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BPS 332: Screenwriting Secrets from Hollywood with Corey Mandell

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Alex Ferrari 1:44
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:49
Thanks for joining us here today. My guest is Corey Mendell Corey is an award winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for SC Ridley Scott Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford of Warner Brothers, universal 20th Century Fox, you name it, he's written it for you. I'm really excited to talk about to talk with Corey today because he is writing at the studio level. And we really even though this is indie film, it's really important to know what it's like writing at that level and how things work. You know, things like getting an agent, the importance of having a manager, things like that. And, you know, it's it's, it's really talking about something that I didn't know a whole lot about, even though, you know, I'm, as many of you I'm also a screenwriter, aspiring screenwriter, so it's good to know even though my aspirations are more towards indie film. Anyway, I learned a lot from from Corey, and I think he's actually a really good teacher as well. He teaches a workshop if you go to Corymandell.net. And that's Mandel with two L's. He's got a workshop there. And I highly, you know, I think he's got some some great things to teach. I think you should definitely check out his classes. And he's had a lot of success stories. So check that out. There we go. Here's my interview with Corey Mandel. Well, I guess the first thing we should start out with for people who are not familiar with you and your site and your work, if you wouldn't mind just giving us a little bit of background in your career as a screenwriter.

Corey Mandell 3:24
Sure, so I went to UCLA Film School, and this is back in the late 90s. And was really fortunate to launch my career by having Ridley Scott hired me to write metropolis. I'm still in some school. It was just amazing to be in a room with Ridley Scott, have him hire me, flew me to London. first time I'd ever flown first class, first time easy, new First Class existed. Living on top ramen noodles on a good day. And so, really committed to making the chocolate and it was the front page of variety. And ultimately, it didn't get made, which is a whole long story. But but he mentioned me and he mentioned the script and very positive way on the front page of it. So if you're looking to launch your career, have you heard this got very nice things about you and your scripts on the front page? Right? He's not that bad.

Jason Buff 4:24
Right, so that's step one.

Corey Mandell 4:25
Now if you have that list and so then I became, you know, the, the super hot writer in town for seven minutes. And, and I started next project was for Wilson Peterson, who just finished Air Force lawn. And I did a project for him. Did a project for working title I basically ended up doing over 11 years. I did 19 For Hire a studio project. And you know, for some of your listeners who may be are a little new to the studio gain. Basically what that means is, I would get hired, I'd have an original idea of pitches to the studios, they buy the idea, they hired me to write it for what was more often the case, they had a project, they had a writer or a couple of writers weren't terribly excited about where it was going to, they would hire me to come in and rewrite it. I would also sometimes get hired to adapt novels, or graphic novels. And then occasionally, I would do production rewrites, where you're actually on that when you're making a movie, you don't get credit. But you got a really nice paycheck and you are rewriting structure or comedy or characters on set. So that's basically, for someone who's going to work in a feature film business under assignment, kind of the range of the kinds of things you did.

Jason Buff 5:57
Now, what was the process before you got that project with Ridley Scott? I mean, how did you even get into that world?

Corey Mandell 6:05
Yeah, that's a great question. So what has happened is I had written a script when I was at UCLA, and one of my teachers was running development for Meg Ryan. And again, this is like 98. And Meg Ryan's a big star. And, and I somehow convinced the games, Kathy Raven to take a look at the script. And she read it. And she really responded to it. And she talked to Meg landed on it, and Meg really responded to it, Meg wanted to do it. So then you get the phone call that everybody wants, which is, you know, Kathy Raven calls me and says, Then Brian, no, very potentially interested in your project. Who was your agent? And of course, I said, I don't have an agent. And then she said, Would you like me to help you get an agent? And I'm like, Let me think about that. I would like that. And, you know, the thing is, the key to get an agent, and it's easier said than done is not for you to be chasing the agent, but for the agents to be chasing you. Now, probably the easiest way to get an agent to chase you is to write something that gets a major piece of channeler. Attached. Again, easier said than done, I understand that. So in that situation, I literally have DEA and William Morris, and I see him like top agent, like clearing their schedule to meet with me. So I did that over the next couple of days. And I I chose to go with ICM with an agent named Dan Karen. She's awesome. And so you know, put it in perspective. And parents at this time. She represents Kelly Corey, when the Academy Award for Thelma and Louise, she represents farmers, you know, and then little mini, so it's a little intimidating. It's really exciting. And then to make a long story, short, or somewhat short. Right, so neg Ryan is attacks now we have directors fighting for the project, we suddenly have studios fighting for the project, like this is going to be a big strip. So I'm gonna make a whole bunch of money, pay off my student loans, get a car license, good. And then a movie comes out. That's in the same genre. And somewhat similar but but really not that similar but somewhat similar. And it takes this takes at the box office and suddenly met Brian, or someone on our team decides maybe I don't want to do this. And then suddenly the women Ryan says that suddenly the directors are like, Oh, maybe I don't want to do this. And then of course, studios are like, well, maybe I know what to do. And I remember exactly. And one thing I'll say for your listeners and I, I'm sure that you have people listen to this, we've gone through this. And you also have people who are kind of new to the game and everyone in between, I'll just say that the experience I just went through. I constantly get calls from students and writers I've worked with, who go through the same thing if you get as close as you can, without it actually happening. And you feel potentially like there's something wrong with you for your curse. And the thing is, is when you start to talk to a lot for riders, you realize it's a pretty typical experience. And so, so at the end of the day, it was not going to sell which was crushing. But, you know, I had a writing sample and had an agent and I think most importantly, I had credibility because the script I wrote had attracted major star and so that gives you credibility. So my agent said, Do you have any ideas or pitch?

Alex Ferrari 9:51
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 10:00
Because now you have this credibility, let's see if we can sell a pitch. And I said, yeah, so this is an idea I've always loved. And so I managed by her, but she said, Yeah, I think that can have traction in the marketplace. And then she pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. She was okay, let's do the fun part. Let's make our dream list. If you could sell this pitch, and work with anyone at all, who would it be? And the very first thing I said, was Ridley Scott. And she said, great to a great choice who else's, we made our list of like major a Lister. And it's sort of like, okay, that's our dream list. Now, let's start making a list of maybe one more classical folk, in case a dreamless. Doesn't happen. And but I got we went, she was let's start with Ridley Scott, since that was your number one choice. I went there and the development executive, they really responded to the pitch, they brought me into producing partner at the time, maybe she responded to this, and literally two weeks later, and it's a little embarrassing, but I get a call, and I set up really late. And I'm like, half asleep, when the phone rings, I think it's 1030. And my agent says, leaves in town, and like to hear your pitch at 1130. And it's going to take me 45 minutes to get going after shower, and shave and all that. So I said, Oh, that's exciting. But can I go in later today, like at three? And there's this long pause or ensure my agency? Why do I find this person and then very, very nicely, she says, Cory release in town. He'd like to hear your pitch at 11 o'clock. And I went, Oh, yes, I will be there. And I don't know. I but it really worked in my favor, Jason, because I wasn't nervous. I was everything just to get there. I'm nearly in a room pitching really before I think I thought I could process that that through this guy, because he was a big hero of mine. And, of course, yeah, any positive number. So in the room, he said, If you don't mind, I'd like to buy this. And I'd like to fly it to lend it and work with you on the structure. Have you raised it? You know, and it's like, Well, originally, let me check my schedule.

Jason Buff 12:16
Our people can talk and we'll figure it out. Yeah. So let me ask you, can I can I just pause on that for one second. And I want to make sure we talk about a lot of different things. But one thing that we're talking about right now is the pitch. So is there any sort of I mean, you're in your car, you're driving up, you're gonna see, you know, a legend. Yeah. I mean, you have to be nervous. What does? What do you do to like, make it all work out? I mean, what's your pitch? And how does it work?

Corey Mandell 12:46
How does one prepare themselves perfect? Or not get nervous? Or maybe actual? How do you? Yeah.

Jason Buff 12:52
I mean, what is? What what do you say? I mean, how do you take your screenplay and put it I mean, what is that, like a five minute six minute pitch, or

Corey Mandell 13:02
So this is not a screenplay. So you know, when people are pitching they haven't written. So generally, if you have an idea, you got two avenues, right? You can spec in, which is to write the script on the back. And then that's the thing that would be shown to people the actual script, or you can pitch it where you haven't written it yet, you have an idea, you're talking to people through the through the idea. And then if they like it, and they believe in you, as a writer, they'll buy the pitch, and then they'll hire you, the writer. Generally speaking, for those listeners who are kind of new to the game, you don't get invited to pitch these days, unless you have credibility. So it's even more so than when I was president. So generally, they're only going to listen to a pitch, and by a pitch from a writer that they are extremely confident can deliver on the actual script. So for newer writers, you're not pitching these days, you're stepping you want to prove not just that you have a great idea, but you can execute on it. So yeah, so what happened is, I went in there, and it was like a 45 minute pitch. And it was basically giving them the characters, and the world and the story and everything that happens and trying to do it in a way that was most engaging as possible. And then he asked me lots of questions. And we had a conversation, and we were really talking through everything. I was there for a couple of hours. And at the end of it, you know, he had a really had a really clear vision of what my vision was and what I was gonna go and write. And he said, Yeah, let's so then he lost the pitch. So I get a certain amount of money for that. And then also they hire me to write it, so I get money for that. So it's basically like you have an idea for scripts. And before you write it, you sort of embed it to make sure there's a market for and if someone's interested enough, they'll buy the idea and they hire you to write the script. And that's quite common in TV and And it happens in features, but generally is only going to happen to a writer who has a certain level of credibility.

Jason Buff 15:09
Okay, and what is the now for writers who are trying to understand what the relationship is with you and your agent, your agent is the one that got you in the room there in the first place, right?

Corey Mandell 15:20
Yeah. So agents are, your Salesforce agents are going to sell your stress. And or they're going to get you in the right rooms with the right people, for pitches or for writing assignments. So that was the other thing is, let's say that you write a script. And it goes out in the marketplace, everybody loves the script, they think you are a fresh, original voice, great characters, great structure, but nobody buys the script. It's just, it's not fitting what they're looking to buy, but everyone's life as a great Express. So at that point, you know, the agent will send you on around a meeting. And those round of meetings could be 20, to 30. And there's kind of three kinds of meetings, they're all going to be happening. So one is called a general relationship where someone's registered. And they're blown away by it. They're not looking to hire a writer for a project, they're not really looking to buy a pitch there. There's no, there's no money that's going to come out of this beauty. But it's a relationship building meeting, they just really love your script and your writing, they want to get to know you to kind of figure out, you know, if you're the kind of person you want to work with, if you're crazy or not, and a lot of crazy writers out there. And they just sort of what are you interested in, and let me tell you the kinds of things we're interested in, because down the road, they truly would like to find a way to work with you. And some writers get disappointment, because they'll take that meeting, and they realize somewhere during meeting, I'm not gonna get hired, there's no money that's going to come out of this. And those writers are the relationships are really important, because they're maybe six months later, that person is looking to hire someone, that that that you had a really good meeting with them, and they really want to work with you. That could lead to a job. So So you write a script. Everybody loves it, it doesn't sell, you go on around in meetings, and one type of meeting is this relationship building meeting. Another meeting could be they really love your scripts. If you have the right idea, they buy a pitch from you, and they will help you develop it. So that's a meeting where you're going in and they're like, hey, what ideas do you have? You're pitching. That's what that's what the kind of meaning that was really Scott, another type of meeting could be they loved your script, couldn't buy it. But we have, we have the rights to the graphic novel, or we have the rights to this article, or we have an idea that we've been kicked around internally, or we have a script that somebody wrote, We want a pretty big rewrite. And we want to make it darker, or we want to make it we want to make the character, this kind of a character or whatever, and you seem like you could be a good person for that. And so then what happens is you're basically being invited to audition. It's like an actor audition. So then, if it's a script, you'll read it and come back in, and you'll say, This is what I would, this is how I would change it, this is my vision for it. And they're talking to other writers do this as well. And then they're gonna pick the writer who they the vision that they liked the most. Or if it's an original idea that they have, or an article thing that you're gonna go home, you're going to come back in, and you're going to pitch what you would do with this idea, or what you would do with this article. And you're generally competing against other writers. So what the agent says is, they're going to try to sell your scripts, often, that means packaging, putting elements you know to make, the more exciting, they can go out. And there's a script for the star strip center director. And concurrent to that, we're gonna send your meetings. And again, these meetings could be relationship building, they could be you pitching original ideas, it could be them looking to hire a writer, and you go through around with those, and maybe somewhere along the way, you'll launch your career, you'll sell a pitch, they'll get hired to write something, your script will actually sell all of that possible. It's also very possible that the end of that none of that happens, you met a lot of people, you got a lot of great relationship, but at the end the day, you didn't get a job out of it. And then what you do is you're gonna have to give your agent another really great script, and you're gonna go through a second cycle. And there's you got a better chance of watching a career the second time around and the first time because he has relationships and also you're no longer one trick pony. You now proven that you are capable of writing more than just one great strip.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 20:02
But it's possible that the second round, you still have a launch sticker. So you have to add another big step and go through a third round. And a lot of agents will say, if you go through three rounds of meeting, and you haven't landed your first job, there's a good chance there's something wrong with you, it's a good chance that you're not everybody plays well with others, you know, and if you were seen as defensive or arrogant, or just someone that people don't want to work with, then you know, no matter how great your writing is, it's probably not going to happen. But assuming you play ball with others, and what I certainly see if my students and clients, you know, by the third round meeting, they're getting their third shot. Now, what you do with that shot, the whole different story.

Jason Buff 20:53
Okay, now, you wrote a very good screenplay relatively early on, and you're coming even before your career to kind of even started what? What were the things that, you know, brought you to that level of writing? I mean, were you just born a good screenwriter? Or what? What happened in school that really made you able to write a good screenplay like that?

Corey Mandell 21:14
A great question. And, you know, there's so much misinformation out there, because I have a lot of friends or managers, and I'm not going to out anyone here. But what happens is, there's this myth that if you're a great writer, once you start writing you'd like to express, and it's just not true. I know, so many writers who I mean, I'm talking to Tony Award winning writers, I'm talking to writers, the creative, his TV shows, I'm talking about writers who make millions of dollars, who it seems like everything they write is just amazing. And there was five or six years where they weren't that good. And they were just getting a little bit better and a little bit better. And they were doing the right kind of training, but they're being mentored. And then what happens is, after five or six years, they finally arriving at a level where they can be taken seriously. They sell. And they will just say or their manager will make up some story. Like that was the first thing they wrote. And they just forget it on all the development. No, and that's really important people to hear that because it's a really abusive message otherwise, because if you don't realize that, and you buy into the fairytales, and if people are doing it strategically, it, it makes you sexier, and it makes you more desirable as a writer, just to be someone who naturally is a great fighter, like everyone, everybody wants to work with natural talent. So it didn't people's interest to pretend they have natural talent, but it's just I don't know, a single successful writer, who didn't start out as someone who had a lot of potential that kind of sucked, and, and was taught and mentored and got better. And so in my case, you know, and as a writer, I wouldn't, I wouldn't talk about this way, but I'm wearing my teacher hat. So I'll be completely completely honest, what happened is, I was in film school, and I never read anything and a friend and I kind of wrote a script together. And it sold as a USB cable movie star in Virginia Madsen. And it was a great concept. And if we were just a little bit better writers probably could have sold it as a feature. But at the time is the very first thing I wrote a co wrote it with a friend. So I kind of thought it was God's gift to writing because no one else in my film, school class sold anything. Okay, it was USA Cable, but it paid pretty good. It was Virginia back then it got made, it was very successful for cable movie. I mean, for your first time out, at least for me, I was thinking that so shabby. So my friend and I had a big, falling out for collaboration and did a whole another long story. But so now I'm solo. And I write the script. And I'm in a writing group. And they're like, professional working writers in this group. And we're all very honest with each other. And I showed it to them. They really liked it. They had some notes, they had a few issues, so did a rewrite. It shows them some notes rewrite, you know, it goes but I eventually got the script to the point where they're like, this is great. This will sell this will launch your career. And I'll show it to my agent if you want. This is so this is one of the best scripts I've ever read. And of course, I'm thinking, Who am I to argue with that assessment, right? And so I showed the film full professor and he reads it and you know, saying the best thing ever read, definitely gonna sell. I'll get it to, you know, help you get an agent yada. So at the time, I was working for this manager, and almost a favor. I said you want to read the script, like I will say I was like entering that wasn't represented by her. And so he read the script, and we met Anna Never forget, he said, it's it's pretty good for like a dirty first draft, you don't want to show anyone in the industry that script, you only get one first impression. The scripts not that good. But it has potential. And I this was a weird disconnect for me because I've not what I've been told by everybody else, and when he said is your professional writers, professors, friends, being honest with you, but they don't know how hard it is to break in the business, they don't know the bar that you have to ship. And by the way, that the late 90s, the bar is a lot higher today. And he said, every time you follow the script to get coverage, and coverage, get database, everyone shares it. So if the scripts not like the scripts good, but it's not amazing. And there's a big difference between good and amazing. And in this industry, nobody cares about good. They basically said, I'll work with you, if you're willing to put the work in to help you help make the script what it needs to be and help you become a better writer. And I was really honestly torn at that time, because I was thinking maybe his opinions just not valid compared to everything else. And so he suggested something that I suggest to all of my students and clients, which is you really think your scripts ready because you only get one first impression. And that's the most cherished asset you have is your first impression. So what he suggested is go hire studio readers, like literally hire people who I hired someone from imagine someone from, like Warner Brothers, like actual working readers pay them under the table, it was like 100 bucks, and have them do the coverage report, they would actually do the scripts, not in tracking, it's not their coverage report goes to you. Nobody else because it's not officially in the system, you're paying them to do the coverage report, they would actually do if the script had come through the system. So I didn't have the money to do it. But I did it. And when the coverage has come back, one of the things they will do is they'll evaluate the writer and they'll say, recommend, consider or pass. And I think that all came back pass on the writer, which was a real kick to the guy. But at the same time, I was so appreciative that I knew that, you know, and I didn't make the classic mistake of listening to everyone telling me how great it was fine. So I took it off the marketplace. And now suddenly, you know, my name for stress path is what everybody has in the record. So I worked with that manager. And you know, it is a year and a half. And in that year and a half, like I learned everything I didn't know. And I learned what my weaknesses were and worked really hard to turn them into strengths. And after a year and a half of brutal work. This manager is not a pleasant person. And he did not. He was smarter. He know how to work with writers very well. So it was a brutal experience. But I learned a lot. And at the end of it. He's like, I think it's now ready. I'll pay for the coverage. And he bought he paid for some people to do the coverage. And the coverage is all combat recommend recommended recommend. And that was the script that I then showed Captivate and all this happened. So no, I as a writer, I would I would have said the following. I went to film school and the producers program. It wasn't the screenwriting program. I didn't think I could be a screenwriter. I took a class where they made us write a screenplay I didn't want to because I was supposed to be a producer and I took this class, I wrote the script. The teacher read it. Next thing, you know, Meg Ryan is attached. Next thing you know, by the way, all of that is true. I just I just took out that year and a half. Right or bootcamp?

Jason Buff 29:07
Well, okay, can you can you explain kind of what happened between the version that you thought was good that your manager didn't think was very good. And the one that he finally thought was good. I mean, what changed?

Corey Mandell 29:18
It was just learning a lot about story structure and character development and conflict and all the things that I work with writers now and I coach them through this process. And the thing is, there's such a big gap between good and amazing. And there are a lot of writers who will read some books, they'll read some scripts, they'll watch a lot of movies and TV shows. They have a bunch of natural abilities. They work hard, they have plans or underwriting and they can get themselves up to good or maybe really good, but they can't set themselves up so amazing and so hard to get. It's different for each person, but

Alex Ferrari 29:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 30:05
You know, everybody has inherent strengths. As a writer, everybody has inherent weaknesses. And everybody has blind spots, and play slots are weaknesses that you don't know that you have. So when I'm working with someone, the first thing is to help them understand what their blind spots are. So at least now they're known weaknesses as opposed to unknown. But then really, the important thing is helping people get dedicated exercises, and dedicated practice, so that they can turn weaknesses into strengths, and absolutely can be done. It takes time, it takes training, and the key is to work with someone who can help coach you through that. Because the thing that sad for a lot of people is a lot of the books and classes, the teaching rules, and their teaching paradigm, and formulas. And a, the industry is moving so far away from that, that most agents and managers won't even look at it, if that's what you're doing. Because that's not something they can work with anymore. But also be you learn a bunch of rules and a paradigm you feel educated, but you haven't become a better writer. It's not that insight out process approach, which is, what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What am I blind spots? And then how do I turn weaknesses into strengths? That that's the road to transformation. And the thing is, managers, especially good managers, yes, but that's what they will do. They'll, you know, they have their client base, they're making money, then they have their beating, they will take some people they think, have potential, and they'll develop those writers in exactly the way I'm talking about. Or you can get mentored by, you know, a successful writer can help coach you through that process. Unfortunately, a lot of classes and the books do the opposite. And that probably sounds really self serving, because sometimes I'll do a commercial for my workshops and, and for fiber trusses. And against that, you know, and so if you want to take all this with with a typical grain of salt, I understand. But the thing is, what I endeavor to do in my workshops is to help people have to get the current training that they would get if I had a manager or a mentor. And and obviously, that's Hello, everyone knows, if you have a choice between my workshop, and an actual manager or writer who can mentor you obviously go with the manager or the writer, because like, that's better than the workshop, the workshop is there for people who aren't able to get that at this point. And so I get a lot of MFA students who have a lot of education in the realm of rules and paradigms, and they're writing. They're not overcoming core weaknesses. So they keep writing scripts that are similarly flawed. And they're writing formulaic, predictable, generic kinds of stress, which is exactly the wrong type of script to workout.

Jason Buff 33:14
Okay, now, so I assume things like save the cat, and all those things are kind of like, you know, you would consider that really going in the wrong direction that people aren't looking for that sort of thing anymore.

Corey Mandell 33:28
Yeah. So again, the thing is not what I say. But even some managers say, right, because otherwise, it's like, I'm somebody that saying, Oh, don't listen to that teacher or writer. Come listen to me and spend your money. Right? Like, okay. It doesn't matter what matters. And that was the agents and managers say, and so the reality is, agents and managers in this marketplace, in feature and in TV, are looking for Pitch Perfect, authentic scripts. And they're looking for scripts that are authentic, which means authentic characters. But an authentic voice is a script we haven't seen before. It's a story we haven't seen before. That is pitch perfect execution very difficult to achieve this as a writer. But putting that aside, the scripts go viral, which means when someone writes a script like this, and shows as its own industry, they talked about it and they, it's all the friends that a script gets passed around, and there's above. And that's what's required to brace the writer out of all of the white noise that everybody's trying to break in the business. So if I'm an agent, and I find you and now I'm getting on the phone, I finally I don't know you might have sold a bunch of stuff out of my a lot of might have a lot of credibility. Let's just say you're a newer writer. Nobody really knows who you are, and you don't really have any credibility. Again, I'm not saying that's true for you, but let's just say that's true. So I'm an agent. I'm now calling everybody saying you gotta read Jason script. And I'm basically putting my credibility on the line. I'm chasing people to read your script. And they'll eventually do it. But they're busy. And they'll get to it eventually, as opposed to, if you write a script that everyone's buzzing about, everybody's talking about that. Have you read that? It's like what used to be the blacklist, the blacklist, everybody's talking about the scripts, everybody's buzzing about those. Now, people were calling me the agent thing, talk to him. I'm not meeting with Jason, I want to meet with Jason. That's a whole different game. And more importantly than that is so let's look at this way, if you're an agent, let's say you have your, your basic, like me, your sort of basic client. And so here's, here's how porting Mandell game work. There be a writing assignment, you would call and say I think Korea is perfect for this. And here's why. And they probably have heard of me. I've got a track record. They say Sure. We'll put Korea's name on the list so I don't get to compete for that job. Other agents are doing the same thing. Bunch of riders are competing for that job. I don't get it. So now you're pulling somewhere else and you're getting me to compete for another job, you're putting energy and eventually I took a job and you get 10% of my money. And I'm I made really good money. So you're making 10% of really good money. Okay, that's not too terrible as an agent. But, you know, my agent also represents Aaron Sorkin. So first of all, when Aaron Sorkin makes a tremendous amount more money than I do number one, so right away, much more valuable player. But number two, how do you get Aaron Sorkin the job? Yeah, answer the phone winner. Right. He's an ageless writer. So a basic working writer is always chasing job and aimless writer. Everyone's chasing him. So someone calls my agent and they go, we've got this novel, we think Aaron are perfect for you know, my I don't know exactly what my agent says. But he probably says this. So there is quote is probably really high. And you agree to it. And then I'll give her in the book with the if Aaron interested. I mean, you would rather have one Aaron Sorkin than 20. Korean Adele. And so as an agent, you're looking for people who have the potential to be at least writers in both TV and feature films, that's where all the money is. And someone who follows save the cat or other such sort of paradigm formula. These scripts do not become a list writers. So when you look at scripts that have launched a list career like Juno, like American Beauty, like Mad Men, we can go on and on, we're not following the Paradise, their authentic scripts are original. And so the feminine agent, and somebody has written to one of these formulas that a lot of summer movies are going to follow. And by the way, just between you and me, I wrote a lot of summer movies. And I also would follow the formula, because if you're working for Warner Brothers, and they're doing X man five, they're not looking for American Beauty. Okay, so someone who can sort of cheat on that hero's journey, paradigm. The thing is, let's say you're an original writer, a new a new writer, and you write one of those scripts. It's not as easy as it looks to really make it interesting. It's not as easy as it looks. It's sort of like I see it as easy as it looks to follow the form. But let's say you can do it, let's say you can do it. And so people, we just get a brand new writer, like hey, this guy can smartly follow a formula. Who cares? Really, who gives us that? You know what, because there's a lot of writers that can do that. And some of those writers are like Corey Mandel, who has worked for really big people, and like Ridley Scott, and will say this, and they've always wanted to work with me again. So like that, that gives me a lot of credibility. I have a track record where I've worked under deadlines. I've been in situations where, before I'm turning a script in the studio call me and they want a completely different direction. And I can pull that off, I proven that I could pull that off. So I have a huge advantage over you. And then of course, the person who wrote Guardians of the Galaxy has an enormous advantage over me, you know, because they've written something that's made a tremendous amount of money. My point being, there's people who can follow there's a lot of people to follow a paradigm. They have a track record, you tell. So why does anybody care? Nobody cared. So agents are are constantly sending me people to my classes. It's like I can't break somebody in the business because they followed a conventional Paradise.

Alex Ferrari 40:02
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Corey Mandell 40:11
Because nobody will read that, like nobody cares. As opposed to you write a script that nobody's seen before. It's really fresh and exciting. And it gets people's attention. It's what's called a head turning script. Now, I worked with someone who spent a year and a half gold to write that script wrote that script didn't sell and they got offered like, Oh, I think it was like three anagram for right panda bear three, or pandas or four. And you like all these? Like, I don't know if I should do it or not, because I've worked so hard to build the right to this level. Now they're asking me a lot of money to do a formulaic, you know, paint by the numbers strap, and what do I do? And my answer was, my job is to help you to get to the point where you have that decision, you make the decision, right? If you think it will go either way, personally, me, I just always took the job. I always took the money. And we think that was smart. But that's what I did. But my point is, the disconnect, that a lot of people make is there's these people that are like code breakers, they go look at all these movies coming out in the summer, I decoded what happens on every page. And then they teach this paradigm. And then writers go, well, I should write a script that you know, is commercial, I want to break in the business. This is what the studios are. Summer, I should write a script like that. And the exact opposite. That's true agents will tell you. Most of the clients I signed, I signed off of scripts that I was really confident I couldn't sell because they were different. Their original, like Eric Singer wrote the script, the scars falling is so violent, so dark, that nobody was going to buy the script like nobody, but everybody had to meet this guy, everyone had meet the guy who wrote this. And people want to find a way to work with it. And so he was booking assignments and making what I think is nice six figure income year in and year out, except writing original material. And eventually, one of those one thing you wrote, got Native American Hustle, and that was a big ADOS writer, probably make in, you know, millions of dollars. But for many, many years, it was a working writer making six figure income off of a script that didn't follow the paradigm didn't follow the form. It was just so original, and so dark and so messed up in a good way that everybody kept that script, right? Everybody said, have you read this guy, so you've got to resist? That's what agents and managers, you know, that's what they want. They want something different, and original. And even if that is a sample that you use to start writing, straight down the middle, save the cat summer strips bought, but you can't, it's really difficult to break in the business wiping stuff like that. Because it's a dime a dozen. It's just nobody cares.

Jason Buff 43:16
Can you talk a little bit about for example, when you're looking for people who are trying to break in as screenwriters, you know, what are the essential things that they need to do if they're, I'm assuming what you're saying is people need to submit just amazing samples. I mean, let's say you don't have a vehicle where somebody like Meg Ryan wants your screenplay. And you're, you're just going the direct way. And saying, I want to find an agent to you know, to support me, what is the what kind of spec screenplay Do you think they that were kind of like work for them?

Corey Mandell 43:52
Well, so what works for people again, is Pitch Perfect, authentic and authentic would be, you know, a strip that only you could have written that's completely original. So, you know, David Tyler wasn't sitting around going, I wonder what to sell in the marketplace. I've got a script about, you know, guy with a stuttering problem. But the King's speech was something that he was really impassioned to write. He had, you know, he's publicly discussed that he'd had a stuttering issue. And there was just a very personally important script for him. And he looked upset. And, you know, he wasn't trying to game the marketplace. He was just trying to script with an amazing character mazing story that was he was really passionate about and you read that spirit. It doesn't read like any other script. It's like we read American Beauty. You don't get another one of these scripts. There's just something original about it and different and it doesn't have to be a quirky character piece. Again, the sky is falling. You know about the animal world and his precepts going around killing people, and it's very dark and it's very violent. It's certainly about judo from a tonal point of view. But there's just something you hadn't seen that before. And there's something unique and powerful. And so you look at a script like Groundhog Day, you know, it is a classic wrong call. But it just doesn't. You don't read that spec script. For you another rom com scripting, the film itself isn't different. There's just something different and original, and exciting and fresh about it. That's the type of script and the thing is, net. When I go and speak at events, you know, I always hear writers complain out so hard to get an agent or to get a manager no one wants to be at work. No one wants to represent me. They only want to represent no and commodity. thing is that's just not true. I was the last couple days, I've been dealing with managers. And they all have the same complaint. We can't find enough new, really great writers, you know, and they're all like, who are your students shouldn't read. They're there, they cannot find enough news. There's so many opportunities for writers now particularly in TV. But more and more features. Missing is it's not looking. It's not looking for new writers. That's that's pretty easy. And it's not looking for new writers who thinks they're really great, because that's a lot of those people. It's new writers who really are amazing. I mean, if you look at the script for Juna, you look at the script for American Beauty, you look at the script for madness. Yeah. Yeah, sorry. My phones are the worst thing ever. I mean, these are. These are amazing scripts. So like, I know, the guys that wrote. They wrote the spec script for the net, the TV show. I mean, that script was really great. And Steven Soderbergh who had retired, we got that script and read it and that learned him back. People still talk about the game of thrones pilot script. It's just an amazing piece of writing. The Americans and then from that pilot went around town, and everybody was about everybody's talking about that scrap. And the thing is, there's a lot of skill and ability that goes into writing at that level at the highest level. And as a new writer can write to that level. managers are looking for that. That scarcity here, I'm sorry, I used to be an economist of some time, this was an old pattern, the scarcity is not. So now this is really important. Because if there is a scarcity was on that front, which is what everybody thinks, which means you've got all of these new writers who can write amazing scripts, and there's just not enough agents and managers to go home. If that was the case, and you were one of those writers, how do you persevere Well, lock, connections, relationships. That's what those baskets require.

That means, if you're a new, amazing talent, as a writer, I'm not saying you're gonna sit at home and look up find you. But I'm just saying, getting the managers actually easy, because they're looking for you. HBO has executives who are out waiting to win at plays, looking. through YouTube, they're looking for fresh, original, new voices. The thing is, there's obviously a lot of people out there that want to be writers to have an original unique voice and take have passion about the Red Book. There's a lot of those people. That percentage of those people who can write Pitch Perfect you can write to a level that people are looking for, you know, is 100th of 1% at best. And so the key is, I think a lot of writers get taken advantage of because there are businesses out there that basically say, what stands between you and a career is access. And don't worry, I can help solve that for you. I'm going to have this pitch fest or I'm going to shop your strip or I'm going to list your scrap grime. Whatever it is, I'm going to help you get access if you're willing to give me some money.

Alex Ferrari 50:00
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Corey Mandell 50:10
So, you know, there was a pitch fest that I used to go and KeyShot. And I'm not doing it anymore, I just don't feel good about doing it. Because there's, you know, five 600 People coming to LA paying hundreds and 1000s, not hundreds of 1000s, hundreds or 1000s of dollars, and they get the pitch in front of people, they get five minutes to pitch. Well, no one's gonna buy their pitch. But what they might do is like your pitch, like your energy, like you, jeez, can you write at all, there won't be that blunt about it. But they'll say, give me a writing sample. And then, if that lighting samples amazing or close to amazing, then we'll bring you in for a meeting and really start to see if something can be there. And I was just talking to all his executives, and a lot of them like, yeah, we're just not going to do this anymore. Because we've gone through three or four years worth of these, we've asked for a couple of 100 writing samples. And so far, not one writing sample was anywhere near good enough for us to bring that person in. So it's just a complete waste of time for everybody in the bubble. So now, obviously, if a listener if they are in a position there that point oh, well, in a one percenter new writer, they don't have a track record, they don't have an agent or manager. And they are writing Pitch Perfect, authentic, they're able to do this. Sure, if there's, someone can help them get some access. Why not. But the reality is, for most people, they're spending so much time and energy and maybe money, trying to solve the access part. As opposed to spending time and energy, figuring out where they are as a writer, and what they need to do to get to become a better writer. So it's sort of like people are spending all this money to get interviews for surgeons job because they really want to be a surgeon, because it's good money, it's good benefits. They never been in medical school. So yeah, you can spend all this money and get an interview in a hospital, but they're never going to hire you. You know, as opposed to spend your time and energy actually getting medical training, so that you're qualified for the job. There's so many people out there who just aren't qualified, and they're not doing the training to get there.

Jason Buff 52:29
Now, do you think that getting a manager is an important step to like, I mean, should you try and do that before you try to go find an agent and, you know, really get you in shape.

Corey Mandell 52:40
Yes for all bunch of reasons, agents, especially these days, they are felt people, they are not there to help you careers are not there to develop you. They're not there to take your script and say it's, it's close, but it needs to get better. They're just a sales force. And the manager is someone that is going to help develop you help understand in your career. So first thing, yeah, I would definitely go for a manager before you get an agent. First of all, a manager will let you know when you're ready for an agent. And they'll protect you. And not and keeps you from ages until you're ready to help develop your third good manager, careful a lot of bad manners, okay, I'm assuming it's a good manager. And then when it gets to the point where you're ready for an agent, they'll know who's good agent for you. Because the thing is, is all agents have a superpower ability sitting in a room and somehow know what it is you want to hear and tell you what you want to hear. Even if it's not true. So a manager is going to know you your personality, your writing, and they're going to be in a place to help figure out what would be a good agent for you.

Jason Buff 53:59
Is there any way to make sure that you're finding the I mean, a good agent? I mean, where where's that kind of? Where do you find them?

Corey Mandell 54:08
So the thing is, is you don't you don't find an agent? Because

Jason Buff 54:12
I mean, sorry, I was talking about a manager who went how, like, how do you go about finding a manager?

Corey Mandell 54:18
Right, so it's actually not that hard. So one thing you want to be careful about as I'm starting to see, more and more as these management companies are just taking advantage of people. So like, you don't want to find the manager that's charging you, you don't want to manage it taking 10% of anything, you know, like lead management companies actually like taking if you're an editor or a web designer, they're gonna take 10% of your income. So there's these scams out there. You gotta be careful of that. But that aside what you're looking for. It's not hard to network, it's not hard to find out who's a good match. Companies are. And so you know, the management companies, you reach out to them and you just reach out to like the lowest person like the, the intern, the, or the creative executive who's reading stuff like the lowest person on the food chain, you have a nice little 32nd lending minute little presentation, you call enough of them, there's a good chance you are in one or two of them. Take a look at your script, which really means well just take a look at the first couple pages to see it. You know how to write and if your script is amazing, you know, there's a really good chance that that you'll hear back from them. But the thing is, I know a lot of those people, a lot of those people are my students. And they'll tell you 99% of the time when they're amazed at is how bad the steps are, you know, it's not amazing. It's not amazing. If there's writers out there that think they're where they are, there's writers that think the script is really great, and it's not, what they find amazing is like, how wide that gap could be. So it's not, it's not hard, at this point to get people in management companies. Especially like the lowest level person to take a look, if you live in LA, like these folks who like the newer people demand for accounting, they're networking, they're always going to network events that go on the rightest, those events are extremes at certain parties, it's so hard to get plugged into that circle if you live in LA. And if you don't live in LA, that's okay. You don't have to move to LA. You know, with the internet, it's not hard to find out who these people are, and reach out people via Twitter and Facebook and email. And it's just, it's, it's not that hard to get people to read scripts. I'm not saying it's easy, but what I'd say is do training yourself to be able to write the kind of script that when somebody reads it, it has a positive outcome for you. That's so much harder than getting someone to read the script. And the mistake, the biggest mistake that writers make is they, you go out to a management company, you get someone to read your script, it's just not that good. It's probably it like, it's probably not gonna read a script, and a database this stuff, so suddenly, maybe you have to just burn your bridges out you got to burn your bridge elsewhere. Your first impression is precious. And you're like some minor leaguer. And when you get pulled up to the majors, you have to hit all run the first time. That's that's not how it works in baseball, right? It's very minor league, your show a lot of potential for the majors, you strike out the first time, they probably don't send you back, it's hard to get the batting coach that worked with you, you strike out enough times we're gonna send you back. It's not like that here. There's so many writers want to break into business, so many people that it's sort of like you get your shot. And if you don't knock it out of the park, you might not get no shock. Here's something that's pretty chilling. And I'm not going to quote the name because I don't have permission. But not that long ago, I was talking to an agent at a at a one of the bigger agencies. And they said something that I think it's really important for listeners to hear. He said, if if you if he said if we read a script from a new writer, and we don't think that script is just Pitch Perfect, authentic, now kind of represent that writer ever. They're blacklisted. And at first I got kind of upset, because I know for a fact that if writers can engage in the right kind of training, they could dramatically improve. And so Okay, so this, right, or maybe isn't where they need to be today. But three years from now, or two years from now, or four years from now, they might be an amazing writer. And so I just got to set you know, the teacher in Munich got really upset and as far as to push back, and he knew exactly where I was going to shut me down and said, No, no, you don't get because we made a strategic decision to not be in the stupid locker business. And that's when I was like, Whoa, now I don't know what you're talking about. Because it's really simple. You know, if you get hired by Wolfgang Petersen, right? You have a deadline, like at some point, you've got to turn that script in, no matter what, and you got to make it as good as you can. But you've got a deadline. If you're trying to break in the business. There's no deadline. So if you're trying to break in the business, and you have moved mountains to get me to read your script, or someone else in my agency, if that script is not Pitch Perfect, authentic, you're an idiot. And we don't want to represent stupid writers because even if their writing improves are so stupid

Alex Ferrari 59:59
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Corey Mandell 1:00:08
And stupid writers, they just take more time and energy, they create more messes. It's just, you don't want to be in a stupid writer. And I would respectfully disagree with this person, because I work with writers. And I know that a lot of writers go out with scripts when they shouldn't. And it's not because of stupid. It's just because they're insecure. It's because they're impatient. It's because their delusion fooled. And it's just, they're listening to their own people, because I know what it's like if you're writing groups, or your teacher is telling you to scrape or even worse, people spend money to go online, and they hire someone to do coverage of the stress and you know, our script consultant. And, and if people have really good, impressive credit, well, the thing is, if you're online marketing yourself as a reader or script consultant, that's probably a big part of your business. And so you want repeat customers, and happy customers are repeat customers. So a lot of these folks that reputation for skewing everything positive, I think that's true of all of them, but a lot of them. And so, no, someone will go online, find someone who used to work at DreamWorks and Warner Brothers and pay this person X amount of money, and this person says, your scripts brilliant, you should go out to the marketplace, I can understand how that provider would feel confident in that doesn't mean they're stupid means they're a little bit a little naive. They're not stupid. So. But the point is, people get blacklisted. Yet your first impression means so much. And every agent or manager that I bring into my UCLA classes or workshops, they always say, single biggest mistake that writers make new writers is going out to the marketplace before they're ready.

Jason Buff 1:02:07
Right! So can we, I want to change gears for just a second and talk about actual, the actual writing process and some of the ways that people can improve. Now, when you talk about not using these paradigms and things like you know, the structures that are kind of pre built, and it's kind of like riding by numbers, or whatever. You know, for a lot of people and a lot of the screenwriters that I've talked to, that are not at the same level you are, but there's writing independent films. They kind of rely on that stuff to you know, when they go into the abyss, and they're trying to put together their story. They use that sometimes to kind of put things together and figure out, you know, how everything's going to look, what what is your advice for, you know, let's say for example, before you're ever writing and sitting down and you know, writing the actual screenplay, what is your process for building that blueprint and that structure of your story before you begin?

Corey Mandell 1:03:03
So that's a great question. I'm gonna have to respectfully say like, it would be an entire podcast in itself. But here's what I'll say. So, you know, I got hired to write metropolis. warbirds. It's kind of a talked about, and I'm in London, like, it's a second night, we're having dinner. And the producer leans over and says, Hey, I know you, you go to UCLA Film School? Because you've learned that 3x structure of this and, and all that stuff? And I'm like, Yes, I have. Because if you tried right, to that, yes, using different words, I will fire you so fast, your head will spin and I'll bring in a real lighter. And I, I thought he was joking. I started laughing. And then he said, I am not joking. And fortunate, though, part of the day, he took me under their wing, and they taught me stories design and organic story structure. Because actually finish the story that I'll backtrack. So you know, when it was on the front page of variety that really Scott was making, it identifies all these big parties around town, I was the guy for like, seven minutes. And I was at a party extra, my agent, the house, and you know, Callie Corys, their uniform and all these writers who like, had careers, I could only dream. And it was shocking. They all just make fun of the writers who follow these paradigms. And so what are things that do make you feel like ah, because a lot of my students have had that paradise hammered into is operating in an agent from an agency and I'll ask them to bring in of all the writers they signed in the last year to bring in the scripts that they signed those writers off. Because, okay, if it's Kelly, Kelly, Corey Feldman, Louise's Cody, as you know, you know, you can your listeners do get access to those scripts, but a lot of times you know, if it's Eric Singer, and it's this guy's fault, that trip didn't get paid. And there's good chances not sitting there on the internet. So a lot of writers when they get signed, you know, I've worked with the writer just recently coached writers, through a TV pilot, it didn't sell. But it got her all these meetings, and she's got a $400,000 overall deal on the studio. But you're not going to find that script online. So agents will bring in the scripts, they sign people off. And then I just have everybody go through the scripts, and you can take any of the paradigms that you want. And just how many of those scripts or whatever? And the answer is usually none, or you know, one or two, but very rarely. That's where I start my classes, because it isn't about, well, Cory says this thing, and this teacher says that thing and if he just said, No, it's just about what the reality is. in the marketplace. I think a big reason that people follow the paradigm is a, it's easier to really understand organic story structure and stories of that it takes, it takes training and skill set, that's a whole nother like a lot of people, they what they want to do is plot people don't understand that interested in plotting in the story. So a plot is this happens. And then this happened. And then this happened. And then this happened. And you're trying to make those things interesting, or funny, or, or scary or, or thrilling, you know, whatever kind of script you're trying to write, and you're very focused on, this happens, and this happens, and this happens, ooh. And then this happens. And this happens. That's the plot. Story is a whole different stuff that makes it interesting. story makes it meaningful, and impactful and memorable. A whole different way of thinking about it. And it's the integration of story and thought. And there's just a lot of training and skill sets that go into it can be taught, it can be learned, this is the kind of work that the top managers do with their right this is, here's a quick little commercial bug, it's what I do in the workshop. And so a lot of people don't have that training, then their only options is follow paradigm or just follow their instincts to sort of follow their impulses instinct, or all the character around. But here's the thing, if you follow your characters around, they'll do a lot of interesting things, it's just not going to turn into a really compelling story check currently. And if you follow your instincts and impulses, you can write a really interesting first draft, but there aren't many people in the world who didn't think that impulses consistently drive to a successful story, there's a lot that goes into Pitch Perfect, authentic. So you know, I think for a lot of people, their choices are, follow a paradigm, or kind of make this stuff up and follow my instincts. And that second options generally does not lead to. So that's why they they all the paradigms will fall apart. And so that has been lied to, you know, they've been told this is what readers look for. You won't be considered by an agent if you don't do this, and it's the opposite. In my current class, I've got like four different readers. And they each one, and I didn't say anything, each one on their own, that for the class, we've been told to throw away the scripts of all these paradigms, because nobody's interested in those kinds of scripts as a writer, especially on the TV. So it takes you know, I do an entire eight week workshop in Saudi society. So it's just not feasible for me to answer that question in the short space, but for the listeners, you know, what I would say is a don't take my word for you don't know me. I'm pretty nice guy, but maybe a yogi. And but don't take your other. Don't take any other guests on this podcast word for it. That's my opinion. Don't take your teachers word for it. Don't take some famous gurus, anyone, word for to get your hands on scripts that have launched careers, that's not that hard to do. If you've networked around, you can reach out to writers and say we're gonna be possible to do a script that launched your career. It's not that hard to get work, you know, agents or managers or you know, someone that works for an agent or manager. It's just not that hard in the electronic PDF roll to get your hands on.

Jason Buff 1:09:34
But that's going to be how far is that going to be from the ones that are like the published ones that you see it like,

Corey Mandell 1:09:40
That is different often. We're looking for the script that launch somebody's career we're looking for that you're an unknown writer, you wrote a script and a manager, you know, read the script and said, I'm gonna work with you or adapt the script that WMV or CA signed you off up

Alex Ferrari 1:10:00
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Corey Mandell 1:10:10
Or so for instance, in my case, you could find Metropolis online. Write the script that launched my career you cannot find online. So the script that got me into a room, or really Scott, the hiring the right way to talk to Ken, that script, you're not gonna find out No, but you know, metropolis is a script that you could find out like, but you really want to go back with script. Anyway, my point is, you look at those scripts, and then take any of the paradigms that you want and ask yourself, now it's different with like, if you start looking at lower budget, genre film, yeah, you know, you are going to see a lot of paradigms, it says, it's a different game, it's a different arena. Although that said, you know, if somebody wants to write a thriller script, like you, I suggest trying to write an elevator rule of stuff that isn't just, you know, paint by the numbers, you know, for instance, plans to land now, doesn't really count because it's adapted from the novel, but let's just say it was adapted from a novel, like, that's a really thrilling script, but it has elevated characters on it. So if you write a script like that, you have a shot. In the majors, you have a shot to launch a career, and if it doesn't happen, you can always go down and well, I guess I'm gonna have it's kind of a it's expensive to make a budget, but, you know, a script like, Ex Machina, you know, very contained one location, what, two, three characters back, that's the kind of stress, it's an elevated stress, you know, like, that's a great stress, and it's not as painful. It's just what you're looking for is, first of all, we're looking for characters that are authentic and compelling. And whenever you have characters that have to do certain things on certain pages, certain events have to happen, then they're not going to feel authentic. Secondly, you know, I used to be a studio reader. And it's like, you meet me at a strip, and it's like, okay, here comes the big surprise. And it's so not surprising, okay, here comes a big, you know, insight into if you see it coming my way, and then you know, right is only working on one scrap, they don't understand the pile of scripts that are moving through readers lives. And so when you just read this, the scripts that are structured pretty much the same way, they all just get forgettable. They all feel generic. And then along comes scripts, I was on a screenwriting panel a little while ago, and the person was on the writers like I'm writing an alarm. And this expert said, Stop stop right now. Because no one's gonna buy a Nordstrom no agents. But here's the thing that that person luckily didn't listen to that person. They broke up skirt, and they just got firing by a team of agents at CAA. I have no idea if that's more scripted itself, probably not. But if that CAA, they're not read by CAA, and they're taking lots of meetings, because here's the thing, I'm a reader, and I'm going through a pile of scripts, and suddenly, there's this large script. Now that has the inciting incident on page 10, it doesn't have that not only the Abyss on a certain page, but this kind of a bit or the fall off low beat on the midpoint, whatever it doesn't, it's not constructed that way. It's not different for the sake of being different. It's different, because it's an authentic story that's unfolding at own pace. And it has a reason for the way it's structured. And I just never seen a script like this. It's like, the next week, I'm driving, oh, I'm thinking about that. I am thinking about everything else. So when my boss, or my friend who works at another production company says, you read anything good lately. That's the script I'm gonna talk about. That's the script that I remember. And that's the script that people start talking about. That's a script that can launch your career. So now, that said, I have a lot of clients who write those kinds of scripts, they don't sell, they take meetings, nothing happens or another script like that. Doesn't Sally take meeting? Maybe then the agent says, Okay, we really took a shot at really launching you big, you know, maybe this next script, we do want to bend it a little bit more towards convention. So take your unique voice that's not right at Foursquare straight down the middle, save the cat scarf, not do that, because that'll just be ignored. But let's case your sensibility and your abilities and let's see if we can bend a little bit towards something a little bit more conventional and see what happens. But that's that's the plan B It's not the plan a write Plan A is write something that blows people away that nobody's seen before that people go, Oh my God, even if I can't buy this script, I want to make this right. I want to work with this writer, I love this writing, I would love to work with this virus, that's your job, get a bunch of relationships, get a bunch of people excited about you. Maybe that turns into a job, maybe it doesn't. But if it doesn't give all these fans who want to work with you, you're right. Another script, a whole nother shot at something happening. Somewhere down the road. Yeah. And I seen this with some of my clients or students, then they'll have that conversation with their agent or manager. And maybe then they will say, all right. Why don't we write to this target that's a little bit more of a commercial target. So we can just get you some money and at least start to get your track record. But while you're doing that, keep writing your original stuff on the side, because when one of those things break, that's how you become an aimless writer, you know, so you think about Aaron Sorkin. You think about Alan Ball, you think about Davis, I like like the script that makes them or Eric Singer, you know, and you look at a script like American Hustle. It's not all in the paradigm. It's not conventionally structured script. It's a uniquely structured script, with unique characters. And now even the illustrator, you know, the guys who wrote the neck, they, they had a really nice career, they're doing comedy, you know, they're all competing for jobs or landing jobs, making good money, they write the script, the NIC pitch, perfect, authentic, you know, if not following the paradigms not following the formula. It's original, it's unique. And now, after the first year, the neck, you know, studio has, they're taking them out to dinner, stars are taking them out, basically, a set of them chasing jobs, or jobs, or chasing them. And that's what happens when you write one of these scripts. And it hit and you have to be lucky for it to hit. But even if it doesn't have it gets you in a room with a really Scott the pitch down. So that's why he did some errors are looking for those. So all I know is that I'm getting more and more people in the industry sending me writers to work with me. Because people will say these writers have a great sense of dialogue. You can really write action that can really be calm, they can really do this, they can really do that. But they don't know. They're just formulized that I get a lot of MFA students who've been taught that cert traditional film school, which really made sense in the 80s made a lot of sense. And then it kind of stopped making sense, seven years ago, and now is the kiss of death.

Jason Buff 1:17:57
Now, what was the difference with your students? Can you tell the ones who are going to have success and the ones are going to probably drop off?

Corey Mandell 1:18:06
No, and I've really tried to stay blind to that. I really think it's important that when I work with everybody, they get the exact same focus and exact same enthusiasm. The other thing though, is I have worked with people who I privately thought were some of the worst writers I've ever liked, just like privately was like, I just don't see their mountain is so high to climb. their weaknesses and blind spots are so abundant. And I've seen them become amazing writers. And, and go on. And I'm not gonna name names, obviously, but have really good careers. Certainly, it's not true of all of them. But it's happened enough that it's gotten me to realize my assessment doesn't. It doesn't matter where you start. It matters where you end. And it matters, how committed you are, how growth mindset you are, how willing you are to put in the work, put in the right amount of work, or the kind of work because that's where dedicated practice comes in. So a lot of people buy into this idea that if you want to be really good, just keep writing and the more you write, the better you'll get. Not true. For most people, the more they write, they certainly start learning from mistakes, they certainly do get somewhat better. But there's core weaknesses and blind spots. They don't know. There's there's just consistent mistakes they make. So the more they write, they just ended up with that larger pile of similarly plot scripts. They have a feeling that can't get

Alex Ferrari 1:19:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 1:20:02
A lot of my students come from that space. And so what they get excited about is, are there actual exercises that can teach skills that can teach tools that can make them actually significantly get better? If you want, because we've been talking that sort of abstractly, and I have to go in a little bit, and it's been a while, but I'll give, if we have time, I can give one example of one of these skill sets. So at least this is all in the abstract.

Jason Buff 1:20:36
Okay, yeah, I mean, that would be good?

Corey Mandell 1:20:39
Okay. So one of the skill sets is what I would call creative integration. And it basically goes down like that. Most writers, when you write, you can work from a conceptual place or an intuitive place. And these are very different muscles, and very different approaches. And most writers are wired to work when they're the other. So conceptual writers and intuitive writers that say, so conceptual writers tend to write outside in. And intuitive writers tend to work inside out. Conceptual writers tend to when they're working, they're very focused on what other people will be thinking. They're very focused on plotting. They're very focused on logic, making sure things make sense things are properly set up pacing, having interesting things happening. Intuitive writers have a very different navigation, they are working from an authentic place. They're working from a place of what's interesting to them. What's true to the character, what would the character really do? It's a very different space. A conceptual writer tends to be somebody who would say, I've got to figure out my story. Before I write it. Were in a tuner writer would say, and you know, write my story, so that I can figure it out very different. And so their scripts get, there's a different experience reading the script. So for instance, let's talk about characters. Conceptual writers, invent their characters, they design their characters. And so the characters never feel real. They feel invented, they, on some level, feel a little bit like puppet, who have been created at least times to serve the plot. And these writers often have great ideas, they concepts, good plotting. But where they're falling short in the marketplace, is the characters aren't strong enough. Intuitive writers, it's a very different experience. Intuitive writers don't invent the characters. They don't design the characters. They discover their characters. And the characters are like real people to them, and real people. And they speak like real characters, or real people. And you can feel that they're like real characters. But the intuitive mind is so focused on what is authentic, what the characters really do. These writers can't construct strong stories. So they have great characters. Always in search of a strong story. We're conceptual actors have all the story worked out. But they don't have strong characters. And it gets worse. With conception. Most conceptual writers when you read their work, there's all this interesting thing happening. All these interesting events are happening, it's just not interesting. Because you don't feel anything when you read it. Because they didn't feel anything when they revenue, a different space that they're working in. And so you've got these writers who get half of the equation, but not the other half. And here's the problem. Everybody always writes in a way to try to get the best possible script. You know, if you've been hired by someone in a studio or network, you obviously want to write the best possible script. And it's obvious. If you have an agent or manager, you want them to love your script, and champion it and take it out and change your life with it. If you don't have an agent or manager, you want to write a really great Express. So you can get an agent or a manager. Or if you're really kind of new in the game, and you're like I'm not ready for an agent or manager, you're probably trying to write the best possible scripts, so that you can feel that you're not wasting your time. And that people you show your script to, yeah, maybe you know, there's going to be issues with it. But at least the kind of feedback you get, leads you to believe you might have a shot. And this isn't just a stupid dream that you're chasing. So we're going to always try to write the best scripts that we can write. And so what we do knowingly, or unknowingly, is we played our strengths and hide our weaknesses, which is what we shouldn't do. You know, if I'm trying to write my best possible trip, I should play to my strengths and heighten it. In this as well, over time, my strengths get stronger and stronger, and my weak muscles get weaker and weaker. It's a big reason why writers can't get there, they can't get to that level they need to get to. So one of the skill sets I teach in my workshops is you're going to write to your weakness and hydroshare. So if you're a conceptual writer, you're going to work from a very intuitive play. So you can develop and strengthen that intuitive side. And so your intuitive side is the strongest your conceptual viceversa if you're an intuitive writer, network, any conceptual side. And so the first step is identifying your weak side, and developing that, focusing on that until it becomes as strong as your strong side. And then the second step is the actual creative integration, which is learning how to integrate these two sides, so that you can now write great characters and great story. Because Pitch Perfect, authentic, authentic means you have to be a rock star on the intuitive skill set as an intuitive writer. And Pitch Perfect means you have to be a rock star on the conceptual side. And most people are not integrated. And their writing practice leads to disintegration. So you know, you talk to conceptual writers and you ask what what are you working on? It's always conceptual writers hanging out in the same space, you know, they do horror film type concepts, horror film that you thrillers, sci fi, Big Idea comedies, action, they plot driven, concept driven material, because they can kind of hide the fact they're not that great of characters and dialogue, to the writers are writing, small, quirky character, emotional type material, where it's all about the characters and the dialogue, and the emotion kind of hiding the fact that they're not really that good at story structure. Well, the thing is, there's a lot of people out there who can write really good emotion, character stuff, they can't do story structure. And nobody really cares. For the most part about those writers, we're looking for writers that can do both. One of my students as directing a film that's coming out in two weeks, or directing the film for Paramount comedies testing, called drunk reading, it's been really hot. And so there's a buzz about this guy. And, you know, he was complaining to me, because he's reading all the scripts looking for his next project. And there's all these scripts that are really funny, great jokes, great structure, great idea. But characters, they just feel like stock characters, and there's no heart to it. And I'm just not going to put my career vague enough to one of these scripts, because, and then I read scripts that like, they're great characters. And there's a sense of like heart to it. But it's just there's no story, there's no state structures all over the place. Because it's so hard to find someone that can do both. And then his complaint years all the time, because I finally find one of those scripts. And of course, it's spoken for, you know, and, and, you know, it's been bought by the major player, you know, some of the big players, they're buying up all this script, because, you know, they want to make it or they want to keep up and coming competition from be able to make those scripts. So you know, if someone's listening to this, and they're so great with character, and emotion, and dialogue, if they can get better at structure and actually tell interesting stories like American duty, you know, have both there's rarefied company and they will be sought after. Vice versa. If you have someone listen to this, they're really good at and they love horror film as high concept horror film or thrillers, low budget or studio level, Comedy Action, what have you, you can get better at the character fire and the end have some genuine emotion in their man who stands out, you stand out, because there's just so few people that can do both. So that's an example one of the things that we've worked on in the workshop and it's called Creative integration. Now, for those of you listening, if you're interested in this, go to my website is Cory Mandel dotnet. I teach something called Professional Screenwriting workshop, which is the foundational workshop. And it teaches conceptual and intuitive skill sets to eight weeks. And Sargeras in commercial, but I'll be quick with it. We do. We do it in the LA in Santa Monica. And if you don't live in LA, or you do live in LA, we do it online using web app. So if you take another online classes, this is like real time so it's like going to a brick and mortar class. You can see in here everybody just get to be at your computer. And Ken we've had writers taken from all over the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:54
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 1:30:04
The the June ones are sold out and kind of about six months out. So we're doing them in September, and those are starting to sell out. But there's still spaces. If you really want to do the June one, you can email my sister. And she put me on the waitlist and sometimes a spot does open. So my websites Cory mandel.net. And my system is Lisa. So she's Lisa at Cory Mandel, dotnet. Or if you want to email me, Cory, Cory Mandel, dotnet. And those emails are on the left side, which is calling dell.net. Their thing I'd suggest is sign up for the newsletter, we will often we do like once a month interview, an agent or interview manager will interview later to solve this threat. So that might be of interest. But and I know that we've been talking a long time, I think, let's see what their thoughts is from your listeners. Maybe people just think of a big blowhard. But if people are interested, people are interested in this stuff. And you want I'm happy to come back and talk about more of the skill sets, I think we talked a lot about sort of the marketplace or agents demand was or thinking and looking for and we talked a lot about mistakes people make and unless you have to accomplish, but we haven't really, I noticed is that your later questions were, but this whole sort of subject of okay, how do you actually do what I do? I can certainly talk more about that if you want to. If there is interest from your listeners, and you want to have me back, I'd be happy to do it.

Jason Buff 1:31:37
Yeah, that would definitely be great. I mean, there's even the stuff that you were just talking about that I would love to go further into detail with but yeah, we would need more time. So but yeah, I really appreciate it and we you know, let's definitely do like a part two sometime where we get more into actual screenwriting and structuring and all the you know, the nuts and bolts of it all love to do. Alright, man. Well, I appreciate it. Thanks a lot for coming on the show. And, you know.

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BPS 331: Can Martin Scorsese Save Cinema? with Margaret Bodde

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Margaret Bodde. How you doin Margaret?

Margaret Bodde 0:23
I'm doing great Alex, it's so great to be here.

Alex Ferrari 0:26
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm excited to have you on because we're gonna be talking about film restoration and the work you're doing at the Film Foundation. And as well as some others, you do you have a little side hustle that you do as well, besides film restorations, we'll talk about that as well. But the first question I have for you is how did you get started in the business?

Margaret Bodde 0:46
That's a really great question. Because, you know, looking back, it all seems so well planned. But it was really just a random set of circumstances. I did go to film school, which is, you know, kind of rare in this business. Usually everyone studied history, or politics or global studies. But I studied film, and I, my first job out of school, was at the Library of Congress. And I was doing archival work at the Library of Congress, I was I was making photographs from either their glass negatives or nitrate negatives, their, their incredible photographic collection that included like I said, glass negatives from Matthew Brady, to you know, nitrate, you know, four by fours and two by twos that were created during the WPA era. And I remember I was, I was making both copy what they called copy prints, this is in the days of the old fashioned photographic lab, where you would, you know, you know, expose the paper and then process it and all these wonderful chemicals that I breathed for about two years. And what happened was, I became, it was like a master's degree in history, in exposure in photography, and also by extension in film. And so that was, that was an amazing milestone in my career that I hadn't intended really necessarily as, as what I wanted to do. And then from there, I went to independent film exhibition, I worked at a movie theater, we booked independent films. And so I had the exhibition side of it. And then I went to work, I moved to New York, and started work for a fledgling company called Miramax. And I was doing independent film, distribution and marketing. And there were about 20 people at the company at that time. So it's early days. And then and I, I worked there for a couple of years. And then I moved into this kind of miracle where I got a call from a colleague who said, You wouldn't want to work for Martin Scorsese, would you? Would you want to be his assistant? And I was like, I would sweep a floor for that guy like that was, you know, what a question. So it was, like I said, this kind of random set of circumstances that just now kind of all add up and make sense. But at the time, it was just, you know, you get the jobs you can get that you're interested in.

Alex Ferrari 3:21
Yeah, exactly. Like, I mean, how many filmmakers around the world with like, Hey, would you like to, to work with Martin Scorsese? Can you imagine?

Margaret Bodde 3:22
Doing anything doing anything right?

Alex Ferrari 3:26
Absolutely anything. So that brings me to my So my next question. I mean, you got to work with him on some some nice early films, but early 90s films, like the age of innocence, which I absolutely adore, I was just obsessed with age of innocence when it came out. And Casino. So I'm assuming as an assistant working with him, what did you see on set? Like? How would I have to ask you the question that every filmmaker listening wants to know, when you first walked in and met Martin Scorsese for the first time? What was going through your head? How did you deal with it? How did you? I mean, because essentially, even even in the early 90s, he was still, he was already a legend. At that point.

Margaret Bodde 4:15
He was absolutely a legend. I mean, he had just made I mean, you could fill us with 1990. Right. And then I started working for him on my first night, my first night on the job was the premiere of cake fear. So, you know, it's, it's just, he was, he was to me, he was the top of the mountain, you know, I mean, he was it, because he had also started the film foundation in 1990. And when I met with him, which I'll never forget, he lived at the time at the Metropolitan towers on 57th Street. And so I literally, it's like, I went up, you know, to the I went up to like, you know, Mount Olympus Exactly. And I, I remember, you know, obviously I was I was nervous But I also was just, I had kind of the attitude of like, I just want to meet this man who has made films that meant so much to me and so many people. So it was really kind of an experience of a lifetime. I thought, whatever happened with the job, I kind of thought this was this wonderful opportunity to meet this, to meet this person. And when I met him, we just really hit it off. He's, he's so warm, he's so smart. He's so funny. He's really like, just an easy person to talk to and get to know. And one of the things that stood out for him with me, was, Oh, so you went to film school, you know about film, you know about film history, we just started this foundation, maybe you can help with that. And so, you know, that was, to me, that was part of this glorious package, you know, of just, you know, being able to work with someone who's an absolute master of the craft, and the art of filmmaking, and someone who cares about other people's films, and also cares about the audience. And, and making sure that, you know, the continuum of film history is available to filmmakers today, and in the future, who can look back on the past films and be as inspired by them as Marty has been.

Alex Ferrari 6:22
That's remarkable. So when you are so you're working on age of innocence, or casino, what? How do you see him working? What do you mean? I'm assuming you're trying to take as much in as you can, when you're watching him. Were you on set watching him work?

Margaret Bodde 6:36
Yeah, yeah. And you are taking as you're taking it all in, but you know, everyone on that set has this mission. Right. And, you know, there, you don't have a lot of time for reflection. So you're not necessarily, you know, kind of absorbing and processing, you're just kind of like running from like, as an assistant, especially you're running from one task to the next. And your mind is has to be very sharply focused on, you know, whatever he has, you know, needs you to do has asked you to do whatever communication you have to give to the various different department heads. So I'm not like I wasn't ever involved in like the making of the film, it was just there to support all the things that he needed. But the set is an extraordinary place to be with Marty, because it's so it's such a pure expression of filmmaking, where it's all about, what do we need? How do we get it? He's brilliant, about, you know, creating an environment where the actors feel like, it's all about what they need to do, where the DP feels like, it's all about what he or she needs to do. Everyone feels like they're the most important person in that process. And it's just it's, it's kind of a mean, you know, not to be, you know, have a have drank the Kool Aid, I will admit to that. But it is like kind of a sacred place. It's really exciting place to be, but it's very much there's nothing frivolous about it.

Alex Ferrari 8:10
Yeah, it seems to be I mean, I've any filmmaker worth their salt has studied Marty's work over the years. I mean, and every documentary, I mean, I remember working at a video store in the 80s and early 90s. And I was I saw Goodfellas in the theater multiple times. I mean, and you just sit there and you wait for any making of document back in the day when there wasn't any information about i my first laser disc was raging bull. Because I wanted to hear I wanted to hear Marty's commentary on things like that is fascinating.

Margaret Bodde 8:43
There was an early laser disc of the Last Waltz, I remember, they came out like in the early like, mid 80s, early 80s. And I remember just, you know, I had seen the Last Waltz is ageing me quite a bit. But I had seen the Last Waltz when I was like in, in high school. And I remember just being it was something very special. I couldn't really articulate it. because not a lot of people were making documentaries in that way that weren't Verity. You know, I mean, you think about like Woodstock. You're capturing everything. And that's, that was really what was happening with music documentary. At that time. And then I remember the Last Waltz felt like a film. Right. And I and I remember thinking like, that's interesting.

Alex Ferrari 9:32
What really happened? What's, what is he doing differently than everybody else's? And didn't he also worked on Woodstock as an editor?

Margaret Bodde 9:38
He was I think he was a assistant director, and I think he did some editing. Yeah, but Michael Wadleigh you know, was the director of that film and both Marty and that's where Marty and film I think, first work together. Almost gunmaker was an editor on Woodstock and you know, who knew back in the day You know, 72 or whenever that can't remember the exact year of Woodstock, you know, who knew that that would create this? You know, legendary partnership?

Alex Ferrari 9:38
That I mean, is there ever been a partnership like that in the history of film that I can think of an editor that's she's edited everything he's done.

Margaret Bodde 10:18
She has edited everything from Raging Bull on so triple 98 on yeah.

Alex Ferrari 10:24
That's a 42 year.

Margaret Bodde 10:29
A lot of a lot of masterpieces in there.

Alex Ferrari 10:31
Oh, my God, to say the least. Now, tell me about the work you're doing in the film foundation. What is the film foundation?

Margaret Bodde 10:38
Well, the film Foundation was created in 1990. And it really grew out of advocacy that Marty had already been involved in, in the after raging bull in the in 1980 81. Era, Marty was he started a campaign to get to encourage Kodak to create a low fade color film stock. And in fact, one of the reasons that Marty made Raging Bull on Black and White was because he didn't want it to fade in 10 years. And he was, you know, aware of every filmmaker wants their film to last, right, that's, that's the goal, you're putting, you're putting a workout into the world, and you don't want it to go away, you don't want it to look like, you know, diminished, you know, in terms of color and, and degradation. After you know, five or 10 or 15 years, you hope that it will survive the test of time, as they say. And so he decided to use black and white, for Raging Bull for you know, artistic reasons, but also for that practical reason. And so, after the film was released, he used the press tour in Europe and all over the world to talk about this issue of color, color film stock fading. And thankfully, Kodak did create a low, low fade, LPP stock, I believe it's called that that would that would last if it was properly cared for. It would it would last for 50 to 100 years. With a stable color, the color of the color wouldn't change over time. So he was always thinking about film, and the history of film, and how much it meant to him, and how much it meant to his fellow filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Francis Coppola, Stanley Kubrick at the time. So Marty got these galvanized these filmmakers, and came together and said, Look, we'll be so much more impactful if we formed this organization. And if we use our collective power, our collective clout to go to the studios to talk about working in partnership with these archives, these film archives that are in the nonprofit world, who have been collecting negatives cast off material over the decades. And let's try to build a bridge. So these two important parts of the film world can work together to preserve films for the future. And I don't think that there was a real clear cut concrete plan of how this would get done. But it was definitely agreed, you know, with this group and with with many other people in the field, that something needed to be done. Something needed to be done because, you know, Marty talks about this story a lot were in the 1970s when he was living in Los Angeles. He went to a screening at LACMA and it was a it was a fox retrospective. And on the particular night that Marty remembers there was a double feature. Marty went to LACMA to see a double feature of Niagara And The Seven Year Itch, okay. And The Seven Year Itch came, the projectionist put up the put up the film print, and it came on screen and the entire Marty describes the entire audience erupted with booze because the film The print had faded to pink. So everything everything looked magenta, there was no there was no reflection of what the film was supposed to look like. So you couldn't see like the actor's face you couldn't see what the colors of the set and what what the color design was supposed to look like. And you know, you think about it, that was maybe 20 years at most, after the film came out. No more than 20 years. So you know, the real is Asian hit Martin and many other film scholars and filmmakers and people who just care about cinema. If this is happening to a huge hit with Marilyn Monroe, right? What's happening to silent films, what's happening to industrial films or, you know, documentaries that were made, we can't just lose all this, you know, at that point, you know, 80 80 years of film, and of our culture. So, the, the idea was, let's create an organization that can advocate for film preservation, and restoration. And also for this is as important as that is for getting these films back out to the public. Because if people, if young people don't know about films from the past, if they don't see them, then what's the motivation to preserve them? So, you know, between the preservation program that we created the film Foundation, and the education program, we have a curriculum that teaches young people, the language of film, the unique language of how stories are told visually. And then, and then access, you know, we make sure that the films that we the films that we help fund the restoration of and, and make sure are preserved, get out to the world through festivals, archives, screenings on you know, Turner Classic Movies and other outlets, and also our great partnerships with places like criterion channel, and the Criterion Collection, and movie, and many other organizations and companies around the around the world that really present film in what is a very kind of like, wonderful, celebratory and respectful way, making sure that people see the films without commercial interruption, and the way that the directors intended them to be seen.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
By means you're doing God's work. I mean, this is this is is a very, very important mission. And I'm so glad that Marty, I think it's it needed to be someone like Marty, to be able to spearhead this, you need to be someone with his kind of gravitas to to let everybody knows, hey, wait a minute, we we need to keep an eye on this. What I always found fascinating about film preservation, is that it is a constant moving target. It never it never said so it's unlike the pyramids, that will be around for 3000 years. I mean, stone is stone. But film even today, we still have to preserve it and just continue to move it as technology changes. So even film stock today, in 500 years, we don't know if film stocks going to be the way these things are projected. If that's projection still around, is it going to be on a hard drive? And if it is going to be on a hard drive? How long will the hard drive live last before it crashes? How many so it's a constant. It's a never ending. So just because you you restore a film today, you're thinking, okay, in 30 years, or 20 years or five, we have to check to see where it is. And we have to keep moving. The ball is almost like a game of hot potato, you constantly have to keep moving it along history are along the future. Is that correct?

Margaret Bodde 18:25
Alex, you're hired. I mean, you have it, you have it, you hit the nail on the head. Because, you know, we were lucky that we had this technology for what 120 years or so a film history where yes, the film stock changed over that time. But it was still using light and emulsion to capture life to capture whatever you want to create and put in front of the camera. And we were also very lucky that that even as ephemeral and fragile as film is and has been. We still have films from the silent era. Best, then you can run through a projector, you can also hold it up and you can see oh, yeah, there's people dancing. And then oh, there's a tinge of blue. You know, old films can still be viewed. The issue with digital and we all know Digital's is wonderful innovation. You know, it's allowed a lot of filmmakers who haven't been represented in the past to make films and get their stories out there. And that's vital. That's that's, that's an infusion of energy into the into the whole art form. But the big butt on that is Digital's untested in terms of the longevity of digital and the changes in digital technology. I don't have to tell you are just I mean the cycle is spinning. so fast. Do you remember D-1 tape?

Alex Ferrari 20:03
Of course I'm older than I look, Margaret. Well, yeah, I remember D-1 tape. I remember D-2 tape. I remember D-3 quarter inch or one inch or two inch I edited, I edited one inch between reel to reel back in the day. Yeah.

Margaret Bodde 20:18
So you think about the span, the lifespan of digital is, what 30 years maybe so far, how many formats have there been in that really short period of time. So we will be the Archivist of the future and the present are just going to be unraveling that you've got to make sure that you've got the hardware that will play back those formats. You've got to be able to, you know, migrate that digital data now. Every I mean, they recommend every six months. I mean, but you know, filmmakers? Yeah. And filmmakers are, you know, you will, you know, you know, well, when you make a film, you're just on to your next project. You know, most filmmakers don't have the time to kind of like, well, let me manage all my data from my last five projects. I'll take a couple of months here to do that. You know, it's, it's, it's its own challenge. And I don't think that that maybe the industry, maybe the studios, you know, have a handle on that. And they're managing their assets, you know, because they have the budgets for it.

Alex Ferrari 21:27
And there's so and it's also money now, they realize that that's ever ending, you know, how many how many versions of Star Wars have I purchased, how many versions of Godfather, every time there's a new version, and the rest of you buy a new platform. So from VHS to LaserDisc to DVD to blu ray, and digital, it's constant. So that's where the money is, I think the studio's finally caught up with like, oh, wait, there's money to be made here.

Margaret Bodde 21:50
That was key. That was key, having this, what they call, monetized, right, having having the classic film libraries and collections that the studio's had having another outlet. And another way to, like you said, package and release on home, home, video, home, home video, laser, just DVD, you know, streaming now, those that we were so lucky that those formats demanded the best possible resolution, and audiences demanded the best possible resolution. So you did have to go back to the original camera negative, you did have to go back into the vaults, and take a look at your assets and see, if you had the original camera negative, if you didn't have the original camera negative, what were the best elements that you could find? So that those DVDs are that, you know, whether it's an SD, HD, 4k, whatever the format is, you're working from, you know, the best possible source for that for that transfer. And I think we were very lucky that there was that robust home entertainment market in the in the 1990s, and the 2000s. And now with streaming, it's, it's a different, it's a different series, I think, yes, unfortunately, because of the business because it is a business and an art for you know, there's a different economic model now. And it might be harder to, you know, justify, although I don't want to use that word, but a vast expenditure of money on a single title that may not make that back. I mean, we, of course, yeah, that's what we do all day, you know, we advocate for that, and we try to find ways to, you know, to make that as appealing as possible for studios and other rights holders. Because, you know, we think we think of something like film, and this is true, and with books and paintings and, you know, other art forms, music and theatre, you know, people can't really own it. Right, you're a bit of a custodian.

Alex Ferrari 24:14
We can't own anything. We're only on the earth for a certain amount of time. So even land you eventually have to give it to somebody else, just like we're just here for a moment of time.

Margaret Bodde 24:22
So if you have let's say, let's say what's your favorite film, Alex?

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Oh god, I love Shawshank Redemption. I love Shawshank Redemption.

Margaret Bodde 24:30
Okay, so let's say you obtain the rights to Shawshank Redemption, right? You you know you have the rights to it. But you know, I would argue that you are also holding it for the rest of us to alright,

Alex Ferrari 24:45
I'm not going to put it if I bought it like imagine if I got the rights to Shawshank I would like I'm putting it in my vault only I can see it. All copies have taken off the shelves. No one could ever see it again. No, you're a custodian of art for the work for the good of The populace the good of the world. That's what you should that's how film should be. And arguably, that's how studios should be as well. But with them, it's a business now, because it's the you know, as you know, the corporations have taken over the main studios it before it was run by filmmakers. And now it's more more corporate.

Margaret Bodde 25:18
Yeah. I mean, it's always been a business. And I think that's part of the challenge, I think with the film with film as an art form and a commercial. I won't say product, but as a commercial endeavor, right? films were made for the weekend and the months that they could be in the theaters. And then really, until television, there was no, there was no you maybe there would be a rerelease 10 years later

Alex Ferrari 25:48
Of the hit ones.

Margaret Bodde 25:49
Of the hit ones Yeah! but what about the every b picture? And you know, until television came along, it was considered, you know, disposable as a strong word, but it was considered that's an old movie, what do we what are we putting out? You know, next weekend, what are we putting out next year. And that, and that is just by nature, the way that the movie business, you know, works, and it makes sense, because, you know, your profits are only in the future, and only on your current films, everything is pretty diminished once it's made its initial run. So yeah, yeah, these are the challenges, I think in terms of trying to, you know, balance, you know, film, the high minded notion that film is an art form and needs to be protected and preserved. And the reality of, you can't spend a million dollars restoring one film, you know, that's not no one's gonna, you know, no one's gonna, it's not really, you know, necessary most of the time. And it's not something that a studio is going to put that kind of money in. So we do what we can, and we make sure that we try to get both the kind of the high minded advocacy and awareness out there and then also work practically to try to make sure that these as many films that can be restored in any given year, can get restored.

Alex Ferrari 27:15
And I've heard lately that there is you work with film and films from 90s From 1990s. And back from what I understand from your, from my research, but there's an issue now with movies created in the 80s that now the best quality versions of them are VHS tapes, like that's all the negatives are gone, because they were so disposable in those kinds of be movies and you know, these kinds of things. But it is still cinema. So I know there's a lot of organizations trying to even save VHS tapes, because that's or laser disc might be the best version of it out there. So it is a problem. It is a pro we're losing our we're losing movies every day.

Margaret Bodde 27:59
And you know, it's interesting, because you know, the 80s were this I mean, especially with what you do, right, the 80s were this kind of the golden era of independent filmmaking. That's what it is. Yeah. 80s and 90s. And that's when you know Jane Campion and Spike Lee and John Sayles and Mira Nair year, you know, all these amid Jim Jarmusch. All these amazing independent filmmakers that you think of as these you know, kind of Legends right? They were making movies for small companies. And there were a lot of very successful small companies like cynic calm and that's when Miramax started and new line you know, new world I mean, we could probably if I dig back in my memory banks I could think of even more I mean even even you know Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures, classics, no, Orion,

Alex Ferrari 28:54
Ohh Orion.Let's not forget cannon.

Margaret Bodde 28:57
And cannon right. And trauma.

Alex Ferrari 28:59
Oh, yeah can't forget.

Margaret Bodde 29:03
So, you know, and when those companies then no longer, you know, we're no longer in business. You know, those collections. It's unclear, you know, where they bought, who bought them? And I've talked to, you know, so many filmmakers who say, I don't know where my elements are, for that hit for that, for that independent film hit that I that I made in, you know, in the mid 80s. You know, and they have maybe a 60 millimeter print of it. You know, if they're lucky, they have a 35 millimeter print of the film. But those are, it's like detective work. You have to follow you have to trace everything back, you know, was it at a lab that closed did then those materials go to an archive, hopefully they were saved, and they're in an archive? It was that was that collection then sold outright to like maybe a television company. You have to trace all those things back and I Do you think that archivists, you know, do have a certain kind of detective gene that they that they tap into where they track these films down, I'll tell you a story. And interesting is just one example of many, when we work very closely with all the different archives in the US and around the world, and we have a great partnership with the UCLA Film and Television Archive. And at the time, there was an archivist working at UCLA, Ross Lippmann. And he was, as they often do, he was he was made aware that, you know, got a call from a lab, we're closing, we're getting rid of all the stuff here, you got today to come by, and find whatever you want pick it up. So he and his team go over to the lab, and they're looking through the material. And there's all these elements, all these film elements, and some of them have proper labeling, many of them don't. And he finds on the label, the name of a of a New York based producer. And he just thought, you know, that guy produced the one film that Barbara Lowden made, Wanda, that she that she starred in directed, wrote and directed, and it's, it's considered this kind of independent film, you know, milestone and independent cinema, and, you know, feminist, you know, films made by my women. So, you know, he takes it, he puts all these elements in his trunk, it turns out, this was the original negative for the film, Wanda, and were it not for the archivist, the knowledge that this archivist had the kind of random serendipity of, you know, the lab thankfully, calls the archive materials are gathered thrown into his trunk, and you contact the film foundation, that was one of the films that they asked us to support the restoration of in that given year. And, you know, now that film has inspired so many people who hadn't, they would never be able to see that film in the way that that it exists now restored, and saved for filmmakers and audiences to, to, you know, getting inspiration and and joy from these films.

Alex Ferrari 32:29
Yeah, it's, it's remarkable. I know, there's a movie that Marty found. At least the legend goes, there was a wonderful film, called I Am Cuba. years ago. I'm Cuban, of Cuban descent. So I was very interested in watching that film. And then it was released for criterion, I think it really once and then really released the criterion. And it was him and Francis, who presented the film. And they said, I remember it, I remember the when it came out, everyone's like, if this movie would have come out, when it was made, it would have changed cinema. Like it would have skewed cinema in a certain direction. Like there are those landmark films that when once that comes like, well, everything's changed. And it was in it was, I think it was found in in a closet somewhere, I don't know in an archive somewhere in a salt mine somewhere. And when they saw it, it was just a game changer and any filmmaker listening if you haven't seen IQ, but please go out and see if Cuba I mean, PT Anderson, you know, he, he borrowed a very famous shot from that. And he says, I was inspired by this shot and I am Cuba, and the stuff that they did in a film like that, like you're looking back, you're like, they're running around with 100 pound camera. And it looks like it's a Steadicam, but it isn't. How do they do that? How do they hang the camera over these two? Like, this is this is cinema at its best. And but it was lost was gone?

Margaret Bodde 34:02
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I'm glad you brought that up. Because, you know, people, you know, filmmakers, and there's not many of them, right filmmakers like Marty and Francis Ford Coppola. Putting attention putting a spotlight on the has been a really crucial part of this whole movement. Right, the film, preservation and appreciation movement, you have filmmakers who are beloved and masters, putting a spotlight on a film like I am Cuba, or a film, like, you know, even even a big popular film, like, I think when when Marty and Steven Spielberg, I think did the first Lawrence of Arabia restoration way back in the photochemical era. And I remember going to the Ziegfeld and watching it on that big screen. I had never seen Lawrence of Arabia. And and and I just you know, I remember One of the main reasons I went to see it was I knew that like Martin Scorsese, a filmmaker that I love who I just if he likes this film, I want to go see it. And it's obviously a masterpiece. So directors, filmmakers who, you know, are generous in that way. And I think they instinctively are because, you know, when something hits you in a profound way, you want to share that. And I think if the film Foundation has been successful over these years, I think that's, that's, it's really all because of Marty, and the other directors on the board, who have generously shared their enthusiasm for these films and their, and their dedication to making sure I mean, they have a righteous anger about like, you know, let's not lose these films. You know, we don't we don't know who is going to be hit by these films and inspired in the future. And it's a it's a, it's a deep well, that I think we have to make sure, you know, stays available for filmmakers who, you know, are working today and who are going to be working in the future.

Alex Ferrari 36:11
Exactly. I mean, how many painters and artists have been inspired by Van Gogh or Basquiat, or Pollock or any of these, like, just imagine if Van Gogh would have never been found? Like, thank God, he made 900 of those things, just kept making them and no one bought them, but he just kept making them because he had to because he was an artist. But imagine if that was all lost in a fire once, and no one would have known about Van Gogh, what a loss to humanity. That would be how you look at it.

Margaret Bodde 36:39
Yeah. And I think it's also kind of interesting, because film inspires filmmakers. But it also inspires painters and musicians and dancers, and scientists, and you know, I mean, and, and yeah, because I think if you, if you look at art, and cinema, art, and you know, fine art, if you look at it as a transcendent experience. I mean, it's really one of the things that makes life worth living. You know, I mean, we transcend our daily lives, when we read a book, or when we look at a painting, or when we watch a great film, and when we, you know, experience a dance that we're seeing, you know, performed, these are things that take us out of the daily, you know, grind of, you know, working and, you know, I mean, I think that we have to remember that there are so many important issues in the world. But this is this is a vital thing that we want to really keep alive and keep available to people, because it's what kind of propels us into the future in a in a kind of renewed way?

Alex Ferrari 37:54
Well, there's no, there's no question because then there's a conversation about the arts, you know, that's the first thing they cut at school, when the budgets gonna look, but art is what makes your mind think what creates it's what creates imagination, and that is what creates innovation. In our in our in humanity without the great scientific, or the Sci Fi books of HG Wells, a lot of that has come true. Yeah, we don't have a time machine yet. But there's a lot of concepts that that were laid out there that were inspired, inspired scientists, and they wanted to go and then I mean, in many of the filmmakers we spoke about today have inspired so many scientists, so many artists, so many people in the world. Art is something that needs to be preserved and needs to be protected. And even if there isn't a monetary reward right away, there's a much greater reward, which is the culture of it. And I always tell people, when I when I try to inspire filmmakers to go out and make their films, I go, you have no idea who you are going to touch, what your film your film might be seen by 10 people, but one of those 10 People might go off and make the great cinematic masterpiece or might go off and become that doctor because of the story that you're telling her or go off and save lives to change. You have no idea the power that art has in changing people's lives. And that's why I think the work that you do and Marty is doing is so so so important in the world.

Margaret Bodde 39:19
Well, I have to say that we are a small team. So I want to take a moment to give a shout out to the other three or four people who work at the foundation with me, Jennifer On is our Managing Director. She's been at the foundation for over 20 years. And she's you know, kind of a genius in many ways in terms of creating programs, creating partnerships with people who will, you know, help fund these restorations. And she's truly a partner for Marty and I and she's just an extraordinary talent. And Kristin Merola who's Our program manager, who is just, you know, again, just so dedicated and devoted to film and cinema, and is just is no one who can keep more things in the air at the same time. She's terrific. And my colleague here in New York, Rebecca Wingull, who's actually moving on to grad school, we're sad to see her go, but she's been with the foundation for six years. So we're kind of a very small and kind of dedicated group that, you know, we're lean and mean, we make a lot happen. So I want to give a shout out to my colleagues at the foundation,

Alex Ferrari 40:38
Absolutely no question about it. Now, I have a question. A few questions I want to ask you that are kind of the nitty gritty of of actually film restoration. So we've talked about the ideas and the concepts and the love about it. But how long does it take to restore a film?

Margaret Bodde 40:53
Well, it varies depending on the condition of the materials, the length of the film, the type of of workflow that you decide. The first, the first thing you want to ask is like, Is this is this the original negative is this the best element to work from? If it's if the original negative is damaged, if it doesn't exist, if it's missing reels, that time to track down, and to kind of bring together all the best surviving elements for a film can be very time consuming, but it's really crucial, because you don't want to spend resources and time preserving something that you think is the best element. And then oh, you know, this archive in you know, in Germany, they have this whole film, and it's, it's a better element than what you're working from. So this consortium of archives, in under this group called FIAF, the International Federation of film archivists, they're really crucial in this process, the archives will do these calls around to the world to make sure that they've working from the best, the best material, so it's a, there's a long way of saying, it can take a long time. However, if you have an original camera negative, that's an, you know, really good or decent condition. And you know, that you're going to do either a photochemical preservation or a digital restoration. You know, it can be, it can be as short as, you know, two to four months, you know, if you can really focus on that, and if the if the, if you don't have to track down materials, if you don't have to do a lot of physical repair, and manual work on on the film itself. We've worked on projects that take 10 years. Wow. And that 10 year timeframe, is from the time that someone first starts talking to you about hey, and in this instance, I'll tell you what the project was one of Marty's oldest dearest friends, J. Cox, every time I would say, j, and he's a renowned writer, he would say to me, we got to save the memory of justice. It's this Marcel Ophuls. Four and a half, documentary on Nuremberg, Vietnam, and the French Algerian War, it's a masterpiece, we have to save it, no one can see it. So from that investigation, right, you have to then find out in the instance of this project, it was a subject of various lawsuits. It was, you know, bought and sold. There was only a 16 millimeter print at the New York Public Library. And so we had to do tracking down finding, you know, the original 16 millimeter was was made on 16 millimeter 16 millimeter negative. In this instance, we had to, which is one of the only times the film Foundation has ever had to do this. We had to go back because it's a documentary. And it had like 380 cues of clips, music, we had to go back and re license Oh, that material and scan the 16 millimeter negative, do all the work involved in restoring a film of that length. Then, we found the original German, French and French language tracks. And at the time the film was made, it was you know, in the 1970s, mid 70s. It was common, a common stylistic decision in documentaries, where you would to kind of put the original language track down or take it out entirely and have a very staid British, you know, voiceover

Alex Ferrari 45:09
Yes, I remember.

Margaret Bodde 45:10
Yeah. So we contacted Marty contacted Marcel Ophuls, the filmmaker of the director of the film, and said, you know, we found these Lane language tracks, what would you like to do? We don't want to change anything about the film. Unless it's a directorial, you know, choice. He said, I always wanted to use the original language tracks, they made me put that VoiceOver on. So what happens when you put the original language tracks and you know, your user interviews with former Nazis, right? So you want to hear the tone of their voice, you want to hear the tone of voice that Marcel Ophuls is using to interrogate these guys. And so it's a whole different experience. So we we really look at that that was a that was a massive undertaking that the film foundation took on with the Academy Film Archive. And it brought back a work of art film, really important, monumental documentary, to the world where, you know, I don't think anyone could have seen it. And we were able to work with think Thank you Sheila Nevins at HBO. Because she loved the film, she knew of the film. And she was able the HBO licensed it. And we were able to pay for all those licenses so that audiences could see the film. Because it's an important milestone, it's an educational tool, it's a real document for for for the 20th century. So that's just one very long winded example of how long it can take to to fully restore and make a film available to audiences.

Alex Ferrari 46:55
And what is the average cost? I know that depends obviously, on the the length, but generally, the average cost of a color film a black and white film that

Margaret Bodde 47:04
Generally a black and white film is somewhere on the 50 to $80,000 range, if it's a feature, if it's a feature length film, it can be more obviously, a color film is more than that, it's usually somewhere more like, you know, 80 to $120,000, for a full feature to do a full restoration, where you're really doing frame by frame work. And again, there that's kind of a ballpark, there are outliers that are less than that, and more than that, but that's the general ballpark.

Alex Ferrari 47:41
Now, tell me about your monthly on demand screening. So you guys have just started up?

Margaret Bodde 47:46
Well, this was this is a very exciting opportunity for the foundation to to reach the audience directly. When we, when we were in the pandemic and everything was shut down. And we had our annual board meeting, the directors, we were talking about all these great festivals that we work with that had migrated online and pivoted to presenting films, virtually, and also companies like criteria channel and movie and, and great organizations and also great theaters like the film forum and Anthology Film Archives and MoMA, they all had kind of presented their offerings online. And our board said, hey, you know, we should do that, you know, once in a while, we don't need to, you know, obviously we're not, we're there's all these great organizations doing it. But we should show people what we do, and the kind of work that we that we support. And so we went to a wonderful supporter, who used to be at IBM, Jeff Schick, and is now at Oracle. And we described the challenge to him, and he worked with us, as pro bono to kind of build a site that would allow us to present once a month for 24 hours, a fully restored film, and we build around each presentation interviews with archivists, filmmakers, actors, scholars, historians, talking, contextualizing the experience for an audience and, and giving information about the restoration about the film, why the film is important to you know, any given filmmaker, how it inspired them. So we're, we're creating really kind of like, a bit of a of a festival experience online for people, you know, all over the world. Most of the time. I mean, it's it depends on film by film we have we have more or less territories available, but it's free. And you can look at it if you look at it in a live way like we start each screening at seven o'clock in your local timezone. And if you're in the US or the UK or Canada, you You can join us for a live chat if that's the way you'd like to watch films if you're seeing a film for for the second or third or fourth time or for the first time, and you just like to talk to people while you're watching a film, which is kind of anathema to some people. But you know, we have that option. And then we also have an on demand option for the majority of the people who just want to be able to watch the film either on a large laptop or on their, hopefully on their, the television that they have at home, where they can cast onto a big screen, and enjoy the film. And you know, the films, you know, look beautiful, you see the restoration. And if if you have never seen the film before, you can learn all about the film, and join in this community that we think is still really vital every month and see a wide range of films, everything from we you know, for the for the initial launch, we showed a 1945 British film called I know where I'm going. That's one of the great romantic films of all time, we showed la strada which is, you know, Fellini's masterpiece that we, you know, restored in partnership with the chinet ticket to Bologna and criterion. And, and then after that we have a wonderful double feature. Because we love our double features. It's a film noir double feature of the chase, Arthur Ripley's the chase, and Edgar almost detour. Yes, we're thrilled about about that. Because, you know, we really, we want to show as many films as possible. So it's, it's fun to be able to show some double features here and there, too.

Alex Ferrari 52:24
And now you're going to be doing this, it's a monthly it's a monthly screening, right?

Margaret Bodde 52:28
It's every second Monday of each month. Okay. Yeah, we just wanted to make it, you know, we don't have the bandwidth with our small team to be doing this, you know, you know, every day, we also have so many great partners who do do this all the time. But we did want to have, you know, an opportunity to kind of directly connect with an audience and show them the kind of work that we support, we're going to be showing films from our world cinema project, you know, films that have been, you know, made in regions where, you know, a lot of times these films are really only known in the region that they were made in like commodity and like Samba Xanga, which is a French Angolan, and go and film that was directed by Sarah Mulder. And it's, it's a wonderful film, you know, a political film that's, again, being being discovered and rediscovered because of the restoration. And, you know, we're just really thrilled to, to get a real diverse offering of films out to audiences, because, you know, film is pretty, it's rich, and it's broad in its genres and era. And we want to celebrate all of that.

Alex Ferrari 53:47
Yeah. And it's, and you're gonna be doing this every every month, moving forward every month. Yeah. Before that's, that's, that's an amazing service. I will do everything I can to get the word out to to my audience, because I think it's, it's really, really important for filmmakers to, to watch old cinema and I mean, we all know, the usual suspects we all have to watch. But discovering those the Inq bits of the world and those kinds of films that are not mainstream classics, that's where a lot of really interesting filmmakers are and voices are heard that shouldn't be seen by different generations without question. I had one one question Where do you when you when you're done restoring it now? I'm assuming you put it on celluloid archival Sell, sell the Lord and put it in a salt mine somewhere and then also digital?

Margaret Bodde 54:35
Yeah, when when when we still do photochemical preservations with some of the archives, in which case you want to make sure that the original materials and elements are held in cold storage temperature and humidity control as well as the new film elements. But it allows you know, film prints to be circulated at theaters that are still showing 35 millimeter film. And then when we have digital work Hello. And when we restore films digitally, we always have, we have a film neg negative, that's output from the digital files, and then 35 millimeter film prints made from that negative. So we always have 35 millimeter film print and a DCP available to theaters so that audiences can see they have the theaters have the option of showing either. And I think, you know, it's important for us to always now have some kind of digital element. So because that's really the way that the majority of people are going to see the film's right. So we try to kind of as long as films available, we'll be we'll be making some prints and negatives of the films that we that we help restore.

Alex Ferrari 55:49
But there's some there's some Fourcade and maybe 8k Quick times out there somewhere.

Margaret Bodde 55:55
Absolutely. Well, quick terms are probably held by the rights holders. But yeah, we put

Alex Ferrari 56:00
As archival.

Margaret Bodde 56:01
Yeah, absolutely. Well, LTO tape is usually what we're preserving. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 56:07
Wow. Yeah, cuz I mean, again, it's you're fighting against time, time is the enemy here. It's it just, it just keeps pounding away in these elements. I mean, eventually, hopefully, there'll be a hard drive that will last indefinitely. And I think that will happen one day, but knows, you know, well, about a diamond or something.

Margaret Bodde 56:27
Well, what we hear is it's going to be DNA.

Alex Ferrari 56:31
DNA. So what is that? Exactly?

Margaret Bodde 56:33
DNA storage.

Alex Ferrari 56:35
So what is DNA storage? I have no idea I've never heard that,like DNA DNA?

Margaret Bodde 56:40
You need bigger brains than mine are going to have to explain that. But you should try to get someone on the show who can talk to you about DNA storage, because that's apparently the future, not just for film preservation and film storage, obviously. But for data storage, I mean, we are creating the the amount of, of, you know, computing power needed to store all that's being created on the internet, and, you know, crypto, everything is just so massive. I think the goal and the future is to have DNA strand hold all this information. Apparently, it's exponential, the amount of material that can be held, once you once you can, you know,

Alex Ferrari 57:24
Kind of like block kind of like a blockchain mixed with the DNA kind of world. Yet, again, brains bigger than you and I will have to explain this to people.

Margaret Bodde 57:35
As smart as we are. It's beyond us.

Alex Ferrari 57:40
Right! When we because you're on the cutting edge of everything. I mean, you're talking about, it's kind of like us trying to explain to somebody in the 1900s This thing right here is really, really important.

Margaret Bodde 57:52
Yeah, exactly. We use it all day, every day, but we cannot tell you how it works.

Alex Ferrari 57:59
Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Margaret Bodde 58:01
I can tell you how a toaster works. I can't tell you how this thing works.

Alex Ferrari 58:07
Now, Margaret, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Margaret Bodde 58:26
Interesting, I feel like I'm still learning things. I'm not trying to dodge the question, but I'll tell you what I'm glad I haven't learned yet. Is the word no.

Alex Ferrari 58:36
Yes, thank you.

Margaret Bodde 58:38
I really, I can be kind of a pain in this way. But I don't feel like anything is impossible. And I try to do you know, and maybe it's because I've worked for Martin Scorsese for over 30 years, but I'd never, I never say no. I really try to make them I'm tenacious. And I think you need to be tenacious in, in, you know, roles, like I have with the film foundation, you can't give up on things, you know, how many people are gonna, like, you know, hang around for a 10 year restoration of a 1976 documentary. You know, so I'm trying to think of the less so I don't know if if you can unwind that into like the lesson.

Alex Ferrari 59:26
No, it makes it. I mean, the the lesson I think that you're learning is to not take no for an answer, which is a very, very big lesson for people to go if you can understand that. No, is the default. No, is what everyone's going to say to you most of the time, especially in the film industry. You know, I'm sure Marty I'm sure Marty can attest to that because he has been said no to so many times.

Margaret Bodde 59:51
I know and even even now, it's funny because people will say, Well, he's Martin's processor. You can you can do anything. It's like, yeah, people say You know, to him all the time. So it's like, you know, you, you really have to find ways to work around. You know, you have to you have to commit to your dream, whatever it is, if you're, you know, if you want to be an actor, if you want to be a writer, if you want to be a filmmaker, you know, you gotta believe in yourself. Because no one's gonna believe in you, unless they see it coming from you first.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
Absolutely. Now, I think we might have answered the question, but I'm gonna ask it anyway, what advice do you have for a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Margaret Bodde 1:00:37
I think this seems like an obvious bit of advice. But know your story, have a story to tell and know what that story is. And, you know, as much as you can draw deep from your own personal experiences, knowledge, you know, bring the emotion to it. And I think that's what people respond to, you know, people respond to the truth of something. And even if it's not like, Yeah, I'm not talking about documentary truth, I'm talking about something's authentic. You know, try to try to make a try to tell a story and make a film about something that matters to you. And that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
That's great piece of advice. And my last question, and arguably the most difficult question, you can be asked three of your favorite films of all time.

Margaret Bodde 1:01:37
Oh, wow. That is really difficult because it changes as you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:43
Today, I always say as of right now, what comes to your mind, tomorrow it canchange. Yesterday was different right? Now, what are the three favorite films?

Margaret Bodde 1:01:52
Um, I would say, vertigo, and this is in no particular order. I would say vertigo.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:01
So good.

Margaret Bodde 1:02:05
I would say Mean Streets. And mean, maybe my I mean, it's a hard it's a hard call, because I have so many Scorsese favorites. You know, I'm really loving 2001. You know?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:21
I mean, my favorite Kubrick. I'm a huge huge Kubrick fan. I've gone down the rabbit hole, probably a little too much with with Stanley. But I love eyes wide shot I just adore. It is not the one that everyone talks about. But for me. I just I still remember walking out of the theater in 99. And my friends are asking me, what did you think I go, I don't know. I don't understand it, but I will in 10 years. And that's generally, all of Stanley's movies, they all are understood. About a decade later, really, truly, like appreciated. And then I saw it 10 years later after I was married. And it hit me at a whole other level, because you're just like, Oh, God, I understand what he was trying to say. And it's just it's such a hypnotic film. And main streets, there is a, there's a rawness and Novolog velocity, but like this, this energy energy that a young Scorsese is making there, you know, and I've seen I've seen, who's that knocking? Or what is a good girl? What is it? doing in a place like this? Yeah, I saw that one, I've seen almost all of Marty's short films and everything. But Main Street has this raw kinetic, that's kinetic energy, that you can start seeing the seeds of what's coming. And that's what that was such a brilliant piece of work as an independent filmmaker,

Margaret Bodde 1:03:53
It's really and it's the definition of what we just talked about, of like having a story, you know, important to you, goes deep, that's like a personal you know, these people, you know, this story, I will add, one film that I that I mentioned before, is, you know, did watch Some Like It Hot, again, reasonably good. And there are, you know, how many films hold up and make you laugh so hard? Every time you see them. And over, you know, film was 1960 I think maybe, you know, however many years, you know, 70 years later, it's it's just it's a real masterpiece. And you know, I've had a real Billy Wilder re appreciation lately,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:45
I'll tell you from from my generation of filmmakers, which was coming up in the 80s and the 90s laser discs were the thing and the Criterion Collection introduced me to films. If it just came out on the Criterion Collection, I would be like, I have to watch this. So Graduates I saw I saw movies, classic movies, when there wasn't a lot of information about movies unless you were in film school. And like the lady in the mid 80s, late 80s It just wasn't there's no internet. Unless you went out and studied in books, you really couldn't know what was something you should watch. And the Criterion Collection was one of those those collections that you'd like to graduate. Okay. Some Like It Hot as I saw some like a how to LaserDisc for the first time. So that was in these in that collection, especially the early stuff. And then of course, Raging Bull taxi driver, I think Mean Streets came out afterwards. And then Lawrence of Arabia, and the list goes on and on. But yeah, there's those films. But I remember, even when I was a knucklehead in the video store days, which I was a teenager, I call myself the knucklehead because I had no taste in cinema. I was learning my tastes and cinema. Again, I was watching like, you know, Jean-Claude Van Damme films and going he is the best actor ever. But because I was, you know, 16 So of course, you know, but even then films like The Graduate films like Some Like It Hot pierce through that because it hits you at a whole other level. It's at a superficial level. And that's when I fell in love with Billy Wilder Preston, Sturges, all it's just these these filmmakers, those film like Sullivan's Travels still holds.

Margaret Bodde 1:06:18
Oh, so Well, yeah. Even more, even more. And, you know, the thing is, is it's important to know, I think that comedy is hard.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:29
And that it can last

Margaret Bodde 1:06:31
Yeah, and we think of like, oh, lighter, you know, the the critics and awards, you know, groups, I think, underestimate how hard it is to make people laugh. And,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:46
And you watch a master like Billy Wilder and something like, that's an absolute masterpiece, like it's a it's a comedic masterpiece, the timing, the characters, the writing, just that everything in the editing, it's just such a well made comedy. And then yeah, because comedy is like, oh, it's everyone's laughing. So you shouldn't take it seriously. And that's a lot like awards. And, you know, Oscars and these kind of things don't don't usually award these kind of films. But it's so hard. So hard. I've, I've worked on comedies, it's the timing, you're talking about a frame here or frame there. The joke lands or doesn't land on that frame. It's such a nuanced art form. You know, one of my favorite comedies of all time, is airplay, and, because of the lunacy, but that is another deceiving. Comedy. It is. So well, the timing of the jokes, how they did it. And you do know the story of their their god, what is when you go in a test audience, the test audience review story. So when they it was one of the worst tested films ever Paramount thought it was going to be a bomb, because nobody wanted to admit that they were laughing. Nobody wanted to admit that they enjoyed it because it was so silly. And there was really never been a film like that. That's that's true, crazy slapstick. And but then when the audience when they hit this theaters, it just exploded. But it was considered one of the worst tested films ever. Because nobody wanted to admit that they were having a good time. So it's even then.

Margaret Bodde 1:08:25
Yeah, thank goodness, they didn't like it. I mean, that launched a whole that was groundbreaking. It launched a whole new genre, genre that didn't exist before. Right.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:38
Right. And so these are, these are pieces of cinema that, you know, in the world that we live in today, Margaret, we have so much content, and so much information coming at us and with you know, I remember a time I always tell I talk filmmakers, this young filmmakers, I'm like, I remember a time where I could watch everything that came out that week. Because I was working at a video store and every movie that came out on that given week, five movies, six movies, maybe I watched them all.

Margaret Bodde 1:09:08
Yeah, that'd be a day, you could take a day and watch everything.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:11
Day or weekend and you're done. And I would watch everything. And I would be you know, that's how I got my cinema knowledge. But today's world, there is so much coming at you the content and the amount of films, the amount of television not an assignment talk about YouTube and content be created there. But just in cinema, and in television, storytelling, there's so much coming at us. You and I could spend 10 lifetimes and not watch at all it's it's insane. So it's that's why it's so important to highlight these wonderful pieces of art that you are working with, with the foundation to to bring light to because like content and cinema has become disposable in many ways where before you know, there was only three channels.

Margaret Bodde 1:10:00
Yeah, I know, I know. Well, no, Alex, it's so we're so grateful for you to, you know, be talking about this to your audience to be highlighting it. Because I think for filmmakers, this is, it probably is just this really important. I mean, nothing is more important to filmmakers than having that well to draw from, where you can go back and be inspired by a film that was made. That's part of that legacy. It's part of the continuum of the creative evolution of storytelling on film.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:34
Right, exactly. And I can't imagine a world without the filmography of of Martin Scorsese, or Stanley Kubrick, or Steven Spielberg, or Hitchcock or Kurosawa, you pull these just those those names alone, or Coppola, you pulled them out of cinema. Can you imagine the next generation of filmmakers without being able to see Mean Streets or Jaws or 2001?

Margaret Bodde 1:10:56
Yeah, I mean, nothing exists in a vacuum. And, you know, you can't have you know, you can't have, you know, fill in the blank, contemporary filmmaker, without their antecedents, you know, without without the things that came before them. Because everything it builds on it, it's music is the same way any art form, it echoes the past, then, and then create something new right now, because like, we're not, we're not mimicking the past, we're using, you know, we're kind of building on that. And, you know, using your own voice and your own story, but always having that awareness of what's come before.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:37
Margaret, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And thank you, Marty, and your entire team at the Film Foundation for what you do, because it is such important work. And I'm so glad that I can in my small way help you along the way. So thank you again, and please continue the good work. You are doing God's work without question.

Margaret Bodde 1:11:56
Thank you, Alex. It's been such a pleasure. And hopefully we'll be back and talk about other restorations in the future.

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BPS 330: Inside the PIXAR Story Brain Trust with Rob Edwards

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Alex Ferrari 0:28
Enjoy this episode with guest host Scott McMahon.

Scott Mcmahon 1:58
Okay, today's episode I'm super excited by today. I have screenwriter Rob Edwards on It's bonkers. It's like over two hours long but is just packed with such great information. I wanted to dig deeper into one area that I have a particular interest in is the Pixar brain trust storytelling meetings. So how does Rob fit in? But here's a quick bio of Rob's work. Rob grew up in Detroit moved out to Los Angeles and had an agreement with his dad that he would find work in the industry within the first nine months he was there. Now, here's where Rob's hustle is on full display. Now this was back in the mid 1980s. He would call every production company in town and ask the person on the other line if they wanted to hear a joke or piece of gossip. Most of the time Rob was able to get a laugh from them with his jokes. While those who pick the gossip will share even juiciest stories with Rob of their own. Now all the people at these production companies would ask what Rob wanted. Now Rob didn't ask for anything return. He just said that he would call back and let them know. So when he calls back the people at these production companies, they remembered him and when he asked for work, they were more inclined to hire him because the fact that at least there will be a guy around the office who could tell jokes all day. Robert worked these production gigs during the day and at night write his scripts. Now the hustle paid off because he was eventually hired as a writer for television before he was 21. That's crazy. Since then, here are Rob's credits. He's been a writer on Full House in living color, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which most of the stories are based on his own experience while attending prep school in Detroit. In fact, Rob went to the same school as Aaron Sorkin, who rob works with on studio 60 later on. Now, we didn't get a chance to go into detail about working with Aaron Sorkin. But I do hope to have Rob back again one day. So there's talk about more stories. You know, Rob's work eventually landed him over at Disney where he wrote Treasure Planet and the Princess and the Frog. Rob was there at Disney when the Pixar guys took over story development. And that is where we pick up the story. I've always been fascinated by how Pixar continually knocks it out of the park with their stories. In the book creativity inc by Ed Catmull, who was one of the founders of Pixar explains how the development of this brain trust group has been proven to be invaluable to the storytelling process for Pixar. So I'm thinking how does it work? What happens in those rooms that is different than getting studio notes or working in a writers room. And now here today, we need to find out because Rob worked firsthand in these brain trust meetings for the princess in the frog. What I hope you get from this episode is some real world strategies of how to make your stories better. I mean, after all, it's not every day you get to sit in on a Pixar Storytelling meeting. So sit back and enjoy my conversation with Rob Edwards. With film Trooper The goal was to try to help sort of the Uber independent filmmaker, the one that things have changed so much in the filmmaking landscape, obviously of the studio system you have sort of like the indie Hollywood, like people that have one foot in the studio system, one foot Yeah, but in like the film, International Film Market, and there's probably like 90% of everybody now that has a camera and can edit movies on their laptop. Right now they've entered the scene. But there's, there's a different sort of business economics for them. And, and you know, we're just sort of discovering it. And but at the core of all this is still telling a great story. So, because I also came from the video game world for like 12 years, I worked at Sony PlayStation, and I was a Cinemax supervisor. They're making you know, movies for video games. But our department was considered fluff, because at the heart of all video games, is the gameplay. So if movies and television is if story is king, then in video games, gameplay is king, because you can have amazing graphics on your video game. But if it's sluggish, if it's not fun to play, right, people put it aside. So I wanted to, if you would indulge me just like imagine this setup, where we have these Uber independent filmmakers that they are learning the skill sets as a filmmaker to shoot, edit, you know, direct what what it may be, but we do sees a lot of it fall short, in terms of the storytelling aspect of things. And with your history with your experience, I'm really curious about what you saw on the transition. One working in writers rooms, we're gonna collaboratively But then on top of that, working with Disney, especially on that transition when Pixar, you know, came in, and I would really love to know more about, could you take us through a little journey of like, how the brain trust meetings work? Or oh, sure, is. Because if what I'm trying to do is if there's something there, there's these nuggets there that we can then identify and say, okay, so if you're like an Uber independent filmmaker, and you're writing your story, right now, how can you simulate on your own by we were talking about the accountability group, you know, our mastermind? Can you create something like that? That's very specific to creating your own version of a brain trust group? And if so, what would be those inner workings that that we could apply? That'd be like, oh, like, how do you get in a room where people can be free to be, be have candor without being insulting?

Rob Edwards 7:30
Well, that's the that's the thing. The question is, is kind of the answer. Because it's, that is the, for me at Disney Pixar, I saw the pre John Lasseter, Disney, you know, Treasure Planet, that was all, you know, the old regime, where there were levels, levels after levels of middle management, and, and everybody, and, you know, sometimes a note would come down from on high, you know, whatever. And it would get some something simple, like, somebody would just read something and say, Hey, I wonder if we could do this. And then middle management, which is pound us and say, This has to happen? You know, there is no, there is no other version, and we would look at it and we would say, hey, look, we've tried this, it doesn't work. It makes the movie bad. And they would say, No, we got this note, and you have to do it. And then we would do it. And it would go back to the person, you know, the voice on high and he was like, What is this? This is This is crap. I said, Well, this was your note, this was an, you know, this addresses your nose like No, no, no, that was just a thought. That didn't work, you should have thrown it out. And that's what you know, middle management kind of does to kill you. What's great about the brain trust is that it's it's two things. One is I'll say the impossible part of it, we'll start there. The Impossible part of it is you're never going to find yourself in a room with Brad Bird. And you know, and yeah, yeah. And that these guys are going to say, hey, it's very important that your movie is good. And, and we'll invest in it with with an artist's heart. And, you know, that's very tough. Having said that, you can construct rooms of filmic meet before they were Pixar. They were just a bunch of guys who almost got shut down. You know, for Toy Story. poster was a mess. The first draft of Toy Story, the first version for a set of reels of Toy Story was a mess when he's yelling at everybody. You know, everybody was cowering in fear. It was the most by their admission, the most unlikable film ever. And then what Peyton Bob said was that Pete doctor said that Andrew Stanton kind of went into a room and figured it out.

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

Rob Edwards 10:07
You know, he went into a room with all of the techs, you know, Dr. Ruby, whatever. And Robert McKee has all the notes for everything along with his own thoughts about, you know, movies that he'd like, the note that they had gotten, you know, why wasn't Pixar here? Why wasn't Toy Story working? And how had they arrived at this place where even Steve Jobs was saying, like, Okay, guys, maybe it's maybe this isn't, maybe this isn't the right, the right fit. And he came out and said, I got it. It needs to be this and this. And this. And those are the rules that you always see, you know, and their TED Talks and stuff like that, you know, of what they do, which they frequently break, by the way. Guys, in every movie, they have happy villages, they just don't call them happy villages. There is a you know, there is an eye once on, everybody has to state what it is they want. But those rules, basically what they do is they enforce the rules. And the way that the the Brain Trust works, at least what I saw is that they start off what you don't get that you do get sometimes from your buddies, is a great movie. And that's, that's the worst thing in the world. You know, it's just, it's the, I would say savagery of low expectations. This is very good. Yes. Don't change a word of it. That's awful. What you say is, okay, what is the biggest problem? That's where That's where Andrew Stanton would usually start to okay, what is the biggest problem? Let's start there. And then let's let those things filter down. Because some of the smaller problems that people have may be things that started with the bigger problems.

Scott Mcmahon 11:52
When you say, when you say big problem, is that the actual What's the biggest problem of the story not working? Or what is the biggest problem in the story? Or like what is the protagonist is probably

Rob Edwards 12:02
The biggest problem with the story not working. Okay. And it is, it is your buddy will say, Oh, it works. It just needs this. A Brain Trust says it's not working. You know, the, the, the the default is, it doesn't work. These movies just don't work, you know? And if they are, if they're good, it's still not good enough. You know, they're not great. They're not everybody's favorite movie. You're not gonna you're not gonna turn style, you know, you're not gonna leave the theater, buy a ticket and come right back in. Yeah. Yeah. Especially in the first second draft. A lot of people will stop there. That's a that's a major problem I see a lot is it writers will say, they'll do a draft or two. And they'll say, oh, great, you know, this is good. It all works. And then they'll stop. You can't you have to say, Okay, well, what you had to plus it, you have to say, Okay, what's the next level of this? You know, we have a really great animal has his has a has a great scene, she's auditioning the costumes for the new Incredibles. Okay, that's fine. But what's the next level of it? You know, Oh, great. Let's put her in a chair. And the chair goes back and forth. And we have everything, you know, we show everything as it's happening. Okay, awesome. You know, now it's plus, you know, and then can you plus it even more the reactions to it, all that kind of stuff.

Scott Mcmahon 13:21
Because, yeah, I'm sorry, that's definitely like a flaw within, like, this world of the Uber independent, like, they, they kind of work a script a little bit, but they just get it to good enough. They're like, I think I can make this

Rob Edwards 13:34
You know, and you can make a really, you can make anything and then sometimes that's the best thing a professional can do for you is to say, Okay, this, you can make this this is fine. You know, you can roll the cameras, it'll all it'll all shoot well, but you're gonna get creamed by the, by the critics. You know, you're it's good enough for 44 or 40%, ripe tomato. But you're not gonna get that 99 Unless you super super PUSH IT. And especially with independent films, there are fantastic independent films. And then there are some that you just say like, oh, you know, I can Yeah, I get when they when your friends send you the links. Yeah, everybody knows. You're watching it takes you four four times to get all the way through it because you're just kind of like okay, well this is this is okay. But nothing is really gripping, you know, getting the grip to the screen. On the other hand, you'll see like, you know, the Marvel films the new you know, the the new Marvel films, the obviously the Pixar films, films that are well told, they drive you, you know, you instantly have a character that you understand that you really want them to achieve their goals. And then the the opposition is just monumental. And then you're just watching them be clever and cool and wonderful and, and make their way through the story. Yeah, well, then that is that is a school of storytelling. And the way that you get to that is that thing where you know, somebody's at the table. Hopefully everyone at the table says, look, let's start with protagonists. What is the protagonist want? And how much do they want it? Straight up? You know, first question, I'll see dozens of script stacks and stacks of scripts. And I'll ask them, but I will say I'm 20 pages into this, I can't tell who you know, what the protagonist was, I if I can tell who the protagonist is, I can't tell what they want. And that just sucks. You know, that means that you have terrible friends. Read your script, you know, with any honesty and told you, you know, look, it is a chore to turn the pages of the script.

Scott Mcmahon 15:43
Can I ask you what the I know, that was, you know, obviously, Pixar. Disney is and it is animation. And in the pitch process, like when the brain trust group comes together? Is it just is the initial meeting just a script phrase? Or do they come like, here's the script phase with some storyboards? Or, you know, they put up a board and somebody acts it out? Or like, how does the how does the other members acquire the story? Or the is it presented to them? Or do they actually read a script come into the meeting? And I guess the second part of the question, is there like a moderator? is, you know, all right, or is it more of a loose like, Alright, everybody, this is a story we're making, you know, Rob's new story. He's the director on it. We read the script, or we've seen the pitch already for their pitch, or like, how does that how does the room work? Then? I was just curious, because if I'm going to do something like Uber enter, independent level, yeah. Should I come to the table with some storyboards and present it as much as possible? I'm, I'm just trying to figure out how I can the best I can to simulate what they're doing in the brain.

Rob Edwards 16:44
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, Andrew Stanton has this thing. He says A B, be wrong as early as possible. Yeah. You're gonna be wrong, you know it. And again, that's always the assumption it is broken. It is broken until the last possible second. And even Ron Clemens or John Musker princess in the frog and your planet, and Treasure Planet and you know, little thing called Little Mermaid. A little thing. Those guys, what Don Hall the head of story, he would say they like to leave the paint wet. That meaning that you're always developing, you're always you're always coming up with ideas. You're leaving that door open for that new wonderful idea to come in. Even when I was working with Aaron Sorkin on Studio 60. He would, we would talk about you know, it was kind of a paperless office. You don't write it down. Don't lock any idea down. It's just you're just talking out stuff. So when you start off with with with with John Lasseter, and I was working on a project called King of the Hill, it's based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Okay. And what you do is you start talking about who the main character is going to be, you know, and in this case, it was kind of like, I wanted to just for me, as a writer, I wanted to address some of what I was going through with my I have two sons. And and just this idea of what is it? What are you looking for a son to do? When do you know that a son has is ready to go off to college is ready to you know, has become a man. As a father, you're always searching around for stuff you're trying to figure out fatherhood as you go. And so what is it? You know, what does that look that you want to see in your son's eyes that says, I'm ready? And how do you get there? And can we do that in the in the, in the course of this story, which is essentially about these, which is essentially about these elves and this guy who essentially inherits inherits this elf world. So yeah, so so so you start there. Okay. Well, these are, this is the emotional palette. This is what I think is going to be fun. Let me kill that thing. Sure. Sure. Go ahead. Sorry about that. Oh, you want to clean? When did I start?

Scott Mcmahon 19:04
When you're talking about you're you're wearing a story about you have two boys? When do you get that moment? How do you how do you capture that moment when it's in their eyes that they're ready for manhood are ready to leave the nest or whatnot? Yeah,

Rob Edwards 19:16
Exactly. Yeah. And so yeah, so for me, that's what I was. That's just what I'm exploring in life. And I thought, Okay, this is a great way to, to, to write it and kind of, you know, share it with people. I'll have a lot of insights on it. It'll, it'll be informative to me, it'll be a movie that I would want to watch. We start. And then I was talking to John about it. And John said, Oh, man, my son is 16, too. And there's this look they give you and then everything. We just started sharing stories about, you know, just how do you get through to them and what do you give them and you know, just how do you raise a boy? And we're sharing stories, sharing stories, sharing stories here and I said, Okay, excellent. I know, I know what I'm going to do.

Alex Ferrari 19:59
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Rob Edwards 20:08
So I go off from that basic conversation, because I know Okay, good. He's an audience. I'm an audience member. And that's another one of the Andrew Stanton. Yeah, that I claim to, which is be a film goer, first a filmmaker second. So I go, I set out to look at the story, which is very light, and say, Okay, what can I do? Basically, how can I get a rise out of John, I'm gonna story, what I do is going to get a rise out of John, what are going to be those real great honest moments that we can do. So I go through what real story team, we we kind of plot and there's it's fantastical, and it's all kinds of stuff. But at its core, it's got this really great emotional emotion to it. Just like Princess in the frog or any votes. Yeah. Yeah. And, and then, and then you are pitching kind of a wall of drawings. You know, first act is on one wall, actually, second act is on two walls. And then the third act is on the is on the next wall. You know, because for a second act is always in two parts of two. Yeah, with a midpoint. And then, you know, and it's funny, because John will, and I use this method all the time, John walks in, and he goes, third act, he walks right up to it. And he's okay. Where's that moment? Say, Well, you know, it's, it's there. And what he's looking for is, what's the epiphany? What's that little thing? You know, where the, the where you know, where he is going to turn into a star? Or when you know, both Tiana and Naveen are going to decide, you know, to that they're to trade their journey for their relationship, all the things they want. What is that? What is that moment? Like in in, in every, you know, when Luke I was eight, when when Luke chooses the, you know, the force over the over the right, right? You know, what is that and what is the and then you go back and you say, okay, great, well, what are the elements? I need to tell that that story? And so he's looking at that point at the mechanics, and then you go through it, you pitch it. Once he once he has bought off on that that moment working? Great. Oh, yeah, I can see that. I can see crying at that moment. Then you go back and he says, okay, you know, he sits down in his chair and you say, okay, Act One, scene one. A flaming ball of fire comes in from space, or whatever. And you're trying to give it as good a look as you can. Yeah. You know, it, it doesn't help you to soft sell a pitch. You know, even if it is rough, even if you just have little heads with smiley faces on it. Yeah. You pitch it. You know, it's your favorite movie. So you're, you're you're going with it, going with it going with it. You sell out and go and then he says, Okay, great. I see. It got slow here. It gets low here, whatever I bought off on the ending, but and then you start doing your story map, right? If you're gonna if you're gonna have Luke, use the Force to set you know, to to shoot down the Death Star, there should be a scene in the middle of the movie where he realizes that the force is stronger than you know, than than just any mechanical concerns. What if we put a helmet on him or something? Right? Oculus happened and that'll be that. And then how do we get him there? Well, okay, cool. He should be a kid who wants to auto he wants adventure. And how many of these movies start with you know, I want I want to live more than the provincial life or I wanted to you know, whatever. Yeah, but looking out of the window. Harry Potter wanting something you know, something better than living under the stairs. Exactly. And you know, we're PO is looking at his shelf full of things going oh, man, it would be so awesome to be a kung fu master Neo looking you know, seeing the rabbit you know that that that there's that call? And then you say no. Because yeah, just whatever jump on the thing. You have to say no to that call and then you go through like I say the story math. What's going to get him into the second act? How is he locked in? Well, for Luke, you're going to burn down his family. His family's anything keeping him in this world is Uncle it says no, you're gonna stay here. You know, Greenville can be a good boy. And and so you burn that down because Luke's first intention is just to is just to get the old man to the bar and be done with Yeah, look, I'll get to that far but I you know, you're all this other stuff is crazy talk. And, and by the time he gets to the bar, he's kind of in it. And and then off they go on the adventure or whatever, you know, and the first part of the adventure is, is impossible because the planet has been destroyed and then You're just going, getting him deeper and deeper into it. All you're doing is looking at that endpoint like when is he completely bought it? When is he going to sacrifice his life take on this as role as you know, Jedi Master and whatever, and embrace the ways of the force of that, yeah, force. That that's the whole thing. And you're gonna make it difficult for him all along the way, you're going to build up the opposition as much as you can. So going back to the brain trust, those are the elements, you're looking at it and you're saying, Okay, you're telling this type of story. And a lot of times, it's straight up film theory. I don't know if you're a film student or whatever. Right? All you do. And film school that is wonderful, is you watch a ton of movies. Yeah, watch, you know, musicals, you're watching whatever, you know, for me, when I start a movie, I'll go, you know, I'm gonna watch every spaghetti western that ever wants, boom, you know, and I'll just, I'll just go through my Netflix queue is just flooded with stuff. I'm gonna watch every kung fu movie, every crazy kung fu movie that I can find. And I'll just go through every single everything single weird one, I'll do all of my research, I'll just kind of become a bit, you know, just completely embedded in this stuff, let it seep into my DNA, and then I real and then I'll see the matrix, I'll see. Okay, this is how these types of stories are told. If I can stay on this path, I think I'll be fine. And I think also, I'll be satisfying the audience that that enjoys this type of movie. So yeah, and then off I go, then I know, like, I'm working on a project right now. There's air for for the studio, I'll say Oh, studio. Yeah. But it's, you know, completely mainstream, but it's one of the things I said was, was, the audience has seen a ton of movies like this. And the, it's in the category of the, of like Maze Runner and insurgent and those kinds of things. And the audience of that, of that genre is often like, they're really super skeptical. You know, if you if you show them like, what is it, there's a ton of these kinds of Percy things, you know, they're, they're a bunch of these movies that come out and the audience is never absorbed, you know, just never takes them in, and then you're done. And so there are things that you need to do, there are tropes that they want to see, but they don't want to see the same tropes that they've seen in the other movies. So you have to mess with them. And mess with them in a very clever way. So that it says are very early signal that okay, this is cool, you know, forget your popcorn, lean in and enjoy the movie. Yeah, that's the plussing. That's the extra, extra extra. And hopefully, like a bad room would be a room full of people who don't all like making the same kind of movies. You know, they're gonna pull you in every direction. Good. I say, you know, you go into Marvel, and all those guys have read every single comic book. If you throw off a reference, they will all go Oh, yeah. And this and this, and then you could do this. And then the room just explodes with everything. You know, all the minutia. Everybody will go, you know, what's great about that issue was this and this, and this happened? No, here's what I think. I think this is what made it great. But this, you know, this episode is issue, this issue, this issue didn't do well, because of this, and everybody will have their theory and great if you can move towards this and away from that, you'll be fine. And that's generally what happens in the brain trust meetings is it's a yes. And kind of table.

Scott Mcmahon 28:58
That is That is literally the same principles of improv. Yes, exactly. The whole teaching is an actor will give you something and the other actor has to say yes. And yeah, that's literally that's what it is. I had act up here in Portland, so you know, just my acting friends and stuff like that. So it's one of those things. It's funny that you brought that up. Yeah.

Rob Edwards 29:24
Do more of that because it becomes for me, yeah, I did a lot of Providence College and I did some instinctive as well. And improv Yeah, after. And even in my standup, I would leave. I'd always I consider it in quarters, right. I would do my introductions and kind of get everybody into like, This is who I am. This is where my comedy is gonna come from guys. So

Alex Ferrari 29:53
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Rob Edwards 30:02
You set up and that, yeah, exactly 10 jokes in this area. And then I would kind of like, okay, now that we're friends now that we know each other, here we go, you know, we're gonna go into this and then third quarter, I would just kind of kick back and I'd say, hey, let's talk about something. And I would just riff and, and, you know, I just would ask the audience a question, or else, you know, or whatever, and I would just go on whatever I was given. Just lean into it and fly. And then I'd Of course, wrap it up with some, you know, some stuff that was money. Night and you know, whatever, dropped the mic and take off. But that, that, and frankly, it's also the same kind of thing that happens in a TV room, like you had mentioned before, you know, in sitcom rooms. That's exactly what happens. Because literally, you cannot afford in a sitcom room for somebody to go, yeah, no, no, no. So when I was running tables, I would always say buy it or beat it, you know, being okay, there's an idea on the table, that I believe to be very good. If you think of a better idea, pitch it now. Otherwise, we're gonna build up with the idea we have, but we're not going to spend an hour and a half, just kind of shooting, you know, just telling everybody why it's a bad idea. So. So it winds up being really, really great. So that's exactly what you find in in Pixar. Somebody will say, Well, what if you know, that's the first thing? What if? And anytime anybody says, whatever? Whatever, the room gets really quiet. Even if you have even if you have your own? What if you're like, Okay, great. I'm just gonna get in line. Yeah. What if we turn the whole thing upside down? And this happens, and then this happens? And instead of everybody going, Oh, shut up. Yeah, yeah. Okay, if that happens, then this would also happen. And this, and this, and then this would happen. And this and this, all the energy winds up around that, that idea, boom, boom, boom, and you're just building a mountain off this idea. And hey, you know, what's a great sequence with that, you can do this and this and this. And then somebody else will say, hey, and that will fix this scene, because you can do this instead. And they'll start pitching the dialogue, and I'm really cracking up jokes and all that. And then sometimes you get to the top of the of that mountain and you go, I don't know, this whole thing, and you say, it's good, but it's not necessarily better than what we had before. Or it's good, but it's a whole other movie, or whatever. And then it gets quiet, and everybody digest what we had. And then the next person says, what about this, boom, and then you start, you build again, same energy and everything, everybody gets into everything. There is no there is some negative and like, some people will say, Oh, ag you know, we try that and blah, blah, blah, but if you're going to make it work, here's what you would do. I say, so everybody is looking at it in terms of their making the movie, and that you get to which is you know, which I think is wonderful because Brad Bird is going to have a different idea in his head. And Pete Doctor Yeah, and Pete doctor is going to have different ones and then to mark off you know, then then even even John, you know, and John's gonna have any, you know, whatever and everybody's gonna it's an orchestra right? So John is John's got a big heart at chodzi or whatever. And he's he's a big kids who he's going to love the you know, a big blockchain Andrew is looking to make sure it's, you know, you're checking the boxes. Pete's got, you know, Pete's got his take, you know, Brad's a cowboy. He's, he's, he's doing his thing. And and in that symphony, you have like, okay, great. This is wonderful set of ideas. Even what is it Michael aren't you know, who wrote horses? You know, Little Miss Sunshine. Key comes in and he I love the way he thinks because he thinks a lot like me, I'm a I'm a structure guy. You know, when when I started doing sitcoms, there were two rooms were three rooms there was there was the room of guys who would think about the stories there was the story guys, you know, who would who would as you were breaking the story, they would sit down and say well, it should be this and then this and then this, you know, just plot out the plot out the story, knowing where the jokes were going to come. And then we would invite a larger group in and then those would be the joke guys would come in and say, oh, yeah, and then this this, you know, they would have great dialogue. And I saw very early you know, they were like, well, which room do you want to be and I was like, I want to be in the room with the exec producer. And that's a story room but those guys seem to be those guys are working all the time. And those guys anytime stuff was wrong. They would kick the joy joke guys out of the room. And a very small group of story guys would work would work through it. Fascinating story, guys were the guys who would hold the pencil, meaning they would make the last decision, they would write down, whatever the choice was. And, and so I like that a lot. And even now, as I'm working in features and stuff, it's always the story guys who are kind of called in when things are really wrong. They'll say, Okay, please help us. What's wrong with it? And you go in with your toolbox, unmotivated character, the third act moment doesn't work. Let's build back from that. What are the values that we're doing here? And go through.

Scott Mcmahon 35:41
Before I go to the, I just want to kind of recap sort of like, make sure I'm grabbing the essence of everything you're talking about. There's a sounds like, there's a little bit of a, I think your cable might be hitting,

Rob Edwards 35:53
I think it's hitting my short.

Scott Mcmahon 35:56
You get you get loose, or just just you and I Yeah, there you go.

Rob Edwards 35:59
Okay, good. Is it going clean, clean, clean?

Scott Mcmahon 36:01
Yeah, that's it not too bad. It's but I just use such great information you have, and there's just you and I on the video, so it's all good. Looks like a prison shirt. That's perfect. So the what we can, what I can gather from here is I like this concept of one, make sure that the room that you create the the group that you create, if you're going to create your own brain trust group. You know, if you're writing a horror genre, you know, make sure you have people that like it.

Rob Edwards 36:36
That helps have studied up on it. Yeah, exactly.

Scott Mcmahon 36:39
That know that know, the genre, the know the tropes, that have a passion for it, that that can gel with you, as well, as I liked this idea that you start from the end, what is what is that one thing? Or just have that conversation? Like? What is the one thing you want out of this film the story? Is it the moment what is that magic moment, that third act moment that makes it the payoff all worth it, and then reverse engineer go back from the beginning and work towards that I like all that I love this little note you gave about the second act, the midpoint of like, if the payoff and the third act, then that magic moving moment is that it works, you have to give us a little taste of in the midpoint, which is great, you know, and it totally makes sense. But then obviously, the people that you put together, have to know, you know, their story structure or you know, that they're just, they're film geeks or other filmmakers themselves that are that have an opportunity to contribute to the storytelling process where, you know, we all seem to do it anyway, after watching a movie, and we're like, Why did it not work? You know, like, I think my wife, my wife, and I just rewatched the remake of poltergeists last night, Zach, and we are huge fans of the first one. I mean, watch that many times over and seeing what happened, you know, our own analysis of taking away and it's interesting, the conversation you have just saying, What Why didn't it work? Because you're trying to figure out like, what's gut wise, what's what's right, but something's off Biden isn't working for us. And I think it was, I think it was like, it took an hour, like originally a two hour movie into an hour and a half. And it was like, go time from the beginning. Like, there, there is no one it was just like, bang, bang, bang, there was no time to catch your breath. And it felt it definitely felt rushed than all the wonderful, cinematic, you know, visual visions of the stuff, but it was, there was some soul aspect missing.

Rob Edwards 38:29
I think, see, that's the thing, because that and because I was gonna ask you okay, what, what did you think was was was missing? So in? What part of the movie do you think it was missing from? I think if you if your conclusion was that it was soulless? Yeah. And we're, and we're in the brain trust meeting right now. So yeah, this conclusion was it poltergeists was sold was were how do you fix that? What, what? What had they taken out? Because you have, in this case, it's empirical. Right? You have a movie that works and a movie does not that does not work. Yeah, that are the exact that are supposed to be the exact same movie, right? So you can kind of look at them side by side, you know, and I'm notorious for this. I'll get iTunes, and I'll just, I will watch five minutes of one movie five minutes of another person next five minutes. In that next, and I'll just completely go go through because a lot of movies will have if you watch Point Break and Fast and Furious, they're the exact same movie, right? Yeah, they will tell you they're the exact same movie and every, you know, in every way, you know, and, and so the question is, okay, great. Well, those two work. Now this one. Okay, great. So we're back to its soulless. That's our problem. Where did that come from?

Alex Ferrari 39:48
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Scott Mcmahon 39:57
Definitely, I think from watching The remake in Bing fan, like you said, being so well versed in the first one and seeing how many times over, you know, all the nuances, you know all the scenes, but mostly from the from it was, there's a sense of wonderment and awe and sort of respect for this. This deeper conversation about the paranormal was existed in the first one, again, we're talking about somebody remaking Spielberg.

Rob Edwards 40:29
Yeah, but Spielberg has got a bag of tricks. That is very interesting. And when I look at Spielberg, I always look at, man, I just had this conversation with

Scott Mcmahon 40:41
Spielberg himself.

Rob Edwards 40:44
His daughter went to school with my son, so no, we got and as, and his other son took karate class with my older son, so Oh, wow. Okay, so there's always crossover. But, but we never like, Hey, tell me about jaws. But I did get a chance to meet the writer of jaws. I had dinner with him a couple nights ago. And, and we were talking just about those things about OSHA, all of that stuff. And then when I look at Spielberg, I always look at when I'm analyzing a filmmaker, the first couple of films, the first two films, I may have mentioned this earlier, but that, that I always look at them when they're in their infancy when they're trying to put together their bag of tricks. And then I try to find what is their worst film? Yeah. And for Spielberg, it's 1941 right? There. And in 1941, he is doing he's showing his bag of tricks, but he's doing everything wrong. And you can tell like, Oh, this is what he, what He does great. Everything that he does great in those first couple of movies, he does really poorly here. And everything that he did great like an E T. And this gets to the answer of what I was digging at, with the two poltergeists is that it's the first it's a first act problem, that that you when you buy into something emotionally, it's if you don't feel it emotionally, it's because when we met those people, we didn't care about them. Exactly. You know, if it's a roller coaster ride, if they're thinking, well, the best thing about what we told you guys, is the little girl gets sucked into the TV. And whenever there's a closet and all that stuff, like that is not the best thing. It's about this family. It's about this guy who is who is, you know, he's moved his family into this into this new environment. He's worried that there was something wrong with the area. There's this drumbeat of weird things that have been happening around the area, and you're filling in the character. It's like, it's like Jaws, it's like a tea. It's everything. The conversation that they have at the, at breakfast, in a tea before et shows up is the most important conversation you have. Yeah, I remember in princess in the frog, there was this whole thing of, we were just, we're trying to get them into the bayou as quickly as possible. And the note, we kept getting back in the brain trust, because that's the other part of the brain trust, right. As you screen the movie, you're showing the movie to a lot of people. And they're giving you notes back everybody in the building everybody at Disney, everybody, Pixar, you get reams of notes. I didn't think you know, this is a problem. This is a problem. This is a problem. And then they put the notes into sections. So someone's about, you know, the main characters about, you know, the story itself. And then we were getting all these notes. I you know, the story seems funny. I just don't care. I don't care about the journey. Yeah. And I said, Well, that's the first act problem, same thing. And you didn't care because she wanted to have a restaurant. But she didn't care why she wanted to have a restaurant. So I said, Well, hey, I saw this drawing of a dad. I love this story.

Scott Mcmahon 44:01
Yeah, the Yeah, this keep going on. This is a great one.

Rob Edwards 44:05
There was a dad portrait drawing of a dad. And basically they were trying to figure out what the mom looked like. So they had drawn a dad just to figure out, you know, what were the features that that Tiana had gotten from both of her parents, and then that would be the mom. And there was just a drawing. And I asked the character designer, what you know, what is this? Like? Oh, he explained it and I said, Well, this is can I borrow this? I took it back into the room. I said, this guy is the most important person in the movie. Because daughter is that relationship between daughters and fathers. And we've been looking driving so hard to have a person to have an emotional reason why she wants to have this restaurant. Why not? Why can't it be the daughter the dream of a daughter and her father and and the legacy of that once the father passes away. She wants to continue that dream and you then there is no way the thing can have a motion. It's a woman holding, you know, it's what they did in up, right, the house at a certain point becomes, you know, that call is trying to continue the dream that he had with his with his wife. That's, that's the inaccurate mention probably 50 other movies that are fueled with that kind of emotion. There is a reason why we tell stories in that way. And so once that happened, it was a tiny adjustment was about three pages. And in the beginning of the movie, and everybody said, Wow, what did you do? Did you rewrite the entire movie? No, we just gave every time you know, she says the word restaurant, you know what it means? And I had to hit it. I think in the middle at the midpoint when they're drunk right before they dance. And then at the end when they're on the riverboat, and they're looking looking out at the restaurant itself. And it's what gets Naveen to back off, he wants to propose to her. And it has such huge emotional weight that like Okay, great. My job here. My job here is done. The mechanics, the rest of the mechanics of the storytelling were I want I don't want to say inconsequential, but they were less consequential because we had launched the story correctly. You watch a movie like man on fire? We spent a ton of time I don't think anybody dies until the midpoint of that movie. Yeah, the whole movie is about this broken guy's love for this little girl. And how this girl redeems has his soul and makes him stops him from committing suicide. Yeah, the bullet doesn't go off there is something you know, the God of the story has a larger plan for this guy. And it's about this it's about this relationship with this little girl. And you know, he starts coaching her about don't be afraid of the gun and and all that and they have this wonderful wonderful relationship. So at the point when she's kidnapped you're like, oh no. Yeah, go down. Because now this guy has license you know is he is fired and if you look at I'm sorry when I say one last example but you look at taken taken follows the exact same model. That girl doesn't get kidnapped so deep into that movie Yeah. Heartbreak heartbreak the pony versus the you know, karaoke machine all of those scenes if you're looking at it from an executive standpoint, you'll think oh god you know, the movie is really about it's a shoot 'em up. And why is it taking 60 minutes before the guy fires the first shot you know? Yeah, well like we can't we just condensed this and and you have to as a writer, as an artists say no people don't watch buildings burn. They watch people saving the people they love that are in the building that is on fire. That's drama.

Scott Mcmahon 48:00
Yeah, it's interesting. You brought that up. I got me excited because you were saying like, how important to set up how poor in the first act is. And if you look at some movies back in the in the 70s. Like even Exorcist, literally, I think the first hour like nothing major paranormal, like happens. I mean, the priests doesn't show up until after the hour mark, like, like, all the stuff that we remember about the exorcist doesn't happen until like, almost after the midpoint. You know, it's like yeah, and because the even like, Rosemary's Baby, same thing, yeah. Very, very shiny, Mike.

Rob Edwards 48:35
Yeah, exactly. Shining. You're just watching girls and bikes and yeah. Yeah, it's just and they're a little creepy things that happen. There's always got, you know, a cat jumped out a box. I was watching alien. Like, same thing. It's just the day to day workings of, of space. Space Teamsters. Yeah. And then midpoint, the thing leaps out of the guy's chest and your is off, off and running. Exactly what we've been setting up before that is nobody listens to Ripley. You know, these guys are in it for a paycheck. You froze up.

Scott Mcmahon 49:20
Do you see me? Yeah. Okay. Sorry.

Rob Edwards 49:23
Yeah, that nobody listens to her that that, you know, these guys are in it for a paycheck. And that something is wrong with the science officer. Yeah. And there's all these kind of you're you're just setting up the dynamics. And it's getting your heart is kind of in your chest, you know that something's got to happen. Yeah. And then when it does, it's just like, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And then your left. The best thing about looking at the third act versus it, it's the thing, it's the thing that you are, you know, the lights go up, you walk to your car and you go Oh, man, that was awesome.

Alex Ferrari 50:04
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Rob Edwards 50:14
And that's the thing, you know if that through that moment works, then it's all worth it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't matter what you did up until that point. Nobody's going to end the audience coming out of the seven o'clock show. I talked about this. Because it's what it's what makes movies great. It was what makes the business of making a movie, even if it's an independent film. It's the audience coming out of the seven o'clock show their reaction as you're in line for the nine o'clock show. Everybody knows that thing of like, people are going Oh, snap. Yeah. And they're like crying or they're like, high fiving or stuff. And they're nodding at you. Because they know like, Oh, this is gonna be, you know, you are in for a treat. This is gonna be magnificent. Right. And, and it's that thing. That's what makes movies Great. That's what makes movie going great. You know? And every, you know, yeah, go ahead.

Scott Mcmahon 51:16
No, we're gonna say it's fascinating, because we were talking about the long setup. And then we have gave some examples, but you did mention even like the movie Up, and I think it's one of the greatest examples of the shortest, most heartbreaking setups ever, you know, it's within your in tears within the first whatever, five minutes of that story of Carl, you know, sort of

Rob Edwards 51:35
Suitable and they're just, it's just building up. You know, remember, they're building up for the moment when he ditches the house to save the boy, you know, and, and so, and that's the whole you know, that John was, you know, walked into the room. Okay, what happens? He trashes the house, he throws all the stuff out, you know, to give it ballast, he's run out of balloons. And you know, and he goes and saves the boy. And that's, that's his Luke Skywalker moment. Right? Right. And so so in the beginning, you want to say, what if the house doesn't mean anything? Right? Again, story math. If the house doesn't mean anything, that moments not going to mean anything. Everybody's gonna go so what? It's a house. Yeah, get another house? Like, no, no, this house is very special, because it is the embodiment of, you know, his relationship with his with his wife, Ellie, I think yeah, yeah, exactly. And, and I believe, at various times, he calls the house Ellie. And it's the he's working towards the picture of the house on the on the mountain. Yeah. And so you're gonna give him that, and then you're going to take it away. You know, it's, he's gonna get all the way there realize it's, it's not worth what he thought it would be worth. And then he's gonna go save the boy. Great. So you need and I forget who there is a, one of the co director of inside out, Ronnie del Carmen, I want to say, okay, he that I believe that was his sequence. And that put them on the map as a star, or, as he'd been on the map as a story anyway, because he's, he's fantastic artists. But he was the guy who walked through that sequence and said, it's stripped it of its dialogue. He had temporary music that was That was wonderful for it, this this kind of very valid kind of thing. And it was amazing, you know, just the process of how that sequence came, came to be. Because, you know, obviously, the first 20 drafts of that sequence, were not that sequence. You really had to kind of work on it, work on it, work on it, and so it just wasn't it it would make you cry, and I believe it's five minutes and 30 seconds long. It is not very long and impure movie movie terms. But by the end of it, when you know, just that pan across a doctor's office, oh my god, you know, it just every one of those moments is completely iconic. It's just it's truly wonderful. And then it gives him license to do everything that he does, which is he won't sell the house smashes the guy on the head when he you know when he's when he's threatened. And now he's going to you know, go live this dream and go to you know, this this waterfall.

Scott Mcmahon 54:39
Great its amazing. The I'm just curious you with your extensive history of like writing on your own working in in rooms, you know, and television and now working like, obviously last few years and animation is the advent of visuals like, because I don't know if you have an opportunity with Princess in the frog. Have to go down in New Orleans to Are you part of the crew? Because, you know, you were mentioning like how Lasseter was such a huge proponent of research, like just getting absorbed into your DNA like that you probably already done prior. But I was curious. You know, we have the TV room. And we're seeing like this explosion of golden age of television. Just amazing shows left and right. And I can only account like, because the power the writers, they're, like, in writers together, pushing each other to make it great. And then you have animation, which allows you to I mean, my past working with Sony PlayStation, we're convinced effects we've always had to learn was visuals. We always had something to draw from to try to make, you know, better. And I'm wondering like, because now you have visual cues, like you mentioned, them purchase the frog. Here's a drawing a sketch drawing about the Father as like, that is huge for me. And yeah, I was wondering, have you seen? I guess, like how could like an independent, you know, borrow from this concept of like, should they just inundate themselves with so many look frames, or drawings or initial sketches, anything like that to like, integrate themselves and what their world would look like? So if they brought in their own makeshift brain trust group, so everybody could connect to like, Oh, what's that? What's this? Or, you know, how's this fit the story? I don't know, from your any like stories you could share of like, just like you said, you're walking around, you're seeing artists or somebody, pretty much the film made in like, visual format before it even like even one written word is put on an actual traditional script, I guess? I don't know. Right?

Rob Edwards 56:39
Well, that's the that's the fun of the new, the new tools, we'll call it is. It's, I know that Robert Rodriguez, his his process is very similar to the Pixar process, which is interesting, he kind of pre shoots his movies. And he will just with a handheld camera, or I don't know, a cell phone or whatever, he'll get his actors in a room and he films his rehearsals. And he takes him back in I don't know, if he's using, you know, whatever, you know, whatever it is, but you know, as easy it is, as it is to edit something, he just edits it at home. And then he goes in the next day, if they're shooting the next day, and he'll show it to everybody like this is, this is what this is. And here's what I think is wrong with it. Here's what I did to rewrite it. And and here we go, you know, so the second thing you see will be that Woody Allen shoots an entire movie, edits it. And edits it shows it, you know, takes a look at it. And then I don't know if he gets outside feedback or anything I assume he does. And then reshoots, the entire movie, it's always in his budget that he will shoot it twice. So you do it. And obviously, the you know, the first version is not just everybody kind of slogging through not wearing their costumes and stuff. It's an actual movie. And then he shoots it again. So I think that that that is a great way to go. If you can a Ridley Scott storyboards his own movies, top to bottom, and I believe shoots have storyboards and show, you know, shows shows those? Yeah, so that the the first draft, the way I look at it is, you know, from a Disney perspective, is that when guys are drawing, right, they take a blue pencil with very light, you can barely see it. Yeah, and they just start drawing and whatever. And they're just, and the lines are everywhere. It's a complete mess, and they're drawing over themselves, and they're doing whatever, and then they start to see it and then they'll, they'll they'll take out a black pencil and they'll start tacking it down. And they'll say, okay, great. Here are the eyes. Here's where the eyes go, here's whatever, because you're kind of trying to see it on the page. And only a handful of people can just start drawing with a black pencil and go, you're sketching, sketching, sketching until you see it. If you if you listen to a band, right, the band will go, you know, it'll sound terrible, the first and then they'll kind of gradually, you know, come down to whatever they're doing sculptors the same way. It's a blob of an amorphous blob for so long, and then they start to take down little sections. And writers are the only ones who don't do that. Writers. I'll see them go oh, I have an idea. You know, faded. Colin, you know. And like, who does that? Nobody does that. You don't think that way you say I want to make a movie. I think it should be kinda like this movie that I loved when I was a kid. Or it should be I want to make the best, you know? Badass six year old, do whatever magical power movie that I can

Alex Ferrari 59:59
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Rob Edwards 1:00:08
Here is a precedent of other, you know, badass six year olds. Here's where some have gone right and others have gone wrong. And, and this is what moves me about this kind of movie. This is why these kinds of movies are my favorite movies. And this is where others have fallen afield. I think my movie is somewhere in here. And, and then you get out, like, I'm old school. So I have like, yeah, I have, you know, just a clipboard and a fountain pen. And I will sit down and I'll just start writing. And it's rarely dialogue. It's just what do I love about these kinds of movies. I love this. I love this. I love it. Hey, my favorite scene, in one of these things was bla bla bla bla bla. And, and my least favorite scene is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, excellent. I like to eat my dessert first. So if I'm writing, I will say, well, here are scenes that should be in my movie. These are great scenes. And if I can just string a clothesline between the scenes, I think I'll be okay. Because these are the classic scenes, there should be the mentor scene, and so and so. And the equipment, you know, the badass piece of machinery, you know, or the, you know, the great gun, or whatever it is, you know, a cool monster a, you know, fantastic spaceship a you know, always I'll put those in, and then I'll say, Okay, well, great. Now I'm gonna make try to make myself crying the third act? And yeah, and that's it. Yeah. But it's always starting from like a amorphous, a amorphous, you know, the, the, the, you know, the paint is wet, the there is no paper, I'm just freestyling until I find like, it should be this. And then I'll start to give it shape and tack it down. And then only last the last. Like, it's, I often will write the entire thing by hand, and then, after I've gone through the whole thing, then I type it into software.

Scott Mcmahon 1:02:17
Interesting. Do you know is there a difference for you between like, plot and character? Or is it the same like because I can see, like doing an outline, constructing like the logic of the world of where you want this moment to go for the protagonist. And maybe the protests, like you, you see, like a major change is going to have to happen for this character. But once you kind of maybe have like, the simple idea laid out attendees, do you go in and start like thinking like, okay, the dad character a lot right now, my early drafts are serving exposition. But then how do I make that character more interesting? Because there was this whole? I think you were talking about, like, in Jason buffs, podcast about how, like in Finding Nemo, there was all these wonderful characters, all the supporting characters, even no matter how small the character is, like, each fish has some interesting story. One scar one, like was nervous or I don't know, it was it was Yeah. Just rich with content because or context because it was so each character was so unique that way, as opposed to just being serving exposition. Do you see that within those group meetings? You have? Or, or sometimes somebody goes, I have, this is the character. I don't know what story was going to happen with them. But I don't know how, like, do you see it go both ways.

Rob Edwards 1:03:39
Right. All right. Now that, that it's the interesting thing is and it's it's it's fantastic question, because it is, I think at the crux of most, I'd say a good 90% of filmmakers don't understand this one specific thing, which is that there should be no difference between character and story. But there is a huge difference between character and plot. Ah, okay. The plot is just, I was in this. It was a masterclass in in France, in Marseille, and this there was a guy who had done this with these webcasts and stuff like that it was really charismatic guy really energetic, we great storyteller in quotes. And I done this thing, and I'll, I'll talk about a little later because they remind me to tell you this thing, because I think it helps all writers, everybody that I've done it with, with writers, it makes them a lot better. But, but this guy is telling the story. And he's going on he's pitching me this this movie. And he says, oh, and then an alien comes in and buys pitching, pitching more and more Italian guy, right? He was like, yeah, and then this happens. It's And then they fall into an abyss. And then a guy has a gun and whatever. And he shoots his grandma and whatever. And he's just going through going through and going through. And I'm watching the audience and I stopped him for a second. I say, watch the audience, as you're, as you're doing this, keep going. And he's thought, what if this happens, it was a big explosion, and whatever. And I said, I said, What do you think I saw? And he says, after about two minutes, everybody started talking to each other. Tuned him out, there were a couple of his friends in the back that were kind of smiling. Really, towards the end, everybody was just everybody was just hiding from the thing. Because he was because it was. It was mostly sorry, me do something to screenshare I have, I have a flux. And I didn't realize it. It's been it's been kind of making the image. More sleepy as we. But yeah, so I look at the audience and the audience is completely tuned him out. I said, why? As well, it couldn't figure it out. So well, because you lost your character. First, you didn't make me care about your character. And second, as it's going on, you were just it just getting more and more, you were using plot to try to save you from character. And I said, okay, and I pitched his own his story the same way. And I pitched it all character, you know, this guy comes in and more than anything else in the world. He wants this. And oh, you know, this guy also wants it and blah, blah, blah, and he wants it even more. So in the very beginning, the guy boom, whatever, he takes it from him. And now he's sitting there going, Oh, no, what am I gonna do now? Aliens Attack and blah, blah, blah, whatever. And everybody's leaning in as I'm, as I'm telling the story, because you care, you know, you give a crap about the story. Before he was doing plot, what I was doing was character. And, you know, if it's if it's Finding Nemo, every character that that Marlon passes should develop him as a character, you're going from the journey of a guy who is overly cautious to a guy who's going to let his kid do the same thing. In in The Incredibles, everything that passes Bob Pars, you know, we set him up as a guy who will save everybody at any time, you know, whatever, you're doing the whole thing. Everybody that he passes, every experience that he has, is, is basically kind of, to show that his addiction has gotten out of control. And until he even finds an enabler in the innate, oh, great, excellent. I'm gonna go up and do this thing. And I'm just gonna completely ignore my family, right? Because those are the two values that are at stake. It's Do you are you going to reclaim your your glory, at the expense of the thing that you that you know, your future? You know, your family? You were once this guy now you're this guy. You need to be more than Mr. Incredible. She says yeah, pointedly, automatically, in order to do it. So every single scene is going to be him desperately clinging to his former life. He's in the meeting with his boss, and he's looking outside, and he can't can you know, and he's just seeing a guy getting his pocket picked. And he can't give it up. You know, he's, he's there with the old lady, my old lady is worried that she's gonna lose her thing. And he can't you know, that is new life, he just won't do it. Everything, everything he's doing is kind of these things, buttresses buttressing against each other. That's the Norio nature of storytelling, that is character, you're developing that character to the point where the character has to make this decision of like, you know, I can either go and try to save the you know, save the city by myself, which I know I cannot do or I can trust my family to help me I can do this as a family and off you go. Yeah, you know that that's that that in that way as you're telling the story? It's very clear what's muscle and what's bone, you know that what's wheat and what's chaff right that that any scene that doesn't have him moving towards either on the upside where he's he is completely like yes, regaining your former glory is the most awesome thing in the world you can do Yeah, that's the bill to the midpoint. He's and then at the midpoint, haha, I've killed all these people and now I'm gonna kill you and he can't get out or whatever. I can't get out of the room and he's, you know, those those little nerves are gone. Yeah, whatever. Whatever, whatever. And now Oh, no, this is where it's gotten you to the, you know, to the terrible, terrible midpoint

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
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Rob Edwards 1:10:10
And then it's the family is gonna go rescue. Right. So now you're on the downslope. And so everything that happened from that point on is, look how cool this family is when the family is unrestrained. Yeah, until you get to this point where it's, he's bemoaning the fact that you know, it's almost a false act to write the the rocket is headed towards the city. And, and Bob is sitting there saying, Oh, I can't believe what I've done. You know, you guys, this is really terrible. And his daughter says, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah, whatever. And she saved them all very easily. Because he's not thinking about family. He's thinking about himself. Right? We're driving, driving and driving for that moment. And that's all character. You know, every scene in that is a scene that you absolutely need. And none of it is, but none of it should feel like plot. Yeah, it is all to drive the guy towards making that decision.

Scott Mcmahon 1:11:10
It's really interesting, because we started our conversation about talking about mastermind groups, or accountability groups, and like how it's so much easier to look at somebody else's problem or look at what they stand for. Because we can see from an outside perspective, what's in front of them. But we as individuals are so wrapped up in our own stuff, we can't, like you mentioned, we can't see your own path or get out of our own way. It's, and we were talking about, there's so much things that we have to unlearn to be able to be and then we're here we are talking, you know, character, and story. And all these characters are in the especially with the Pixar stories we were talking about. And in, you know, the stories we were mentioning, there's there's this aspect of baggage, or there's these known beliefs that they hold on to for so long. But that third act moment that John Lasseter moment he's talking about, has to be this let go of all that, in order to have that transformation at the end. But it's funny because we were talking, we started talking about it in real life. And we're seeing it happen in stories. It's like, oh, wow, that's fascinating.

Rob Edwards 1:12:19
And really, that's why I think that is why like, I like to look at, well, screenwriting, everybody, you know, it's the technology of screenwriting. But really, we're storytellers, right guys in rocking chairs, you know, saying, Hey, here's what's this is what's important. And that's why it's because we always when we make the same mistakes, all the time, as human animals and machines, whatever that we are, we, we make the same mistakes all the time. And so we tell ourselves, these stories, like let go of that and embrace the new. One of the things I'll say like in masterclasses all the time is, you can learn how to speak French without learning without forgetting how to speak English. You can accept a new philosophy, a new way of thinking, just try it out. And then if you want, you can go back to what it is, is you do but a lot of people will say like, well wait a minute, I don't like you know, I'm not such a big fan of Disney movies. And you guys are you know, you guys, it's all a factory and blah, blah, blah, and I'm not gonna make movies like that. I'm like, Okay, well, let me see what what it is you've done. Yeah, it's amorphous, horrendous kind of way, like, what are you doing? You haven't, you've so resisted all of the kind of rules and not just necessarily like, the Disney rules or the Pixar rules, but just the rules of general storytelling. Like, Oh, that 50 characters 50 main characters is not a good way to go. Yeah, you know, that, that a film without conflict is not is probably not going to work. All that well write a film that is about something that nobody in the world cares about. Is is not going to be is not going to be enjoyable. There are but a film a terribly constructed film about something I really care about. And a PERT you know a person who is who is wonderful, who I want to see more of. And you know, that that film was gonna go through the roof. It's gonna be I'm going to enjoy it. I'm gonna, people are gonna say like, what was that that you were? You kept talking about? You know, I'm gonna go on social media and say, oh, okay, look, I'm gonna go out on a limb and just say this movie was the best movie I've ever seen. And, and that's, especially for me any side. That's what you really want to you know, that's what we want to start with. Is Yeah, I'm not. I'm gonna make my favorite movie. I'm gonna make a movie. That is that is the favorite of all my friends and And, and here's, here's how I'm going to sit down and do it.

Scott Mcmahon 1:15:04
Because you mentioned to about, you get a lot of screeners, like the crazy question of like, hey, what software we use? You know, like, that's like Yeah, the last the last question you need to know because it's you need to know story or just tell story and write story. And that's the same plague that's technology is having right now, I guess on the independent side, which is every he's got a camera and editing tools. And they're just so it's like, what are you shooting on? What are you shooting on? As opposed to who? Who cares what you're writing? What software used to write? Who cares what camera uses? Shoot? Because the bottom? The, the essence, the core is everything we talked about here is really, I love this whole thing, like, how do you level up? How do you push beyond and building a system of the right kind of people around you? And having that kind of system in place to you know, push, push the story? Like take yourself out of it and push the story further.

Rob Edwards 1:15:56
I often say like animation is not a genre, you know, it's just it's just like a different camera. It's just like black and white is not a genre. Yeah, it's it's just a way you know, you still have to tell great stories, they still have to connect with people. Just animation is a way that you're that you're that you're doing it. The rules are always the same.

Scott Mcmahon 1:16:16
Yeah, definitely. This I want to keep you I know, we're a little over an hour, but

Rob Edwards 1:16:20
I did have one other Yes, there's one other thing and this is just like, it's been my soapbox for a couple weeks, because I keep I'm sure your listeners will get what should get some value out of it? I was I've been because I'll do these, these, these master classes. And a lot of times the format of the master class, when I can do on money, I do maybe one a year just to kind of like get gone, right but but a lot of times what I'll do the My Favorite versions of them and I just revised it is the writer will come in, they'll sit next to me and they'll pitch their movie to the to the rest of the group. And then we'll go through it and we'll say okay, what's right about it? What's wrong about it, we'll kind of do a Pixar row with it. And what I keep discovering is that sometimes the the writers ability to pitch can severely impair the experience. And so what I started doing is I said, Okay, let's let's the first day like, let's not even think about don't think about your movie. I'm gonna give you two movies to work on. Because if you're and I see you're into guitars, I love guitars. Now, the first thing you do if you're learning piano or guitar is you learn like Mary Had a Little Lamb, you know, you just Yeah, flunk out the easiest song in the world. And then you go to, okay, great. Now I can learn C and A G and an F. And I can out of that I can play a bunch of bunch of different songs, I can play a bunch of other people's songs. Until I get really good at it. I can play most of you know Simon Garfunkel. But I can offer the Alpha three or four chords I can I can make my way around a bunch of different songs. I am not composing at that point. I'm just learning how to play guitar. And I'm learning the dumbest songs. I can first the simplest, the two chord song, moving into threes, and then I'm and then eventually I'm gonna start. Oh, okay, good. Here's a little riff and stuff like that, and until the point, but it's gonna take me a little while before somebody says, Wow, you really did a good job. So the same is true of, say, a painter, they'll go to a museum, they will set up their easel. And they'll just look at you know, you'll see these these painters, repainting the painters of other painters. they'll go and they'll go stroke for stroke that walk up to him and go, Oh, that's what he was doing. That's the brushstrokes in this little section. That's how he made the sunset look particularly bright. Excellent. And I'm not sure if I've mixed my colors, right? The same way that that guy did. That's it. Oh, that's what he's doing. The composition of this thing. Oh, great. I see four or five paintings that have the same kind of composition. These guys must have all studied each other. That's awesome. Now I have a greater understanding. I'm still not painting my own stuff. You know, I'm just learning about what what people do. So what I say is, okay, tell me one of two stories. I'll say the three little pigs or the or Goldilocks and three bears. Yeah. And you know, always my first question is what who's, who's the protagonist of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:30
I know this only because I've heard you before if I go ahead,

Rob Edwards 1:19:36
Oh, excellent. Oh, I didn't know if I did it.

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:38
But this is good, but people please go ahead. Because this is such such. This is such a great aspect of your masterclass do I know but go ahead.

Rob Edwards 1:19:49
Yeah, right. And most people will guess Goldilocks, because the stories don't go like No, no, it is a it is a crime. Detective Story

Alex Ferrari 1:20:00
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Rob Edwards 1:20:09
Yeah, Billy logs goes in, breaks into a house, eats porridge sits in a chair. It eats all porridge, sits in a chair breaks it, and then sleeps in a person's bed. Yeah, so it is an active crime going on. And then three people return, three characters return. And, and one is eating well, one is eating one discovers something is wrong. Once it's down once it's down, one is oh my god or whatever. And then they they go pursue it. So the Baby bear is the is the protagonist of the story. Now go tell the story. But tell the story in, you know, what are you going to do with the story? Now, you know, now you have your own edge to it? Are you going to tell a story about a boy who really wants to go to sleep? Are you going to tell a story about a kid who's really hungry? Are you gonna tell a story about a kid with anger issues? Who is trying to hold it down? Whatever that angle is, you know, you have you now have the formula, you know the format. And you can go and tell tell that and then get good at that get good at telling that story of doing your cover of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Then once you're feeling that, now go start pitching your own stuff, you know, get that. And the way I look at it is you've just seen you just saw Star Wars you just saw, you know the JJ Abrams Star Wars. And as you were leaving the building, it burned down there was an oil fire the whole thing burned down. You know, all everything. And now everybody turns to you and said Oh, what was it? You know what happened? Yeah, a lot of people when they pitch they'll go, Okay, well, there's a ship, bigger ship. This kid comes in and he's taking out garbage. And then his kind of hipsters really mean soccer ball that, you know, does die, whatever. And it's like, no. How do you tell that story? You are the last lifeline of this of the greatest movie ever made? Yeah. How do you tell it and and have that behind you. But with a story that you already know, get comfortable with that if it's your tape, recorder, whatever, and then go, then you have that set of skills, and you're not pitching garbage. And you also are learning from those reps. This pitch is well, this does not pitch well. You know, this is the essence of storytelling. Most of the time, and I mentioned it before, most of the time, like right now I'm doing a little superhero thing. And I watched everything. It's everything. And I rewatched everything from the point of view of me making this new movie, and I'm taking notes on it like oh, great, you know, they spent a good Ironman spends a good long time, in the middle of the movie just becoming Iron Man. Yeah. Oh, yeah, man spends a good long time in the middle of that movie. In both, you know, first versions, you know, when, when Uncle Ben dies, spends a lot of time on the suit and the web and the thing, you know, the mechanics of becoming Spider Man, that's a big part of our enjoyment. They don't just put on the suit. Oh, here I go. It's, it's a big part of the journey. So great, I have to have that in mind. You know, and just kind of going through it, understanding it. And then when I pitch it, I'm pitching it like it's Star Wars. I just had this meetings a day or two ago. And I'll get up I'll run around the room. You know, I'm shooting stuff down or whatever, you know, I have this, this this total enjoyment, because I love these movies. You know, I want first I want them to make my movie. Bigger. But second, I can't wait to see my belief. You know, I can't wait to be in line, you know, for the nine o'clock show when the seven o'clock comes in. comes out. So I love that. That's my little soapbox. i i I'm glad I said it. And hopefully, like I say I hope it's valuable to your

Scott Mcmahon 1:24:25
It actually is extremely valuable because I have you know, with my podcast, I have just people will email me you know, occasionally and just this is asking advice or opinions. And I made a point to a young filmmaker. I said, if you kind of want to test yourself as a filmmaker, that whether or not you're a good director or not make a short film based off of some very famous short story that's in public domain. Something that has proven like that exists like an Edgar Allan Poe story. That's something that's like, Okay, this exists. This is a Historically, well known story, that it has all the elements in there that make it successful. So if you can, one write it, the Adapt adaptation of it. And then to if you're a director, you can test your directing chops that way, because it's all the elements are there, you know, the story's solid, you know, it's, uh, you know, short enough that you can make it within your means. And then if it falls flat, then you can go back and figure out why it fell flat because it then it puts you because you can't blame anything. Like, I can't blame this the story didn't work, or the screenwriter didn't write it right, or something like that. It's I mean, there's all these elements there of like you really, really want to test yourself as a director.

Rob Edwards 1:25:42
That's a good bet. And look at the look at the success out of Sundance right there. The birth of nations sold for 1474. Right. And that's, that was a take on the already established movie. You know, it's his riff. Yes. On this movie.

Scott Mcmahon 1:25:58
Can't wait to see it, because it's definitely a long overdue take on that movie.

Rob Edwards 1:26:02
Yeah, exactly exactly. Yeah. And it should, it should be fun. And that enhances the viewing of the movie. And I think too, yeah, with a lot of short films that I see, I'll always say like, what short films did you watch to inspire you to do this? Because most of the short films I've seen, especially the, you know, the, the good one, you know, the Pixar ones, and also the really good live action ones are very, very simple. One, one person or two, you know, in a relationship, and then that slowly evolves over time. There was a, you're talking about riffs on there was this YouTube thing that happened that I thought was great. Was the Power Rangers thing with a mafia? You saw that at the fan film? Or which one? Yeah, a fan film the Power Rangers fan film. I guess they had to take it down. Yeah, but it was fantastic. Oh, it was like, I'd never you know, this guy's take on Power Rangers. You know, the wink is of course, its power. Right? But it's a series Yeah. Vanderbeek and seven, like, Oh, this is, this is seriously enjoyable. This guy can, I can't wait to watch this guy make a movie, you know, the Deadpool trailer, you know, the little sizzle off of that, you know, that's a first time director. And now of course, the biggest the highest grossing, I take my first time director, it was, you know, it is something that we've seen before, you know, it's a thing. And the way he did it was just fantastic. And obviously like it because the other thing that I would put to that is the short story that you adapt should be one that you absolutely love. And the way that you do it should be you should be showing everything that you do great. You know, if you are a great cinematographer, it should be a beautiful movie. If you are great with character, it should be whatever if you're funny, you know, don't try to like funny if you're not funny, in a way, by all means, because one bad joke will kill you, you know, as far as the enjoyment of it. But yeah, if you can work if your best friend is a fantastic actor. Yeah, go? Do you know, get on him. Oh, call it every favor. You know, I give the speech at your wedding. Show up for do for an hour and a half and help me help me in my movie. Robert Rodriguez, we'll talk about that. Like don't do anything that you know, I have a friend that has a bar, I have another friend who owns a bus. Great, there's going to be a bus Chase, and part of this is going to take place in my friend's bar. Oh, awesome, then you know, production value goes through the roof. And you're on the map as a as a serious filmmaker?

Scott Mcmahon 1:28:53
No, yeah. And definitely like all those processes helps. The idea is to kind of keep yourself in check to keep humbled. So that, like you said, if you're to put yourself out there as a writer, as a filmmaker, as a storyteller, to utilize a brain trust kind of concept. Yep. You have to be willing to accept like to let go of what you've created, and know that it's not yours anymore. I think last year talked about that. He said that when they created Buzz and Woody, there was a point where they realized is no longer theirs. It's now they they have a responsibility to serve those characters. Honestly, and, and truthfully to the audience. You know, we're

Alex Ferrari 1:29:37
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:29:47
And I think that's a concept very,

Rob Edwards 1:29:50
Very important because you have to, you have to listen, that people don't just give notes just for the sake of giving notes. Yeah, they're addressing their Pressing a problem, sometimes a problem took place pages before what they're addressing, you know, sometimes the wheels were off the wagon way before that was seen that drove everybody nuts. You know, it was a setup, it was the amp up to it. And, and you have to be open to that. I was giving notes to a writer who sent me something and said, Oh, I just want to hear your input. Okay, I'm gonna be tough. Oh, yeah, it's okay. And I gave him the notes. And it was, and you know, me, like, I like to talk. But it was, it was, I would say, four fifths him defending the thing that he had done. And only 1/5 of me giving the note. And I was like, Look, we're not gonna get anywhere with this. Because I'm not just giving you notes, because I want you to talk me out of it. You know, I know, your intent is on the piece of paper. If it is not clear, yeah, you work with it. You know, it's not just, you know, I will give this note but probably, you know, everyone that you give it to, will probably give them the same notes. And if they don't, they're not doing you any favors. But that but part of the process, when you're a when you're an artist, it hurts to get notes, it physically hurts you, you know, it's like somebody is roughing up your baby. And, and you just have to, I think was David, the guy who created family ties. He said, You just write down the note. That's all you need to do. Understand it, write it down. Then, you know, conclude the conversation, punch the pillows or whatever, you know, cry in the shower. And then and then go and look at the notes and say, Okay, what did i this will ultimately make it better. Some you'll just cross off and say, I don't care. I'll get this note nine times out of 10. Most of the time, it's like you don't want I didn't sell it. I just there was something you know, I My intention was to do this. I didn't. That's what threw him off. And in this spot, of course, you have to start off with the intention. Right? You have to start off with a strong motivated character. It has to be very clear what it is this the story that you're telling people get bored with plot they are excited with story with, you know, with the drive and the conflict. You know, even Aristotle talked about, you know, intention obstacle. Anyway, I was I was watching Downton Abbey, right? Because the last episode was on it. Oh, just into your committee do black kid from Detroit main demo. But it made me go back to the first episode. And watch that. So I'm watching that in the first three episodes on iTunes. And, and it's all there, you know, and Julian Fellowes in an interview, he says, Well, I was watching Westway. And I saw that how Aaron Sorkin crafted the characters in the pilot of West Wing. And I took that as my template. And then that's what I did in Downton Abbey. Interesting. Now, you would think those two shows are completely completely different. But as much realist as a writer who knows craft and love crafts, it's the same thing. So the flirtation between the you know, Carson, you know, this is, that's, that's there and, and the the little dynamics and just the sisters, all of that their, you know, progress is coming. I mean that the opening event is the Titanic, you know, goes down and kills dozens who would were set to inherit the estate and now it's, you know, this this other guy, so, like tears, right, this person is coming in. But he's lost the the waitress, this new person comes in, you know, it's it clocks along, but it's all still you know, it's all story. You're you're driving towards this thing that the world is changing. And the you know, the maid the head Butler in the in the Lord of the state are saying, Oh my God, I don't know what's, you know, what are we going to do? Yeah, and that's the tension in every episode. That's great. This is great storyteller. Right. And, and those are the tools that has nothing to do with the software. Yeah, exactly. Has nothing, you know, I don't care what method what if he's a movie magic that Julian Fellowes is writing? was writing it with a quill, you know, it is? It is it is great storytelling and, and that's what's going to, that's when it's gonna save you. You can film that thing, you know, with a cardboard box and it will be compelling television.

Scott Mcmahon 1:34:55
Yeah. Yeah. You know, you mentioned some things like clear is It is, you know, when you're giving notes or feedback or accepting that I don't remember where I heard this before, but I wanted to implement because somebody had asked me, like, just advice like me to give advice, like, when you're giving, like, when somebody read your script, I said, Well, one thing you can do to get constructive feedback. I don't I really don't know where I heard this before, but I thought was great was simply was simply, when you read the script, can you read my story? Can you tell me one? Is it clear? To if it is clear? Is it interesting? Maybe you did that way. That way? You're not there's no, there's no, like, you can't be defensive about it. It's just like, well, I read it. I wasn't sure about what happened here, or why the character did this. He goes where it is clear, but it felt like stuff I've seen before, you know, that way, it's not a personal attack on you like, okay, so that I can work on that note,

Rob Edwards 1:35:57
And that you can kind of police yourself on right? Yeah, that you I was working with Dan Fogelman, who had who had written cars, and love. And we were working on a dress up for Disney, live action animation hybrid. And one of the things that he said to me, which was great, he says, on every page, assume that the person reading it might be on a treadmill. And and that that person, you know, you have to make the intention, very clear, the obstacle, very clear, tell the story that you're going to tell clarity, clarity, clarity, because you don't want the note, that's one note that you can easily take off the table. It wasn't clear like one of the things that I I love to do, I'm there who likes to study writing, I like I'll listen to anybody who's talking about how they're how they you know, every everybody's lectures, everybody's series, I love that stuff. And one thing was this guy, the guy who wrote for weddings in a funeral, whose name is escaping. It also written Love Actually. And before that, he wrote this great series called Black Adder. And he was Rowan Atkinson's like kind of main guy. And, and one thing that he said is, you know, don't be afraid of riding on the nose. And he says one of the most famous lines and I think it's Love Actually, he says, he says he's sitting there, he's riding around it around and around it. He says, I'm just going to say what it is. It's habit. And he wrote the line. I'm just a woman talking to a man. Talking to a boy.

Scott Mcmahon 1:37:48
No, that's, I think average. Notting Hill, right with Julie Ross. Exactly. Yes. Oh, guys, you're right. Don't be afraid to write on the nose. It's such a great like simple advice. Like,

Rob Edwards 1:37:58
Yeah, then if it's, then if people don't like it, then fine, then that's a that's a whole separate conversation. But they won't go what what's going on? Age. I was like, they're kind of talking around something really good, whatever. And then it just lost me. Like, no, you know, that what is it? Like, you know, Darth Vader states his intention is pretty bad, you know? Yeah. Lions. Yeah, he's like, you know, I will probably, you know, he states his intentions. That's why that's one of those things that you know, you can dance around but you really have to hit at some point or another is, you know, what Pixar would call the I one song, you know, that nobody does. Everybody. sings and I want song in some way or another. Go.

Scott Mcmahon 1:38:45
I like that. Singing I one song. You know, I can't I talk to you for there's so much. I would love to. I would love to have another opportunity to have you come back on tubes. We could talk more. You know, the you're working with Aaron Sorkin and just other writing. You have your master's classes coming up? I mean, definitely make sure you have everybody has the links, and promote you know, Rob edwards.net. I know you're you're starting. That's the community.

Rob Edwards 1:39:11
And you can find me at I am Rob Edwards on Twitter.

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:17
Okay, great. Yeah. Let's do Oh, that's brand new. Perfect.

Rob Edwards 1:39:20
I was terrified of what I would do on Twitter. And finally, I said, okay, just put it away at 3am Yeah, don't don't I try not to Twitter too much. But But I most anything that happens it's of interest will be on there. Oh, fantastic. Okay. Yeah, all the blog posts, all that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:39:44
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:53
Well, you know, as we wrap up, wrap all this stuff up. I can't thank you enough for Take your time, your generosity to share with me your knowledge, your experience and this aspect of the brain trust the or you have any sort of communal like writing group that has affected this, like that was really important to me because I'm trying to show to my audience like, I want to apply this stuff. So like, literally, I think the next episode I'll be doing for my podcast is a video hangout with some people I bring together to illustrate like, here it is, you know, a brain trust the my own version of a brain trust group put together on this trip that then working on?

Rob Edwards 1:40:40
I don't know. Yeah, exactly. With those improv, you know, yeah, the rules established the rules are clearly you know, yeah, hit the bigger problems first. It's a yes. And you know, what, if and, yes, and, yeah. And piling on and, you know, best idea, you know, no bad ideas. Just build, build, build, right? Um, yeah, that's, that's awesome.

Scott Mcmahon 1:41:04
I think just something so the people who see it, like, Oh, I see how that's working. And maybe they can stop before they settle on their story. Like, they can push themselves and it's really just, it's a call, it's a cry out a call to the rest of the independent filmmakers out there. Like, just because you can make it just don't make it just yet. You know,

Rob Edwards 1:41:25
Use the right tool, you know, don't always say what to say you're using the wrong tools, you know, just stay stay stay with you know, three about you know, index cards and post it notes and, and stuff and work the story. Don't lock it down sore and so early. It's like you don't shellac, a painting after the first stroke. Yeah. And use use other people. It's a told, we tell stories. A big part of apprentice in the front. We were pitching that thing all the time. Yeah, I love to pitch I will pitch people say, Hey, what are you working on? I will, you know, I'll just take over the party.

Scott Mcmahon 1:42:08
And well, let me tell you this.

Rob Edwards 1:42:10
Once upon a time, because I want to see if people are going to appeals eyes are gonna glaze over. Yeah, if people's eyes are gonna glaze over, I want to see him glaze over. If people are if people are leaning in. If people laugh at something, then the next time I tell that thing, I'm going to tell it's going to be twice as long to a Coliseum. And I'm going to avoid you know, just like the plague the part where people's eyes glazed over. And I can probably tell why their eyes his eyes glazed over. Yeah, it's that second question. It's, yeah, it was clear but not interesting.

Scott Mcmahon 1:42:50
Into okay. Yeah. It's, this is amazing. That's something.

Rob Edwards 1:42:55
Yeah. So, so awesome. So yeah, no, no, yeah, let please let me know when that happens. I can't wait to

Scott Mcmahon 1:43:00
Yeah, I'm putting together actually, it's funny because I wrote a book as an experiment, I was telling my audience in the podcast like, Hey, if you know, filmmakers are just we're making digital products. And a lot of authors for the longest time I've been writing digital products for Amazon. You know, you're just selling a digital product. So what are the mechanisms of like writing or creating something digitally? And then selling it? What are the marketing mechanisms of selling? So I said, I'll write a book and put myself as a guinea pig. So I did that last year, and put it on Amazon. And I've been selling it and seeing what works and what doesn't work. But part part of that process of writing the book, I also recorded an audio recording version of an audio book of it. And I was like, wait a minute, this is, I've seen this happen, because I know the blacklist has a podcast. And so I did an early version of my script, by recording it as an audio basically play by who's reading like, it's like an audio table read, but it's, you know, the listen to it. So the next I'm rewriting during the rewrites, and I'm going to read, I'll record it. And that's sort of my way of like, inviting my guests on who will be part of this makeshift mass. Sorry, brain trust group is like, you can either read the script, or you can listen to it, all the bells and whistles with the actors I've put in place and the audio cues and the music so you can have like an audio experience of it. And then that way, it's easier for them. Like you said, they're on a treadmill, they're in traffic, and they can listen to the story. And then that way, when they come to the table, they can tell me like, what worked what or what wasn't clear, or what was it and then we can take the brain trust meeting to the next level because hopefully, I have to do something to create that visual experience or an emotional experience. That's just not just the written word. That's my intentions.

Rob Edwards 1:44:49
Right. Exactly. And starting Yeah, starting with yourself. What I love about that is that you started with yourself as an audience. You know, what is the book I most want to read? And then you know, yeah, and then You started there. So so you know what it what it needs to be. You also did that, you know, kind of what I love the Tim Ferriss thing of like I'm a I'm a guinea pig. Yes, yes, I'm just gonna throw myself into this and see what happens. Which I think is a good life experience, like get used to getting bruised. Say it all the time to embrace the suck. All sucks, you're always going to hear somebody going like, oh, that's stupid. And, and you have to just say, No, it's stupid now but you know, in a couple of months, it won't be Yeah. If you tell if I if I get the right you know if I get the right stuff. So So yeah, so So put yourself you know, putting yourself in the in the mouth of the lion is a great idea. Yeah, that's gonna be a lot of fun. And you will, you will probably learn volumes from it because you'll have that that delicious legacies flops. Yeah, that's like, oh, no, this is embarrassing. And then you know, you always pull yourself out of the ashes. Everybody does.

Scott Mcmahon 1:46:00
Very, very cool. Hey Rob Thank you. Thank you so much. I can't thank you enough really.

Rob Edwards 1:46:06
Thank you for having me.

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BPS 329: How to Direct Nail-Biting Action Films with Con Air’s Simon West

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Simon West 0:00
Because all those incredible things you do, you're so busy stressing at the time and trying to do it. Sometimes it's hard to step back and go, Wow, what we're doing is really cool here. And this is, so I think there's try and enjoy it along the way.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma Elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading luts vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog, textures, DaVinci, resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor, colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years, I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out and enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Simon West, how you doing?

Simon West 1:08
I'm very well how are you?

Alex Ferrari 1:10
I'm doing great, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show. As I was telling you earlier, I've been a huge fan of your work from the beginning of your feature world. And I actually see some of your music videos and commercials as well growing up. But, you know, there's very few action directors to do action like you do. So I'm excited to get into the weeds of your journey and of your process. So first question, my friend I have to ask you is why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity that is called the film industry?

Simon West 1:43
Well, I never really had any other idea of anything else I wanted to do. And you know, from about 12 years old, it was quite serious. But I have to say, I was really fascinated by film from like three or four years old, because my dad had an old Super Eight, camera and projector and it's one of my earliest memories of him putting the screen up in our kitchen and projecting, you know, home movies, and just the fascination of seeing the moving image on this screen in a dark room. You know, with them, the dust melting on the bulb and the smell of it and the smell of the screen and I still have that screen. And every time I open it, it's the same old smell takes me back to like being you know, four years old and seeing the whole movies. And so it stuck with me. So when I hit 12, and I was sort of, you know, could do something about it, I got you know, paper around and saved up my money and bought a little Super Eight film camera. And then it was all about saving up money for the film stock. Because in those days, you know, one roll of film, that was two and a half minutes long cost about the same as two music albums. So it was really expensive. So I never had a music collection growing up because all my friends you know, would have albums and collect vinyl. And I never did because every penny I'd saved went on movie film, you know, to make my little films and so I still don't really have a musical action. I mean, I've just about started to do, you know, Spotify, playlists and everything. But I've never owned physically a music collection. And I guess nobody does know everything is virtual. So but yeah, so as is one of my earliest memories. It's the only thing I ever wanted to do. I sort of started earnestly making stuff at 12. And then when I got to 16, I joined a I heard about a film club in the next city to me, which was Oxford. And they had 16 millimeter film equipment. And they were mostly, you know, graduates or postgraduates. And, you know, I went along as this sort of gawky, 16 year old kid, and they told me to use the 60 mil equipment. And so I started just shooting that myself and I went out on the streets of London and into the, you know, the subway and shot things down there. And I started shooting musicians who just played on the street, you know, busking for money, and I sort of combined music and film quite early on in that way. And then I was sort of interested in the musicians, but I was also interested in the way music played with film and it was always very, you know, evocative to me. So even though I never had a musical action, I always associated, you know, music and film the imagery together, and I managed the 18th to talk my way into the BBC, in their film department, and at that time, they weren't really there was one film school in in England, the National Film School and it was really hard to get into you had to be a graduate or postgraduate or you had to have been a journalist or you had to go on on a expedition through the jungle you had to offer them something quite accept shouldn't have to get in. And they only took 25 people a year, you know, which was a tiny amount. So there's, I didn't think there was any chance of getting into that. But luckily, the BBC took a, you know, there was one guy that I think that sort of saw a bit of himself in me that was a sort of precocious film, brat who knew everything about fit or thought they knew everything about film. And I certainly knew a lot technically, about how it worked. And, you know, I could talk endlessly about film. And, you know, I've been watching Truffaut films on, you know, my little black and white portable in my bedroom from you know, 12 years old. So I knew about, you know, different sorts of cinema out there and American cinema, French cinema, English cinema, and, but I also knew technically how to do it. So they kind of, you know, one of the questions was like, we don't usually take people your age, you know, you have to usually be in your 20s, at least to get in mid 20s. I said, Well, what are you going to do, if you don't get in, I said, Well, I'll just apply again, I'll just keep applying until you let me in. So they just obviously didn't want to be stalked, or 10 years. So they let me in and they train me. So I got this training by the BBC, in every department that was great at that time, they taught you film editing, photography, and everything about the lenses, everything about the lighting, how the sound was recorded, how the sounds mixed, everything technically, and then they send you to every department. So I started in documentaries, then I went to drama, and then arts documentaries, and news and current affairs, and they just rotate you around. And then when you find an area that you'd like, you can, you know, apply to stay there. And I ended up in drama, obviously, because that's what I wanted to do. And I worked with some great directors under them. But when I was there was like Mike Lee was, was there at the time, and in the film, who does very improvised drama. So I kind of, you know, tapped into that and realized how you can work with actors to get so much out of an actor. Rather than just sitting in your room, you know, bashing out the script yourself, if you actually get a group of actors together, you're going to come up with something really cool. So he told me a lot of that. And then also, there was the traditional BBC dramas, which you know, Sherlock Holmes, or Pride and Prejudice, or, you know, anything to do with Dickens or Emma, you know, Emily Bronte, or that sort of costume drama, which are very traditional. And then on the other hand, this sort of improvised drama, from Mike Lee, and, but also, I learned a lot from working in documentaries, and new current affairs, because documentaries taught me to make a story out of what you actually ended up with, not what you hope to get. Because often any sort of you plan a movie or film and, and you've, it's going to be perfect, and you're going to get all these great sequences, but what you actually end up with is sort of if you're lucky, it's you know, 50% of what you set out to get, and then you've got to make the best story you can out of what you actually ended up with. And documentaries is like that you turn up, you shoot, whatever happens. And then you look at this pile of stuff, and you go, okay, how can we make a story out of this material. So I use that a lot in my filmmaking, you know, that that sense of, don't, don't stress too much about what you were hoping to get. Just try and make the best of what you did actually get in some of it's better than you planned, you know. And then the other thing I did was, was in current affairs, I mean, I worked on a news program called news night, which is still running, that went out at 11 o'clock at night, and you'd sit around all morning, waiting for stories to come in. And then the afternoon, the story would come in, and you'd be editing all afternoon. And then you'd still be mixing the sound and everything as the show started. So quite often, you know, you were running down the corridor with the film on your arm as the anchor was announcing the film, and they were throwing on the machine and pressing go and it just made it and that taught me not to panic. Because, again, when you're shooting, things go wrong, you know, and some sometimes you're under a huge stress. I've been in situations with gigantic stunts. You know, some pretty famous ones on you know, in films like Khan era and everything where I've had 200 stuntman, a full size aeroplane, a full size building, it's supposed to collapse, and it's all supposed to happen in one go, I've had 17 cameras running, and it's something has gone wrong, and you just can't panic and you can't, you know, crumble and yeah, that sort of broadcast news, as it were, that I worked on taught me how to you know, how to how to keep a steady head in the situation like that.

Alex Ferrari 9:59
So it's so it's fascinating hearing your story is that you, it looks like you went through almost a bootcamp early on very early on and covered almost every aspect of the tool sets, you picked up so many tools that you put in your toolbox, that your directors toolbox, by the time you started to actually direct, you would have been doing it in a sense for a long time, the skills like the broadcast news, which, which doesn't specifically, you know, translate to cinema, but yes, it does translate the cinema. So it kind of you were kind of being groomed, you know, by the universe, if you will, to, to do the kind of films that you are doing have been doing throughout your career.

Simon West 10:42
Yeah, you know, I was very lucky in that sense that I did end up. And it wasn't just then it was later when I went through music videos for a little bit, and then commercials, particularly, which then gave me another set of skill sets and experience and it's flying hours, you know, there's that old adage, you know, to be an expert, you have to do something for 10,000 hours. And so if you can arrive on set, you know, with 1020 30 50,000 hours of flying time, you're going to be in a much better position. I mean, I started in editing, which is particularly lucky, because that is definitely a great learning for directors, how to construct the story, and how what you actually need and how you can cheat and how you can, you know, give yourself some slack and not have to shoot every single thing you think you need. Because, you know, in editing, you can, you can help. And so editing was definitely a great start. And then, you know, when I went, as I said those, those various, you know, BBC situations, was that one set of experience, but then when I went into commercials, you know, that's working at a very high level, all over the world. So I'd be up a mountain, you know, one day, then I'd be underwater the next I'd be, you know, hanging out of a helicopter or racing cars or, and then I sort of move towards, I guess what it was I particularly look, how do I get into feature films it's like, so I looked for role models. And so in England, all the big directors went through commercials. So as Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, who has an Adrienne line, Alan Parker, all these guys who ended up making films in in England, and then Hollywood, had gone through commercials. And so I deliberately targeted commercials, because it was a very high end kind of training. And in, especially in England, a very kind of big budget glossy, very well made often better made than the shows in between them, you know, and that's, you know, TV was very cheap and cheerful in those days in the UK, but the commercials were very high end. You know, it's caught up. Now, of course, you know, TV is as good as movies, if not better sometimes. But so I targeted those type of people and that type of thing. So I ended up making a test commercial I shot, I deliberately shot a music video for a band, and I put in, I put in a little story in it. So I had to do the typical playing the instruments, and I was never, you know, a big music video director was really, you know, a way of paying the bills while I got into commercials, and then and then into movies. But so I deliberately made this little story in the in the music video. And then after I'd done that, I took it out, and I cut it down into a test commercial. And I had this, you know, test commercial that I sort of took with me when I got on the plane to the states. And the company I was working with in London had a la office and they said, Do you want to try and work out to the LA office because there was no work in the UK that time was absolutely dead. So I went over with sort of $400 in my pocket and this fake commercial and started you know, touting it round, and it sort of started to get interest. And by sheer coincidence, it was sort of comedic. It was a funny, it was a fake comedy beer commercial. And so then I started just getting offered comedy, which was very convenient, in a way because it was it was the commercials that had actors dialogue. It wasn't just cars driving through pretty forest amount into models on the beach. It was you know, it was a little story in itself so I could attract his my, my art and so I just started doing comedy commercials and they got you know, bigger and bigger and then ended up sort of doing Super Bowl commercials for you know, the Budweiser is. So like Budweiser frogs and then the Pepsi commercials and they started to get a lot more attention and you know, this was You know, the big budget, you know, there was spending about as much as in an independent little independent film on these 32nd commercials. So again, you know, I got used to having the big toys as it were, but it still wasn't a movie, you know, it's still only 30 seconds, it's still not a movie. So I'm still desperate and hungry to get into the, you know, legitimate filmmaking. And, of course, with the with the high profile Superbowl commercials, I started getting calls in the studios. And so, I got the call from Columbia offering me a romantic comedy, because they obviously thought, Oh, well, he does comedy. So we'll do that. And then I got a spy thriller from a UK company. And then I got the call from Jerry Bruckheimer, who said, you know, I've seen your commercials are really impressed and come in for a meeting. And let's, you know, talk about possibly making a film together. And so, of course, I, you know, rushed into that and had the big meeting with Jerry, you know, on the giant desk, you know, and that, you know, in some ways, the rest is history, but it was, it was a, you know, it was an awesome meeting. And I had to, he basically had a wall of scripts behind, it was in the days when scripts are printed on paper, and every producer would have a stack of them in their office with the titles. But Jerry didn't have just a pile, he had a wall of them, you know, there's probably a couple of 1000 scripts, and he turned around, he pulled three off which it looked like it was random, but I'm sure he knew exactly which one. And he threw them across the desk and said, Look, read those this weekend, and tell me which one of the one you want to make as a movie. And two of them were they were all action films, basically. Because that's what Jerry did. You know, he did, he did those seven films, two of them are pretty straight forward, you know, felt, you know, a bit cliched kind of action moves. But the third one was, was a film called Khan air. And I read this and it was quite a small film, it was like a character driven film, but the characters were so good. And even the names of the characters were cool, like Sally can't dance and Cyrus the virus and you know, that it just hooked me right, just for reading that I would have done it just for the name of the characters basically. And so I went back and I turned down the romantic comedy, I turned down the spy thriller, and I said to Jerry, out of these three I want to make on air. And he said, Well, it's, you know, it's very small film. And we need a summer blockbuster. So you got to go away, and turn this small character film, because we've written by Scott Rosenberg, who did, you know, things to do in Denver, when you're dead and beautiful girls, which are fantastic, but very small, you know, beautifully made, you know, character based films. And this was the same thing. And Jerry wanted a summer blockbuster. So I had to go away and sort of invent all these big events and sort of blow them up and make them you know, larger than life. And just, every couple of weeks, I'd go in, he said, Yeah, we've got to make it bigger, make it bigger. And so I just, you know, had a field day, just going in and sort of say, okay, how can we make this thing even bigger and more ridiculous than it was before? And, and that's, that's what you ended up with? That's why kinda looks like that.

Alex Ferrari 18:23
No, it's fascinating on air is one of those films that it's just one of those movies that sticks, it sticks with you for I mean, especially with that generation, when it came out. I saw it in the theater and, and it's, it's, you know, it's built a life up on its own over the years. And, you know, there's, there's so many legendary stories I hear, I heard, I heard Danny Trejo, I was watching a duck, recent documentary with him. And there was a story of him being on set with Con Air. And there was, obviously a lot of testosterone on that set. A lot of testosterone and all the actors are trying to, you know, I'm super tough, and I'm super tough, and I'm super tough. And Danny was quiet in the corner. And Nicolas Cage came up to the group because it was all of them sitting around trying to one up each other and how tough they are, and how scary they were in real life. And Nicolas Cage came up with this, the only one I'm scared of, is Danny, and Danny hadn't said a word. And it is like, what I do what I do, because it was that look that he had.

Simon West 19:25
But ironically, Danny was like the sweetest of the whole group to deal with, you know, it was like an inverse proportion. The tougher you were the nicer you were, you know, and it was, it was it was all the guys had never been near a prison. Were the ones that were or even a fight for that matter. Yeah, I mean anything but you know, but you can imagine Yes, there were 400 men in the desert for like three months. And I think there were like, at that time, there was only two women on the crew and it you know, so it did go a bit crazy because Have you get full 100 guys in the desert? Nothing to do in the sun beating down on you? Everyone did go a little bit Apocalypse Now.

Alex Ferrari 20:07
And now how did you how and how do you, you know, on a film like that, you know, it's your first big Hollywood production. You're working with Jerry Bruckheimer. This is your dream shot. So I'm assuming there's some pressure on you. Yeah, you've got, you've got 50,000 hours, you got 50,000 hours of airtime? There's no question. But you're at the show. This is the show at this point in your career. And if this fails, yeah, it's over. It's over?

Simon West 20:30
Absolutely. Well, I mean, I, I had done 50,000 hours, but short hops, you know, local local flights that were, you know, the longest shoot I'd been doing was, you know, two days, three days. This was 100 day shoot. And so by day, 30, I was, you know, down and out, I'd hit the wall, I was like, 30 days, because it was a giant production. And, you know, I was naive, I went in thinking, Oh, this is this is completely doable. And it was around day 30, that I just went, I don't sure if I can make it to the end. But you know, after a while, you sort of buckled down and it becomes a day job. And you and you start to think this is this will never end anyway, I'm just going to do this every day for the rest of my life, it's so long, there's so much work to do that, it's very odd when it finishes, because you you suddenly takes you by surprise. But yeah, there was a lot of pressure, I didn't realize that, because I was naive to you know, move, you know, the Hollywood films that they have, the studio has a list of your replacements already drawn up before, when you start filming. So if in the first two weeks, you completely screw it up, they already know who they're going to go to replace you with? Really, yeah. Afterwards, but, you know, I would be, I would have felt even more pressure than that. But I mean, you know, they, they protect you from that. So they don't want to, you know, completely crush you. So, you know, but it was tough getting people to take you seriously with the first film of that size. Because some crew members I had worked with, in commercials, you know, so they knew that I sort of knew what I was doing. But a lot of them, you know, was like, Who is this guy, they've given this massive film to on the first thing. So a lot of people I did have to, you know, come up against and go, you know, well, this is what's happening. And, you know, this is my first film, but you have, you basically have to follow the orders, because they've given me this responsibility. And we are doing this. And so let's say you know, 50% of people were very supportive. And then 50%, were a little tougher.

Alex Ferrari 22:34
Really, and that's, and that's something that a lot of directors don't understand when they first get on set is that when you know, I remember being the youngest guy on set as a director, and you know, the DP is 20 years older than me or the grips, or 20 years older than me or the production. And then they all have this experience. And they test you and they and a lot of them. They just feel like, oh, this kid doesn't deserve this shot, things like that. So I can only imagine at your level, the kind of I mean, this was a lottery ticket, someone literally handed you Jerry Lee handed you a lottery ticket. And I'm sure you had to deal with it. How do you overcome those egos on set those, that kind of those kind of barriers when you're working with crew members, maybe even keys, you know, like your DP or like your productions or, you know, keys who are fighting against your vision as a director, how do you handle that?

Simon West 23:26
Well, luckily, I mean, I didn't have that situation, because I, you know, I brought my own DP, my own production designer. And so my core crew were people I knew and trusted and supported me. And it was, it's more the peripherals that were, you know, you'd come up against, but all I could do was do a professional job and also don't, don't have any ego because, you know, I think that's what gets people's backup as if they sense that what you're doing or what your your decisions are based on ego rather than what's best for the film. Basically, everybody there is a passionate filmmaker, and wants the best film possible. And, you know, that's why people go into the film business is because they're really interested in it. And I was I loved the idea when I did a big complicated crane shot, you know, and it took a while to get that I'd run over to the monitor to see how it went. But and I'd look around and there'd be 20 people looking over my shoulder because you know, the grips wanted to see if they did a good job the camera focus wanted to see if he did a good job and and everybody you know, actors came in to see what they done. So everybody basically wants to do a really good job. So if if they sense that you're the same, and you're just there to make the best film, then they forget whether you've done five films or no films and and it's only if it's if a director brings his ego on set and is trying to demand respect through you know, position or you know, and it's just flexing muscles and usually Uh, you know, it's a, it's a cover for insecurity, I think, you know, they, they're panicking and they don't know what they're doing. And it comes out as ego. And it's the same with difficult actors. Usually, I found that actors are that are really talented. And luckily, you know, I came in at a very high level. So I'm dealing with, you know, people that have won Oscars, and I've got 30 years of experience, and I've done and these people are very talented and operating a very high level in their field. And when people are good at something, they're usually very secure in it. And, and so they're not, you know, they don't, they're not difficult, it's, it's usually when someone's very insecure, and what they do and think they're faking it, or they think they're not very good that they end up being a problem, because they're sort of diverting attention from what they think is their failings. So I haven't, you know, out a problem like that with, with all those big guys, you know, whether it's Nick Cage, or John Malkovich, or John tussock, all those guys didn't have a problem at all, because they were very good at what they did. And so they were very comfortable in playing in that world. And also, we created a really, you know, it was a fun, it was a fun film to make, because, you know, you get to see those great lines. And all these actors, which basically independent film, they, you know, they're used to doing costume dramas, or little Indies in motel rooms. And suddenly, they're on this giant film set. And Malkovich has got a pump action shotgun in his hand, and is shouting, you know, crazy lines. And they're having the time of their life. So why would you be and also they're being paid four times more than they've ever been paid. Because, you know, Jerry's got the massive checkbook. So that's how I ended up with such a great cast is because Jerry just said, just pick all your favorite actors. And when you've got that huge, you know, big brother of him and the studio behind you, you can, no one can say no, really, because it's a really fun, you know, enterprise, it's great script. And they're being paid handsomely, that everybody is there, you know, for a very good reason. They're having a really good time. So, it wasn't as bad as people think. Like, suddenly you've got 20 big actors, they're all going to be complete pain in the ass. You know, occasionally one person has a bad day or something, I'm sure, like we all do. But generally speaking, you know that everyone was enjoying it. And you know, I mean, it's the waiting around. To be honest, the work is never the problem. Set up the way sometimes, that's when people get oh, do I have to wait another, you know, for this lighting or this set or the stump to be set up? The actual acting they love to do so as long as you can give them a thing to do. They're, they're happy.

Alex Ferrari 27:39
So I have to ask you, there's one scene this gun in Canada that I there's many but there's one that I really have to ask you. This is a stunt. And I think I know it's practical. But I have to ask how the hell you did it? Which is the plane dragging the Corvette in the air and smashing into the tower? Yes, well that was that's practical right.

Simon West 28:27
Yes, it mostly because the thing is that, you know, kinda remember when it was made, there was CG around but it was very expensive. And it was a you know, it was it was only Jurassic Park or and people that could afford it. And, or to make it look good. And I was always, you know, a devotee of doing it for real and in front of the camera and seeing it. And so there's almost no CGI in a con. It's all done in front of the camera, the full scale. Well, we did do quite old school miniatures. So yeah, a lot of fun. So, you know, we did we flew a real plane over Vegas with smoke pouring out the back of it. And there were endless phone calls to the police of people saying there's a plane crashing over Vegas. And it's, you know, smoke pouring out of it. So, you know, we did things like that for real. And then we actually did for the you know, hitting the hard rock that was a massive model. So it was beautiful scale model that was probably 30 feet across this plane into a you know, 3050 foot version of the hard rock guitar. And we built the whole Vegas strip in miniature on Van Nuys Airport. So, you know, we had all the buildings with miniature neons and they're all about you know, 12 feet high. And we had radio controlled cars going up and down the strip and then fine Oh, I mean, it was absolute, you know, right for for, you know, kid in the sandbox kind of feel And then a lot of Israel, we had a plane that actually drove down Vegas Strip, it had a bus in it, they gutted out a real plane, put a bus in it, and they could actually drive it down the Vegas Strip without any wings on it and hit cars and things like that. And then the final one, the final one was another play, we had about three real planes. And the final one was the one that crashed into the Sands Hotel, which, you know, it's kind of a well known story, but Sands was going to be blown up. And, you know, I originally was going to, I wanted to hit the casino opposite the one with the volcano. And because I wanted, because it had a big lake, and I wanted to crash the plane into the lake, I had, and then it go underwater, I had a whole underwater sequence worked out, and then it would hit the volcano and the volcano would explode. And it was all going to happen. And then Steve Wynn who, who ran that, that hotel showed me around, and I saw how the volcano worked. And I show how the water pumps work. So every aspect of we planted all that. And then he said, Just send me the script, you know, and for the final sign off, so I sent him the script, and then I get a call back saying, Oh, we you can't crash into our, you know, this script is to, you know, don't we're a family organization, because at that time, Vegas was trying to portray itself as you know, as a family resort. And so they didn't, you know, with a bunch of criminals crashing into the thing was not what their image wanted to be at that time. So sorry, but you know, you could go and do it's bad for image. So suddenly, I had no location, but then I was reading the LA Times on a Sunday, and I saw they were blowing up the Sands Hotel. And in a few weeks, so call them up. Last night, I said, Look, can you delay blowing up the hotel for a couple of weeks while we build a whole set in front of it and put a huge plane on a ram and send it into into your casino and they agreed. So you know, there was a mad rush to build this rig wear for size plane was rushed down a ramp into the Sands Hotel. And as we were building it, they were slowly nibbling away at the back of the casino, knocking more and more of it down until it was just you know, the front part left. And we finally got it done in time. And it was a one shot. That was one of those classic Hollywood, you know, I couldn't shoot it in parts like you would normally do with an action film, because it was one plane and it was one casino. And once that plane was moving, there was nothing going to stop it. So that's when I had the 17 cameras, all hidden in bushes and inside the plane and inside the casino. And, you know, we and, you know, the night came and they closed off the strip and 5000 people lined up to watch it. And they pressed the button. You know, as the sun was coming up, and this thing went down the this 50 ton plane went down the ramp and the cable that was pulling it snapped at the last minute. And it just stopped on the edge of the ramp on the ramp and it was teetering. And if it went over, it would smash itself to bits and that we couldn't even those that buy another aeroplane, certainly not in that time or anything. But luckily it just sort of stopped and teetered on the edge and didn't go over. So we had to sort of D rig D ring all the cameras and come back the next night and set it all up again. And but you know most of those things were done in camera that the the Corvette hitting the everything in that sequence is real. Apart from the the wide shot of it being dragged through the air, because that was kind of aerodynamically impossible, it would have just hung down. And I was wondering about that probably crashed the plane or something. So that's the only CG shot in the whole thing. Everything else is either real, you know, full size real or miniatures.

Alex Ferrari 34:01
That's insane. That's absolutely insane. So I have to ask you, I mean, as directors, you know, we always there's always that one day on set, that the entire world is coming crashing down around us. And we feel like we're never gonna make it. It sounds like every day was like that for you on Khan air or in many of your movies. Is there any any day that stood out its situation where you're like, Oh my God, I don't think we're gonna make it through this day. And what was that thing? And how did you get over and it could be on Connor or any of your films.

Simon West 34:29
Yeah. Well, I mean, apart from that one thing that it was, was probably I guess it was, I mean, it did happen a lot. You know, because we were doing complicated, fiddly stuff that was in camera. We couldn't fix it with CGI or painting out I think it had to work. And then there was another incident I'm gonna guess which was the fire truck sequence at the end. There was supposed to be in Vegas, but I think Vegas was so sick of us by that time because we were moving from street to street and blowing stuff up and crashing and they said, Look, you know, they, they sort of stopped us giving us permits, basically. And so we had to sort of scuttle back to LA. And, and I had to sort of do the sequences, firetruck scenes where you had to hide that it wasn't Vegas, and I couldn't, as I said, Now, you would just paint a CGI city behind it. So I thought, how can I hide that I'm in LA. So I thought, well, we'll do it in the tunnel. So I went to the like the third or fourth Street Tunnel, which number is but in downtown LA. And of course, there's no tunnel in Vegas at that time. But you know, we've we fudge that we say, Okay, this is this is a tunnel. And, and so we'll have the fire truck, you know, race through this. And then in the city said, Okay, you can have from 10pm to midnight? Because, in fact no, I think it was it was 5pm to 10pm because of the noise and all that something. And so it's basically at five hours to shoot this one big stunt which was basically diamond dog on the motorbike getting dragged into the that was standing on the back of firetruck, and Nick cages on a police motorbike, and he writes into the back of the fire truck jumps on the fire truck, and the motorbike explodes on the back of the fire truck taking out being Rames as diamond dog. And it was all set up. And and the idea was that by this time, we were sort of down from the usual 17 cameras only had seven cameras for this get to the end of the shoot and you're starting to run out of money and and it's slightly smaller stuff. But it still was a one off thing. And it was the fire truck going into the tunnel, the the motorbike being dragged into the back of it on a rig and then the explosion happening and had seven cameras set up. And of course the cameras get set up, you know, nice and quickly. They're all in position. But the rig the complicated rig to do this, we can't start rigging until five o'clock. So and we have to be off the street by 10. So the special effects guys are building the rig they're putting the cables in, they're putting the explosions in the explosives in there. They're rigging the bike, they're rigging the fire truck, the stunt men are practicing and and it's going it's going five o'clock, six o'clock, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, nine o'clock, and we've got to be off by 10 Every hour, I'm going to the especially Are you ready? Are you ready? And there's nearly nearly really, and I swear to God, no kidding. Five to 10. And we're supposed to be off at 10. He said, Okay, we're ready. And, but and so then all hell breaks loose. So the camera guys are all over by the coffee truck. Because they've been standing there, you know, for you know, four and a half hours doing nothing. So they're all eating, you know, doughnuts and coffee, they're not next to their cameras. And the guy, that guy the stunt guy in the fire truck has fallen asleep. Because you know, he's been sitting in that truck waiting to go for five hours. And so the ad the first assistant director picks up the radio and says down the radio because we got five minutes to do this to the radio to the guy, the standby shouts on the radio, are you ready to go. And the stung Oh hit all he hears is go. He waited up, pushed his foot on the accelerator and heads off down. And this thing is all automatic. So once that fire trucks rolling, it's also dragging the motorbike that is rigged to explode when it hits that there's no stopping it once it's going. So the so I rush over to the monitors and shout to the camera guys, you know, it's rolling as running, you know, go go go. So they all start running from dropping their coffee cups everywhere running to the cameras. And out of the seven cam out the seven cameras.

Some of them, like one gets an operator gets there but no focus puller, then another one gets the operator and a focus puller. Then there's three cameras that are rigged on the actual truck and the motorbike that are all rigged to one button and an assistant runs over presses that button. And those three cameras go so I go okay, I've got three automatic cameras. I can see those running on my monitor. I've got one camera on a crane. There's that slightly out of focus because there's no camera. There's no focus pull on that one. And I've got another guy that has a operator and a focus. So I've got, I've got as for good angles, this is going to be Oh, I'm supposed to have seven but I'll settle for four. And this thing is racing down the road. And that that moment the first assistant runs down the road, trying to stop the firetruck go stop, stop, stop. So there's the assistant camera on the three cameras that were on one button hears the word stop and presses the stop button on the three cameras. So I went for Four and a half cameras to now I'm down to one and a half cameras running. And just as he does that, it happens the the motorbike hits the fire truck explodes, boom, I've got I've got one shot, and and one slightly out of focus shot. And that's what's in the movie. You know, that's what you have to do you have to go,

Alex Ferrari 40:21
You gotta roll, you gotta roll with it. It's so it I love hearing stories like this, because so many, you know, so many young filmmakers coming up, they just like think, oh, you know, it's Hollywood, there's a big budget movie, everything's running like a well oiled machine. Shit happens at every level all the time, because filmmaking is one of the most complicated situations.

Simon West 40:44
And everything you do is the first time it's been done in that particular configuration. Yeah, we've all done stunts and shots a bit like that. But it's never been done on that street with that amount of equipment, isn't that right? And so it's a sort of handmade, everything's handmade each time? You know, and, you know, and it's, it's difficult. It's so it goes wrong, you know.

Alex Ferrari 41:06
So let me ask you, you've I mean, you've directed so many amazing action movies and action sequences throughout your career. What makes a good action sequence? Like when you're conceding the the construction of an action sequence? What is what are some key things that you constantly are looking for when you're building it?

Simon West 41:26
Well, yeah, I get asked that a lot by, you know, young filmmakers coming up and want to know, because they watch a lot of action films now. And it's hard to dice, you know, discern what is better about some than others, in some ways? Or, you know, is it the bigger explosion is it the, you know, the, you know, the more hits in the fight, but to me, I was telling you that basically, with an actress he was you got to tell a story. That is that's within its the works within itself. So, you have a whole film that you, you're telling your story, you're beginning, your milling, middle and your end, but you should do that with every action sequences, as well. So make sure the audience understands what's supposed to happen in the action sequence, because I think sometimes, we will think just like, if we shake the camera a lot, if we have a lot of chaos, and it just goes on and on and it's really loud, then that will be satisfying. And that, to me is not a satisfying action sequence, you want to have a lot of cause and effect, because you're going to understand, like, your hero needs to get from here to there. And these are the obstacles in the way. And, you know, this is the first obstacle that hits him, you know, have you shot this in a way that your audience understands what that obstacle is? And then he is clever, or physically, you know, has enough prowess to get past that obstacle. But there's another one coming in at the end, you know, do you have three to five depending you know, what kind of sequences but that to me the clever, the clever, those obstacles and the clever the way that he overcomes them, the more satisfying it is, but you got to understand it as the thing you've got, the audience has to understand, oh, he, he was victorious in that moment. But okay, but he's not going to be in this because I can see why this is difficult. And, you know, I think one of the good ones I think, I would say for students to watch is, is Terminator two. There's some great, great constructive, because, you know, James Cameron is like me is a bit nerdy on the technical stuff and likes, you know, likes how the physics works of an action sequence and how the practical sides like what would happen if a if a truck flipped on its side like this? How far would it slide? If it slid? And then it it one end of it hits something? How would it spin? And how would you know, what's a cool way to get out of the way of that thing spinning? And so you, you can, if you're a bit nerdy about physics, action sequences are great, because they're all about cause and effect. And you have the sort of emotional journey of how does the hero overcome it, but you can also have, for me, it's more like, you know, the mechanics as well as the MacGyver of it, you know, it's like, set up a problem, how do you fix it? But I think, you know, if you watch something like, you know, the sequences in Terminator two, that's a really good lesson, and you understand every single thing that happens in it, nothing's too, you know, obscure or too fast, or you don't understand what happened or it happens for no reason, just like there's an arbitrary, something arbitrarily explodes for no reason. There's something only explodes if explains how that thing, you know, fired into it, and why did it catch fire? And then when it caught fire, what did it then do? So to me, if you took out an action sequence, that of an action film, you should be able to understand everything that goes on in it, and it could it could play as a short film, you know, you should be able to take the action sequence and go, Oh, here's my, here's my two minutes short film. And, you know, what do you think of the story and you should understand it.

Alex Ferrari 44:52
Now, you also worked on another another film called Expendables. To which man when I I heard you were on board for the sequels like this make this makes sense. This makes sense. Because no slide did the first one. And, you know, and I mean, so there's just a lot a legend and you know, as a writer, as a director, I mean, he's Yeah, he's a walking legend. How was it? I went, this is the thought that went through my head when I heard you were on and I'm like, Okay, this makes sense. They need someone like Simon to deal with the testosterone that's on that set. It didn't. I mean, you're talking about Vaughn, Dom and Lungren and Stuart Snagger, and Willis and in state and all these guys, how did you approach directing? That kind of, I mean, some of those guys are absolutely legends. And some of them are just just really big action heroes. How did you approach because it's just seems like so massive, and an undertaking just dealing with that. And then also trying to tell the story, and also trying to one up the action of the first one, and so on and so forth.

Simon West 45:55
Yeah, well, I mean, the first thing was sort of, you know, getting past the sly of it all. Because, because I, you know, I, I met sly, you know, and had, you know, had lunch with them. And I said, Look, you know, are you okay, with me taking over this, because, obviously, you know, what you're doing, you know, and, but I think the first one nearly killed him. So, you know, when he, you know, if you're writing it, directing it, starring in it, and, you know, it's just a lot to do. And, you know, and he's throwing himself at it. I think he just didn't want to go through that again. And he said, No, no, you know, it's your film, you do what you want. And he, you know, so he said, I'm just an actor on this. And so, you know, and I said, Look, I don't want to screw up your franchise, you know, I don't want to, you know, you set it up the first one, and I come in, and, you know, put it, you know, in the trash can. So, you know, it's probably more pressure, then, you know, a normal studio hire, because, you know, the guy that started it is on the on set every day, but he was really supportive, you know, and he would come on set and go, Wow, this is great, this is the set, this is better than the first one is this. And I think he was so relieved not to have to solve all the problems and not have to, you know, do the hours, and he enjoyed being an actor on it, you know, and so he gave a very relaxed to the funny performance because he was in enjoying it. And, and I think we know, in terms of all the others, you know, there's definitely a pyramid on set with sly at the top of it. So, you know, I used that sort of the slight, you know, power to it. So it was never a problem. Because if sly was happy, everyone was happy, because, you know, they all look up to him. He is the Godfather, you know, of that world. And so he got, he gets a lot of respect for them. And so they, they were as good as gold. They were, they were like, very well behaved. And because because it's like,

Alex Ferrari 47:48
slap, slap, slap, slap, em around.

Simon West 47:52
They never had to but, you know, the, the inference was, you know, if anybody stepped out of line, they weren't gonna get the slice slap, but you know, and then you're gonna have you know, Rambo, you know, screaming in your face. And, you know, all these other characters, Rocky, Rocky, yeah, you want me? Do you want Rocky and Rambo shouting at you and your face? So no, they weren't, they were good. And also, they were, you know, like, a lot of like, like music bands that, you know, bands that were big in the 80s and 90s, they were coming back touring. And now they're happy to be back, because they probably didn't enjoy it as much as they should have the first time around, because they're so busy trying to be successful and trying to deal with a new, what's it like being a movie star and all that stuff, that they get a second chance to come back, and they're gonna really enjoy it and appreciate it, because they went through all that once. But the fact to be able to do it again, you know, not many people get to do that in their, you know, later years, the thing that was they did in their youth that was there, you know, define them. So, they I think, you know, they were having, you know, a really good time just to be doing it again. And so it was it was fun for them.

Alex Ferrari 48:59
So yeah, so you'd ever had an issue because I mean, I've heard of other directors who work on sets with directors who they're directing. And just as alone, let alone the person created everything around it, and also a legend and also all this other stuff. So it sounds like you've never had any slight slight was just like I don't want to deal with it. Just I just want to do what I do. And you have fun. And as long as I'm good.

Simon West 49:23
And hopefully hopefully it was I was doing a good job. And that was mainly hopefully it was he was, you know, why he was you know, kind and respectful was because he could see that it was going well. I mean, I think if I'd been like, you know you're up, I would have heard about it very quickly. But yeah, and and also I have found I've directed a few directors and producers in the past and I found actually, they're actually very easy because they know the pain you're going through. They're empathetic. They go like You know, I'm not gonna give this guy a hard time because I, I know what it's like when an actor gives you a hard time. And I know he's got 50 Other things on his brain this morning, and he's got, you know, budget problems. And he's got, he hasn't slept for two months. And so I've found people that have been behind the camera actually treating much better than people who have no idea and I've done it the same myself when I've gotten in front of the camera for like little cameos or something for other people's films or mine, and I'm, and I've looked at the camera, and I've looked at the lights, and I go, Oh, my God, how did these actors do it? This is really hard. Oh, you know, and we get, you get, you know, suddenly you you cut them a lot more slack because you realize how confusing it is to be on the other side of the camera staring at 200 People in lights and you know, and you have no idea who's standing behind you or next year or it's very confusing. So I think it goes both ways. But I actually, I direct in generals daughter, John Frankenheimer. And, you know who was a hero of mine. And he, it was by sheer chance that he when I was shooting, that film on the Paramount lot. We were doing a night, we built a giant tank, that the Paramount lock their whole parking lot is a tank. So what they do is they everyone did not park there anymore. And they have a skydrop ride and you can actually flood the whole parking lot. And we were a night shoots. We built a giant tent over the parking lot and put our, you know, Savannah set in this swamp that we built in there. And John Travolta is in there having a big fight, you know, and doing water work. And because it was everybody that visited the Paramount lot for a couple of weeks, they see this giant black tent where they used to park. So all they would do they would come up to 10. And they poked their heads through to see what was going on. So every day, there would be different people poking and you know, like Robert De Niro's head pokes through, then, you know, like, all you know, famous actors, producers, everybody wants to know what the hell's going on in this black 10. So we've got, I wish I'd taken a camera, you know, set up a time lapse of everybody's coming through this hole. And anyway, one day was John Frankenheimer, and he knew most neufeldt The producer, so he came in and had a chat. And I was looking at him and he was and we were at I needed this one part that was a, a Jet A senior general in the army, but it was only at one scene, it was only you know, one and a half page scene, but the guy had to appear very important and a lot of weight and, and it's the sort of thing you do want to call in a favor. You know, if your powers with Robert De Niro Al Pacino, you go, like, can you come and do me a favor and do one scene because I need your gravitas. And but I was looking at John Frank and I'm and this statuesque guy was like six foot five or something. And he was very authoritative. And he's one of those old school Hollywood directors a huge shelter and a big, you know, guy, and he's done all these amazing films. And I thought, Well, I wonder if he would do it. And so I asked him, and he said, Yeah, he, you know, he hasn't really done any acting or much acting, I don't think but he agreed to do it. And he, he came on set. And he got in the uniform and you know, had the hair and makeup done. He said, you know, how do you want to shoot this this page and a half of dialogue, this long speech? And I said, I really want to just do all in one shot. So no cut. And he said, What? No cutting? Oh my god, you know, I've got to learn the whole thing. City. Yeah, if you don't mind, I don't really want to cut, you know, it's really important to be like one shot and said, Oh, my God, I gotta go and learn this. And I said to him, I said, Look, I you know, I hope you You okay with me directing you because, you know, this is only my second. Yeah. And you've you know, we're winning Oscars before I was born. And, you know, so. And he said, No, no, no, it's his greatest, you know, it's your film is your film. And, and again, on the set as I was directing, when I said, I said, Look, I hope you don't mind me saying, but could you just, you know, move over here and do this? He said, Yes, yes, yes, no problem. And he said, Gosh, it's really weird. He said, you know, all I want to do is please you, I've never been in that position before, you know, because he's a huge director that everybody wants to please Him. And he'd never been in the position where he wanted to please someone else. So it was really sweet. And, you know, great performance as well. Great.

Alex Ferrari 54:10
That's, that's remarkable. Is there anything that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career that could have helped you? You know, that that one little bit of information like, oh, man, I wish I would have known this?

Simon West 54:22
Um, you know, I mean, it's no secret, you know, magic. I think it's, it's like with all, you know, exciting worlds, whether you're, you know, a rock star or a secret agent, or, you know, making movies as I think, is to try and appreciate it at the time, because all those incredible things you do, you're so busy stressing at the time and trying to do it. Sometimes it's hard to step back and go, Wow, what we're doing is really cool here and this is so I think there's to try and enjoy it along the way. Because you're so busy being hard on yourself. And I didn't know maybe maybe that's not possible, maybe everything would turn out terrible if you did relax and try and enjoy it. But that's what I would have told myself is, you know, you it's probably going to be okay. So why not relax a bit and enjoy it rather than, you know, beating yourself up and you got to work harder and harder. And you know, and it's, but I haven't, you know, you can't do the experiment the other way and go back and say, like, if you did just kick back a bit and enjoy it, would it? Would everything have turned out the same way? I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 55:29
Well, that's it. I mean, you were saying that with, you know, like Schwarzenegger and Willis and all these kinds of Chuck Norris and all these kind of guys that came back on, on Expendables to where they just, they probably had a ball, because they weren't probably not stressed. I'm like, I'm not the star of this lies dealing with that. I'm just here to have a good time and shoot some things, say some cool lines and hang out with my friends, you know, smoke some cigars?

Simon West 55:51
Yeah. And I mean, I have to say, I enjoy directing much more now than I did when I started. Because, because I do, you know, you have less to prove, I suppose that as you go on, right. And, and also, it's like, you've been through all those sticky situations, and you usually get out of it somehow. And so there's, you get a lot more confidence with age and experience. And so I definitely enjoy it now. Rather, before it was like, a task that had to be achieved and to win the fight and get it done. Now you I can actually enjoy the process. And, you know, so, you know, it comes with experience and doing it and you know, for a while, I suppose?

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Well, I mean, you've got more than 50,000 hours now, I think?

Simon West 56:36
The trick is not that, you know, not to fall out of love with it. I do know some people that, you know, fallen out of love with it, and really miserable, you know, and miserable to be around on the set, because they don't like it anymore. And but you know, they're sort of wedded to it. But I think if you don't like it anymore, you should definitely stop doing it. But because you're making everybody's life misery. But I you know, I definitely like it more more I do it. So it's you know, and I've been to

Alex Ferrari 57:04
And it shows, it shows in your work that you you know, the movies that you've stayed consistent, since Con Air. I mean, you've been working every you know, you pop out your your output is, is pretty good. It's not like you do one movie, you're not a Kubrick, you don't do one movie every eight or nine years. I mean, you're you're constantly working, whether in television, or in this, you're always working. So that's you can tell that you love what you're doing.

Simon West 57:27
Yeah, well, that would be really frustrating. I mean, I'm a huge Kubrick fan. And but it would be really frustrating for me to know that I was only going to do a film once every 5 6 7 8 years, that would be you know, heartbreaking, because there's only so many films you can make in a lifetime. And, you know, sometimes obviously, you know, some are better than others, because whatever reason, but you learn something on every one. And, you know, I think making any film is better than staying at home.

Alex Ferrari 57:58
You know, you're absolutely right. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests I'm in what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Simon West 58:07
Don't turn any opportunity down, you know, don't be too like, I have to make this kind of film I have to because I you know, I as I said, I went through all these different types of filmmaking from current affairs, two documentaries, that drama to you know, everything. Music videos, commercials, and I would say, just try and shoot as much as you can on anything, whether it's on your iPhone, or, you know, with friends on and any opportunity, a friend says, oh, you know, I want to be an actor. And but I need someone to shoot me doing something, go and do it don't go out. He's not very good. Or, you know, I haven't got time or I'd rather do that. Any opportunity do it because any connection you make with someone else who's also in that world, can leapfrog to another connection. And every anything you shoot gives you a little bit more experience. And a little bit more like Oh, I know, you know, like, I really want to do sci fi. Well, I want to do a sci fi I'm gonna shoot and then someone says, can you come and shoot this little comedy short film for me and you shoot the comedy you're actually I really enjoyed that comedy. Maybe I'll maybe I'll do some comedy. So I would just say shoot as much and as often as you can and don't be too precious don't sit around for the perfect situation. And you know and and working on films in any way you can I mean, I you know worked in props and art department and sound and camera systems on other people's films for a day here a day there. And it's kind of fun. You get to learn other people's jobs you meet other people and and work for free. So they'll have you you know, so they'll have you back or you know, they'll there's a reason to hire you is because you're free. And just work as much as you can and take every opportunity shoot anything you can.

Alex Ferrari 59:53
What is the lesson that what what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Simon West 59:58
What I guess what I learned And is no failure is total, you know, what I mean? Is that is that every every disappointment or failure, if you want to call it can be corrected to a certain extent in some way. I mean, that's the beautiful thing about filmmaking like a sequence, you know, one angle doesn't work you cut to another angle, one, you know, an actor doesn't isn't great, you know, in a performance, you can make the performance better through editing. If there's, there's always always I don't think any failure is total. And also, you know, there's a whole theory that, you know, you obviously, you don't learn anything until you fail at something, you know, and so you shouldn't look at the any kind of failure as a failure. It's more like a, you know, a learning experience. But also, none of that item for me, I don't know, it's lucky or whatever, but I never treat any failure as a total failure, it's always can be, you know, dragged back into be a 10% failure, rather than 100% failure, because you can, you can do something to fix most things, you know, situations from

Alex Ferrari 1:01:07
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Simon West 1:01:12
I think he's pacing himself, he's like, not rushing. You know, the hardest thing in filmmaking and people don't realize, is time management, because you can make a fantastic film with unlimited time. And it's time, it's not even resources. I mean, if you've got a camera, that's basically what you need in a way of recording the sound. But if you had unlimited time, you can make the world's greatest film, if you've got the talent, but you know, every film you're on is a time pressure, it's like you're constantly doing a deal with yourself, if I if I take longer on the scene, I gotta take time off that scene. If I you know, if I rush to this scene, it's not going to be makes sense for the story. So I got to allocate my time in every minute of a film, you know, a professional film is accounted for, you know, you're supposed to do a certain amount of work per day, you know, per hour. And you have to stick to that plan. And that scheduling, that's very hard in an artistic endeavor to be so dictated to by time management. And that's the, that's the hardest thing is this is to get, okay, the discipline of saying, I've got it as good as enough, because I've got to get on and get all these other things. When really, you know, it's very rare that a director is in a position where he just can keep going, keep going, keep going until he absolutely satisfied because that's not a real world situation. And you know, that that's hard, but I mean, yeah, but the opposite is like, don't be panicking about time on Sunday. So I would, is, I think I've learned those not to rush and take time, because, you know, you can make a bad decision. If you rush. If you just take a couple more beads, you can make a better decision. And but it's it's that balance of don't rush, but you're still going to hit those time. deadlines.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:03
So you've never heard the term you've never heard the sentence ever uttered to you, Simon, all you have is time and money. How fun?

Simon West 1:03:10
Yeah, that would be. I mean, yeah, but I, you know, I have I do have questions, you know, like that. But do you? So you know, when they're scheduling with a sailor, well, how long would it take you to shoot the scene? And I go, Well, how long will you give me? Because I could shoot it in two minutes, the length of the dialogue, I could spend two weeks shooting the most incredible version of this scene with, you know, every conceivable angle and like beautiful lighting and tech and waiting for the sun to be in the right spot. I mean, how much will you give me I just need as much time as you're willing to give me you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:40
And I'll make it work with what you got to a certain extent. And last question, three of your favorite terms of all time?

Simon West 1:03:49
Oh, well, I mean, I there's so many I hate that question. Because it's three is hard to pin down. But I mean, I do love, you know, films that I grew up with and films at different times of my life. So, you know, sort of in my sort of teens there's a film called Withnail and I, with Richard II grant and Paul McGann it's a small comedy about to struggling actors in England and not many people in America know it because when I do mention it, people go on I haven't seen that. But in in the UK, it's a kind of a cult. You know, I've been on I've been on sets in UK and the camera crew will recite lines from the film to you because it's a cult. So but yeah, so I try encourage all Americans to see this film because it seems to be very well known in England but not in the States but school with nail and I and then films you know, at different stages in my life. And these are not necessarily you know, great classics. I mean, I love all the big classics, you know the David Lean movies and everything like that, but you know, everybody does but films that meant a lot to me. You know, a different parts of my life were things like you know, when I was very young, we'd be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Bang. The fantasy of that to me as a you know, magical, magical a six or seven year old with me of that would have thought that was the most magical thing ever. And that would that was the sort of thing would get me into filmmaking is the fantasy because to me filmmaking is taking it to another world. And I, you know, because I have to confess I don't make very realistic films. They are, you know, they are quite fantasy and larger than life and operatic because I kind of want to be taken to another place I you know, I don't necessarily, I mean, I, you know, I watch other people's very, you know, great realistic films and love them, but my world is a bit more ridiculous in a way. But, you know, so and then, you know, and then that was, you know, my five or six year old, me getting into film. And then the 12 13 year old me was a film called swauk Melody, another English film that was written by Alan Parker and directed by walrus Hussain, produced by David Puttnam. And it's a it's a net gain. It's a small film set in a school in London in a kind of a rough part of London. And, and it's all sort of actors, there were 11 and 12. And it was just my life, you know, so it's the first time I went to the movies, and didn't see James Bond, you know, jumping off a cliff for, you know, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs doing something, you know, this was my life, it was kids at school, but very realistically shot and they're getting up to all sorts of mischief. And they're really, you know, rude to adults. And they're kind of like, but it's very sweet. And so this is the sweetest soundtrack by the BGS, which is not the strongest point, not the strongest point, but the PG is less than every PG, so great. Yeah, they're great. You know, Saturday Night Fever and all that stuff. Yes, but not in this world. But the rest of the film is great. So I'd have to say like three films, they're not, you know, as I said, the big epics, but they meant something to me at different ages. My life, you know, and so that's where they were importantly, so when I say favorite, I'm not gonna go now I'm talking about I'm gonna watch them again now. Because

Alex Ferrari 1:07:09
I mean, you go, I mean, as you were talking, I'm like, what was the film, like, when I was coming up, like 8 9 10 years old, and the obvious one, Star Wars, et all those kinds of things. But there's something like Never Ending Story by Wolf. But Wolfgang, you look at that, and you're like, at that moment. You know, that was a very powerful movie. You know, to me and those kinds of things. It's, you know, I've heard I've heard the greatest, you know, some people like, Oh, I'd loved under the dragon. And I'm like, I loved under the dragon too. But is that on your top three is like it is it meant a lot to me when I saw it when I was 12, things like that. So it doesn't all have to be godfather.

Simon West 1:07:45
Exactly. I mean, I've watched Godfather, you know, how many 1000s I got it on every format ever made, you know, and I still watch it on TV with the commercials when it comes on, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:56
Because we're ridiculous. Why do we do that when we could literally just get up, grab our blu ray. And that's happened to me multiple times. And I'm like, why am I just too lazy to get.

Simon West 1:08:08
But it's such a good film. You don't want to waste that 30 seconds of it. So those those epics are fantastic. But I think a film that means something to and also that probably led, you know, people like you and me into the business. You know, it needs even more because it's, you know, it's what we ended up doing. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:27
Simon, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you, my friend. I know I can talk to you for at least another five or six hours. But I appreciate your time. And thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your knowledge and your experiences with the tribe today and continued success my friend. I can't wait to see your next one. So thank you so much my friend.

Simon West 1:08:45
You're welcome. Lovely to talk to you.

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BPS 328: How to Make a Kick-Ass Low-Budget Zombie Film with Eric England

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Alex Ferrari 1:54
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:59
With Eric England from the movie contracted, he is the writer and director. And he takes us through his journey as a filmmaker, how he started out making low budget films and slowly built up from there. And I think it's really important for you know, first time, second time, whatever filmmakers to understand that there is a you know, not for everybody, but the majority of people out there who are making films start out small, they make a you know, a movie for a couple 1000 bucks or possibly even less, and then slowly gradually move up after proving themselves with a small feature, then they move up to a slightly larger one, your first feature shouldn't be, you know, you shouldn't be looking for a movie star and trying to spend, you know a bunch of money and everything. It really should be just like a test. And if for whatever reason, it loses money or it becomes a disaster, you can just learn from that and you haven't burned all those bridges, you haven't, you know, wasted a bunch of people's money because that's a lot of money. That's a house right there. You know what I'm saying? Let's move on to our interview. I'm really excited that Eric came on the show. He's a young filmmaker and is really out there doing what a lot of us want to be doing. So he has a lot of great advice about how you can become a successful filmmaker. Here we go. Okay. Well, I mean, I guess the first thing that I want I usually start out with is just really talking about your background. Where are you from? How did you get into filmmaking and all that. So could you give us just kind of a little bit of background about you?

Eric England 3:25
Yeah, totally. I'm originally from Russellville, Arkansas, which is, you know, really small town in between, like Fayetteville and Little Rock in Arkansas, right smack dab in the middle of Bible belt. And, you know, in terms of originally getting into filmmaking, there was no you know, really, there really was no introduction to film other than, you know, my my dad was a big movie night. And a lot of my family members continue to be, you know, big film fans, like I was exposed to a lot of, you know, especially genre movies when I was younger. My grandmother actually, for some reason, my grandparents have a really big thing with Stephen King like Stephen King novels were always my house. Stephen King movies were really big in my house and that that just kind of, you know, opened the door. It's kind of a gateway drug into other horror movies. Like I remember the first really four or five movies. I can remember seeing when I was a kid were like, Stephen King's It the original night of living dead. Fright Night Lost Boys like a lot of vampire movies near dark. I think my dad was a big vampire film fan. But my dad was 21 when he had me and my mom was 18 So they were kind of kids raising a kid. And so yeah, that kind of kind of allowed me to be exposed to to things I probably shouldn't have been at that age but kind of you know, created this love for the darker side of storytelling that just kind of stuck with me all through, you know, my adolescence and growing up and I became like an avid movie watcher my my dad and I you know, our quality time was always spent like we had movie night every week. So, you know, that kind of really started it. And then when I, when I got ready to graduate high school and get ready to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I was like, you know, I knew I couldn't, I was a horrible student in school, I wanna say horrible, but I was just one of those students where if I if I didn't feel challenged, I just didn't pay attention, you know. And so essentially, I knew, like, if I didn't do something that I wasn't, you know, diehard passionate about, I wasn't gonna have very happy life. So I decided to kind of, you know, take the leap of faith, and I moved to LA when I was 19.

Jason Buff 5:31
Wow. Okay. So what, what was that, like, when you arrived? Was it kind of, you know, what, what was? What it was versus what your expectation was? I was very young to just pick up and move. I mean, 19

Eric England 5:43
Yeah, I mean, I'd never set foot on an airplane, like it was, it was a big culture shock at first. And it took a while to kind of get acclimated. I mean, I, I definitely went through, you know, a couple years of missing home and, and for not necessarily missing home, but just, you know, not feeling like I didn't fit in, especially, which is weird, because LA is kind of a melting pot of cultures and personalities and things like that. So, you know, I think that was really just my own insecurities. Because every everyone kind of fits in out here, you know, everyone's different. So, but essentially, you know, it just took a while, like, it was exciting, because every day when I woke up, I could feel like, okay, opportunity was within grasp, you know, like, when you first moved to LA, you kind of feel like, okay, there's so much happening around you, how do I get involved? And I think that was kind of the daunting part was, how do I get involved? You know, it's like, I knew it was happening. I knew there, you know, it's like, I could go to restaurants and see people that I admired. And I could go grab drinks with filmmakers that I loved. And, you know, sometimes I saw actors and stuff that I wanted to work with. But, you know, I was like, how do I find legitimacy and approach these people? Because, you know, the worst part was, I moved out here to go to school. So, you know, you're almost worse off being a film student than just a filmmaker, you know, so. So it was like I was, I was below a filmmaker as a film student at the time. So, you know, but but at the same time, you kind of can use that to your advantage. You know, it's like, being a film student shows that, you know, you're pursuing it in some some regard. So some people, you know, will lend you a helping hand, so to speak. So, yeah, I just started trying to network and, you know, really pound the pavement as hard as I could and get get, you know, find my way and as much as possible. Yeah, every day, it was just waking up and figuring out how to how to climb the wall, so to speak, and get inside.

Jason Buff 7:29
There was so when you first got there, you said your were you going to school? Or were you just trying to get a job doing like a PA or doing whatever.

Eric England 7:36
When I first moved here, I was going to school. So So yeah, I moved here in like June of 2007. And I started school in July. So yeah, it was it was a really quick transition. I think I was here for maybe three weeks just to kind of get acclimated and just kind of learn, you know, the routes and how to drive and all that stuff. So, you know, I had a little time to kind of pound the pavement. You know, I wasn't looking for a job immediately because I was getting ready to go to school full time. But yeah, it was it was mainly for education first,

Jason Buff 8:08
Where did you go to school?

Eric England 8:10
I went to the LA Film Store in Hollywood.

Jason Buff 8:12
Okay, okay, cool. Yeah. So talk about that a little bit going to what what were some of the key things that you learned in film school that have helped out and maybe some of the things that you learned in film school that didn't really have anything to do with actually working in the film industry?

Eric England 8:28
You know, I'd say it's more of the latter, to be honest with you, I feel I'm not a very big advocate of film school. And that's not to knock Film School at all. I just think, you know, the film business, especially when I was going to school, it was changing so rapidly. I mean, I went to film school in 2007 2008. And we were still learning on film. And we were probably one of the last, you know, classes to really focus on film. And when we weren't shooting on film, we were shooting on mini DV. So like, we weren't even really being, you know, HD was something that was reserved for, like higher level classes and things like that, you know, so it was kind of a weird space, because it's like HD was this holy grail of new technology. Yet, we were still shooting on film, you know, and it's like, it was it was bizarre. So the teachers were still trying to learn things. You know, some of my teachers were film students that have graduated a few years before us who needed jobs. So they came back to work at school, you know, my directing teachers, you know, had agents and they were trying to get jobs, so they would have to step out of class and take phone calls. And, you know, it was just a really more than anything, I would say the best thing about film school was it exposed me to Hollywood, and I tend to have a very objective personality. I never really take things for how they're presented to me. I kind of analyze them. And so I think because of that, I didn't buy everything that I was told right away, and I think that was a good thing because

Alex Ferrari 9:57
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Eric England 10:06
You know, essentially, I learned really quickly that a lot of my films, teachers, you know, were teaching us ways they would do things. And I think that's the worst way to teach film like film, or art in general, it's like, if you're a teacher, you should be nurturing the instinctive creativity that your student has, and not telling them how they should do something, but guiding them to find their own voice. And so I remember shooting, you know, film projects in film school. And almost every single thing, like we had to use the same sets, we had to use the same cameras and all that jazz. And so many of those short films ended up looking almost identical. And it was because like, the teacher was like, oh, you should do this shot, or you should do this, or you should use a dolly or, you know, and it's like, they were just influencing the students in the ways that they would themselves. So, you know, I immediately kind of tried to buck the system a little bit and do things a little differently. And, and, you know, it kind of pushed me to be my own unique voice. And I mean, especially in film school, you know, everyone becomes a, you know, a genius film critic, or, you know, they every film student gets snobby. So, it was nice for me, because I learned to get criticism very early, just because I wanted to stand out. So I think that that prepared me a little bit for when I got out of school and started making movies,

Jason Buff 11:19
You're at film school now that then you graduate, what's your kind of next step after that?

Eric England 11:26
Um, my next step was freaking out. I basically, when I got out of film school, I was like, shit, what do I do next? You know, the cameras that I had, you know, at my disposal were taken away. The equipment I had at my disposal was taken away, the collaboration I had with the other film students was taken away. You know, and, and I didn't have, I didn't have, you know, the money from like, school loans and crap like that, that I had. So it's kind of like, okay, how, you know, I now I have to find a job. But I, you know, I made a very strict promise to myself, and I'm kind of stubborn this way. But I was, like, you know, I didn't want to go work at Starbucks, I didn't want to go work at Blockbuster, or something like that. So, you know, I was, like, if I'm gonna live in LA, like, I need to be focused on making movies. So what I did was, I went back to my hometown, and for a few months, and worked at the nuclear power plant there, which is kind of a dangerous job. So it pays you a lot of money really fast. And so I, I use that money to come back out to LA and kind of live on for a while, while I was trying to make my first movie. You know, so it was nice, it's like, I was able to kind of make a lot of money really quickly, and then, you know, move, move back out to LA, and essentially pay all my rent and stuff in advance. So I didn't, I didn't really have to worry about a job. And I could focus on writing and applying to direct things and stuff like that. The the worst part about that was, you know, I was getting rejected day, you know, day in and day out from people because I didn't really have a great, you know, resume, I only had film students shorts on my, on my reel. And, you know, so I realized, like, Okay, I need to, I need to generate my own material. So I wrote tons of scripts, I wrote probably like five screenplays in a year. And, and just started, you know, hustling and trying to meet people. And eventually, that led me to, you know, meeting some producers and trying to get a movie financed, and it fell through and, and that was probably the best thing that ever happened to me was kind of that, that that ticking clock mentality that I had, which was like, Okay, I have enough money to last me X amount of months or a year or whatever. And so, it's like, I need to do something in this time. And by you know, I graduated in 2008. And by November of 2009, I had written and directed and produced and self financed and did basically everything on my first feature film, which was called the hostile encounter. And I use that as kind of like, just kind of like a, you know, a calling card, like, hey, look, I you know, I'm going to invest in myself and, and kind of show people that I can, I can, you know, make a film and ironically, we never finished that movie. You know, I kind of put it off to the side because it was my own money. It was my own investment. So I didn't have to repay anyone. But we put it off to the side because I ultimately ended up getting an offer, you know, or proposition to direct my my first real feature film Madison County, which actually got released and did pretty well. But um, but yeah, it was it was all because of hostile encounter, because I had invested in myself and and proven that I could make a make a movie and, you know, one of my buddies was like, hey, you know, if I could get some, some more money, like, would you want to make something that we could, you know, potentially try to, you know, make something on a bigger scale and that turned into Madison County.

Jason Buff 14:49
So your friend was more of a producer who was looking for a writer and director in that case,

Eric England 14:54
Actually, he was my my director of photography on hostile encounters name was Daniel Dunn and we had I met in film school. And at the time, when I directed hostile encounter, I was 21 years old. And when I made Madison County I was 22. So, um, so essentially on on hostile encounter, he graduated film school the same time I did, and he bought a bunch of equipment to kind of, you know, start renting out and shooting music videos and things like that. And I told him, I said, Look, I'll be your first client, I'll, you know, rent your equipment from you, I want to shoot my first movie, and I was like, you can come shoot it for me. So he said, great. So we have like a five person crew. I, you know, we road trip down to Arkansas, and we started shooting the movie in Arkansas and worked our way back to California. And we shot the opening of the film in California. So we shot the movie in like five different states, it was kind of a roadtrip movie. And yeah, you know, it was it was just a fun experience. And I think it kind of, you know, got the juices flowing for everyone to say, hey, what else can we do? And that excitement is, you know, infectious, like, once you get that bug, you know, it's kind of hard to shake. So Daniel immediately, it was like, you know, he watched the cut that I edited together with my editor. And he was like, really astounded by what, what, you know, what the film had become? Because I mean, you know, he was on set every day, we only shot for like, five days. But you know, he was like, wow, that little road trip that we did in five days with my camera. He's like, you turned into like a pretty competent little movie. And he's like, and we had nothing. So he was like, you know, if you if I could get like some money, would you want to try and make something a little bigger? I was like, Absolutely, if you can do it, I'll start right away. And so he knew that I had the screenplay for Madison County, because I had been talking about it and trying to get it financed and everything. So he was like, what about that movie? And I was like, absolutely. So we, we instantly started working on that and kind of put hostile encounters aside.

Jason Buff 16:44
So talk to me a little as much as you can about putting together okay, first of all hospital encounter, what are we talking about in terms of just budget? And who was your crew? And how did? How did you put all that together? I mean, even though you're saying it was kind of, you know, just like you got in the car, and you were driving, but there does have to be a certain amount of organizing to that.

Eric England 17:05
Yeah. 100% I mean, it was honestly, this the simplest organization possible, because at the time, I knew it was going to be an experiment. And that's how I wanted to treat it was an experiment. So the budget total, I gave myself $5,000. So I said, I'm going to spend $5,000 on this movie. And we only ended up spending 3500. So the budget was 3500. And, you know, most of that went to paying Daniel for his equipment and his services, and then gas money to drive down to Arkansas and back. And then, you know, whatever, whatever meals, I had to feed everyone and things like that. So, you know,

Jason Buff 17:41
Who was who was your crew? Was it just the were you he was shooting it, right?

Eric England 17:46
He was shooting it? Well, actually, it's a found footage movie kind of so. So the main character, the main character was actually filming himself for a lot of movie. And so, you know, I wrote it around a certain actor who was ace Moraira, who ended up starring and producing Madison County with us. So, so my crew was myself, Daniel, Nick Bell, and Jared, who was a good friend of mine, who helped us produce a kind of a Swiss Army Knife pa named just Jordan Mears, who helped out and then and then we had a wardrobe girl who was my girlfriend at the time and, and her family helped out my family helped out because we shot in my hometown. So it like the crew was literally like five people. But you know, we I strategically shot it in my hometown, knowing that I could get vehicles for free and houses for free and, you know, whatever resources that I needed, so we didn't spend any money on props, we didn't spend any money, like we went into, you know, locations and shot for free, while people were actually, you know, eating in the restaurants and things like that. So it, you know, stretch $1

Jason Buff 18:50
Was there any thought about you know, what you were going to do with it? Or was it just purely like, Oh, we're just going to do this for fun, we're not gonna we're just gonna do exactly what we want to and not worry about the commercial side of stuff. I mean, it was the idea. I mean,

Eric England 19:03
I think at the time, you know, we had never sold a movie. So we didn't know what the commercial side was, you know, like, we shot this kind of hoping it was going to be, you know, The Blair Witch Project are paranoid, right? This is actually before paranormal activity even came out? I think so. So we were shooting a found footage movie, which was really, really ahead of the curve at the time. So, you know, we kind of just wanted to do, just just experiment and say, Okay, let's make a movie. You know, we knew Blair which was popular, we knew Paranal activity was kind of on the rise, but it hadn't come out yet. And so, so we were like, Okay, let's go make you know, our own movie and we'll try and sell it and it was kind of just like, we knew we needed to make something that was competent. And then once we knew we had something competent, then we could figure out the what we did right and what we did wrong. So you know, it was a great learning process because I actually ended up once we got to finish cut. You know, I never went into sound design or anything like that. So we never finished the sound on the movie.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
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Eric England 20:09
But I sent the rough cut around to some companies. And, you know, it was funny because looking back on it, like I cringe because, you know, I sent it to some reputable people, and I'm sure some of them I've even interacted with now. But you know, at the time, I was just so excited to say, hey, look, I made a movie that I wanted anyone and everyone to see it, even if they hated it, I just wanted to learn. So it was kind of like, just, you know, throwing mud at the wall, seeing what's stuck. And so, so yeah, you know, we weren't, I mean, the goal was to sell it. But, you know, thankfully, I knew that I had made the investment. So you know, what, whatever financial responsibility there was, it was all on me.

Jason Buff 20:48
Right! Yeah. And that's a big thing that we we always stress, you know, or, you know, when it comes to making a film, it's good to just get out, and especially with all the cameras that are available now. I mean, it's ridiculous, that people just get out and just start shooting, you know, don't look for making, you know, a big movie, first, just get out and shoot as much as you possibly can, and don't, you know, just make all the mistakes before, you know, have everything on the line and have a whole full, you know, film crew around you and, you know, make a bunch of mistakes, then do all the mistakes, you know, cheaply. First, you know,

Eric England 21:24
Yeah, absolutely. It's funny, I, you know, I came from the school of like, you know, I like Eli Roth was a big inspiration, you know, for when I first started out, and I knew Cabin Fever was made for like, a million dollars, and I knew Reservoir Dogs was made for like, a million dollars. So like, and saw was coming out around, you know, a little before, then, and so, you know, I kept saying, like, alright, I wanted to make my first movie for like, a million dollars and do it legitimately and make it the right way. But then there was the other side of me that was like, you know, I'd read Rebel Without a crew and Robert Rodriguez. And so it was like, there was part of me that really wanted to kind of wait for that magic experience of like, oh, I wrote a great script. And it attracted some investors. And, you know, next thing, you know, I'm on the set of legitimate feature film when I'm directing. But I also knew that, you know, no one was going to give me that opportunity. And I didn't know if my writing was good. And I just, I just didn't know. So it was like, the only thing I knew how to do was do it on my own. So it was like, I kind of had no other choice. And I was very stubborn in that regard. And that stubbornness is thankfully carried me along way.

Jason Buff 22:25
Yeah, and things have changed a lot, you know, with the technology. I mean, it used to be back and, you know, I'm kind of in a different generation. So, you know, I was making, you know, independent films back in the 90s, with, like, these people who were shooting on 16 millimeter and 35 millimeter, and it was like, I mean, you couldn't do anything for, you know, I mean, you couldn't even think about making a film for, you know, less than $100,000 easily just like buying the film stock, you know, yeah, so, you know, and nowadays, it's just so easy to pop a lens, you know, even get a DSLR or something and just get out and shoot, you know, totally, yeah. Um, let me let's move on to Madison County now what what was the can you talk about how that came together and give people just a little bit of an idea of, you know, what kind of budget range you moved up to how things were different from working on the hostile encounter, and just a little bit of insight into the filmmaking process for that,

Eric England 23:24
Totally, I had written the script, based on some ideas I'd had for a while, I had actually written it before hostile encounter, I think hostile encounter was actually like my sixth or seventh screenplay that I'd written. And Madison County was actually a second in the grand scheme of things. So I had had Madison County kind of sitting around. And then when Daniel approached me about it, I actually didn't want to do Madison County, because I actually wanted a bigger budget, I wanted around $150,000 to make it and, and we ended up making the film for around like, 70,000, I think so I had to tailor the script down a little bit, I went through several several rewrites, we, you know, different investors came in at different times before Daniel, so the script had gone through several several versions, and, you know, things have changed and things had come up and gone away. So, you know, it was a great experience, because I almost went through my own, you know, kind of vacuum development process because like, I, you know, I was from the school or the train of thought of like, okay, I write a script, I don't make a movie, you know, and I wasn't really concerned about like, development or anything like that. So, you know, when I wrote the script, I was like, great, this is my movie, and you know, and I was ready to shoot it. And, you know, I had some investors approached me, and they read the script, and they knew nothing about filmmaking, but they, you know, they obviously watched movies, so they were like, I think you should change this or that and, you know, so I kind of, you know, I'm actually really thankful for that process. Because, like, you know, you can actually learn a lot from people who watch a lot of movies and aren't necessarily filmmakers because they're going to tell you what bumps you know, not ever No one knows how to read a screenplay. Not everyone knows how to visualize something in their head. But I think each and every person that read the script that potentially was bringing money to the table kind of brought something to the film that it leads me to better than my initial draft, you know, I'm still not, you know, super happy with what I wrote on the on the page. But, you know, I was young, so but it was much better than the first draft. I mean, I'd probably cry if I read the first draft now. So but, so So Daniel, Daniel said he could get like, honestly, like, 50 70,000. And, you know, but but the idea was, you know, he was like, we can't lose this money. This is my my parents money. So his parents were car dealers, and I think they've like taken out a loan for us or something like that. And so, so essentially, what happened was, we went and took the first scene of the movie, Ace murder, or the star producer, the film. Or one of the producers, he suggested, I basically, I wanted to go shoot a scene, I wanted to shoot something just for fun, just to kind of, you know, sharpen my tools, because the last thing I shot since then was hostile encounter, which was a found footage movie. So I wanted to kind of prepare myself to shoot a traditional narrative and get acclimated again, with kind of the camera and stuff like that. So in that format of storytelling, so ace actually suggested that we shoot a scene from the movie to kind of use as a promotional tool for the film. And so we went about an hour outside of LA and shot a little scene from the movie that was essentially the opening of the film kind of tailored for that environment. And, and we released it online, a couple months later, and all of the new sites and blogs picked it up. And we actually had foreign distributors contact us based off of the trailer. And they reached out to us and they said, Hey, we really like this, we'd like to make you an offer. And so basically, people were offering us money for this, you know, for this film that they hadn't even seen yet, that actually didn't even exist at this point, because this was just a fake trailer that we shot or a fake scene that we shot, you know, for, like, less than $100, I think was like, 50 bucks we spent on it, or something like that, like $95. So, um, so, you know, we use that money as almost like a verbal commitment to say, okay, great. We can, you know, we know, we can at least make this much money. Like, if these people were the only people to ever buy the movie, then we know, we can at least make that much money back. And then, you know, we were just thinking in terms of like, you know, punk rock garage band style, we're like, if we have to, we'll, we'll go door to door selling DVDs as movie ourselves to make no money back. So we kind of just, you know, reverse engineered and said, Okay, great. This is, you know, as safe as we can make this investment and, you know, started casting the movie in a way we went.

Jason Buff 27:48
Now, the people that were you said foreign distributors were interested or Yeah. Okay. Now what, what sort of things? I mean, first of all, where were they just like, overall global foreign distributors? Or were they like specific to they will say your

Eric England 28:05
It was like, it was like Germany. And I want to say a couple others actually reached out, but I mean, it was It wasn't exclusive to foreign, like, I think a couple sales agents, and maybe a couple of us distributors reached out. But yeah, essentially, we just had interest in sales, Germany, I think Germany and maybe one other country, were the only ones to actually offer up like a legitimate number and say, hey, we'll pay you this much. Before ever even seeing the film. But, um, but yeah, so we had interest in specific people who are actually willing to cut a check. And then people, you know, who were interested in representing the movie, and, you know, and essentially, you know, we got to a point where people were like, hey, we want to see the whole film and we were like, Okay, great. Well, well, we'll get back to you in a few months, you know? Yeah, that's

Jason Buff 28:46
Yeah, that's gonna be a good feeling. You know? Yeah. Yeah, it was it was exciting. Now, is that fake trailers still available somewhere?

Eric England 28:55
Yeah, absolutely.

Jason Buff 28:57
I'll ask you for a link. I'll put that in the show notes because I'd really be interested to just take a look at that. Yeah. So talk to me about the process like the difference between making Madison County versus hostile encounter and you know what, like, yeah, just details like what kind of camera you guys were using how you work with actors what the different I mean, I assume you're working with like a full on, you know, grip grip crew and you know, it was more of a professional like film set right.

Eric England 29:30
I mean, you'd want to think that you know, we we essentially had, you know, we had like soccer dads is our grip team and stuff like that, you know, we shot we shot on the we shot on the red, which was a you know, a major upgrade from what we shot hostile encounter on.

Alex Ferrari 29:51
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Eric England 30:00
So, you know, I was working with a new camera system I was not familiar with which, you know, since I was directing wasn't as big of a deal. But, you know, I was working with a professional director of photography who had done other things before. You know, so I was the youngest person on set, essentially, you know, and I was probably the most inexperienced, and, you know, and I went from managing a crew of like, five people to managing a crew of like, 25 people and, and, and a cast of like, five to seven or eight people a day, you know, so it was kind of a kind of a headfirst, you know, jump into the pool, so to speak, because, you know, I, you know, I had never done anything of that size. Like, I remember seeing the grip trucks pull up on the first day of filming, or, you know, first first day of pre production or whatever. And I was like, Whoa, you know, like, this. Is this legit, like, the biggest movie set I had been on? Like, if

Jason Buff 30:54
Somebody's making a movie around.

Eric England 30:55
Yeah, exactly. Like, this was the biggest set I'd ever been on. And the movie started shooting it. So, you know, it was it was very much an eye opening experience. And, you know, but I looking back on it, I wouldn't have traded it for anything, because it really prepared me for the do's and don'ts and, you know, kind of forced me to get get my shit together. Because, you know, I was totally, you know, I was really prepared. Like, I took my job very seriously. And I stress day in day out, I think, I think by the time we actually start rolling cameras, like I had lost like, 70 pounds, but but like, you know, it was, um, it was, you know, a really serious commitment. I took it really seriously. I was, you know, we were extremely underprepared. And you can't What? No, I'm sorry. My girlfriend's walking through. And she was like, he can't see me again. But, um, so. So, you know, it was a really big undertaking. And, you know, I was totally unprepared or I was prepared. But I think we as a crew and producers, and I think we were really underprepared in terms of like, what we do what we thought we were getting ourselves into, like, we had tons of locations, tons of actors, tons of moving parts. So it was just a really big undertaking that I think, you know, we we underestimated, but we're, you know, thankfully, we had that willingness to take on a challenge. And I think that's a lot of what filmmaking, is it just the ignorance to not be told, No, you know,

Jason Buff 32:23
What, now looking back, what are some of the things, you know, mistakes that maybe you made early on that you, you know, corrected? Or, you know, learned in your next features?

Eric England 32:32
I just sent you that promotional trailer, by the way. Okay, perfect. What was that question? Sorry?

Jason Buff 32:37
Well, I mean, what are you said, it was a bit overwhelming, you know, you were prepared. But it was still like, you know, there was somewhat of a learning curve, can you talk about, like, for people who might be going into their first big budget or, you know, higher budget than just like a little, you know, you know, backyard kind of film going up a step from that what, what sort of things they need to do to be prepared for that? What did you do as a director mentally to be able to do that? And what, what sort of things were you doing every day? And looking back kind of what what mistakes, what would you have done differently?

Eric England 33:13
Well, I mean, you know, to be honest, Madison County was still very much a backyard film. It was,

Jason Buff 33:19
You know what I mean? Yeah, for sure. Compared to the other one.

Eric England 33:22
Yeah, totally. Um, well, I mean, what I did mentally was I watched a lot of films. And I think that was ultimately, my downfall was, I got locked into a specific vision based on movies that I knew had worked, I became really paranoid about how people would perceive my film. So I didn't want to mess it up. And I think that was, you know, like I said, my biggest downfall. So I watched a lot of movies that had a similar aesthetic, that have used similar ideas and things like that. So you know, I almost tried to carve and copy those, but do it my own way. And I looking back, I wish I would have just done what I wanted. Because, you know, I was imitating them in the hopes that I would have success like them, essentially. And I think that was a, you know, the wrong choice. But because of that, I was really prepared. Like I, you know, I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot it. I knew, you know, I knew how to execute it. I just think the sights I had set my execution at were lower than what they should have been, I guess, the best way to put it. So it's like, I achieved what I set out to do. I just didn't, I didn't set my achievement bar, the right level. And so you know, but to a degree, it's like, there was a victory in that because it proved to me that I could do what I set out to do, and then I could I could pull off what I said I could pull off, you know, and so, you know, tons of research, tons of rehearsal, tons of, you know, getting to know my cast and crew and just, you know, learning to be a leader kind of, by default, you know, it's like like I said, I'd never been in control that many people so I naturally just kind of had to learn how to take the reins. We didn't have it. True first ad so I was running the set, you know, and I was scheduling the film and, you know, everything, essentially, the responsibilities fell heavily on me being a director, but not only a director, I was also one of the producers. So, you know, we were some young producers that had never made a movie of this sighs before. So we were all learning as we were filming. So, you know, it's really hard to say what we did right and what we did wrong, because we were basically just surviving. I felt like the whole time we were kind of like, drowning, but keeping our head above water.

Jason Buff 35:32
Yeah, that sounds you know, familiar. I mean, so many other directors that I've talked to have really, you know, even at, you know, much higher levels. It's always kind of chaotic, you know? Yeah, absolutely. So talk about from what what ended up in Did you ended up ended up like having the distribution and things that you were looking for at the end of that, did you make the deals? I mean, talk about what happened to the film after you made it?

Eric England 35:59
Yeah. So after we made it, we like I said, we reached out to a lot of those same people who had reached out to us and we started cutting a trailer immediately, we got very fortunate, and were able to get one of the best trailer editors in Hollywood to kind of cut a trailer for us, you know, as a huge favor to one of the people on our film. So we had a great trailer, and we started shopping it around. And, you know, we made a lot of first time mistake, we show people the movie way before it was ready. We submitted to festivals that were way out of our league. But ultimately, we got the film into screamfest, which is, you know, where paranormal activity was discovered. And, you know, we had distributors contact us from there. And, you know, I was able to get a manager, which, which was helpful in terms of getting the film out about, but yeah, we kind of did took a similar approach to what we did with a hostile encounter. And we just kind of showed it to anyone that was willing to watch it, and, you know, try to learn from it. But the best thing that ever happened was, you know, we didn't, we didn't use a domestic sales rep, to sell the movie, because we really wanted to kind of go through that experience on our own, and, and kind of learn to look over our own contracts and see what would happen and see where we would succeed and fail and things like that. So once again, we took a very, you know, dive in headfirst type of approach to the whole process.

Jason Buff 37:24
Was there any kind of idea about building social media that still kind of before social media or social, you know, building a social, like having Facebook pages and stuff like that? That was kind of before that, right?

Eric England 37:40
I'm not really I mean, it was 2011. So I mean, okay, yeah, yeah. So it was around that time, but um, you know, the best thing that I think we had to our to our, you know, availability was ace Marrero, who, you know, was an actor, so he was used to promoting himself. And you know, as a young actor in Hollywood, like, you kind of have to be your biggest PR person and biggest cheerleader and champion. So Eastwood really taught us to do that, for the film. So, you know, we, we had a huge, huge fan base. For the movie before the movie was even finished. Like we had people buying T shirts from us, we had people buying posters. So we almost tried to turn it into an event, you know, just hey, come be part of this experience with us, like we're learning, like, we took a very like people's filmmaker mentality, because you know, and that's something that I try to continue now is like, I, I like, for my experiences to be kind of an open book and let people know, like, Hey, this is reality of it. And we kind of did that with Madison County, because because we shot in my home state of Arkansas, it was very much a, you know, a family type of environment. And, you know, we tried to we were on the local news, and we tried to keep everyone involved and make it just a fun experience for everyone. And that kind of translated into the distribution and people talking about it and sharing things. So social media was probably one of the biggest advocates we had in our corner.

Jason Buff 39:05
Okay, yeah, I mean, because that's one of the things we always, you know, talk about is how to, you know, this idea that you're going to make your film and go to a film festival, and all of a sudden, everybody will know about your film, it's like, you know, is, you're going to run into problems with that, because it's, it's much easier to start building up a following as you're making your film and even showing kind of behind the scenes and what's going on, so that once your film is done, you've already kind of built up that anticipation.

Eric England 39:34
Yeah. 100% I'm actually not a massive, massive fan, especially in the genre world of North American film festivals, because it's at least on the like the top tier side in like South by Southwest and things like that, because it's such a incestuous and fraternal type mentality, you know, they bring back a lot of filmmakers, films, who've had movies there in the past and things like that.

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Eric England 40:09
So, you know, like contracted, for instance, you know, contract, it was one of the most successful films of that year. And we didn't play one major festival here in America, you know, it was, it was because like, people didn't know who or who or, you know, who I was, they didn't know who our stars were, and things like that. And it's like, festivals used to be about finding and discovering new talent, but now it's really about attracting big stars and bringing back people that they enjoy drinking with at the festival, you know, previous years. So it's not really as much about how good your movie is, as much as it is about how well the the jury or the, you know, the programmers like your movie. So you know it, they become kind of a gatekeeper in a way and I don't like that mentality. So I'm actually a big fan of, you know, using the internet using the audience like I don't, I no longer worry about what festivals will think about my films, or what critics will think about my films, like I make movies for audiences now. Because it's like the ultimately those are the people who have to pay to see your movie. And those are the people who are going to keep you in business and keep food on your table. But also, those are the people who are going to be with you through through the thick and thin of it, like if you support them, they're going to support you. And it's like, I want to give them good material. Because ultimately, no offense, you know, there are tons of critics that I love, but it's like critics ultimately see my movies for free. So they're just judging it based on the artistic merit. And that's to happen, and that's fine. But, you know, at the end of the day, I have to make movies and continue making movies if I want to live. So you know, my job is to please the people who are ultimately supporting me, you know?

Jason Buff 41:39
So, I mean, what is your main way of, you know, connecting with an audience on social media? Do you have kind of a plan? I mean, are you just like, getting on Twitter and Facebook? Or what? What does that? What does that look like? Yeah,

Eric England 41:53
I mean, it's a lot of it's through Twitter, and Facebook, and things like that, like I, I'm a big fan of interacting with my audience, like when contract came out, you know, the reviews were extremely polarizing people either love the film, or they hated it. And it's funny, because people who hated the movie still talked about it. And, and because of that, the word of mouth was great. And, you know, so So I would go on Twitter, and I would just talk to people who were talking about the movie, and some of the biggest supporters I have now, or people who ultimately were talking shit about my movie when it first came out, you know. And, and, and, you know, and it's fine, because like, you know, living in Hollywood, like I have tons of filmmaker friends that I don't necessarily love all their movies, but I don't judge them based on what their movies are, like, I judge them based on who they are as people, you know. And for me, like, that's ultimately what I like. And I think I've been kind of in tune with that since the very beginning. Because even even as a young filmmaker, before I ever even touch the camera, for the first time, I was watching behind the scenes on DVDs and things like that, because I wanted to know who these filmmakers were. And sometimes I wouldn't really like a movie, and but I would watch the behind the scenes, or I would listen to the commentary. And I would fall in love with the filmmaker because of their passion and their enthusiasm. And it would make me respect the movie that much more. So it's like, I am a firm believer in you know, you can judge the art based on its own merit. And that's totally fine. Like, that's what art is about. But I do believe that art, in general is a bigger medium. And it's not just about what it is. It's about the stories behind it. It's about the people who make it and everything that goes into it. It's not just this one, you know, nebulous thing.

Jason Buff 43:28
Right! You guys film like behind the scenes footage and stuff like that to be released.

Eric England 43:34
Totally. Yeah, I tried to do that on every film. Some movies, we've had more footage and others like on get the girl I think we had a guy there my latest, don't get the girl, I think we had a guy there like, you know, almost every day and then uncontracted We didn't have the money to do it. So we basically just had, you know, my producer, Matt Mercer was doing it whenever he could. And it's funny because Matt Mercer actually, you know, he was an actor and Madison County, and he filmed some little behind the scenes stuff that I think is on YouTube now. But, you know, he did his own little behind the scenes documentary, just as an actor from his perspective. So it's always cool, especially now with cell phones and cameras, so accessible, it's like, actors can kind of make their own little documentaries and things like that about their experiences on set. And, you know, the more I make movies, the more I'm going to try and do my own kind of director perspective. And, you know, hopefully, one day it'll get as detailed as, you know, maybe someone following me around with the camera, because, you know, that's the type of stuff that I really enjoyed as a young filmmaker. And, you know, I wanted to see as much as possible is like, how, how the life is of a working filmmaker from day to day, and that's, you know, that's a fascinating lifestyle, because it's so up and down. And there's so many challenges and I think as a young filmmaker, the best thing you can do is be prepared for it.

Jason Buff 44:48
Alright, I'm gonna put you on the spot here for a second. Yeah, what what would you say? Is because I'm totally in agreement with you about like commentaries and stuff like that. What is What are you like your favorite DVD? commentaries that you've ever heard.

Eric England 45:03
I don't know if I have too many, like commentaries,

Jason Buff 45:06
Or behind the scenes or whatever.

Eric England 45:08
Yeah, behind the scenes. I have a ton. I actually really really like the four hour documentary on Rob, Zombie's Halloween Have you ever seen that?

Jason Buff 45:17
No, I had that's one of the few

Eric England 45:19
Yeah, it's It's incredible because and this isn't necessarily based on like, I don't know, I don't absolutely love that movie. But I love how in depth the documentary is like it literally starts from him in pre production like it shows him doing camera tests and shows him doing acting, you know, auditions, it shows him like, it shows the wardrobe person bringing him different options, and him doing sketches and location scouts, all the way up until like the last day of filming. And it's literally for like four and a half hours long. And, and it's like just one of the most immersive you know, detailed raw experiences I've ever seen, captured, you know, in a behind the scenes, and I'm trying to think of some other good ones. There's a few that stand out really heavily. That's always kind of one of my big go twos, just because of how thorough it is. I really enjoyed you know, Eli ROS hostile he did a pretty detailed one on hostile and cabin fever. I'm trying to think, Gosh, I'd have to go through and like look at my DVD collection. But you know, whenever someone asks me about it, usually Rob Zombie's Halloween Oh, Devil's rejects is one for Devil's rejects was really good to have you seen that one?

Jason Buff 46:34
No, I've seen the movie. I haven't seen the behind the scenes.

Eric England 46:37
Yeah, it's like a two two hour documentary on the making of Devil's rejects. And, you know, it's once again, it's everything from like table reads to you know, I think even all the way into editing. So, you know, for me, it's like, as much as you can get, you know, in the in the nitty gritty process of it all. That's, that's the stuff that excites me. Right.

Jason Buff 47:01
Have you seen lost in La Mancha?

Eric England 47:03
Yes, I love it.

Jason Buff 47:06
I did an interview the other day with a producer. And he was like, you know, I don't get that documentary. Because, you know, you see all the stuff that goes wrong on that set that goes wrong on every set. Like that's every film, you know, yeah. Yeah. It's like, just get used to everything going wrong. And you know, he's like, I don't know why the film never got made, because that that wouldn't have kept anybody from, you know, stopping anyway. Moving along. So after Madison County, what happened from there? Let's follow the story.

Eric England 47:36
After Madison County within, within you, we shot the movie in October 2010 or September to October 2010. By March 2011. We had our trailer released and we had our trailer cut probably before the end of the year 2010. So we started showing early cuts of the trailer almost immediately. And so we had people asking us what are you doing next? Are you doing a sequel to Madison County and this was before the movie was even finished. So people were already considering it a success. Which was nice and very presumptuous. But, but very premature, but um, you know, people were like, hey, what do you want to do next. And I knew immediately I didn't want to do another like straightforward horror movie, kind of like Madison County. So I started writing this screenplay called roadside, and we actually started shooting, we, you know, we finished Madison County shooting wise, October 2010. And March 2011, we were flying to Virginia to shoot roadside. So, you know, we found private investors again, you know, who wanted to get into the movie business. And, you know, we convinced them to give us a financing based on, you know, all the news articles and all the press and success that we had had with Madison County, we showed him we said look like we already had people offering to buy the movie. And, you know, it's like, we're pretty confident that we're going to at least make our money back if not see a decent profit on Madison County. So we kind of parlayed that into roadside and roadside was probably the messiest production in my life. Because, you know, we were just so on cloud nine for Madison County that I think we really underestimated the process of roadside because it was essentially, you know, a very contained Hitchcockian thriller, and, you know, we shot the movie entirely at nighttime, where Madison County was entirely a day like we just wanted to do something really, really different. And, you know, we kind of didn't realize that we were still learning and we kind of had this mentality of like, Oh, we've done this before, so we weren't prepared for the new challenges that lay in front of us and that was the first time you know, it clicked to me. I'm like, just going out to make a movie. It's it's brand new every time you do it, you know so, so that production was a nightmare we were under scheduled under understaffed under Finance. So

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Eric England 50:10
It was just a big, big hurdle. It was the worst shoot in my life. I still, you know, I probably lost hair on that shoot. But, you know, it was just the biggest pain in the ass. And I remember flying home, just relieved that it was over and nervous as hell that we didn't make a good movie. And, and, you know, thankfully, when we got into the editing room, like, you know, we had most of the pieces that we needed, like I didn't, I didn't get to direct the movie the way I wanted to. And I regret that immensely. But, but I think it was one of those things where it's like, there's really not much I can do once again, even more. So like this was another one just struggling to keep our head above water. But it was it was worse because we were just underprepared. You know, like we kind of were like, Okay, we did really well, in Madison County, we had, you know, 20 locations, we had 30 characters. And with roadside, we're going to have three locations and five characters, we this is going to be a walk in the park and it absolutely wasn't, you know, so it was just kind of, you know, we were defeated before we went in, but thankfully, we still pull out a very, very competent film.

Jason Buff 51:15
Now, you had said something about doing that with I mean, getting starting to shoot that before Madison County it even really gone into distribution, right?

Eric England 51:25
Yeah, Madison County actually hadn't even finished post production. So our editor was actually still working on editing Madison County while we're filming roadside.

Jason Buff 51:34
So did it end up having the success that you thought it was gonna have?

Eric England 51:38
Did Madison County? Yeah, I don't think I don't think it had, I think it had a better success than than what it should have. And I think I don't think it reached our expectations. But our expectations were extremely high. But I mean, we, you know, we, you know, my first movie right out of the gate premiered at the Chinese Theatre, at one of the biggest genre festivals in North America, actually the biggest genre festival in North America. And, and, you know, and I was in there with, like, you know, Ty West had a movie there that year. And, you know, it was just a huge, huge turnout, we were the only movie to sell out. They gave us an encore screening, we got distribution, the movie came out in May of 2012. And it was, it was decently received. Like, it didn't it didn't, you know, critics didn't, you know, you know, praise it, and they didn't hate it, it was just very middle of the road. But um, you know, but I think the movie ended up having a success of its own, which was, you know, good enough for us like it was our first foot in the door.

Jason Buff 52:40
Right! The distribution. So I get a lot into the nuts and bolts. So yeah. The distribution deal that you made was that what what kind of a contract was that? Or mean? Just what was that for? Like, for World distribution? Was it for DVDs? How did that all come together? Was there any sort of like, talk of video on demand, or, you know, things like iTunes and Vudu and stuff like that? Or just to give us a little bit of a inside look into that part?

Eric England 53:13
Yeah, for sure. It was, it was a pretty straightforward contract, like we had people approached us about doing a limited theatrical run. But their minimum guarantees, which are the money they're going to pay for the movie upfront, weren't as high. So we ended up going with a company that had a little bit of a bigger reputation than some of the others and you know, had movies that we had seen on shelves and Walmart and things like that. So we took that deal. It was a it was a straight to DVD contract. So the movie went into red box and things like that. The company wasn't really a VOD focused company, they this was still like, the last year that physical media was still pretty relevant. But, but, you know, so the movie, went to Walmart and got released on DVD and actually made most of its money on DVD, if I remember correctly, but, um, but yeah, so I mean, the contract is pretty straightforward. Nothing, nothing fancy in terms of promotion, or release or anything like that. It was it was very standard, and we got the movie on shelves, and we got a really solid amount of exposure into the marketplace. So, you know, we were happy with that. We were happy that people could go to stores and buy our movie and that, you know, that that kind of gave us a pretty good chunk of legitimacy.

Jason Buff 54:29
So who owns the movie, though? That's the question. I always have. Like, if you the distribution company has the right to distribute it for for how long? I want to say it's like 15 years. Okay. And then after that you retain the owner, like the producers retain the ownership.

Eric England 54:45
Yeah, the producer retains the ownership. I actually own the property so I can do sequels and stuff. No one else can do sequels, or remake or anything like that. But that one movie is owned by the producer and the distributor owns the rights to You exploited for Yeah, I believe up to like 15 years.

Jason Buff 55:03
So you get to retain the rights because you have the copyright from the script, or how's that? How do you,

Eric England 55:09
I basically put it into my deal like because it was such a low budget film, and I literally took no money like not not just like, oh, a couple pennies here and there, like I literally took nothing. So I basically was like, Look, you know, if we're going to make this movie, I want to own the quote unquote, franchise potential of it. So like, if someone wants to make a sequel, I'll get paid for that one. You know, so, so that that was kind of the idea was like, if someone ever wants to come along and remake it, or do a sequel or something like that, like, I will, I will own that because I created the first one. But the producer actually owns that that particular film. So, you know, he, if he wants to rerelease it after 15 years, or if he wants to license it to someone else, or, you know, someone comes along and they're like, we want to, you know, do a retro screening or something like that, like they have to go to him.

Jason Buff 55:59
Okay. So you can can you do action figures? Yeah. Okay. That's the big one. You know, just learn from George Lucas. Always, always keep the action figure rights. Yeah, totally. So Okay, moving on from there, from roadside when the next film was contracted? Or was there something between there? I was contracted? Yeah. Okay. So that's, I want to focus on that for a bit. Can you talk about how that came about? And, you know, where the screenplay came from? How producers got involved, just how it all kind of comes together?

Eric England 56:35
Totally. Yeah, it was, you know, I was kind of frustrated with the whole business side of everything, because like, with Madison County, the movie was exploited. It's kind of like a slasher movie. And, you know, the, the idea of the film wasn't really to do it as a slasher movie, like, I tried to do something that was a little different. And so you know, but they kept focusing on the serial killer in the movie, because it was kind of this iconic imagery that they were able to mass exploit and just grab people's attention, which I you know, I knew nothing about how they marketed films in that way. So it was a very eye opening and learning experience. And then when we went to do roadside roadsides, this very tense, story driven character movie, and there was no, you know, iconic imagery in the film, they could really sell the movie, no serial killer, no, you know, nothing for them to exploit essentially no famous actors. So we were having trouble selling roadside, because everyone was like, Look, we like your movie, but we don't know how to sell it. And so I'm fed up with that. I was like, okay, you know, what I really, I really want to do a movie that is just totally hits the point for the market, maybe this will get into a festival because like, up until that point, you know, we got rejected from almost every festival with the first two movies. And so I was like, you know, I'm going to really aim high for festivals and markets and just try to do something really, really different again, but something that felt more in line with the stuff that I saw having success in the genre. And, and, and so and also, something is really important to point out is like with Madison county of roadside, I was making movies because I could, you know, like people were saying, Hey, we have money, what do you what do you want to make that works in this world. And I wasn't telling stories that I necessarily felt needed to be told. So like, we you know, we shot at my grandpa's farm for Madison County, because I had an idea that based around his farm, and then with roadside, you know, I had an idea because I knew we could shoot the movie because we could get a car and we could do this. So it was like, kind of like what can we make with what we have, you know, I'm saying and so with, with contract it, it was the first time I'd ever written a story not thinking about, like, Okay, I know, this is the one element that I can exploit. And I'll write a story around it, you know, so I wrote I wrote the movie just based on you know, the, the initial idea which was, you know, a girl has a one night stand and can tracks what she thinks is an STD. And so, you know, I was like, that's a really cool idea. I should write that story. So I, I kind of, you know, plotted out the story, and I initially wanted to shoot it overseas, because I wanted it to happen in a country where, you know, where she the girl didn't speak the language and didn't, you know, just had trouble realizing everything that was happening to her. So, what happened was the producers came to me and said, hey, you know, we want to make a movie. This was their first film. And they were like, we have financing. We can Greenlight it immediately, but we just need to find someone who can make a movie and make something good and they had heard of Madison County they had seen it I think they even went to the premiere I'm not sure but you know, I showed them roadside and they loved it. They were like wow, this is really really good. So they they saw that I had versatility and they they greenlit the movie right there just on a handshake. Like I had no script, no anything. I was just like, Look, you guys are gonna write a check. And it was my smallest movie to date. It was, you know, they had $50,000 And I think we ended up spending like 45 to Make the entire film. So

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Eric England 1:00:12
So, you know, it was kind of like I used it as almost a once again kind of experiment to kind of go back to my my grass roots style of filmmaking, but I was going to change one crucial thing. And that was I wasn't going to write a story just because I had elements in place already. I was just going to write the story based on what I thought the story should be. And then, and then figure out how to execute it based on the elements I had. So it was it was a completely new style of filmmaking for me. And, you know, thankfully, it worked out.

Jason Buff 1:00:43
It was mostly handheld, right?

Eric England 1:00:46
Yeah, the whole movies handheld except for like, maybe two or three shots.

Jason Buff 1:00:49
Okay, does that change? How you approach it? I mean, since you're not thinking in terms of, you know, a camera's like, slowly doing a pan or, you know, do you just film it more kind of? Guerilla style documentary style?

Eric England 1:01:05
A little bit. Yeah, I mean, Madison County was very handheld but with contracted I think it was the first time I approached I'd approach the movie with kind of the aesthetic in mind for the character with with Madison County. I approached it like okay, these other movies did handheld I should do handheld. Or the these other movies did a dolly here, I'll do a dolly here, you know. So, with contracted it was the first time I was like, you know, I wanted the movie to feel intimate because the character's story was so intimate. So I was it was really one of the first times I was thinking like, Okay, what should I do? As a director like, in a lot of ways I consider contracted my first real movie, because it was the first time I started thinking, like a filmmaker and thought story first, instead of okay, what what do I need to do to make sure I don't mess this up? You know, so I, you know, my first two movies, I was thinking very heavily as a producer. And so, so we've contracted Yeah, I approached everything from from an emotional or, and, or a narrative standpoint. So, you know, and the, the handheld aesthetic was based on the story, and both of those were based on the budget. So I kind of reverse engineered it knowing that, you know, I didn't need any big crane shots, or dolly shots or anything like that, because I was going to tell a very intimate story that didn't need a lot of fancy, you know, fancy bells and whistles.

Jason Buff 1:02:20
Right. Can you talk a little bit about your process for screenwriting?

Eric England 1:02:27
Yeah. I mean, my I, you know, I don't consider myself that great of a writer. So I always hate talking about it. But

Jason Buff 1:02:34
Actually, a lot of the people that I talked to say the, you know, filmmakers who have made really good movies that, you know, will always tell you, Oh, but I'm not a writer, you know, but it's like, well, you know, you might not be comfortable with it, but screenwriting is a lot more about, you know, telling a visual story than it is about being necessarily the greatest writer in the world. But if you can tell your story, visually, you know, it goes a lot further.

Eric England 1:03:00
Totally. And I mean, you know, it's, it's weird for me to talk about writing because like, I never, like I said, I don't consider myself much of a writer. I write by necessity, like I write because I need things to direct. Um, so, you know, when I write a screenplay, I know that I'm not writing it for like, you know, a studio head or something like that. Like I've never I've never entered into a competition or anything like that. So I read my screenplays, you know, my screenplay, my screenplays read like any other screenplay, like I my formula and my, my structure and everything like that is, you know, very traditional, but But it's like my screenplays are, you know, essentially what, what they're supposed to be their blueprints for, for my movie, you know, so it's like, I don't necessarily write in shots. Like I have some friends who are very just director driven, you know, and they write like a director. I don't necessarily write like a director, but you know, I definitely, I write very simply, like, I'm a very efficient writer. So I, what I do my my process, for lack of better terms is like I let the story kind of marinate in my head for you know, a few days or a week or however long it takes. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes a year. It really just depends on how well I grasp that story and that concept. And then eventually, it kind of reaches a boiling point where you know, I don't write down you know, I'll write down like the initial idea, so I don't forget it. And then I'll just kind of let it stew like I don't really write much after that, like I'll just kind of keep this little notepad or journal, and I'll keep that logline or that idea or the chicken scratch, you know, I wrote down to begin with, and then eventually, the, all the ideas I have just kind of boil over and I start writing them down in like almost bullet point form, and they're not always necessarily in in chronological order. So it's just kind of the thoughts that generate my head. Sometimes they're seeing ideas, sometimes they are dialogue, sometimes they're characters, sometimes they're, you know, whatever. And then I kind of just do that for you know, however long it takes usually it's like a few days or a week. And then eventually I feel like I have a good enough grasp on the story. And I'll start writing. So like, you know, I wrote contracted in like three weeks the first draft. So, you know, it's like I, I knew the story really well, I kind of marinated on it really quickly. And you know, I get really excited when I know like, I don't I don't have a lot of, you know, spec screenplays that I've written laying around. If I if I have any spec screenplays laying around, it's because I wrote a script for a movie that just ultimately, the financing fell through, you know, because like, I've never written a screenplay and said, Hey, here's, you know, except for Madison County, really, you know, that was the first time I ever said, Hey, I have this script. But every other time roadside contract it even even my, my newest film, get the girl, it's like, I have the producers commit to the movie. And so yeah, we're gonna, you know, they almost pay me to write the script, because I know we're going to make the movie, like, I want to know what this movie is getting made. Or else, there's no point in me writing a script, in my opinion, especially had a low budget level, because things change so much. So, you know, if I write a script, you know, for one producer and a certain budget level, and let's say the movie doesn't get financed, and then that script is just sitting there and another producer comes along, it's like, the circumstances may have changed. And then I have to go back and rewrite, restructure and do all that stuff. So it's like, I'd rather just wait until the movies ready to be made, you know, so that's just my, my personal mentality. But, um, up until recently, like, just just this year, actually, I wrote my first, you know, I got hired to write a screenplay, you know, that I'm ultimately going to direct but it was the first time that, you know, it was going to bigger producers and studios and, you know, things like that. So that was kind of a new process for me. But you know, I treated the process the exact same way as I did with all my other ones, like the producers came to me, I pitched them an idea, they liked it. And they said, Yeah, we're gonna pay you to write it. And I wrote it, and, you know, and marinated on it, and it took me like, I want to say, maybe, maybe a month, month and a half to finish the entire screenplay. And, you know, we went through, I want to say, maybe five drafts or something like that, and, you know, send it off for feedback, and the feedback is coming back. Great. So, you know, I'm getting a little more confident my writing, but yeah, it's like, my, my process is very much, you know, just what works for me, because I don't know how to do it any other way, you know?

Jason Buff 1:07:23
Alright, are there any? Where did you learn screenwriting? Is there any resource that you can point people to?

Eric England 1:07:31
Um, I don't know how I learned I actually.

Jason Buff 1:07:34
I mean, that's what I'm saying is it's kind of holding my head one day and I was

Eric England 1:07:37
Yeah, it's kind of a Learn, learn trial by error kind of thing. Like as

Jason Buff 1:07:41
Did you read a lot of screenplays when you were in film school?

Eric England 1:07:43
I did. That's actually what I was about to say is I've I've actually read a lot of screenplays. And I actually had a screenwriting teacher who's written some books on you know, screenwriting, and she, you know, she she's had some success in coaching screenwriters and things like that. And she actually gave me the biggest, biggest piece of advice I've ever gotten. And it still resonates with me to this day. But we were in class one day, and pitching ideas and learning learning to take notes and learning to get criticism and learning to develop ideas. And I would always throw out the most bizarre ideas in her classroom. And she would tell me, she would say, You're a brilliant screenwriter, but you don't know why. And I didn't, I didn't know. I didn't know what that meant. But now I now that I've kind of come to terms and kind of come into my own as a filmmaker, I finally get what she means. And she meant that I have a very unique voice, I have a very unique perspective on the world. And I tell you know, pretty unique stories, especially now now if you're contracted, but you know, I tell unique stories, but for the longest time, I didn't know why I told them and I didn't know why I wanted to tell them I just I wanted I wanted to get them out. And finally I've kind of learned the discipline that I lacked when she first told me that I think it's really been, you know, a very helpful thing to me. But you know, those words really stuck with me because it at least validated me to know that I had something inherently you know, positive about my work and I had a natural ability or talent or whatever you want to call it, but I just needed to learn how to harness it. I think I finally reached that point. So thank you to her.

Jason Buff 1:09:16
You don't remember her name?

Eric England 1:09:21
Yeah, no, I do. I just didn't know.

Jason Buff 1:09:24
Okay, no, I'm sure that that praise would be something she would you know, absolutely, ironically. I mean, if you're if you want to talk you know, smack about a teacher they're probably not gonna want yeah,

Eric England 1:09:36
No, no. No, she she was great. She you know, it's funny because like I said, I didn't really fancy myself a screenwriter, but I love my screenwriting teachers in film school, and she was one of my favorites. And ironically, it kind of came full circle while I was filming, get the girl. We were shooting at the parking garage in my old film school because I needed a parking garage and she actually came and visited me on set.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:59
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Eric England 1:10:08
You know, she was like I heard, she was like, I heard someone was shooting a movie here. And she was like, and then someone told me it was you. And I just had to come by and say hello. So it was really kind of cool for, you know, my old screenwriting teacher to come see me on the set of my latest movie. It was really, really cool. Yeah.

Jason Buff 1:10:25
Okay, so walk us through the process making contracted, if you can give us a little bit of, you know, a behind the scenes of how that was working with your actors. And, and, you know, one thing that's interesting to me is knowing kind of in a 24 hour period, what is that? Like? Okay, you wake up, you have maybe some coffee? You know, you go to the set, what are you doing while you're filming? I mean, are you just like constantly 24 hours a day focused on? I mean, are you generating new ideas, thinking about how you're going to shoot the scene the next day? What is the mindset that you're in while you're shooting? And how long did that? How long was the shoot, by the way?

Eric England 1:11:05
Contracted was shot in 15 days, so three, five day weeks, the process actually contract, it was probably the smoothest shoot I've ever had. And I think it was simply because we didn't have a lot. And we knew we didn't have a lot. So there was really nothing to stress about, you know, it's like we plan very efficiently. It was my third feature film. So I was really, really well prepared for what the challenges were going to be we shot in Los Angeles, we use a lot of people's locations that we knew we could get for free. So people's apartments, people's houses, things like that, um, you know, a lot of my friends are in the movie. So contracted once again, was kind of going back to like, my backyard roots, like it felt very much like a home movie. But just with a bigger, bigger story, you know, like, where's Madison County and roadside were backyard movies, you know, filmed in the backyard with like, very humble roots, and kind of like, you know, we treated those movies with baby hands. Because like, we didn't really know what we were doing. And we were making movies because like, Oh, my parents can get a car. My grandpa is a farm. Like, we just were making movies around the elements we had with contract it, we treated it like a real movie. It's like, okay, let's, let's go for broke here, you know, like, let's really go for it. And so, um, you know, I think that mentality changed everything, and made us really strive to make something unique, original and different, exciting. And, you know, every day was kind of, kind of a challenge, because, you know, my lead actress was in makeup almost every day, we didn't have a lot of time to shoot, we didn't have, you know, uh, you know, our actors were extremely great. The casting process was phenomenal. So we had great actors. So it just felt like a family, like my lead actress, and I really clicked, you know, my other co stars, and I really clicked a lot of them were my friends. And a lot of the crew, you know, I thankfully, I was able to kind of cherry pick the great crew members from Madison County and roadside to come along with me to film contracted. And that shorthand really helps a lot like my, you know, my sound guy knows where I'm going to shoot the shot. So he knows where, you know, where he should put the microphones, and, you know, just it really, really helps. So it was a great, great shoot really smooth. And, you know, every day was just kind of like, you know, I show up to set with with my shot ideas, my shot list. And then I see, you know, the scariest thing about shooting low budget films is sometimes you show up on set, and you're seeing location for the first time. So like, you know, I had ideas of shots that I wanted to do, but I didn't know if they were if they were possible. So you know, especially when you're shooting handheld, you can really adapt to your scene, you can really adapt to what your actors are going to do, you can adapt to your environment. So it made it really flexible, which I think really helped the film. And we kind of approach the entire movie, like we had a great plan, but we were very adaptable.

Jason Buff 1:13:46
So you hadn't seen some of the locations before. You didn't do like a location scout for each place that you shot or

Eric England 1:13:53
We did for the key locations like the the actual the house party at the very beginning of the film, and the end like Alice's house was that actress his house analysts like so I wrote. I mean, I'm not joking when I say it was a backyard movie. You know, I wrote the role for her. I knew she had a house. I knew she'd let us use it. And, you know, I had been to our house a million times. And then, you know, the the cafe and the bars that we shot at were places that my girlfriend worked at, you know, or the lead actor worked at and I had been to a million times and you know, so he was just riding around things we knew we could get that also worked for the store and we weren't forcing them into the movie, you know? And then But places like you know, the doctor's office I'd never seen before the the morgue, you know was shot on a soundstage. I'd never been to that place before. I'm trying to think if there any others. I think that was actually it, but But yeah, a lot of those places I had never seen before.

Jason Buff 1:14:53
Now the makeup for the movie was incredible. Did you get to did you I assume you didn't shoot everything kind of in the correct order. I mean, would you shoot one location? And do you know the makeup how she was normal than the gradual change? Every time you would shoot that location? Or did you try to shoot relatively in order

Eric England 1:15:15
We try, we that was kind of the nightmare, the shoot was the makeup because like we shot based on location, so like, we spent the first week of shooting at the house location for her and her mother. So like, you know, at the beginning of the movie, she's fine. And then towards the end of the film, she's like rotting away. So like, we would have to shoot certain, you know, makeup scenes in progression, and then go back. So like, the very last scene, the movie with a car crash actually takes place in front of the location where she goes to buy drugs, like midway through the movie, so we actually just shoot the ending of the film at the beginning of the day, and then take off the makeup and then reapply it to shoot a scene in the middle of the movie. So like that was kind of we shot but based on location, so that kind of, you know, forced our hand in which makeup scenarios were which but you know, and that that was kind of a pain in the ass just because it took so long. And we had a very, you know, minimal makeup crew, because we just didn't have a lot of money. So, you know, we were really kind of tied down to the makeup schedule, unfortunately. But we were able to kind of shoot around it or make it work. And, you know, my makeup artists and I was really involved with the makeup like I was very detailed in the screenplay. And we broke it down into three phases. We said, Okay, this is phase one, this is phase two, this is phase three. So we were able to kind of have a little bit of a shorthand, knowing where she needed to be with her makeup and kind of, you know, okay, this came after that we kept really good continuity photos, so we kind of knew what she looked like and things like that. So. So yeah, it was pretty regimented.

Jason Buff 1:16:47
Yeah, the thing with the eyes, I think, was the thing that really kind of was just like, shocking to me, you know, because like, she would walk around with their glasses on and then people would want to see her eyes. And that just kind of, you know, just having the red eye. It's just Yeah, freaky to me, you know?

Eric England 1:17:04
Yeah, it was once again, one of those simple, simple tricks and becomes really effective.

Jason Buff 1:17:09
Yeah. Well, you know, we, we've been talking a lot with other filmmakers about kind of body horror, and the concept of having a story that kind of got one foot in reality and one foot in, you know, fiction, which is that there is something very real about what she's going through, you know, it's like you identify with, okay, it's like, she's deteriorating, and there's some, like, kind of horrific science fiction side of that, but at the same time, it's told within the context of this is a real, you know, this kind of connects with something that people deal with in real life, you know? Yeah, totally. I mean, yeah. Okay. Like, I mean, I was talking to Adam Roboto, the other day, and he did The Taking of Deborah Logan. Yeah, I know, Adam, great guy. Yeah. And so it was like, the, the thing that I think connects and they connect in similar ways, you know, which is that you connect with the, the lead character immediately, because it it's based, you know, on something that's real, but it's also, you know, horror, you know, it's also like the science science fiction side of it.

Eric England 1:18:17
Yeah, totally. I like to call it like relatable, relatable horror, you know, and it's, like, it's so fascinating to me, because, like, you know, you can take like, you know, it's something as simple as like Halloween, you know, it's so relatable, because who hasn't, you know, had a babysitter or known a babysitter or been a babysitter, you know, it's like, that's, that's something that really resonates to a lot of people. And then you know, you see something like the strangers, it's like, who hasn't been home alone at night, and someone knocks on the door, you don't know who they are, or you haven't heard a creaky noise outside, you know, it's like that. Those are all relatable feelings and scenarios. And then, you know, but something like, you know, you watch something like the theme or the fly, which are both body horror films. You know, it's like, not many people have been trapped inside of a, you know, a machine that turns you into something or tries to teleport you or, you know, not many people have been stuck in, like, you know, an Antarctic environment with a creature, you know, but it's like, they find ways to get inside your fears and things like that. And it's like, for me, I think we're just kind of taking a more relatable approach, instead of like, trying to take a narrative that's not familiar and make people identify with it. We're taking something that's very familiar to them, and kind of using that as a shorthand to get our point across that much quicker. Because I think, you know, today's audiences check out really quickly if they don't relate to the characters right away.

Jason Buff 1:19:39
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that impressed me the most is just the restraint. You know, you let it build and it does happen very gradually, you know, so that you really get to know this character, but it's like slowly things start, you know, is there some way that you kind of like paste that out or like could feel what was the right moment for things to happen? And

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Jason Buff 1:20:10
I mean, do you? Do you go through your structure and say, Okay, I mean something like save the cat or the hero's journey, stuff like that you go through your story and say, Okay, this is going to be when this happens, and then we need to have this happen by this moment and stuff like that.

Eric England 1:20:26
Yeah, totally. That's a big part of my process. But I don't know, if I follow like, traditional structure, like save the cat, like, I've read the book. But it's like, I haven't touched in years, I really, it's more of a gut thing. You know, it's like I, I kind of think, like, what is the audience want at this point? What am I trying to tell them? Where's my character's journey at this point, it's like, really, it's just a matter of, in my opinion, I'm a big fan of ambiguity. And I'm a big fan of, you know, doling out enough information to keep the audience invested, but not enough to where they know everything, and they can figure it out. So it's like, for me, I want to keep them kind of on the hook. And if I have them on the hook, I can, I can pull them up and down whenever I want. And that's kind of the idea was, like, you know, I think some of the biggest, biggest moments in contracted like, at least in terms of like, effectiveness are really in the middle of the movie, because I'm, I'm not a big fan of following the structure of like, everything needs to build, build, build to the climax, and then you know, it explodes. Like, that's kind of the, that's kind of like the tentpole mentality of Hollywood nowadays is like, okay, you know, first we kidnap the girl, and then you know, then there's a chase scene in the middle. And then by the end of the movie, they're on top of a building and someone's gonna die, you know, and it's like, or, or, you know, like, the world's going to explode by the end of the movie, you know, and it's like, for me, I like the idea of, like, there being in a lot of movies are kind of taking this approach, like, if you look at, I don't know why, but this, this one always comes to mind for me, but like, you look at like Skyfall Skyfall, most of the action in that movie takes place in like, the middle of the film. And then the ending in the movie is contained into one house, you know, and it's like, it's almost like an anti climax. You know, it's, it's a narratively and emotionally satisfying climax. But in terms of the action, that's not really where it's at. So, for me, I tried to apply that to contract it a little bit where it's like, emotionally, the movies building and narratively the movies building, but like the action, so to speak in the film, like the grosser moments and stuff like that are kind of saved for the middle of the movie, like, yeah, there's gross moments towards the end, but I think I think they're a little more spread out than they are in the middle. So it's like, yeah, I, I definitely kind of plot and pick and choose where I want my moments to come for sure. Right?

Jason Buff 1:22:38
Do you feel like it's better to kind of, like, if you have a mystery that's going on in your story, it's like, better to keep that going as long as possible. Because inevitably, once the mystery is solved, it's like, okay, it's like, you know, it's not such a big deal, but like keeping people on the hook that the whole time, you know, that you're trying to figure it out? I mean, that seems like most, most stories nowadays have that like, some element and that you're kind of putting things together, you know, yeah, once you figure it out, it's like, whatever.

Eric England 1:23:08
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I'm a huge fan of mystery, like, mystery is one of my favorite genres. So it's like, I try to infuse a little mystery into everything I do, if at all possible. So I that that to me is part of the fun. It's like my favorite movie of all time is scream and, and it's like the who done it, the Scooby Doo, pull the mask off the end of the movie, like that element of it is my favorite thing. Like I will forever be a fan of the whodunit sub genre. Because if you can have a movie with cool characters, and horrible things are happening to them. And then by the end of the movie, you have to figure out who's doing it and why. Like, that's, that's a, that's a formula that never gets old for me. So I'm a big fan of of incorporating that. And, you know, keep keeping the audience on the hook, as you say, but it's funny, because, you know, with contract, it's like, to be honest with you, I didn't expect for there to be much mystery, like, you know, when I was writing the movie, I was kind of, you know, I was like, okay, like, people are gonna get what this is like, what she's turning into. And it's funny because the mood kind of took on a life of its own when people didn't realize like, what she was turning into until the very end. And it's so funny, because, like, at the end of the film, after the car crash, and she wakes up at like, the, you know, I watched the movie in theaters in Mexico and Spain, all over the world and all over the country. And it's like, the gasps at like, certain moments in the movie. I'm like, Really, you guys didn't see that coming? So, you know, it was it was really kind of eye opening for me to see, you know, how far you can take audiences and what audiences picked up on and what they didn't so, you know, it was it was kind of fun for me that that people you know, found that element of it to be really exciting.

Jason Buff 1:24:42
Well, you know, I think people are used to being told what, you know what it is and what how they're supposed to feel and you left that open, you know, yeah, exactly. So, just fast forwarding a little bit. I know you've talked a lot and you know, your blog, I highly recommend your blog for anybody who is a You know, out there wanting to know about filmmaking, and I was reading through it, and I got, you know, it was really nice to get, like a perspective on, you know, not like a politically correct written, you know, blog, but a blog that's actually talking about what you actually feel like and what happened. Can you talk about what happened with contracted after, you know, after you finished it? And, you know, of course what what has happened with the sequel?

Eric England 1:25:28
Yeah, I mean, you know, the short version is the movie, the movie was, you know, it's sad, it was finished. And then, you know, we started trying to sell it and showing it to people, and everyone thought it was so weird or to do gross or something, you know, there was always one excuse or another, we got really close to getting into South by Southwest, we got really close into getting into Tribeca, but at the last minute, it just didn't happen. So, you know, people I was trying to get work, I couldn't get hired for anything. And so I kind of thought I was a failure. My producers didn't think they were going to sell the movie for very much money. And then, um, you know, something crazy happened, people, you know, our poster got leaked, which ironically, the poster initially was something I made with a guy named Zack Palmisano. Um, you know, he and I just kind of cut it together really quickly after I sent him a couple ideas. And we were told it wasn't going to go public. And our sales agent accidentally posted it on their website when they weren't supposed to. And, and a new site found it and let it slip. So, you know, so

Jason Buff 1:26:30
Was that the one the one that everybody seen? Or was that something else?

Eric England 1:26:34
It's the one it's the one where only half her face is exposed. Oh, and I think it's like, actually the DVD cover now. But, um, but yeah, that was just something that, you know, I had cut together with Zach on our own, like, just, you know, they were like, Hey, we need something to represent the movie. And I was like, Look, I don't want to show her entire face yet. So I'll send them this half cut poster. And, you know, we'll just call that, like, the teaser image for right now. But I told the company, I was like, Look, don't let this go public. Like, we don't want anyone seeing this yet. And within four hours, it was all over the news sites. And I was like, freaking out, because I'm not a poster artist. You know, it's like I didn't, I thought we just ruined our film. But it caught on and everyone was like, I started getting text messages and all kinds of stuff. And people were like, wow, this is incredible. Like, we love this poster. And, and then you know, and then you know, IFC bought the movie, and, and, you know, the producers weren't happy with the sale initially. So, you know, they were like, alright, we're never gonna make any money off of this. So let's just start focusing on what's next. And, you know, at the time, they had no interest in working with me again, they were like, alright, you know, you, you, you made a movie, it's not gonna make a lot of money. But you know, congratulations, you might get another job off. We're not ever gonna see a dime. And I was like, I was like, I was like, Guys, I'm not getting hired for anything. Like, no, no one will hire me. Like, they think this movie is weird. And, you know, it's like, I don't know what's happening. And then, you know, the craziest thing happened, the trailer came out, and everyone started talking about it. And then the movie came out. And every even more people started talking about it. And Howard Stern was talking about it. And it's like, you know, it was over the course of just a couple of weeks, like, every everyone's perspective change. It's funny, I started getting emails from companies that had passed on me for things or said, No, we don't like your movie, who were suddenly like, hey, we watched your movie, did you change something? And I was like, No, I didn't change anything. The movies, just the movies just popular now. So you want to talk to me, you know, so it was, it was really eye opening for me. And it's funny, because I signed with my agent, like, the day after the movie came out in theaters. And, you know, my agent hates when I when I, you know, this this period of our exchange, but you know, I told my agent, I was like, Look, I don't want to take meetings with people who passed on my movie initially, or they only want to work. Because, because they thought, you know, contracted, you know, did really well or, you know, they think I can make them a lot of money. It's like, Yeah, this is a business and I get that, but it's like, I want to work with people who like what I do, not people who just like me, because I made someone else a lot of money, you know, so and my agent was like, no, no, this is Hollywood. Like, you have to be okay with that. So, so, you know, it's fine. Now. It's like, I've kind of come around to it, but it's like, I still stand by that to a degree. It's like, I like working with people who like Eric England films, not Eric England films that make money, you know, so that's kind of that's kind of my mentality when I approach it, but you know, it was very eye opening, because, like I said, a lot of people who initially wouldn't talk to me or, you know, didn't think I was good enough or whatever, suddenly, you know, open their arms were like, Hey, let's have a meeting. Let's talk what projects do you have? We have some projects, you know, so it was, it was just a very, very bizarre kind of chain change of pace, but you know, I wouldn't I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Jason Buff 1:29:45
Okay, so walk us through a little bit of what ended up happening with the sequel.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back To the show

Jason Buff 1:30:02
That, you know, I'll note that you're you weren't involved with other than doing the screenplays. Right? We're working on a screenplay for it.

Eric England 1:30:12
Um, yeah. So I, so basically what happened was, you know, I started writing a screenplay for them. And, you know, it was just decided that we weren't going to, you know, make the movie with the the budget, I was told that we were initially going to get so I said, Look, I'll still be involved, I'll, you know, I'll continue writing the screenplay, I'll produce the film. And, you know, we'll keep in the family, I'll kind of mentor the new director, who I hired, you know, Matt Mercer to do who was a producer and star the first one. And, you know, ultimately, what happened was they they decided that, you know, I was a better director than I am a writer, which I can't necessarily. And they didn't want to, they didn't want to pay for me to write the screenplay, or produced the film, because they thought I was gonna cost more money than I was worth, which actually wasn't, wasn't a lot of money. I was I was kind of, you know, given them the friend price at this point. So, you know, it was just a, you know, a little bit of, you know, Hollywood, Hollywood disagreement, you know, but bottom lines are important. And some people think, you know, $5 over what they're willing to spend is too much.

Jason Buff 1:31:20
So, do you still have people coming up to you and talking about how much they liked contracts?

Eric England 1:31:25
Um, sometimes, I mean, I have people, I had people, you know, come up to me and say, Hey, I'm about to watch the sequel. And I'm like, Look, I you know, I didn't make that one. And then I have people who reach out to me, and they're like, Hey, I can't wait to see contracted to and I'm like, you know, I didn't make that. Or I had people say, Hey, why didn't you make contract it too? So, I mean, yeah, you know, that. That's the whole reason I've kind of been vocal about my lack of involvement with the film is because, you know, when people think contracted, they they think of two people they think of Nishihara who played the lead actress and myself. And so I want people to understand that, you know, just because I made the first movie doesn't mean I had anything to do with the sequel. And it's like, I, if I liked the sequel, it would be a different story. Because then I would say, Yeah, I don't mind people associating me with that, but the sequel was it one, it's not a good film, but two, I even if it was a good movie, and I still had no involvement with it, it's like, I would let them know like, Hey, I liked the movie. But I didn't make it, you know? And but it's like, I don't like the movie. I don't think it's very good. So it's like, I don't want I don't want to be represented, or I don't want to be associated with that anyway, regardless. Right?

Jason Buff 1:32:31
Do you have any of that, like copyright and stuff that you had with the the other ones that you were talking about?

Eric England 1:32:37
I have no control over

Jason Buff 1:32:39
That's not part

Eric England 1:32:40
No I don't I don't own contracted. I do own part of the franchise. So like, I will make money off of the sequel, but, you know, it's it's Yeah, I don't control what happens with it.

Jason Buff 1:32:52
Right! Is the lead girl I haven't seen the second one out of respect. I don't know if that's good or bad, but haven't seen it yet. But, um, is the same Lead Actress in it, or is it completely?

Eric England 1:33:06
It's completely different people. She's she's in it for like, literally two shots.

Jason Buff 1:33:11
That kind of sucks. All right. Yeah. Um, so. Okay, so your your latest film? What can you tell us about that? I unfortunately, haven't seen it. So I don't really know. have specific questions, but have you? Is that Is it like, in the same? Can you can you talk a little bit about it?

Eric England 1:33:30
Yeah. I mean, I can't say much because the movie is not out yet. It'll be out. Okay. Oh, but um, but yeah, I mean, it's once again, completely different movie. It's more of like a dark comedy thriller shows a lot of humor. You know, I wanted to do something a little different tonally and, you know, it's, it's a crowd pleaser, I wanted to do something that I felt like I would like to watch as an audience member and something that I thought, you know, fans in this world haven't necessarily seen before. It's definitely a unique, dark and fun movie.

Jason Buff 1:34:02
When is, what what's the plan with that? Is it gonna go to festivals? And then

Eric England 1:34:06
I don't know, I mean, I like I said, I'm not a big, you know, I love festivals, but I think their mentality is a little different than mine. So, we may play some festivals, if we find the right ones that I think you know, kind of fit within the world of what we want to do with the film. But, you know, the goal is to release it next year, just kind of get it out to the audience.

Jason Buff 1:34:25
Okay, do you do you ever go to AFM or any of that stuff?

Eric England 1:34:28
I don't personally, I mean, my sales reps and everything like that do it's not really a filmmaker friendly place. Okay. It's kind of like going to a cattle auction and you being a cow.

Jason Buff 1:34:40
Okay. So, you know, I'll just kind of wrap it up with this. If you could just maybe give a little bit of advice or what you let's try this. If you could give advice to yourself, let's say, you know, you're relatively young director, one of the things that kind of impressed me when I was looking through your information was, you know, You're born in 1988? Like, it kind of, I'll be honest, I mean, it, it annoyed me a little bit, you know? Sorry. It's okay. No, it's good, you know. But if you could go back in time to when you were younger, when you were like, say, 19? What? What advice would you give to yourself about filmmaking?

Eric England 1:35:22
Um, you know, the, I give the same advice to everyone. And I think it's the same advice I would give to myself, which is be as original as possible. You know, the craziest thing for me in my career is I started making movies when the world perspective of filmmaking and also the marketplace itself was drastically changing. I mean, you have movies now with two of the biggest stars, like, you know, like Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence and that are going straight to VOD now, you know, so it's, it's a completely different world. And so the best thing you can do is just make the movie you want to make but also know that you're making it for an audience. You know, don't the world of just making movies for yourself is dead, like, you can't be a filmmaker. Like that's, that's now a hobby. You know, like, if you want to be in a tour, and make films that only you like, then then you know, make it as a hobby. Filmmaking is too expensive to try and do that on a on a mass level. But I think if you truly want to be a working filmmaker and you want to be in the movie business, then be original, but know that your originality needs to be commercial to someone so that they can sell your product and continue getting you work. And I think that's the best thing you can do. Be aggressive, be original, and, you know, keep a good head on your shoulder be objective.

Jason Buff 1:36:36
Eric, man, I appreciate it. Thanks for coming on the show.

Eric England 1:36:38
No problem. Thanks for having me,

Jason Buff 1:36:40
Talk to you later.

Eric England 1:36:42
All right.

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BPS 327: Can Short Films Make Any Money? with Kim Adelman

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Kim Adelman 0:00
I think it is that it's just a matter of getting through the no's until you get to yes, it you know, it's so hard to hear that and it's so hard to constantly run up against the no's. But the reality is as soon as you get that, yes, you can stop. You've achieved it. And everybody can do that. Right? You know, the most dedicated person can go 90 through 99 no's until you get that 100th yes.

Alex Ferrari 0:23
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma Elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog textures, DaVinci Resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10 to get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Kim Adelman. How you doin Kim?

Kim Adelman 1:16
Hi, nice to see ya.

Alex Ferrari 1:17
Nice to see you too. Thank you so much for coming on the show you are, we're going to talk about something that's very dear to my heart. Because that's how I got my start short films. I always want to talk about short films. And I have an extensive amount of experience in short films. I've done many of them I've, I've made a lot of money with short films, I've been in a lot of festivals and short films, I think my shorts have probably gone into two to 300 festivals in the course, it's been a lot. So I do understand a lot about the marketing and selling of short films and things like that. I'm dying to hear your perspective on everything and how we're gonna get into it. So first question, though, how did you and why did you want to get into this business?

Kim Adelman 2:00
I liked that statement and why? This is why I love short films, because it's not really a business per se, right. But I grew up in Los Angeles might nobody in my family is in the entertainment industry. But you know, it's kind of a default thing. And sooner or later you fall into doing entertainment stuff. And I'm actually one of the weird people who did a feature first. Yeah, I produced a feature with friends of mine. And as a result of that, and totally no budget feature. As a result of that I got the gig producing short film. So I'm one of the rare people that didn't reverse present starting with shorts to go to feature. And then after that, I just love short film so much. I didn't want to go back to features and I just kind of fell into teaching. So I've been doing teaching primarily for the last few years.

Alex Ferrari 2:43
So that's why your IMDb is just plump filled with shorts. Like I said, there's never seen somebody shorts in somebody's IMDb before I was like, wow, she really talks a talk here. She loves short films.

Kim Adelman 2:56
Well, in fairness, I was also one of the very lucky people that got paid to make short films. So I didn't find out.

Alex Ferrari 3:03
How did you do that? I have to know how that happened.

Kim Adelman 3:06
Yeah, exactly. I was very, very lucky that I was there's a television cable channel called FXM movies from Fox. It's a sister channel, tap X. And back in the day, they didn't have commercials. So they had to do something interstitially which means fill up that time between movies. And so because they didn't have any original production. The guy who was in charge with interstitial time was like, well, let's make some short films. We'll use that to fill up the time. So I was very lucky that you know, ultimately Fox paid for these short films and paid for me to produce them so it was kind of a Nirvana situation.

Alex Ferrari 3:40
Oh, that's right place right time on that situation that doesn't. Everyone listening that doesn't happen?

Kim Adelman 3:45
No does not happen. And of course, they're no longer doing that. And people always say well, who can I get to you know, produce my films or finance like films and there's really not organizations that are doing that and therefore they will

Alex Ferrari 3:55
Not here in the states not in the States.

Kim Adelman 3:57
Yeah, good point.

Alex Ferrari 3:59
Yeah, in Canada and Europe that will be in but it also in Canada, in Europe, it's more of an art they kind of support the arts more New Zealand and Australia. There's government actually support the film industry here.

Kim Adelman 4:13
To raise up there are filmmakers right and perfect way to make room to groom a new group of filmmakers is to have them make short films. So they're smartly investing in infrastructure to make new filmmakers where we're just like, yeah, people will pay for it themselves.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
Right here we're just Stuckey like you're on your own.

Kim Adelman 4:32
Yes, so many people make short films. So in a way, they're kind of right.

Alex Ferrari 4:38
Every year Yeah, I saw somewhere in your in your book. There's like as a 5000 or 8000. shorts were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.

Kim Adelman 4:47
So this is always very public with the numbers. So we kind of always use those as kind of a way to look at how many shorts are being made. And of course, these were international and us but over 10,000 short films were submitted last 2020 Sundance Film Festival. And so that just blew my number one, it was the highest number yet. But number two, all those were made during the pandemic. So think about that

Alex Ferrari 5:07
Records are not like 10 year old shorts. These are all fresh shorts.

Kim Adelman 5:10
Yeah. So it's like over 10,000 people made short films during the pandemic in one year.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
Wow. That's insane. Insane. So are so you've seen so many, you've taught a lot about short films, what is the biggest mistake short filmmakers make when they attempt to make a short film?

Kim Adelman 5:28
Well, there's actually several mistakes they make. But obviously the biggest always is the shorts are too long.

Alex Ferrari 5:35
So 52 minutes short.

Kim Adelman 5:37
I think that's a good time for a short, right. Well, you know, a lot of people who don't see short films in their vision of it, they think of those 25 30 minute films, and they think, oh, people won't take me seriously unless I make one of these long films. But the reality is, unless you're in school, sometimes school, there's requirements, and you have trade. But if you're doing it on your own, nobody wants to see anything that long programmers still want to program anything that long. And really, you can prove and you don't want to invest in producing something that long, you can prove your talent in five minutes, 10 minutes, you know, I've always said the sweet spot, I started noticing when I was reviewing films for indie wire, and watching a lot of short films that way. And I kept noticing the films I really liked were 12 minutes long. So it's like sweet, sweet spot, including credits. And that's another mistake filmmakers make their credits are too long at the front and too long at the end. But anyway,

Alex Ferrari 6:29
So it's interesting, because when I made my first short, that I was able to generate over $100,000 selling the DVD and how I made it back in 2005. There was no YouTube, there was no information about it, it was a different time. But that was a 20 minute short. And also in 2005, there wasn't nearly as much competition for short films and film and film festivals. So I was able to get into like 150 I think under 20 550 festivals with that short, I just kept going for like a year and a half,

Kim Adelman 6:58
Which also was probably good.

Alex Ferrari 7:02
I mean, Roger Ebert reviewed it and it wasn't, it was it was it was very well received. I went I did the water bottle tour around LA with it. And, you know, and all that kind of stuff. That's there's, there's more than enough information on my show about that. That short. I don't want to talk about that much about that short, but, but that was 20 minutes short, then my next big short was 10 minutes. And I you know, 10 minutes short is really sweet spot, because it's the one minute shorter two minutes short, like, yeah, it's gonna get maybe get programmed easier. But the 10 minutes, sure it has enough meat on the bone, I think sadly, to do something to show you off. And programmers can program it. Exactly. And that's the thing that filmmakers don't understand. Like, I sat once I swear to God, it was it was an I was at Holly shorts.

Kim Adelman 7:45
Fabulous Film Festival

Alex Ferrari 7:46
Danny and Theo had been on the show, I was at their first festival that's short for I'm one of the original Holly short shorts, and I'm the only one that they still talk to. And I've been there a million times. So sitting there watching a movie, and it was big. I'm not gonna say the movie. But there was it was the opening night and it was very big star very, very big star starring in it. It's 45 minutes. And I was sitting there like, Oh, my God, this is molasses. This is horrible. And then my action short comes on. And everyone's like, Ah, thank God. But it was just as brutal. I was like, I don't care if it's a big giant star in it. Right? It was brutal to watch. So anyone thinking about when you're at 45 minutes, just keep going?

Kim Adelman 8:32
No, I believe that too. Like, if you have enough money that you can do that, then this needs to be a feature. And maybe you can make a 68 minute feature or something like that. Doesn't have to be 90 minute and double it or whatever. But yeah, if you can afford that you can definitely afford a feature. The other thing I will say, you know if it's a short documentary, then you can go a little longer to it's different.

Alex Ferrari 8:51
Yeah, documentaries are a whole other world you could do 30 minute 40 minute documentaries comfortably. But narrative is very difficult. Exactly. I went I went to I went to the School of Mark Duplass when it comes to the length of a film he goes, Yes, anything over 70 minutes is a feature film. So when I when I made my, my, my two features that I've made, both of them are like 73 minutes and 75 minutes. I'm like it that's that's enough story. Yeah, exactly. Just Just get in. But you know, I think anything with a seven in front of it is technically a feature when you're at the 68 I'm like just extended the credits just to get more credits. Do some bloopers at the end, just do something that just extends it just a little bit.

Kim Adelman 9:35
I also say No, I think features are too long as well. You know, I get very tired when they're like 22 hours and 22 minutes or something like that. You're just like, Oh my God, how much more of this is gonna go?

Alex Ferrari 9:45
I was watching was it the new Bond film, the last one film and it's like that's a two hour and in that no two hour and 30 minute movie two hour and 40 minute movie. It's a long movie. But there's action every 16 minutes To the Batman was also almost three hours. And that was like, I think it could have been a little shorter. But generally speaking, that there's action going on on that stuff. So you have to keep that going. Now what a lot of filmmakers want to make a short film, what kind of shorts should they make? What genre is? Is something? Is it? You know? This is my problem with shorts and filmmakers with shorts. They put a lot of pressure on short films, yes, tremendous, I did it. I've done it. So many times, with my short films, I put an enormous amount of pressure like this is the short, that's going to change my life. This is the short that some polywood producers gonna see. And like, all you want to do want to do the next Marvel movie, because it is a visual effect. So let's bring it in. That's the kind of pressure most filmmakers put on shorts. And I made a, I made a $50,000 short with sets built, don't ever do that. Everyone was like, Don't ever, ever do that. But I was like, I'm gonna show everything off, I had top Hollywood, I had an Oscar winner in the movie, like I had tons there was like a big event. And it was very stylistic. And I was like, I'm going to show everybody what I could do. And I put so much pressure on that thing. It just crumbled all the shorts crumble under the pressure that filmmakers put on it, as opposed to like, let me make the best thing I can make me put it out into the world and just see what happens.

Kim Adelman 11:28
You know, obviously, you have to make the right short for you. And at that time, I'm sure you had enough connections. And people were kind of expecting you to make something big and expensive and not like shot in your closet, you know, whereas somebody else who doesn't have all those elements to them shouldn't pay money to get all of that they should make the short film that's appropriate to where they are. And really what people are looking for. In short films are like a unique voice and some talent and something but and that's why I love short films. And I'm more interested in shorts and features because features. So cookie cutter, and so rare that we see an exciting new voice, we're in shorts, there's always something new and thrilling and exciting and memorable. And that's what people really want to see. But I also think if you you know are looking at this as something to say this is who I am a world, you should make something that really says this is who I am. So for example, I could say to you, you should totally make a horror short, there's a whole bunch of horror film festivals that would play it, you know, you can actually probably make the leap from a short to a feature with horror data. But if you hate horror, this is not the thing you should do. You know, and if you love comedy, you should do a comedy short, you should not do you know, a structured drama short. So I really think you should think hard about who you are, and where you want to go and make something that kind of announces to the world. This is what I this is my voice. And the nice thing about shorts is that nobody's there to telling you, you must do more, you must do comedy, you get to choose everything you want to do there as opposed to later on in life where somebody will be giving you money and demanding you do certain things or pigeonholing you in some way, this is your chance to define yourself.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
And I think that shorts in general. You know, like that short that $50,000 Short got me a lot of jobs in music, videos and commercials, things like that it didn't do. It didn't do what I wanted it to do. But it did other things for me. And still to this day, I'm making money, I make money with all my shorts to this day. Just selling them in giving access and stuff.

Kim Adelman 13:26
And actually, just to go back to when you said what mistake filmmakers do. They don't do everything correctly so that they could if there isn't any possibility to commercially exploit that film. Like for example, they use music they don't know. And then, you know, then they can't do it. And they can put on YouTube because YouTube will you know, do they're realizing that there's illegal music and pull you up. Or they don't do the right deal memos with their actors. And then all of a sudden, that's a problem. So I mean, I do think, although there isn't that much of a market for short films, you should always do it right. And be ready in case there is some interest in some way or you know, later on when you become famous, somebody's like, I'd love to put your short film, you know, put, you know, show your shuffle now that you're famous, but you don't have the rights to do it. So, you know, do everything correctly the first time,

Alex Ferrari 14:09
Right. So when Criterion Collection calls you exactly, that's why they're doing a retrospective on your work because you are amazing. As a filmmaker, you want to make sure that you don't have a Rolling Stone song in there that you can't afford. Exactly. Basically, and that was one thing I was very conscious of even back then when it was started with my shorts that all the music was either originally composed and I had agreement signed for it. I was a little delusional. So I had I, I really approached it. I think that delusion helped a bit because I approached it as like this is gonna blow me up. So then I made sure like I'm good. This is going to be huge. And I'm going to have to make sure all these contracts and agreements are in place so I can and that's exactly what I did. So that's the reason why I'm able to explore it and I was able to sell DVDs on there, all that kind of stuff, because I made all those agreements and so the delusion helped a bit But hopefully you can do everything I did without the delusion.

Kim Adelman 15:03
Well, I'm gonna say you're obviously a very confident person, but in a certain way, that's great, because certain filmmakers really have no idea what they're doing, right? I mean, that's why I ended up writing about a book for short filmmakers, because you're a novice, you just don't know what's right, or what's wrong, or what mistakes you're making or whatever. But a lot of people are so insecure, where it really it's a short film, how wrong can you go, you know, and even if you do make all those mistakes, okay, you made the mistakes on that one film now, your next short film that you make, you won't make those mistakes on. So I do think, you know, to a certain degree, it's smart to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. But it's also great to just jump in the pool. You know, don't question a little while I'm moving right or whatever. Make a short film. It's fun, you'll be fine.

Alex Ferrari 15:43
Exactly that no one's doing. We're not curing cancer here, guys. Exactly. Let's just let's move on. The one other big mistake I feel that filmmakers make with shorts is that they try to be somebody else. And that might be worth debating. That might be okay. At the beginning. We all do it. Every filmmaker copies and steals and is inspired by the filmmakers that came prior to them. All of them, even the greats, they all they all do it. You look at Nolan's work, you look finches working go right back to Kubrick. I mean, it's, you know, and Kubrick can go back to other people, and so on and so forth. But the mistake I made, and I've talked about this on the show before, but the mistake I made with that $50,000 short film is I was trying to be somebody else. Now my voice was in there. But I was truly trying to be a little something else that wasn't 100% me I was trying to create something that the marketplace wanted, and not as much something that I wanted to make it things like that. So I think something like whiplash, which is a really great short film example, of a movie of a short that turned into a movie. And there's, there's less of that nowadays, shorts generally don't jump to movies as much as they used to. But whiplash specifically, it's so clear, Damien's vision. And that, I mean, it's so so clear. And it's so original, and it's so him. It just you screamed out voice, new voice. And a lot of these, a lot of these filmmakers that do make the jump from shorts to features, whether it's a feature version of their short, which doesn't happen as much, but a short filmmaker that jumps into television off of a short, or things like that does happen a lot, but they need to hear your voice.

Kim Adelman 17:25
And also, you know, painters did that all the time, they would paint in the style of somebody else. So that's the learning right? So I always say shorts are a learning experience for everybody. That's the learning aspect. And in reality, maybe it's not just for short film that does a lot for you maybe that short for short film as little Are you copying somebody just to get to feel confident that you could do it. But it isn't like hello world this is me. This is my voice. Your voices don't come right away. You see people when they write screenplays, it takes them a while to to get the screenplay to the point that we're the third screenplay finally says this is who I am. And this is you know, something worth paying attention to.

Alex Ferrari 17:59
Yeah, you know, when you start writing, you might be writing like you know, Terrence you try to write like Tarantino or Shane Black or, or Aaron Sorkin. And then that might, you might have a couple of those scripts and you get it out. And then slowly your voice starts to come out. And that's the thing with shorts. And that's the wonderful thing about shorts, is it's close to writing screenplays you can get because it's a candy, very inexpensive. And you can knock out a short in the weekend with your iPhone, and it will look and sound great if you do it properly.

Kim Adelman 18:26
Exactly. And that's the thing that, you know, because I came from when it was very hard and expensive to make short films. I'm so jealous now that everybody there's no excuse not to be shooting something. You know, it's like you've got a fabulous camera in your pocket. Use it. But it doesn't necessarily mean what you're shooting every weekend with your iPhone. It necessarily needs to be shared with the world. But I think just the same way writers should be writing I think filmmakers should be filmmaking.

Alex Ferrari 18:53
Right. And a lot of people look at someone like Robert Rodriguez, yes, who was a you know, he's he is who he is, and you know, a legend in the indie film space. But a lot of people don't understand that he made 20 to 30 Shorts before he ever made El Mariachi. So he was he was shooting it all on VHS with his family as a cast. And he was working it out. He was editing between two VCRs. And he was he was learning the craft. And then when he made his school short film, which was called bedhead. He had learned so much as far as sound effects. And it looked like when somebody saw that like Jesus, this kid is super talented. But he made 20 films, and no one ever saw other than his family.

Kim Adelman 19:37
Yeah, it was rough drafts kind of thing. They nobody ever saw those elements.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Right and that's the thing that a lot of filmmakers I feel that they are so precious, right but they're with their shorts that they like and I was like I can't make something unless it's perfect, though. You got to just you got to turn on the faucet. Let all the mud clear out of the pipes before the Clean Water Water comes out and all that good stuff starts coming out.

Kim Adelman 20:02
I hate when people look put a lot of pressure on themselves anyway because you know filmmaking could be joyous. And with a short film, you're hopefully making it with your friends, you know, or people who support you and want you to quit job with it. And it should be a story that you're dying to tell. So how exciting for you that you're getting to hang out with your friends and do a story you're dying to tell and, and realizing it from your head to now existing in the world. It's truly an exciting thing.

Alex Ferrari 20:28
Yeah, without without question. So Alright, so let's say we got our short done. All right. And this is this is the Opus like we've already done. We've done our 15 shorts, can we've done our 15? Shorts? We feel comfortable. Our voices out there, I think we have a clearer idea of our voice. There's so many options on how to get this into the world. Yes. How do you launch a short?

Kim Adelman 20:51
Well, I mean, I because I come from festival world. And I spent a lot of time reviewing festival shorts, my inclination is always like, put it on the festival circuit. Now, not every short is a festival kind of short. But I always do kind of encourage people if you think your short might be a festival short to try it. Because you know, when we're talking about how fun it is to make films, it's super fun to have your film show in front of, you know, in a theater, with people who you don't know who do and, and also you get to meet other filmmakers. And when you're meeting them, you meet them as a filmmaker who has made a film you know, it's like all of that, even if it was just a stupid thing you made in the backyard, you know, and you're at the time you're like, This is not gonna be nothing. And yet somehow it turns into being something, how fabulous is it that you're showing this something to people, and they're excited for you, and you're excited for them and the festivals thrilled to have you there. And you're going to parties, and as you said, red carpet is just you know, such a lovely experience for a short filmmaker, whereas feature filmmakers have all the stress about festivals, because it matters to them, you know, matters where they premiere, they're trying to get their film picked up, they're trying to make the next, you know, Introduction to make their career go a huge way short filmmaker will be very happy if anything happens to them. And they happen to meet somebody who wants to represent them, or they get some sort of offer to license their short film. But the reality is more short filmmakers should think of the festival is just a fun time, you know, a time to actually be a filmmaker, have your film seen by the public, meet other people. And also, you know, establishes some credits for yourself that you've been to all these festivals. And then you know, if you make another short film, you can go to these festivals again, hopefully, or if you scrape together money and do an independent feature. Now you already have a base of people who know your talent and have supported you wants to want to support you again. So you know, that's the type of things about the festival world that I think is great for short filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 22:40
And I think the festivals, I always when I talk about film festivals, you know, they don't have the same juice that they used to, you know, in other words, in the 90s, you got into a certain Film Festival, two or three of them, you automatically got sold, you automatically got a deal. There was all these stories every every day almost in the 90s have these magical stories coming out of Sundance or South buyer, or these kinds of these kinds of festivals Tribeca or something like that. But with festival with shorts, I always warn filmmakers and like festivals are exactly for what you just said they are experience. If you've never gone down the road, you've never had a red carpet, you never had an audience Oh my God, there's so much fun. The after parties, the the the web, the seminars that it's great. And it's like most of the times we live in a bubble unless you live in LA, you live in a bubble of not being in business and the festival is the first time you're surrounded by people that love movies or in movies and things like that, but not to put any pressure on that experience. Because firstly, because festivals are everything you said they should be. But don't think that like oh, just because you got into a major festival, which if you do it's great. It's not that it's a bad thing. But it's not going to open the doors to think many times they don't open the doors the way they think you can but but you can go to a Moose Jaw international Short Film Festival, which doesn't exist. And and there might be an acquisition exec there. There might be an agent that happened to be there. I forgot what was the story I heard I forgot there was Oh god, I forgot the movie. It was it was one of these famous indie movies that couldn't get seen. I don't know if it was Napoleon Dynamite or one of these films. But they were playing this film feature at this. Nobody festival like in the middle of nowhere. And they were playing it at a bar at the hotel.

Kim Adelman 24:29
Yep. And sometimes yes.

Alex Ferrari 24:31
My first first award by the way was at the at the Crab Shack best director and I was like Zizi, but and fun and fun. So that was a nobody festival. Nothing just no written in the middle of nowhere. There was a Hollywood acquisition exec who was on vacation and was staying at the hotel and they had nothing to do that night. And they're like, hey, there's a film festival going on at the bar, let's just go down there, have a couple of drinks and watch something that went down and watched it, and acquired it. So those are the magical lottery ticket stories you hear, but you just didn't ever know what's going to happen. But I just want filmmakers to walk in understanding, have fun, and if anything happens, great,

Kim Adelman 25:23
Exactly. But also the people you meet to you never know, connections among your peers to then you will then all of a sudden meet all these other filmmakers who might, you know, help see faster than you do. And then they help you or you can hire them for your you know, there's just a lot of once you're, you're a professional filmmaker, now you're meeting other people who are in that world, as you said, in where you live, you might not have that opportunity. And so now how great is it that you will so that so that's what I love about festivals, but you know, festivals are not the be all and end all. And there are, I know many people who like apply to a lot of festivals, and it costs money to so you know, this is a money drain, and didn't get into anything, and just were really upset. But you know, festivals have a certain sensibility. And maybe you're the thing you made is more like something that people would enjoy on the internet, you know? And then how great is that, that you can put it on Vimeo, put it on YouTube, do your own little promotion to it, and have people see it and you never know, you know, how that might work out for you. But more importantly, if you if you made a film because you want to communicate with people and say to them, this is a vision that was in my head, and I've now executed it and I want to share it with you. And I hope you get something out of it and you enjoy it, then, you know, the the way that that happens shouldn't bother you. You know, it might happen via festivals, it might not happen via YouTube, it might happen via you and your buddies putting on your own screening so that people can see it that way. You know, you've made something share with the world however you can.

Alex Ferrari 26:52
Yeah, and I just I just had the filmmakers behind Marcel show,

Kim Adelman 26:57
Which was a short films.

Alex Ferrari 27:01
Of course, I didn't know that when I when I had him on the show, I discovered that in my research after I saw the feature, I saw that movie first was fascinated. I'm like, how on God's green earth did this get financed? How did a 24 Get involved? I just told I told the PR people I'm like, get on, I'm on my show. I need to know what how is this a thing. Then doing research, I found out that it was a short film that they put out 10 years ago, too short to me, it was two or three I think they have three in the series. But but it was like two years apart or something like that. And then they had books. So they created an IP based on a short a to three minutes short that they did as a kind of like, and and from what I understood it was a short film that they showed their friends and family. And then they're like, hey, is there anywhere online? That we could so I can share this with my grandma. I think she'd really like it. And then she's like, oh, yeah, I'll throw it up on YouTube and throw it up on YouTube and 54 million plays later. That Okay, so we got something. Yeah, that that whole story is a fascinating, it's a really great story on on how powerful the internet is, which is my next question, YouTube. So so many filmmakers are so precious with their shorts, they're like, I can't put it on YouTube. The festivals are gonna like it. Oh my god, this or that?

You know, again, there's a couple ways to go about I know festivals are a little bit more loosey goosey with that nowadays than they used to be. Especially with shorts, not features. But shorts. Yeah, exactly. But at a certain point, like, you know, at a festival, you're gonna get 2050 eyeballs on it, you know, maybe 100 If you're lucky, you know. So it's a very small audience where if you put it up on the internet, it's It's millions and have access to millions doesn't say you're gonna get millions. But it could go viral, especially if it's something very specific. It's something very cool. Visual effects are really cool stories really interesting. Even fan films, short films, which we'll talk about in a little bit, all of that kind of stuff. So is YouTube a viable option? And by the way, Vimeo, I'm not sure if you know what's going on with Vimeo. Vimeo has kind of gone away from shorts, and are going away from the creators and they're really more now. Their corporate structure has changed more towards corporate, like video stuff. Before they were trying to do it with all the artists is the home for the artists. Exactly. They realize that artists have no money. So So Vimeo was once a place to put short films and it was like you showed it the week and that's kind of gone now. Yeah, so Oh, yeah, exactly. But now YouTube is still a place to go. So what's your opinion of YouTube? How should you approach YouTube? What should you do?

Kim Adelman 30:10
Well, there are, like you said, some festivals do care. So and the old days, I'd be like, I don't even tell them. But you know, one little Google.

Alex Ferrari 30:19
Not that hard nowadays.

Kim Adelman 30:21
You can't hide so much. And you don't want to hide, you know. So if you, if you think you want to go to festivals that do care about it, then you shouldn't put it online, because you know, online is for the rest of your life. So what's the big deal if you hold off for a year while you try to do festivals, and then put it the other thing is Oscar consideration, they still care for Oscar consideration when you have your broadcast debut. And YouTube is considered broadcast. So if you thought, any chance, you know, I made 19, short films, none of them got Oscar nominations. So it's like that was not really going to happen. But I cared. And so I waited. You know, if you care, and you think there's even a slight chance, you want to be smart about what the Oscar rules are, but the odds are so minuscule.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
And I want to bring I want to, I want to just point on something on that, because I've seen so many films, like yours, myself included, wait a year, two years, because of their delusions, and I say that with all the love in the world, because I was a delusional filmmaker in that sense as well, where like I can, I'm gonna get into this Oscar qualifying Short Film Festival, and I have a shot I'm like, it's, it's like 20 or 100 times easier to get into Sundance than it is to get an Oscar nomination for a short film, you know, and it's astronomical, to try to get into Sundance, just to understand the, the ratio that we're talking about here. So,

Kim Adelman 31:45
And also, just the Oscar films tend to really be, as we talked about the better funded ones from other countries. Americans get through, but you do occasionally. And so you know, it's one of those. That's your dream. I mean, I know Oscar nominated filmmakers from the shorter film category. It's totally doable. You don't just in a miracle kind of way. But you know, it's your decision, what you want to do, but in reality is if this is the year that you're trying to get people to pay attention to your short film, do you really want to hold off putting it on the internet for years? What kind of your point that you know? Exactly. So, you know, people want to, you know, give them what that easiness of like, Can I see it and you want to be able to quickly be able to show it to people not to say that you can't do password protected kind of things, you know, that's different.

Alex Ferrari 32:29
Yeah, that's different. But also I do agree with what you're saying is like, if you want to do a festival run up, like six months, you know, go go go six months, go eight months, go around and enjoy yourself, go to red carpet, if you haven't gone down that road, oh, my god, it's so much fun. Especially it strokes, the ego in a way that is so beautiful, everyone, you're the greatest, someone gives you an award, you're like, Oh, my God, I've arrived, all this kind of stuff. By the way, once you have an award, you are an award winning filmmaker. And that's how you should promote yourself.

Kim Adelman 32:58
I 100% agree with that.

Alex Ferrari 33:00
I mean, my first festival was the Ocean City Film Festival in New Jersey, which was played in the back of the Crab Shack, where I won Best for best first time director. I was an award winning filmmaker,

Kim Adelman 33:12
You still claim it. So there you go.

Alex Ferrari 33:13
I still have the certificate that I've got somewhere in Pakhtun way, but it was a big, it was a big deal for me. And Ben, from that point on, I was an award winning filmmaker. And people will laugh at that. I'm like, you're an award winning filmmaker, you can promote yourself as such.

Kim Adelman 33:28
The one other thing I will say is it's really hard to get on TV. But there are people you know, there are organizations like short TV that will get your film on television. And so that also might have be some issues about if you've been online that there might they might not wants you so much for television, so a very small percentage, and but how bad is to be on TV too? So you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:48
And also depends on how bad they want the short. Yeah. So if it's a really, you know, if it's also a really, really mean the world that we live in with so much content and so much media. They're much looser than it used to be before there was always exceptions.

Kim Adelman 34:04
For example, if you had made Marcel and then they're like, hey, we'd like to put Marcel on TV now, because feature has already had 54 million people view but sure, why not? You know, people want to see it. So if you want to want to see aspects to your film, then, you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:18
No question, no question about it, make your own rules.

Kim Adelman 34:21
And you should and you know, because it's short film, because you're used to kind of not necessarily breaking the rules. But yeah, so let's just say breaking the rules or making their own way and making their own rules. Never think there's you know, no, you can always turn a no into a yes. Right.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
Exactly, exactly. Now, the big question that so many filmmakers asked me all the time, can you make money with a short film?

Kim Adelman 34:45
And I will always say no, it's really hard to but you're selling examples such as make money off of for sure. So we can be the opposite ends of the spectrum. I'll be the person who has known that you can sell you buy Yes, but you know, number one again, you have to be able to have your film camera. Actually exhibited, which we talked about previously, there should be no impediments to that. But you know, there is places to have a license short films. And if you have a film that also, I should have said the thing for the festival circuit, it is a way to connect with the people who do license short films, they're looking for the short films on the festival circuit. So it's your kind of way of being in the marketplace. But anyway, you know, should you get an offer, you know, the money will not be what you expect it to be to.

Alex Ferrari 35:30
You mean, you mean I getting that 100,000 mg, you're not getting,

Kim Adelman 35:34
I'm buying a house, I'm gonna share it. I mean, it could be as like, they do it per minute, and they're gonna give you like, $6 per minute, if you have attended a long film, and you're like, oh, from pulling up getting 60 bucks to be.

Alex Ferrari 35:46
You said Poland for a second. That's another thing I want people to understand, especially here in the states that that there is a market for short films outside of the US much more so than in the US. Can you talk about that?

Kim Adelman 35:55
Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, in the US, again, I mentioned short TV. And then there's also PBS, you know, locally does short films, there's all these little small pockets in the US that potentially could, but they definitely are also, I should mention, too, some festivals have prizes that if you win that prize, and you know, yeah, but you are you go on to HBO, or something like that. But that's part of the deal. Because they're looking for new talent certain way. But anyway, the money still will not be great. And so it's very rare to meet a filmmaker, whoever earned their money back on short films. I should also say real quickly to on festivals, sometimes you went prize money. I know, people have won more money from festival prizes than the cost of making their films. So they actually benefited that way from being on the festival circuit. You probably would earn more money on a festival price, and you'd win on licensing your film elsewhere. But, you know, remember I mentioned that our short films at Fox were made for social purposes, that still does exist in some other countries that they'll put them on TV in between other things if they don't have commercials. So you know, there are opportunities out there, different countries and different amounts of money. And that's also what's so nice about short film, like you're learning about international exhibition the same way you would learn with your feature film. It's just much smaller, much less money.

Alex Ferrari 37:13
Right, exactly. So I'll be on the other end of this, this conversation where I've made a lot of money with my shorts over the years, but I've also thought about it very much like a film trip earner, an entrepreneurial filmmaker, where See ya see how I did that film entrepreneur. Product placement, product placement? No, but honestly, though, it's like I had made a short film. But and the real quick story behind that first short film that we made over 100,000 with, which is I made a short film action, sci fi a lot of visual effects, at the time, very kind of cutting edge in the visual effects world, especially in the indie Space Shot on the mini DV, dv x 100, a Panasonic fantastic camera. And I put it out and I made it edited, put it all together. And I'm like, Alright, we have something cool here. I'm like, how am I gonna make money with this? And I'm like, Who who's gonna pay for this and like, I can't sell this to the general public. No one cares. I'm nobody. I have nobody in movie. I go. But you know, who might be interested as filmmakers, on how I made this, because I made it look like a film. I color graded it in 2005. using Final Cut Pro, I use visual of as you shake the same program that they were using Lord of the Rings, to do the visual effects, we had over 100 visual effects shots in it, there was a lot of stuff like that. And it was action, which is very hard to do in 2004, with gunplay and fights and all this kind of stuff. So I was like, I think people will pay for this. So what I did is then spent six weeks editing together three and a half to four hours of kind of a bootcamp film. And then I put it all on DVD, because there was no other place to make money with it. And I created an email that this is all instinctual, create an email list and start posting a message boards about it. So we put the trailer out there. And people were like, when's this movie coming out when I want to see I want to. And then when I launched I still remember the day with Pay Pal I was just get all these emails are thinking thinking thinking. It was fantastic. And then we just kept selling and selling and selling these at 20 bucks a pop was selling at $20 a pop. But they weren't but they were. So it was a different time. That would work today. But in in the time that I did it, it did work. And then now I've created educational so I use education as a way to make money. If it's really a high end visual effects movie. I know Film Riot, the YouTube channel. They make a lot of short films, their entire business models about making really high end short films with high end visual effects. And they show you how they do it. So that's how they're doing that as well. So you know it's

Kim Adelman 39:48
Also maybe you have but after the people are very interested in and maybe you know people would be interested like you could make your own website and try to get people to pay to see it or whatever. It's just hard in this world was so much as free You know, I always tell people, you know, personally paid to see a short film, you know,

Alex Ferrari 40:06
it can work if you hire like if you hire an actor, I had a, I had Robert forester and one of my films, I had Richard Tyson, who was the bad guy from Kindergarten Cop, if you remember that, I had him and some of these, some of these actors have massive fan bases, right? Who will go crazy for anything they do. So if you can hire someone like that, or hire somebody who has an audience of some sort. So let's say it's a YouTube influencer, I'm just using that as an example. Or a YouTuber, social media star wants to be in a movie, they have 3 million followers, you have cast them in your movie, and you go, look, let's partner up, we're going to sell access to this to your audience. And we're going to sell it for five bucks, and you and I are going to split it. And now you have a marketing machine putting it out into, you know, behind a paywall for the first 30 or 60 days behind a paywall so doesn't hurt any festivals doesn't hurt any broadcast, and you're making money with it. So there's a lot of different ways of doing it. But it takes time, and also niches and things like that, and I talked about it in my book a lot with features, but it can be applied to short. So there are ways to make money with shorts, it's just a lot of work. And you really gotta it's not going to there's no turnkey situation. In other words, there's like, oh, here and you make money,

Kim Adelman 41:17
You know, and I was also gonna say, The Academy Award nominated shorts, they now put them out in the theaters, and people pay to go see these films in theaters. So as much as I'm like, Who pays for a short film, though, people are very excited to pay money to see the academy nominated short films in the theater, you know, which is a fabulous thing that I never would have thought that that would come to be and it has. And so there's interest that way. And, you know, there might be new venues or new ways to do it in the future. And, you know, the beautiful thing is you've created something you own and you can do anything you want with it, no one's gonna tell you no, you can't do that. So why not try different things and see what happens. And you know, you never know how, how your break is going to happen, or what's going to happen, or how you might potentially make money. It's all just wanna give it a shot and see what happens. And you know, keep your expectations low, and be happy with anything, right? So let's say you make $60 You're like, Oh, my God, I made $60 off of this, I'm now you know, making a profit, not profit. But you know, I'm making money. And people are seeing my film. Come on. Great.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
Exactly. So it really all depends on how you what's your approach to the making of the film. If you're making it to get rich, I'm sorry, this is not going to happen. If you're going into it with that, is there a possibility that you can make a lot of money with it? There's very few examples of short films making. I think I'm one of the few honestly, yeah, they've made, you know, I've been actually in case studies and books on short films about, understandably so. Because it's a rarity. And I know that and but doing the shorts that I've done over the years, I've seen what they've been able to do for me. And if you look at shorts as a way to get your career moving forward, express yourself as an artist, get attention for yourself, all that kind of stuff. And then the festival circuits, all the other stuff. That's the way you should approach it.

Kim Adelman 43:05
I think, you know, I've also also animation is a whole nother ballgame. Oh, that's a whole other world. People will pay for animated shorts, you know, that sort of stuff. But I know people who have banded together and put together programs and kind of put that on the road of short films and you know, rent it out for a while theaters and totally turned it into, you know, their life, basically. But you also have to kind of look to like, how much time are you going to put into this as well, I feel like a lot of that kind of stuff you should do for your future. You know, if you're talking about your future, that's the time to invest in all those.

Alex Ferrari 43:35
And then if we're talking about documentaries, that's a whole other conversation. Because with documentaries, there are a lot of places where documentary shorts can make money. And you can do a 3040, even 50 minute short, which could get broadcasted Yes. And if it's in a specific niche, you can actually go on the road, going to different organizations. So like if it's a documentary about a swimmer with one leg, I'm just saying, or a surfer with one leg or a skateboarder with one leg. You know, those are the kinds of things that you can team up with organizations to set up screenings, charge, there's a lot of ways you can make money with documentaries a lot easier to make money.

Kim Adelman 44:14
And also people are dying for short documentaries on the festival circuit. They don't have enough, you know, so it's hard to do a short documentary, I will say that I've seen so many people fail at it. Just because you know, with a long documentary, you've got a long story to tell, but the short documentary have very little time. And so what are you actually saying and showing and doing? It's a it's a hard skill

Alex Ferrari 44:35
There was there was one short that was on Netflix because Netflix does shorts every once in a while. Every once in a while. There was a documentary about end of life and about like just hospice and how to approach end of life. And I had a friend of mine who's a social worker, and he's like, Hey, you should look into the short and I'm like, is it on Netflix? And he's like, Yeah, watch it. And I watched it. I was like, Oh man, this A day as an organization go around using that short as a way to kind of introduce people to end of life conversations. Because it's not something it's not something you want to talk about, generally speaking, you know, it's not a conversation you want to have. But that's that documentary did, apparently that sold to Netflix. So, Netflix, that means Netflix knew something that it was valued.

Kim Adelman 45:23
And Netflix does, I should have said that to Netflix definitely has a category of short films. And you'll see a lot of the ones that are Oscar contenders are close to being an Oscar contender show up there, and they liked the longer short film too. So that's a very positive thing. And they've done a lot have not done but they've acquired, you know, short documentaries. I don't know if any of those original Netflix productions. I think all of them are acquisitions, but they're definitely short films that are showing on Netflix. Again, I don't know how much money people made off of that. But come on to be able to say your short film was on

Alex Ferrari 45:51
1500 bucks. 1000 bucks. 2000 bucks. Are you kidding? It's, it's fantastic. Yeah, depends on the there was. So another another great story on how a short film that turns turned it into a feature to turning it into a feature. And they made obscene amounts of money was Kung Fury. You familiar with Kung Fury? Yeah. So Kung Fury is a short out of I think it's Sweden, or Norway or something like that. But it was a homage to 80s action movies. Dawn in the most ridiculous obscene like, you know, heads been blown off. Dinosaurs going back in time with North got Norse gods. And, you know, like, Thor's there, it was fascinating to watch a 30 minute short, lot of visual effects, all 80s based, these guys put it out, and they got millions and millions of views. But they had the original soundtrack. They had merch they had because it was all connected to a niche that so many people were they love the shorts so much. Then I saw a pop up on Netflix. Then I saw a pop up on El Rey, that people were it's just it was such high production value that people use. And then they they now are in the process of making the sequel that Arnold Schwarzenegger has. They literally he's playing the President in the sequel, or the feature version. And even they were so understanding of their niche I talked about, I actually use them as a case study in my book, that they got David Hasselhoff to do the soundtrack. They paid. They paid David Hasselhoff a good amount of money to write a song for the movie. And then they released a music video with David Hasselhoff.

Kim Adelman 47:39
That's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 47:40
It's amazing. So there's so much creativity with shorts, you could do so much with it. It all depends on you, and where you want to where you want to go with it. So there it's it's an endless pool of opportunities, which, um,

Kim Adelman 47:53
You had mentioned IP earlier. You know, that's the other thing you do when you are creating an IP when you make a short film.

Alex Ferrari 48:00
Yeah, you do create IP. And if you're able to like Marcelle with the show on, they actually released three shorts over the course of three, four years. And they released two best selling children's books on it. So when Hollywood came calling, they, they were like, Hey, let's put Ryan Reynolds with the shell on the like, no. This was before Pikachu. They were basically pitching and Pikachu. That's what they wanted. But they stuck to their guns. And they made the movie that they wanted to make it took 12 years to get it off the ground, but they got it with, but they were able to make money with it and generate revenue off the shorts. And then not to mention off a YouTube even just YouTube ad AdSense off these things. I mean, first it was like 54 million, the other ones like 34 million. And that's something that a lot of filmmakers don't know about as well as if you have a monetized YouTube channel. You can make money, especially if it goes viral, you could make serious money with it. Or if there's another channel where shorts or the kind of short that you're trying to do, maybe team up with that creator, have them pump it out, and they maybe have two or 3 million followers and share that share the money that comes in. There's so many ideas, so many ways.

Kim Adelman 49:08
Hair, love is another example. It's an animated short film, but he didn't book after to. There's many things that there could be opportunities for if you're short film gets attention that gets asked about Oscar nominated. But the other thing too, that we should definitely talk about is you can put spend all that time and money and do all that. But then when people say well, what's next? Because it's like you could spend all that time doing all that for like, Oh, now I've got 100 bucks that I profited off of that. But what's next, you know, what am I going to do next year and when people say to me, I loved your short I'd love to talk to you about doing something together or whatever you need to have it what's next.

Alex Ferrari 49:46
And so if I may tell you the painful backstory of my experience, I got I got I did the waterfall tour I was being called by Oscar nominated or Oscar winning producers and I was it CIA. I was all This stuff went by first short, was going around. And everyone asked me, so I'd love the short we'd love what you're doing. What's next? And we're like, Well, I have ideas. Yeah, that's not enough on the scripts, not ideas, scripts, you need to have two or three of them ready to go. And that's what? Because you could you could pitch them or have this movie about this, this. Yeah, we don't want what else you have. Yeah, because that window, that window is open for that door is open for so short amount of time. And if you don't take advantage next

Kim Adelman 50:31
Exactly, there's always another hot film that people are getting attention to. I mean, not that you can predict you're gonna have that moment. But why not set yourself up for success and have something ready that you want to do? So that you can be like, hello, I'm so glad you love my shirt. Here's my feature film that I want to make next, or whatever else it is that you want to know, do next. And you know, maybe, for example, you really wanted to run commercials or something like that, you know, be prepared with a reel of other things that look like commercials that you can be, you know, whatever you want to do be prepared.

Alex Ferrari 51:02
I think that there's a higher probability of somebody seeing a short at a festival, or online and offering you hey, I love your style. I'd like to work with you. That happens more often than anything else I think we've spoken about. Because it does happen. People are like, oh, I want to work with you. Or what do you want to do next there, those opportunities do present themselves. But most filmmakers aren't prepared for those opportunities when they create, which is what we're talking about. It does, it does happen. It does happen a lot, especially if it's commercials or music videos, or documentaries or things like that. There's always I hear story after story after story about filmmakers getting opportunities based on a short film that someone saw somewhere this or that, and boom, boom, boom. Having that? I mean, Napoleon Dynamite.

Kim Adelman 51:46
Short film. Yeah. Oh, there's many examples of short films. And actually, there's another recent film called emergency that was a short, and then they went on the vessel circuit. And people were like, oh, we'd love to talk to you about the future version of it. And they hadn't even been thinking of that, which is kind of, you know, more power to them. But then they're like, oh, yeah, we're working on that. But if you you know, if you thought there was a future version of it, you should probably script out the feature version of it before you go on the festival circuit. You know, I mean, the you can control when you start the festival circuit. And in theory, if you think of this as launching yourself, well, then you know, have stuff to

Say you are the studio, you know, you need to think of yourself as a studio that will be making things. So, you know, think about when you want to release things, think about what your next project is, think about how you want your studio to be thought of, you know,

Alex Ferrari 52:36
Exactly, exactly. Now, tell me about your book, making it big, in short, shorter, faster, cheaper.

Kim Adelman 52:43
Don't you agree that short should be shorter, faster and cheaper? Absolutely. This is actually the third version. And this is my version. My subtitle that i system for the third version was the shorter chapter the shorter and cheaper faster because if you had to ask me quickly, advice, you know what filmmakers should do? It's like you make a film shorter, cheaper. I mean, Paul's me when I hear how much money people spend on this grant.

Alex Ferrari 53:06
But I did but I'm, I'm an anomaly. Don't that don't do what I do.

Kim Adelman 53:11
I really don't think so. Also, things are so much cheaper now to you know, I think if you're done, and now it wouldn't be as expensive as it was then, although I also teach, and one of my students is making her short film this weekend. And you know, it was it's 2500. And she's under budgeted, you know, I'm like, you just don't have enough money here. And people always think I can do it for a nickel. And it's like, well,

Alex Ferrari 53:34
If someone like myself, who's been in the business for almost 30 years says I could do it for nickel and more than likely I could do it for nickel because I know your favorites. You can call him I know how to do I've done it. But if you've never done it, I say you It's like someone in putting someone on set global fix it in post, like no, no, no. Only the editor or someone who's been in posts can say you can fix and post no one else is allowed to say that

Kim Adelman 53:55
Or have zero budget and and post.

Alex Ferrari 54:00
What she had, oh, really, she was just gonna do it on her laptop while she

Kim Adelman 54:06
Was just, you know, fine for student film. You know, you probably can get away with that. But even so, they're planning on shooting for three days and you've been feeding people for three days. I was like, I don't think you're gonna have enough money. feeding people

Alex Ferrari 54:18
Don't don't don't feed people the spinning wheels of death. You know what the spinning wheels of death are?

Kim Adelman 54:22
Yeah. What are the spinning wheels of pizza?

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Don't. Don't it's because they just they just, they're cheap. But you get what you pay for it and your your crew starts to slow down. It's sluggish. You want to give them food that keeps them energy going and pizza does not.

Kim Adelman 54:37
You will also she made the mistake of telling me she was going to up and she was the purchaser of it. But she was going to make the food herself. I was like,

Alex Ferrari 54:44
Oh, are you and she was the director too.

Kim Adelman 54:47
Now she's only she's only the producer, not only the producer, she is the producer. But still you can't be making food and doing everything else. As a producer.

Alex Ferrari 54:55
Oh, no. That's a rookie mistake. Unless Unless I mean, look, I've talked to some really big producers who have done that, because they had to do it. But you know, it was a different conversation,

Kim Adelman 55:08
Raise a little more money, put a little thing, buy something on the credit card. Yeah, just, you know, you get

Alex Ferrari 55:15
Free by the way you could get by the way, this is another trick I learned is you can get free food, food is easy to get for free. You walk in and go, Hey, we're making a short film, we'd love to promote your place. One, can we do a scene in your place? Or can we shoot at least outside of your place where we can promote your place or two, if you give us a free meal, we'll promote you through social media will promote you through the lot of local businesses will give you free I got free food, constantly making short films.

Kim Adelman 55:43
Soon, I do believe that everything for free concept of like if you have the time and the the right personality to do that, and the right connections, because again, you're gonna get know a lot too. But if you figure you get you're gonna get know a lot. But there are going to be places that no, you are want to support, you have the right mentality, and you will get a yes out of it. So, you know, it's just a matter of time and the right personality to do that kind of stuff. Right? And

Alex Ferrari 56:06
If you're in a small town, I've had filmmakers on the show that that had the entire town help them, right. Because they know you and it's a small town and it's you're making a movie. That's super cool. Like a lot of people still get freaked out when you're like, Oh, you're making movie like, people who are in LA, they just get like, they're jaded. Okay, another movie,

Kim Adelman 56:24
Real people who in their small town, they wrote a newspaper wrote an article about them making a short and I was like, I love that. How fabulous is that?

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Exactly! As you get a lot more attention. It's actually better to be outside of an LA or New York in that scenario, because people are super excited about like, Oh, you're making a movie. You know? Like, yeah, do you want to have a, you know, you want to sit in the background, and this one shot in the diner? What all we need is like three meals, oh, that's fine. Little tips of what you do, you know, I have just haven't done this in a year. So it's not the front of my head. But going back, I'm like, I used to do that. The biggest thing I used to do believe it or not, when I was doing it was in school is I heard that every day, the bakery would get rid of their stuff that's about to expire. Now they'll bread dill muffins, do everything. So I would walk in every day. I'm like, Hey, do you have anything do you want to get rid of and they would just give me a just bags full of breads, and pastries and cakes. And I would go and sell them at the school to make money. But you could arguably use that. It's fine. You can eat it. It's not mold, you're like it's not bad. But it's like going to expire the next day or something like that. So they can't sell it. But it's good for another two or three days. You could take that and use it on your set. I'm just saying that's service right there.

Kim Adelman 57:45
You are indeed Mr. Hustle. I mean, that is seriously, that is the hustle mentality of we're gonna get this done, we're gonna make it happen. We're gonna make our own rules, we're gonna do anything we need to do. And that is exactly how you need to be really to do something for no money.

Alex Ferrari 57:58
Absolutely, absolutely. Now I'm gonna, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today Kim?

Kim Adelman 58:08
I think you know, the right answer is you should always just be making something that you know, nobody's going to stop you. And you never know what the right thing is. It's going to really make or break you or, you know, help you develop your voice. So just constantly be making something.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Kim Adelman 58:28
I think it is that it's just a matter of getting through the nose until you get to yes, it you know, it's so hard to hear that and it's so hard to constantly run up against the nose. But the reality is, as soon as you get that, yes, stop. You've achieved it. And everybody can do that. Right? You know, the most dedicated person can go 90 through 99 nose until you get that 100 Yes.

Alex Ferrari 58:51
If there's one lesson that you can, if anyone listening to one lesson, if you can take from this conversation is that the noes are a guarantee. You're always going to get knows. But if you can get past that, and understand that that's just the rules of the game that you're playing. And that's life. In the film business that's life knows are the general that's the default. If you can get past that, then you open yourself up for those yeses, but you have to understand not to get derailed by the nose because you're gonna get nose constantly throughout. And it happens to everybody at every level. Spielberg got nose, Nolan, he doesn't get nose, but everybody. Nobody did get a no because he wanted things to happen for 10 and it didn't happen. Spielberg couldn't get Lincoln Lincoln financed, you know, so you're gonna get Schindler's List finance and he was frickin Steven Spielberg. So everyone gets knows it's about how you deal with those knows how you keep moving forward. So understand that that is just the default. Don't think in And also don't believe that you are not the Great, the great hope of the film industry. You are not the next Stanley Kubrick, you are the next you. And all of those people that you admire. Are they all are the true versions of themselves. And that's how you should approach shorts and the film business. Do you would you agree?

Kim Adelman 1:00:19
I understand. You said, That's so lovely.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:23
And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Kim Adelman 1:00:27
Can I say short films of all time?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:29
Well, I mean, nobody will know them. So you can, but I wouldn't like it like, oh, yeah, Bob's ever than no idea. But go ahead. It's your it's your answer. Unless a very famous shorts that people know, it's up to you.

Kim Adelman 1:00:48
There are shirts that are totally, you know, I'm sure. Well, for example, is just telling somebody else that tecnova tikka, that's the first time I ever saw him was from a short film two cars one night, and I'm pretty sure that is on YouTube or somewhere if you look for it. It's a great short film. And you can totally see his voice in that and the kinds of films that he made later. And that same year, he was he was nominated for Academy Award for that short film that did win that year was Andrea Arnold's short film, wasp. And wasp is like one of my favorite short films of all time, although it is long, but it is great. And I'm pretty sure that one's available to you can Google that one. And of course, she went on to be a fabulous filmmaker as well. And then Jane Campion, her very wasn't her first short film, I don't think but one thing that got her a lot of tension was called peel. And that's a fabulous and short film as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
There's one short film that I found, as you were thinking, like, what's my favorite short film? There was a short film I saw years ago. I've had the producer on the of the feature since then, I've become friends with him. And I was when I brought it out. He's like, holy crap, you saw that? I'm like, yes, yes, I did. I heard about it. years ago, there was a film called darkness false. released by Universal is a horror movie, the director of that made a short that had nothing to do with the movie. But the short was so good that they gave him a shot to make the movie. There's a different time period. But it was universal for God's sake. So it wasn't like a huge deal. And his feature didn't went on to do very well. But the short was about what if it was a story of basically baby Hitler. And and that they could have, they actually were fighting to give birth. And to make sure that this baby was born and it was baby Hitler. At the end of the movie. We're like, oh, it was such so good. So well done that the production design was excellent. That digital camera, it was beautifully lit. It was really high production really highly produced shot on 35. It was gorgeous. But it was like this emotional thing that you're like, Oh, God, the baby has to go the baby has to get born. Oh my god, all this stuff is happening. And then it's baby Hitler. You're like, Oh, my so good.

Kim Adelman 1:02:53
There's so many films, short films that have Hitler or Jesus is one of the characters. It's always like, Oh, another Hitler shirt. Oh, no Jesus shirt. But it's because it's a character we all know. Right? Right away. So when you tell me baby healer, I totally know. You know what you mean? Why that is etc.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:10
We all know. Absolutely. And one of the famous, the most famous, I argue the most successful short film to ever launch anything. Is the spirit of Christmas. Spirit of Christmas spirit of Christmas. Yeah. So the biggest short film of all time, I'm going to argue to say I don't think there's any film that has generated more revenue than that short film, the spirit of Christmas. A little bit of cardboard, a little bit of a construction paper cut out animated. And it was Jesus versus Santa Claus. And it is built. I mean, what did they sell HBO? I think they said he's 150 million or 250 million.

Kim Adelman 1:03:50
I mean, think of all the merchandising alone that's come off of that they I think

Alex Ferrari 1:03:53
They get I think they get 10% and they still are loaded.

Kim Adelman 1:03:58
Can I just tell you something real quick, because I know we're running out of time. But I had a very good friend who's short film played Sundance in the same shorts program as spirit of Christmas because they did invite spirit of Christmas to play at Sundance. And nobody remembered during the screenings, like nobody wants to talk about my film. Everyone wanted to talk about that. And Jesus

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Versus Santa Claus.

Kim Adelman 1:04:18
Water Festival situation.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:22
I still and this is a power of the short back then this is before the internet. I walked into a comic book store. When I was at that age, whenever that came out. I was I think high school or a little bit. I think it was in high school or a little bit younger than high school. When that came out. And the guy behind the counter, the comic book guy said, Hey, man, you want to see something busted out a bootleg copy of spirit of Christmas because it was bootlegged all over the place. And I saw it and my mouth was just like, What did what did I just see? So I said Jesus finding Santa Claus. This is amazing. This is so you know and if You want to talk about voices Jesus? Yeah. Matt and Trey I mean, there's nobody else and boy they've written that horse Haven't they?

Kim Adelman 1:05:10
Yes, they have to

Alex Ferrari 1:05:12
I've been riding that horse until the wheels fall

Kim Adelman 1:05:16
When people recommend love a sword from so much they want to tell you about it encourage you to see it. That's just that's winning right there. That's now

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
And now it's a Click now to VHS going and now it's a click Email it's a social media posting guys you gotta watch this.

Kim Adelman 1:05:30
The fact that somebody's promoting it that way with no you know, financial in on it, just want to share with you something that they love. That is wonderful. That's the highest.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:38
And Kim, where can people get your book and find out more about what you do?

Kim Adelman 1:05:42
Well, making big insurance available bookstores near you. There's not so many bookstores anymore, so let's just say sadly, Amazon

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
Hey, Jeff needs to send some more rockets up into space, we got to support him. Some oddly shaped rockets. Anyway. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your knowledge about shorts. Hopefully this has helped a few filmmakers avoid some pitfalls. And maybe we maybe with this conversation, we help launch a few careers. Let's hope making sure you'll never regret. Thank you again so much for being on the show. Kim, I appreciate you.

Kim Adelman 1:06:19
Pleasure talking to you.

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BPS 326: Horror Filmmaking Masterclass with Danny Draven

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

Jason Buff 1:38
We're continuing our interviews with horror filmmakers with Danny Draven. This is one of this this is like a masterclass in horror filmmaking. Danny is not only a horror filmmaker, but he's also the author of the phenomenal horror filmmaking book called The filmmakers Book of the Dead. And it's now in its second edition. If you want to learn filmmaking, horror filmmaking, specifically, go get that I think it's available on Amazon. Check it out, it's full of pictures, it's really like over the top in terms of like, all the value all the great things that are in this book, let me get going with Danny, this is a huge interview about two hours. So I was gonna break it up into two different episodes. And I just decided to go ahead and put it out there as one and you can kind of listen to the first half when you have time. Or maybe if you have a two hour car drive or something, you're gonna get a lot out of this episode, I certainly did. And learn a lot about how the indie film making world works, especially the indie horror film work. So check it out. Hope you enjoy. Like I have all these questions that I've just been coming up with on my own. But what I was thinking we could do was just kind of go through the different parts of the first book, just I mean, going strictly on the the table of contents and just kind of do a brief description of kind of those different aspects of making a horror film and then just kind of go from there, you know, just use that as the framework. And obviously, I don't want you to go, you know, so far into it. I mean, the thing that I found is that usually the more into it you get the more interested people get in, you know, buying the book and like, you know, sure. Anyway, I did have one guy I talked to not too long ago who was like, yeah, um, you know, if you read my book, I'll tell you all about like, Come on, dude. Give me

Danny Draven 3:32
I hear I hear you know, totally, I'm happy to I don't I don't do that. I just you just ask me whatever you want. And I'll tell you, whatever I can, whatever comes to mind, you know, if they buy the book, great. If not, it doesn't, you know, when I get a $20 royalty check in the mail does, you know, it's not about the money. It really isn't. But this this book, um, this the the first edition is actually very soon. I mean, the second edition is just enhancements to the first so the it's only you know, it's about 100 And I don't know 140 pages more than the first edition and a lot of that is just newer interviews and a lot of the information has been updated so the chapters are all really the same I only think I only added really one it's just the information was updated considerably because it was out of date because it was five years old, but and a lot of new, really good interviews with people like Nick Garis and Kane Hodder and all these other dudes and so which is pretty much the big difference and it's got a really good overhaul as far as like a lot more artwork was added like a lot of really cool like Grindhouse art, just just for eye candy really, and stuff like that. So it's a fun, it's the it is by far the definitive best edition of that book, and probably the last and it'll, it'll have a hardcover edition which is which is really cool. And it's a little it's kind of expensive, but it's they do have a hardcover one that which is kind of cool for but anyway, yeah, so it's so whatever we already talked about with the book. It's very Very similar to the second, it's just more updated as

Jason Buff 5:04
Well I mean, that might be a good jumping in point, what what do you consider the major things that have changed from the first book to the second book?

Danny Draven 5:12
Well, technology and distribution mainly because you know, film filmmaking process is really still, it has been kind of the same for, you know, 100 years, it's just, you know, that just the technology has changed. To the point, you know, where, particularly in my, in my book it has to do when I changed was the distribution. Chapters, which is that's different with digital distribution and everything, and in particularly, some of the stuff in the production because because the cameras have gotten better, bigger, smaller and shoot higher, higher quality, you know, so I think it's just mainly the technology. stuff in the book is is the biggest update and, and the interviews because I added about, oh, I don't know, maybe 10 people, I think, but I mean, I mean, they're really good interviews, because these guys are working professional filmmakers. I mean, I got Mick Garrison, I sat down and had a great lunch and we just we we had this like two hour interview and I think in the book, it's like eight nine pages and they're really good insightful questions. I had an awesome awesome interview with big time composer John off and then editor we in that's a like a 10 page interview is really good, though. It's John Debney, the composer John Debney. T board Takus, the guy who directed the gate and spiders 3d And he did a really good one too, because I know and I edited a movie for him years ago for a Sci Fi Channel. And I remember when I was editing it with him, he he was checking his phone and he was making mega snake at the time. And he was showing me some of his show. He was showing me some of his storyboards. I was like, because we were just sitting in the editing room like, Oh, that's pretty cool. You know, this is pretty cool storyboards. So then, like, literally like, Wow, no, it's eight years later, when I decided to interview him. I was like, Hey, man, do you still have those mega snakes? Storyboards? Because now those things are really well done. And I should put those in the book and so so that the there's this one scene where the snake eats this guy, and it's the exact storyboards that they did for the show for the film. So you get his interview, and then you get like, you know, the six pages of these really beautiful storyboards that they did for it, and then you get the frame grabs from the movie when and how they actually shot it. And yeah, just stuff like that. I got a really good interview with some other producers, Mark deskey. And David Fleming from they did exists, you know, the big Bigfoot movie that Eduardo Sanchez did, they were producers on that and, and there's Mike Mendez, he's in there now. Director of big ass spider. And All right, yeah, exactly. He's a he's a great guy, and, oh, boy, Kane, Hodder, Michael Berryman. And I think I'm probably missing a few people. But, but anyway, it's, it's one of the things people one of the things that people really enjoyed about this book is, is the interviews and especially from the first edition. I mean, all the information there is is great anyway, but but the interviews really kind of drove it home for people because you're you're hearing really good advice from people who are actually, you know, working out and working professionals in Hollywood. So it was a favorite in the first edition. So I decided the second one, I just want to add a lot more. So that's what we did

Jason Buff 8:34
You have the same interviews from the first book, as well, or is it like?

Danny Draven 8:38

Jason Buff 8:38
I know you interviewed James one in the first book.

Danny Draven 8:41
Yeah, no, yeah, he's still he's still in there.

Jason Buff 8:43
I think you want to keep him in there.

Danny Draven 8:45
Yeah, he's Yeah. I interviewed actually, I interviewed him. Before he, you know, back when he was making, like, maybe it was the first insidious or something like that. It was a while ago when we when we talked about it, right. So he did a really good interview. And everybody's the same. It's, it's, I think I had to remove one person, because it was just what they were talking about was like, so outdated that I just had to carry but other than that, it's all of a sudden people, plus, you know, 10 or 12 people that I've added. So,

Jason Buff 9:14
Is there anything that kind of sticks out at you and like something that just kind of blew your mind with an interview or somebody who just kind of like, you know, said something to you that you didn't really know beforehand? Or Or I don't know, just kind of like know, sometimes you talk to one of these filmmakers, and it's just like, oh, wow, you know, that's something Yeah, surely.

Danny Draven 9:35
Sure. Absolutely. I mean, we, I mean, you knew when Mike I talking when I talked to say, like somebody like Nick Garis or somebody and I'm asking him specific questions about how he, how he directs actors and what his processes like and all that it's different for everyone, you know, but but, you know, his his answers were very insightful and and, you know, not all of them made them into the book, but the ones that did I thought were the

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

Danny Draven 10:10
Were the most insightful ones and it just, it's just really even as the, the interviewer I mean, I'm like, Oh, wow, that's, that's interesting. That's how you do that's how he works then. And then I see how how somebody like keyboard works or some or or, or, or what what Kane Hodder was thinking when he when he decided to play the character of Jason and what he did to make a scary character and he would answer that question and things like that because you guys usually the guys like Kane Hodder and Robert England and Michael Berryman, and all the guys that have played, you know, monsters, I always ask them what their process was like as an actor to really develop that character. It's funny because it because it's all great horror movie monsters are more than just, you know, Guy sticking a mask on or a guy in a glove, there's a lot more behind it and to understand their process was was very insightful. And that's what I that's what I think you get when you read these interviews in this book is you really see like, wow, Robert England, really, you know, he really had a method to how he portrayed Freddie, you know, and same thing with Jason and same thing with Pluto. Hills Have Eyes, you know, and all that stuff. So so it's a good it's a fun conversation. It's just kind of like two guys out, you know, sitting at a bar having a beer talking about they're making movies and that's kind of the style of the of the interview. But

Jason Buff 11:36
Can you share? Like, what what are just the whole concept of directing actors in a, you know, a horror movie, whether it be the good guys are the monsters or whatever?

Danny Draven 11:52
The whole idea of of directing the monsters for for? Sorry about what you mean, like the

Jason Buff 12:01
Well, what is your approach? And what what did you learn from these people? And what is your approach? And what are some things that you've learned from talking to directors about directing? You know, monsters or directing actors in general? Oh, I see. Well,

Danny Draven 12:16
I think I think it's, it's, it's certainly going to be different for every director, but I think instinct has a lot to do with it. You know, when when when directing actors, you know, it's it's instinctual. It's, it's, it's, you know, not not my styles. I'm very much like an actor's director, you know, I, I don't, I mean, I have the technical background, no doubt, and Oak sweb Post company, and I've been an editor for I've edited more movies than I care to remember. But, but when you combine the sort of technical background with the actors, when you when you understand actors, I think it really can make you a very strong director, because a lot of people they come out of film school, or they come out of the they get into their first film, and they they're, they're scared of actors, and they're scared of, of the process. It's kind of like, okay, well just, they just talk to an actor, like, they're like, they're a puppet, like, Okay, you will you say this line, and you stand here, and then you walk over here, and then the cameras gonna push into your face, and, and then you're gonna walk off screen, okay, you got it, and then the actors like, oh, okay, and then you know, they can, they can, you know, do it, do what you're talking about. But that, you know, that's not really directing, you know, that's just technically, you know, you're choreographing seniors blocking the scene at that point. So, um, so, you know, my process has always been, to really take care with the actors and to really, you know, spend a lot of time with them, and just be there for whatever they need, because, and give them what they need from a director so they can play the scene properly. And, and, and have the technical understanding to communicate that to the crew and to the DP. So that's my, that's my process. It's kind of, you know, a little both, some people just completely technical, you know, it's just like, they hire, you know, the, I'll certainly, it's always good to hire the best actors you can afford. And you just kind of, most of the time, if you hire an actor of that caliber that you don't need to do much at all, it's just sit back and watch it happen because they're so amazing. And they get it, you know, and other times, you know, they need a lot more. And they do need that push and that technical direction, you know, maybe they maybe it's their first film, they don't know how to hit a mark, you know? So, so yeah, so

Jason Buff 14:40
What do you do if you get in a situation where you've hired somebody and everybody's there, you know, the whole crew and everything's lit and the actor just isn't giving the right performance or it's just not working? Is there any like trick you have or what what goes through your mind as a director?

Danny Draven 14:55
Oh, well, well, I think if everything you look if you're on the set everything slit and then the actors coming out. And it's a lot of times it's the first time you use a lot of times there's no chance, especially a low budget movie, there's there wasn't really any rehearsal. It's, it is the first time that you're doing the scene. And what sounded good on what sounded good on paper. What sounded good in your head is certainly not what's happening. And so, you know, you get there and you see him do it. And you're like, oh, oh, Jesus, you know, I mean, I've been I've been in situations where I'm like, I was like, I don't know, I don't even think we asked the right person. So So then you're sitting, you're like, oh, man, okay, but But what, you know, what are you gonna do you already hired them, they're there in front of you, you're you got through and everybody there and you kind of like, yeah, he probably wasn't the right choice. But this is what I have to work with. So let's, let's do the best we can with what we have. You know, so I mean, I've definitely been in that situation. But I think, you know, if you if you're in a situation where they're, where they're not an actor is not giving you what they want, the best thing to do is to pull them aside, you know, don't talk in front of the whole crew, but to pull them aside, you know, and talk to them about what you're certainly do, don't criticize, don't yell, don't be an asshole. But is to set the person aside and just tell them what you're looking for in the scene. And don't over direct them, just tell them what the intention is in the scene, what what how their characters relate to one another, maybe what what the scene is about, you know, and let the actor be the one that interprets what you're saying, and, and adjust their performance based on what based on that the worst thing you can do is to go up to an actor and give them a liner, you know, I want you to hit the line, like, like this natural look at you, like you little douchebag you know what I mean? Like, you know, they're not, they're not puppets, you know, they're not marionettes, you know, there's enough people that you can just, you know, a program, you know, so a good direct thing is, is, is just really understanding the process, their, their process, respecting their process, and being able to communicate to them in the actors language. And if you can do that, you're you'll be, you know, you want one, the actors will love you forever. And two, you're gonna, you're gonna have, you're gonna have a great performance. And the worst thing you can do in that situation is to, is to try to go out there and act it for them is like, no, okay, let me show you how to do it, then you go, No, you come over here, then you say this line, you say it like this, and then you turn around. It's like, right. That's not That's not how it goes. So they I mean, I guess that would be my sort of advice for handling a situation like that.

Jason Buff 17:39
Okay, now, you know, this, the podcast is primarily geared towards people who are most likely outside of LA and want to make their own feature film, and a lot of people you know, and I also think that one of the best plate ways to get into the industry and have one feature, you know, that actually has some success financially is to try and make you know, horror film, just because there's a built in audience and there's, you know, you don't necessarily need the biggest stars and everything. So what I was hoping we could do is just kind of walk through the process of where things begin, what you need to get started, you know, maybe more towards the producers side of it, you know, when you're coming up with a project? I mean, how much are you? Do you go to, like, somebody in distribution and, like, pitch ideas? Or how does it all work so that you know that at the end of the whole thing, you're going to know, kind of where that production is going to go?

Danny Draven 18:34
Well, that's a great question. I mean, that's, that's, yeah, I mean, every every, every project that you do, I mean, look, if you're if it's your first one one thing you have to understand if you're if you're getting into film and filmmaking in it, period, is you have to understand that it is business you know, it's a it's a, you know, you're there, you're making a picture of it to take with the intention of of it being seen, as a business, it has to be something marketable and sellable and have high quality. If you're now if you're coming out, if you're doing something on your own, and you want to do like a little movie that you're just for yourself, and maybe it's an art piece or something like that, that's fine. You can do whatever you want. But in my in my book, and the stuff that I'll talk to you about today is from an entertainment perspective, from a business perspective of if we're making a movie, we're making it we were making a movie to tell a great story, we're making a movie to to make a cool movie, though, all that is there, but we're also making a movie that it we're able to work to be able to get distributed and seen because at the end of the day, we want people to see and like our work and hopefully make sequels you know after sequel. So with that in mind, you know, your, you know, always think that you're, you know, remember that it is a business. So start out with something that

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

Danny Draven 20:09
You know, a horror is a great genre to start in no doubt, because it's a, it's kind of an evergreen genre, it's, it's something that has is always has always been successful. at the box office, I mean, you know, whether people, you know, turn their nose up to it or not, the fact is, is that horror does extremely well at the box office. And, you know, that can be seen with movies like The Conjuring, or, you know, how many other horror movies that have come out that have just really done well. So, so you know, if you're, if you're starting out, I think that coming up with a one an original, great concept to start with. And you don't, you don't have to, it is a good idea to think about distribution and think about what you're, where you're going to go with it, you know, early on, because you don't want to get too too far into to pre production or production. And so we're not even knowing what genre you're in, you're like, Well, I'm not sure it could be a horror comedy, it could be a comedy could be just or you really want to have a definitive plan. Okay, we're making a low budget slasher film, we're making a zombie comedy, okay, and then you and then you know, what you're making you do your research, you do your homework, you watch, you see all the films that have been made on that subject, whoo, they've been distributed by that sort of thing. And you and you just you really come up with, you really know, what's out there, and what the markets like and, and you make, and you make the film, and I mean, you

Jason Buff 21:45
Now what, let me ask one quick question. Sure. So this just out of curiosity is the primary. Where's the primary place that you do research of that nature? Is it IMDB? Or is it just, you know, do you have some other place that you see, you know, all the different horror films that are releasing? How much you know, who's the distribution company and all that? Is it just IMDB? Or is it you know, somewhere else that you look for that?

Danny Draven 22:08
Well, there's a lot of places that you can look, especially with the internet, I mean, you certainly the IMDB is a great resource. You can read, you know, read the trades. I look, I mean, I read the trades I read, you know, Hollywood Reporter And variety, you know, you know, who's making what they're making what, who's who's remaking what, you know, coming down the line, if you've been from the studio level, you there's a home media magazine, that's a really great resource to see, like kind of what's coming out on DVD what's coming out on Blu Ray, you know, that's a good one to read and see what's performing well, what's you know, on home video, that sort of thing. You know, and the Internet and IMDb, I mean, those are really you don't think you really need to get you don't need to go crazy with it. But you know, if you just get an idea of Okay, are there any zombie movies coming out anytime soon? Or, you know, what, what, how are they doing? And is it? And are they are they being distributed? And if they are who buy you know, that sort of thing? So yeah, you just do your research before you go out and make one because if there's if there's something coming out or something similar again, and happens so, so often, so many people are making movies, that all that guy made that was just like mine, damn it, you know, and, you know, it's so it happens, but it's a good, it's, it's good to, to have more than one idea too. So if you, if you're like, Well, maybe it's not a good time, we could make the film, but maybe it's not a good time to make it right now. You know, maybe we'll make it like next year. And then the meantime, we'll make this other project that we had in mind, you know, let let the, let the let it cool off. Because even with that comes out and, and everybody hates that, that sub genre of horror. I mean, I mean, you know, then, you know, probably not a good idea to go out and make another found footage movie, you know. I made a found footage, film and the whole and honestly, the whole reason we made that I didn't want to make a found footage film. I didn't. I never intended on making the found footage film, not I it was just, it actually was a project that came to me. And it was like, hey, we need to make a found footage film and I like found footage film. I was like, you know, it didn't were a way to do that. Why Why would we make accomplished but Well, no, it's kind of really popular. Right? You know, again, you know, she's, you know, got paranormal and, you know, paranormal activity and what did the wreck wreck movies were and all that stuff. And I was like, yeah, those are great. Those are like, you know, million dollar I mean, not Blair but you know, rock and stuff like that. I mean, you know, they had pretty big budgets for the for those found footage films. And, and it was like, Yeah, but the market was was doing was hot for those at the at that time. And we had some inside, you know, contacts for when it came to distribution. And it was kind of like, hey, you know, we make this found footage film, it's, it's gonna get distributed and it's going to do it's, it's a good time for it. So we ended up making so and that's how kind of really that movie film really for now aka specters was made. And and

Jason Buff 25:10
So did they come with? Did they come to you? Like I was just talking to Scott Kirkpatrick about how they build a project, and then they'll hire, you know, a screenwriter, they'll hire a director and everybody else. I mean, they've already kind of sold the project to the distribution company before they even, you know, put together the screenplay. Is that becoming?

Danny Draven 25:32
No, I don't think it's I don't, I mean, I don't think it's gotten a little bit on the low budget kind of level, I don't think it's that common to really sell the project, like, like, sell the project as far as like distribution, rights, I mean, and then go make the movie. And I mean, I think it used to be like that, maybe back in the 90s. And stuff where they would sell foreign, you know, you sell these pre sales, you know, based on artwork, like fullmoon used to do back in the day, you know, it'd be like, Hey, here's an artwork and a title you guys are interested in, then they'd be like, yeah, we'd love it. And then they would say, you know, advance, advance most of the budget that they would need to go make the film, but these days, you know, especially on the lower budgeted level, it's, it's, you know, especially if you don't have if you don't have a start tag team, forget it. I mean, who's gonna, who's gonna be the distribution company? Who's in it, and they're like, well, nobody, my brother, my sister, they're not gonna, you're not gonna get money from a distributor. Now you can do say, you know, Nicolas Cage is attached to it, yes, you know that, but you're talking about a whole different level of filmmaking at that point. But I'm talking on the indie level with, with, with that's just say, for the sake of this conversation, that there's no stars, and you're just making it with, you know, some talent, talented actors that you find, but there's no, there's no recognizable name in it. Your money is not most likely not going to be coming from your distribution from a distribution company, unless you're self distributing, but But in that case, it's coming from you anyway. So, you know, AI, it's, it's, it's not, it's more, what's more common, is, you. I mean, look, I mean, is the company, the distribution company, is often sometimes on the lower budget stuff, and the distribution company is often the financing company, as well. So it's kind of their own project anyway, but they're the one making the decision on what kind of movie they're making. I mean, like full moon, for instance, filming pictures, I mean, they're, they're kind of their own distribution company. And they went out, especially now, because they have folder in streaming.com, which is where they stream all their latest projects, but I mean, his that whole business model is kind of like, you know, they make their own product, and they distribute their own product, you know, they make a new film, and it comes out through their, their website, their streaming website, and that's a, that's a big thing now, too, with, with like, the, the Vimeo in demand, and all that stuff is you can, you can go out and make a film and put it up on site, like, Vimeo on demand, and people can, you can send people there, and they can pay to stream your movie, or they can pay to download your movie. And it's a great, it's a great distribution. method, but you know, you still you can, you can, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't necessarily make them drink it in. So you still have to have a higher quality product for people to, to want to go there and stream it and buy it, you know, so I'm gonna answer a little bit of your question there.

Jason Buff 28:32
Yeah, no, it's perfect. You know, I just I get obsessed, because I, you know, I always try to put together this magic formula for, you know, you know, I've talked to some people that work in distribution, and they're just like, yeah, man, it's just so oversaturated now, and I know all these people who've lost tons of money, because they went out, and they made these, you know, horror movies for, like, you know, half a million dollars. And then they got to the distribution. And it was, like, they, you know, they just lost everything, because it wasn't like the right thing. So, so one of the things that I tried to help people with and also myself, you know, is like figuring out, you know, maybe we can talk for a second about, you know, budgeting and how much money you know, more or less kind of what things are, you know, should be priced at, because I know, people who go out and make their first movie for, you know, 100,000 $200,000 and, you know, I've heard other people like, you know, just do it as cheap as you possibly can. Because at the end of the day, if you don't get distribution, then you haven't lost your shirt, you know? Yeah. So what what is your take on that in terms of just like budgeting, save somebody in, you know, middle America, whatever, you know, is like wants to make a horror movie and wants to try and like maybe take it to AFM or something or whatever, you know, what kind of advice what what kind of budget range? How should that all be broken down when they're first starting out and trying to produce a film.

Alex Ferrari 29:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Danny Draven 30:05
Yeah, sure. Yeah. I totally so but just just to add to, to your distribution, comment, you know, about the people who've made who have lost money. I mean, believe me, I mean, I know so many people that have have have lost a lot, you know, I mean, including myself, you know, when I pulled out the credit cards, and, you know, the massive massive credit card debt for films, you know, for years, trying to pay them off. And for ship that wasn't even my wasn't even fine. It was just stuff I wanted to pay for out of my own pocket to make it better. And I didn't even own the rights to it. And I was paying for stuff. I mean, I mean, it's just really stupid stuff like that early on, but, but I mean, but but but yeah, people have lost a lot when it comes to distribution. So when, when it comes to me thinking that, okay, well, we're gonna spend all this money, but we're, then we're gonna go out and we Yeah, we're totally going to get it distributed. I mean, it especially now, I mean, it doesn't, it's just not like that anymore. I mean, it's, it's, it is absolutely oversaturated it has been for a long time. So, you know, your, your product needs to stand out, if you're going to even have a have a really good chance of have a really good distribution. Deal. And, and, you know, just just going out with some friends and shooting a splash over the weekend, you know, and you max your credit cards out for 40, grand or whatever, you know, you really can't expect to be getting that back, you know, and I and I always say, you know, look, don't don't invest, don't invest more than you can afford to lose, because it's a very, very big possibility that you will lose all of it, or you or you might get it distributed, but you won't necessarily get the money back. I mean, because, you know, when, when a company a distribution company takes over your movie, they might give you a little bit of an advanced, if you're lucky, it give you a little bit of advance, like say, Okay, well, we'll give you two grand for the advance, and then you'll never see another dime ever again. And that's happened to me on on on films that I've done. And that's why we you know, the company goes out of business, and it's like, Hey, would have you know, what happened to those guys? Oh, then they changed the name of their company again, like, oh, well, we need to see statements, we need to see a producer statement now. Oh, you know, we can't do that for you. So all the money that you've seen is you know, the advance you know, and and it sucks for the filmmaker because, you know, at that point your movie has already been distributed, you know, you can get Yeah, sure you can get the rights back and try to repack redistributed and everything at that point. But, you know, it's it's kind of US goods at that point. You know what I'm saying? So, yeah, I mean, yeah, so when you're when you're going out of the gate, I mean, it's, it's just really be careful with the amount of money that you're you're committing to something and and I think you'll you'll you'll live a happier life if something if something doesn't work out the way it's supposed to when it comes to distribution. But coming going back to your your budget question you asked me how to how to what what some what some budget tricks are for for for somebody coming up? Definitely. Well, first of all is is if you're if your is to spend trying to spend as less money as you possibly can I mean, you really have to kind of be don't be annoying Don't be a moocher, you know, just but but it whatever, you have to sit down on a piece of paper and write down all the things that you your friends or family have available that you can use for free, then then what you do you sit down you say okay, well, I have a I have my parents house, I have a lake, there's some public lands that there they nobody cares, we shoot there, there's that old abandoned building that we could totally shoe that, you know, we have a boat, we have a car, you know, we have my, my mom's a teacher, and maybe I can shoot at the school or something like that. So you write all those things down on a piece of paper, of all the things that that you have for free. And it can be other things too, that you can put in the scene, like, Oh, Uncle Bob has a Lamborghini or a, you know, has a has an AK 47 Or so I don't know, whatever it is. You write all these things down. And then what you do is you look at all that stuff, you put it up on a board and you can look at all that stuff and say, What kind of movie could I make with all of these things? What kind of story Oh, maybe I already have a story when so if I already have a story, can I look at all those elements and say how can I incorporate all that into my story? Can my story take place at that house? At that at that on that boat in that car? Can I can I can I you know, can I rewrite it for that? And I think if you can do that and if you're willing to compromise whatever it is to to adjust your story to what you have available. that you can get for free, I think you'll save a lot, you'll save a ton of money. I mean, I was I do that pretty much for every film. But it's, it's, it's, it's a process that's kind of like, you know, Hey man, you know, let's not, let's not spend where we don't need to spend and one of the big one big expense on low budget films is the location, particularly if you're in LA, you know, when you get out of LA, you can pretty much get a lot a lot more for free. I mean, people are so much more. So they're just happy to work on a movie because it's exciting. And you know, you're not taking advantage or anything like that, you know, these people are I believe I shot in like Fresno, and it was like a you couldn't you couldn't tell these but you had to push people away like, hey, no, I think we got more than we need, you know, thank you. They were just, I mean, they were coming out in the, in the hundreds to be extras. And and and it was it was actually overwhelming. I think a lot of times and but in LA and a whole different story. I mean, you're like, you know, you're shooting at a location people are people are being dicks, you know, people are, you know, turning their lawn mowers on. So you'll go over and tell them, you know, to turn it off, and then they'll they then they'll, they'll try to extort money out of you to do it, you know, I'm not going to turn it off unless you pay me and I was like, Okay, I've had people shoot BB guns at me before we were at a location and the ad went over and asked politely if we were shooting a scene in an alley and we didn't have you know, we didn't have a permit to be shooting there anyway, but the the one of the ad is asked them that, hey, would you guys mind just just for just for like, you know, five minutes, we just want you to grab this quick shot, so on so and they just like went totally like Psycho and they're just like, you know, Buck you and but we're not, I can do both. And they got on the roof. And they started shooting BB guns at the crew members. Nice. You know, I mean, tons of stuff like that, you know, I you know, extorting money out of out of us I've had, I've had that happen before I've had, you know, fire departments showing up and trying to threatening to shut us down unless the we paid immediately would pay him like, I forget, like some kind of some kind of fee to get the permit, but like right on the spot. So it's like, you know, that sort of thing. And no cops, neighbors showing up on and telling us that their generator was causing health problems and stuff, and they wanted money. And today, it's just, it's ridiculous. I guess I'm getting, too but um, so anyway, I guess what I'm going with that is that if you're shooting in LA, it's probably a little harder to get certain locations like that for free. And, but when you're, since most people are probably listening to your podcast, or outside of LA, I think you really need to utilize what you have. I mean, you know, the movie making worlds isn't isn't just in Los Angeles, you know, so if you're living in Kansas or Ohio or wherever it is, I mean, there's there's a lot of great locations with with amazing production value that you can get. So you should just just utilize all that stuff. And I think you'll save big in your, in your budget. I think that's one of the biggest money savers on a low budget film is is the availability of of stuff you already have.

Jason Buff 38:04
Now, on the other side of that, what are the things that you absolutely can't be cheap about?

Danny Draven 38:09
Oh, well, that goes without saying, there's one thing you don't want to be cheap about is the quality of your film. And what to add, first and foremost, the actors, don't be cheap with your actors, pay them good actors. And you will you will you will not be sorry. Pay for good, good, a good camera. I mean, you know, I mean, look within reason. I mean, not everybody can shoot on the backs. Not everybody can shoot on the red web, you know, but if you have I mean, but now, I mean, look, I mean, the film that Shaun Baker did, that they shot he shot on an iPhone five s with an anamorphic attachment, you know, using using a $9 at or an $8 app, you know, and it got a theatrical release, you know what I mean? I mean, there are other ways to do things, but um, you know, then you have the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera $3,000 Camera you know, you have the Alexa has a mini now, you know, the Alexa mini just came out looking at that this year and that at the NAB Show, and there are other other options, but don't be cheap with your camera. You know, don't don't Don't be cheap with your camera. Don't be cheap with your key crew members. And you know what I mean? But as your DP credibly important for the obviously for the look at your movie. Don't be cheap with lenses. Don't be cheap with the camera. Don't be cheap with lenses, something cheap as a DP Don't be cheap with production design. It put the money on the screen, you know, at all times. I think if you just go into it and say look, if I'm where I'm spending money in this budget, I need to make sure that this money is going up on the screen. So you know if I'm spending money for for silly stuff, you know, see if you can cut that stuff back.

Alex Ferrari 39:48
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Danny Draven 39:58
And redistribute that money into something that the audience is actually going to see on the screen. And that can be anything that I just list I just mentioned, you know, and more, you know, more so, yeah, I mean, it don't, you know, don't don't be cheap on that stuff, it will show it definitely will show and post to don't be oh my god, don't don't be cheap on your post and don't say I'm going to fix them post either because as an owner of a post company for 10 years, it's gonna cost you a hell of a lot more money to fix it in post than it would have been to get it right the first time. And a lot of that has to do with sound. Usually, it's probably the biggest problems that I have coming into my post company, people that just hired the worst sound people known to man. And it's just like a disaster. Usually, so. Yeah, so don't be cheap.

Jason Buff 40:49
Right! Well, that's one of the big things that I think a lot of people don't understand. And I always try to, like kick that over the head, you know, as much as possible in terms of sound, people will be like, oh, yeah, we've got, you know, this amazing 4k camera and whatever. And it's like, it's like, yeah, that doesn't really matter at all. You know, if you don't have good sound, if you don't have a good DP work in the camera, if you don't have all the things, you know what I mean? So I always try to make sure that people understand, you know, and I've heard from some people that like, the sound guy and the catering guy are sometimes the most important guy on the set, you know?

Danny Draven 41:23
Yeah, don't get Don't Don't be cheap with your food, too. I mean, you really don't I mean, you really got to get you know, these people are coming there and working hard and you got to take care of your as a producer, you got to take care of your people. Definitely take it do not the whole like okay, hamburgers for everybody. And there's coke in the thing. That's not a that's not a proper diet for most people, you know what I mean? You have to, you know, spend the money into feeding, feeding people and, and giving people options and to what to eat on set. You know, don't don't take everybody out to McDonald's. That's not catering. You know? That's, that's actually quite punishment. Punishment, you know, but, but I was gonna say something else, too, as you're tracking on something there and I had it in my head, but then I went off on some stupid McDonald's rant. So while you were talking about, well, sound No. Sound sound kidding. But but the DP two, I mean, look, I mean, here's the, here's one of the biggest things I see happening to a lot of times is that these cameras have become so amazing, and so cheap, that oftentimes filmmakers will just say, man, you know, why do I need to dp for just shooting myself, you know, just just point and shoot, you know, we'll just use a zoom lens will point and shoot and I, it looks good to me, I turned the camera on the end of the cameras can can shooting in with a candle on in the room and actually still looks pretty decent. But that's not you know, that's not again, it's not love. That's not cinematography, that's not, you know, real filmmaking, you really want to get, you know, get somebody in there that's dedicated to that department. Right? You know, and not the direct because IVP didn't directly before. So it's, oh, God, it's crazy. But if you but you know, you really want to hire a DP that comes in and can really give you the look that you want and makes the right lens choices and, and, and give you something because it will absolutely show in your movie. When you're done. You can tell you'll look at a movie and be like, Oh, that movie is not bad. But you know, they must have shot it all the zoom lens or they just shot it with some cheap lens or you know that they just kept moving around. And then you see another film that could be the new child, the same camera, but you're like, Oh my God, this looks fantastic. When they do oh my god, they were using like they were they had this amazing set of prime lenses that they were using and a really good DP that actually knows how to light. And that's one of the things I learned from Mac Ahlberg. Mac was a guy that Mac just so those of you don't know Mac Wahlberg was. He was a DP that I worked with on two films, and he shot Reanimator, and house in Beverly Hills Cop three and all these big Hollywood movies, big, big horror movies. He's also worked for us to record in a lot. And anyway, Mac and I were we're good friends and he shot two movies, but I remember for me, and then he shot two movies. And we used to talk all the time about cinematography. And he goes all the way but he was a really older guy. He goes all the way back to Ingmar Bergman. He shot. He shot one of the I think one shot in the seventh seal in leathergoods movie and he was so proud about that. Of course, that's right, and to even be involved in that. Anyway, one of the things he would always I learned from him was he he always would light we went to his first film on digital I think was with me, I made mistake of I think it was with me. And he would like the digital. Like it was filmed. And it would look it would look so good. And he you know, and it wasn't one of those things where he just would flip on the camera and be like, well, we're seeing an image. So yeah, that's great. That'll work. So It was really cool to watch him and watch him work on how he just still lit the digital like it was film and gave it the right exposure and everything. And it just the stuff really looked fantastic. But I mean, you know, to get a guy like that especial, but now I mean, you know, you just got to really make sure that you, you get somebody on board who's gonna, he's going to do a really good cinematography job for you. Because I'm telling you, man, it shows so much. You know, when you when you don't have that, you know? And so yeah, spend the money on that.

Jason Buff 45:31
Now, who are the key when you start working? You know, we're still a little bit in pre production? Who are the people that you really are kind of like your, you know, who do you go to for, like, putting together the budget? And who are your key kind of players? And who do you need even, you know, talking about, you know, lower budget features, but who would be the people that you needed to kind of like to make up your team aside from the DEP for like people like the assistant director, production manager, or, you know, who's sure. Anyway? Yeah.

Danny Draven 46:04
No, I gotcha. Not totally. Gotcha. Okay. Well, one is, and that's one of the things this is another thing that you don't want to be cheap on, and is the the, the management of your crew, or the management of the I'm sorry, the management of your film, you know, upper upper management of your field, you do not want to take on all the responsibilities yourself, believe me, don't do that, you know, Delegate delegate as much as you possibly can afford, particularly when it comes to having having an experienced line producer, particularly when it comes to having an experienced UPM. Like in a production manager, particularly when it comes to, you know, having that I'd say, those two, you have those two, you're you're already you're already doing pretty good at that point. But you know, just, I think it's very important for you to just to install an upper management team, start, you know, starting with your line producers, your line producers really going to be your your, your your, your, your buddy,

Jason Buff 47:07
Can you can you describe those people that don't completely understand what what exactly the line producers role is on the film? Sure, sure. Well, a line producer, just 101

Danny Draven 47:17
Yeah, I mean, they're not, they're not really in a creative role on the film, they're more in the, in the role of, you know, a line producer is more like the guy who, the producer that really does all the work, the grip, the grip, he's the guy who makes sure everybody's showing up, make sure you know, things are, you know, people are getting hired people, you know, things are on, people are moving on schedule, sometimes they deal with the, they deal with the studio, if there's a studio, they, they, they're really the the, the that like the central producing element and the film. So when I'm producing a film, I won't produce a film without a freaking line producer, you know, and producing for me, it's more, it's more more, I want to be more of a more of a creative producer. So it's more like, you know, I can get I get the I can get the I get the the idea, the script, I work with the writers creatively develop the project, I usually get the money, the funding for it. And then once that happens first, one of the first things I do is bring it all at once we were ready to go into production, when the first things I do will bring on a line producer, and the line producer will take that they'll budget it, they'll break down this, they'll break down the script, oftentimes, they'll Bill Bill, they'll hand they'll do a schedule, oftentimes, although sometimes your ad is more involved in that later on. But often the the line producer does the initial budget and initial schedule, they'll deal with sag, they'll deal with all those other elements. So there it's important to get an experienced line producer on board because it'll really help things go especially on low budget stuff. And then you have you know, other upper management like your ad, you know, who's I mean, I've made plenty of movies without an ad because they'll usually the line producers like oh, we can't afford an ad so I'll be your ad and I'm like Right. But to have a dedicated ad is is a real godsend because they really do you know, they help they help you run they help you run the set, and they let allow for you to concentrate on being a director and just just directing and not having to worry about where my frickin actors Why do I have to go find these guys, you know, that's the job of your ad and they do to help you stay on schedule and tell people to be quiet when they need to be quiet and that sort of thing. So you know, those those those upper upper management team is super important to install and quality and get qualified people if you can afford it. The budget allows people who have experience in that level of moviemaking. It's always a good thing too, because they get low budget if they get low budget, they understand like hey, we, you know, we can't be spending you know, $20 on a refrigerator. I mean, I did a friend of mine

Alex Ferrari 50:00
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Danny Draven 50:09
A well known director, friend of mine, gave me a budget one time. And he's like, he's like, you know, you just made this movie for $35,000 in like, you know, this movie that I'm doing. It's like, it's not that much more complicated. The one they did that they just gave me a $350,000 budget. And he's like, can you you think you could look at this for me and see if you could, you know, shave off 100 grand or something like that. So I did it for him. I looked at it. And I was like, I was my eyes were bleeding. I couldn't believe the stuff that they were paying for in there. And I just went through it with him. I'm like, nope, nope, no, no, here's this look at me like, and I was like, no, no, no, no, I was like, Do you have somebody actually budgeted for you to have a to to go out and buy a $200 refrigerator for your production office? Is that what movies? Have you been this guy been working on? His low budget movie? Oh, $200 for refrigerator. I mean, just things like that. It was it was absolutely ridiculous. So I shaved off like 150 grand for him. He was really happy. But yeah, I mean, things like that. You just, it's like, Jewish. So So yes. I hope I answered your question there. But

Jason Buff 51:16
Yeah, so when you're when you start directing? The, how important is it that you can just like kind of be do you have kind of that laser focus on? Okay, we have to get this scene, then we're moving to that scene. And, you know, are you just like, visualizing where the cameras gonna go? Are you? Have you worked it out most of it before you get on the set? Or do you kind of do it while you're there?

Danny Draven 51:38
Well, I think on this on we, I've done it both ways. But honestly, on the films that I've done, they've, they've been done in such a hurry. That, you know, I mean, I got, you know, look really, really well, I shot in six days. I mean, and you know, we were doing 717 15 pages a day, at Linda Vista hospital, East LA running around this frickin giant hospital, the whole thing, but a 16 a six day movie. And, you know, I think when you're doing something that quickly, a lot of people, a lot of people, and they should they feel like people should be prepared. They want to come in prepare, like, hey, you know, I know every single shot that I'm doing, I'm gonna come in, and everybody's gonna be like, Wow, you're the most amazing prepared director I've ever met, blah, blah, blah. And then they get there. And they're like, and your life just comes up to you say, oh, yeah, the location or says we can't shoot on that floor. Today, there's another crew coming in the deal, we may have a bubble box, so you can't shoot there. And you have to shoot on another floor. And then and then immediately your shot list is gone. It's you just gotta crumbled up, throw it away. You're like, what? Any kind of fucking work here. So now we got to, we got to shoot on a completely different floor, a completely different look. And we have to roll with the punch. So now all that prep you did doesn't matter. So I mean, like really evil like I, you know, I mean, obviously, a lot of the films but particularly really, like I remember because I just was like, just show up and like, okay, what are we doing? It's like, okay, here's the site, and I would, I literally would look at the schedule and just say, Okay, we're shooting, I was shooting that we're shooting that, okay, great. And then I would go, we go in there, I grab the actors, and we I'd read over the scene. And, and I would just start cutting the scene together in my head, like, okay, you know what I mean? I have the experience as an editor. So I go in, and I already know what it's going to look like. So I'm like, Okay, well, you come around the corner and the cameras here to the shoot it this way, and then boom, we're done. So for me, it's very fast. And to the point and we don't waste footage, we don't I don't over cover, I don't shoot too many takes, I know when I got something when I don't cut some but but that comes from a lot of experience with editing. So, you know, I mean, I maybe I can do that kind of stuff, I'm sure other people can do that kind of stuff. But if you're maybe if it's your first project, it's always a good idea to be prepared, you know, I mean, because even if you do the prep work, and you come in with a plan, most of the time you can execute it but not all the time. You can a lot of times you can't shoot that direction or the sun's in the wrong we can't shoot that direction how you planted it, you know, so you have to shoot the other way well, that kind of changes your your blocking plan or your your shot plan, you know, and you just have to be able to roll with it you know, and if you can do that then I think you know you're you're on your way to directing directing a lot you know, because it certainly doesn't always turn out the way you had it on paper.

Jason Buff 54:23
So So what is the key talking specifically Now since this is going to be for our October sky marathon? I don't know what it's gonna be called Scarah THON what what is the key to you know, horror is very different than every other genre you know, because you have to really affect the audience like you have to scare the pants off of them you know, and then if you're successful horror movie you have, you know, maybe not jumpscares but you have to scare people what what do you think are kind of the key ingredients for creating a successful horror film and making people feel like they got what They wanted to out of it, you know, scaring them or whatever?

Danny Draven 55:03
Well, yeah, great, no, great question. I think that, um, I think it comes down to having, you know, having one having characters that you really care about that that are, are compelling, you know, that people that you want to watch people that you're going to, you're going to actually give a shit if they're coming up against a monster or a threat of some kind. You see, so that definitely, number one is your story and your characters, but as far as like, you know, the monsters and what things like that, I mean, yeah, I mean, I mean, look, I mean, monsters like, like, monster but somebody like, like, a leather face. Or, or, or Jason Freddy. I mean, those guys have been around for a long time for a reason. You know, they were compelling. Monster more compelling, more horror movie villains. I mean, that's why they've lasted this long. And I think if you can come up with a monster or a disease or whatever it may be, you know that that that is compelling enough to do a lot of sequels hopefully that they should go with it, you know? But you know, you're really I know it's hard now though, to it is hard, you know, because there's things how everything's seems like everything's been done, but that doesn't that doesn't mean that doesn't mean that you can't do and it certainly doesn't mean you can't go out and make your own slasher. Just because there's been a million flashers made. You just need to go out and make a slasher. That is your own point of view. And is that your own interpretation of what you think a slasher movie should be like? And hopefully that translates into your vision and to your, your aesthetic and your brand and your, your unique style of moviemaking. So I think if you look at it from that point of view, you can't really you know, you can you can you might be able to get inspired and say hey, you know, well, you know, I always wanted to make a slasher on a submarine around just like a slasher in a treehouse or whatever the hell it may be, you know, and I have a unique way that I think we're just going to work for doing it. And, and that's what you should do, you know, and so there really, I mean, there really isn't, I mean, you can you can study, you can study horror movies all you want and you should you absolutely should, particularly the classics, particularly, as well, so many great movies that have been made in the 80s in the 80s in the 70s certainly certainly today too, but I think more so in the in the in the earlier years, you know, but

Jason Buff 57:38
You haven't any specific films that like stick out that kind of really affected you?

Danny Draven 57:43
Oh, yeah, I mean, look when I when I made Stuart Gordon was a big influence for me because he was my kind of my directing mentor really, we made a movie together many years ago. And $35,000 movie called deathbeds to record presents deathbed, we were going to do a whole series of these things to record presents this and that and then hold the boat the first one we made together and he was the executive producer and his name was above the title and the whole deal. And

Jason Buff 58:10
I just watched a bunch of the outtakes from that because it's on YouTube. Behind the scenes footage of you guys shooting that oh, yeah, that's really kind of cool.

Danny Draven 58:18
Yeah, that was a fun one. It was it was a it was fun. But I mean, I learned so much on that film. I mean, it was it was so I mean, we again it was we shot it for 25 grand and it was posted for 10 and we shot it this is pre 24 P So like this is before like the cameras were like they are now this this is when we would shoot on digital video we shoot on DV cam and we would film look it through through After Effects plug in or the company in Burbank called film where they would actually take take it and remove the telephony and try to make it look more like a shot on film. And that's why we were doing a lot of stuff in the in the early 2000s Before the 24 P cameras came out. So anyway, we made this film and and I remember before we made the film, Stewart I went to Western Stewart went over to Stewart's house with Mack Wahlberg or dp and, and we he's like, Hey, this watch this watch some horror movie. So. So we watched one of my favorite classic horror films, which is called the innocence. And that's a really great one for you to watch. And then we

Jason Buff 59:18
I haven't seen that and what is what is that when that?

Danny Draven 59:21
That is? What's the lady's name. That is it's a black and white film. It's got my brag. My brain just completely went blank. Debreu Deb, I think it's Deborah.

Jason Buff 59:32
Oh, yeah, cuz she was the one who was in poltergeist. Oh, yeah. But just okay. I remember. Yeah, that was really good. It's amazing. It's a fantastic. It's like a ghost movie. Yeah, that was amazing. I remember. I saw that last year.

Danny Draven 59:46
Yeah, it's a classic man. Just just I mean, that's that. You can't go innocence. Yeah, okay. And the other film that that I think is very well certainly was very powerful and very, that pretty much Stuart Gordon says it was his horror film school. Rosemary's Baby.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:02
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Danny Draven 1:00:11
And roseworth Baby, the original Rosemary's Baby, I don't know people made a TV series or something, who knows, but you ever

Jason Buff 1:00:17
To pretend there's not another one

Danny Draven 1:00:19
Rollerblades use. Rosemary's Baby was absolutely. I know for Stuart certainly was the was his film school for, and I watched it with him when we watched it together. And he was pointing out things. And I was like that, you know, I never really thought about it like that. Yeah, see what you're saying. So we watched it together and really took it apart. And it was like, it was so cool. Because, you know, here I am sitting with frickin Stuart Gordon, Park, Rosemary's Baby, and it was amazing. So I think, you know, the Rosemary's Baby and the innocence. I mean, there's there's a lot of them. But I think those two in particular, really, certainly stood out. As classics because we were we were specifically looking at sort of more of that style of filmmaking, sort of like ghost stories, and,

Jason Buff 1:01:07
But you can learn so much about directing and screenwriting from Rosemary's Baby, just by itself. You know, because you watch it, you can watch it five or six times and the second time you watch, you've seen the whole thing, and you watch it again. And you see what's kind of going on, like, so much of that movie takes place, away from the camera, you know what I mean? So it's like, you're, you're learning all these things from, you know, the, the neighbors and everything, you know, all these things that are going on, and you're kind of seeing everything through the point of view of a woman who, you know, seems like she's kind of losing her mind. But it's actually you know, it's actually something's actually happening to her, but it's just brilliant that and you know, I always like that and Chinatown. Yeah, Atlantis, because to two movies back to back that were just incredible. Those are like filmmaking schools on there.

Danny Draven 1:01:54
Absolutely. Man. Polanski. I mean, he's a, he's a, he's a master filmmaker. There's no, no, no question about that. I mean, look, in The Shining to the shining is a great example. There's a really good book, actually, I've been reading. It's called. It's called The Shining studies in the horror film by Daniel Olsen, edited by Daniel Wilson. And it's just this big old frickin book about the making of The Shining. And it's just really, really, really interesting if you're interested. So there's also one on the exorcist two studies in the horror film series. That's really good. I mean, of course, The Exorcist, there's no question that that's one of probably one of the best poor films ever made. But I mean, the Shining The Shining, and that one on one film that I actually was talking about last night, was a film called The entity with Barbara Hershey is one of the films that scared of freaking shit out of me. It was really, really, really scary. And the changeling is an amazing not just an Angelina Jolie thing. The Changeling The old the classic one with George. George, God. The guy who played Patton for God's sakes, Georgie Scott, George, anyway. Anyway, so yeah, but he's in this film called the changeling Oh, man, it's such a great, such a great ghost story. Just classy and just authentic beauty. Just AWESOME film. Really amazing, though. But me, you know, I mean, I could go on we could go on all day about that. That's a whole nother podcast, I think. But um, the this the but this, um, this is so important to, to do is to really look at these films and really study these classics. And certainly, Hitchcock, if you ch COC is probably one of the best film schools that you could ever have is to just watch Hitchcock and study Hitchcock. I mean, he's just it's just goes without goes without saying that. That's a good one, too. So, yeah, so

Jason Buff 1:03:46
Let me let's let's move slowly, just so I mean, I know you don't have a whole lot of time. No,

Danny Draven 1:03:51
just whatever. I'm here for you. So just let me just keep okay.

Jason Buff 1:03:55
We'll be here for another four hours. I haven't happened. No big deal. Just kidding. So moving into, well, let me ask you something about just the actual creating of creatures do you go to just like a creature workshop? How is the creatures designed? How does that whole process work? And who owns it at the end of the day? Say for example, you create, you know, you've got a screenplay you've read, you've got this character you have, you know, artists working on it or whatever. Do you own that creature after they created this? Did the company that make it own those rights? You know, how does that all work?

Danny Draven 1:04:35
Well, yeah, it's gonna be whoever owns the whoever owns the film. I mean, because you're you're creating you're creating a likeness of a character so I mean, it you know, you're creating say it's a some kind of weird pumpkin creatures, pumpkin head, but I mean, some kind of, yeah, whoever designs that I mean, if you if it's in the film, I mean, you whoever owns the rights to film is going to own that. Got likeness of that creature? I mean, of course, it depends on how the legal paperwork was all worked out to I mean, maybe they could have Weisen the image of it, they didn't necessarily own it, you know what I mean? But more than the chances are that whoever's whoever made the film with which there's a made the film are the ones that actually own it and can license it out and make T shirts and you know, masks and all that thing, that sort of thing. Because I've actually had masks made from my film Dark Walker, they made two masks out of it to Halloween masks, dark Walker one and dark Walker two, of course, there was never a dark Walker too. But they made a mask called Dark Walker too. And you can look it up actually, if you look it up on it's, it's a it's a fantastic mask. Research, it looks way better than the one in the movie. And it's like, it's like, man, that should have been the creature in the film what happened?

Jason Buff 1:05:55
But I mean, maybe you can just buy one and make part two real quick. But

Danny Draven 1:05:57
You know, what's funny, is, I was in, I traveled to, I think it was in Indonesia. And I had a I found I found, you know, I'm always interested in I'm very interested in foreign horror, I love for horror films, particularly Asian heart. But I found this film and and I picked it up off the shelf. And it was some Indonesian horror movie. And I was looking, I was like, oh, it's some kind of weird ghost movie thing. So I flipped over to the back. And I was like, What the fuck, they had bought the mask for my movie Dark Walker, and used it in the movie, as if it was if this that was the creature in their movie. And then on the back cover, there's a picture of the mask, the guy wearing the mask, and you know, they just add a little blood on it or something to make it look a little different, had a different suit. And I was like, I was like, Well, what the hell? Yeah, so anyway, I thought, I mean, I didn't care. I thought it was funny, you know, to me, I don't whatever, you know, go do it. They want to do that. It's flattering. I know. But I just thought it was hilarious. I was looking at this movie, like, what? So yeah, I mean, it happens. But in that case, it's certainly in that particular case, certainly, we own the the likeness of the mask that needed it. So but I think as far as as far as how it gets created, that is usually a conversation with the director that the writer can write it one way, but the director might have a different vision of how it looks. So usually, the director talks with the either the makeup artist, and says, Hey, I want it to look a little a little like this, and this and this, and then the makeup artists will usually do a sometimes they'll do a draw, they could do a drawing for you, sometimes you could have an artist do a drawing, and then you just give it to the makeup artists I want you to I want you to do a model this, I've done I've done it both ways. Sometimes the makeup or the especially back Scarab artists would would, would do a mock up for you, you know, and just say you come in and they do they do a, you know, a sculpture of it. And then you can do you know, do some adjustments there. And then once you're satisfied with it, then they they mold it, and then they're they they make the prosthetics that they need to make and you're done. You know, and and you have you have your your new character. So that's kind of really the process with it. It's it's kind of a collab, so definitely a collaborative process. I mean, if you have something super specific in mind, it's a good idea to hire a, an artist to draw it for you to do even if it's just a simple pencil drawing to somebody that draw what you have in mind and hand that to somebody who can execute it as a as a prosthetic or, or whatever, you know, particular effect you're doing. So that's kind of how that that whole thing works. Yeah.

Jason Buff 1:08:35
Now would you say that's a lot more effective? The I mean, not effective, but a lot more economic if you're trying to do a creature, I mean, is there any way you can do CGI or something like that? And these low budget movies?

Danny Draven 1:08:50
Oh, yeah, no, totally. I've done it several times to fix bad makeup. What I've learned I've did it on Ghost month I did it on neural evil, what I just call I call it digital makeup. And what it is is you go you know, I had a situation where, you know, we did some makeup test and I thought it was gonna look better than it did. And then we got to set and then the guy came out. And I was like, What the fuck did they mean it just looks it looks so bad. I mean, it happens a lot on low budget movies happens to me seems seems like a lot and my earlier movies, it was like, a lot of times it would be the first time that I had actually even seen the makeup would be when I'm on set. We only would hire somebody then we just didn't have the money in the budget and the time and it would have just be they would come out and say here's the vampire and I'm like okay, what Halloween store did we go to right? So so I would spend all this energy trying to figure out how I'm going to cover this. How I'm going to not show this person because it looks so ridiculous. So a lot of times there'll be in shadow or you don't stay on on too long and it was just like, you know always like that, but I remember one film it was like

Alex Ferrari 1:09:59
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Danny Draven 1:10:08
The guy came out. And it was like, it was like what? You know, he looks like he looks like powder, you know, the guy from the power, Victor. So you just see this the terrible and it was like it didn't look anything like mine. So I was like, Okay, well well let's change that talk to the DP, I was like, Well, you know, we got I got to shoot this, because there's no, there's no, we're in the middle of the desert, there's nothing else we can do. So we, you know, I talked to him about changing the lighting up and changing the way we're going to shoot it and how I'm going to shoot it and that sort of thing. And, and, you know, they helped. And then when I got it into post, because that's kind of one of my things specialties is I gave it to a friend and I said, Hey, you know, let's do some digital makeup on this guy because he looks ridiculous. So I had his face morph into like a skeleton or, and you know, and I had the other girl's face morph into this weird, like, core PC looking thing, and, and so on and so forth. And it worked great. And after that I was happy because I was like, Oh, good, because it looks a little more supernatural now because their face is actually morphing from some some one one state to another state. So it looked a little bit. It was funner. To to use. But But yeah, I mean, that's happened to me several times I did it on real evil to some stuff where the it wasn't that the makeup was necessarily, it wasn't that the main idea wasn't happy with the makeup on that when it was more that I thought it could be scarier. So we added additional makeup on to it to make it even scarier. So, so yeah, that's, that definitely, definitely happens. If you can roll roll with the roll with the punches with what you got to work with. But sometimes you can fix that stuff like that in post if you have the, the know how,

Jason Buff 1:11:41
Right! You believe in the idea that it's better not to see the monster, you know that it's more scary. You know, I'm a huge fan of jaws. It's one of my favorite movies. I'm always like, you know, and you know, Spielberg's big influence was a movie called cat eyes. And so he, he was like, Well, I don't know how to tell the story of the shark is terrible. So we gotta find a way to shoot this movie without showing the shark. So you know, he was talking about how this movie cat eyes you never ever see. The, the the creature, the monster, the cat or whatever? Yeah. So I would think that's another way to kind of like, you know, and even if you have a cool character to kind of keep it in the dark, you know, until maybe towards the end where you do like a reveal or something like that. Yeah, no, absolutely.

Danny Draven 1:12:27
I think I think I'm a firm believer in that. Absolutely. And it's a closed door is is way scarier than then to not know what's behind that door, or what's in that darkness. But you know, something is there is such a great technique, a horror movie making technique that, you know, that the mind of the, the audience just goes, goes crazy, you know, and, you know, and I think that's, it's a great that those are the kinds of films that I prefer to make, you know, I'm totally like more of a classical or guy, like, I like to make movies like a Rosemary's Baby, or, you know, or the well, the ones I mentioned before, you know, those are the films I like to make. But, you know, when you're making something for hire, or for as a producer for hire director for hire, oftentimes, you don't really have those options, a lot of times, they you know, the companies or the distributors, they want to see a lot more because it makes a great trailer, you know, or it makes a great piece of art, you know, or that sort of thing, you know, which, of course, is obviously completely business related, not artistic related. But, but, you know, I mean, you know, it's entertainment businesses like that, it's the combination of, of art and commerce, you know, and, and you it's just finding a way to still get your vision on the screen, but understanding that you have to walk down a wavy, you know, a sort of a way, the way of trying to get, get the commerce out of it, but still trying to get the art out of it at the same time, you know, and being able to compromise and still get get a good movie made at the same time. You know, it's difficult to do, no doubt. I mean, so,

Jason Buff 1:14:09
Yeah, a lot of the people that I've talked to who are, you know, producers that a lot of them are like, you know, we need to package it in such a way that people are going to want to watch it in the first place. Yeah, but sometimes you have to hide a good movie within a movie that's more commercial, you know? Yeah. So it's like, I want to watch this, you gotta get that initial click, and then it's like, oh, this is actually a good movie. You know, Ken jaws to me is always the perfect example of that. It's like the perfect, you know, popcorn movie, but inside of it, it's an amazing movie I've seen and I mean,

Danny Draven 1:14:36
Totally, man. I mean, absolutely. And that's, that's a great way to look at it. But I think I think I mean, JAWS, of course, was made, you know, 30 whatever year 40 years, I think now right 40 years ago, but and that was a that was such a great time to be making movies back then. You know, but I think now I mean, with the distribution being changed so much. What's happening? I'm sort of look I mean, just happen to on a movie. I just did. So you know, I mean, they changed the artwork and the campaign and everything. But a lot of it has to do with, when it comes, especially with digital distribution, it has to it comes down to like, you only get a moment for somebody to be browsing through their Netflix skewered or browsing through their Hulu queue to stop and say, Hey, that looks kind of cool. You know, the title is good. If it's usually higher up on the higher up on the list, sometimes if it's alphabetical, sometimes it's good to have like, something that starts with an A, or A B, or a C, or a D, you know, versus something that starts with a Z, you know, kind of thing, there's little, little things like that, that are can be taken to consideration. But certainly artwork and trailer are, you know, this is so key to getting people to click on it, you know, to watch it. I mean, and, and in the case of a company, like say who you the filmmaker gets paid per click. So every time somebody clicks on that, they get X amount, you know, so it's important to get people to, to watch it. And if you if that means, you know, putting together an amazing piece of art and amazing trailer, then that's what you got to do, you know, so but but the movie still has to stand on its own to after you get you can get people to click on it, but you can't necessarily get them to watch it. So you still gotta make a good movie. But you can have a good trailer a good movie good art, you know, you're you're you're you're on your way, you know?

Jason Buff 1:16:26
Yeah. It just seems like nowadays, you you know, especially with Netflix, if you go into the horror section. It's like they put all this money into the graphic design of the poster, and then you start watching it. And it's like, oh, yeah, this is terrible. Yeah, it's like, yeah, they just kind of made it. I mean, it must have been bought as part of like, a larger package or something, you know, but the movie just completely there's nothing to it. It's badly shot that you know. So you know, you we've gotten into this world, I think where it's almost kind of like social media, people are trying to figure out how to get more stars on things people are trying to just like, get things shared around. But you know, the quality a lot of times isn't there. You know, you're

Danny Draven 1:17:06
Sure I probably made one of the two of those that you click that mean, no, you're absolutely right. I mean, you'll click I mean, look, I click on this stuff. I'm like, What the fuck, you know, it just That's why I just like to watch classics, my main, but I mean, yeah, yeah, totally. It's in their broadest packages. They're bought as other deals or licensing deals with, got, who knows? You know, there's Vudu, and Hulu and Netflix, and all these other distributors that say Amazon Prime all that stuff? Yeah, so

Jason Buff 1:17:39
One of the things that I try to do kind of with, you know, the podcast is, you know, trying trying to find that kind of line between, okay, there's people, I talk to a lot of people who are just doing purely, you know, art films that are like, you know, stories of tragedy and things that have, you know, I mean, and they're probably going to be really good movie, sure, but they're never going to be able to sell them, right. Yeah, it's never gonna go anywhere. So I'm always kind of like, okay, well, there's got it, you know, like, the stuff that I write is more, you know, in the horror, you know, monster movie kind of thing. But inside of the movie, there's like, stories, characters, and there's like, an actual, you know, hopefully, you know, an actual good movie inside of that, you know, so I always try to tell people, you know, try to do something, I mean, it's good to make a movie about, you know, you growing up in a small town, and this and that, and, but, you know, you have to connect somehow, if you can connect with your own audience, you know, good, good for, you know, go ahead and do that. And that's great. But, you know, you do have to have something that, you know, think about Netflix or iTunes, what are people going to click on?

Danny Draven 1:18:45
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, it's art and commerce. Because, I mean, so many people I know, certainly happens a lot with me, when when people find out I'm a producer and director, whatever, that's, and especially if you're not in the business to all the all the sudden, they're like, whoa, go on a story for you. And they start telling me their life story about this and that, and, and, you know, and for them, yeah, it's, it's their own story, but they what they don't understand is, everybody's got a story, you know, but not, you know, not not every story makes a good movie. You know, so, you know, I mean, there's plenty of stories out there, like, yeah, the time that my, my boyfriend did this, wouldn't that make it a great movie? And you're just kind of like, well, not really. I mean, it's deeper than that. I mean, it's a lot deeper than that. And a lot of that has to do, I mean, it's going to it's going to do with the, the certainly the the the premise of it is has to be compelling. And the characters have to be compelling. The story they're telling has to be compelling the writing aspect. I mean, before you even get to all this stuff that we're talking about.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:51
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Danny Draven 1:20:00
I mean, we just you need to rewind and go back to the to your to your, your premise your concept. And then and then if you have a great premise and a great concept, then you you work up a treatment, you work up the treatment, you work out some bugs, you work up the script, you know, then he then you got more time to work on that script, you keep working, you keep chiseling that down to, to the way it needs to be. And if you know kind of what budget level you're going to shoot it on, and you need to limit the locations and limit the amount of people that are in the, in the scenes. And, and then when you once you get that all nice and polished up. Give it to a few people that that don't read scripts for a living and see what they think. And then and then do one more pass on it, you know, and then and then at some point around there, then maybe it's time to start, you know, getting the money to do it and put it in to actually Greenlight it and put it into and put it into production. But I think a lot of people don't spend enough time on the script. So I'm certainly guilty of that. I'm certainly guilty of films that I've made that were just like, yeah, you're just like the scripts not ready. Oh, well, we're shooting next week. Oh, you know, and you try to roll with it, like, oh, maybe there's something I can do to make it better. And you know, and you're like, No, not really. Because if it's not on the page to begin with, it's not only so much you can do with it, you know, so yeah, it's you're trying to you don't want to go into production with something that's, that's not ready. But yeah, I mean, it's, it's such an important it's actually one chat one section of this book that I wasn't able to because it's a whole different book. I mean, they can't I can't write like 25 pages about about screenwriting and storytelling and everything. So I just there was kind of an overview in my book about getting started and how to, you know, combine monsters, you know, stuff to inspire, to get it going. And then the rest is about actually making the film production and distribution and everything but screw the screenwriting aspect of it. It's a whole other book in itself. But if you're you know, if you're starting filmmaker and you're really want to get some really good books on on screenwriting, there's there's so many out there certainly story by Robert McKee is probably one of the best ones. There's an endless amount of a medic been written? I wouldn't say all of them are good, but I would say there's some there's certainly some that have been written on on specifically on horror. I think the one guy wrote one on that genre filmmaking can't remember the name of the author, but but just yeah, just take a look at what's out there. And you'll you'll see, but one of the what I find that's, that's even better than that. It means it's great to do to read it. And you know, if you if you understand it, great. If not, you know that, you know, read read more, but one of the best things to do is to actually read screenplays to get horror screenplays. If that's the genre of your choice. Certainly there are a lot of them available out there, excuse me, on the online is to, you know, to get them and to read them and to study and look at the formatting look at the way that that that it's that it's written and and really, really study the screen the screenplay page. I mean, I'm, I'm a writer myself. So I have an extensive collection of, of screenplays, I mean, I have a whole show, I mean, just just like literally like 1000 screenplays that are on my shelf, and and, you know, and I just go over when I want to and say I'm going to read the script for you turn or I'm going to read the script for knocked up or whatever it is, I mean, there's our horror films, but I mean, I have I have the script for Hellraiser. And, you know, and I have the script for House on Haunted Hill with script notes, you know, that's right. And, and, you know, that's, that's really, I think one of the most powerful ways to learn how to how to how to how to write is to read great, other writers that are really great. And study them, you know,

Jason Buff 1:23:47
Rright. I think it's kind of like through osmosis. In a way I remember, I used to read the alien screenplay all the time, you know, and that's great. And it was just like, I would read it over and over and over again. And then when I would go back and actually watch the film, I would remember kind of how it looked, you know, on this on the page and how it kind of came to life and you really realize how kind of succinct it has to all be, you know, screenplays have to be completely just tight. That can't be one, you know, moment. And that doesn't have a reason, you know, and if you read those screenplays, you know, especially the, you know, the classics or even just good movies. You know, I think you got you kind of just see, you know, you don't have it's not like a book where you have a lot of pages that you know, probably could be left out. Yeah. But um, let me ask you one more thing about that because a lot of screenwriters listen to this. Do the companies where you've worked for the production houses? Do they regularly? I mean, where are they getting their writers and screenplays from? I mean, do you find that they're mostly people that are in town or do they ever like just find people outside of town submit screenplays and stuff like that?

Danny Draven 1:24:56
Oh, yeah, sure, I'd be happy to answer. Before I do. I wanted to ask to your your aliens comment on the screenplay. There's there's actually a really cool book if you haven't checked it out. It's called Dan O'Bannon wrote it. It's Dan O'Bannon guide to screenplay structure.

Jason Buff 1:25:11
Oh really? I don't think I've ever seen

Danny Draven 1:25:12
Yeah, he actually wrote a book on on his sort of methodology to how he's how he he he writes particularly alien and he has a very it's an interesting read. He's a very unorthodox way of doing it. But I think I think it for screenwriters that are reading this and certainly for me as a screenwriter, myself, I found I found it really, really insightful to see how somebody like Dan O'Bannon, who of course, wrote aliens, alien it works at night of living dead air Redux, Archie's Nylund dead returning the living dead, he wrote return the living dead to of course. And it's really it's a cool, it's a cool, it's a cool read. You should check it out. They didn't do it. But I'm certainly I think most filmmakers would agree that but one of the best ways to learn how to make movies is certainly to one watch movies, but watch him not watch him. Just to watch him once a once just to watch him but watch it twice to study it, you know, and to really break it apart. And to to to read screenplays. I'm always amazed how many people I meet that that I asked him like, like, what do you have a screenplay? Like we would go? Oh, you want to be a screenwriter and you don't have any screenplays in your house? You don't need screenplay? No, it's just my own, you know? Like, okay, you know, so are you going to be are you going to make your own music, but only listen to your own music? You know, it doesn't make any sense. You have, you know, you have to, you know, if you if you're a screenwriter and you don't have like, either a folder on your computer with a bunch of PDFs, screenplays that you you bought, you know, to read and study or actually have a lot of screenplays in your own personal library, or if you don't even have a personal library and you want and you're a writer or screenwriter, you know, it's like, you know, yeah, kind of might be kind of a good idea to do something like that. I mean, new market presses is probably one of the most well known publishers that publish screenplays, and I would highly recommend checking out that particular publishing company, they publish a lot of that stuff, but there's a lot of that out there that you should, that you should, should get out and study. So anyway, with that said, it's a transition just into the screenwriting question. And I've hired plenty of writers. And my as a producer, as certainly, I hired them for a number of reasons. But usually, sometimes it's because I'm, I just don't have the time to write it myself. Because as a writer, myself, usually I want to write it myself. But I'm kind of like, Oh, God, I just don't have the time. And I need to spend the time on the producing and getting money to even make the thing and that sort of thing. So oftentimes, I'll have I'll have, I'll hire a screenwriter. And it's usually it just depends, you know what it is, but usually on the low budget level things, screen scripts are written as work for hire, which means that the writer actually doesn't own it, you're writing it for me as a job. So you know, you you're getting paid X amount, you know, it could be, it could be it's ridiculously embarrassingly cheap is $1,500 to $4,000 or $5,000, or $10,000. You know, depending on what the budget is usually, usually a writer gets a screenwriter gets somewhere around like 2% of the budget for what for their script. Yeah, I'm just saying in general, is just throwing that around. So 2%. So if you're making $100,000 movie, the writer might may have got two grand may have got for grant, depending on you know, how generous the producer is, me particularly I'm kind of generous, because I'm a writer myself, and I know how hard is to do that, to write anything, and then to have to turn it over, you know, but sometimes you have to do that in order to get get it made. If you're especially if you're an unproduced writer. And sometimes that's the best way to, to get started. I mean, you know, if, if you give me a script, and you have no credits at all, and I'm like, Well, hey, I can make this movie, we're gonna make it for 100 grand, but I can get it made. Yeah, you're gonna get paid a little bit. But you know, the, the production company takes it over, they pay you they own the script for that, but we actually make the film and then that helps you get another gig after, you know, that sort of thing. All right. But, but you know, it just depends, you know, I mean, with the low budget stuff, you know, usually Yeah, it's usually kind of a standard case where it's 2% of the budget or, or, and usually the writer, it's a work for hire kind of situation, you know, and I've hired plenty of different writers of all different kinds of writers and a lot of times they use alias sometimes we'll use aliases, for what we're there for all kinds of reasons. Other times they're, they who knows you know what it is, but and you they usually have a very short amount of time to write it. So usually I tend to hire writers that can write quickly.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:56
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Danny Draven 1:30:05
But with quality, you know. So like, for instance, so I just I hired a writer not too long ago, and I gave him the I gave him a week to work up a treatment. And then we worked out notes on the treatment I think he had, he gave him for three or four weeks to write the first draft. So I think he did three, I think he did three. But I've had people do it, too, you know, and then, you know, and then we would, we would certainly do and do several other drafts after that. But the first draft, you know, because once you work out the initial story and the treatment and stuff, the drafting part of it can come a little quicker but and that's kind of how that that process works, at least with with filled with some of the lower budget stuff at the studio level. It's a whole different ballgame, a whole different, it just ignore everything I say, because it's a whole, you're dealing with, like executives, and you're, you're you're dealing with a whole different group of people. So I'm speaking to you just as an independent filmmaker that has hired people to write films that have been made in the under 100, under $200,000 range and what a typical scenario may be like, so that's, that's what I'm telling you hear. So it's not. So if you're screenwriter, you're like, Oh, well, I can't get up for two grand for the rest of my life be broke, and my Oh, my kid's going to eat that sort of thing. Now, it's not really that's not the case. But if you're looking to get something that you have, that's already, you know, that you think could be good for a low budget situation. Yeah. I mean, yeah, you can do something like that. So. But yeah, I mean, I've had people I get people submitting all the time for scripts. Oftentimes, they're just ridiculously too complicated, or there's just way too many locations and way too many characters to, to execute, you know, it's usually the case. But you know, sometimes people come in with stuff that's just really well, well written, well executed. And it's simple, you know, and those are the ones that I tend to, to like, as far as making on on a on a lower budgeted level. So, yeah, but But you know, if you have something that you're as a writer, though, if you have something that you're you worked on for, like 12 years, and it's like your baby, don't sell it to some producer for two grand, you know what I mean? I mean, I'll be the first one to tell you, I mean, I would, if you gave it to me, and I'm like, Man, this is amazing. And it was like, usually, the guy's like, Dude, I can't give you two grand for this. No, no, I just but I mean, you know, look, I mean, just just, you have something that's like really, your, your, your baby, I mean, it all. Hang on to it. And don't just don't just let let it go for pennies unless you really unless you're part of the project. So oftentimes, I've made deals with writers to where oftentimes they're they they were producers, so they wrote, The deal was that they, they're involved in a percentage of the any profits, if any, usually there's not because movies barely make money. And, and, but they're there, they're more involved in the financial pie if there is a pie, but often, if somebody's always eaten the pie, and there is no pie in there. Oftentimes, there's no crumbs, either from the pie. Right? So you know, but But you know, it's sometimes you can make make arrangements like that sometimes it's 2% plus a percentage on the back end.

Jason Buff 1:33:14
And you think it's a good way for people that are just like trying to get their start and build up some credits can

Danny Draven 1:33:19
I think it's a great way to start? Yeah, I mean, I think it's better if you're, if you're the writer and director because I think like when you if you're just the writer, and you give it to another director, they're gonna have you're gonna remember this is an interpretive art form here we're talking about so so it starts with you starts with the it starts with the idea it starts with the writers starts with nothing but it ends it ends in the editing room with some guy like me that's going well what the hell is all this dialogue? Let's cut this out, you know, it ends with the editor, it ends with the director at the end cut your script down. So

Jason Buff 1:33:53
Let's get rid of this whole Indianapolis page this is

Danny Draven 1:33:57
Tell me about it man. You see, you see the shit that I cut out of movie scenes that they shot and you're just like, this scene is so freakin boring. It's just cut it out. We got to move on. But you know, I think I think if you have the knack for it if you have the personality to be a director and you're and you have a script that you're really passionate about you should consider doing it yourself you know being the writer director or if you do get a production company involved with it that you you you are the direct you in the terms are that you're you get to direct it even though that's that scares producers I honestly it scares them a little bit because especially on this level of filmmaking, because you have to have a first time anybody when you need to pull stuff off in eight to 10 days is very can make the producer very nervous. Because it's like this, nobody's doing that the director behind the camera, that sort of thing. But, but if that's the case, you know, hey, you know, kickstart it yourself or something go out and make it yourself you know, you know I've always encouraged people like hey man, look at you got your you got your own script. And it's great. And you think it's something that you can do for low budget. You know, there's there's, there's nothing that says you can't go out and either what you can do, yeah, Kickstarter, whatever, you know, it's a crapshoot with that too. But, you know, you could try to do some Kickstarter, you could maybe hopefully you're financially well off yourself, maybe you could, you know, sell your your ridiculous comic book collection, because you're in your 50s now, and maybe you don't need to have that anymore and sell your comic book collection, like, I think Kevin Smith did to make clerks and you know, raise the money, you know, and say, Hey, I, you know, look at I can I have a, I have 30 grand that I can put into something, you know, and instead of that, that midlife crisis car, maybe I invest in a in my movie, and you go out and do it yourself, and you put maybe you produce it yourself and you directly yourself and you do it, I think I think for me, that's always been the best way to do it is to kind of carve your own path within. Because certainly it's it's a little bit more sure that it's going to happen. But don't go into it without at least doing your due diligence and research and betting about about, about how to make movies. I mean, I mean, certainly, you know, you can read the books, you can read, you know, all you want, but there's nothing like experience, you know, and and you will get experience doing it yourself that way, believe me. So, so yeah, man. I mean, I don't know, I think that's a good way to start. And so,

Jason Buff 1:36:37
Well, can we can we move into post production? Because I know that your big thing? And I you know, I know you guys talked about it a lot on Dave boluses. Podcasts, I recommend everybody, you know, check that out, too. But I wanted to talk to you about post production. And, you know, what, what are the important aspects of that? And what what do people need to, you know, plan for when they're beginning, you know, one of the things you guys even talked about was, you know, you have to have enough budget to do your post production. And, you know, you can't just put it all into shooting it, and then, you know, expect to just like, do the post production aspect of it, you know, without any money. You know, I think people get kind of stuck with that, you know, that they, they do everything in production, and they get to post production and they've run out of budget.

Danny Draven 1:37:26
Oh, yeah, totally. No, yeah, I can totally, totally give you some good. Good advice on that. Well, I think, I think when you before you, before you get involved in your when you start, when you're ready to start shooting your film, in pre production, you need to start thinking about post production in pre production. Eric is everything you kind of always have to kind of work backwards. I mean, certainly even from distribution. I would say, I always say start start from where you want this film to end up. So if you're like, Okay, I want this film to be theatrical. Okay, well, if you want it to be theatrical, it probably shouldn't be shooting on your phone. You know, you might want to you might want to know that's happened wrong. But if you really want it to be a theatrical release, or even have the possibility of being a theatrical release, you want to start deciding on your, your, your cameras, you know, and say, Okay, well, maybe we should shoot with the Alexa, maybe we need to shoot in 4k, so we can get a 4k DCP that we can take out to screen in theaters, and so on and so forth. So you can start thinking about your deliverables like okay, we want to be able to sell this for end, we want to be able to, you know, do a full delivery on this to everywhere. Well, okay, that's, that's great. Good. I'm glad you're thinking about that in pre production, because what you're going to need to do is you're going to is, like I said, you got to think about what camera you're shooting on. You got to start thinking about your how you're going to, you know, because you need to budget that stuff out, like hey, we're going to need m&e tracks, we're going to need 5.1, we're gonna need 5.1 And then ease, we're going to need we're needed to do the stems, we're going to need to do closed captioning, by the way, you can't even get a movie on iTunes, unless it's closed captioned. And it's on so forth. So I mean, you you really need to start thinking about that kind of stuff early on and budget for it. Because by the time you get to post, if you're like, what you mean, I gotta have that how much is that gonna cost? Oh, I gotta do 5.1 m&e, what the hell is that? I gotta do, I gotta do what I gotta do to see what the hell is QC. You know, that sort of thing? And how much does that cost? Oh, my God, that cost like, $500 to do that. And all of a sudden, you're just like, you're overwhelmed and in your movie doesn't your movie doesn't get finished because you couldn't sell it because you didn't. You weren't able to deliver it. And if you're not able to deliver your movie, you're in trouble, man. I mean, you're gonna spend you know, you're because you know, these guys aren't gonna wait around forever. When you get a district when you get a distributor on the hook and they say, we like your film, and it's really good. We want to make a deal with you. Oh, blah. Then you start looking at the contract. You're like, oh my god, I can't deliver all this stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:39:59
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Danny Draven 1:40:08
I didn't shoot onset stills or I didn't shoot, I didn't, I didn't I didn't do this. And it doesn't pass QC, because it has to, you know, normally has to pass a QC process. And you have all these post issues, you know, with God knows what you know. And they they're like, hey, you know, look, we were interested in your film. But if you can't pass QC, and if it's not, if you don't, if you can't deliver what the contract says that we need as a delivery, we can't we can't take your film. I've seen that happen several times with people, you know, they their movies, just undeliverable. It's not bad, it just they couldn't deliver it the way the distributor wanted it. So the distributor had to pass on it,

Jason Buff 1:40:45
What would cause a film not to pass QC?

Danny Draven 1:40:48
Oh, so many things. So many, they actually, it's one of the things I have a really good chapter, probably one of the only ones that are in print, I think in a book about the about the whole sort of the process of delivery, you know, mastering and delivery and all that stuff. And I have a little bit in there on QC and QC for those of you don't know is estates quality control. And it's a process. It's a very subjective process. And what happens is, your movie goes to a lab, let's just say like, like, I don't want to mention any lab to talk to me after this, no, your B goes to a lab and use it for QC process, what they do is they take the master, and they run it through the wringer. They, they they look at the video, the levels, the gamma, all all these things, they run through a machine and they run it through this machines machine, I'll say all this movies out of the gamma does this and there's there's dead pixels on these shots. And there's the shot is out of focus, or there's a there's a there's a C stand in the shot. I mean, I mean, literally stuff like that, like there's a C stand in the shot, you have to that's that's a QC flag, or a dead pixel, which can happen, you know, on digital cameras, sometimes it's just a dead pixel in the middle, very hard, you know, to get rid of those. Sometimes, if you're shooting on film, it could be film scratches, you know, all the way to stuff being out of focus. And so it's a it's, it's graded, like a by a number system. So you have like, one, a one, two, and a three, like a one is like, kind of there just letting you know, kind of thing. It's not it doesn't won't cause you to pass too. It's kind of like, not really enough to it's bad, but it's not that bad. Three is like absolutely, you have to fix this kind of thing, you know, so it's graded on a scale. And in my book, I put in, I think two examples of what a QC report actually looks like. And ones that have passed and ones that have failed and they'll they'll pick out all kinds of stuff audio chess particularly audio they'll they'll pick out things like the Foley is off or she has a bracelet on but we're not hearing the bracelet you know on the m&e track, I mean, stuff like that lip smacks, you know, I mean, just the most ridiculous stuff that you're just like, Oh, my God, you know, what is wrong with these people? So, yeah, but it but it's a very real and a very important part of the selling of the film process. So it's,

Jason Buff 1:43:20
It's like, if there's just too many things in there, then you fail the QC checks.

Danny Draven 1:43:24
There's only two outcomes to QC. Okay, pass and fail. There's no in between. If you fail, forget about your distribution. I mean, you have a chance to fix it. They'll say, Okay, well, it failed. So you need to fix all this stuff. But if you go back and like I can't fix it, there's no there's no way I can fix it. Well, you're probably not going to get the distribution deal at you just you try to get because nobody, no distributor wants to take a movie that's failed QC. And certainly for TV for television, you know, like my film goes smart. premiered on NBC Universal chiller TV, he has a main television network. So see, you know, but it had to pass a QC. And it did because I shot it on 35. And I did the post. So I made sure it passed. But it you know, it had its its sheer fair problems, but I was able to fix it. And they weren't. They weren't too horrible. But you know, is there?

Jason Buff 1:44:10
Is there any way to test it yourself? Before you send it over? Or? I mean, are there ways

Danny Draven 1:44:16
Not really because it's subjective, because you're giving it to a lab that's got some dude in there that's getting them, you know, eight bucks an hour to sit there, run it through a machine and watch it into say whole? Oh, yeah, it's the levels or the there's really not 100% way to say, you know, yeah, this is definitely going to pass QC because I did it myself. But you certainly you certainly can look out for things like and I can tell you firsthand, you know, if your shot is ridiculously out of focus, it's probably going to get flagged, if you have a C stand in the shot, it's gonna get flagged if you're if you're not if you're one of the most common things as the levels are falling out of the legal you know, so or the legal zone for levels. But oftentimes that can be fixed with filters and Final Cut or Adobe Premiere and stuff like you can add a filter to that. And you can get those levels back into a elite or what they call an illegal illegalized. area. And titles around a title safe zones, that sort of thing. You said there are some there are things that you know a lot about post production that you can look out for, like I can look in a movie and tell you if it'll pass QC, usually, from visually audio not not not as much because you have to really they really have to listen to it. And really QC like the m&e tracks and make sure like, there's footsteps filled in and although there's fully where it needs to be that sort of thing. There are different different labs or you know, sometimes, you know, I've had stuff that they've told me to fix. And I went back and said, Yeah, I fixed it. No problem. And I didn't fix it. I was just bullshitting. And then they passed it. You know, and I happened like two or three times, because I'm like, oh, yeah, I fix that. Yeah. Well, that pixel that you said, yeah, I totally fixed it. And then they come back, and they go, okay, great. And then they pass. So that's why I'm saying it's a very subjective process, you can have it go, you can have it passed one QC house in the United States. And then you can give it to a foreign place that that que sees it and you'll get a whole other list of problems that they didn't pay. So it's a really weird, a very frustrating process for a filmmaker to to get past that stage. But, but I will say is one of the big hang ups for people, especially on low budget, movies, because you don't really, a lot of times have the money to get it fixed. So that's one thing you really need to be careful with and watch out for. Okay.

Jason Buff 1:46:41
So can you walk us through the process? Okay, you know, just editing the film and everything like what? What the process is, you know, are you typically editing as they're shooting? Or? Can you give me just an idea of how that all gonna come together?

Danny Draven 1:46:56
Yeah, quick idea. But I mean, it typically, typically, no, I'm not, not not really editing as they're shooting. It depends. I mean, if I'm full moon, sometimes we used to do that when we were making Puppet Master 10. And stuff like that. Sometimes I would be editing as they're shooting, they would give me because I was just the editor, they would have Charlie bandwidth to give me the material on like a daily basis, I'd be cutting as we're going and that sort of thing. So so that that can certainly happen. But sometimes, if it's your own picture, you're not really thinking about that, right? Now, you're probably just more concerned about getting a shot. So usually what happens is, after you get it all shot, then you then you, then you meet you either, if you're not editing it yourself, you'll meet with an editor. And excuse me, you'll you'll go over with it, you'll go over with the editor, you know, kind of what what's going on, the editor will, you know, of course, get the script usually what's called a line, a line script that they had, if you had a script supervisor on set, and they'll get an idea of what the coverage is like and what takes you like that sort of thing. If you even had one, a lot of times a little budgets, they don't even have a script supervisor. And then and then it's pretty much up to the editor. At that point, you have a conversation couple conversation with the director and these things start cutting away. And then he just goes through a process of you know, an assembly and director's cut, and producers cut oftentimes, until you until you get it locked. And then once you get it locked in the new you head on to sound from that point forward. But the editing process though, one thing I will tell you and this is another area that you really should spend the money in, is, look if you're a great editor yourself, fine. But if you're if you're just you know, a guy that cut a few commercials together a few car commercials together a Doritos commercial is not a feature film editor, you really got to look at who you're hiring as an editor because editing is is so important to the process. And I've added so many features to helmsman over I think I'm like 100 and something now feature films. Now. I mean, a lot of them are just black, but I mean the the one I mean where I edited for Sci Fi Channel edited for people and it's just important to the editor

Jason Buff 1:49:20
I'm losing you a little bit. I can't really hear you. You're dropping out a little bit. Are you going through a tunnel? Yeah.

Danny Draven 1:49:28
Yeah, it's better to I was saying it'll be on on a experienced editor because in the long run, it'll really save you it's just got a really good DP or anything else because a really good editor can make or break your movie they can they I can cut a scene 18 different ways and get completely different meanings every time in the scene. But, but you know, so so that's what I'm saying. I mean, as an editor is just important. It's not just a matter of slinging together a bunch of coverage.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:57
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Danny Draven 1:50:06
That's not editing, editing is a craft, like anything else, just like, you know, cinematography just like production design. And it's, it's the end part of your film here, you know, so it's everything, it's timing, it's, it's, it's performance, it's whether or not to show the knife yet, or to show it at the end, if I cut a scene, and I show you the knife too early, the scares gone, the scare might be gone. But if I show it at the end, you know, the scene could play a completely different way. So that's an enormous amount of power to have over a movie as an editor. So that's why that's why I'm just really, you know, saying like, hey, you know, is an important part of the process and, and really get somebody that knows how to cut feature films together. And if it's yourself, great, but if it's just somebody with no experience, you know, I would really advise against it. So feel like you edit after you get that done, and you you beautiful edited thing together, then you can move on and you lock the picture, which means no further changes to the to the to the picture. And then that can be given at that point over to the sound department and the sound starts into it. And that's also when the composer usually starts and CGI and everything else starts at that point titling and all that.

Jason Buff 1:51:23
So are you able to have like composers for these? I mean, is that simple? Yeah, it's within the budget.

Danny Draven 1:51:27
Yeah, absolutely. Well, my wife is a composer. So I'm lucky.

Jason Buff 1:51:31
That's right. I forgot about Ashley.

Danny Draven 1:51:33
She's She plays for guitar for blue band group. And she's also a composer, film composer. She She scored a lot of Mine, mine films and everything too. So it's convenient. Definitely a convenient relationship. Right? So yes, come in. Let me let me tell you here too, because this is also extremely important. One of the one of the things that's very, that's seems to be like a plague these days, because that's what

Jason Buff 1:52:04
Dan are you there? I can't hear you. Made sure to call him back. Hey, we're back. Just keep going

Danny Draven 1:52:15
You want me to call you back, is it okay?

Jason Buff 1:52:16
He's gonna connection. Okay. Yeah, the connection is good. You were you were saying the one of the plagues.

Danny Draven 1:52:21
Okay, maybe plays not a good word. But one of the one of the real mistakes, I think that that I see some filmmakers doing these days is, is the, the use of music libraries in place of an original film score. Now I'm talking, I'm not talking about trailers. And I mean, look, I mean, if you trailers or documentaries, or whatever you need, they find you need to pull a piece out or a song out or whatever, okay, fine. Because they, you know, those libraries can have their uses for certain for certain things for certain, you know, corporate videos, or, or commercials and, you know, you know, that, that, that that's great, but but this is, of course, my personal opinion on the on the matter. But for me as a filmmaker, like I would never pull out music from a library, absolutely not. And there's a reason for that, I mean, amuse a film is an original piece of work, you know, I mean, it's like a painting, you know, I mean, you're you want to have an original composer come in and do an original score to your film, because your film is unique, it flows a certain way, it's edited a certain way. It's, it has a certain aesthetic, it has a certain sound to it, it has certain instrumentation that you want to enhance the performance of the characters, you're not going to get that from a library, you know what you're going to get from a library, you're going to get the same cue that 19,000 Other people just used in a car commercial and a feature film and something else that people just are using over and over again. So it's really to your advantage as a filmmaker, to hire a composer on your feature film, and get an original score, the audience will love you for it, you'll love yourself for it. And there are lots and it's not, it's not expensive, lots of composers out there that are hungry, looking for work that I'll even do that'll even do it for experience. Just to to work on it sometimes, you know, I mean, just you just need to find those people and reach out to those people to do an original score to your movie. It is absolutely worth it and do not cheap out on the music. Because I mean, even George Lucas will tell you, that sound is 50% of the movie. So you know history because you know, we see with our eyes and we smell with our nose, but we hear with our ears. But since we're not in smellivision, you know, seeing and hearing so it's like kind of a 5050 experience. So sound and sound and music and all that stuff is such an important part to your film. don't cheap out on it.

Jason Buff 1:54:50
Do you use a temp track when you're editing or whatever?

Danny Draven 1:54:52
Yeah, that's fine. Yeah, totally. I look if you're editing, you're editing and you're you're using Alvin Alan Silvestri temp track because you just want to give the composer an idea of something. Yeah, that's fine. But I'm just saying at the end of the day, you know, you have to certainly a temp temp tracking is very common. Yeah, you people just putting in music just to get an idea, you know when they're cutting, but the end result is something completely different. So that's, that's, that's, that's obviously a good way to to do it. But when you I have a whole chapter in the book about the music of horror films and I interview, I interviewed some amazing composers, you know, in there, I mean, John, John Altman, John Debney, you know, it just, you know, some great folks. And they, I really get into it with him about that stuff. And I think it's very insightful for you to, for the readers to read that chapter on music and sound, it's really it's really a good one. It's actually one of my actually, I think it is my favorite chapter in the book, it's, it's actually quite extensive, do the interviews. But but you know, music though, too, I mean, you know, it's there, there are just so many elements to it. Between instrumentation and, and, and the overall feel of scenes and everything music really helps the audience. It really helps direct the audience to the emotions that they want to feel in a scene and for you to just like, pull something out of your hat. You know, it's a shame it's too bad. You know, and I think it can be at you can really improve yourself if you if you hire a composer so

Jason Buff 1:56:24
So did they come in during as the you know, you liked the picture? It goes over two sound posts, they're doing the, the, you know, fully in the designing and everything, does the soundtrack come in at the very, you know, after all that happens, or is that kind of going on at the same time?

Danny Draven 1:56:41
Well, sometimes, sometimes you can have, sometimes you can get it depending on your relationship with the composer, sometimes you can get if you're married to. Nobody, sometimes if you're if you're like, before you even, like unreliable, like I had, I had the music, music ideas before we even started, I had them, you know, like, as, hey, you know, I want this kind of style. And it was able to start kind of getting going on the music early on you before we even shot the film. So I mean, I think sometimes you can, if you have that kind of a relationship with a composer, you can say, hey, I'm kind of thinking I want to do this kind of thing. You know, we could be stuck coming up with some ideas. And then they can start doing that early on. But, but what normally happens is this, you you shoot the movie, you cut the movie, you lock the movie, and then what and then it goes to the soundstage, the sound is down. And not an actual soundstage. I mean, the sound, the sound editing process, so the music process stage of production. And what you the director does what the director should be doing at this at this point, after after the picture is locked as you need to, you need to sit with usually three different kinds of people, usually, your sound designer, your composer and your, your CGI artists, if you have one, which a lot of times you don't, but sometimes you do, and you'll need to sit with them and talk about the special effects shots that you need to do. But more commonly, you're probably on low budget, it's probably going to be just your sound and your music. So what you're gonna do is you're gonna sit with, you're gonna hire a sound, a sound designer, and a sound editor, and they're gonna, you're gonna, you're gonna do what's called spotting, you're gonna spot with these guys, you're gonna, you're gonna watch the film from beginning to end. And you're gonna give them notes, you're gonna say, this scene, I would like to hear metallic sounds coming from there. And I want more of a bobcat growl on the monster, and I want this. And they'll just make notes as you're going along, and you'll vote it, believe me, they'll thank you for it, because it helps them saves them time saves you time, that everybody's on the same page of what kind of sound design you're looking for. Then you do a spotting session with your composer. And it's the same sort of process, but you're talking more in terms of music, you're saying I'm I'm thinking more like, you know, you know, depending on how detailed they they get with you and what your understanding is of music and how it works. The conversations can be very detailed, and they can be very generic, they can be very much like Well, no, I think there should be some music here, but I'm not really sure what. And then the composer will say, okay, cool, I'll do something there. But I have a I have a little bit of a music background. So when I talked to my wife and about composer, we have like a nice conversation about like, I don't know about the you know, the horns, and maybe the D minor is better, maybe some piano work here, that sort of thing. So it's a little bit more detailed. But I think in general, when you're talking to a composer, it's better to give them give them the emotion that you're going for in the scene, like this scene is sad. This scene is scary. This scene needs this scene. This is a really big moment. And I don't want to hear any music at all until we see the knife at the end. You know that kind of direction for your answer. And again, the composer will thank you for this. And they have a clear idea of clear direction of where they're going with that. And then same thing happens with the CGI you do the same thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:59:59
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Danny Draven 2:00:08
I sit with them and you spot it and you tell them what kind of special effects you want, you know, I want it to glow, and I want the guy's face to morph into a wizard or whatever it is. And I want it to be green and that sort of thing. And, and that and that's really kind of in the in a really quick nutshell, the entire part four of my, my book and that's kind of what your what you got to do there at that stage? And

Jason Buff 2:00:31
Are there any typical mistakes that you see? Like if people want CGI in a scene? Are there any things they need to write? Make sure they have for you to do that?

Danny Draven 2:00:40
Absolutely. And that's that's the last chapter actually, as far as a post production, and there are many, but to answer that specifically, yes, the oftentimes, like I did, a lot of movies that I had come in, had one of their biggest problems is shooting the wrong plates. You know, like, they think that oh, well, we'll just remove the background, and then we'll just throw some green, some green shit behind them, and then we'll take it out and After Effects, and it'll be great. And then they come in and and then I mean, I've had that stuff come in to me. And it's like, yeah, just take out his take out the background. I'm like, Guys, you didn't like the frickin green screen, right? You just put up you just like, put some green cloth behind the guy. You got in too close to it. He's casting a shadow on it. How am I supposed to pull him out of that background and make it look believable? You know what I mean? Like that sort of stuff that happens all the freakin time. Or, you know, somebody will be in front of a green screen, but they're wearing like a green shirt. You know, it's like, shot this right? You know, it happens, man. I mean, in the little things like that, you know, there's a, and there's, you know, there's plenty of books out there on green screen, too, if you're if you're doing green screen work. But that's one of the big things I see coming in is people that are wanting to do green screen work on the low budget level, but they don't shoot it, right. They shoot it very, they think just because it's green, that's good enough. And it's not believe me, there is there is a very special way to do that to get it looking good. And you know, it can be a million other things too bad sound is also a very common thing. And it just you just had bad sound on set, and nobody seemed to notice. And now the big problem. Or if there's voiceover make sure you get it recorded on set, if you can, because the last thing you want to do is to be having to bring back actors, because and especially if they have to do ADR and replace their dialogue over back over badly recorded dialogue. It looks terrible, first of all, most of the time, and oftentimes they you lose the original meaning of the performance. That's what I'm saying. Right. So, I mean, I think it was Kubrick that didn't do ADR at all because he was like totally opposed against it at least I think that's what I heard from full metal jacket or something like that. They wouldn't do ADR and you know and I'm with him when I'm if I'd say because it's like man, you know, ATR socks as I know there's a match that happened on set and when you have to replace it in the studio is it's not it's not the same it means not the same. Yeah, so you get it so yeah, so I mean there's there's other things you know, slating is a big issue a times for you know, people that just horrible, horrible people that just don't sweat you know? And like what's wrong with you? slating is is just inexcusable, you really need to do a good slate, a part of the editor and for your own sanity. And there are apps on the iPad and the iPhone. I can't remember I mentioned in my book, but I can't remember what it's called off the top my head I think it's called Movie slate or something like that. Just look at the iTunes store and I think it's like 20 bucks or something. And it's, it's just, it's amazing. You know, it's just an iPad, an iPad or an iPhone app and you just put the iPhone in front of the camera, and you just click a little button and it goes dTT click like that and it's slated for you, you know, so it's a good high tech way to do all that stuff.

Jason Buff 2:04:06
Now when you're when you're dealing with these higher end cameras, I do you have a high end audio track that's going into the camera that you've got or are you still just having to sync all the audio.

Danny Draven 2:04:19
Well, what I do this is what I do is I make sure that my sound people are doing two things that one one they're running a line into the camera. Okay? So you're getting recorded on camera but they're also running it to a backup, a high quality backup. That is usually running into a recorder that is that can record it that way high quality way higher quality than the camera actually can. So usually the audio sounds better on their recorder than it does on the camera. So what I do is I actually resync I resync the film so I bring it in I use the the the audio that they that they did that they recorded on their their their high end recorder At higher bit rate higher like I usually do, and I need to do like 96k 24 bit recording, super high quality audio, right? And then I resync it with the material that way now, is that the most common? Wait, no, most people just take it right off the camera. And oftentimes, that's fine. So you but if you take it right off the camera, it's always a good idea to have a backup too, you know, because if the audio is fucked up on the camera, I had a movie that came in one time, and I kid you not 50% of the movie, they thought they had the audio on the camera. It was all distorted because somebody didn't set the level right going into the camera. So he was monitoring, he was monitoring it Okay, through his mixer, but the output from his mixer going into the camera, the camera was set at a different level. So it was distorted everything that was being recorded when the camera was restarted, and there was no backup. So every came in it was like that the whole time. And they were they were totally devastated. totally pissed. fired the fucking sound guy. And, and it was we had they had to ADR like 50% of the movie, and it looks terrible. It's dreadful. And because you couldn't even hear what the guy said to begin with, because you couldn't even tell what he was saying. You had to look at his lips, you know, versus like, normally ADR at least if it's bad audio, you can kind of hear what they said to match it. So, so yeah, I mean, that's a big problem. Sound is a big problem in post, so pay a lot attention to that, and you won't be sorry,

Jason Buff 2:06:36
Do you typically have a love on every actor and the boom? Or How's that, like,

Danny Draven 2:06:41
One of the most difficult found job sound shows that I directed was really evil. And the reason for that is like they're swinging around 360 running down halls. It was it was it was actually one of the most difficult technically to shoot at and a lot of that has to do with the camera the sound the audio and we I was hiding and drawers and bowls and laying on grant the ground. I mean, I was hiding all over the place. But sound on that was very difficult. And I knew it because I have the post experience. So I told the producers and so I said hey, man, we you got to hire the sound guy, this one sound guy I've used before and I said, you know, he's got the gear, we need the lab, all these actors, you need to run the audio into this mixer and all this stuff. Otherwise, we're gonna have we're gonna have a clusterfuck and post soundwise Luckily, they listened to me and we so yeah, really evil when you know, we everybody's got a lab on there running around the sound guys ducking around in rooms and whatnot. And that's kind of how that was made. But usually it's usually it's just a few labs and a boom you know and and that's that's plenty for what you're doing. But you know, when you're found footage is a little a little harder to make because you're because of the you're not shooting in just one direction. And then you can move the cast and crew and video village all the time, you know, you're swinging around 360 And now see and everything. And it was also a waiting challenge too. So yeah, labs Labs is always a good idea.

Jason Buff 2:08:12
In that, do you have to light the whole thing like I mean, you've light everything and just like start shooting or do you actually light individual stuff, individual shots?

Danny Draven 2:08:21
Well, since we were we were shooting in a practical location and actually abandoned hospital, we couldn't light from above, you know, wreck, the movie wreck that that whole house, that whole building that they're in, that was a soundstage. That thing they did like a two storey soundstage that they lit from above, so they could swing around no problem because they had lights already rigged. Now in our case, we're shooting in practical locations, so we had to hide the lights a lot of times. And then there was some story element like there was this film crew shooting so we left the lights around and so on so forth. And that was one of our sort of cheap ways to try to leave lights in the shot and that sort of have some sort of meaning why they're there. And and but you know, for for our but now we have this pre locked the scene so we can see 360 as much as we wanted. And that's how most of that movie was was shot. But it was it was a difficult shoot, technically speaking for a lot for those reasons. So,

Jason Buff 2:09:21
Okay, let me ask you one more thing about post production. And when you're talking about budgeting, if we're saying okay, let's say for example, we're trying to shoot a $50,000 film, how much of that is going to be needed for post production? Like how much do you need to have to have, you know, an editor sound mix and you know, a score. I know it's always different, but just to give you kind of an idea,

Danny Draven 2:09:51
A $50,000 budget.

Alex Ferrari 2:09:55
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Danny Draven 2:10:06
Yeah. Well, I would say, I'd say somewhere maybe around. I don't know, maybe, maybe, maybe 7030, maybe 70. For your, for everything, your production, actors everything, and then maybe 30 for your post budget, and possibly somewhere in that range, maybe 35, maybe even 40, depending on what you're doing. But I would say that say somewhere around 7030, maybe it could could work for you. Because

Jason Buff 2:10:36
You said ridiculously low or is it like on par? I mean, I don't even know where that fall.

Danny Draven 2:10:40
It's not. It's not I wouldn't say I guess this is this is gonna be everybody is gonna be a different answer on that. Because I mean, I have a lot of resources for posts, too. So I, it just depends kind of what you have, you know, what you have to work with, you know, I mean, editing software is incredibly cheap these days. But it's not the software, it's the person the operating it. So, you know, you could buy Final Cut for 300 bucks, but you can't really get a good editor for 300 bucks, you know, so. But if you're already a experienced editor, and you can cut the film yourself and save money, yeah, you're gonna save five grand in your budget or whatever it may be. But I would say 50 grand, you know, you're not your 50 grand budget, you know, you're not paying, you know, you're probably paying somewhere, you know? Yeah, I would say somewhere maybe in maybe like 60 40 to 70 30 30 and 40 being the post end of things. It shouldn't push and be as much as your production budget, I guess, is what I'm saying. You know, production is going to be the chunk of the money is gonna go to the your production.

Jason Buff 2:11:43
All right, that's gonna do it for today's show. We the phone kind of got funky there. And we were having some technical difficulties. And then we talked for a little bit more, but it wasn't really part of the show. So I'm just going to end it there. I want to thank Danny Draven for coming on the show. Don't forget to check out his book, The filmmakers Book of the Dead absolutely the Bible of horror filmmaking, the you know, go to Amazon and get it today because it's a really if you want to be a horror filmmaker, there's like, just tons and tons of information in there. Okay, so thanks, guys.

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BPS 325: Vampires, Stunts, Bloodsuckers & Netflix with JJ “Loco” Perry

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J.J. Perry 0:00
Day Shift is an example of stuff we get everything in camera, even the contortions, I just shot it in reverse. And so it's so you know, like, doesn't speak to me to do to work on a big cartoon movie. And I've worked on a ton of movies where everything's animated, you spent five months in a blue screen stage. That's not what I want to do.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show. JJ Perry. How're you doing JJ?

J.J. Perry 0:32
Good my brother, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:34
I'm good, man. I'm good. Now there is sometimes I see in your credits. There's another name in between JJ and Perry. Which is locco? Is Is that Is that true, sir? Look at all. For people who are listening, he just stood up and showed me his tattoo of locco on his stomach. Listen, before we even get started brother I've worked with a ton of stunt people over the over the course of my career. I have yet to meet a stunt person who's not nuts in the best, most beautiful loving way that word could be used. I've I've had this is what this is. This is this is the conversation with some people when I ever worked with him on his set as a director. I need you to jump off that and you jump off that that building over there he goes, Can I can I go play? Can we go five floors? No, no, I just third floors fine. No, no, I can do I can go 10 floors, I can just move on. I could do 15 If you want to do and you want me to be on fire, I could be on fire. I need it for my real can I be on fire too? And I'm like, can I work? So it's like, no matter what I asked, they'd be like, no, no, no, that's not enough. We can I could drive the car off the roof on fire flip through.

J.J. Perry 1:39
Oh, that's kind of the that's kind of the mentality. You know, like, it's we're always trying to go bigger, faster, stronger. You know, that's kind of the where the where the mindset is always trying to outdo what we did last time. You know, it's like anything else, you know, you you want to step one step beyond what you did last time, we always trying to we're always trying to push the envelope.

Alex Ferrari 1:56
No, absolutely. And, and every every staff person I've ever worked with has been the utmost professional. And it seems like they're not, but there's so calculated and so specific about what they're doing. So everyone stay safe, you know, and all that kind of stuff because I mean, you know, stuff that you guys do is this insane and, and it can't go wrong. And it's really it's really amazing what you do and you met so let's take it let's take it back where the how and why did you get into this insanity that is the film business.

J.J. Perry 2:25
So I graduated from high school back in 86 out of out of Stanford, Texas, and I worked on two films that came through Houston one was called pray for death. It was a show Kosugi film back when the ninja craze was out. And another one was call. They still call me Bruce. It was like an action comic.

Alex Ferrari 2:43
I remember. I remember that movie dude those amazing.

J.J. Perry 2:46
Johnny and the Korean guy, Korean actor. And so you know, I'd already sworn in to go to join the army. So there was no getting out of that. And towards the end of my stint in the army I out processed two to Fort Ord California. I was that's where I was going to out process from. And when I was at Fort Ord, I was on the army taekwondo team. At the time I was going down, I was competing all over California and all over, you know, the US and et cetera. And I went down to LA a couple times to compete. And some of the guys I was competing against were were stunt men. And you know, because I'd been stationed Korea for a year I was I had a leg up on him. You know, I was you know, competing on a very high level at that time. And but one of the guys who's no longer with his name is Chris Cornell was a dear friend of mine. He died in a motorcycle wreck a couple years ago. But he were the same size, same age. And I was like, what do you get? He had nice shoes, nice car, and I was like, Dude, what are you drunk? Do you because No, man, I'm a stuntman. And coming down from from Fort Ord, you know, like, came down and train a few times. About two weeks later, he said, Hey, man, there's a big audition here for a movie called Lionheart it was Van Damme second movie. Yeah, so I took a three day pass drove down and booked the job but the problem was when I went back to ask my first sergeant if I could you know take three weeks off to do a movie he was like, No, you can do no movie boy you we got work to do. We got Army work to do boy so they called me Hollywood up until the time I out processed and then I told them you know, like I said, you know, I didn't know what I was going to do at that time. I figured I would go down to LA and give it a try. I didn't really know anyone except for Chris and I figured you know I'm gonna give it a try and so I just drove down to five South never made the left turn on the tend to go back to Texas and I thought I would probably fuck that up for sure and be back in the army at no time because I knew they'd be saving a seat at the table for me but it just worked out and here we are 32 years later talking about my talking about my movie that I just directed which I can't believe so I never expected any of this my brother I fumbled my way through all of it. And I'm super grateful for every moment that I've had.

Alex Ferrari 4:53
So what was so what was your first big break in the as a as a stunt guy?

J.J. Perry 4:59
Well, So we kind of broke down like this. I didn't really the first week I landed in LA I, I was answering phones at a taekwondo school on Wilshire in La Jolla as well to some taekwondo. And there was a call for they were looking for guys for the cross trainer, Reebok commercial, the very first one for the Super Bowl at that time. And one of the guys that she said, Hey, I don't have my car, can you give me a lift one of the guys that was like an actor type, do did had an agent and whatever. So I drove him over there. And it was in it was in West Hollywood. Park, he goes in, he's taking a while. So I put 50 cents in the meter. I go upstairs and the lady says, Hey, did you put your name down on so I wrote down my name and the number of the taekwondo school. And then I wrote down my friend's name and his agents name and I went in because the movie The commercial was about, it was about basic training. It was like called the Reebok cross trainer pumps. But it was like, they shave your head. It was like an army thing. So I went in there. I was like, Barry, JJ, ak 541109. You know, they were like, oh, shoot, who's this guy? You know, I just literally just got out of the army. And I booked booked that job. So that's how it started? No, I didn't anticipate like when the when the checks started coming in the mailbox. Or, you know, you know, you make 750 bucks a month in the army. I almost started crying, you know, and, and then we have been forever.

Alex Ferrari 6:21
So for everybody listening. You were in a Superbowl commercial. What was we talking about? The early mid 80s?

J.J. Perry 6:26
No, I'm talking about like, 1990 for the

Alex Ferrari 6:30
Right. So your your 1990 Superbowl commercials, the money the residuals off flop? Flop? It's insane. I'm talking about 10s of 1000s of dollars in 1990.

J.J. Perry 6:43
Yep, yeah, that's true. And then then I started doubling a double Lorenzo Lamas a few times down on Renegade, we're down in San Diego, then I doubled Russell Wong and a TV series called vanishing son that that I told you about Jeff cut TNT earlier, a dear friend of ours. Yeah. And kind of how it started, you know, like stunt work is networking. And, you know, it's kind of like they're, they're always looking for the man or woman that's not scared to go big, and it's safe. And they're not looking for the crazies. They're looking for the calculated smart, you know, individuals who, who are ready to go big and have a strong physicality and, you know, having a background in Taekwondo and being in the military, like, when I got out of the army, I didn't realize what I wouldn't be able to apply some of the skills I learned in the army was except for being a cop. But then I quickly realized that, you know, the hard work and the work ethic of being in the Army after the army, nothing else is really ever hard again, you know, so I got that out of the way pretty quick in life. So it was really easy for me to get up at five in the morning and do my road work and go out and meet people and do my thing. So yeah, that's how it all happened for me was those two TV shows got me going in that commercial. And here we are.

Alex Ferrari 7:50
So but so there is I mean, I think there is a stunt school now. But there was Was there anything like a stunt score? Did you just learn on the job,

J.J. Perry 7:56
Learn on the job, and I'll never forget my first car hit, you know, I had to do a get hit by a car on Renegade, they wanted me to want to run into the middle of the street with a with a with a female stunt woman, there's a briefcase and illustrating, they want us to race to the briefcase, and then a Lincoln Continental hits us both. So I'm thinking to myself, you know, I don't want to seem like a you know, like, I don't know what I'm doing. But I also don't want to get killed or make a mistake and hurt my my, my counterpart. So I asked the stunt coordinator, I said, Well, you know, What's the objective of this? He said, Well, your objective is not to get underneath the car row. So, so Right, right, or get light on your feet, write up the hood, get up into the windshield, and if he punches you through, just go all the way over. And if he doesn't just get you know, get outside the car. And so what I did was I just got very aggressive and I the car actually hits you, but I in my mind, I was thinking I'm gonna hit the car. And next thing I know, it was light, it was darker, his life was darker, his life was dark, and boom, I was on the pavement. I was like, Oh, that was so bad. You know. So there was my first part of it.

Alex Ferrari 8:57
I gonna ask you man and I've always wanted to ask, I always wanted to ask them a stunt guy this. What is it in the brain? There's something in your mind in your brain that allows you to go hey, that wasn't so bad. You just said. I think that's absolutely horrific, personally, because that's not that's not in my DNA. So what is it? What is that thing that stunt people have? That not only do they want to do it and enjoy doing it, but they want to continue to one up themselves and keep pushing themselves physically with the complexity of this stuff. And we haven't gotten into fight coordination which we'll get into but but just instance there's something in the DNA of some people that I've at least that I've experienced. What is that? I'd love to hear your opinion on that.

J.J. Perry 9:42
So the generation before me that what I came in were a lot there were a lot of cowboys, you know, and being from Texas, I'm you know, kind of a cowboy too, but that background of riding rodeo or bull riding or bronc riding or or bulldogging you know, you have to be able to you know, can't can't be scared to get hit. So a lot of stuff Non performers come from, you know, a rodeo background or an athletic background like football players or so. But for me, I had 168 amateur fights when I got out of the army. So, like, I wasn't scared to get hit. And you know, being an athlete on that level, like being on the national team or being competing on that level, you have to, there's a lot of me, there's that moment of truth that we all have, you know, like that where you can't lie in that moment, you have to be very real about what's going to happen and you have to make peace with it, you have to be calm in that moment, in all those years of competition, and being in the Army helped me settle into being in a very precarious position. And being being at peace with it, and making up my mind, okay, I did one you can, it's not just like, you're gonna do one, you're gonna get one time, you're probably gonna do it three or four times. It's also pain management, it's also your ability to to strive under pain, like when you get when you're getting hurt now that the difference between getting hurt and getting injured, getting hurt means you get up and do it again, getting injured means you're and you're on a ride and in an ambulance to the hospital gets sewn up or a broken bone. So I would say that most of the stunt performers, we all share the same likes, you know, like, we all came from an athletic background, or you know, X Games now, which I think are some of the most amazing people parkour athletes. Now, you know, UCLA liberal level, gymnasts, some of the some of the best female stunt performers that I work with were elite gymnast at some point, because, you know, you think like, my daughter is in gymnastics, and she started when she was four, but you have the little girls doing this, where they're peeling their hands up, and they're dealing with pain, and there, it's all about that one second, that you have to hit the vault, right? You know, you have to gather all that, you have to make up your mind, I'm going for it. So that's kind of like doing being a stunt performer. You know, you just have to be able to, to not lie in the moment of truth to be present in the moment of truth and execute, you know, so it's all about seeing yourself do it. So I feel like that's something that we all have in common. You know, like one of the one of the big things for me is like being on the road with a bunch of like minded folks coming up with just killer ways to physically displace humans, that's my job, you know, is, is coming up with clever ways to do it, but not injure them, you know, but make it like, because now there's more movies and more content being made than any time in the history of cinema, film. And the expectations are way higher, when way higher, you know, that like with video games, and anime, and all these other things that kids are watching. Now they, you know, diehard is a great example of a movie that I loved in the 80s. But if you if you put a 16 year old kid to watch that now, they'll be on their phone looking at their Instagram in 20 minutes. You know, it's just it's not what they're, it's not going to capture their attention. You know what I mean? It's it's stuff that we've done already, which is it's AMAZING film. And I've got to work with McKiernan before. He's an amazing director. But that's an example to me of where it came from, and where it's going. You know,

Alex Ferrari 12:49
That's really interesting, because, I mean, I was watching, cuz I'm a huge fan of fall guy, the original show back in the day. And my wife and I were watching it. This is like, probably five, six years ago, we sat down and we watched the first full first season because we're like, oh, man, remember, fall guy. Let's go back and watch those man, those were frickin awesome. And you're watching it. And as you're watching what they did on a weekly basis, on a weekly basis, you're like, that was all real. Like, these guys are insane. You don't see that kind of that kind of stunt work in television today. It was just, they were doing gags. I mean, jumping off roofs, I'm like, full blown. It was insane what they were doing. And you're going back. And that's Oh, that was all in camera. We're now I think and you've seen you've started at a point where it was all still in Canberra. And now you've got digital stunt performers doing some really insane stuff. But I do think that as as, as the audience, we can tell when, you know, Fast and Furious is fun. But you know, and the Marvel movies are fun. But, and there's some performers that do do stuff there is great, but when you watch something like John Wick, you feel it a lot more. And you've been on you've worked on John Wick, obviously, but you feel that this is not a CG situation.

J.J. Perry 14:08
You know, listen, around 2003 or four, everybody started saying, oh, we'll fix it and post. You know, for me, and I'll tell you something about Fast and Furious, because I've done too. I did eight, nine a second year directed at none. And I'll tell you something, we did wreck 340 cars, and we do go 1000 miles an hour when we're doing those movies. So there is a dirty way to fake fast is to go really fast. It's fast and furious, not slow and curious. But at the end of the day, it's a day for me. It's like I day shift is an example of stuff. We did everything in camera, even the contortions I just shot it in reverse. And so it's all that so you know, like, doesn't speak to me to do to work on a big cartoon movie. I don't I've worked on a ton of movies where everything's animated. You spent five months in a blue screen stage. That's not what I want to do. I don't usually take a look For those jobs, I'm looking for the jobs where I can lock up Edinburgh, Scotland like on Fast and Furious eight, and do a massive car chase and chase flying over cities on wires and fighting and breaking new buildings, or John Wick or you know any of these new like, I'll give an example Gemini Man is another example of an amalgamation of both. We went to Cartagena, Colombia and this massive motorcycle chase that we did all practically. And then with a augmented Will Smith's face onto the motorcycle writer. So there's an element of both that I think works, okay, that I like, when it's a complete digital takeover. And pretty soon, you know, I think action directing is going to be a lost art soon. There's not a lot of this, it's infinitely harder to lock to block a big car chase up, when you got 19 cars and for motorcycles and helicopters and explosions. That's, that's not easy to do. It's actually a lot harder to do than most people think. That's where second unit comes in. And in all the experience that I gained from being a second year director, making the efficient and fast and it's like, it's like, cool, I'm not thinking about my shot. I'm thinking about my next five shots and my leaves to get to every shot. That's, that's filmmaking. I'm running nine cameras sometimes. So it's that it's that nine cameras spread, redirect, next street, the nine cameras that and push pull track counter, and then mount and then go to the next street. So, you know, that's something that I think will be a lot start soon, because there'll be animating those cars at some point, you know, which breaks my heart, but I'll be long gone by then.

Alex Ferrari 16:34
Exactly. No, I mean, yeah, I mean, when I said like fossil fuels, I remember like when they do jumping a car from a building to a building, I'm assuming I didn't do that live? No. But things like that. But yeah, there was in those those shows specifically, there's a ton of cars that they use, and you could tell that there's cook. And that's one of the things that made the original, so amazing, it was all real in camera. And that's the thing you're right, there's a lost art I have to want to ask you is it think it's confusing to a lot of people listening, especially young filmmakers, what is the hierarchy in the stunt department. So you start off with like a stunt performer? What is the hierarchy as far as the department heads and things,

J.J. Perry 17:09
I can tell you the way it went for me, I started as a utility stuntman, then I became a stunt double. And because of my background in martial arts, and being in the army, I started become I started courting, choreographing the fights that I was in. And then that led me to becoming a fight choreographer. And then I became a stunt coordinator. And then I became a second unit director. And you know, there's, there's a lot of ways to climb the ladder, but I feel like that's the long route. But that's the most important route to take. Because if you miss one of the rooms, you want to you want to hit every rung you want to learn every facet of the game, you know, driving motorcycles, water, fighting, falling fire, you know, horseback, every facet, the more facets that are on the diamond, the shinier that diamond is and the more money you can eventually make it with your in your profession. So I wanted to educate myself on every facet of that. And that's that's how it went. For me. It's a bit different now because now there's infinitely more jobs than there are than there were when I started in. Now, you can come in as a specialist on a fight guy, oh, I'm a parkour guy, or I'm a gymnast, or, and that's that's the way they come in. And that's the way they go. So but you know, that doesn't, I'm not knocking them. There's some amazing talent out there. Now with you know, I think once YouTube hit, and editing software became a consumer products, editing software made a lot of us action directors, because once you know how to edit, it informs what you need to shoot. And you know, growing up on watching that as meet at Jackie Chan films where he really changed the game of fightings. And he's one of them. He's an idol of mine, because he's a stuntman that became a star and then became an action director. So I mean, that's, you know, like he was a Charlie Chaplin and a, what's his name? Buster Keaton, Buster Keaton. He was in Kansas, a huge fan of we all are, but that's kind of where his inspiration came from. And our my generation like I came up with Chad's to hausky, and in Dave Leach, and a lot of the guys over at 711 I'm a member of that crew and I'm also a member of sons unlimited. Who were those original guys that did the fall guy since Unlimited is they've been around since 1973. But that's um yeah, but that's kind of how it was. And you know, watching chance trajectory is kind of the way like, has he changed what we do did we took his movies and we were reshoot shoot his action sequences with cameras and then cut them even on VHF, ah, VHS deck to deck until Final Cut became a consumer product we all chipped in, and then we all learn how to edit. And then we became action directors, budding action directors.

Alex Ferrari 19:43
Now, you know, with all the insane, you know, gags that you guys have done over the years has had there ever has there ever been a stunt that you just said, Nah, man, I gotta walk away from this one. This is just too, too risky.

J.J. Perry 19:57
The biggest thing I ever did was getting married to a lawyer. So no, I look at the end of the day. I'm not I'm just okay in the water. You know, I'm not I'm not. I've done it's done though. Did you see the movie? The Rundown? Yeah, of course. Yeah the Roku I was doubling Sean William Scott when we went down the mountain and over the falls and all that shit. Me and Paul Heliopolis and ton of I read Marcos roar we were there was two sets of doubles for each because we were getting so busted up. And there was a scene where we had to go into a lagoon and swim towards a waterfall. And yeah, Bhutan and jeans on and tunnel. I read his Hawaiian, he's from Hawaii's big. He's like a shark. When he gets in the water. He's massive. And he's like, you know, he's got gills you can swim like a fish. And his wife was doubling the girl in there and she's another one grew up in Hawaii. He's like, after take three or four I started getting really tired. I was like, Hey, man, I'm probably need to tap out. So I would say like doing a lot of water work for me is not my forte. I'm like a brick. I'm like a brick from Texas. You put me in the water. And I might go right to the bottom row.

Alex Ferrari 21:02
Fair enough. Now you You also got involved in one of my favorite films of the 90s Mortal Kombat, man. Dude, how did you get involved with them? Then you eventually played some of the parts of like sub zero and those kinds of things. I mean, again, those at the time. I remember at the time and I mean, you couldn't go anywhere without listening to that damn song. In the radio, first of all, what was it? I mean, how did you get involved with that project, man, and how did you guys make it look so cool back then.

J.J. Perry 21:30
So I was I used to have two taekwondo schools in LA while I was a stuntman. I had one in Inglewood. It's called take one to west, one in Inglewood and one in Sherman Oaks. And the one in Sherman Oaks. I had a friend named Dana he who was already working on the movie, she was an Olympic gold medalist from taekwondo. We're friends from my sport from taekwondo. We were teammates like friends, you know, competitors together and dear friends. He was dating Larry cows and off the producer of Mortal Kombat at the time. They were looking for a stunt double for Johnny Cage for the additional photography of Mortal Kombat. One key brings Larry into my school in the middle of one of my classes, and I can see Luke staring at me and I'm like Dino, who's the dude staring Bisleri Cazenovia brutish, and short combat, and, you know, classes over I meet him like, nice to meet you, sir. Can you say Hey, can you show me some kids and I bust out a 540. And I bust out a bunch of oh, man, it's awesome. Can you turn around for me? And I was like, what's that mean? He's looking at the back of my head. So if I could double the actor who's playing Johnny Cage, and he was like, this perfect. Two days later, I get a call from Robin Chu, who was the was the star of the movie. And also one of the fight coordinators and Jeff and moto was a stunt coordinator, I get a call, Hey, you want to come down and double Johnny Cage for the additional fight with scorpion on the on the bamboo bridge thing and it was a it was a big additional scene. So I got to do that. And as soon as that was, you know, as soon as it was a big hit, they greenlit to then I played scorpion and Cyrax into and did some doubling for little doubling for Raiden a little doubling for smoke a little doubling for all the characters but played to the characters. And then when the TV series came out in there, he called me and says, Hey, we come down and double come loud, so double calm loud for the first few episodes. And then they said, Can you play scorpion? Can you play SubZero? And I was like, Yeah, dude, I do whatever. You know, like, I'm happy. Like, I was always concerned about my acting, but when you have that thing on your face, you know, it's like, just zero. So I want some zero now I'm Chubs zero. That's how it goes. But that was like my Mortal Kombat experience. You know, like, I was super, super stoked. Now that a lot of the youngsters that work for me now they pull it up on YouTube, and I'm a little embarrassed about my bad acting and whatever, you know, a loincloth

Alex Ferrari 23:39
It's the 90s Bro, what are you gonna do? Basically bills dog what are you gonna do? It pays the bills and pay the bills? No question. Now, you know, is it as you became a second unit director, which I still think second unit directors are some of the most technically sound directors out there. If you can direct action. You can direct cinema because it's a visual medium. I think what someone who said it is like my favorite directors are action directors like Tony Scott, and those in those kinds of guys who just are so technical, and visual. What are mistakes that directors make when setting up an action sequence that you've seen?

J.J. Perry 24:19
So you know what we've done? Like at 711 is is the team I've been on before that it was called Smash cuts and it was it was kind of a the crew of us that came up in the 90s together likes to hausky leach Marcus young Mike Gunther Danny her net there was a bunch of Brad Martin and Garrett Warren. These are all guys that are prominent social media directors now that are running the they're running all the fights up in the last 30 years what we did once the Final Cut came out we start shooting stunt does what which is an act we shoot and cut the sequence before we go to the set on we make a room full of boxes that measures out from the production designer and then we shooting cut it sure offer shot where we make the action the star. Without we want to tell our students certain story points after having a discussion with the director, and a discussion with the DP about his style, you know, like, and we, we give them a broad outline of what it would look like, based on their version. And usually we get it right within three versions, like we tied it up within three verses, I've been paired up in the past few years with a lot of first and second time directors, I get paired up with them often to, you know, to help when it comes to the action, it can be quite daunting, you know, like, if you're not used to doing it. And you're right, locking up Scotland with a bunch of cars, and doing why work over a city, and using nine cameras, is infinitely harder. Now that I've done both than directing a scene with three people in a room talking, unless you don't have three good actors. Well, there's bad actors, maybe it's way harder. But my point being the technical execution of that the application of filmmaking is is extremely difficult, especially when you're going 70 miles an hour. And you're gonna go like through seven streets with explosions and whatever, and you have a finite amount of time to do it. Because second unit is never is elaborate, or is funded is first unit is it has to be a streamlined, streamlined event that that moves like that moves like a rocket. So I think one of the mistakes that one of the mistakes that a lot of first and second time directors make is not having a clear vision of what they want. And sometimes my job is to help them discover their vision, whether he or she knows what it is or not. So it's my kind of I always take it upon myself is it's my job, and they don't know, to show them. And they give them options too. That's my job as a stunt coordinator, as a fight coordinator, and a second unit director is to help the director achieve their vision of the action, which is harder than achieving your vision of the action. When I know what I want, I always know what I want. So as a director, I came in with a really solid plan for my movie, I'd had to set my production designer, Greg Berry, we already knew what the sets were going to be and where to put the neoprene in which walls needed to fly because the cameras gonna do this I already knew. So it's, it's it's a new, it's like, it's in the neighborhood that I've been roaming around for 32 years. And if you're new to the neighborhood, it's easy to get lost. And I think a lot of the one of the things that some directors are a little intimidated by is they don't want to, they don't want to, they want to go out and wander around and find it for themselves. And that's cool. But we're not in film school, we're in film work when we're making a movie. So you do have a finite amount of time. And you have to be decisive because every decision you make, as a director has a ripple effect from all of the departments that it has to go to production designer, okay, you're fighting, go to tear this costume needs to go, you punch him here, what makeup needs this, you're gonna break his arm props and prosthetic arm needs to go and using. So you have to be decisive and give your team a chance to react to your decisions. So it's not last minute. And this is one of the mistakes that I think a lot of first time directors make is there. They don't want to decide that they will not make decisions in time.

Alex Ferrari 28:20
Now, when you were involved with John Wick, I mean, that must have been a dream. Like that project must be because it was just such a old school approach to fights. And it's not like being caught 50,000 angles. It's like you see Keanu beaten up three guys one shot. And you it's not like the famous one is like, you know, I don't know if you know who shot taken three or two or whatever. But you see, you know, I saw this one, this one sequence somebody on YouTube, it was so beautiful. It's like, it's Liam running and jumping across a fence as he's chasing somebody with 75 cards. I was like no joke was a tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick tick. As opposed to something like John Wick you just look at and you're like, that's just that's a What was it like to just get in the car and go on. I'm not gay brother.

J.J. Perry 29:09
So I was on Expendables three in Bulgaria with Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone on a container in, in, in. In Sofia shooting machine guns when Chad Stahelski called me we're, we're teammates and you know, mad respect to Chad and Dave for what all that they've accomplished. You know, they that style of mixing Judo with jujitsu in gun work. He calls me and I was about to finish up in Expendables three he said, Hey, listen, I'm doing the shoot out in a nightclub in New York on this on my movie John Wick. I need your help because I was in the army. So I know how to work the gun work and and look, we were all a big fans of hardboiled. You know, the John was so but I want to get my hands on those Chinese guns that have 500 bullets in them. He never reloads I love those guns. I want to get one of those. But that's one of the things that we one of the monitors will I was that we would be true to that. If you're running a Glock 17. With a regular magazine, you have 15. And one, you have an extended mag you get at 17 and one or 18 and one. So that was it, I got the call to come down, they were shooting the lat the final scene out in the dark when he's fighting the father of the guy at the end, he gives me an address of a nightclub and says we want to shoot, we want to start shooting, we're gonna shoot this nightclub scene at this place. Can you go there, I got there on a Friday afternoon. They're shooting at night. So I just drove to that address gave the door guy 100 bucks to let me in and walk through there. He said it'll start at the top. When you go up the stairs, the room you're right and started as a door to walk in. You'll go through we'll work our way all the way around the top floor, and then we'll the beginning of it will pull into the dance floor. So I just walked with my iPhone doing a first person shooter it patrons of the club, then I would turn the phone around to myself do a reload. And then so what John Wick is it's exactly the opposite. It's reverse first person shooter. It's always on Qian and pulling him and then wrapping in until it falls apart. And then we do it all over again. So it's a big pool into a rap. And that's that's technically the idea that theory of shooting. So you see Keanu Reeves is doing this. So for me once a week once I got there and we started working that out. I knew right away looking into monitors with Chad and Dave, I was like, Dude, we're on one. You guys are on one right now. As it's cutting edge, because in your gun. This is the thing. Now that I've done a John Wick I've done to you I did the just the club scene shoot out in the first one. And then I did all of the second one. And we upped Keanu was training camp for the second one because what Chad said to me said, how can we make to better than one I said, Well, you have to make Keanu better. So we put him in a really hard jujitsu camp Judo camp, took him to a three gun range and hadn't trained by a, you know, a 14 time world three gun champion, Taran Butler up here in Simi Valley, we just made him better, and then let the camera run longer. So you know, that was it was one of the highlights of my career because I'm a dear friend and fan of Keanu Reeves. I'm a huge fan of Chester house because we go back 30 years, one of the first people I met when I got out of the Army, he's been a huge a huge ally. You know, like, again, I didn't really have a plan when I got out of the army. I just didn't want to fuck things up and have to end up back in the army. But you know, Chad, you know, went to USC, he was always a he always knew that he I think he always knew he was going to be a director. And I really admire that I kind of watched where he walked in the snow and followed his footsteps. So you know, he was actually a producer on day shift. He was the one that I took it to the gotten greenlit. So that was, you know, that was one of the big, helping him out and working with our team at at 711 was, it's always a pleasure. There was a lot of hitters on that movie, bro. And the first and second one.

Alex Ferrari 32:53
So it's so funny because I remember Dave, I met Dave on in Sundance 2005 When he was promoting as a sledge. Yep. You remember that movie?

J.J. Perry 33:08
Yeah, we worked on it. We all do it.

Alex Ferrari 33:10
You weren't. So I was yeah, he was like he was doing like a stunt thing. And I met him and we hung out for a while. And this is before you know, a few years before he did John Wick. But as I was watching his career gromek Matt got blessed. I'm so glad he's, he's done good for, for himself over the years, man. It's, it's awesome. Now,

J.J. Perry 33:32
You know, if you look at if you look at stunt performers trajectory, like I've worked on 150 features, and over 300 episodes of TV, when you're working with Angley, gently Spike Lee, when you've worked with everyone, you have to learn something if you're paying attention. You know, like that's a different I guess the difference between a stunt guy and a stunt man, a stunt guy is just trying to make a bunch of money and get some toys. A stuntman is out there trying to make the movie better, and he's paying attention to every shot and trying to make every shot better. So you know, being being a stunt man, you know, and learning from some of the masters and learning just as much from second and first and second time directors on what not to do sometimes. Right part of my film school. And you know, Dave and Chad are alike. So the first one is the guy who directed from my group that directed smoking the bandit. Okay, I'll need him. How's that? Yeah. So he busted out in the 70s. He's one of the founders of my group sons Unlimited, you know, so he's one of the guys that busted out and you have a few stunt directors who in the US that have done some movies, you know, like Jackie Chan, for me is one of the all time greats because he, you know, he took it completely to the next level and there and he did stuff that we're still doing now. But Chad and Dave, for me, were instrumental in opening the door. And hopefully that door gets torn off the hinges because in the mid 2000s, in the early 2000s, there was this wave of visual effects directors. were directing movies. And the difference between us and them not to knock them is they don't have a human experience when you're making a visual effects previous you're on a computer and the computer will do exactly what you tell it to do. Right now. Fast forward to me training Keanu or US training. Tom Hardy and warrior Joel Edgerton, and warrior or Charlize here on on on atomic blonde OS them, we're training them, we're trying to do this, we're directing them, we're making them badass, don't best way to fake being a badass is just to make them a badass, we're directing them, and we have their trust. So when we're on set, and someone says, Why don't want to stand over here, I want to stand over there. I'm like, I can adjust quickly. But that Visual Effects Director was like, Well, wait a minute, no, my you know, they don't know how it aired, the computer does exactly what they tell them to do. When they get the human effect. When the human effect comes in. It became very difficult for them. And also it's, it's the interfacing as a stunt coordinator, you're constantly interfacing with all the other departments. So you have this dialogue and this repertoire with everyone on the movie and production meetings go into their offices. So I know how to communicate with everyone. I have a relationship with pretty much every crew anywhere because I've filmed in 36 countries. So it's a huge advantage for us is action directors becoming directors because we have this film, not film school experience. But filmmaking experience, which is entirely different than theory, its execution. It's like fighting the guy that hits the bag all day. You don't know what he's gonna do when he gets punched in the face. But the guy that spars all day, he's reactive, and proactive and hyperactive, you know? So that's, that's my take on on action directing. That's my take on it.

Alex Ferrari 36:43
Well, it's kind of like Mike Tyson has everyone's got a plan to get punched in the face,

J.J. Perry 36:46
Amen, my brother.

Alex Ferrari 36:49
You can be as badass as you want. But so you get that first punch in the face. All that stuff goes out the window really quickly.

J.J. Perry 36:56
That's right.

Alex Ferrari 36:57
So man, I got a chance to watch your new film day shift brother. First of all, congratulations. When I saw it, I was just like, I was expecting great action. I got great action. And then as I was seeing some of the techniques in the movie, I was watching it and I'm like, Oh, this is all old school style in camera stuff like Yes. And then when I saw the contortionist vampires, I was like, Oh, yes, he did. Like, because then you can't be yes, that it's so many you could do visual effects to do that. But man, when you get a contortionist out there doing crazy stuff, it just brings such reality. So tell everybody what the movie is about. And then we'll get into the how you made it.

J.J. Perry 37:37
So the movies about a man that got out of the army a lot like me, gets trying to keep his family together. And you know, LA's a tough place to live brother, like when I got out of the army, I was not prepared for rent and insurance and etc, etc. So he's, he's a guy that that has a job cleaning pools, and he augments his his income by killing vampires and selling their teeth in an underground in an underground market of vampire hunters that extract vampire teeth and kill them. And what really attracted me to this, you know, I've been reading a lot of scripts, and I was super stoked just being a stunt coordinator and secondary director, making a ton of dough flying all over the world, smashing people with all my friends, and then getting on a plane and going somewhere else and doing it all over again. It was a big risk for me to step out and direct a film. So I was going to be very picky and I read a bunch of scripts. Oh, JJ, you were in the army. You should do a movie about PTSD. cybers I was like, No, man, the world's dark right now. You know, right now with COVID and a double feature of monkey pox and a triple feature of war in Ukraine, the Worldstar you can turn on the news right now and find 1000 reasons to want to turn it off. I when I saw when I read the script, Dacia It spoke to me immediately because big drum a little china Lost Boys Evil Dead. Fright Night from the 80s Action, Comedy horror. I don't have a message. There's no I'm not trying to tell anyone to do anything or change anyone's mind. I just want them to enjoy having those three elements Action, Comedy and horror. I always will have the upper hand on the audience. I can wow them with action. I can make them laugh with comedy, and I can make them jump with horror. So using those three tiers, those three elements of those three layers of attack, it was like triangulating my crossfire on the audience to keep them right where I wanted them. The script spoke to me because there's an underground world of vampires and an underground world of hunters that chase them which is just like John Wick, but so that's what they were coming I got a lot of John Wick ish scripts s scripts. I was like I did that man and I don't want to bite on what Chad and Keanu are doing now. People will always say like John Wick, you know, but this in the movie I made is not John Wick with vampires. It's definitely not I definitely wanted to get as far away from that as I could because I'd already worked on that and I don't want to. I want to give the bout to my bros it at 711 Chad and Dave, they did a great job of that. I don't want to bite on that. There's enough people doing it right now. I got a script. I got it from Sean and Yvette Yates from impossible dream. They brought it to me. They've been big, you know, advocates and then the guy Tyler Tice, who wrote it, Jim, me and him worked on it for about a year. I do we just put big action teeth on it, you know, BT. And then I made it the characters is familiar to me as possible, like big John's character was like my platoon sergeant in the Army buds wife is like my wife, my wife's an attorney. She's the mike tyson of our viewers. You know, so and Bud has a nine year old daughter, I have a nine year old daughter, so I try to make it relatable to me. So when the Thespians would ask me, I would be able to speak intelligently. And I'll be honest, the thing that really worried me more than anything, was the comedy. Yeah, cuz that's something Yeah. But I think I'm funny, but I don't know if anyone else fucking thinks I'm funny.

Alex Ferrari 40:53
So, Gary, Jake, having hairy Jamie Foxx Jamie Foxx is not

J.J. Perry 40:59
Getting Day Shift was a win. Getting Jamie Foxx was winning the water. Oh, so talented. Oh my God. What a G bro and inhuman Dave Franco together.

Alex Ferrari 41:10
Oh great. Great chemistry!

J.J. Perry 41:13
I worked on a movie called spy several years ago with it Paul Feig directed. I did the action for him. And I did some second unit for him. And I watched the I was I first saw, I was hoping this would happen from right when Chad and Dave finished John Wick. I started going to you know, read I'd ask directors when I'd get hired and be like, Hey, can I sit through read through so I wanted to be more a part of that to watch the decisions being made. I really paid attention to Paul on how he directed the action and he had these things posted notes. And he would have it was almost like an accordion a post it notes with bolts that he had scribbled down so when he would just let the camera roll and say oh I tried this or I try this and then he would say okay now run with it. So having Jamie and Dave Franco in the comedy bro just let the cameras roll and let them just have at it so you know I I think you know Jamie for me was the biggest winner of all you know getting movies huge thank you Netflix Thank you Chester house from Greenland. Thank you impossible dream for bring it to me thank you Tom for writing in Jamie Foxx I will forever owe a debt of gratitude and all we always be a good program because that was him showing up to do my movie was such a massive thing for me.

Alex Ferrari 42:28
Now with you know, a lot of second unit directors don't get the shot because a lot of them stay a second unit directors for their career. And like you said, I can have fun I can go out I'm working on big budgets I'm having this fun for fun. So when I saw that, you know when I went in and started to research it I was like oh this is his first shot like this is this is not a normal scenario because a lot of times actually second unit directors no action, but they have no idea how to deal with actors like on a on a watch McCall on like a dialogue state or how to carry character arcs and things like that. It's a little tougher to do that. But when I saw what you does, like man, I'm interested to see how he does and I was like man, he held it together man like the whole story was well put together. There's some beautiful easter eggs for someone of my my vintage to to grab on to some some loss boy lines. Well give it away. I was like, I was like nice. So some some nice little easter eggs along the way. But it was just it was just it was just well done. It was really well done. And I was telling you earlier before we get started with the color of it looks great that the the you could feel how hot it is. During you could feel like it Valley. And then that since I'm from the valley. I was just I was just like, I was from the valley. I was just like it up. Oh, they're deep in the valley over there. There. That's not Burbank. Nope, that's so it was fun. Oh, it's always fun for me when they shoot something in LA. They're like, yep, been there. Yep. I know where that is. Yeah.

J.J. Perry 44:00
So you know, Brother, listen, when I got out of the Army, it kind of was like that I moved to the valley first I lived in the back of a taekwondo school for a while and when I got made my first bit of money, I moved to the valley and you have to that's the trajectory I think you need to move to the valley to move down by the airport when you first get here and you don't have any money. Then you make your way over the hill which will be night shift part two will be in Hollywood or you know we'll be in Hollywood maybe next time. But that was the trajectory and one of the things that I remember about the valley when I first got there was being from Texas. It's hot and humid but the colors in the valley that orange and listing total disclosure, I am completely colorblind, the worst colorblind you can be but that orange for me really resonates in the opening of diehard when the plane lands, the orange sun, that setting when the plane lands. That's what I showed Toby Oliver, when I said I need your help with this because I want the interiors to feel cold like vampires would be there you can almost feel the breath. But when you're outside it should be hot and sticky and light Like the valley, you know what you hear? That's the water the water watering things are the you're gonna disturb the cicadas, you know you all of that, that I wanted to get bring that to the movie. So yeah, that was part of it for me and Toby Oliver is a gem. You know, when we shot the movie in 42 days with no second unit, which is a very short shoot for a movie of that size. And we didn't have a lot of time we shot 31 Days in Atlanta and 11 days in LA. So I was scared all my interiors in Atlanta and a few exteriors. So what I did in LA what all of my establishing shots of LA, I would do these big drone, handoffs, big drone shot showing the valley, then we'd have certain operator catch the drone, we hit a button, the drone would fly off, and then we follow our actors into wherever they were going. So I really close the valley because I wanted to, and I think the valley is hot, sweaty, sexy, cool, exotic, trippy, you know, you can smell the different flavors of food in the air, you can hear seven different languages being spoken, it was this mystical place when I moved there being from South Texas, you know, like the valley, you know, like what a trip. So that was part of it for me is to show how exotic the valley was. So there you go.

Alex Ferrari 46:13
So, you know, as a director, you know, and I'm sure you've had this happen on other projects as well. There's always that one day that the whole worlds come crashing down around you. You like oh my god, we're not going to make it. We're not going to make the day we're not going to make the shot. But something's going to happen. And it's generally every day we have every every day, there's a moment of that. But generally, on this project, was there one day that stands out that you're just like, I feel like security's gonna come and take me away.

J.J. Perry 46:39
No, no, but there's a moment I'll tell you. It's funny. So I was never afraid of the action at all ever. And my first ad His name is Bill Clark, I call him Wild Bill. He's Quentin Tarantino is first lady's dear friend, the scene where the vampires come to get. But in his wife, it's the very end of the movie when they they leave South and they take his wife and daughter. Bill comes to me the night before when we were wrapping up, he goes, you know, you got seven and a half pages of dialogue tomorrow. And I was a young girl. And I didn't know what that meant. You know, a lot of time he goes, Hey, Bubba, you got seven and a half pages of dialogue tomorrow. And I was like, Cool, great. He goes, he just kind of pulled me you know, he's like, Hey, so let's talk about this. So it didn't really dawn on me till about four o'clock in the afternoon, when I was better pay better attention to that. But you know, at the end of the day, we ended up getting that right, we had we had, you know, it's because the cast was so great. And everyone, no one went back to their trailers. Everybody hung out on set, we're playing music between setups, you know, everybody was having a good time, I wanted to keep the set light, like I keep my second unit light key there Metallica or Stevie Ray Vaughn, between setups or you know, dealer's choice to get a new DJ. And we had Jamie with his boombox. And we had, you know, taco truck here and there and coffee trucks. So it ended up working out all right. And it was my ignorance that saved me, because I wasn't afraid you don't you're not afraid of what you don't know until you know it right? Of course. And then it kind of worked out. And bill at the end of that day when Whoa, you said that was almost like having a baby. And I was like, Well, I can't speak on that yet. But I can tell you now I know what seven and a half pages mean. So

Alex Ferrari 48:18
Seven and a half pages is a lot of dialogue, man. I mean, unless you're doing unless you're doing master shot theater, then it's cool. You can knock that out in 30 minutes. But if you're doing what, you know, a normal setup, man, that's a lot of dials.

J.J. Perry 48:30
There were nine people in the room too. So there's a lot of coverage, you knows a lot of coverage. And also you had to not, we had to be careful not to shoot the mirror because the vampires are invisible in the mirrors. And I didn't have a huge visual effects budget on the movie. So I had to be very conscious of everything I was doing.

Alex Ferrari 48:45
Right? No, exactly. And how many cameras did you shoot with?

J.J. Perry 48:49
Generally, when we were doing all of it, when we were doing all the dialogue, always three cameras, I always run three cameras. And then when we were doing the car chase, I was running seven cameras, because we didn't I mean, it wasn't like I said it wasn't we didn't have a lot of time. And it wasn't a fast and furious budget or you know, a gray man budget. But it was it wasn't a little budget either. They were very generous with me. So I just because of second unit, I know how to budget my time really, really well. When it comes to action. I just know this is gonna work. This is gonna work. I gotta do this. Okay, so I can make a change here. We can not cut here and go here. I know how to I know how to run the table. I know how to play shoot that I knew how to clean the table to run that eight ball. But um,

Alex Ferrari 49:26
So what was the biggest challenge you had on this project? Since I mean, since it's your first full feature? You've done tons a second. What was the biggest

J.J. Perry 49:34
Hardest part for me was getting the opportunity to do it, bro. You know, to be honest, I was gonna have to do that, by the way. Well, you know, like when John and Yvette brought it to me, and we worked on it for a year I was doing Fast and Furious eight in London. Chad was in London with Keanu promoting John Wick three. Now I had shot the first sequence with the old lady as a stump is and I've done a vampire genogram different species and I don't use sizzle reels and a lookbook. So we're out partying at the Gaucho room with Keanu and Chad celebrating the release of their movie. John Wick three wasn't hanging out with him. In about four in the morning, Chad leans over and he goes, Hey, man, I'm probably going to get some sort of post first look, deal. Do you have anything? And I was like, funny you should mention that. I slid it you know, I didn't slide it across the table. But I texted I emailed it to him. And I knew he was flying back to LA the next day. And at 6am when he was in the car on the way to the Heathrow. I texted him, I said, Hey, give that thing a look while you're on the plane. He landed in LA and he by the time he landed, he calls me he's going to make this move. And literally, two weeks later, we're in meetings to make this movie and it was happening. So COVID Hit which put it on a hold. So the trajectory was shattered. But Yeates as Sean Reddick and Yvette Yates from posturing, give me the script. Get behind me. Tyler Tyson, I work on it for about a year together. Chance to house he sees it gets excited about it walks it in Netflix, or a mom or Taylor Z. Get excited about it about the package of Chad and this movie and myself. Jamie Foxx comes on board and it turns into like a holy shit, it's going to be massive. And here we are. It's all in the past. Now it's all in all behind us. So that's kind of the way it happened. And it happened really fast. We shot it really fast. I had the one of the best times I've ever had prepping and shooting the movie, the only place that I was not aware of was post production. Because 32 years of prepping movies and shooting movies. You never like I've been in the editing room a couple of times with directors cutting together because I always when I shoot second unit, I cut while I'm shooting and I deliver it. So I shoot a stump is for proofing proof of concept. Then when I'm shooting what I shoot, I shoot and cut the footage off of the TTI key and hand it to them and say proof of execution. You don't have to cut it this way you cut it any way you want to. But this was my version of your vision. And now it's locked in now it's done. If you want to give it to your editors, as a roadmap, do whatever you like, but here it is. So all that being said, prepping the movie shooting, it was such a PCK going into post production, I'd already cut all of the action while we were shooting. So theoretically, a third of the movie was cut already when we get to posts. So watching the whole process of post I learned so much in post about what I don't need to do. And I'll tell you like all those shots of the techno crane passing over the pool that follows the feet up and close to the door and a lens flare hidden from the sun. That 45 second shot. My cinematic my Kurosawa shots all gone dog. Oh, yep. So I learned so much about what I don't need to do that I would tell you confidently as a 54 year old budding filmmaker, that my sophomore effort will be infinitely better than my freshman efforts.

Alex Ferrari 53:03
Wow, that's such a man. It's so true. Because even look so it's so funny. They say that man because you've been in the biz man for you know, decades. At this point, you've shot so much work at the highest levels. And yet you fell into the same trap that first time directors fall into like, let's make this one shot here. And then we'll do the Goodfellas shot through the through the kitchen and all that stuff. And I remember Kurosawa, that Kubrick thing will do that. And it's and you you fall into that and you realize, when you get in the cutting room, like I said, it just stops the entire movie, you can't do that.

J.J. Perry 53:36
It went like this. So the action was cut. We watched the movie, for the first time, probably three, two and a half or three weeks in, we just put all the reels together. And the movie came in at two hours and 43 minutes. So I looked at it and I was like, Wow, alright, cool. So I want to listen, I never wanted anyone I was very conscious of this, because I'm always watching. I made this movie for our generation Gen X, but I also made it for the millennials and the Gen X Gen Y and Gen Z hence, but in Seth, counterparts that difference and I'll get into that in a minute remind me to talk to you about why that was inspired from but that was easy. It was easy for me because I didn't want my movie to feel long. I wanted it to be easy to watch because you listen I'm not gonna say any I'm not going to call any movies out. But there's a lot of movies now that I watch that are hard, like I love them but they get become like I'm sitting now I'm aware that they're fat, making dayshift for not for the small screen for being seven or 10 feet away from your big screen TV from your sofa. You're sitting four feet high. Looking at your screen. That's in my mind. That was the movie I was making. I was not shooting it for a theater because it was you know, Netflix is a small screen and but it's big screen ambitions on the small screen. So in saying that it was very easy for me. Once I cut that first part of my finger off, I let that long shot Go, it became easy for me to see it is just it 54 In all those years of experience comes in wisdom. Like, I know I have to, I have to sift some of this out. So I let it go quickly. You know, like, Listen, I'll be honest with you. It's not. It's not. It's not Shakespeare. And if you weren't Shakespeare, they wouldn't be hiring me, bro. They wouldn't hire a caveman like me. It has to be fast and fun. And something has to happen. And I don't want anyone to feel like okay, I'm waiting now and what's going on? I don't want them looking at their Instagram. So that was kind of the the full film filmmaking experience that I wanted to create is something that was scary, acne funny, and easy to watch.

Alex Ferrari 55:43
And it's exactly like that's not a movie that can be two hours and 45 minutes like that story. It's not that story. So it's just not but it's it needs to be fast and tight and quick, and you'd fun. And that's the kind of thing you know, you're not making Braveheart. You know, which is what you need three hours to tell that story. And it's it okay to do that. And honestly, I don't know if Braveheart gets made today. And that's no,

J.J. Perry 56:06
I'm a huge I used to double Mel Gibson strangely, and I'm a huge fan. I think he's one of the best filmmakers. Ah, alright, you know, like, listen, I used to be a stone Golem. Huge fan, bro.

Alex Ferrari 56:19
Apocalypto. Oh, god, it's brilliant film.

J.J. Perry 56:23
The 250 millimeter lens on my set is called the Mel Gibson because he always has a camera on a 250. And he always he told me goes, Hey, kid, you want to see what's going on in there? Put the 250 and reach in there and get them you can see what they're thinking, bro. So I always use that 250 But I couldn't get the Mel Gibson out guys when I was thinking that moment, you know, so? Yes, you're right. It's not and they probably will make a Braveheart but kudos to Mel for making it in.

Alex Ferrari 56:50
Yeah, when when they could. And you told me to ask you about the generational thing.

J.J. Perry 56:54
So yes, I'm on the road as a stunt coordinator, sacking director with all of these Apex stunt performers and stunt coordinators that work with me for the last we've done we've been on the road with the same guys for about eight or nine years at 711 stunts unlimited I hire within my team, Justin you, Troy Robinson, Mike Leia, my bros, but they're, except for Troy. Those other guys and females and girls that are in my group are all millennials and Gen X and Jim why like parkour champions world kung fu champion, car drifting champion trip motorcycle champion, but they're all kids. And I love them. But I don't know what the fuck they're talking about half the time, dude. And we all love each other and laugh at each other. But it's, it's that awkward thing that I wanted that I experienced on the road with my teammates that I love. And we spent time together and we hang out and watch him in May and go to the movies and do functions and stuff together and risk our lives together and make a bunch of dough together. But when I listen to them talk about things I'm like, fuck are they talking about? That's exactly what I wanted to portray that dynamic between blood and Seth in my movie. Like there's the generation that gets their knowledge from this. Right? They get their phone and it's Google. You and me. I'm 54 and we're probably eugenics.

Alex Ferrari 58:11
I'm not I'm not too far away from you, sir.

J.J. Perry 58:13
So you know, we were kids. If you wanted to learn something, you have to go there and learn it

Alex Ferrari 58:17
Until you library library photocopy when

J.J. Perry 58:21
I joined the Army, because I was a junior national taekwondo champion, so I could go boot get stationed in Korea, so I could fight the best in the world. So I committed four years of my life to the army just for taekwondo just so I could go there and fight and train. So I know the way the gym smells at chumps. Shil I know the way the gym smells in Thailand and lupini stadium, I know the way that Buddha con, the floor feels when you walk on it. Kids that learn on it on this, they don't know that they're getting the knowledge without actually earning it, which comes without the wisdom of learning. No, not knocking my younger brothers and sisters because I have a huge admiration for them. And we can learn a lot from them as well. But that for me the practical application versus the quicker knowledge is another thing that I wanted to portray in my movie.

Alex Ferrari 59:10
And if I if I can get up on my old man soapbox. The difference is that our generation is I call us the bridge generation. Because we were at a time when we understood pre internet, pre technology. I don't know about you. But I remember a time when there was no remotes. I was I was the remote from my grandfather. He's like get up and change the channel. And you would go like that stuff. I showed my daughters of rotary phone the other day and their minds just exploded. They just couldn't understand. And I go Yeah, and on. On the on the seventh number. If you mess it up, you got to start over. All these history, but so we know that part of of technology and history and society. But then we also were around when the internet was born. That's right. So, so we have feet and both both generous as opposed to like my daughters. They don't know anything different. You know, and the millennials they don't know a world without this kind of stuff. So it's a different different way of looking at

J.J. Perry 1:00:14
things the internet crashes we would go back to the Thomas guide in a hot minute, but they wouldn't maybe not no deal with that in coins for the for the phones, you remember. I remember the pager when I was a kid, a pager Well, church and the pastor said, Hey, you better get that it might be God page. And he told him, my mom, my grandma. Good Doctor, he must mean doctor.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:38
When is that? So when is Day Shift coming out man?

J.J. Perry 1:00:41
August 12. It drops we are. I'm super excited like all my other director friends that do this is the worst time for you because you don't know. And I was like, Pablo, for me not knowing is the bliss of not knowing. For me, it's awesome. Because I feel like I did everything I could to make it as good as I can. I had a great time doing it. I had a great partner and my cast and my shooting crew and my production producers and Netflix. I'm just super stoked to get it out there and let it let the ship sail and let's see how far it goes.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:09
And the thing I also love about what you're doing, man is like you just made your first feature, but you're still you're still hustling on an out there as a second unit and you're still working. You don't stop man, I saw your IMDB and you're like Nah, man. I'm keep. You're not like I'm a director now I only direct No, no, no, no.

J.J. Perry 1:01:24
I'm working as a stunt man next week, too. So this is how it goes for me brother. Just so you know, like, I learned all my lessons in life. I didn't go to college, I learned my lessons in life in the dojo in in the army. And my master said something to me when I was 11 years old. He said if you want to be a fighter, you have to go fight. Fighting is a perishable skill. Directing in my opinion, for me is a perishable skill. If you're not out there doing it all the time, you know, it's you're not reactive, or proactive, you become reactive, you got to be proactive, you got to be in front of the wave all the time. So I'm constantly just I just got back from doing a movie for Warner Brothers called Blue Beetle, did murder mystery to for Netflix getting ready to do back in action for Netflix. Like I'm just I want to keep myself directing action. And hopefully, my movie goes well, and they give they give this old cowboy another shot at the title baby. I'm ready. Ring the bell.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:13
Now, bro, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

J.J. Perry 1:02:21
Believe in yourself and be as good as you can be be the best version of yourself. Because when opportunity comes, you might not get another shot at it. It comes when it comes in, you can make your fate in certain ways. But you think like for my example, it took me 32 years to get a directing job. You know, so I was when my moment came, I was absolutely ready. I had a script that I loved and was passionate about. I knew what that set was going to smell like before I got there. And this is coming from a dyslexic colorblind guy that never went to college, you know. And so if you get the opportunity, you have to make the most of that opportunity. And don't take anything for granted and learn as much as you can about all the other departments.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:03
What did you What did you learn from your biggest failure?

J.J. Perry 1:03:08
Yeah, I've taken a bath a few times. You know, it's tough love, especially when you get out of the army. The army prepares you for certain things, but it doesn't necessarily prepare you for what to do when you get out always, especially in in the late 80s, early 90s. I got out in 1990. So it was hard for me to because I didn't know many people I didn't know anyone in LA except for one or two people. Like I slept on the floor of a karate school for a long time. You know, it was very, like, there was no room for error. Like if I didn't make money, I was definitely going to be back in the army. So, you know, but la strangely was, you know, a place at the time and even now I'm you know, I love this place. It's a trip, you know, but the weather in the place I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, you know, back in 1988 while I was driving to Fort Ord, you know, like when I drove through LA so that's probably the biggest lessons came from you know, like just learning how to apply the work ethic that I learned in the military and for martial arts in how to monetize that and make make it make me able to survive in the real world.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
Three of your favorite films of all time. Oh, whatever comes to mind, brother, but it won't be on your tombstone.

J.J. Perry 1:04:15
When police story and armor of God are tied is action grace you have to I have to mention Enter the Dragon Armor of God and police story so the Terminator and Rocky the first rock in the first Terminator because the first Terminator for me was the story was like I remember I remember sitting in the theater. It was in I was in downtown Houston. Yes probably stone with my buddies and we were like remember the first hang on I remember the first time when you saw Star Wars and when they went to hyperspeed remember that first love Yeah, sure, man. Yeah, yeah, that's it. So that was kind of Terminator for me and Rocky was such an inspiration as well, you know? So I would say I it's hard for me to say three but I would go please story. armor of God rocky Terminator. And yeah, any one of those three for me with those in you like for entertainment like we did it doesn't have action. But strangely, Forrest Gump was such a feel good movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:17
Movie. Yeah. Awesome. Now, one last question, man, because you you mentioned Terminator, you've gotten a chance to work with Jim.

J.J. Perry 1:05:25
I have him as well. I go to the gun range with him as well. Sometimes he she's so.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
So what is it like walking on the set of a Jim Cameron movie for the first time. And you're like, Dude, that's terminate, like, like, you have to Geek do geek out every once in a while. I mean, at this point, you've worked with so many. But that first time,

J.J. Perry 1:05:46
The first time I walked on the set prep, we did prep work on the first Avatar and while we when I went in at lunch, they were using this new that new technology where it was real time, Genesis, Garrett Warren, my friend was the stunt coordinator, Peter Jackson, and Steven Spielberg, were there with Jim. So it was like this triple geek out moment where, like, we you know, like, so Garrett walked in front of them. And I snapped a picture, just they were eating, and he didn't want to bother him. But he walked in front of them and stopped. And I clicked a picture for you know, you know, when Jim James Cameron is coming to work, you can hear the helicopter landing. That's when he shows up for work. That's how he comes to work from his place. He's a G Man, like, for me, that generation of filmmakers. Yeah, there's nothing to make the movies in camera, you know, and then went with the wave to technology, even Angley is another example that I've done a bunch with Angley. He's another one that's, you know, practical filmmaker that went all the way into checklist. All of those guys are epic. And if we've seen any fathers filmmakers, because we stood on the shoulders of giants like those men.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:57
Absolutely. No question. J.J man, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you and geeking out with you, brother. It is I hope, I hope somebody learns a little bit from our conversation here and there's a lot of gems in this woman, but congratulations on your success and your career on your new movie. And I hope man, I hope they give you the keys again, brother. I really look forward to see what else you do, man.

J.J. Perry 1:07:18
Thank you, brother. I appreciate you.

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