, yeah. Anyway, the point, the point would be that there, you know, there's no such thing as not knowing how to do something anymore, kind of you can find an answer or someone who has the answer. Anywhere, you know what I mean, or about anything really, for the most part, and ask you honestly, if you can't find it on your own. I have found whether it be reaching out to filmmakers about you know, distribution companies they've worked with, or whatever it might be. filmmakers, especially in the dependent sector are very open to having conversations and helping be helpful and like I am wildly, wildly advocate for that, because I think all of our jobs and lives would be much easier if we were more transparent, more helpful, etc, etc. But I don't think there's any shortage of that necessarily. And if you just do the work, to ask people who and you have to do the work to know who has walked whatever that path is that you want to know about? Whether it be a certain legal question, or a certain production question or whatever it might be. But reaching out to those people and asking how to help you do this, like if someone saw some wildly difficult problem, they're probably gonna be all too excited to to tout and talk about how they accomplish this very difficult thing. So asking questions and doing the research, whatever it might be. legal things, or otherwise, is always the answer. If you don't have that lawyer, that free lawyer friend, you know, to just lean on for an easy answer.

Alex Ferrari 30:10
Now, we're going to talk next about my favorite part of the entire production process, which is distribution. So, I know you told me that you've been listening to the podcast for a while and and you heard the whole distributor thing and how that whole thing went down. And you obviously have a lot of experience distribute a distributing your own films, either self or with a traditional distributor. Can you tell us a little bit of story of what happened to which was which film was it that went to traditional? Okay, so that went through traditional distribution

Josh Folan 30:43
and aspartame both did but the better story has played out with catch 22 or So please,

Alex Ferrari 30:48
please enlighten the audience, sir.

Josh Folan 30:51
Right. So, okay, so it gets 22 we shot that. And 2015 did the festival thing for most of 2016, the tail end of 2016. We, we we had it you know, the funny thing about distribution and independent sector is you're not unless you have some film, you know, playing some big boy table festival, you're not gonna they don't these, these offers don't happen in a vacuum, you, they don't come to you at once, where you can weigh them, the pros and cons of each right right alongside each other. That's not how it works, you have to get good at that we're not necessarily good at but understand whatever your goals might be, whether they're fiscal, or, you know, however you want it to be released, if the the company's gonna facilitate and be able to do that the way you want it, be able to gauge what you're being told by these companies, and decide whether or not it meets your expectations slash hope for what for what the distribution of the of your of your project will be. And in our case, we had a bunch come to us over the course of that festival run. And towards the tail end of that we had one come in, that actually had an mg. And it was a company I liked. What the the guy in charge had to say to us, the acquisitions guy was one of eight media up in Toronto, and we ended up going with them. And that was and I want to say October, we signed the deal with we had a target street date of I believe it was January 17 of 2017. So nice round numbers there. And it came out. And they did all nothing they said they were gonna do as far as the digital release goes, there was no theatrical component to that. So then it was just hitting all the platforms. And the way the MG was structured on the project we were supposed to it was going to be do I believe it was two weeks after the the street date, or something like that. And then XYZ maybe two months after said street day, the second half of the payment was due. And, you know, the the whatever the window was, or the date comes on that first payment comes and goes, we don't have our check yet. I email and I'm like, Hey, guys, what's up?

Alex Ferrari 32:50
How are you guys doing? Hey, what's going on?

Josh Folan 32:52
Yeah, like, like, you know, and I was still, it was still early enough in my career. And I hadn't had enough bad things happening to me in the distribution realm where I didn't just expect the apocalypse, you know what I mean? So I was, you know, I

Alex Ferrari 33:06
didn't I hadn't, I hadn't come online yet, sir. I hadn't come online yet. So if not, you would have been better prepared.

Josh Folan 33:13
Oh, yeah what's funny. The very first time we did up deal to also a decent OMG. And, and they you know, they actually did All right, I would say in the long run, they did some foreign stuff that we couldn't have facilitated on our own. But they were very, very old. You know, Old Guard minded. They were always talking to us about DVDs and shit even into like, 2015 2016. And I was like, Why are you saying these words to me? Like these words mean nothing.

Alex Ferrari 33:36
Right, right. Right. Right.

Josh Folan 33:37
Why are we not talking about every digital platform on the planet? So there were, you know, that ended up going its own awry way too, but not nearly as bad as this one did. So anyways, yeah, that that day comes and goes, I emailed him, like, what's up, we get into this long, drawn out, exchange and like, you know, I and in the interest of transparency in the book, like I have a by email recounting of the exchange, like, again, completely transparent. It's a beautiful thing, really, if you like, if you like email vitriol, I recommend checking out that part of it. If nothing else, so. So yeah, so it's just yeah, you know, we two months, it's a two month back and forth with their acquisitions person, their operations person, and they're kind of you know, to their credit, they were always very nice. And they it came down to they were either be they're either lying, albeit nicely, or they were bordering on insolvency. And in either case, I was like, this. That's not a company I want my film with for what we I think the deal was for seven years, five or seven years, you know, they were fairly reasonable on the term, which you can't always get But either way, I didn't, you know, I couldn't have our film. They wouldn't be responsible for me as the producer, to our investors to keep our film in bed with a company that is going to either be lying or about to go about the fold. No, so like, it came down. To me, you know, I again googling talking about your legal problems, I googled I found a letter A terminate a distribution agreement termination letter that I swatched

Alex Ferrari 35:13
you paid homage to you pay you paid.

Josh Folan 35:17
Do you want to our to our needs, and, you know, to their credit, they were actually very, they you know, they tried to talk me out of it a couple of times right there towards the end of it, but they eventually relinquish whites, we actually, we end up getting the first half of the payment of the of the MG, it was 7500 bucks. And they sent us the first 3750 in between these two in that first two week window and the missing letter, I did get the check. It comes in, it comes in an envelope, there are two checks on the envelope. One is for 18 and 75. Another for 1875. And at first I open the envelope, and I'm like, that's kind of weird why the two checks. And then as I go to the bank, I get to the ATM to deposit them. And I see one is post dated. So one one was dated for her never sent it. Oh, yeah. And the other one is post dated for two weeks out or something. And he I mean, you know that that's one of the fun parts of the email chains. I'm like, Guys, you got to be kidding me. Like, you know, I wait for way longer than I'm supposed to to get the checks at all. And then when I'm supposed to, like, Are you out of your mind? You know, so what is the question here?

Alex Ferrari 36:18
So everyone listening, if you get a check, that's post dated. And it's 18 $175 that's generally not a good sign that your distributors having problems paying you 18 $100 is is a red flag. It's a red flag

Josh Folan 36:39
to put it up and yeah,

Alex Ferrari 36:40
so So continue, sir.

Josh Folan 36:42
So yeah, so you know, I sent the letter that we ended up getting to keep that money they didn't they didn't even ask for that back, which is, you know, not bad. For a couple of months, I guess of anguish, three, three months or so of anguish. And then but it you know, it created the problem of course, we have to and they were rather expedient about that too. Again, like it's it's surprising for something that went so awry, like I don't have it could have went a lot worse as far as the the personal side of it went the exchanges could have been a lot meaner, I suppose for spurred deal going this wrong. But yeah, they relinquish the rights and they have to get it off all the platforms. And then that's not always the cleanest process. You know, so then getting them relisted, in some cases, you can't even relist for some platforms, that was part of their like, that was one of the angles they took with trying to talk me out of it. They're like, I think it was iTunes, and maybe Hulu, they were saying, and then you know, was even on Hulu at the time. Like we're talking them at least there. Yeah, they were they were saying that. Yeah, there's some platforms you can even get back on? I'm like, Yeah, well, that's, you know, what's, like, 10% of rather 100% of nothing is a lot less than 10% of something, you know, right? Like, that's.

Alex Ferrari 37:48
Yeah, what was it? What was the deal? What was the deal? Was 2575 2080 3070 6040

Josh Folan 37:54
7030, I'm pretty sure was the split and our marketing cap might have been? That's it's all in the book, I'd have to look at it to remember, we're talking, you know, a few years ago. But yeah, I mean, you know, I had done all my homework as far as keeping the main deal points. And that's something I talked extensively about the book to understanding what those major deal points are. We didn't have a performance clause, like we talked about before we jumped on, like, that's a really good thing to talk about these days that I would certainly, particularly if they want some sort of term, that's anything more than a half decade, honestly, I would want some sort of performance clause at this point, because there's just, there's just no reason to sign that unless there's an exorbitant mg, of course, that makes it.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
And if there isn't a job in mg, you can almost guarantee that that's the only money you'll ever see. For sure.

Josh Folan 38:36
The entire idea of recouping it all for sure.

Alex Ferrari 38:39
There's no way you'll ever, if you get a $200,000 upfront mg in today's marketplace, you're counting,

Josh Folan 38:46
it's not going to go in your favor going for

Alex Ferrari 38:47
I hate to tell you, I hate to tell you, but there's that's just not gonna work out. And I was telling you this story, and I'll tell you, I'll tell you, I'll say it now the story of a filmmaker friend of mine who I was consulting that was a little too, too informed for this big distributor distributor who shall remain nameless, but that we all know. And that is, you know, that throws up 40 movies a month, if not more, and they were offering them an mg and it was this whole deal. And I kept telling him, well bless push them, let's see how far we can get with them. And the second he asked for a performance clause. He they said, You know what, we're just going to pass on this after after, like, wooing him and wanting it and promising them the world and everything. But the second he asked for performance closet, like, oh, abort, abort, this guy knows too much abort, abort, and it's for them. It's not worth the hassle to deal with an educated producer. Unless they have a former relationship. Then that's already kind of established with a sales agent or or producer but with the new guys like oh, no, this guy knows way too much. He's going to ask way too many questions. I don't want to deal with them next

Josh Folan 40:02
for those companies that where their business is structured around and doing that kind of business and exploiting the undereducated and overly hopeful filmmaker. Yeah. And that, you know, that's, that's probably the biggest soapbox thing with with with the book is that it's, you know, it sucks that it exists. But it's our job as the filmmakers to make it go away. And if we don't support it, if we don't let them take our films, just because we think having their name on the project as a distributor is going to help our careers on the line. Because these companies that operate this way, and check off any of these red flags, I list off very explicitly, like if they if they hit any of those things. Everyone in the industry knows it. You're not impressing anyone, by having a film with a company that is known for operating like this, it doesn't give your film a badge of honor. It doesn't give your career a badge of honor. There is no advantage to giving away again, you know, if you're never gonna see a dime back just because

Alex Ferrari 40:53
Disney is because Disney is distributing your movie, which they wouldn't do. But if Disney's distributing, like I can't distribute by Disney, I'm like, Yeah, but you're broke.

Josh Folan 41:04
Right? Yeah. Yeah, it's just not it just doesn't. It's It's sad how many filmmakers work? That's not the important thing. I you know, there's a friend of mine. Sorry, go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 41:15
No, no, I wanted to say, Tell me, tell me your story about your close friend. Go ahead.

Josh Folan 41:18
Oh, yeah, a close friend of mine that produced the project, it was his first feature. And he ended up going with the current the very company that we're discussing, but won't say the name of, and it's, it was important to him that exact thing to have this film, his first be one that was released, and like this pose in the public eye a legitimate way, as opposed to the sad, lonely place of self distribution. And,you know, it's

Alex Ferrari 41:49

Josh Folan 41:50
it hearts to what's important to you. And like, again, I'm not he's a close friend of mine. And I'm not like, that's, that was his goal. That would that was his set of goals. And like, even as the producer on the project, you know, I like that. It's, it's his project, I'm just helping him make it happen. And like that, understanding what your what your goals are with the project. And being able to look at these distribution offers in the light in that light and make it a responsible decision that achieves whatever those goals were, that you set for yourself is the important thing. Like, if that is what your goal is then fine. I told him numerous times, I'm like, Listen, you will never see a diamond this deal, it will never happen. Like understand that if you're going to take it and he understood it, and decided to do it anyways. And like, you have to just accept it, because that's important to him. But I want to change that I want us I want us to stop viewing that.

Alex Ferrari 42:40
I want I want to kind of dig into this a little bit, because I think it's something that's definitely not talked about. And it's I feel it's a sickness that filmmakers have. It is it is and I get it, I get it, especially when you you know, there's two reasons I think this happens one ego, you just want to say that you were distributed by x company, you know, like, hey, I want to I want to have my foot like everybody wants to have their film on a 24. Like, that's as an independent, like, we all want their the Sundance distribution. And they release it

Josh Folan 43:08
like this from a company like that's kind of the point, you know, deals like that. They really ask you to put their operating costs.

Alex Ferrari 43:16
Right, exactly. So these kind of distribution companies that are kind of like, elevated art house, kind of brands, you want to just get with one of those, and you don't care how abusive or you know, the advantage of being taken and all that all the money that they're going to steal or anything. You don't care, because you just want to say that you directed a movie that was distributed by them, which is insanity, as opposed to like, Oh, you poor? Are you self distributed? Oh, sorry about that.

Josh Folan 43:47
Oh, yeah. But it's not it's not a sad, lonely place. I hate that. It's

Alex Ferrari 43:51
because because well, first of all, that's, that's, that's an image that the industry has perpetrated. So that's a marketing ploy by the distribution said like, you don't want to self distribute, you'll never make a dime, you need us. You need us to make it. And you know what, depending on it's a per project basis, if you've got a $5 million movie, self distribution is a tough model to play. It's a tough model to play. If you got a million plus dollar movie, self distribution is not impossible, but you got to hit every target. Exactly. So that's why those budgets lower the budget, the better chance you have of recouping and being profitable in your in your films. So there is a place for good quality partnerships with with traditional distributors, honest, which is an oxymoron. I know. But it's like military intelligence. It's just doesn't jumbo shrimp. It just doesn't. So, but if you can partner with someone like that, and then also carve out some rights for yourself and maybe create ancillary products, and you have something that you could build, like I don't think there's going to be a lot of you know, ask Jane asked for Jane, you know, lunchboxes, action figures, action figures. So it depends purpose depends on the project. But if the certain projects have that it's absolutely doable, but self distribution, I'd rather be an A happen. My films have been, you know, I've self distribute a lot of my films. I rather be in positive rich off of my movie and not distributed one of these guys instead of being broke, and have the ego trip of Oh, I was distributed by x, Phil, x distributor. And I want everyone. I want everyone out there to listen to and hear that. And I think you and I are both very passionate about that. Go ahead. Yes, absolutely.

Josh Folan 45:39
Yeah, I mean, you know, even it's not even a matter of like, yes, it is harder. And it is more work to self distribute. And that's why so many filmmakers are adverse to it, because they just want to get on to the next film. And that's a you know, we've all heard that whole component of it a million times. But even if you know, the, that there's an excerpt from the book, that's, that's up from this whole soapbox section about distribution and fucking getting rid of these companies that are preying on filmmakers that don't know any better. Like, there's the math problem example in there, you know, the the good deal only makes 1000 bucks. And like, that sounds terrible. If you unless you made your film for less than 1000 bucks, which is not a terrible decision, but what do you Whatever it is, like the the, you know, the, it's just it's, you know, 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing. It's a very simple thing. And like, the idea that we have to, you know, we already made the point, I don't know, we've made the point.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
I mean, the whole the whole process of giving away your film, because you're exhausted or you don't, you're not educated. Well, that's, in all honesty, that's a failure on you, as a film producer, as a filmmaker, and as a producer. You need to educate yourself on this process. And there's no excuse, there's just no excuse, you know, what the latest lenses are, you know, that the Blackmagic just came out with a 12k camera. Fantastic. That's great. But you know what, that doesn't matter. The story matters, the, the story in the creative process is extremely important. This process, there's no doubt about it. But just as important, if not a bit more important, sometimes is the distribution and the business side of it. Because without that you can't make the art. And that's what I've been yelling at the top of my lungs for so much. And I know what that lets your, the core lessons of your book is, is you got to understand the business. And it's not sexy. It's not sexy. It's not the sexy part of it. But no, man, well, I love it.

Josh Folan 47:37
I enjoy the sheet Alex and if you don't if you're not one of those people, you should partner up with someone.

Alex Ferrari 47:43
Correct? And that's another thing you should absolutely do without question. Now how are so when you set so that was your traditional distribution? So how did you do the self distribution on the other project?

Josh Folan 47:55
So yeah, love is there we self distributed and that was something you know, walking into it. So love is dead is an adaption of a stage play that a buddy of mine wrote, and it's you know, a crazy crazy dark comedy about every possible horrible aspect of the human condition. And you know, it looks based on it's still good. Yeah, you got Disney type stuff. So yeah, I mean, you know that we're looking at the project initially, he sends it to me even before he's put it up as a play and immediately I'm like, Oh, this is like his his brain of comedy is just it's brilliant and I love it, but it is dark in a very very specific type of comedy that not everyone's going to love and we're looking at it and I'm like, you know this would play it's three it's basically three scenes in three new york apartments You know, that's what the whole pieces so I'm like that already kind of plays to me very sitcom II it's a stage thing to begin with. We should shoot this like an old like it has kind of this old sitcom feel to the pacing and the type of comedy almost Married with Children ish or All in the Family is kind of very much the vibe to it. Like why don't we shoot it aesthetically like that and and make it this like go all the way with that and you know, shoot it in a four by three aspect ratio. And then I was you know, found plugins and stuff for the editing side of it that kind of gave it that degraded VHS look nice thing to achieve these days. So yeah, we went all the way we painted in a studio audience via with the audio track and everything and just went all the way with

Alex Ferrari 49:25
you could fairly say it's an experimental film. It's not mainstream, as though there's

Josh Folan 49:30
there's we put in you know, we took old psats and cut them in as commercial breaks that kind of commented on the the narrative itself, you know, there's an opening title sequence, it's just whole nine yards with the being like the Sunday special television event kind of situation. So yeah, just completely out of the box. And you're going to even talking to festivals, that I have very good relationships with the directors of who have programmed our stuff before me and Shawnee, both, you know, they we sent it to them, they're like, What the fuck is this guy's like, you know, we don't we don't have a TV. Section like it's not a TV section, it's a feature film just looks like a TV, like so, you know, even if we knew walking into it that we were doing something that was completely out of the box. But what was the budget hard time?

Alex Ferrari 50:11
But what was the budget?

Josh Folan 50:12
Well, that's exactly knowing that we structured it to be a very economically right produce thing. We shot it for under 35k 32 and a half k, I

Alex Ferrari 50:21
was gonna say, when I saw that when I saw the trailer, and I was like, This is not a $250,000 movie. If it is no, you should be shot. So I was like, no, it has to be a lower budget. And that's okay, real quick, I just want to hit on this. Because you're going experimental, you're going for a much smaller audience. And, you know, the chances of you recouping your money are harder because of the material. You use a budget that reflect the debt. And most filmmakers, a lot of filmmakers don't understand. A lot of them were like, this is my, this is my Opus, we're going to do this for $250,000. And you and I both know that this at a $250,000 budget is going to be rough.

Josh Folan 51:01
Absolutely I mean, you know, after doing this stuff for such a long time, man, like I, I read material, and like the firt, I'm the I can't even you know, I also write and direct and stuff and like, I'm trying to, you know, do the creative side of it as well. But I can't the business, the business background in me, and then just the long amount of time I've spent producing I know how hard it is to ask people for money, it sucks. I'm trying to do that as little as possible. So like when I'm looking for, for material or use material, I'm like, What is the producibility of this? Like, you know, and reading Johnny's play three scenes, people, people being clever in three apartments, like I'm like, dude, we can, you know, we ended up we did that incredibly, cleverly, you know, we like we rented a theater in Long Island City in New York, and literally a stage theater, we ripped out all the risers basically created a television studio environment around the stage in where the seating used to be. And then when we were done, we had to rebuild those standards, risers and stuff and, and put the play space back like it was and you know, we were able to get that on a deal. And the owner of the theater, also an actor, we cast in the film to kind of always it's

Alex Ferrari 52:09
always a good idea,

Josh Folan 52:10
oh, is for the location fees. And you know, we shot the thing on three iPhones, you know, which that's the funny thing about it, like, one of the things that's kind of a something that we're talking about now, Amazon's being weird about their content right now. And they're pulling things off and stripping things down and love is dead. One of the things that got ripped off, you know, they don't know for sure it maybe they just think it's shitty, I don't know if it's an actual image quality thing. But like we shot that in 4k, like it's on it was a beautiful image to start with. And we ripped it down to what it looks like visually looks really degraded looking, borderline terrible image, you know, the standard definition looked at it, like that was a creative decision, not a lack of actual quality in the in the in the underlying image. See, we don't but we saw it on iPhones and the image the image look beautiful. And you know, we were able to rig the theater in a way with the lighting where we didn't have to do the subs freeze. And we you know, we did that in three, three day shoots. We did one day of rehearsal, one day, or we shot kind of like with the with each episode, there were three episodes we call them episode shoots, whatever you want to call them. With the episode, the cast, we come in, we rehearse for a day, just me and the actors. And then the next day, in the morning, we would do a little more rehearsing, shoot the opening credit, just little insert shots and stuff, give me added points and what have you then run it, run it a few times for everyone, the whole crew would be there that second day for everyone to see. And then the third day come in and just run the scene front to back into the ground with our three camera setup. You know, where we didn't have to cut we just run the thing like a play basically the way a sitcom does. And we did that three, you know, three times in a row with one day in between to rip the whole set down. And our poor production designer had to build a whole new apartment, you know, right, basically. So we did that we did that whole shoot and the last one and up because of a snowstorm. We did this this the last shoot in two days instead of three. on that second day, we shot the whole thing.

Alex Ferrari 53:58
So out of these three movies, were all of them profitable? Did any of them breakeven at anyone lose money?

Josh Folan 54:05
Oh, but none of them are in the black, you know? Yeah. After James very early in the thing and we came out the the came up theatrically last year in May and hit the the VOD platforms and October. So it's still very early to say, you know, especially with a quarterback or movie, how that's gonna go catch 22 we shot for 55k. And I'd say we're probably a third of the way there and recruitment on that especially after the whole distributor the distributor default thing that certainly slowed things down. And yeah, I mean with with a substitute distribution thing i'd love is dead a long way to go if they're still you know, but we didn't actually get to the point of how we did it. I mean, you know, the, with that kind of thing. It was such a they're all if you're going to self distribute knowing what like what are you going to try to do with this and like we were so outside the box with what we created and how we created it, that I think that the chief marketing tool where you Using for that? Is the independent film community, the film like the idea of this crazy project that we created, how did we do it? And you know, I hit all the film courage and all those types of outlets that are geared towards just as you're doing Alex, the independent filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 55:15

Josh Folan 55:16
So you know, no, yeah, again, just knowing what it is and how to market it. And, you know, the idea is, over time, do that enough. And you are able to make it a viable business in the long term. You know, I mean, you're not going to, with with self distribution, especially smaller projects, you're not going to have that lump sum payment, like, kind of the trickle out of, yeah, that's a trickle for sure. You know, so that that's how you approach it, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 55:40
And can you discuss a little bit about niche marketing and event marketing, because I know, that's something that you do to get the word out on your films?

Josh Folan 55:49
Well, niche market, you know, it's after Jane is a good example of that. It's, it's a film about reproductive rights. And, you know, we, that's one of the one of the things that went with that for Jane is how much having that social justice component can make this the whole process just more enjoyable for one, because it's more it gives it more purpose, you as a filmmaker gives you a reason, other than just telling a story. And that's a really nice aspect to have for these, these projects. But you know, we had companies or organizations reaching out to us, just our initial press drops about the project, like wanting, of course, you screen the film, you know, because it, it carried this message. And like, that was, you know, Planned Parenthood was a company we had ties to, and were able to align with, and nyrA and other reproductive rights women's justice organization, based out of New York, that we were able to align with and do a ton of marketing with throughout the festival process, and then into the actual theatrical release. And we've done events and screenings with companies or organizations like that. And, you know, yeah, I mean, it's, it's, everyone wants to, wants the answer as to how to do this for their own project. And it's an there's no answer to it. Like, it's an impossible, it's the shittiest thing to hear. Because, you know, we all want to have the answer. But it's like, you have to just do the work and know who is figure out who is going to care about that, about what you're trying to say, if it, whether it is just a little story, or it has some sort of overarching bigger purpose, and getting out into the world, you know, knowing what that is. And that goes all the way back to doing that work, market research in advance. But also you learn a lot of that going through it, like we didn't know that we were going to have the kind of response or the political climate that we ended up having with Astra Jain because it was pre election, the project started and then Trump being elected, and then you know, women's reproductive rights going under coming under attack as they have was not something we planned for. But that cropped up and like I don't want it you know, it's, I've said a million times, like, it's, it's horrific for humanity, but it's fantastic for the film. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 57:56
I understand what you said, yeah, it's timely. It's timely.

Josh Folan 58:00
Yeah, be embracing that. And, and not you don't want to say exploiting it, but you know, it. If that's what they that's the message of the film then that, you know, it's all that money. Yes, it's good for getting it out there and our bottom line, sure, but it also allows you to say it in a bigger way, you know what I mean? And that's a beautiful thing, you know, so just

Alex Ferrari 58:20
look, it's not

Josh Folan 58:21
accepted for that.

Alex Ferrari 58:21
And yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Um, there's films that just hit at a certain time and they they just they galvanize around the time you know, there's Easy Rider one Easy Rider showed up it was a time for Easy Rider you know, that was the that was the movie of its time and it completely shaked up Hollywood want to show it up. And it was it was it was in

Josh Folan 58:45
its hopper just making some that he wanted to make a little ad and little was not he was not checking some marketing box and making crazy.

Alex Ferrari 58:52
Well, that was it. It was the 70s brothers a whole other world and there was no niche marketing. It was just like, let's just make a movie and get high of lot. And that's what they did. They actually filmed them. So you ready writers? Raging Bull? Of course, of course. I've read all those books. There. It's amazing to hear those stories. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests, sir. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Josh Folan 59:19
I want to steer away from what everyone says that you know, if you can do something else do it. Right, the best advice, but we've all heard it a million times. Well, I've said it a few times. Don't chase things. Don't chase when other people tell you you should make make the shit you want to watch. There's so many reasons. And it benefits you it. It better prepares you to make that film. You know what I mean? If you care about the stuff that you're making, because it's stuff you watch, then you're that much more equipped to tell that kind of story. You know, and that's that that's all the more reason like I should never make a film because I'm fucking not going to church on Sunday. So I should make a

Alex Ferrari 59:58
movie. It's nothing you're passionate about. Got it?

Josh Folan 1:00:00
Right, exactly. You know what I mean? So you know that that is probably the best advice I think I could give someone getting started is to do what you think you would want to sit in front of a screen. And watch because you're gonna be best equipped to do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:13
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Josh Folan 1:00:21
I'm stubborn, strong minded person. So learning to step out of the way, and let like to properly delegate, I'm somewhat of a control freak, and I want everything to go my way. And learning to just step back and let go of some things, whether it be control of a project, or trying to, you know, you can't, you can only control what you can control and stop trying to control the things that you can't. And that is certainly a life lesson much more so than a film one. But it's applicable, of course,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:01
Now, what is the biggest fear you had to overcome to make your first film