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BPS 201: How to Get IP and Life Rights for Your Screenplay with David Kessler

Originally from Philadelphia, David attended that city’s “Fame” high school, Creative And Performing Arts, where his classmates included QuestLove and Boyz II Men. He then graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, and worked as a graphic designer for ad agencies, designed book covers, movie posters, and indie film titles.

He impulsively moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and became a stand-up comic for a while, performing at The Improv, The Vancouver Comedy Festival, and in sketches on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and “The Showbiz Show with David Spade”. But he tired of comedy clubs after a few years and focused on writing instead. In 2006, his “Will & Grace” spec made it to the semi-finals of the Warner Bros. Comedy Workshop.

Switching to drama, he optioned the book “Minamata” (and the life rights of the author), about the experiences of journalist W. Eugene Smith photographing mercury poisoning victims in Japan. He wrote the screenplay in six weeks, and it got him a literary manager. Then Johnny Depp’s company came on board to produce with Depp himself as the star. Filming on MINAMATA completed in the Spring of ’19, with an expected release in Fall 2021. “Minamata” premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020 and has since been picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films for domestic distribution. It also stars Bill Nighy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, and the singer Katherine Jenkins.

His follow up, DREAMERS (based on the book John Lennon Vs. The US), is about John Lennon’s immigration battle with the Nixon administration which legally set the stage (many years later) for DACA/The Dream Act. 

David was recently hired by the director of “Minamata”, Andrew Levitas, to rewrite a script about the two brothers who owned Adidas and Puma and who battled each other for decades. That project, “Adidas V Puma”, is currently out to actors and mentioned in “The Hollywood Reporter” in early March 2021.

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David Kessler 0:00
Depp put a lot of them himself into the part and into the production of the movie. You know the movie was made I think the budget was $11 million. Maybe it was.

Alex Ferrari 0:12
It looks a lot more expensive than that.

David Kessler 0:14
It looks amazing.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
This episode is brought to you by bulletproof script coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome to the show, David Kessler, how're you doing, David?

David Kessler 0:29
Great.

Alex Ferrari 0:30
Thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I think I appreciate you reaching out to me, man, I get reached out by as you can imagine a lot of people want to come on the show. And very blessed with that. But when I saw your story, and I saw the films you worked on, and I just found it interesting to see your perspective on on the craft on the business and so on. So first question, man, how did you get into this insanity that is the business?

David Kessler 0:57
That's a this is this is my fourth career. So I have to have to make this one stick. I went to art school and went to Parsons School of Design. But I was always I was always I was trained to be a designer, but I was always writing on the side. met again many years ago, I wrote a short story for an NYU film application. And a friend gave it to a woman who came into her Cafe she was a waitress. And then it turned out that she then this woman wrote me a letter so I got a letter in the corner to Janklow and Nesbit Oh no, I'm getting sued. I'm gonna have to leave my apartment or something. You know? Like, it turns out Marchenko is an attorney and the logo looks very much like a law firm. But it turns out there they are, like the biggest literary agency in New York, they represent the represented Michael Creighton, they represented Richard Price who was my favorite author at the time. So yeah, my, my, my, my journey goes goes goes way back. So you know, that was sort of an inkling that maybe I had something that you know,

Alex Ferrari 2:11
Started yet someone's yet some some of the juice some of the magic

David Kessler 2:15
I had some of the juice. Yeah, I don't even think I don't even think I think I was still 21 I just graduated college. But yeah, I got I got rejected by NYU. I don't even know I don't even know how I could have afforded it. But

Alex Ferrari 2:29
So it might have been the best thing for you not to go to NYU because you might be still be carrying around an obscene amount of debt.

David Kessler 2:35
Probably Probably. But actually, I got to know a lot of NYU. People from that time. I was doing film titles for NYU students. So I put like fliers all over NYU like hey, I'll do your film titles for $99 or whatever it was. And I got to know some really interesting people. One of the people I got to know the first film title it was a guy named Randy Pearlstein Pearlstein he and his roommate, Eli Roth does later did Cabin Fever

Alex Ferrari 3:09
Wow, very cool. Now is it true that you also went to the same high school?

David Kessler 3:15
I went to the Philly version of the same high school

Alex Ferrari 3:18
So you went to the same high school the the Philly version? Yeah, but while you were there some of your your your co your students that you went to school with is a tree went to school with Boys to Men and quest love. Yes, yes. Yes. What was that like? Dude? How were they back then?

David Kessler 3:37
I think I was bullied by boys to men's like associates, freshman year. I remember somebody pushing me down on the roof. We had our we had our playground on the roof because it was in a city. I didn't and then yeah Questlove was a year below me. He was a mere Thompson then I didn't wait they were on a different floor. So they you know, they had they you know they had a music floor and then they had like, you know, rehearsal spaces in the basement you know that were soundproof so but yeah, I mean, I knew sort of a mirror in passing but I don't think he'd remember me.

Alex Ferrari 4:17
That's funny man as funny now from what I understand you also became a stand up as well. Yes. And you did some stand up work now I've had decades of experience with stand up so I know the creature very well.

David Kessler 4:32
It is. It is a beast. It is.

Alex Ferrari 4:36
A stand up the standup it is it is the comedian the stand up comedian is their own species. I you know the sad clown is very, very true in many in many cases. What drew you to stand up and because look, I was shooting a special once I was shooting a stand up special directing it and I just got up on the on the stage. age with nobody in the audience just to set up for the camera. They're like, Okay, I'll stand in. And I freaked out, just standing there in front of nobody in front of and I just I'm like, Oh no, I can never like it. It's it takes such a level of, I don't know, courage or insanity to try to go up there and entertain people with a mic for an hour. So what drew you to that insanity that's even more insane in the film business.

David Kessler 5:29
Indirectly, a therapist, Kaiser permanency drove drove me to it. I had just gotten to LA, I had moved to LA because I moved. I moved here because I met a woman on the World Wide Web, which is what we called it done. Yeah, and that that relationship crashed, like, I think on the fifth day, or the fourth day I was here. So I was here for about a year and a year and a half, two years. And I just was like, depressed, I couldn't get out of bed, and I went to Kaiser and the therapist was like, you know, what, you have no support system? No, you, you're kind of moved on a whim, you know, you need you, I need you to come back next week with a list of classes that you want to take. So you can you know, find some friends and you know, you know, build the community. So I think two minutes before the next session, I was like, stand up cooking class, acting class, writing class, dance class. And yeah, stand up was was the first thing and she goes, I think that might be good for you. And then like, probably a week and a half later, I was on the stand of class.

Alex Ferrari 6:37
Oh, my God. And then you went out and they started, you started doing stand up. Now you had some success and stand up a little bit and got some work in writing comedy and so on. Right?

David Kessler 6:47
Yeah, I got a manager. Probably within 20 months of the class. I was I was signed with Messina Baker they represented Tim L and Drew Carey. At the time. Yeah. So the representative, Tim Allen, Andrew Carey, and then there was like a bunch of people. Like, you know, there's the a list and then there were so like the E list I was I was sort of in the E list. There was no there was no mid there was no mid talent at the time.

Alex Ferrari 7:22
So when you were working in stand up in working in comedy writing, how did that help you in your dramatic writing that will that's where you are currently today?

David Kessler 7:31
Yeah, I It's hard to say I actually the first script I ever wrote was a biopic which is now my thing. But I wrote a biopic in the mid 90s, about Frankie Lymon and the teenagers. Frankie Lymon was the kid who sang Why do fools fall in love? So that was my first script. So I wrote that in the mid to late 90s. Yeah. And then I was doing standup in the early 2000s, mid 2000s. I don't know, for some reason, the comedy thing. I stopped doing stand up. But I was still writing romantic comedies and comedy scripts. And just it just wasn't sticking. I just I just, you know, there were some nibbles and some bites and, and then all of a sudden, I just made this. I think I think I stopped. Yeah, I stopped. I stopped all entertainment. I was in the laundry business for a long time, which is, which is career number two, career number three, you know, I was like, because I was in my early to mid 30s. And I was like, Okay, I need to grow up. Like, you know, I, you know, I need to get serious about, you know, trying to stay alive. And yeah, and then I just I did a hard pivot to drama and true stories. And that was the thing that was the thing that stuck.

Alex Ferrari 8:47
But you and you were you've been drawn to true stories pretty much ever since it's kind of like you're you've kind of niched yourself in that space.

David Kessler 8:53
Yeah, yeah. I've gotten sort of a semi reputation as the, you know, the doctor of broken biopics. So yeah, there was there was like, I gotten a couple or two or three freelance jobs where producers had come come to me with with a piece of IP or a book or an idea or a true story. And they're like, we've had other people work on this and we have this script and you know, Can Can you try and fix it?

Alex Ferrari 9:20
So, so your script doctored a bunch as well?

David Kessler 9:23
Yeah, in fact, the director of Minamata hired me to rewrite a script he had called the data is V Puma, which was about the two brothers who own those companies who are at war with one another for 30 years.

Alex Ferrari 9:38
So Adidas and Puma had, they were brothers, the owners of this company,

David Kessler 9:42
Yeah, one guy, his name was Adi Dassler. It does it does it this got it? And the other guy was Rudolph, Rudy Dassler there with the Dotzler brothers. And then he founded Puma so they they so yeah, they they had they had a shoe company in the 20s and 30s called the docile shoe company. And then world war two kind of split them apart. And then yeah, one, one.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
That's an interesting story.

David Kessler 10:15
I did a page one rewrite on that spirit. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 10:18
Oh, that must I can't I hope it gets made one day. That'd be a fantastic

David Kessler 10:22
My manager called me about a month ago. And she goes, Oh, yeah, the script you wrote has come back to the agency because they represent directors and and they had it. It's sort of like went out in the world. And it came right back for another client.

Alex Ferrari 10:39
It's interesting how that works is like is a writer, you write something or you're hired to write something and you've no idea what's going to happen to you kind of, you know, you pray to the Hollywood gods, that someone's going to produce it. And I've said this on the show so many times that there's I know writers who might have one, one really popular movie on their on their resume, or are actually produced one or two things. And they're like, oh, they haven't done anything in 10 years. I'm like, No, they've been working nonstop. They've probably written 10 or 15. Paid been paid to write 10 or 15 scripts that just haven't been produced, let alone Script doctoring.

David Kessler 11:15
Right, right. Yeah, I had. I called I call the company that owns the manage the estates of rock bands. And I got a guy on the phone. And I said, Yeah, I've done the Johnny Depp movie, Minamata. Yatta, yatta yatta. And he goes, what else have you done? And I go, Well, you know, being my first movie starring and produced Johnny Depp, I don't think that's too bad. But he was very quick to dismiss that I only had one, right. Oh, but I made that one. But you know, to start with,

Alex Ferrari 11:48
It's not a bad it's not a bad hit to come out with. So let's talk a little bit about Minamata. You are the producer of that, as well as the writer of it, one of the writers of it as well, and one of the most of it. So you're the one who started, you're the one that went out and optioned the book. All that how did you decide to option the book? How did you option the book? And can you explain to the audience of screenwriters out there and filmmakers who might want to Option A book what the process is like?

David Kessler 12:19
It was just it was just a few years of crawling over broken glass. That's all it was. That's it really was really overnight. Really, it was really easy. I had known of the photograph, there's a very famous photograph of this Japanese woman bathing her severely disabled and deformed daughter. I knew that photograph when I was at Parsons, because that was in like, every the best photo journalism book, The Best of, you know, time life. It was it's a haunting picture. I don't know if you've seen the

Alex Ferrari 12:55
No, I've seen. I've seen the picture.

David Kessler 12:57
Yeah, it's and yeah, so that was taken by Jean Eugene Smith. And I didn't, I thought it was in Hiroshima, because it was from black and white. And, you know, it just felt like it was from long ago. But it was only taken, you know, a decade and a half or two decades before I was in college. So then, you know, I discovered the story behind the photograph and the story behind Jean Smith. And then I actually got the Minamata book out of the Los Angeles Public Library. Luckily, it's still in circulation because some books you you can only get at the downtown library, you know, the reference, you know, so that I have to travel, travel, you know, 15 miles and find parking in downtown LA, which I really loads. But yeah, so then I tracked Mrs. Smith down, Mrs. Smith had a, a website where she, you know, answered questions about photographs, or if people wanted to license to photographs. So I reached out to her. January of 2011 never wrote me back. I tried a full year later, just January 12. I was like, I'm just gonna send the same email. And then she wrote me back a few days later. And that this was a big leap of faith for her because I'm not Steven Spielberg. I'm not Bob Zemeckis. I'm not Eric Roth. I don't you know, I don't have Munich behind me. I don't have Schindler's List behind me. I was a guy who did stand up and wrote romantic comedies so and had never made a movie before. So it was a huge, huge I owe Mrs. Smith a huge gratitude, and a debt for trusting me with her story and her husband's story and the story of the community that they lived in. But yeah, it took two years. It was two years of she lives in Japan. She's half Japanese. So it took two years of emails and Skype. phone calls at midnight and letters back and forth. And sometimes she would, you know, decide, um, you know, maybe this isn't a good idea, maybe this is not something I want to revisit, and it brings up too many bad memories and, and then I'd have to reel her back. You know, I think it's a good thing. I think it's a good it would be a good thing for the world to be reminded. Yeah, so it took it was a year and a half of convincing her. And then it was six months of legal wrangling. So yeah, it was it was it was 23 months before she signed on the dotted line.

Alex Ferrari 15:33
So you, you were like a dog with a bone for a year and a half, essentially, and didn't give up. I did not give up on this process, which is a very important lesson for everyone listening. It doesn't happen overnight. Yeah, how? How much are you willing to endure? Because most people would have given up after six months after a couple months there would have given this this lady just doesn't want to do it. It's not for me. What? Who am I? How did you I want to ask you, I'm assuming during that year and a half of you trying to convince this lady to give you the rights or husband's amazing story and book

David Kessler 16:08
And her story.

Alex Ferrari 16:09
Yeah. And her story as well. There had to be moments that you said to yourself, in the quiet of the night, who do you think you are? How dare you think you could even attempt to do something like that? There have been some negative talks and impostor syndrome flying around? How did you overcome that?

David Kessler 16:27
I have a little have a little like sticky on my, my computer, you know, the digital sticky, you know, yeah. And it says, Don't give up on something that you think about every day. So that that that that little digital Mac sticky kind of kept me going on? Because I do you know, I did think about it every day. And I did think it was an important story. And I was just like, You know what, I'm just, I'm just gonna give

Alex Ferrari 16:57
You just kept going, you know, no matter what did you write the script before you had the rights? Or as even as an exercise? Or did you wait,

David Kessler 17:08
I waited, I waited that I had written the Frankie Lymon script on spec, but I hadn't had the rights. And then as soon as I finished that there was an announcement that Gregory Nava was going to do what it was fall in love. And then I had 120 pages of garbage. So I didn't want to make the same mistake of putting all this time and effort and creativity into something that that could go, but I did in my head. I did have like, Okay, this could be the first act, this could be the second act. This is the theme. These are the things I want to talk about, you know, these are the scenes I want to have. So I did I did have it cooking. And I might have written you know, a one page.

Alex Ferrari 17:48
Maybe something something just to like, I don't want to lose this that stuff. Yeah, there was like, Oh, that would be a good scene.

David Kessler 17:54
And then I would maybe write it down. But I didn't. I didn't like I didn't hit fade in and start start writing. I didn't do that.

Alex Ferrari 18:00
So Alright, so now you've got the signature, you've got the rights. Yeah. You've never produced a movie before. You've never made a movie before. That's right. What is the next step? Like? How did you get this thing off the ground? Because you're now one of 1000? If not 10,000? guys running around Hollywood with life rights or book rights or things like that? What made you able to what, how did you get it off the ground? What made you stand above everybody else, at least just to get this thing going?

David Kessler 18:34
You know, I shook the trees of use of you know, friends of friends, co workers. And I remember talking to a woman who worked at participant films, because this seemed like it was up their alley because it had a social environmental component. And she was very blunt and impatient, and she was kind of like, you got rights, that's great. But it's not a script. You know, like, it's not a commodity, you know, like, it's something but it's not something anything. She was basically say, like, turn those rights into a script, you know, or find a writer. So then I wrote the script and six weeks.

Alex Ferrari 19:22
You wrote the whole script and six weeks. I mean, but you've been cooking on it for two years.

David Kessler 19:25
It was it was it was cooking. It was cooking. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 19:28
So you were cooking it for two years, but you actually wrote the draft that went out in six weeks.

David Kessler 19:34
First Draft six weeks, maybe I wrote a bunch of revisions, but it wasn't that different than the first draft.

Alex Ferrari 19:42
So you're the bulk of what you the bulk of what the script was, was written in those six weeks. Yeah. Yeah. That's That's crazy. All right. So now that you have the script now, you're now you're a guy, a screenwriter who has a script who has life rights, again. 9000 of those.

David Kessler 19:58
Right, right, right. Ah, right now, now I'm just one of 50,000 people with a script, but I have the life rights what's actually, you know, meant something that actually had, it had some currency that, you know, there's IP, you know, it was, it was a book, you know. And then I own the rights, you know, so like it gave me it sprinkled a little, little magic dust on on it that, you know, I have the Moxie and I have the entrepreneurship of, you know, getting the rights. You know, like,

Alex Ferrari 20:36
As soon as a writer though, and I want that's one of the reasons I wanted you on the show, because I wanted writers to understand the importance of what you've done with this with this project, specifically, because you did, what basically 1% of 1% of all screenwriters do, which is take control of their of their career, and give themselves a better shot by going out and becoming a producer and or entrepreneur, and going after life rights going after IP going after something that makes you stand out of the crowd. And that's, that's why I'm kind of really examining your process and really, hopefully inspiring somebody listening.

David Kessler 21:20
That was one of the smarter things I've done in the last few decades was, was was was Yeah, being being an entrepreneur, slash producer, in terms of of getting the rights.

Alex Ferrari 21:35
So you've got the rights and that you're running around town. How did how did you? what point did someone say, hey, let's, let's make this

David Kessler 21:45
Well, I have the script and I have the rights. And then I had a friend who I met actually, this is one of the reasons you know, it's great to take classes and you know, meet you know, find comrades and collaborators. I met when I hit I after the Scanner class, I took a sketch class sketch comedy class within beats, who actually passed quite recently, and she was one of the original female writers of SNL. The original SNL the original 75 Yeah. 70 to 80. So she wrote the NoGi sketch, you know the, with Bill Murray and, and Gilda Radner. She had previously written for the Lampoon the National Lampoon. So I took, I took a sketch class, and in that sketch class, a woman had taken the sketch house before me. We had stayed friends. And, you know, now this is 15 13 15 years later, she had a manager. And so I gave her Minamata. She gave it to her manager, she nagged her manager to read it. Her manager had once worked for a photographic photography magazine, in the 70s, in New York City. So there was this kind of like, Oh, I know who, you know, Jean Smith was I, you know, I worked at this magazine, you know. And then finally she read it, and then she loved it. And then and then I got signed by her. And then she was sending out the script.

Alex Ferrari 23:24
And then how did Johnny Depp get involved?

David Kessler 23:27
She sent it to Johnny Depp's company. This is kind of a funny story. She said, she sent it out. And she's ended the journey of the company. And they passed. Past. Simple, simple pass, you know, they might have said they liked the writing, I don't remember. But then nine months later, or 10, eight, eight to eight to eight to 12 months later, I think it was under a year. She calls me on a Friday and says you're not gonna believe this. But Johnny Depp's company has called maybe somebody new RedHat. She says, they think you can win an Academy Award and they and they want us to come in on Monday happened.

So we had, like we were there on a Monday and there was a guy, you know, we have a meeting in a conference room. Now I've since found out what had happened. I have now pieced together the these little threads. So what happened? It turned out he had read it months earlier. He had loved it. He brought it to his boss, his boss, passed for whatever reasons. And then I think he had gotten a promotion, you know, eight months net 10 months later. And then he was told that you know, I hoped apologies to Jason I hope I'm getting the story the story correct. But he was told that you know, he could I'm spearhead a project. And he said, You know, I can't stop thinking about the Minamata script, which is goes to, you know, the earlier thing, if you can't stop thinking about it, maybe it's something you should, you should, you know, you know, go after with with with, with all the love in your heart. And then she goes, Well, if you can't stop thinking about it, maybe, you know, take the lead. And then he called, he called me and told me and then we were in the office on Monday.

Alex Ferrari 25:32
And what point did Johnny read it?

David Kessler 25:35
That's a good question. I don't know, I'm gonna have to go back and piece together the puzzle on that. But maybe for a year and a half to two years, it was never talked about that he would star. They just they just did it was they were just developing it as a production company. Now. It's possible. This was being groomed to be a project for Johnny. But I wasn't privy to those conversations. And it was never mentioned to me.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
So So I want I want, again, people listening just I think there's a lesson here to be to be pointed out. So nine months after they said, No, swing back and say we think this could win an Oscar, you come in on Monday. That's right. That is something that you can't plan for. No, can't prepare for. There is such an element of luck in this industry, that after talking to so many people over the years, who have been at high levels in the industry, luck plays such a big part. But with that said, you had a script, you had life rights, you had you had done a lot of the legwork to get you to that place. So in other words, that phone call would have never come unless you have gone through those two years of over the glass trying to get the rights and all this time and effort trying to get this thing made. But because you did all that work at one point or another, literally luck. Just opened that door.

David Kessler 27:15
Yeah, a lot of things needed to fall into place at just the right time. I mean, I'm not going to discount the amazing luck that has befallen me and Kismet you know, because I took this sketch class, but this this, this woman, Moira, she was in the sketch class, not this guy. She was in the sketch house before my sketch class, but happened to go to our performance, who I met after the show. So the serendipity of her coming to my class, even though she wasn't, you know, coming to the show, even though she wasn't in my class. And then us, you know, staying in touch, and remaining friends for 15 years.

Alex Ferrari 27:53
So long con, it's a long con.

David Kessler 27:56
I was I was inadvertently playing the long game. And so then yeah, so then, you know, she gets a manager, the manager worked at of photography magazine in the 1970s had a personal interest in the subject matter. Read the script, you know, gave it knew the person who ran Johnny Depp's company gave it to Johnny Depp's company. And then and then there's other things that I found out much later was, you know, Johnny Depp had come in the office because he was, you know, off making pirate movies. As soon as someone dies, he's not in the office every day. So he came in the office, and then you know, they have a they have these meetings of, you know, what's going on, you know, what are we developing? What are we looking at? What are we producing? What are we thinking about? You know, and they said, well, well, Johnny, you know, we have this script. It's based on a book. It's called Minamata. It's it's about the journey of this photographer named Eugene Smith. And apparently depth goes I know that Jane Smith is I mean, he didn't say that the be a jerk. He was just saying, like, you know, I'm a, I'm a fan. You don't explain it to me. So it turned out Depp had been a fan of Jean Smith. I, he he had known. You know, he'd been a fan of the photography. He'd been a, you know, sort of aware of Jean Smith's reputation. Jean Smith was a was an eccentric. He was a tortured artist who drank a lot and did drugs and, you know, burn bridges. I think it was in the pantheon of people that DEP admires you know, your Hunter Thompson. Say, you know, your your Keith Richards you know, he just

Alex Ferrari 29:36
You're Jack Sparrow, if you will.

David Kessler 29:38
Jackson Pollock, you know, he just fell into into the boat that kind of self destructive, you know, tortured artist. And, in addition, he had been depth had been friends with a woman named melee Mary Ellen Mark, who was a documentarian, who made a document who made a A doc document documentary about street kids in Seattle in the late 70s, early 80s. She later made it into a feature with Jeff Bridges. Do you remember this movie? Jeff, I forget what the movie was called Jeff Bridges is in it. Edward Furlong plays his sons. And then it was loosely based upon the documentary, I remember that that she had made. So yes, she was. She had taken classes from Eugene Smith in the late 60s, early 70s, at the New School for Social Research, where he had gone to college where I had gone to college. And she had told depth these stories about Jean Smith, you know,

Alex Ferrari 30:37
So it's kind of like the universe was like, building up this, this, this, this, this a maximum point, this turning point where all of these things would just come to a head and you just, yeah, there's no time.

David Kessler 30:49
This was a 50. This was a 52 years, it was a decade long, long game.

Alex Ferrari 30:54
That's what this this was you you had no idea you were part of it till later on.

David Kessler 30:58
I didn't.

Alex Ferrari 31:01
Alright, so I have to ask you. So you know, there's been a lot of talk. There's been over the years have done a lot of talk about Johnny, and how he works with his, his crew and how you worked with writing. What was it like producing a movie with Johnny Depp? Especially something like this? How involved is he in the script is the scripting process? Because I mean, he does take a character and this is obviously based on someone real, but he does take a character and kind of go with it. I mean, I mean, he made the Pirates of the Caribbean without Johnny Depp, there is no Pirates of the Caribbean. I don't care what they do after now that they're not going to have him back or anything. There is no parser therapy without Johnny Depp. So without Jack Sparrow, so how, how did he approach this process with you?

David Kessler 31:43
Yep. That was really that put a lot of himself into the part and into the production of the movie. You know, the movie was made? I think the budget was $11 million. Maybe it was it was looks, it looks a lot more expensive than that. It looks amazing. I mean, it looks amazing. The cinematographers may Andrew did an amazing job. Stunning. Richie Sakamoto did the music. I mean, like, if you've made a list of like, who should do the music, like Ricci Sakamoto would be like, top of that list

Alex Ferrari 32:21
Yeah. Bill Nye and you have

David Kessler 32:22
Oh, yeah. Bill Nye. So yeah. Deb. You know, again, Deb had this personal connection, you know, to Jean Smith, as an artist as a person. So you know, I mean, I mean, I don't want to say he did the movie for scale. But he did the movie for just a fraction of what he used to get to be a pirate.

Alex Ferrari 32:44
Basically, a bunch of lunch money lunch money for Jack Sparrow.

David Kessler 32:48
Yeah, we shot in Serbia and Montenegro. You know, we couldn't even afford to shoot it in Japan, unfortunately. I think although they did shoot some plates in Japan. So yeah, I mean, this was a personal this was a this was something personal for for Johnny. So yeah, I was I was on set. I'm in a minute scene in the movie. There's a scene in Life Magazine, you might have seen the clip, where he's like, kind of walking around this conference table and lecture lecturing us. Yeah, I'm at the table. But if you sneeze or blink, if you do one of those two things, you will miss me. But yeah, I mean, he, he looks, he looks like Jean Smith, you know, with a beard, and he's got his age spots. And he's, he was the same age as as Smith was at the time. You know, there's this world weariness that Smith had, but Johnny just sort of has, you know, being who Johnny is. Yeah, of course, at the age that Johnny is. And you know, he just he just embodied the part and then on onset, he was called gene. He was called, on the call sheet says, like, you know, Gene Smith as Gene Smith. He just took it really, really seriously.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
So you so you're there watching him? I'm assuming you were there almost every day on set, or were you on set a lot.

David Kessler 34:18
I was there for a week. I was I was just there for a week in Serbia. So I only saw some some scenes.

Alex Ferrari 34:24
Okay, so when you're on the set and watching Johnny work, what did I mean? You know, he's our he's arguably one of the better actors of his generation. Without question, what's it like seeing him work and also bringing your words to life?

David Kessler 34:41
It's, it was the latter part of your question. It's sort of an out of body experience. Like, I like I like I don't know how I've gotten to this point. You know, I mean, things were not going well for me and my laundry business until the end. I had $50.12 in the bank before they wired in the money or the movie. You know, like I was going to have to move back to my parents house in Philadelphia like things were not you know, my pivot into the laundry industry was was ended up not not being a good one. So

Alex Ferrari 35:19
I thought my pivot into the olive oil and vinegar business was rough.

David Kessler 35:24
Yeah, my my last gamble was making a movie. I like it. Like, it's weird that this this, this worked out the way you did. But but to your earlier point, Johnny Depp's is amazing. That one scene took about eight and a half hours to shoot the scene in the Life Magazine. I'm sitting at the table. I'm sitting at the table the entire day, just watching him work. Essentially. I'm sitting next to Bill Nye. He is He is to my right. Katherine Jenkins, the opera singer and performer who's the director's wife is sitting across from me. And debt, that's the depot supposed to walk around the table and lecture us all. And, you know, when we start, you know, 830 in the morning, and depth is, you know, Okay, I gotta say this when I hit this mark, okay, okay, you know, and he's, he's got a long monologue, maybe it's a three and a half minute monologue, I don't remember. But he's got a lot to say, in a short amount of time. And again, he's got a hit, you know, Mark's gonna hit the marks, and you know, the camera, people are following him around and, you know, boom, people. So in the beginning, you know, it's like, oh, no, you know, is is, you know, it's he's kind of kind of rough going, you know, the first first, you know, 30 minutes or hour, you know, and if you're, what's the line? Okay. Okay. But then, the course of the day, I am watching. Like, it's a masterclass, I am watching Johnny Depp, like, find the meaning in the words, you know, like, find the meaning behind the meaning, like, I'm watching him, connect with Bill Nye, you know, who he knows? Yeah, he's here with Bill Nye, who he's known for 20 years. But in the movie, Jean Smith obviously knows the the editor of Life magazine for probably as long. So like, there's these kind of mirroring, like, parallel relationships that are happening, you know, so he's, you know, he's, you know, playing this bitter photographer who's angry at the life. Like, I was just like, minutes before we shot. I don't know, Bill gave Johnny or bill or Johnny gave bill, a book was like a nonfiction book, I thought you would really enjoy this. So good to have this relationship. Then I'm watching this relationship play out with my words and the words of the script. And I'm like, This is amazing. You know, like, there's, there's history there. Like, there's real life history that they are sort of pinging back, you know, they're, they're mining from it was kind of extraordinary.

Alex Ferrari 38:08
That's amazing. No, it was, it was amazing. So let me ask you, do you have any advice for people who are adapting screenwriters who are adapting a true story? What advice you wish you would have known when you started adapting these kind of things? That's a different art form than writing something from scratch.

David Kessler 38:27
Yeah, it's funny. Just this weekend, I taught a one to one day workshop, a three hour workshop called The Art of adaptation. And I had about two and a half hours of it advice. And I think the first chunk of it was like, you know how to win over people who own the IP.

Alex Ferrari 38:49
That's, that's a class in itself. It is.

David Kessler 38:52
It is. It's not easy. It's really not easy. You know, it's, I mean, it's easier now for me, you know, oh, I made this movie with Johnny Depp. And

Alex Ferrari 39:03
Oh, yeah, the doors open a little bit wider. Yeah. Like, like, Hi, I'm Steven Spielberg. And that's what you need to say.

David Kessler 39:08
Well, it was even a little tougher. You know, when like, the movie hadn't been made yet. So it was just kind of theoretical. It was just like, movie Johnny Depp Minamata. You know, people really couldn't like they could watch it. They could see it. Sure. No, it wasn't, it wasn't tangible. But now I can say oh, you can look at it on iTunes and, you know, amaz Amazon Prime and, and whatnot. Yeah, so part of it is, I think the first part of the class was, yeah, adeno identifying IP, where you could find it. It's everywhere. I mean, like, oh, there's

Alex Ferrari 39:40
1000s 10s Hundreds 1000s of bugs, comics and gate. There's just so much

David Kessler 39:45
There's, there's 400,000 recordings that you could put you could you know, you could write a movie based on a song and use the actual song. So there's almost half a million songs that you can use the actual recordings of anything before 1926 In America, but interestingly, you can't the UK and Canada have different public domain rules, which I found out about that's like, it's like, the death. It's like the life of the author plus 50 or 70 years. You know, which is which is different than the US. So it's like you whatever was published in Canada or the UK, that might you know, that stuff might be available 10 years before it's available. Domestic.

Alex Ferrari 40:41
So how does that work, though? So like, I'll go over the Canada by the rights of Canada. And can you play it out here? You can't do that?

David Kessler 40:46
I don't I don't know. Yeah, that's yeah, that's what I do know this. I have I have a friend who's a Broadway producer. And he's, he's doing a musical of the Little Prince. Yeah. But he's only doing it in like Europe, because the rights are available. Yeah. Like, you couldn't do it here. And you could I like, I think, even think he's doing it in Hungary or Poland or something. There's like

Alex Ferrari 41:16
Some place that's like, so specific that you can't get out of that. Nobody.

David Kessler 41:19
It's like, he's got a full production. And he can do it. And he can perform the shows on that IP, because he's, you know, he's found the loopholes of the countries that you can. So yeah, there's all these like, you know, very interesting. There's all these like, very interesting, like, little like, you know, loopholes that you can sort of like slide through. Even in my research, you know, about the Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Dollar Baby thing,

Alex Ferrari 41:52
Ofcourse, yeah. Let everybody know. But yeah, that short film thing. Yeah, I've heard that forever. But go ahead.

David Kessler 41:56
He still does it. I thought, Well, he did like the middle does it.

Alex Ferrari 42:01
So for everybody listening, Stephen King will allow you to license a short film that is not licensed by a major company or a short short story, a short story, excuse me of his of his that can be turned into a short film. And you can't make money on it. You can't sell it. But the only prerequisite is you could send it but not the festival, show it off as yourself. But he needs to get a copy of it. So you can watch it. That's right. And there was a couple guys who got their starts like that fair, Frank Darabont. I think yeah, I think Frank Darabont Frank Darabont started his whole journey with that that's how he was able to license Shawshank Redemption not for $1 Obviously because but he had a relationship already with Stephen King and then that then went on to the Green Mile and and then missed in all these other things.

David Kessler 42:47
The missed the Miss gave me nightmares.

Alex Ferrari 42:52
Dude, I just had Thomas Jane on. Oh, wow. You can listen to that episode. It's so awesome. Like,

David Kessler 42:57
Yeah, so you can you can go to Stephen King John says last dollar, baby. And then all the rules right there. Yeah. So there's, there's, there's there is IP there is and then, you know, in my, in my class, I was breaking down, like all the things that are inspired. But you know, like, there's so many things that are Frankenstein, like, Oh, my God, Ex Machina. Frankenstein. Like, you know, Shakespeare. Oh my God, there's so many ships. Oh, you know, they did the hip hop a fellow, you know, 1010 Things I Hate About You. And then they did the meta Shakespeare, they did a Shakespeare play about a Shakespeare play

Alex Ferrari 43:42
Taming the shrewd. It's, there's so much IP out there that if you are a new writer wanting to get into the business, if you can come up with a new unique twist on a obviously successful IP, like a Shakespeare play, but just turn it and flip it around in a way that makes sense for you. It makes sense that's something new and fresh, which is hard to do and those kinds of IPs. But that's just an example. You can get the ball rolling on it, you can get your career off the ground, you can create a writing sample based on the structure of some of the greatest writers of all time.

David Kessler 44:18
You cannot you can take a Lovecraft story and Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, I mean, there there are lists. And I sent this out to my class. And actually, I'll forward it to you that are just like, they're the websites that just keep track of like what's fresh in the public domain? Oh, that's nice. You know, like Eugene O'Neill stories, and the way novels like there's just all this stuff that is just just like what is alien, except it's a haunted house story in space, right? Like Outland is a Western in space. Like just take something and put it in Space.

Alex Ferrari 45:01
Well, and it's a little bit more expensive to shoot stuff in space, but generally speaking, yes. Or you could just be a desolate. Poke post apocalyptic, post apocalyptic.

David Kessler 45:11
I mean, look, the abyss is a haunted house story in the water

Alex Ferrari 45:16
Again, again very difficult to shoot. But But yes, no without without question and all those. There's always I mean, look at and I've said this before and I'm not the first to say this. The Fast and Furious is point break. And it was based on an article, right so but the Fast and Furious No, no, no, no, but the Fast and Furious. Yeah, the Fast and Furious first movie was based on an article, but the structure of the movie is point break.

David Kessler 45:44
Oh, okay. Right.

Alex Ferrari 45:45
I mean, just look at it. Just look at it undercover cop the girl extreme infiltrating secret. It's point break point for point beat for beat, you just go through it. There's videos on it on YouTube. It's just point break. It's all it is, is Point Break, and you're just like, me Can't believe now. It's like some sort of James Bond Frankenstein that they turned it into.

David Kessler 46:11
But to your point, it's like IP of IP, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:14
I mean, it was they used to structure but they use the structure of another movie. And completely, I don't know how they got away with it, to be honest with you. But, but things like that. There's always stories out there. And if you can attach and in the world we live in today, IP is king. Everybody just wants IP, everyone wants a best selling book. Everybody wants something that they can hold their hat, they could do that get the give an executive and out if all goes wrong. So in other words, hey, I we put this movie into production is based on a Shakespeare play. Who knew? You know, they have to have something to escape hatch? If not, they don't take risks on original IP as much anymore. Because if they fail, they're gone.

David Kessler 46:59
I mean, what is AI? If it's not Pinocchio with robots, you know, but, I mean, there's even a Blue Fairy in it. I mean, and Jude Law is like a handsome robot Jiminy Cricket. I mean, you know, but um, yeah, I just read somebody's hard script. It was it took place in a single location, I found on the blacklist website. And then I got the guy on the phone. And I said, Hey, you know, what's, what inspired this? And he goes, Well, this this serial, the serial serial killer did this, like one thing? You know, like, I don't know, if he put people in the basement. First, I forget what it was. It was something benign. I mean, not benign, but not something, not something like, Oh, my God, that's horrible. And I can't I don't want to think about it. But it was just like, you know, maybe it was the van. I don't know. It was something small, right? It was something small and not pedestrian. But you know, and I said, Listen, I'm gonna, I'm gonna raise the value of your spec with four words. Okay, open up final draft or Highlander, whatever it is. Okay, right under your name. You're doing this inspired by a true story. Oh, yeah, that's, yeah, it's not wrong. It was inspired by this one little thing that this terrible person did, you know, one or one or two times, and I was like, Dude, that's the inspiration for your script. And, you know, people will be interested. It's got some magic dust on it, you know, inspired by a true story.

Alex Ferrari 48:27
It's so it's so true. And now you see that everywhere now is everything's inspired by a true story inspired by true story. I look, again, one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is to talk to you about IP about how to get IP. And it's so important in today's world, because you need something make you stand out as a writer and as a filmmaker. And if something as simple as the Stephen King Dollar, baby thing. I mean, if you're coming up as a filmmaker, and you're like, I don't have anything, I don't have a story to tell him I go read one of the best authors of his generation of the 20th century 21st century Stephen King. And he's how many stories short stories.

David Kessler 49:03
Yeah, hundreds and and you can make it on your you can make it on your phone,

Alex Ferrari 49:07
Which, which I've seen by the way, I've seen him by the way I get I've get pitched Stephen King projects all the time. Like those short bit like I just made a Stephen King short film, and they're using Stephen King's name to try to open some doors. Oh, they're like, Oh, it's a noose, a new short film by Stephen King that he wrote it. And I'm like, Yeah, I'm hip to the game already brought it I think.

David Kessler 49:28
I think that violates the dollar maybe rules, because he's got specific rules that you like, you can't you can't you can't like, oh, Stephen King authorized this or something like yeah,

Alex Ferrari 49:38
No, no, yeah. But nowadays, everybody knows about this. I mean, everybody in the business kind of knows about it, but it still opens. If you want to be a director and want to show off what you can do. Why not on a Stephen King movie. I mean, it works with Frank Darabont back in the 80s. I saw his his his Stephen King adaptation

David Kessler 49:54
It was was it was a chore. Or was it something

Alex Ferrari 49:56
Oh, no, no, it wasn't Shawshank. It was a think it was the one it was called the boogeyman, I think was the book, The boogeyman, the boogeyman, I remember I wanted to make that back in the day I wanted to make the book and I was How was his short? Is it the ad? So is it you know, the technology wasn't that it was shot on 35. I think he shot on 60. And one of the two, it was good, it was well crafted. It was, you know, he was a writer wanted to be a director. And then he put he pulled this obscure short film, which was the Rita Davis, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which nobody in there, who's gonna make a movie out of that short film. And then Frank actually filled it out and build out a feature based on that short film. And then Steven was so excited ecstatic about it, then he's like, Hey, I'm writing this thing called the Green Mile. And he was giving him the Green Mile episodes before anybody. So he was already he's like, Steven, I need to I need I need to make this. So it was that was why it was right. After Shawshank. He went right back to the prison and made Green Mile, which is still is one of my favorite movies of all time as well. And then he went back with the mist and, and so on. It's just, it's fascinating. But that's, that's one of those success stories of someone using IP. And God bless Stephen King for doing it.

David Kessler 51:15
Yeah, I'm glad you brought up short stories short stories are, they're, they're a great, they're a great place to mine from because, you know, they're not on everybody's mind. You know, I mean, they might be in a collection that's out of print. Right? Oh, like, you know, who reads short story collections anymore? I mean, I remember the last time I read one, but you know, Stephen King, son, Joe Hill, they're making a movie. I think it's called fun. Oh, my God, that was an amazing short story. I went back and I read the short story, but short stories, you know, it's not it's not on top of mind, right? You could get a famous author to, like Stephen King to maybe license the, you know, allow you to, you know, you know, option, their short story, an author of a short story might feel less. They might be less, you know, yeah, less precious. That's I was gonna say proprietary, but less precious about like, wow, like, you know, it's only 15 pages or 20 pages short.

Alex Ferrari 52:15
It's a short film, what are you going to do with it, you want to make a short film, knock yourself out,

David Kessler 52:19
You know, but love versus like, oh, I spent 10 years writing this novel, I don't want you to change a word. You know, they and then that way, you have more you have more I can flesh it out. It can it can be more of your own, you know, you can add stuff to it. Yeah. So you know, I mean, if I had more time and more inclination, I would probably go into your short story. collections.

Alex Ferrari 52:40
So what are you working next man? What are you working on next?

David Kessler 52:44
I have a Kubrick I mentioned this. Before we got on the air. I have a Kubrick themed script. What else am I working on? They're all they tend to be true stories. I'm reading some nonfiction books, ones ones ones about has to deal with UFOs. Awesome I'm working on. Oh, yeah, I have reached I reached out there, there are some big properties that I am like I'm swinging for the fences for one's a rock band. One's a rock band. Who has already had, you know an adaptation of one of their things made. There's there's another rock artists of the 60s and 70s and 80s. I just want to make a movie of a chapter of his biography, you know, just just just one of the chapters, you know, not the whole thing. You know, because that has a beginning and a middle and end. That's that's another thing I love about true stories and IP is that structures laid out for you. But yeah,

Alex Ferrari 54:04
We had somebody who came on the show who wrote The Motley Crue biopic for Netflix. Oh, wow. Yeah. And he but he'd been on it for 15 years, somewhere that like it took forever to get Yeah.

David Kessler 54:18
I had the the rock stars people bid for just a moment. There was a moment where like, all the conduits between me and the rock star, you know, we're all like, Oh, he's interested. And now now now. Now now now, I don't know it just it just it just kind of, kind of like they say in the dating parlance kind of I feel like I've gotten ghosted, right but but now that Minamata is going to come out on DVD, I'm literally buying like, you know, 20 copies of it and I'm just gonna mail it to the people that I want to get the IP from gone. There's a movie for you to watch it If you'd like it, let's talk.

Alex Ferrari 55:01
Yeah, that's a that's a Yeah. Well, I mean, you've got a heck of a calling card. Now, that's a really Heck of a calling card to rock it out. But man, listen, your story has been so inspiring man. You know, it doesn't happen very often. Your first first movie out of the gate is of such magnitude, such quality and, and working with one of the biggest movie stars in the world. It's a pretty amazing story. I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

David Kessler 55:30
Find some IP not not just for the, you know, magic dust that that you know, having, you know, some, some some intellectual property, you know, it eases the writing, you know, it eases the pulling your hair out and trying to figure out how God what's gonna happen now, what's my character's motivation? You know, who's the bad guy? A lot of it is already laid out, you know, in the

Alex Ferrari 55:59
Oh, yeah, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done if you're picking up somebody else's IP. I mean, it's a lot of heavy lifting has been done, you just now have to, as opposed to trying to build something you're trying to now you're taking things away, which is a lot easier. You're editing versus creating scenes, like I have 400 scenes to choose from, but I really only got 27 I can actually put in the movie.

David Kessler 56:18
Unless you unless you're adapting a short story then it's a different edition novels are about or, or about subtraction, right? And, and often nonfiction is about addition, there are a lot of stuff I had to add Minamata the book is basically it's almost like a travelogue. It's and then it's you know, it has it's kind of a photo essay.

Alex Ferrari 56:44
The meat is there. You're just seasoning there.

David Kessler 56:46
Were there were some I mean, there's some scenes and stuff, but I relied on, you know, Eileen, you know, gave me a lot of stories. And I relied on there's, you know, an 800 page, Jean Smith biography. But there was a lot of filling in ahead of it. So yeah, so So yeah, find find some some IP and again, anything before 1926 Depending on your country.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
Don't make a movie about Mickey Mouse. No, that's, that's not going to work.

David Kessler 57:15
I mean, I don't know if you're aware, but Steamboat Willie is up, is is almost in the public domain.

Alex Ferrari 57:23
It's almost it's almost in the public domain. And I promise you best of luck putting it out. I don't know why. I don't know. I don't know how the mouse is gonna

David Kessler 57:34
I'm not I'm not advocating that I'm just I'm just being informative about the, the copyright deadline.

Alex Ferrari 57:43
It's coming, they'll probably extend it somehow, again, I'm sure. Like, yeah, it should have been issued a public domain 20 years ago. But there's that. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

David Kessler 57:59
It does also include romantically

Alex Ferrari 58:01
Whatever in life life for, or the film business, don't move to LA chasing a woman, that's probably a good one.

David Kessler 58:09
Moving moving to LA is not a bad thing that I will never regret that, that, that that was that was the impetus for this entire journey. I mean, I would still be living in my rent stabilized, you know, apartment, you know, on a fifth floor walk up, you know, just, you know, decomposing. And if, if, if I hadn't hit, you know, that button on that dating website, you know, in 2000 What advice is, um, you know, I'm learning now is just, like, you know, I'm older, and there was a period, until quite recently, I was looking for a full time job. And that's not gonna happen. Like, like, you know, I'm building the plane in midair. I see that. And, and sometimes you just have to, you know, just like, trust your gut, like, Oh, that's not for me. Like, I don't fit. Like, that's not gonna work. Another No. So like, only a few months ago, I was like, Oh, this is it. This is my life. Like I'm like, every day I am you know, hustling to make movies and you know, get rights and you know, charm charm, the IP holders. It's like, and there's there's only you only have one lunch.

Alex Ferrari 59:35
This is it. This is it.

David Kessler 59:37
I mean, I'm not saying you know, you know, leave your wife and leave your kid and you know, go out for a pack of cigarettes and never come back. I mean, you have to be responsible. But, you know, you just have to carve your own carve your own path.

Alex Ferrari 59:53
Very good advice. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

David Kessler 59:57
It sounds trite. But I don't mean it to be Meet the Parents is what is in my, in my in my top three, the pan i i I talk about it in my, my I teach for the script anatomy. I break it there I have to go back because they videotape the classes for people have missed it. I have to go back because I expound I go deep, like you've got that Kubrick book I, like I have talked about Meet the Parents in such granular like, deep in that there's so many things going on in that movie, you know, in terms of theme in terms of like, the theme behind the theme. Like and it's it's so like, deceptively simple, like, you know, like I once had a meeting with a producer who made a lot of big movies in the 80s. And every time I pitched something he would be like, execution dependent. All right, okay. But like, Is it everything? Like was it like, yeah, what isn't? You know, like, you know, alien, okay, it's an alien and a thing. And you know, there's this woman and she's trying to fight the execution dependent. I'm like, I'm sure it would have to be like, you know, on what the alien look like. And you know, if you know, HR Giger is making the alien. But, like, meet the parents is so deceptively simple, like, a guy goes home to impress his girlfriend's parents. Like, like, if you pitch that to me, you get thrown out.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
Right, then no, you're absolutely right, that it's deceivingly simple, and yet complex.

David Kessler 1:01:48
I also have like this, like, it's not a conspiracy theory, because, like, it's also a movie about a Jewish person, like trying to marry into a wasp family. That's also like one of the themes behind the themes. And again, it's not like a conspiracy theory that I've liked thought of, and, you know, in the dark hours, like, it kind of comes up a few times in the movie. Oh, more than a few times more than a few times. Oh, it's this what you guys call a Hapa. Like, you know, well,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:22
I have I have Nicolas Greg, can you milk me?

David Kessler 1:02:26
Even in that scene, you know, he gets asked to say the prayer over the me like, well do Jews pray over meals, don't they? Like, again? It's it's, it's more than subtext is text.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:39
So what are the other tip?

David Kessler 1:02:43
haven't watched it in a long time, but Raging Bull Raging Bull really knocked me out? When I was in my 20s. And when I was in college, that's a hell of a movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:54
Of course it is.

David Kessler 1:02:56
Social Network.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
Oh, god, that's a masterpiece. So it's Quinn, Tarantino say that was his favorite movie of the 2000s. So far, between 2010

David Kessler 1:03:07
Oh, I guess I would say Pulp Fiction too. Well, yeah, me, not me. Well, one of my prized possessions is I got to, I worked at Miramax for probably 72 hours. Okay, like, at a time when they still pasted things up, like on art boards, you know, and I befriended the art director, we were still friends. This is like 25 years later, maybe longer. I was able to get the original poster for Reservoir Dogs. Wow. Written like the original like, like off the press for the first, you know, run of it. And also, he sent me a Pulp Fiction poster. Again, like off the press for the first, you know, when they first like, you know, first, and I'm sure there's some code or some number, maybe on the back that says, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:04
So things don't work out eBay.

David Kessler 1:04:07
I do have a poster tube of posters that you know in case of emergency brake.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:16
It has been a pleasure talking to you, man. It's been a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming on the show brother and continued success and I appreciate you, hopefully inspiring some screenwriters out there some filmmakers out there to go out there and get some IP and make their dreams come true. So I appreciate you my friend.

David Kessler 1:04:31
Super let's keep in touch!


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BPS 200: How to Cast a Bankable Star with Thomas Jane

Thomas Jane is a prolific actor, director, and producer, with extensive credits including the series The Expanse and Hung, and the features The Punisher, 61, The Predator and Boogie Nights. Jane recently starred in in the hit thriller The Vanished, and his film Run Hide Fight world premiered at the 77th Venice Film Festival. Jane will next be seen in the anticipated drama series Troppo for IMDb TV/Amazon, based on the bestselling novel by Candice Fox, which he is also executive producing via his Renegade Entertainment banner.

Jane founded the production company Renegade Entertainment with Courtney Lauren Penn in 2019. Since its inception, Renegade has produced the soon to be released features Murder at Yellowstone City, starring Jane, Gabriel Byrne, and Isaiah Mustafa; Dig, starring Jane, Emile Hirsch, and Harlow Jane; The Last Son, starring Jane, Sam Worthington and Colson Baker; and Slayers, starring Jane, Abigail Breslin and Malin Akerman.

Among their projects in development, Renegade is producing a comic series The Lycan, continuing the Malone franchise with a sequel to the cult fan favorite Give ‘em Hell Malone, and producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s From a Buick 8, marking the fourth collaboration between Jane and King, following 1922, Dreamcatcher, and The Mist.

Jane is a writer and director, directing one of the first-ever natively shot films in 3D, the noir thriller Dark Country, as well as the celebrated season 5 episode “Mother” of his hit series The Expanse. He founded the graphic novel company RAW Studios in 2011.

Thomas recently opened up his new production company Renegade Entertainment.

Thomas Jane and Courtney Lauren Penn’s Renegade Entertainment has been prolific since launching late in 2019. Since the start of the pandemic the company has completed production on Murder at Emigrant Gulch, starring Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Mustafa, and Thomas Jane; Dig, starring Thomas Jane, Harlow Jane, and Emile Hirsch; The Last Son, starring Thomas Jane, Sam Worthington, and Colson Baker; and Slayers, starring Abigail Breslin, Thomas Jane, and Malin Akerman.

Renegade is in production on their first scripted series Troppo, based on the bestselling novel by Candice Fox. Among their projects in development, Renegade is producing a comic series The Lycan, continuing the Malone franchise with a sequel to the cult fan favorite Give ‘em Hell Malone, and producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s From a Buick 8, marking the fourth collaboration between Jane and King, following 1922The Mist, and Dreamcatcher.

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Thomas Jane 0:00
I started on my first experience on set was as an extra. In Oh, Renzo llamas movie, we're talking about like the 1980s 80, something like that.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
This episode is brought to you by Indie Film Hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. Learn more at indiefilmhustle.tv. I'd like to welcome to the show, Thomas Jane how you doin Thomas?

Thomas Jane 0:29
Hey, good to see ya!

Alex Ferrari 0:33
Good to see you too, my friend. I'm excited to have you on the show. I've been a fan of yours, my friend from back back back back in the day. So I appreciate you coming on. And I'm excited to talk to you about your new projects and the new stuff that you're doing in the world. But before we get into all of that, yeah, why in God's green earth? Did you want to get into this insane business?

Thomas Jane 0:53
Wow, there's a question. Why did I want to? I think it's a kind of businesses sort of like, you don't really have a choice. I mean, I think if you could do anything else, coming up as a young actor, anybody in my acting classes that had a plan B, you know, whether it was managing a restaurant or going to night school to be an accountant, that's what they ended up doing. So one of the first things I learned was no plan B. Gosh,

Alex Ferrari 1:25
You burn that you burn the ships, you burn the ships at the shore.

Thomas Jane 1:29
You got to I mean, otherwise, you're gonna there are nights when you lay awake in bed at night, staring at the ceiling and going, Why the hell am I here? And what the hell did I think I was doing? There are those nights, you know? And if you've got that, you know, escape hatch sooner or later, you're gonna get weak and take it. So yes, you gotta burn the ships, man. There's no way out.

Alex Ferrari 1:52
So let me ask you a question that I mean, look, as an actor, I'm always fascinated by, you know, when I'm when I'm directing, and I'm doing a casting, I try to be as kind as I can to actors, but they get rejected 99% of the time, especially when they're coming up, if not 100% of the time when they're coming up. How did you deal with rejection coming up? And yeah, how did you just keep going and grinding every day? When there there was nothing on the horizon that said, if you stick with this, you're gonna make it.

Thomas Jane 2:22
Yeah, you know, how did you do? There's only one way to do it. And that's to love what you do. I started a little theatre company here in Los Angeles and the bad part of town on heliotrope and Melrose, we rent it out in literally a store space. And we called it the space and we built our own, we got our, our seats from some abandoned theater, and we built the tears and I think it sat 49 people. And we built our stage and put up some lights. And we started directing, acting, writing, even I did a one act play there that I wrote. And you get a group of guys together that just really love it, you know, and we of course, we're all doing it for free, you know, tickets were negligible, if not free, you know, and you get all your buddies to come on one weekend, and the second weekend, there'll be three people and one of them will be asleep. And the audience sorry. I've had I've had I've been there. Yeah. But if you love what you do, and it's like, Well, where can I do this and even if I have to invent my own place to do it, and that leads to friends and some other guys got to another theater and really that's I did a lot of theater in LA and you don't want to don't think of La as a theater town. But there's, there's a little bit going on. There's a great theater called the Odyssey down in Laguna Beach. That's a union theater, I did a I did a play there with Sherry North who used to be called the Smart Marilyn Monroe back in the day. And and I just kept I kept that up. I haven't done theater in a long time because I've been busy doing this but I'd love to get back to it. So the question and the answer is love what you do and if you love what you do, you'll find a way to do it and it doesn't really matter. And you know, I ultimately said to myself, you know, it doesn't really matter if I never get paid for this. I love to do it. You got to I love what it does and I love to watch it you know I love to go to theI I became an usher at a theater in Century City just so I could go and watch the play every night you know and watch the different changes and how it was the same but different every night. I was a bad Usher because I was kept watching the play instead of showing people to their seats, but

Alex Ferrari 4:47
Other than ushering so so you when you get your first gig as a paid actor on a movie or a TV show, what was that like just going on the set for the first time I'm knowing that you're gonna remember some lines and even it could have been just one line, but just be just being there. What was that like for you and and did you throw up? Did you have impostor syndrome, all that kind of stuff.

Thomas Jane 5:13
All of the above it's a new experience for sure. But you know, I started on my first experience on set was as an extra. In a Lorenzo Lamas movie, we're talking about like the 1980s. It was late 80s, something like that. And I played soccer in the background of some scene that they were shooting, right? And watch watching Lorenzo Lamas do is he had this towel and he would puff up his biceps before each shot, you know, and I was like, well, that's interesting. And just watching the crew watching the people is all new to me, I had no idea what anybody's job was, but they sure were busy. And then at the end of the day, you line up to the, at the, at this makeshift table where they would hand out your paycheck. And when I when I got over there, they packed up and gone. So you know, I was I was only supposed to get like 40 bucks or something. But that 40 bucks meant a lot that pissed me off. So I like doing productions where people actually pay the people that work and respect the different jobs that people do. You know, then I started getting I guess, maybe it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where it was like a real movie. And I and I had a few I had a scene with Luke, Luke Perry. And I played this garage mechanic and he's kind of crazy. And that was really my first experience of getting into the makeup trailer. And you being thrown through the works and the process and the onset and doing your scene and the coverage and all that and yeah, it's it's exhilarating and terrifying and fascinating and everything you'd think it would be I remember, Luke was in his makeup trailer and he was talking to his agents on the phone. And they were arguing because he had this what do you call it jazz button. He had this little

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Flavor savor the flavor savor

Thomas Jane 7:24
That it was clean shaven except for that. And he was who was arguing with the producers and the agent about whether or not he was going to keep it or shave it off the horse. They wanted him to shave it off. He ended up keeping.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
Yeah, it was funny because I because I knew the I knew Fran the director of Buffy years ago, I hung out with her and she would tell me stories about what it was like being on that set and running. And I think it was their second movie or something like that. And it was a studio movie and people Oh, and Luke Perry was like, at the height of his power. I think he was the star of that, you know, even though was Christie's you know, she was the Buffy but I mean, people don't understand. Yeah, you mean I lived in Orlando. I mean, actually, I lived in Florida. When that mall that he went to go visit there was a riot. And like people oh my gosh, yeah, I was I drove by that that they were like what's going on over here? I was living in Fort Lauderdale at the time. And it was, so people didn't understand how big of a start it was back then. So that must have been a hell of an experience just being around that.

Thomas Jane 8:29
I met a lot of people on that set, David Arquette. Paul Reubens go friends today.

Alex Ferrari 8:38
It was a great day. It was a great group of people that film. Now speaking of some films, I mean, you've worked with a couple of good directors just a couple over the years. You've had the pleasure of working with like Terrence Malick and BT Anderson and John Woo. Did you learn any lessons from a filmmaking that you brought into your directing into your producing years later? Or just as an actor? What are some lessons you learned from some of these great filmmakers?

Thomas Jane 9:03
Always, you know, they all got different styles, I learned that I learned that there is no one one way to do it. And I always paying attention because I do love directing and producing and, and I've always been headed in that direction. Once you get a little experience, you know, I feel like I have something to offer and avoid some of the some of the pitfalls that I've fallen into in the past and I've seen people fall into it's really nice. It's neat to it's an oral tradition, you know that there is no you can read some books, but there's only one way to really learn how how it happens and that is to do it and you're in your learning hand to mouth you're learning sorry, mouth to ear. It's people teaching other people how to do it and that process for acting has gone back 2000 years for filming. Thinking it's gone back 100 years more. But you've got an it's technicians and artists teaching other technicians and artists. And so I love that. That tradition, you know, there's no other way to learn it except for to be there and to learn it from people who learned it from somebody else. From as far as those guys, you know, I love Terry Malik's style, it was very open, he was very open to the environment and to what the actors were doing and, and, and he would be able to shift he was fluid. He was extremely fluid in the way that he what he wanted, he would change his mind. I was I had this scene on a hill. It was one scene and he'd asked me to be in the movies three times before and I was busy doing other stuff. And they finally I was free. And so I flew all the way over there. I flew with Mickey work. And we had to take like three planes. He kept getting lost. And I felt like I was kind of babysit. He hate he hates flying, apparently. So I was kind of taking care of Mickey and then I went over and I got to watch Mickey. So of course, I wasn't working. But Mickey was doing his stuff one day, and I showed up and all day long. Watch Terry. And Mickey and Mickey was doing improv at improv all day beautiful monologue. Gorgeous work didn't end up in the film. But my scene did. And I tell you, we started at dawn. And we shot the scene. And then throughout the day, there'd be cloud cover, and he'd shoot the scene. And then there'd be sunshine. And he'd shoot the scene. I knew just enough at that time to be able to ask him like, how are you going to cut this together? You've you were shooting in the sun. We're shooting in the shade. You've got us at dawn, how is any of this going to match and he said, You know what? I'm shooting I'm covering the scene so that I can take all of the cloud cover shots and put the scene together. And I'll have or I can take all the sunset sun shine sunshine shots and put those together. Or I can have a shot at dusk and dawn, I can have a magic hour scene because that way I can put the scene anywhere in the film that I like because it's a kind of a standalone, standalone little scene, so it's not really connected to any other part of the story. I thought that okay, that's kind of brilliant. And then halfway through the day, he disappeared for like three hours. It him and John told just ran off. And we're so he's sitting around for three hours. He finally comes strolling back, I go, Hey, where are you been? And, and he said, Oh, I saw some beautiful butterflies. Over there. And we were we were cats. We were filming them. Anyway, we're we're we?

Alex Ferrari 13:04
He literally just went off to chase some some butterflies. Oh my god. That's literally literally literally, it's it's

Thomas Jane 13:15
Yeah, I've learned a lot from different folks. John Liu John Liu. He actually he had a funny way because this was a movie he was shooting in America yet American Crew he was out of his element. He wasn't with his normal guys doing a John Woo movie, he was doing a Hollywood movie hired because he's John Woo. John, who was very smart, he speaks fluent English. But during the show, he pretended that he didn't speak any English. So when the producers are trying to talk to him, he'd be like, Ah, what's his what are they say? And then you have this interpreter, and the interpreter would be trying to explain. And so he had this out, he built this out for himself where he just did whatever the hell he wanted. And if the producers got upset, be like, sorry, he was just a misunderstanding. John doesn't speak English. You know, we're doing the best we can. And I thought, That's pretty clever.

Alex Ferrari 14:12
Did you know but did you know on set that he didn't speak English?

Thomas Jane 14:16
I know, I watched him and I watched all the interpreting and all this stuff and and he had his little Chinese group around him that were very protective. And, and it was I was able to, to, somebody told me, somebody told me at the end of the day, I was made friends with somebody who's on John's team, and he told me the straight the real deal.

Alex Ferrari 14:39
Oh my god. That's that's, that's because John I mean, watching to him. It's a famous face off if I'm not mistaken. Correct. So yeah, a classic John Woo film, and then need to make a sequel of it as soon as humanly possible. There was a lot of I mean, he's just one of those directors. You know, he he rewrote how action movies were made after he came.

Thomas Jane 14:59
That's right we sure did everything is everything's never the same after the bullet ballet.

Alex Ferrari 15:06
Oh my god after hard boiled and hard boiled and the other one he did the killer. Just

Thomas Jane 15:13
The killer.

Alex Ferrari 15:14
Oh, he was

Thomas Jane 15:18
What a face. You know, we didn't have to do anything. It was just one of those faces. It's like to share a Mfume, you know, you just get fascinated by this guy. I'm watching. I've watched all the current salad stuff, but it turns out, buffoon. I did more movies with this Japanese director called a Naki. I think it's called an Aki. And he did more movies with this guy in Japan. But those movies never really made it outside of Japan. They were very Japanese. And his work with this, this guy is just as good as Curacao in a different in a different way. But have you seen the samurai trilogy?

Alex Ferrari 16:04
Yeah, I remember the samurai trilogy. Yeah. Oh, it's amazing.

Thomas Jane 16:07
I just watched that recently. I hadn't seen it. That is it's like a six hour movie divided up into three films. It's on criterion is Criterion Collection. Yeah. And you've got it's the story of Musashi, who was this the most famous samurai. And it's sort of his journey from being this ruffian this kid is Wild Child kid to being a real samurai. And then his journey along the way, and it took six hours to tell the story it, it's now up in my top five, I love the way he shouldn't so simply done. And I love those older films where they just hang on a shot, you know, it's they're not doing all these cuts. And when they cut into a close up, it's me, it means something, you're like, Whoa, they would let a whole scene play out just in just in the Master, you know, and the actors would be choreograph. So they'd be moving, I love that kind of work. And I'm just hoping that, that I can do some of that kind of work and that people don't get bored. You know, I think that we need, I think it's desensitizing all of the all of the television cutting that's sort of permeating our world right now, and has been for years and years. But now it's now it's been sort of sunk into, it's like, everything has become it. You know, there used to be a difference between television editing and movie editing. Now, yeah. And now you've got pretty much everything's TV. And I think somebody maybe me is going to is going to turn that on its head again, where we just let it play. Because the actors are damn interesting. The story is interesting, I can see everybody, I see what they're doing. You know, if you got a wide shot or a medium shot, I see all the expressions on your face, I pick it up. And I think that we need as an audience. And as we move through time and society, we need things to kind of wake us up a little bit, you know, you have to break out of the pattern a little bit in order to wake people back up to the power and the glory of cinematic storytelling.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
Now, when you're working as an actor, what do you look for in a director? You know, how do you like to be directed? What is that? Those elements that when you're thinking about doing a project, you're like, This is not going to work out because we're not going to mix here. I really am looking, this guy doesn't know what he's doing. This girl doesn't know what she's like. You could say, I'm assuming at this point, you can sense this as a third, as a sixth sense. Now, it's a what is that thing that you're looking for in a director?

Thomas Jane 18:39
Oh, you know, I can take care of myself now. So I used to want a director who could really who was going to get the best performance out of me, I found that those are few and far between. It's just sort of becoming a lost art. We're directors really understand there's a few of them out there. But as far as working with actors, I got that covered. I can take care of my performance. What I'm what I'm hoping and looking for is can you take care of your directing. So I like if somebody comes to me with storyboards and says, This is how I'm going to shoot this, this is my vision for this thing. And if they don't say anything, you're like, well, you're just going to show up and make it up on the day, which unfortunately, I have, you know, work we've all worked with. And so I'll figure it out. And by the way that can work. That's

Alex Ferrari 19:32
If Ridley Scott shows up and says, Hey, we're just going to figure it out on the day.

Thomas Jane 19:36
Right, you trust that but and then that can work but I like an I like a director to be prepared and to have a point of view and to involve me in that story. You know, how are we going to tell that? How can I help you tell the story that you want to tell? So but I'm being folded into a grander picture. not just showing up and you know, we'll make it up on the day, it's it's what you're looking for is a vision, you're also looking for a sensitivity to the acting, you know, you don't have to direct it most some of the best directors I've worked with don't say anything, they don't direct you. Their direction is extremely minimal, you know, things like a little bit faster can mean the world in a scene. Generally, directors want to say as little as possible to their actors, but to know that you're being taken care of means to be know that you're being watched to your, they're paying attention, they're intently focused on what you're doing, and they see everything. So a director comes up after a taking goes, that pause you took before you picked up that that fork. Fantastic, and then walk away. So I'm being able to piece together what's working and what's not working with little comments like that.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
Yeah, cuz when you get it because I've, I've been on set with very insecure directors and insecure directors are yellers. And, and they're trying to, you know, boast their ego and all this kind of stuff. And I've always found that the quieter the director, the more secure they are, it's the quiet ones that you really, yeah, they just with one word faster, more intense than those couple words. That's

Thomas Jane 21:31
If a good director has done his job. By the time you get to set the movies already made. You're just executing the motions and all the all the crew knows what to do. Everybody, there's little adjustments to make throughout the day. But they've there's been production meetings that have been very thorough, and everybody knows exactly what's required on that day. And what the scene is about, you know, like Lumet said, is like, I sit everybody down, and we all have to be making the same movie, you know, and that's the conversation during production meetings is what kind of movie are we making, because you can make any kind of movie you can take a script and turn it into, you can take the darkest film and turn it into a comedy or vice versa. It's the page is really is a skeleton, you know, no matter how good the script is, you're looking at a skeleton that can be interpreted and built in many different ways. So if you've got a group of 20, artists, you know, they're all going to kind of have their own proclivities and ideas and stuff. And if you just let them run, you're gonna get 20 You're gonna get a Frankenstein movie. But if you're able to coalesce and everybody's making the same film, and then when they come to set, and they have a question, you can remind them and say, No, that's not the movie. And so you're now you're just nudging people onto the path, as opposed to just, you know, running well, there's 20 different ways we could get to town, you know?

Alex Ferrari 23:04
Exactly now you know, being an actor of your caliber, and, and being in the business for as long as you have, I'm imagining that you get pitched projects all the time, from filmmakers from producers, who want you to be a part of their show, or be part of their movie or something along those lines, knock on wood, knock on wood that keeps happening, right, and you deserve it. Because you are you've have you've built a hell of a career for yourself and done some amazing work. But, you know, being in the indie space, and you know, now you're you're working a lot independent projects as well, that are, you know, outside of the $300 million studio system, though you do those every once in a while as well.

Thomas Jane 23:42
I really enjoy the indie space, I really do.

Alex Ferrari 23:45
What is what is the proper way that someone could put a package together to entice an actor of your caliber? Like what elements should be in place? What elements shouldn't be placed? Don't do this, do this. Because there's so many, like, I consult constantly independent filmmakers, and they'll just do the, you know, ignorant things that they just don't understand. Like, you can't reach out to Thomas without some money in place. That's step one. I don't care how beautiful the script might be. His agents are not going to even look at it unless there's verifiable funds, things like that. So So yeah, what are some of the things, some tips you can give some filmmakers out there?

Thomas Jane 24:27
Well, it all starts with the script. You know, obviously, you've got to have a script that's going to be attractive. For and there's a number of different ways. There's an endless amount of ways you can pull that off, but you got to have a script that's attractive. You got to have a script that's meaningful to actors. The most important things like you said is that the film is set up or there's financing that is ready to be in place. You know, most financiers will say, Okay, I'll commit to making this movie if you bring me Thomas Jane. So you know, so you can you there's a meeting in the middle where you know, so you don't. So you don't necessarily have to be fully financed, but you have to have the means to be financed, you have to so it really is a director, you're always you're starting with the money, you know, you need your producers and you need your money. And in that way, you can start to build your package, you know, I think everything's becoming a package these days, you it's, it's about who you're pairing with. So when you're crafting your script, make sure you have more than one good part. Because the guys who are able to get a whole movie financed, they've got old scripts lined up around the block of waiting, waiting for them, they can pick any movie they want, you know, and so those, that's, that's not a good route, I mean, you're going to get in line, it's going to be three blocks down that way. But if you put a pack, if you have a film and a script, you put it together, and you've got a number of different neat parts. And they could be just a two day part, you know, a really fun part that's, that works for two days, those work really well. And that's how you're, you're able to attract an actor I won't read, it's there's just too much stuff, you know, I just don't have time to read stuff that doesn't have any financing, or nobody's looked at it. However, as a producer, now we've started a company called Renegade, and troppo, our TV show for Amazon is our first as our first projects really exciting. And that we do read scripts, you know, we read script, we're looking for great scripts, so that we can then take it out to the financiers and, and start to put that together. So that's sort of your first stop, the first step would be Renegade.

Alex Ferrari 27:01
Obviously send it into my production company, which is Yeah, which is, which is, which is very, very cool of you to like, you've launched this new company, and you're doing some really cool projects with the, with the company as well. And you're taking kind of more control as an actor over the work that you're doing. So you're not just you know, gun for hire, you're actually trying to put this out there.

Thomas Jane 27:22
And I'm also and also not everything that we do have to be starring Thomas Jane, you know, so it's not a Thomas Jane production company. It's a real production company, we started in 2019. So we're just getting started, because then the pandemic hit right away, right, one of the first things we grabbed was Stephen King's from a Buick eight. I know, I saw that really exciting. So many people have tried to crack it as a film, John Carpenter can't remember the other names, but a lot of people have come on and tried to nail that down as a, but it's really it's too long form, it needs to be a mini series. So we've got some really good partners in place to create, turn that into a mini series. And that's one of the things we've gotten then in the trapo book came across our desks, that was one of the first things that come around. So looking for books, looking for projects, looking for material, that's the fun, that's really fun, you know, like, oh, this could be and then shepherding that material in a way that so that it doesn't get compromised or damaged along the way, which, which is probably the toughest job in Hollywood, you know, besides writing, writing, the script is the toughest job. second toughest job is being able to take a decent piece of material and shepherded from A to Z, without completely altering it so that it's unrecognizable. Or, you know, twisting it in a way that it turns into something that is not what you intended, or what you fell in love with at the beginning.

Alex Ferrari 28:53
But as you as a you know, someone who's shepherding a project like that You are the protector of the material. That's right, You are the protector of the material, and you have to be a strong guardian. And a lot of times filmmakers get you know, producers will come in or the studio will come in or someone else will start pushing it around to the point where you've lost control of it. And now you've you've not You're not protecting it anymore.

Thomas Jane 29:18
There's so many different ways that things can go off the rails and you need to make decisions that do change things a bit, especially if you're going from a book to the screen From Page to Screen, you need to make adjustments you know, and the adjustments that you make. You have to always keep in the forefront of your mind, does this serve the core of this project? Or is it compromising it in some way? And then there will be compromises, you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:48
Every day, every day of every second there's a compromise. The whole the whole filmmaking process is compromised.

Thomas Jane 29:54
It's making the right compromises and then it's it's making compromises that In turn, protect the thing that you love the best about it, right? So identifying that and being able to, when you make those compromises, make sure that they're still serving what you love about the project in some way, you know, so you can you can, there are certain things that you can lose, and still not compromise your project, there are certain things that you can change, and you've ruined it.

Alex Ferrari 30:27
Oh, one little one little thing, you lifting that fork a little too fast, the whole gone off the rails? Well,

Thomas Jane 30:33
I mean, the scene might go off the rails?

Alex Ferrari 30:36
No, no, but you know, it's like a butterfly flaps its wings. And there's, there's, you know, an avalanche somewhere.

Thomas Jane 30:42
The thing we're getting as a reverberation and you know, comes from experience, knowing what kind of compromises you can make and how and what and what and what you're protecting what you can't compromise.

Alex Ferrari 30:55
Now, as far as that package you were talking about before, I mean, verifiable funds, or at least being able to verify those funds. How important to you is the creative packaging team, like the producers involved? The director, if it's a first time director, you know, because I know a lot of a lot of actors who just won't work with first time directors, because they just don't have the time to to take that risk on their either their career or their time or any of that stuff. So how born? How important is that team? And also, I mean, obviously, your co stars, who you're going to be working with, and so on. And I'm asking these questions, because a lot of filmmakers out there listening, don't understand the realities of what it really takes to get a film off the ground, especially in today's world. So I want to, I wanted to come straight from the horse's mouth, if you will,

Thomas Jane 31:36
Well, if you're a first time director, I would start small, find a project that you can make that your calling card, you know, don't go try to get a bunch of big actors in your first time move, it's getting rarer and rarer. And for a reason, you're right, we don't have the time, and we just don't want to take the risk. I mean, the chances are, your movie is gonna be pretty flawed, if you're a first time director, you know. And that's, that's just the way it is. But if you're making a film, that you can't now it's so easy, you know, if that you can put together that that's your calling card. And if somebody shows me that and goes, Hey, check this out. Hopefully not a short but a short, you can't, you can still get an idea of of, of what a director is capable of through a short. And you know, there might be some tight if I had a really fantastic script, and I had a great short, and the part was great, then then I might take that risk. But if one of those three isn't there, I just don't have time, you know, starting small as a director, you know, so that you can create something that's exciting. And for you, and then you know, and then the producers will be able to go around town and say, Look, man, this guy made this in six days, imagine what it'll do if we give him 18. Know, and that becomes a selling point. But as far as what, what would you like to know?

Alex Ferrari 33:09
So I mean, what you just said like those three elements like great script, great part, great short film is an anomaly. It happens once in a blue moon. And then also there's personalities aspects, the the almost the, like, can I sit in a room with this? Or can I be on a set with this person? For 1218 hours, sometimes depending on the project? Yeah. And yeah, those are those elements as well about what entices an actor like yourself to be part of a project. And again, I'm just trying to really hammer home to filmmakers who are listening that this is this is the reality, because I hear it every day, Thomas every day, I hear filmmakers who like hey, you know who's going to be perfect for this? It's going to be Thomas J. And I'm like, okay, great. What do you have? And they're like, I've got this script. What have you done? Nothing? What do you have any money? Almost, I almost money's gonna drop a minute. Do you have verifiable funds? Do you have a qualified investor now? Okay, do you have an agent? I don't have an agent yet. Do you have a lawyer? We're looking for one. But you see, but this is the delusion of a lot of independent filmmakers because they're ignorant to the process. And that's what my show is all about is trying to really guide them through the process so I can at least cut a couple years off of their their learning lessons. And that wastes two years trying to get to your agent trying to get a script to your agent and then getting angry. I'm like, oh, Hollywood doesn't understand my genius.

Thomas Jane 34:32
That script you want to put that in a drawer and then you want to make the one that's going to get you in the door? You know? We really is you know it's Show and Tell around here there's you know, people talk bullshit all day long and peep some people are really good at it. Some people may have been career at it.

Alex Ferrari 34:51
I've met the same people sir.

Thomas Jane 34:53
So but if you you know if you can do it, if you can do it once you can do it again. You you can make it, you start with a financing, you know, start with. And that I guess, you know, in a lot of ways, the producing part really is tough. Because finding somebody who can recognize what a good script is, or recognize what a talented director is, and I think that's one of the frustrations of people starting out, it's, you know, it's like, if only they knew how, how brilliant I am. It's show us show us, show us, you know, it's show and tell. And, and that can be a short film. But you know, if you could, if you can put together an, you know, in in what's great about its doing something like that is, it could be a half hour long, it could be 45 minutes long, an hour, an hour and five minutes, you know, you're not beholden to any kind of rules, except for making something really damn interesting. Now holding somebody's attention on a really low budget thing for an hour is miraculous. No, no, there's no question for half an hour, it's miraculous, if you're gonna make sure keep it under 10 minutes, you know, and those rules are made to be broken. But, you know, if I see a short, you know, and it's 45 minutes long, Oh, watch some of it. But the chances are really small that I'll get through the whole thing.

Alex Ferrari 36:22
Right, exactly. Because 45 minutes short, I'm like, Just keep going.

Thomas Jane 36:26
But you need a combination. You can't just make a brilliant short film and show it you got to have you need that combination, you know, and yeah, and I think building your team early is good, you know, find ways to hook up with really talented writers young, because the young writers when I was coming up, I was fortunate enough to find some really talented writers who are now making livings a screenplay, but we were living hand to mouth. But we love what we did. So we would get together at night after our day jobs, and we'd spend three, four hours writing together, you know, developing stuff, and that really, those scripts, if I look back at them today, they're not very good. But they're, but there's moments of brilliance in them, you know, and that, and that's how you kind of cut your teeth. That's how I cut my teeth was, and I did short films, I gotta tell you, I wish somebody would dig these up, I did film for UCLA, USC, I would go and I would audition and you know, these graduate filmmakers, directors, they needed to make their thesis film. And it was usually a short. And I did like four or five of them. And had a great time, you know, and met met all kinds of wonderful people. And, and but really, you know, we were cutting our teeth. So I did short films I wrote with young writers who they're not expecting to get paid. You know, they, they're, they love it to their learning to they want to do it. And then, you know, if you're lucky enough, you'll find you'll meet some really interesting young producers. And then making those connections is great, but cutting your teeth on an actual project that everybody's just doing because they need to do it, I think is the most important thing.

Alex Ferrari 38:19
Yeah, you've got to you actually, it's one of those. This is an art form that needs to be up. If you've got a paint paint, you want to play music, play music, you can't just talk about it so much or intellectualize it into

Thomas Jane 38:33
Its mouth to its mouth to ear, man. That's the only way to do it.

Alex Ferrari 38:37
Yeah, until you're on set and trapnell is being tossed at you literally and figuratively, sometimes. Yeah, you learn you'll learn on the first day when you're directing and you're losing the light. And you've got three pages left. And

Thomas Jane 38:54
Nobody's coming back tomorrow.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
And we lose the location at six. That's right. That's the stuff they don't teach you at school

Thomas Jane 39:03
Thinking on your feet.

Alex Ferrari 39:04
Then you're like, Okay, how can I cover this? In the next 15 minutes? I'm not going to lose the scene. And I can say.

Thomas Jane 39:09
Or how can how can I rewrite it so that I get the grasp of what's being done. And then a lot of times, that'll turn out better than your three minutes seeing?

Alex Ferrari 39:17
Right! I always love I always love going on set, especially with when I'm working with the first ad the first time I come in, and I'll have a shot list of like 100 shots for the day. And he's like, you know, we're not going to get them like absolutely no, we're not gonna get to this, but I want them there. In case things are going well. Or maybe I can switch here, but I'd like to have that there. So just in that experience, because because the first time I went on set with that list, I expected to do all of it

Thomas Jane 39:41
And knew Oh, yeah, you're like, Well, why not?

Alex Ferrari 39:44
Why can't we do 200 setups and eight so this behind the scenes documentary of Tarantino, I think it worked out fine.

Thomas Jane 39:58
Are your guys just starting out, Are they young professionals and they're trying to the ground there, it's a bunch of different people?

Alex Ferrari 40:06
It's from the it's from the newbie who doesn't understand that the things we've discussed all the way to the experienced directors who have worked and worked on projects been in the business for 1520 years, but still might not understand the producing side of things and how to package how to package a project.

Thomas Jane 40:24
If there's like a secret language to producing even I am still learning about the ins and outs of this secret language that they've got, you know, obviously, they've got little lists, you know, and if the actors aren't on the list, and they're every actor is worth a certain amount of money this week, and there'll be worth a certain amount of money next week, and that kind of fluctuates. And then if you put certain actors in combination together, then that gets you it really, it's a financial puzzle that the producers put together so that they don't take a bath, when they make your movie, you know, since they want to have us a floor, they want to have a concrete floor, that they're not going to fall beneath and just disappear forever. They need they need that insurance. And that comes through who you got in your movie. And, you know, I think one of the big hurdles, like I said, is finding a producer who really understands what the potential of your project is. Because those producers are the guys that are going to be able to go out there and talk to the financiers, and figure out different models. And there's several different ways to skin the cat. Which way is best at this time and place with this script with this cast. So there's a lot of different elements, and it takes years to figure out this producing stuff. But But beyond but that anybody can figure that out, that's math, what the magic sauce is, is being able to recognize a really good script, you know that that has the potential to make a really good film in a way that we haven't seen 99 times people why they make all these sequels and why or what's all these remakes, because it's already been proven to work. Nobody wants to take a step outside the formula. Because then you're in no man's land, you're in the unknown, you know, you're like you don't you can't pull up the list of numbers and say, well, this movie did this. And this movie did that this was released on Labor Day, and it did this. So there's all kinds of numbers surrounding that what's not surrounding is when you come up with something unique enough that it becomes an unknown, then, you know, you really you need to fall back on you're these are the actors I've got, these are the parts that are that are available. You know, generally men mean more than women in this crazy business, you know that I still don't understand that one. But somehow it's still a thing, you know, where a male movie star will bring more financing to a project than a female movie star. In most cases. That's strange to me, but part of the bit, it's just math, it's like insurance companies. And other like, we don't care, it's you know, there's been this many people die in car accidents on this road. Therefore, if you want, you know, if you want to drive on it, this is what you got to pay. So,

Alex Ferrari 43:16
And those those rules, by the way, change daily, they change daily, these little,

Thomas Jane 43:20
Not constantly fluid, in the end, the producers who are tuned in, are monitoring those fluctuations all the time, you know, and then where you can shoot monitors, then you get your rebates, you know, everybody would go to Louisiana because you'd get this great rebate. You go to Georgia, that's why Walking Dead and all these other things shoot in Georgia, they get a tax rebate, but that's when I was shooting hunting for HBO. We go to Detroit for a couple of weeks. We got this great rebate, but then you know they they've played fast and loose with their eBay money and it dried up. So now you don't go to Detroit anymore. Now you go to New Jersey. It's always fluctuate.

Alex Ferrari 44:03
No, it's and you know, another thing I discovered, I worked on a project where there was a name actor who they brought on, and then But then the filmmaker was working with them. And it's in the finance the project. But then by the time the movie came out, that actor had diluted his value for the year. And there was 12 other movie viewing too many movies. He did 12 other movies that year. That's a lot. That's a lot of movies. And then he went out to the district and he completely valued his name. So then then the filmmaker who that was was his that was his game. He went to distributors and like I really got three of his movies this year. I'm like,

Thomas Jane 44:42
You don't want to do that.

Alex Ferrari 44:44
As an actor, you I'm assuming you think about this as well as an actor. You're like, I can't be everything because

Thomas Jane 44:50
You can't flood the market with too much product. It's supply and demand. But some years are different than others. You know, one year you know, you're like I've got pay off this this debt, you know, I've got so I've got to do it and that but you know that then you're probably going to not work the next year for a while you want to keep that supply and demand going, you also want to be you can't work too little. Because then you know, then you're like, well, we don't know what your value is, because the last movie you had came out five years ago, it's a totally different business. Now, I don't know, you, then you're a wildcard and people don't really want to invest in that. But I think as an actor, one of the things that I've think that I hope that I've found some success in is choosing projects, you know, if what, what I like, what I hope for is that the projects that I do are at least going to be interesting, there's going to be it's not going to be some shady script, you know, and by the way, I've done it. But hopefully not a lot, you know, like maybe once or twice, I've done a script where I was like God, I really, I really need to pay the rent, you know, this month, I don't go do it. But and this is the only thing that's come across the table. And by the way, thank God that it did come across the table so I can hang on to my house, that's great. But you want to have the taste, to be able to choose good projects, at least they're good on page, they have a great script, they have an interesting director, some cool people are in it, who knows what it's going to turn into. But I choose projects based on the script and the people involved. But it's got to be something that's going to be fun for me to play and for you to watch. Because that I can take control of for the most part. I can have fun in a part that I'm having fun playing and I can make it enjoyable for you to watch. Everything else might suck. But that I can pretty much get get across the line. You know, the editor might fuck it up, the director might be up there becomes unrecognizable, but at least it starts out where that was a fun part and fun to watch.

Alex Ferrari 47:12
Yeah, and there was a good friend of mine who's an actor. He's like, Alex, sometimes I gotta take alimony movies. I called alimony movies is like I know they suck. They're horrible. I leave town when they get released. But I got to do what I

Thomas Jane 47:26
Got to do many of those you know exactly. What as Robert Duvall said, you know, he said one for the art, one for the condo.

Alex Ferrari 47:35
Great quote. That's amazing. Now I do have to ask you about a little short film you made called The Punisher dirty laundry. Which I mean, by the way, I loved your Punisher. I loved the way you play the character I you know, you are so amazing in that film. And when I saw the the short come out, I'm like, well, the cool level of Thomas Jane just went up because he made a just a short film a fan film almost. How did that come out? How did you get involved with that? How did that even get made?

Thomas Jane 48:07
I wasn't fully satisfied with the Punisher film that I did. Only because I had a vision, the vision that I had of the Punisher was slightly different than the slightly comic book version that we ended up doing. And I'm proud of that film. And it's got a lot of fans. And so I'm not taking anything away from the movie. And Jonathan Hensley did a great job. You know, it was I think it was his first directing was really successful writer of blockbuster films. And he wrote this and they gave him the chance to direct it. He gave it everything I had, I gave it everything I had. So there's a lot to be said for the film, but it is more of the character. I felt there was more to that character. There was an I wanted. So I was laying around one day, and I came up with that story. I was like, God, you know, and somebody had said something to me at a lunch or something, you know, they said, you know, you just need something to dine out on, you know, you need something that people are talking about this week. And you down out on it. Somebody call it hey, let me take you to lunch, you know, and I thought, all right, well, if I did a short film, and I came up with a story, I thought it was great. I had I was Chad St. John's a wonderful writer was a buddy of mine at the time, went to his wedding. And we were trying to get different projects off the ground at the time. And he had this terse, wonderful Walter Hill kind of style of writing, absolutely loved. So I called him up and I said, Hey, I've got this outline. You know, this is my, my thing. I want to make it a 10 minutes. And he wrote it. He wrote it in a weekend. And then I went to Phil's ronto who I would who I had worked with on a on a He Blumhouse movie. And I said, I asked him because Phil did a lot of commercials probably still does a lot of commercials. So he had any shot in town a lot. So he had crew that depended on him to for their livelihood. So, and Phil, of course, fantech state of grace. I mean, he's just a fantastic talent. And I thought that's a great combination. And then I put and then I went into another buddy, and who was a producer, and I said, you know, this, this won't cost us very much, because Phil is going to pull in a favor from his crew, you know, on a weekend, he's going to pull in favors for him, we got our crew together, we got our special effects together, we got the whole damn thing together, it all came together. And, and you know, and I put it, that was sort of my first foray into producing and making projects happen. And from that led to renegade my company. So I'm proud of that one. Very proud of it.

Alex Ferrari 51:09
It's it was such a fun, fun, fun short to watch. Now, tell me about your new project troppo.

Thomas Jane 51:16
Troppo. So troppo means it's an Australian slang word for going crazy in the tropical heat. Like, when you go up North Australia north, the more North it gets, the hotter it gets in Australia, because it's upside down. And then northern most you go, the hotter it gets, just until it just gets tough humidity. And so people literally lose their mind up there. And so they've got a word for it. It's called going troppo. You know, when you tear your clothes off and run down in the middle of the street yelling like Tarzan, you've gotten trapo. And I thought was a great title. It's not the title of the book, the title of the book is called Crimson lake. And it's by Candice Fox. She's a fantastic writer out of Sydney. James Patterson tapped her to co write some books. So that's how good she is. If you if you're into the mystery novels, Candice Fox is what definitely one to look up. The the second one is called redemption point, those two and then there's a third one, too. Those are great, great mystery books really nicely done. Why? Because they're all about character. Anybody can sort of put together a kind of a mystery. Well, not anybody. But mysteries are one thing that you can engineer. The thing that I think separates a good mystery from a great one is the characters. And that the mystery is ultimately about solving some mystery within yourself. You know, those are the kind of character driven material that I'm looking for, especially with Renegade. So we've got this. We've got this great book. And we this is about two years ago. And we went through the process of developing it. And you know, this, this was brought to us by a company, an Australian company, and they were interested in doing a CO production. And so those building pieces, building blocks were already in place, we came on more of the creative end, working with the showrunner working with the creative producers, protecting the material, making sure that that what I loved and what we loved about the novel actually made it onto the screen. And for the most part, we were successful. The show opened in Australia two months ago and did very well. And the most gratifying thing is that the fans of Candice Fox in Australia, love the show. So we didn't fuck it up. That that was good. That was really good to hear. And now it's a matter of how the American audiences will respond to it. The only one of the changes we made was she wrote, she's an Australian writer writing out of Sydney. And all of her characters in the novel were Australian, and the lead character is this guy, Ted Caffee. He's a disgraced cop. He's, he's a good detective accused of a horrible crime. And I was interested in what does the detective do he he seeks the truth. He's a truth seeker. If he's good at it, he needs to seek the truth. Right? He's passionate about it the way I'm passionate about acting the way you're passionate about directing. This guy is passionate about seeking the truth. And that passion, that truth seeking thing, that inability to leave something alone that you have to sneak in there and find out what's going on is what led to him getting accused of this horrible crime. You know, if he had just left well enough alone, it would have just been another day, but because he He's a truth seeker. It ruined his life. So the core of that is, you know, what happens when the thing that I do best the thing that I am, ruins my life. You know, that was fascinating to me. And I add in the other lead character is Amanda. So they've got these two leads, and they couldn't be she is this young 20 Something shaved head tattooed, badass, crazy person who just got out of prison, she spent a decade in prison for killing her best friend in high school. So she's, you know, this, these are not two people that were going to be hanging out together in a bar at all. But because and she got out of prison, and then went back to the town where she committed the murder and open up a detective agency. But she doesn't know how to be a detective. She hasn't done the first fucking thing about it. So she figures she sees me and knows that I am an ex detective. And she figures Well, this this guy, this is what I need. And they start this uneasy relationship, you know, and the only reason Ted takes the gig if he doesn't take the gig. Don't get me wrong. He's like, alright, I'll do this once. I'll go ask these quick, but that's it. He's constantly trying to get out of it. But the thing that keeps pulling him back in is that glimmer of hope you know that because he's a truth seeker. He says that glimmer of being able to do what he does best. So really neat story, great characters.

Alex Ferrari 56:37
And where's it going to be in it's going to be played on for is a freebie, Amazon?

Thomas Jane 56:40
Yeah, if you go to Amazon, and then I think there'll be a banner for free D free, which used to be the IMDB TV app. Okay. And now they changed the name to free anyway, there'll be a banner on top of Amazon troppo. find on Amazon.

Alex Ferrari 56:58
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Thomas Jane 57:06
Run!

Alex Ferrari 57:09
You know what, that advice has been said on the show many times.

Thomas Jane 57:14
Not too far from the truth. You want to be a filmmaker? Well, what you do is you make films. Don't wait around for somebody to hand you a bunch of money. A lot of folks out there are waiting around for somebody to handle a bunch of money a lot. I would even say maybe most great. If you want to put the pedal to the metal put your money where your mouth is, you know, you got an Coppola said this years ago I remember Coppola giving a great speech about in this was right at the dawn of cell phones. You know, right at the dawn, I think I think it was the iPhone one that just come out. And he goes, you got one of these. You got no excuses. I mean, he was blown away by the technology. And he's right. I mean, there's a great film called tangerine all shot on the jungle. Shaun Baker Soderbergh shot on the iPhone. Look, you got no excuse you want to make if you're a filmmaker, where's your film? Where's your film?

Alex Ferrari 58:16
If you're a painter, where's your painting?

Thomas Jane 58:18
There it is. And, and it doesn't even have you know, you don't even need actors. I mean, one of the greatest movies I've seen in a long time was called the bear.

Alex Ferrari 58:28
Oh, it was oh my god, the 89. I remember very well. Oh,

Thomas Jane 58:33
It's a French film. It is it is a bear. It's about a bear and a baby bear. And it's their adventures through the wild. It's absolutely gorgeous. You know, you should be able to tell a story with rocks with smiley faces on it. You know, I'm not kidding. It's great. To be able to tell a compelling story with the motion and everything you want to get across using sock puppets. Okay, so there's no excuse. There's there's never never an excuse, you know, and it's fun. The challenge of it is amazing. And then you know, and then you got the puzzle. How am I going to come up with something that people want to watch and that people maybe haven't seen before? Or how am I going to come up with something that they have seen before but I'm gonna do it better than anybody else. It's just a potpourri of Delights out there right now and you can all you can do it with just whatever's in your house, you know, the computer, the phone races and it's fun. There's a really neat lens that came out a couple of years ago that say 235 it's so it's so and you've slipped You slip it onto your iPhone Have you seen that?

Alex Ferrari 59:49
Oh, it's amazing.

Thomas Jane 59:51
It's really well done it's it's not cheap. And it's well grabbed the lens is really well ground and I'll give you that widescreen form Add on your phone. That's amazing. Yeah, I had fun playing with that for a long time.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:05
And two last questions. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Thomas Jane 1:00:11
Oh my god. What are hard lessons to learn? You know? I guess one of the hardest lessons to learn is that I'm good enough.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:23
That's been that the exact answer has been said multiple times on this on the show.

Thomas Jane 1:00:27
Well, it's true. You know, and, as an actor, I gotta tell you, it took me a long time to become an actor that that I would want to watch. You know, that I had problems, I had problems. Being in front of the camera, I had problems being on set, I was nervous. I was, I had the imposter syndrome, I had a real difficulty calming down enough so that I could concentrate enough and relax so that I could do what I wanted to do. Because I be great in my bathroom. And rehearse and yeah, a lot, you know, and I knew the character that I wanted to bring the life and if it wasn't, wasn't coming out, you know, it's like, that is not what I saw when I was laying on my couch daydreaming about what this part was, you know, or doing my research. And it took me a long time to be able to relax. And, and, you know, and part of that is sort of a you know what, this is what I got, you know, and that is liberating.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Thomas Jane 1:01:40
Oh, my gosh, three of my favorite films

Alex Ferrari 1:01:43
That come to mind today.

Thomas Jane 1:01:45
Oh, come on, right. come to mind today. Well, I've got to mention the samurai films right now. So that counts is why samurai one, two and three. There you go. I call that one movie. No. Now you're gonna have me kicking myself later on. Okay, here's a great film you should check out last of silence. heard of that one?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:08
No, I've not.

Thomas Jane 1:02:09
It's an old I'm a real big fan of Noir. This is a late Noir. Who the low budget low budget if you guys are if you guys are all filmmakers out there, you gotta check out blast to silence. I don't I think this guy maybe directed one or two things. And I can't remember his name, unfortunately. But black and white, early 60s. So late noir period, crime movie, called the blast of cyber just blast of silence. I think even criterion might have put that out. We'll look for it. All right, there's there's two, right? And let's see number three. You know, I mean, the movie that has stayed with me and changed my life, and made me want to change my life was alien. Alien changed. I was eight years old. Right? And I always say I think I've said this in 100 interviews. But but but people ask me and so that's the truth. But I was eight years old, my folks, you know, they didn't have money for babysitters. So they drag us kids. My sister was only five. But that movie made a huge impression on me. I got the booklet. My dad made my dad by me, the guy used to hand sell these books, and it was full of information and pictures. I took that to school and I told all my buddies, we're not going to see alien, you know, their parents, we're not taking them the alien. I acted out the whole movie for all my friends over and over again. And that was the beginning.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:50
Thomas, it's been an absolute honor and privilege talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for entertaining us for all these years. And I'm so looking forward to seeing all the new projects you do with Renegade and the stuff that you're doing in the future. My friend, thank you again. And thank you for being so honest and raw, and forthcoming about all this information. Hopefully, it's gonna help some filmmakers out there. So I appreciate you my friend.

Thomas Jane 1:04:09
So buddy, it was great talking to you. Thank you. Thanks for having me.


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Kenneth Branagh Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Kenneth Charles Branagh was born on December 10, 1960, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to parents William Branagh, a plumber and carpenter, and Frances (Harper), both born in 1930. He has two siblings, William Branagh, Jr. (born 1955) and Joyce Branagh (born 1970). When he was nine, his family escaped The Troubles by moving to Reading, Berkshire, England. At 23, Branagh joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he took on starring roles in “Henry V” and “Romeo and Juliet”.

He soon found the RSC too large and impersonal and formed his own, the Renaissance Theatre Company, which now counts Prince Charles as one of its royal patrons. At 29, he directed Henry V (1989), where he also co-starred with his then-wife, Emma Thompson.

The film brought him Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations. In 1993, he brought Shakespeare to mainstream audiences again with his hit adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing (1993), which featured an all-star cast that included, among others, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton and Keanu Reeves. At 30, he published his autobiography and, at 34, he directed and starred as “Victor Frankenstein” in the big-budget adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), with Robert De Niro as the monster himself.

In 1996, Branagh wrote, directed and starred in a lavish adaptation of Hamlet (1996). His superb film acting work also includes a wide range of roles such as in Celebrity (1998), Wild Wild West (1999), The Road to El Dorado (2000), Valkyrie (2008) and his stunning portrayal of Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (2011), where once again he offered a great performance that was also nominated for an Academy Award.

Below are all the screenplays written by Kenneth Branagh available online. If you find any of his missing screenplays please leave the link in the comment section.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple and Spotify’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcastwith guest like Oscar® Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.


(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

DEATH ON THE NILE (2022)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh – WILL POST AS SOON AS IT’S AVAILABLE

BELFAST (2021)

Screenplay and Directed by Kenneth Branagh – Read the screenplay!

ALL IS TRUE (2018)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh – Read the screenplay!

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh – Read the screenplay!

THOR (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh – Read the screenplay!

 

BPS 199: From Adult Films to Showrunning with Barry Sonnenfeld

I can’t tell you how excited I am for today’s episode. I had the pleasure to speak to the legendary director Barry Sonnenfeld. We discuss his idiosyncratic upbringing in New York City, his breaking into film as a cinematographer with the Coen brothers, and his unexpected career as the director behind such huge film franchises as The Addams Family and Men in Black, and beloved work like Get Shorty, Pushing Daises, and A Series of Unfortunate EventsWe also chat about the time he shot nine porno films in nine days. That story alone is worth the price of admission.

I don’t think Will does get upstaged because his reaction is always funnier than what is actually happening. That is also the reason Tommy is funnier than Will.

In his new book Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker shares his laugh-out-loud memoir about coming of age. Constantly threatened with suicide by his over-protective mother, disillusioned by the father he worshiped, and abused by a demonic relative, Sonnenfeld somehow went on to become one of Hollywood’s most successful producers and directors.

His book is written with poignant insight and real-life irony, the book follows Sonnenfeld from childhood as a French horn player through graduate film school at NYU, where he developed his talent for cinematography. His first job after graduating was shooting nine feature-length pornos in nine days. From that humble entrée, he went on to form a friendship with the Coen Brothers, launching his career shooting their first three films.

Though Sonnenfeld had no ambition to direct, Scott Rudin convinced him to be the director of The Addams Family. It was a successful career move. He went on to direct many more films and television shows. Will Smith once joked that he wanted to take Sonnenfeld to Philadelphia public schools and say,

“If this guy could end up as a successful film director on big-budget films, anyone can.”

His book is a fascinating and hilarious roadmap for anyone who thinks they can’t succeed in life because of a rough beginning.

Barry Sonnenfeld’s philosophy is,

“Regret the Past. Fear the Present. Dread the Future.”

This EPIC conversation is almost two hours and had me on the floor laughing one minute and in absolute shock the next. This is by far one of my favorite interviews I have ever done on the show.

So sit back, grab a drink and enjoy my conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 2:40
I'd like to welcome to the show Barry Sonnenfeld. Barry, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Barry Sonnenfeld 5:10
It's a pleasure. Good to be here.

Alex Ferrari 5:12
I'd like I was telling you, before we got started, I've been a very big fan of your work for a long, long time. I actually, I was in the video store in the 1980s and 90s. So you had a big impact on me with some of your early films, especially stuff with your Coen brothers and, and the stuff that you were shooting as a cinematographer, which we'll get into. But I remember the big standee for Addams Family, right in the front of my my mom and pop store. Yeah, and and man, the whole family, right? Yeah, it was, it was a very interesting in the 80s in the 90s. Were a very fun time. So we'll talk about that as well. But first and foremost, what made you want to pee in this ridiculous business that we call the film industry?

Barry Sonnenfeld 5:56
You know, it was totally accidental. I was I didn't grow up with any sort of love or interest in films. I was not a film buff. I didn't go to a lot of movies. I thought I wanted to be a still photographer, you know, and I bought a Leica and I had, you know, a series of lenses that use like a Believe me, not a new one too expensive. And I realized a I didn't think I was ever going to be good enough and be I thought it would be a fairly lonely profession. And I wanted to find something with just more you know, people in it, you know, more communication and collaboration. But I graduated college and I had I took a year off couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. And my mother had this weird fear. She's very over protective. tend to name is above Barry sonnenfeld call your mother and she's very over protective and said, Why don't you go to graduate homeschool, you should go to NYU graduate film school you love photography you love writing. Movies suggests a lot of still photographs with writing, which by the way is totally not true. Even though I went to NYU for three years of graduate film school, and my parents had no money and they did not pay for my education, I ended up taking out massive student loans. But while at NYU, I discovered I had an ability to shoot I was one of the two really good cameraman at graduate film school. Weirdly, the other graduate student who was a good cinematographer, was my next door neighbor in the East Village. And that was Bill Pope. Pope shot, you know, the matron ambrane the he shot the three matrix movies, he's shot, Sam's, you know, Spider Man movies he shot man and black three for me. So we were the two cameramen at NYU, as it turns out,

Alex Ferrari 8:03
That's that's very you see. that's those are great stories. Those are great, sir. And within that early years, those were the that was the 70s if I'm not mistaken, right. And NYU? Yeah. Mid 70s. Yeah, mid 70s. So Marty was already Marty at that point. And he's already making stuff, obviously.

Barry Sonnenfeld 8:21
Yeah, well, he was he he did teach at NYU undergraduate school, which was on a different campus and all that he had already made a couple of movies I think he had made even had made Main Streets by the time we were either in or getting out of graduate film school. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 8:41
That was a must. That must have been a very exciting time to be in not only NYU specifically but around in, in the film industry, because the Hollywood system was kind of breaking down the old studio system was breaking down in the week giving opportunities due to the young uns to the to the film school crazies.

Barry Sonnenfeld 9:00
You know, what we we weren't in the film industry, we were barely making a living working at network couriers delivering packages from seven to nine in the morning while I graduate film school, while I was fun, actually, at the Graduate film school is that we often had cameraman and, and directors come to the school and show their movie, you know, before it was coming out, you know, sort of. And that was interesting, because, you know, we would have like, who was some of the people there? Oh, there was one cinematographer who was really angry at everything. And no matter what we asked him, he'd say, it took me 18 years to get into the union and then 17 years to move up from assistant operators had dp and I'm, I'll be damned if I'm going to tell you why it took me 30 years to learn and he kept talking like this. And then finally I raised my hand and said, Why You hear? It's a great, great instructor. Great instructor. Yeah, that's great. Yeah. Well, we also had one night that the chairman the first year I was there was a guy named Mel Howard, who is very in the indie world. And he was going to show Bob Dylan who was a friend of his Bob Dylan and several of his friends, the Robert Frank unreleased movie called cocksucker blues about a Rolling Stones tour. And the stones had paid for it, saw it and realize we can't release this movie. But so Robert Frank came, we and the offer. The other thing about it is it was a double system print, which meant the soundtrack and the picture track were not yet combined. And then why you graduate film school is one of the few places on the East Coast that had double system projections. So Mel in order to let his buddies you know, Bob and Roger Gwyn, and Robert Frank, see the movie. He had to let the graduate students in as well. So we got to see this movie that no one's ever seen called cocksucker blues, by Robert Frank and how was it? Oh, it's it's, it's last suitable. Because you're constantly seeing the stone with groupies on their private jet having sex. So it was it was not something that really should have ever been shot. By the way, it was fun. And after the movie, I saw Bob Dylan getting into a Cadillac of Roger McClintock and I said good cards. I said to him as we passed by a good car to drive after a war which is one of the lyrics one of the songs and he gave me the finger which I'm very proud of.

Alex Ferrari 12:00
Now, which which leads me to my next question, can we you discuss the nine pornos that you shot? Well, oh, well, I mean, his his graphic is just just try to keep it as a very hard pG 13.

Barry Sonnenfeld 12:22
Okay, all right. Very hard as ironic, I'd say. So, when I got out of film school, I felt that if I owned a camera, I could call myself a camera man without feeling like a delay. Because I owned the camera there from a camera man. So a buddy of mine from film school and I bought a used 16 millimeter camera called a cp 16 reflex. Now this is way before video. So nowadays, anyone can just buy a Sony A three or Nikon or Canon or a seven and call themselves a you know a camera man. But back then no one was shooting videos. There was no you know, video except you know, in studios and stuff. So I own this camera when my buddy and he knew a guy who was a porn producer and director. And so he got us this job shooting nine feature length movies in nine days. They were 20 hour days. But by having nine days of rental for the camera, it paid for two thirds of what we paid for the camera. So it was worth it because now we you know, we were two thirds of the way there and but it was horrible. You know? I made a contribution because at film school, everything you know film is so expensive, you know 400 feet of Rostock to buy it, develop it, rent it, you know, so at film school, you always pre pre planned everything you did shot list, you knew exactly what you're going to shoot. You never shot masters, you always knew where you're going to be in the close up and only shot those lines. So what I introduced, block shooting to pornos, and why block shooting means is once it block shooting, let's say if you're doing a streaming television show, and you can only get Alec Baldwin for two weeks. Let's say you shoot all of his scenes in those two weeks, no matter who he is. Even if if he's in Episode 147 and nine, that's called block shooting. So what I convinced Dec the producer and director to do

Alex Ferrari 14:46
No pun intended,

Barry Sonnenfeld 14:48
no pun intended either. Very hard 13 is is that once we let a sat be at the bathroom or the kitchen In the bedroom, we would choose all the scenes for any movies that took place in a bedroom. So we would shoot scene three for movie one, shoot scene seven for movie two. If it was in that bedroom, we were already lit, and we would just shoot, shoot that. We also had a dentist that which was incredibly under erotic and because who wants that? in our heart and also water picks are really not sucking devices. They're, they're sucking devices. They're not projectile devices. So it made no sense. And also, you don't want to think about having sex and dentist Yes, or I didn't. But

Alex Ferrari 15:43
That doesn't seem very app. I mean, the dentist is probably one of the more painful non comfortable places to be in your life as a general statement, let alone thinking about having sex in that environment.

Barry Sonnenfeld 15:54
And there's not a lot of room there. Yeah, so in any case, we shot those nine features the nine days and things went horribly wrong on the last day and without going into the details. I ended up when a double insertion some quota double penetration went horribly wrong. I ended up being covered foamy, liquefied, warm, effervescent, human excrement

Alex Ferrari 16:26
Oh, that's an amazing description.

Barry Sonnenfeld 16:29
The problem is I've always been very wide angles, I when I was shooting sales with my like I used to 21 millimeter, I would say half half of the shots in any movie I've ever shot or directed, have been a 21 millimeter, a wider and 16 millimeter, the equivalent of 21 millimeter is called a 10 millimeter. So I was this close to the action when Mark Antony pulled out of this woman's anus, and it was as if her body was a bottle of champagne. Oh, shakin way too. I was literally a fountain farmer, human excrement that immediately covered my face and the camera. I put the camera down and then threw up on them.

Alex Ferrari 17:29
Why is this? Why hasn't this? Why hasn't this scene made it in one of your many, many features? Or?

Barry Sonnenfeld 17:35
Well, I'll tell you the truth. I used to shoot commercial. And I was shooting a series of ups commercials for an agency called amaravati and purus. And I tell them the story people used to hire me to hear the stories, because it's about a 20 minute story. It goes on and on and on. Anyway, I tell the the ad agencies the story. I you know, I'm done. And the next thing that happens about I don't know two years later, turns out that the next director after me to shoot commercials for these guys was Kevin Smith. Okay. They told Kevin this star, the story. And Kevin stole my story and directed a movie called I don't know is something like someone in someone make a porno.

Alex Ferrari 18:33
Zack and Miri Make a Porno movie. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I think with jet Railgun Seth Rogen. And thanks.

Barry Sonnenfeld 18:44
Yeah. I never saw it. But I hear that he's stole my see. Wow, have you seen the movie?

Alex Ferrari 18:52
Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. I've seen a lot of Kevin's Well,

Barry Sonnenfeld 18:54
I think that there's a scene where a I don't remember that was penetrate.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
Um, I promise you that they, I promise you there is I don't remember because I tend to block things like that out of my my psyche. But I haven't seen the movie in probably a decade when they came out. But I'm sure that that seems in there. And wow, that's Have you ever spoken to Kevin about this?

Barry Sonnenfeld 19:19
I haven't. But his people emailed me and said Kevin is releasing the Special Edition DVD and wants us to talk about your porno experience. And I said, Are you kidding? He stole my story. And now he wants me to also let him interview me for his DVD. So I didn't do it. Oh, alright.

Alex Ferrari 19:42
Well, so I'm, I'm kind of happy I asked you the question, but I'm kind of not so. Right. It's amazing. Because I've you know, I've heard I'm originally from South Florida and in the South Florida market. When I was coming up a lot. There was a lot of guys who I was I started off as an editor before I became a director and There was people like hey, you know, we gotta do porn gotta do porn and like that's the pays the bills. I never ever once got the opportunity I didn't ever he was even asked, I'm sure I would have done it as a younger man, I'm sure I would have edited it. But I could only imagine shooting nine full length feature film porn I was in nine days. Not only is that exhausting, but you must become numb to all of it. Like I'm sure like for the first five minutes, you're like, well, this is kind of cool. And then that's it.

Barry Sonnenfeld 20:30
That not even five minutes, maybe now it was never cool. It was never fun. I always say that if they released porn would smell vision. No one ever see it again. Although truthfully, they would probably dive in different smells like vanilla and cherry and stuff

Alex Ferrari 20:48
like pine and pine. And pine. It was it was terrible. It's horrible. I do learn something though. Did you learn stuff?

Barry Sonnenfeld 20:56
You learn nothing? Oh, yeah, I learned I learned. Well, here's what I learned. I learned that nothing about filmmaking. Okay, what I learned was that the set on pornos is a very feminist driven set. Okay, the females have all the power, the actresses have all the power, because they can. They can either help or hurt the guy, you know, help him with his erection or just be so mean to them that they're soft and flaccid for hours. I also learned that the average time between come shot is four hours, it takes four hours to get a come shot, it takes about 15 minutes to do the you know dialogue. Your sister home if someone

Alex Ferrari 21:47
orders some pizza with extra sausage.

Barry Sonnenfeld 21:52
And then it takes about 2025 minutes to shoot various sexual positions. And then Dec would say okay, we're ready for the come shot at which point the other camera man and I would dim the light we lay just rest our backs against some set wall and take nap. And then it would take between three and four hours for the guy to be able to come. So that's how we were able to work with so little sleep as we had many naps during the day while the guy and if you looked at your chart, so you could only do five come shots a day. Because five times four is 20 hours and you needed four hours to just I was the only one who went home everyone else. The crew was dick. The other camera man who I own the camera with a guy named Eric who was the gaffer and sound man. And then we had a woman whose job it was. She was a paper towel girl. And what she did is after

Alex Ferrari 22:54
that no, no, no, no, you don't have to go down. I completely can connect the dots. I hope I hope everybody listening can connect the dots because I don't want to detail something. It is fascinating. Yeah, honestly one of my favorite origin stories of any filmmaker. It's amazing.

Barry Sonnenfeld 23:17
That was That was my first job out of film school. graduate from 999

Alex Ferrari 23:23
on film no less. And I'm on film and 16 I'm assuming right it was a 16 Yeah, yeah. Amazing. Well, so from from and the guy's name is dick. I mean, you can't make things like that up. So from

Barry Sonnenfeld 23:39
The company was called Mr. Mustard production, which doesn't sound appetizing either,

Alex Ferrari 23:47
I mean, you can't write this stuff. This is amazing. Alright, so how did you go from your porno experience to getting involved with the Coen brothers. Right? Did they see your porno work and say, Hey, Barry.

Barry Sonnenfeld 24:04
I don't think anyone saw it. I don't know why I never traveled uptown. Again, it has to do with me owning a 16 millimeter camera. I was at a party, a Christmas party with people. I didn't know that I knew the hostess. But that was it. And there was one guy across the room who seemed to not be friends with everyone. But tall guy that kind of like howard stern and that was Joe Cohen. And we started to talk because we were the only guys not talking to anyone else. And he had gone to NYU undergraduate school, but I didn't know him at all. From there. And he and his brother Ethan had just written the screenplay for blood simple. And Joel was the assistant editor on Evil Dead. Sam Raimi, his first movie The End fam told Joe, that the way to raise money to make an independent film was to shoot a trailer as if it was a finished movie. And use that trailer to show it to you know, dentists investing clubs and Doctor investing clubs and trend rich friends of your parents or whatever. Because no one can read a script and say, Oh, yes, I I've never worked on it. I've never I'm a dentist, but I'm reading this script. And I think it sounds like a good blue BNL. So, Joel and Ethan had never done anything. So how do you know if they're any good. But by having this trailer, the dentists, the doctors, the inventors, the businessmen could look at the trailer and go, Hey, I can see this movie. Be this trailer looks really cool. See, you guys seem to know what you're doing. So Joel said, we're gonna shoot a trailer of the script we wrote and see if we can raise money. And I said, Well, I own a 16 millimeter camera. And he said, okay, you're hired to shoot the trailer, not the feature. And so we shot the trailer. And it looked great, and we got along great. And it took us a year. Joe went out to Minneapolis where they grew up and hit all the Hadassah women. That's the sort of Jewish you know, women's society out there. Ethan and I stayed in New York with a print and a projector. And it took us here, but we raised the 750 grand Wow. And went to Austin, Texas, and the first day, shooting blood simple, was the first day that Joe Ethan or I have ever been on a movie set. I had never been a camera operator or a camera assistant. On features, Joe had never directed anything except student films and eight millimeter stuff with Ethan. Ethan had never produced anything, he was a statistical typist, that mathys where you just typed invoice numbers for eight hours a day. So I always tell people, declare what you are. And you'll find a way to make a living doing, you know, and that you don't need to work your way up, you should just decide. I'm a cameraman, I'm an editor. And when people say well, you know, how do I? How should I get started in the film business? Truthfully, the best two things. What you learn the most actually is what you did editing, and writing. Those are your best ways to because you learned about the structure. And also the great thing about having a script is no one can take that away from you know, if you want to be a director, they can always find another director. If they want to hire another editor, they can get another editor if you have written a script, and you own it. And you say, if you want this script, I have to direct it. Though, they'll oftentimes say yes, if the script is good enough, because truthfully studios these days, want first time directors, they want to control everything they the studio does, they don't want people that have strong opinions or people that can push around. So I think right now it's almost easier to get a job as a first time director than someone who's been around directing for decades. That's what

Alex Ferrari 28:44
yeah, it is interesting, because, you know, I think Ridley Scott came out and said he goes I can't believe they're giving these $200 million you know, franchise films to to a 25 year old or you know, a young kid and he's very talented or she's you know, but it's not It makes no sense why wouldn't you hire Ridley or yourself or somebody who's been down that road and that makes absolute sense.

Barry Sonnenfeld 29:07
It's because they want the studio's want to control everything. the studio's don't really understand what directors do and think that they that they can do it and that directors are like traffic cop. And, you know, so all those Marvel movies. Look for first and second time. Directors for the most part until they're in the family. It's very interesting.

Alex Ferrari 29:30
Yeah, as of as of this recording, Sam Raimi just got hired to do the next Doctor Strange. Realize, yeah, it just got released today. The information the news broke today. So Sam actually officially signed to do Doctor Strange with a master of madness or something like that. Which makes all the sense in the world because that's a perfect movie for him. Right, which makes sense. I wanted to ask you something in regards to blood simple, and I know that Sam, actually I think he was the first To do it or at least popularize it is putting the camera on to a two by four. And having two guys on each side just run so you get this really insane kind of fast Dolly and then shooting the film a little faster. So it would get like this revved up kind of POV. You guys did that in blood simple as well, how did that whole thing come around? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld 30:33
Well, Sam kind of invented it, it was called the shakey cam, what gives you the energy actually is not under cranking it by using an extremely wide angle lens, you use a 9.8 millimeter. And this is 30 in 35 millimeters. So it's extremely wide angle, it's pi as a angle of view of 165 degrees or something. It's almost everything and because it moves to space, and changes perspective so quickly because it's such a wide angle lens. I mean like this is a wide angle lens to like, Look I'm I'm you see both my hands on with this tiny little move. Now I'm very tight. And it's because of the nature of wide angle lens is that a little move make two very different moves and perspective. So I'm trying to remember if we use it on blood simple we use it a lot on raising Arizona. No you did.

Alex Ferrari 31:30
There was a saw in blood sample. I remember that was like outside the house. It was coming toward the door or something. Yeah,

Barry Sonnenfeld 31:36
it's Danny had Dahlia had just grabbed Fran McDormand outside the house, and we're way back on the other side of the street and the door opens and, and hidayah is bringing her towards Atlanta, we raced towards him. And she breaks his finger, and then kicks him in the groin, and then he bends down and throws up which is another story. So we learned that from Sam, we use it a lot more in raising Arizona, there's a scene where we go over found over a car up a ladder through a window into Florida, Arizona is now in this fake one continuous shot. I always say that we could read, you know, blood sample cost 750 grand, I said we could redo that movie right now for 20 million. And it wouldn't be any better. We could reshoot raising Arizona, which I think was 5 million. We could reshoot shoot. Maybe it was 12 No, I think it was five. We could reshoot that for 15 million with techno crane sure that of using shakey cam, and then again, it wouldn't look any better. So it's great. How are we able to pull off all that stuff? And make it seem professional?

Alex Ferrari 32:50
No, I remember in blood simple, which I think was one of the I don't know if it was the first time but the lighting in there was a shot where there was bullet holes in the wall, right? And shafts of light would come in with the smoke coming out. And I still remember going back. I don't know where I heard about her Joel Silver, talking about that shot specifically. And he's like, I make action movies. Why doesn't my stuff look like that? And that's a testament I'm assuming to you because you were the DP on that. How did you know when was that something from your commercial world that you kind of brought into the film or like, because I hadn't seen that either prior to that, like something so cinematic, because blood simple is Yeah, it's in your film, but it is very cinematically shot.

Barry Sonnenfeld 33:32
Yeah, no, it's funny. It's one of the shots we also did from the trailer. Because Don't forget, you know, we didn't have actors or anything. So for the trailer, it was very abstract. It was like dotted lines on the road. It was following a you know, like cowboy hat or following like someone's boots, you know, an insert of a gun. And actually, in Hillary's loss. Hillary was a woman who had the Christmas party where Joe and I met. It's now eight months later. No, no, it's now two, three weeks later, we've now built the wall and Hillary's loft, and we're shooting that shot. Not the one that's in the movies, though. But our cheap version of it, which was we drilled these big holes, these big plugs in the wall. We literally had a wall that was probably 20 feet long by 10 feet high that we tackled and everything we drilled these plugs out and, and then we put screws in the back of the plugs and then we replastered the wall. And then I had a lot of little inky so I could shine all those light in different directions because they weren't just one light, like every hole that opened up to three different beings from each show. And so I had all these keys I taught Ethan Cohen, how to be my gaffer and how to put the light bulbs and without burning him. And all that. And as I dallied into the wall, in the back, this guy, Don was hitting the hammer to the screws and the plug, first of all, our side of the room was dark was pretty dark. And also the plug moved to frame so fast that you didn't just look like a hole opening up. And so that was in the trailer. And that's really what got us to 750 grand, I heard a story that Nestor almendros, who is a pretty famous cinematographer, and Nestor was a big believer in motivated light, which I don't believe in motivated lightning. If there's a lamp over here, that's where the main light should be from. If it's above you, it should be there. Nestor saw was a judge at some film festival where blood sample was shown. And he said was a great shot, but the lights not motivated. Cuz, obviously in a bathroom, you wouldn't have multiple beams of light. But anyway, it worked.

Alex Ferrari 36:04
It's still it's still a cool shot. Yeah, it's still a cool shot. Now you brought up raising Arizona, I have to ask you, how in god's green earth did that film get made in a studio? I mean, like, like you can't you read that script, I have to believe you read that script. And you see blood simple, which is completely different. I mean, it has some tones, but it is the other side of the Coen Brothers is like they're serious. And then there's the the Miller's Crossing and the and the Big Lebowski, they have those two, those two just opposite positions of their sensibilities. So you've come from blood sample, which generally in studio world, you got to they just want you to do the same thing again. But they've completely changed and go to raise era, is that a, how does that script get financed? And then how do you explain like, how you're going to shoot? It's such a unique piece of art that was made within a studio, even back then, I mean, now that would never ever in a million years get made. But back then even how did they even get fine? It started, how did that happen?

Barry Sonnenfeld 37:03
Well, Fox was a distributor, but Fox was not putting up the money. The money came from a guy named Ted Pettit, who owned a lot of movie theaters, and who eventually bought the rights to blood sample. So the Cohens at to, you know, be the distributor. So the Cohens had a relationship with Ted Fox was very involved. But you know, the thing about Joel and Ethan is there, they would never do a film for hire, you know, they boys had final cuts. They're always willing to walk away if they don't have Final Cut. Joy says, I don't know how to direct a movie, if I'm not in charge of it all the way till the end. So I think it was a little risky, but it wasn't that risky. It wasn't an expensive movie. So the other reason that Johnny's and can have Final Cut in there movies don't cost a lot of money. As I said, I think it might have been 5 million bucks to do raising Arizona and so that the downside of that cost is not that much per studio.

Alex Ferrari 38:17
Right? Yeah. And they took a risk. Basically, they just kind of rolled the dice a little bit.

Barry Sonnenfeld 38:22
Yeah, but it's not that big of a risk if you lose 5 million bucks. And you can even release it for a big studio. It's not that big a deal.

Alex Ferrari 38:30
Right. Exactly. In the sense, the well, you also went on to you know, you not only worked with the Cohens on a would you did Miller's Crossing as well and right. And three those three correct and the but you also did you did a couple other little films, as a cinematographer that they made a couple a couple bucks. Again, this this is my golden time in the video store. So I know these movies very, very well. Big. When Harry Met Sally and misery just to name a few. There was a few more in there, but those three were massive hits of of their day. And you worked with Penny Marshall, you worked with Carl anacron Korea car car, Rob, Rob, Rob, Rob, Rob, Rob sorry Rob Reiner. And and Rob Reiner again from misery. What is the biggest takeaways you got from working on those kind of big hits? Because I mean, racing Arizona wasn't if I remember correctly, wasn't a monster hit by any stretch. It was kind of like a cult. It's a cult thing. But was big. The first kind of big thing that you'd worked on. That was a big box office, or was it

Barry Sonnenfeld 39:39
the movie? The movie before big was Throw Momma from the Train? Yes, yeah, that was the first movie. Although I had been hired to shoot big. And then after I was hired about two weeks into it, the studio shut it down. Because they didn't Petey wanted. De Niro for the lead and Barry Diller wanted to hang so we shot shut down to wait for Hanks and that allowed me to go shoot Throw Momma from the Train with Danny DeVito who became a good friend of mine, but I think that it's funny that I think Danny's movie was the first movie where I was sort of like, you know, in Hollywood, making, you know, a real movie unreal stages. And what's funny is throw Mama was shot on stage three, eight, at Hollywood center studios. It was before that it was zoetrope, which Francis Ford Coppola. So the first movie I shoot in LA is throw Mama. And it stage three. And then when I'm shooting When Harry Met Sally, part of that takes place. Some of this, we had some of it in New York, but all the sets we built, and we were on stage three, eight at Hollywood center studios. Then what? What, then we shoot, misery and misery is shot on stage three, eight at Hollywood sent it to you. And then I become a director. And, and the first thing I'm ever doing as a director is we built the mansion, The Addams Family mansion on stage three and eight at Hollywood center studios. So I said to my wife, I call her Sweetie, I said, you know, everyone says Hollywood is the film capital of the world, they seem to have one stage. That's the ceiling where they give you probably four different times, the first four times they ever shot anything in Hollywood, was all on the same stage.

Alex Ferrari 41:45
So what So what are some takeaways you did had from shooting those kind of big movies like big and when he gets out and just being in the, you know, I've had other guests on the show that they've been in the middle of like a cyclone of like big hits. And I always fascinated, you know, you're still you were cinematographer at that point. So you weren't like the head. You know, the the creative force behind it at that point. But, but you know, when you're the DP of big and then When Harry Met Sally, and Throw Momma from the Train and misery, back to back to back to back, there's a very few guys in town who are doing this. How does it feel like to be in that time period of your career?

Barry Sonnenfeld 42:21
I really enjoyed being a camera man, I really loved the job. I wasn't looking forward. I wasn't saying I should be a director. You know, I wasn't that guy. I was really happy. Being a cinematographer. It was interesting to watch how different directors worked, although truthfully, because one of the things I believe in, both as when I was a cameraman, and now as a director, and a producer is I believe that the camera can be more than more than a recording device. The camera can actually be our storytelling device, it can be a character in the movie, you will get blood sample, you look at Throw Momma from the Train, you will go raising Arizona, you look at Addams Family, or what I did for three years on a series of unfortunate events for Netflix. The camera is a character in the show. So even though I was a cinematographer, I, I was very involved very, very involved in in everything, you know, I would often you know, after lunch actors are usually tired, they've just eaten all the Bloods, you know, working to digest your food, you know, so, you know, I would always I would I always put myself not to cinematographer but the friend is a director. So I could say to rob or Danny or whoever, I think they had more energy in the master before lunch, you want to just remind them to pick up their energy, which is stuff that if a cameraman said to me I'd be really annoyed by but somehow I got away with it. I guess I was always a bit of a filmmaker. You know, I did most of the designing of the shots to the other directors less so with Joel and Ethan. But like on big I designed, you know, all the shots and stuff like that. And we're Rob on his movies. I was very instrumental in the way those movies worked and all that. I recommended the ROB hire Kathy Bates to be the lead in misery. Not a bad choice. Not a bad choice and Kathy and I became really good friends. Every morning she'd arrive on the set and go fuck you son and fell and I go fuck you, babe. That was like our way of saying hi. Here's a horrible moment on the set of misery. Jimmy kamino spent most of the movie in bed and at one point You know, Kathy Bates goes into town. So he gets out of bed and he's, and he's in pain because his legs all screwed up. And he has to crawl across the floor and I'm underslung with a very wide angle lens, you know, the cameras right on the ground, and Jimmy's crawling towards me. And Jimmy says to rob and myself, Jimmy says, Hey, back. Oh, he says, Hey, hey, Rob, how far Should I crawl and Rob looks at me and goes back, and I go, and I spit on the floor. And Rob Reiner, because I have no respect for Jimmy at this point. And Rob Reiner says, crawl to the loogie. Jimmy, Rob has respect for Jimmy either at this point. So you know, the, the main difference is on big features. You've got more money, you've got more equipment, you've got more cranes, you've got bigger crews, you've got more light. And also, it's easier, actually because if you fall behind schedule, the studio has more money, you know, I'm blood simple. There was no more money. If we needed reshoot. We shot a lot of real little inserts and stuff for blood sample in my backyard in East Hampton, Long Island. You know, there was there was no more money to be found on big budget films. There's always more money this studio isn't going to like say we're not finishing the movie. So I found the bigger the budget actually, the easier it is.

Alex Ferrari 46:40
Now I heard stories about Mr. Khan on misery. And I heard that a bunch of different things it was there. No when you say no respected you guys did just like Robin him and you just have a bad situation back then.

Barry Sonnenfeld 46:55
No, no, no, it wasn't no fights or anything like that. It's just that Jimmy is the most frantic, energetic, sort of on able to sit still, you know, you're talking to him, and his knee is doing that, you know, got it. And for that actor to have to spend 80 pages in bed, the wrong guy to have that job. And he just, you know, I remember you often told me that, that he would spend a lot of time in the Playboy Mansion. And, and he said that he had slept with he had had sex with 17 straight playmates for the month. You know, this is decades ago, as I said, I said, as a joke. I said, so Jimmy, what month turned you down? I didn't ask for her name. I just said what month turned you down? and Jimmy are bad. I can't tell you that. I said you can't tell me the monitor. Nothing you year. I mean, that's a year know what you were talking about. And this was, you know, years earlier, it wasn't like a momentary story. It was a story about when he was hanging out the Playboy Mansion, you know, years ago. Bad. Can't tell you that much. So anyway. But he's, he's a lovely guy. He's just got way too much energy to be at bedframe he paid?

Alex Ferrari 48:28
It's like It's like trying to strap down Robin Williams for 80 pages, like in a batch. Right? Just Right. That's just ridiculous.

Barry Sonnenfeld 48:36
Well, and in fact, you know, and I write about this in my book, you know, I directed Robin in RV. And one of the issues is that Robin and I really liked each other's people. But Robin did not like me directing him because I didn't want his, you know, his jazz his improv, I wanted a really sort of controlled performance. And Robin is all about improv and joking around and this and there were too many kids on the set that needed to know when to come in with the next line. And they you know, kids know, okay, my line is after he asked me what my favorite color is, and I'm going to say green. So for Robin to improvise and say So how old are you? The kids going? Do I say green? Do I say eight? Do I is that even dress? So I kept trying to convince Robin this was a wrong movie. And there were too many kids for that wild improvisational stuff. And I loved his improvisational stuff but didn't want it in the movie. And I don't think Robin had a good time. There was it but it was tough.

Alex Ferrari 49:54
There was I've only met a couple people who have actually met or worked with Robin and I had the pleasure of Meeting Robin once, and I had never met a human being whose energy literally just kind of like vibrated off of him. And when I met him he wasn't on. He was just right. He was just hanging out, not cracking jokes, not looking for attention, not trying to make a smile. He was just a human being with his wife doing his thing, but I had never met a human being you could literally feel it. Is that something that you felt as well working with him?

Barry Sonnenfeld 50:29
Oh, yeah. No, it was it was. It was amazing. Here's some other things, you know. You'd have to have six pair of all wardrobe because he's sweat so much. He was the hairiest human being I had ever met, you know, every day, they would have to cut whatever hair was from here up, it would come out over the top. And yes, to that, I knew that they had shaved it yesterday. It does. And he would sweat so much that after four or five tanks, with all of this energy, you'd say, the wardrobe person would say we need to change your shirt. And so there would be all these wardrobe people with hair dryers in the distance drying shirts, because we only had six of everything. And he was going to them after every four takes. So it was those section go there. The other thing about Robin is one on one with Robin, and again, this is in the book, but one on one with Robin was a pleasure. All comedians do three things. They collect fountain pens, they collect watches, and they collect cards, Robin was fountain pens, watches and bicycle. You know, he is a major biker. And he had hundreds of bicycles. But Robin was great one on one. I remember being at this restaurant called chinchin in Vancouver, which is where we shot RV. And we're sitting there I'm learning about astronomy and the Kabbalah and about comparative religions. And then the waiter comes over. But so now instead of two people, there are three and that means Showtime. And Robin became a different person. He made fun of the guys tie. He did this, he did this. And years later, I'm back in Vancouver, 13 years later, producing a series of unfortunate events. I go to chinchin and the maitre D comes in it's his day off he comes in he goes, sir, you don't know who I am. My name is Richard. I came in on my day off 13 years ago, I was your waiter when you had dinner with Robin. And for several years after that I went to terrible pstd as did every other guest who was into a restaurant that night I saw your name. Remember this so well. I had to come in to see you to see how you were if you had to work with him every day. So that's Robin was incredibly talented. You could give him a stick and say give me an hour. And he'd give you an hour of comedy pure comedy and stuff. Yeah. Yeah, no, he

Alex Ferrari 53:11
was he was he was a remarkable human being no question. Now you say in your book that you really weren't looking to direct you kind of fell you kind of fell into directing? Well, your first movie was Addams Family. How did you fall into that? Because if I remember correctly, Addams Family was not a small little movie. It was a it was a studio film. It was on a on a stablished IP. And you guys were trying to basically rebooted before reboots were reboots for movies. So how did you fall into that? Like most people are dying to get that job? You just fell into it?

Barry Sonnenfeld 53:46
fell into it. I was in LA. I was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel and I was finishing up misery. And was Sunday morning. And sweetie and I were watching the Indianapolis 500 on the television and the front desk, rang and said, Scott Rutan just dropped by a package. We're sending it off. And in the package what was a letter from Scott saying read this and meet me in two hours that you goes, which is a restaurant, sort of a hippie dippie restaurant, and if you like scrambled eggs, and spaghetti, that's your restaurant and read it and meet me in two hours. And it was the script for Addams Family and I had grown up I was not a fan of the TV show. But I liked the monsters more weirdly. But I loved the Charles Adams drawings that appeared in The New Yorker and The Addams Family is based on those drawings. So I read the script. I didn't think it was very good. I said this witty, the script isn't good. And she said take the meeting, which God maybe he knows it's no good to so I go and have the meeting. And I say say to Scott, why me And he said, Well, there are two reasons. One is I went to Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton. And they both pack. And I thought if I can't get those two, if he said all the good directors path, instead of taking the chance on some comedy hack, I'd rather hire someone who has a very specific visual style. And who knows comedy. And Scott before he became an independent producer, ran Fox, when we did, raising Arizona, and when I shot big, so he saw all the dailies, he heard all the stories about MIDI and Penny and, and he knew that I had designed all the shots and all that stuff. So Scott knew that I might be capable. And, you know, I told him what was wrong with the script, he agreed, we got Paul rods neck to do an uncredited rewrite. And next thing you know, I said, I said this guy at the end of the meal, I said, Look, I'll tell you what, this guy's very persuasive. I said, if you can get me the job directing the movie, I'll do it. But I didn't think he would. Right. So he, he and he and myself went up to Orion, which was the independent studio at the time. Who was famous for being the most director friendly studio, it was like the Netflix of the day. You know, right now you want to be working in Netflix, because they really respect directors, etc, etc. So, um, so did Orion. So, Orion thought I was a nice boy. And they trusted Scott. And, and we, they agreed to let me make Addams Family.

Alex Ferrari 56:55
No, but wasn't. was The Addams Family Paramount?

Barry Sonnenfeld 56:59
Well, that's a really good question. And of course, this story, which is also in my book. So here, what happens there? Orion partially because they were so director friendly is on the verge of bankruptcy. Yeah. And the one piece of property and we were halfway done shooting it. Right. So the one piece of property they had and we were halfway done, that might get them some some money to stay solvent was Addams Family because it looked commercial, it looked like it was going to be a hit. So I also had the best editor there ever was Didi Allen, who cut Bonnie and Clyde and you know, flash shot and red Serpico so the the kind of 15 minute reel of some scenes, and Scott Rudin took it around to all the studios. Universal almost bought it but they didn't offer enough and on Friday morning, Frank Mancuso, senior of Paramount Pictures, buys, the book buys the movie, so it's going to become a paramount movie. Orion will make get some money, just to keep them afloat for a while. independent of him buying the movie later that day, he gets fired. And the new guy that comes in is Stanley Jaffe, who looks at the same 15 minutes and Stanley is humorless. He sees the same 15 minutes and says this movie is uncomfortable and unreasonable. So for the next six weeks or eight weeks I'm working at a studio that hates the project that looks at dailies every day and the the, the studio people assigned to my movie are calling Didi Allen and Fang. We saw the dailies we don't think this scene will cut together. And Didi says Well, of course it will cut together it's a really funny scene. But faster and went they are never in the same frame. Indeed. He says yeah, that's what makes it funny. Okay, well we don't so okay fine. So now they hate me they hate the movie etc, etc. I get done. The day you get done the director on on DGA movies studio movies have a 10 week director's cut right. During that time, no one can see the movie no studio executive can come in and look at it. You don't have to show it to anyone. It's 10 weeks for you to rearrange the movie which is now just in dailies and rough cut into the movie you want to show the studio. The day I get finished the not the chairman of the studio, but the president Gary Lucchese calls me up and says Can we have lunch?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:03
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:00:14
Sure. Gotta have lunch with him in the studio Congress and the executive commissary, you know, like where bill Shatner and the members of the bridge from Star Star Trek, have lunch to not to cling on. But the, you know, the Star Trek guys get to have a deck. And I meet Gary and this other guy named Bill, who's creative executive scientists. And Gary says, show us a movie now. Don't take your 10 week DJ cut, show it to us now. I go, Gary, it's not going to happen. It's a union thing. I have these 10 weeks that don't have to he goes, Oh, I know. You don't have to but show it to us so we can help you. I said, I don't want you to know. Because we're your friends. I said, No, you're Oh, you're not. And I said, You know what, guys? This has been fun, but I gotta go. Thanks for the Cobb salad. And I get up to leave. And Gary says, take a bath. If you won't show us the movie, Will you at least tell us what it's like. And I go, I really shouldn't do this, but I will. It's like a much sadder version of Sophie's Choice. I leave I go back to my office. I guess there's a phone is ringing down the hallway. I pick up the phone and Scott rude. Did you just tell Gary Lucchese that Addams Family is a sadder version of Sophie's Choice. I don't know. Because why did you tell him? I said, I told him it was a much se that says, Oh, I'm back. He believes you call them back. Scott, how could I turn? If they had seen dailies? How could you look at those dailies and think I could turn this into a sadder version of Sophie's Choice? Because, first of all, everyone's frightened because family doesn't like the movie. Second of all, executives don't know how to look at dailies called Gary back. Okay. Hello, Gary Lucchese, please. Barry sonnenfeld calling one more. Okay. All right. Hello, Barry. Hi, Gary. Hi. Hey, listen, Garr. Remember when I told you that Addams Family was like a much sadder version of Sophie's Choice. Yes. Well see. Here's the thing. It was like kind of a joke. I didn't actually mean it was just like a joke. Well, then, what's it really like, Barry? I said, Well, really? It's really really funny. Are you serious? Close. That's fantastic. So easy, easy, equally willing to listen to whatever I thought Sophie's Choice, very funny movie. And, and then, you know, it was it was tough. You know, Stanley saw the movie, you know, after the 10 weeks and hated it. In fact, it was in my contract. When I did add some family values that family had to bring his wife to any recruited audience screenings of the movies so that she could tell them when it was fun. That's how I was in your contract. Yeah, because the man had no sense of Oh, I had other things to my contract. Like that. I was in charge as a set and Scott couldn't tell me what to do or whether to scout drove me crazy. He was on the set on the first one every single minute screaming at me and screaming at me, you know, when the you know, in pre production. We often met in his office and things were so difficult between the two of us because he you know, he, you had to God thinks he's right until proven wrong, which is what a producer should do, or director should do. But I also believe that I was right until proven wrong. So there were a lot of disagreements, a lot of fights and at some point with him, screaming at me, I would make a fort out of his couch, I would take all the pillows and bolsters off, and I would build a fort and I would crawl into the fort and then put the pillow last remaining pillow where the entryway was. And I would yell at him. I can't hear you. I'm in the form. And Scott would scream. Get the fuck out of there. I don't have time for this shit. This is full of shit. always obey the sanctity the fort, he always knew that I was there, he never kicked.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
He never kicked it open and never kicked that open.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:05:08
He never went like that and said, Hello, and so forth. He paid me to get out of the for the couch, right? And I'd say a nod to tell you apologize. All right, then we got to know. And then he'd say, All right, I'm sorry. Get out of the fucking court. I got that. Okay. And I, you know, raised my head out and build the couch, back into a couch. And we would continue, because here's the thing. Everyone's afraid, everyone tempted to or, and, and, and if you have any strong opinion, and fight for those opinions, you'll usually when it's what I learned from Scott, rude, Rutan, his whole thing is Maggie Smith. You want her and everything. So like, I'll be in the car with him driving somewhere, and he'll be on the speakerphone with some studio and he'll say, If I can't have Maggie Smith for that role, I'm going to quit and shut down your fucking production. And without Phil, they go, Okay, okay. You can have Maggie Smith. And I'm thinking really, Scott, you've got all these other things. And if you can't have Maggie Smith, for that one scene that she's in, you're going to shut down, are you? And Scott says they don't know that they're just afraid. You know, Scott taught me that if you stand at the edge of the cliff with a studio executive and say, let's hold the hand and both commit suicide. They'll back down. They'll say no, no, no, I don't want to die. They won't say all right, let's do it. shithead. Come on, you want to die too? They won't do that. Because, God, such a bully. Just like Donald Trump. They're such bullies. To some point. Everyone goes, Okay, okay. Like, I want what Russia gave Trump on. Lindsey Graham. I'm sewing. But I digress.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:01
But so let me ask you, I always like to ask directors of your statute. This when you first walked on the set, on the day one of the Addams Family as a director, you had been on many sets before you've worked on many things before. What was that feeling? You're like, Oh, this is all on me. I everything is riding on my shoulders. I'm the director now. I'm not, you know, you know, working with a director as a cinematographer. How did that feel?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:07:29
Well, two things. One, as a cinematographer, I always felt everything was on my shoulders. Yeah, that we had to make the day. I mean, any martial would do 15 master tapes and then go into coverage of extras who now are getting upgraded quiches giving them lines. And you know, none of this will be in the movie. And I'm looking at my wife saying, Oh, my God, we have 20 setups today. And we're about to have lunch in an hour. And we're still on the master. It was I always felt it was always my responsibility in any position was here in the director. However, having said that, and by the way, as a director, I was equally nervous and threw up constantly because at a weak stomach, I was constantly showing up on the set of blood sample, which was the first thing I ever did. What I did on Addams Family, which was, if I may say so myself, really smart, and I continue it to this day, is I never understand directors that hire weak people so that they can feel stronger. Yeah, I feel like I'm gonna get all the credit. Anyway. Let me get people way smarter than me. So I had DD Allen. So instead of thinking, I want a first time editor, so I don't feel insecure around someone who's done this for 40 years. I said, I want to find someone who's done this for 40 years. So I've got DDL and as the editor and also as the camera man, this was a really you got a minute Oh,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:07
we've got all the time in the world, sir.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:09:10
So you know as as a cameraman becoming a director. I looked at the other cameraman who had become directors. Gordon Willis, one of the great shot of the Godfather movies. Prince of Darkness heaven without

Alex Ferrari 1:09:27
reference of darkness. You

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:09:29
are into darkness right as Bobby green hood says this man lights for radio.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
It's a great line to I'm gonna steal that line. Oh, that's a fantastic line

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:09:40
Yeah. So Willis direct one movie called a window. Bill Fraker, one of the great direct one movie called The legendary The Lone Ranger and john Alonzo, who shot Chinatown and Farewell my lovely one of the great tunes. One We'll be called FM. Why did none of those three cameraman all much better than the really great cameraman? Why did they fail? Why were they only able to direct one movie, in each case, they move that camera operator up to being the DP. What that meant is they didn't want to give up the camera. They didn't want to get someone better than them then which would force them to be the director. They really wanted to feel comfortable by being able to go back to that camp. So I said to myself, if I'm going to succeed, I need the camera man, so much better than me that I won't say shinza 10k go over there. Because, because then I'm not talking to the actor, right? And what my biggest fear was, was the actor because I had never I've become friends with the actors as a dp, but I've never directed actors, you know. So I hired Oh, and Roy's man who shot The French Connection movies. You know, all Tootsie, all these great movies. So that it would force me away from the camera, and forced me to actually direct actors. And what I discovered was that I loved actors, which I didn't love when I was a dp, I liked them and what hang out with them, but they never hit their marks. They would rehearse things one way, and then play it another way when they came out of hair and makeup and knew their lines. So for me, the actors were the big unknown, because I knew my way around the set, obviously, what I didn't know is, did I have any method of talking to actors. And what I discovered is, all I want actors to do is talk fast. They talk fast, they don't have time to act, and you don't want to see acting, you want to see reality, you want to see pace, you want to see energy, and you never want to see acting. So after every take, all I ever say to act is is can we do one, like, do one more like 10 times faster? Everyone 10 times faster, just for fun. One more time, everyone talks much faster. And that's always the one you use. And that's what I kind of discovered. And as little as I know about film history as someone who has exclusive work exclusively directed and shot comedies. And by the way, stylizing comedies is really hard. Yeah. And so I think that's why Rutan hired me because it's rare to see a comedy with visual style.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:50
It's usually very flat or very, you know, just because this comedy is playing for the gags not

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:12:54
playing for the lights. That's right. That's right. But so my favorite movies were Howard Hawks, comedies like bringing a baby and his girl Friday, and all the press and surges comedy, Palm Beach, don't raise solvent travel and everyone, no one's listening. They're just talking. No one's even waiting to understand what someone just said. They're just talking right over the next line. And that's the way I love it. And on Thursday, unfortunate events. When other directors were directing, sometimes I'd be up in my office, working on Edit to previous episodes and all that. And Malena Weissman, who played violet on the series would come up to me when there was another director and and say, I always know when you've arrived on stage, because the director will come to all of us and say, let's just do one much faster. Meaning Oh, Barry's here. He's gonna like say that. So let me say it before he does. So. Yes, it was really scary. But it wasn't because I was on a movie set. It was because I was going to have to talk to actors, and I didn't know what that was going to be like.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:02
Now you shot a little movie called men in black. Which, correct? Yes, yes. Yeah. You directed a film called men and black. It was just a small film with a young upstart. William something. Yes, Mr. Smith, Mr. Willis, Will Smith. When you were directing men and black? What What was it like? Well, I was probably the biggest thing. You'd have a director at that point. I'm assuming the budget was much larger than Addams Family at that point, correct. Yeah. Right. And then and then you had Will Smith was who was fresh off of independence day if I'm not mistaken. Correct. Now, yeah. It was meant meant back first.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:14:42
Independence came at independence game day came out first, but Well, we're shooting the last two weeks of independence day when we started shooting men and black so the only movie he had done was called six degrees of separation. That You know, obviously Fresh Prince. And that's

Alex Ferrari 1:15:02
how I know so he wasn't a star. He wasn't a monster star while you were shooting, he was still Fresh Prince of Bel Air who got the lead in a huge studio movie basically. That's right. Yeah. And I guess they I guess they saw him on an independence day or something. And they said, Hey,

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:15:16
Nathan, they had nothing to do.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:19
Did you? Did you cast?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:15:21
Yeah. Oh, what happened? Okay. So I get the script. And, and I, we didn't I read our scripts together. We like, this is before email. So we got sent two copies we do is give me a 60 page Head Start because some of the flow reader and we finished the script. And I turned to her and I said, Tommy Lee Jones. And she turned to me and said, Will Smith and I said, Who's Will Smith? And she said, Have you not seen fresh print? And I go? I guess not. She says you want Will Smith. And you always do what your wife tells you. So. So the studio and Spielberg and the producers don't want Tommy Orwell they want Clint Eastwood and O'Donnell.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
Oh, that's right. I heard about that. Yes. That was the original cast that crystal Donald.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:16:15
Right. Yeah. So Bill bird says, you know, Chris is in LA, I want you to come to LA and convince Chris to do a movie. He's staying at the Four Seasons Hotel, we'll put you up to Cyclades LA, said support season. Same place. I was when Scott Rudin sent me the script for Addams Family. And Chris says, look, you know, I read the script, I think the script has potential, but right now, it's not very good. And I also have this other project that I'm being offered that has the loan in it. So tell me why I should do men and black. And I said, first of all, you should definitely do the movie with Stallone. He's really smart. He knows everything about camera. In fact, Stallone fired me off of Tango and cash. I heard about Africa. So he's really smart. So you should do that. And second of all, in terms of the script of men and black, it's not very good. And I don't know how many how to make it better than true. who's really, I'm not much of a director, Chris, Chris path. Shockingly. Okay. So Chris path. By the way, Chris is a really, really good actor. It's just that my wife told me that I wanted well, Smith. So that's the end of that story. So I lived around in East Hampton for 30 years. And Bill Burns spent the summers there. And so we were both in the Hamptons. And I knew Will Smith was in Philly at a wedding. And I arranged for a helicopter to come up and fly well to meet Spielberg. Wow. So Bill Berg met well in East Hampton will was very funny and charming. And and they agreed to let me hire will. In fact, Independence Day didn't come out until about two weeks before we wrapped Principal photography on men and black so I had 18 weeks before well as a movie star he was just a television star so that was easy for me. The last two weeks when that will be open will became will became a movie star.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:41
Did did he become a movie star in those last two weeks?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:18:44
He's always been great is always then relaxed and funny and you know irreverence?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:51
Yeah, that's that must have been amazing. And how was it working with like was I know you did some visual effect work in in Addams Family but men and black was a whole other world

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:19:03
Yes or no? You know, the truth is I was very lucky to have hired Rick Baker to do the the creature design. And Rick taught me and it's something I believe in to this day. Rick taught me that anything you can do with puppets or you should and was so like all the worm guys seemed in men and black, you know, our our rod puppets, you know, we built we always placed the worm guide so that we can have rods coming through a wall behind them. Because then you can add lead. Then your actors are working with other actors because all puppeteers are funny and charming. And are members of sag. And, and they have senses of humor. So you can I there's a line in the First Men in Black where, which wasn't written I threw it into the set which is I said to Tommy, Tommy Yes, the worm guy. pouring your coffee. if, if, if, if it's the same old shit today, and the worm guys goes now Vinnie cinnamon was my favorite kind of coffee when I lived on the Upper West Side was Viennese cinnamon, you know, cinnamon infused in the beans. So you couldn't do that with visual effects. Because most visual effects, supervisors and designers and animators, their strength is not comedy, you know. And also, I gotta tell you, I really, really, really don't like the luck of most modern visual effects movies. I cannot look those Marvel movies. they disobey all they look like video games. First of all, they obey all rules of physics. You can't have Hulk in the foreground on the San Francisco Golden State gutten, the San Francisco bridge, super close up. And all of the San Francisco in the background also be in focus. As soon as you do that, as soon as you don't play depth of field, the audience knows it's not real, the audience knows they're watching a video game. And it just takes you out of the movie. So like even the whole ending when dinajpur yells spacecrafts that he's stolen from the World Fair, crashes into the ground and comes racing up to will and Tommy and a good break through the use of fear. Those were all miniatures, they were giant miniatures, they were all 2025 30 feet big. But it was all shot. Real. Because if that was visual, whenever you go the visual effects, you can put the camera anywhere, you can cheat, you can play with depth of field, and the audience knows that. So Truthfully, I always thought that men and black was a buddy movie with a few visual effects. If you look at it again, it's very rude. And I mean, it's real. And it looks great. But there's not a lot of VFX in it.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:07
I guess you I guess I guess you're right. It is a lot of miniature work there. I mean, it started getting a little bit more like in by two and three, there was a little bit more visual effects in it. But the first one I think was You're right, it was very more pure in the sense of in camera as much as you could.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:22:21
That's right, whatever you can do in camera, whatever you can do with puppets, even if they're, you know, radio controlled puppets or whatever, the whole Men in Black three, you know, the whole Cape Canaveral thing and all that that's all visual effects. I mean, we built the big, fat, but you know, it's way enhanced and all that. But the first one was not a big visual effects movie. But I've always been comfortable around visual effects, you know? Until you know why, because visual effects require pre production. And we talked about this earlier at NYU, when film stock was so expensive. Yeah, always, always design shots way early, because the worst place to ever make a decision is on a movie set. The worst place is not knowing where you want the camera and you'll look out the window as a set. And the crew is all lying on like sound blankets and sunpad we're playing frisbee and a day is a couple of $100,000 a day to shoot and you're wasting time while crews are sleeping. That's devastating. But all visual effects acquires the same thing that low budget requires which is everything is pre planned and there are no surprises

Alex Ferrari 1:23:40
if I you know men and black reminds me of like 48 hours with with aliens basically. In a sense, in a sense like that, because this is the buddy cop movie and they're complete opposites and stuff. I I'm trying to I'm just racking my a crack in my band back and I can't think of a movie. Like men and black or like the buddy. Action sci fi. I think it was the kind of the first one to do that. Am I wrong?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:24:08
I don't know. Because I'm not a film buff. But you might be right. What's the other one? Midnight Express? No, not Midnight Express. Brolin. Josh? No, no, that's

Alex Ferrari 1:24:19
midnight run. But I'm talking about sigh run. Yeah, so

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:24:23
midnight run is like 48 hours and that it's a buddy movie. This comedy disguises his big mob thing. And in fact, I always thought that Marty whenever there were those big chase scenes and police cars, that I didn't want that I wanted more buddy stuff. And so I think men in black may have been the first buddy science fiction movie, but I don't know. I don't want to take credit for it. But I will say it's a buddy movie. And chemistry was fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:55
Yeah, that's the thing that people when directors and filmmakers don't understand chemistry We can save you. And so much like if you have good chemistry with actors, it can save that production value. It could save other things like because people are so drawn in by that chemistry. And you could mean Well, we'll just just oozes chemistry, you know, like his his his his energy, but with mixed with Tommy Lee, who is completely opposite, but they get, it's kind of like the ying and yang just works so beautifully together.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:25:26
It's George Burns and Gracie Allen with Will Smith is Gracie Allen and Tommy Lee Jones is George Burns. And, in fact, Tommy, on the first movie hated me because he thought he was in a comedy and kept trying to be funny. And I kept explaining to comedy, Tommy, that. You're going to be funny by doing nothing. You are the audience's point of view. You are the reaction shots. The reality is that more or less, you're the straight man. And he didn't understand coming at all. Well loved him. I loved him. Tommy loved Well, I loved Well, we all love each other. But Tommy really had a problem with me. Luckily, well, so it's okay. And the other problem with Tommy is, he's like a little kid. He was always playing with it. neuralyzer and breaking them. And whenever they had to shoot their gun, because they were space guns, you know, and they didn't make any sound. And he didn't have where he would make a town so he'd go. Army. Go don't make the sound of the gun. I didn't. Well, Tommy. Yeah, you you did it again. Sir. You made the sense. No, I did. Tommy will tell it. Alright, we do. Eight takes where Tommy would one after another like that and not hear a sound so he would do it. Go he was making the gun sound. It's fun. But it was great.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:56
It's funny that my short film had the same problems in it that men in black did because I had guns and my actors would go, I'm like, dude, stop that. We can't, you're ruining the audio.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:27:09
Right? And we're speaking you make sound.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:12
That was the thing. It was like you got to stop to the Pew Pew or the Chuck Chuck.hat's amazing. Now you also directed another film, which I absolutely loves one of my favorite comedies of all time is Get Shorty. Love, love, love Get Shorty. And and the way you got Get Shorty was through mama Throw Momma from the Train all those years back and you kind of explain that that whole little connection.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:27:42
Studio didn't want to make Elmore Leonard movies no movie that Elmo that had been turned into a movie from an Elmore Leonard novel had ever made money and no studio wanted to make movies that were inside Hollywood. The reason I bring that up is because I bought the paperback of Get Shorty and no one has the rights to it. You know normally right everyone would think you know before you know in galley, they would have read it bought it. Elmore was like not someone that the studio wanted to work with, because none of his movies had done well. Not that he had written, but that he had written a novel not the screenplays, but in any case, I'm on this cruise in my wife I read Get Shorty. And for me Get Shorty is about a guy who's so self confident the Travolta role that he will go from a numbers runner to a big time producer just because everyone in Hollywood is afraid. So if someone comes in with any self confidence, they will rule. Right? Well, I was thinking, who's the most self confident person I I've ever worked with, for no apparent reason. And that's Danny DeVito. So I read the book. I say, sweetie, read this book. Bufalino really, really read the book. She says, Danny, I know exactly. Because Danny is so self I called Danny. I go, I just read a book that you should read. He goes, Okay, I'll buy it. you produce, I'll produce it. You'll direct it. I'll start I go great. He gets the rights to it. He calls me up about six weeks later, says we got the rights. I said you love it. He goes I don't know. I haven't read it. I just bought it because you wanted it. Right. That's pretty great. Wow. So it takes years every studio passes for those two reasons. Elmore Leonard. It's a movie script about moviemaking, Holly. Yes. God Frank has written a brilliant script. For years, no one wants to make it in fact, near the end of the five years it took to even get a studio to agree to make it I get 10 men and black. I get hired to do men and black. I quit men and black, because I'm not getting along with the producers.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:11
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:30:22
I direct Get Shorty. And then men and black is still available. I see the head is the president of production at the IV at this shore with Huma Thurman. I go up to him and I go by the way, I finished Get Shorty I'm in post production if you want to rehire me to do men and black so now avail so

Alex Ferrari 1:30:43
You shot half of men and black. And then you you have left?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:30:47
Oh no, no, no, I quit before we ever shot and Scott that I like. So I quit. And also because we finally got MGM, who agreed to make Get Shorty. And I'll tell you another story about confidence. And how we got Get Shorty made the budget forget shorty was $30,250,000 mg, MGM said, we'll make the movie for 30 million US to lose 250,000. So Danny DeVito and the line producer and I went to MGM. And I said, All right, have you want to lose the 250? And they said, Well, we've been looking at the budget and truthfully, the budgets very tight. You know, but we do have a few suggestions. You've got 20 $500 down for parking. Isn't that a lot? Can we lose it? Granted? Nope. can't lose it. You got to it's a union rule. You got to pay for parking. If you're on a set instead of sage. But couldn't we do it for 1500? I go, Oh, Jesus, we're gonna save $1,000 here. And Graham says no, it's 2500. And then someone else says, Oh, wait, in this scene. Look at these first four lines. We use the first four lines. Yeah, and I go you know, that won't help because they still need exactly the same setup. repaid see so and then I said look, I'm going to tell you how to lose $250,000 and if we lose the 250 do we ever green light can I leave this room with a green light and we can do this movie if we can lose the 250,000 and now Danny and grammar shot because they know the budget and they know we can't lose 250 and Mike mark is the head of MGM says yes, if you can lose the 250 It's a greenlit movie. And I said okay, there's a scene where Travolta's visit Gene Hackman, his character on the set of one of his 10 day wonders, Gene Hackman is basically playing Roger Corman, you know, Pac Man does these 10 day movies, I said, it's a great scene and it'll be bloody hatchets. And we've got Ben Stiller, who's willing to play the young, and why you recently graduated director. And I said, that scene takes place over two nights. Each night costs $125,000. It's a great scene, but it doesn't move the story forward. If we lose that theme. No one will ever say How did he know? It's just a great scene. But it's not a plot scene. It's a comedy scene. And my philosophy is if you can take a scene out of a movie without it hurting the movie, get rid of it. It's why Get Shorty is the only movie that's over 90 minutes that I've ever directed. And that's because the script is 20 pages longer than a normal movie. So I said we lose that theme. It's two nights 125,000 a night. We save 250 we're on budget and we can get a green light. Mike says find another way. I love that thing. I said you don't need it, Mike and you can't afford it. seen this house? Because it's not out. I love that scene. I said the budget 30 million. With that scene out. We're on budget. We're on schedule. Now. You can't have it. You could Don't tell me I can't have it. I'm the head of the studio and have it because why would take the habit. I said you got it. So I said okay, just to be clear. up this movie is now $30,250,000 with that theme in there. He says I just told you that so I said okay, just checking. So, but the reason I had power was because I was willing to lose the thing. If I wasn't willing to lose the scene, if I was faking it. They would have known it, but I meant it and I met And by the way, this scene is not in the movie. We shot it. And it's a hilarious scene. And Ben Stiller is great. And there's a joke because Travolta who's never been on a movie set who loves movie movies keeps sitting on different director chairs. And people keep saying get out of my fucking chair. So that's sort of a comedy runner. Ben Stiller was hilarious. But it didn't move the story forward. And I could tell the audience was going to get antsy because it came after two other scenes, that were really good thing, but also didn't move the plot forward. It came after the scene at at the movie theater where Travolta is watching Touch of Evil, great thing, you could cut that out of the movie, it's just the scene that shows how much Travolta loves movies. And he's mouthing lines, you know, he's mouthing the line, the fat guy did you know, whatever. So I have my first recruited audience screening. And I have Final Cut on that movie. And Mike Marcus comes to the first recruited audience screening. And the scene isn't in there. Because I knew it wasn't going to work. I didn't even want to try putting it in. Even though it was a great thing. Because once you lose an audience in a comedy, it takes 1015 minutes to ever get them back again. And you hear them scratching their butts and coughing. So I didn't want to ruin the first recruited audience screaming so Marcus is sitting right next to me, Mike Marcus, and he says, Hey, fucker, where's the scene? I said, Mike, it's not going to work. Even look, you have Final Cut. Will you do me a favor? at our next recruited screening? Will you just put it in there so I can see it and convince you otherwise? I said, Mike, I'm going to lose it. shithead you have Final Cut. I've seen it this way. Just do it. Everyone calls me shithead and little fuckers. The next recruited audience screening we have I put the scene in there. Halfway through the scene is starting here. The audience cough and Russell. And Mike leans over to me and says, You fucking piece of shit. You were right.

Alex Ferrari 1:37:31
But what's fascinating is that you pull the Jedi mind trick on him. in that meeting is like for that extra 250,000 it was fascinating how you turned it on. On on its head. It's it's Hollywood 101 it really is a masterclass of how to work that room, if you ever able to get into that room.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:37:50
That's right. But the secret is, you have to mean it. And you have to be what dumped off at. Scott Rudin does the same thing, but he's full of shit. When he says, Come on, let's jump off the cliff. Or if I can't have Maggie Smith, I'm gonna you know, shut down. I don't believe Listen, did you ever see Jake has been movies a TV set?

Alex Ferrari 1:38:14
No, I haven't. I know that.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:38:17
Jake has been directed this fantastic comedy about pilot season called the TV set with David's the company. And part of the issue part of what David's the company is a writer director. And they what they do is they they know they want this actor. They want actor a, but you never bring one actor into the studio room to audition. You always need someone who the studio can say no, don't like them, right. But you usually bring in an actor who's good enough that if they say we want after being you're not stuck, but in Jake's movie, they bring an actor a who they all want, you know, except the studio and then the Worst Actor ever and the actor and the studio of course as well. We love that terrible actor we so the company's characters stuck directing the Worst Actor ever. So you don't want to pull a fast one and and be called on it. Like you don't want my markets and say, All right. 30 million means not having that theme. So I'm not having it. So that's why don't pick a scene you really want pick a scene that you really believe. If that's and I'm always a big believer, I always say I'd rather do 90 scenes perfectly, where I have the right budget and the right cranes and the right actors and I didn't need a day player and I was able to cast this guy, the 91 scene where every scene is compromised because there's just too many scenes. So I couldn't have the techno crane and I had to go with a day player. So I'm always willing to pare down the budget to lose stuff I don't need to the stuff I have left, I can do really well. They're very smart. By

Alex Ferrari 1:40:12
Now. Can you tell me what your favorite part of the whole filmmaking process is?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:40:18
My two favorite parts of pre production and post production. The worst part is directing and being on the set, because I have to, to follow his favorite part, his post. And it's kind of my favorite part too. But you know, to follow says, the worst your movie is ever going to be in the last day you're shooting, and then you get to make it good again. Now, you wanted a sunset, but it was overcast that day, there's no sunset, but you have to shoot anyway. It's only disappointing. You never leave the set at the end of the day thing. That was surprisingly much better than I thought you leave the set every day. I don't know if we have the theme or not. But that's we're moving on. On down tomorrow, so. And then in post production, you lose stuff, you get rid of stuff. You have ADR, you have music, you have visual effects. You suddenly discover I remember there was a scene in Addams Family. And Didi and I were about five months into cutting and I said to dt, should we just lose the thing and vd one? Yeah. And I said, How long? Have you known that? She said, Well, a couple of months. And I said, Well, why didn't you tell me? She said, like a good psychiatry. She said, you had to discover, to lose. And I suppose we lose it. She said, yeah. And or sometimes when the third act isn't working, don't touch the third act, touch the second act. Oh, people are so bored in the second act that they've given up on the third act. just shorten the 32nd. Act and change nothing the third act, and people say, why don't you change is the third act, not a thing. It was all an act an act. So post production, what you learn is that film is a very fluid plastic medium where you can change things. Also audiences are so stupid about continuity, and oh, yeah, change things. And, you know, in blood simple, we use five different cars for race. There's a Fiat, there's an Oldsmobile, a bow, a Buick, and another Buick one Buick was yellow and one was green. And no one notices that they're fun that ray is driving five different cars. And they think it's just one cartel. My favorite part is, post. My second favorite part is prep, where you have all the time in the world to design the shots and figure stuff out. And suddenly, you're with the writer saying, Hey, listen, I, you know, can you add a thing here? Because I need more space to get from A to B for the actor because I want to be tracking with him the whole time without a better way? Or do you say the production designer? Can you move that window so it's exactly opposite the door so roll can open the door and I could pull back through the whole set out the other window and see pubert been jumping off, whatever. So post and prep, anything that's not dressed related.

Alex Ferrari 1:43:24
I like and shooting is the most stress related there is and what I find what I find funny is that no matter no matter how big the movie, or how small the movie, The problems are similar, and they're just the same like everything you just said, I have gone through on my indie movies, my indie productions, my indie commercial, doing commercial work a music video work a TV work, it's all the same $300 million dollars or $30,000

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:43:54
it's absolutely blood sample had the same problems that men and black three had except men and black three, actually, we could just throw more money at it and play simple. We could. So but it's the same problem. You know, losing fat, that kind of stuff. Wrong actor.

Alex Ferrari 1:44:12
Yes, yes. Now, can you tell us about your new book? Barry Sonnenfeld call your mother.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:44:19
Yeah, well, the second half of the book is pretty much what we've been talking about you know, it's about meeting the colon and blood sample and there's a lot about Addams Family and there's a lot about there's very little about men and black or any of that stuff because it says you know always hope for sequel but to the second half is about my career in the movie business, Scott Rutan, all that stuff. So first is how I got to where I am today, which is by having totally insane narcissistic parent. The title of the book Barry sonnenfeld. Call your mother is because at 220 in the morning Night, April, January 1970, while Jimi Hendrix was warming up Madison Square Garden 19,600 people over the PA system, Barry sonnenfeld call your mother titled The bug, my mother was very protective over protective I said I'd be home at two, it was 220. So therefore in that 20 minutes, she assumed I had died, obviously, obviously obvious. And this is, you know, way before painful as this is before you know pagers or cell phones or anything, he has to go to the payphone. And call your mother weeping because you assume your father has died. because how else would someone be able to convince anyone who picked up the phone to go through enough levels to get this Weeping Woman to speak to the person who has to decide Yes, we will make this announcement. I mean, it's truly amazing. And I'll tell you a funny story. I was there that night with my girlfriend, we were seniors at the highest School of Music. And, and due to the Coronavirus, she had been looking to some bio boxes and found the ticket stub of the fact that she and I went to the mats at Shea Stadium. The day the Mets won the World Series and had sent me that stub and she said, You know I couldn't find your dress. So I did some research. And I see you have a new book out called Barry sonnenfeld call your mother. I remember that evening. So well, you must really remember it. So I have proved that I'm not making up the story that my girlfriend from 50 years ago, found me send me the ticket stub for the Mets game. And remember that, that it referred to the Madison Square Garden. So the first half is about my young life, how I became sort of a person fed with neurosis. And based on all the sort of adventures I had growing up. And they they sort of interweave like in the middle of a story about my fear of flying based on my mother's convincing pilots to drop the oxygen mask because she thought she was having a heart attack while flying on our first commercial flight to Miami. I'll make our move. I'll interweave that with having a meeting with MC Hammer. At the end of Adams family, you know he wrote this great family, of course, yeah, they do what they want to do say what

Alex Ferrari 1:47:44
They want to say live, how they want to live, play how they want to play, of course.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:47:50
But that that fear of flying sorry, becomes leading MC Hammer, the fact that I knew I was going to sell one of my 1962 Lincoln Continentals to a black person. And when I was meeting hammer, I parked my Lincoln right in front of where we were having our meeting at Paramount so that he could see the the car and I said to hammer how many cards do you own? This is after, you know, we convinced them to write the song. He says, Well, I have 12 and I said I think it's going to be 13 and he says, Wait, that's not your Lincoln, is it? So I felt MC Hammer my Lincoln. So these stories are into woven within the body of the book for the most part,

Alex Ferrari 1:48:30
You are fairly well adjusted for a man raised like with a mother that neurotic I I too had a Cuban mom, a Cuban Cuban mom from Miami. So absolutely, if it's 202 you're dead. If you're dead, you're dead. You're dead in the streets. If it's two, if it's 220 The devil is taking your soul. So there's no there's no confirmation of the dead body. So now we have to up it dead is not enough. The soul is gone.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:49:04
By those Cuban mothers can give the Jewish mothers who run for their money.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:08
Man, I feel you my friend, I feel it. Now 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?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:49:20
Okay, if you're a writer, write a script because what we talked about is that a script is something that you own, that no one can take away from you. You can either sell it or insist that you're the director or they you ever producing credit or whatever. write a script. If you want to learn how to make films, I would say try to get a job in the cutting room. Because editing is where you learn to structure and storytelling. The great thing about nowadays is because there are video cameras that are very available and cheap and because there's so many outlets. The other thing I would do is if I wanted to be a film director or a cameraman or something Or filmmaker, I'd find a couple of friends that are very good actors. And I would write some stuff for them and shoot these eight or 10 minutes things and start to develop storylines or characters for these little show. So, you know, I did recently did a q&a with Jerry Seinfeld and said 92nd Street y in New York. And someone said, to Jerry, how do you become a writer? And I loved his answer so much. He said, How do you write there, he said, You got a pen, and you get a pad. And you turn off your phone, and you turn off your computers, and you sit there. And he said, you're writing, even if you haven't written anything, just don't touch your phone. That's, and at the end of the day, maybe you've written four lines, maybe you haven't written anything, but you your process of sitting there with that pen and that pad, you are writing. And I think it's so brilliant and so true. And then the same way, if you declare yourself a director, and you start directing, you are a director. So get out there, make those small, little films, find a couple of great actors write some funny or interesting or, you know, there was this guy, when GoPro first did this amazing parkour thing. And he got himself a feature from it. And I don't think this feature did well, but it was just so visually arresting was about an eight minute video, you know, where the camera went everywhere? So what I would say is, start doing stuff, don't talk about it, go out and start shooting.

Alex Ferrari 1:51:44
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:51:50
Okay, I'm going to talk about that film industry. The lesson I took me the longest time to learn, and I finally learned it is, although this book might queer that deal, because I might anger some people. But in any case, I would always when I had disagreements about the studio, you know, with on the men and black movies or whatever. And we were going to do some reshoots, or whatever. And some and, you know, head of the studio, whatever had ideas I go, I couldn't disagree more, or can I totally disagree with that? That's what we need. Will Smith kept saying to me, he called me bad. Keep saying bad. That's, that doesn't help. Don't don't take that approach, because now they're on the defensive. And I'm many black three, I wanted to do some additional photography. And the head of the studio had one, one series of ideas, and I had a totally different set of ideas. She presented her set of ideas. And instead of saying, I totally disagree, I said, I so. So see why you think those scenes are great, and I so appreciate why those seeds are exactly what you think we need. And without any more saying why I think those are great ideas. Here, here's what I have come up with, that would say totally different stuff. But I would get it and I was allowed to do what I wanted to do, because I didn't immediately anger everyone by saying, I disagree. Or that's a stupid idea, or that's not what we need. Instead, I'd say, totally understand all those reasons. I think they're all great ideas. I have some different ideas. And I'll tell you what I think my ideas will do for us. But I no longer say bad idea. I disagree. I start out totally agreeing with them. So that they are no longer adversary. But we're on the same team. And that took me decades to learn.

Alex Ferrari 1:54:01
You're very Jedi Master esque. When you speak like this

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:54:07
250 grand. I came to Jedi very late. You don't want that person you want. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:54:19
These are not the droids you're looking for sir. Now, what was the biggest fear you had to overcome when you made or you were first walked onto a set, whether that be blood simple, or like that convinced you to? I can do this? Like what was that fear you had to overcome?

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:54:39
Well, as a cinematographer, I needed to start to see dailies and to see that the way I thought because this again, is way before video tap even. So it's not like now you're on the set and you look at a monitor and what you see is what you get, because everyone uses video cameras. So I had to discover that I was good. And that I didn't know what I was doing as a cameraman. I mean, literally, I had shot a bunch of porn and some industrials for Rabbi Gelman picture. boxes. So, on the set of blood symbol, I had never done this before, literally had never shot a feature. So I hadn't started to see stuff to see, oh, I'm okay. I can do this. And, and then when I became a director, again, I had to spend enough time with the actors. And believe me, I was totally stressed out. I fainted on The Addams Family set one morning, I, I then convinced myself just overtime, you know that. The other thing is, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get doing it. Right? is why I was saying to your audience, when they're starting out, just keep doing it, do another one, do another one, do another eight minute video, do another format. Do that. Because the more stuff you shoot, the more you realize, Oh, I see if I'm over the shoulder here with a 50 millimeter and then I come around to the other over the shoulder. And I'm on a 21 millimeter, it doesn't match and they don't look like they're in the same roomy than I should use the same lens on both over the shoulder stuff like that. You don't know until you do. And that's that's the great thing about film school. Although now you can do it on your own. Which is it allows you to make movies and until you actually make them. You don't. You can't watch a lot of movies and figure out all those things. You got to do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:56:43
Right. Yeah, you could look at someone writing music. But until you actually start kidding. I listened to a symphony. It's easy. I could do this. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. Now the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:57:00
Oh, that's easy. Dr. Strangelove. That's my number one. I really like taxi driver. I haven't seen it in a long time. I want to say taxi driver. And I'm going to say Palm Beach story, which is a comedy directed by Preston Sturges.

Alex Ferrari 1:57:22
Now, since you said Dr. Strangelove is your favorite, I have to do a follow up question which is your favorite Kubrick film? I'm assuming you're of Kubrick fan. Dr. Strange.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:57:32
It's a strange job is my favorite movie ever. My favorite Kubrick movie number two, I would say it's 2001. I didn't like Eyes Wide Shut. I don't think I saw Clockwork Orange because it seemed too scary. You know, I've never seen a scary movie I've never seen like, shiny now, or Exorcist or anything like that. You know, the prom was when I was a kid. I want to see Jason and the Argonauts. And there's that scene was a skeleton. And it was scary movie I ever saw. I think it was like 10 and I would never do I've never seen a twilight zone or or an outer limit or anything.

Alex Ferrari 1:58:20
Never seen so sorry. More. So in your wheelhouse the comedies the comedies in the action. Yes, yes. Yes. And can you tell the audience where they can find the book and when it's out.

Barry Sonnenfeld 1:58:35
The book came out on March 10. And it's hard to get right now because Amazon, the bookstores, the claws, so I what I would say is either buy the Kindle version and read it on your iPad, there's about 100 photos in it so the iPad is a really good way to read it. Or the audio book is read by me. You get 10 hours of this voice but I'm very sarcastic while reading it I don Katz is the CEO of audible.com told me that rarely does he has he listened to a book where the reader knew where to put the quotation marks within their voice and I have great thing and I pause and just the right place. So he thought I did a very good job reading it which was surprising to me because I didn't want to read it I wanted max Greenfield curry that Max's as become a friend of mine but they wanted hash one is the publisher wanted me to read it. So I did. So you can order it as a hardcover from either you know, Amazon or Barnes and Noble it just takes a while because your backlog because of shipping other things for Coronavirus and stuff like that. But I would say if you want immediate gratification even the audio book, the audible dotcom book or the download the Kindle version,

Alex Ferrari 2:00:03
And it makes the most sense that you, you would be a good audio book reader because you tell stories you've been telling stories your entire life. So you have that knack already to just the pacing, the story of just listening to you tell your story so brilliantly. The pacing, the timing, it's it's there. I'm sure at a party, you are the center of attention.

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:00:29
Well, I'm an only child and I'm Jewish. So I'm supposed to be.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:33
Exactly. And before we leave, can you tell the audience your philosophy of life?

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:00:44
Yeah, nine words.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:47
Go ahead.

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:00:48
Regret the past. Fear the present. Read the future.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:55
Very optimistic.

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:00:57
Well, okay, I'm gonna leave you with this.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:59
Yeah, go ahead.

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:01:00
There's no upside in being an optimist. There is only an upside in being a pessimist. And I'll tell you why. If you get on a plane, and you stand with a guy sitting next to you, and you say, this plane is going to crash before we get to Cleveland, either one of two things happens. If the plane starts to nosedive, you get turned to the guy sitting next to you and go, Oh, was I right? or walk? Or if the plane doesn't crash, you win. Because you've landed successfully in Cleveland. It's a win win, as long as you're a pessimist.

Alex Ferrari 2:01:38
Because if you would have been positive in that situation, like yeah, I think we're gonna be clear sailing. And if it starts going nailed down, you're just like, Well,

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:01:46
No win, no elbowing the guy next to you going Hello. Oh, yeah. Sorry, always be a pessimist that's my.

Alex Ferrari 2:01:56
And on that note, sir, I truly thank you for all the time you dedicated to to the show today, it has been an absolute pleasure. I know, we could probably speak for another four or five hours. But thank you so much for your wisdom and your humor, and your entertainment today. Because it's been an absolute joy talking to you. So thank you, Barry.

Barry Sonnenfeld 2:02:16
You too, it's been a total pleasure and I stay safe. And we'll see each other when I eventually get to LA.


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BPS 198: Secrets to Creating Great Character Moments with Chris Riley

Chris Riley is a screenwriter whose first film, After The Truth, an award-winning courtroom thriller written with his wife and professional partner, Kathy, sparked international controversy in 1999 when it was released in Germany.

Other credits include 25 To Life, a dramatic thriller for Junction Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures; The Other White House, a political thriller for Sean Connery’s Fountainbridge Films and Intermedia; Aces, an action-adventure romance for Paramount Pictures; and a screen adaptation of the book Actual Innocence for Mandalay Television Pictures and the Fox television network. A veteran of the Warner Bros. script department, Riley is the author of The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style. He serves as professor of film at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego and previously taught in the MFA program in writing for screen and television at Pepperdine University.

He served as creative director at Yellow Line Studio where he executive produced the web series Bump+ and produced the feature Red Line. He is a founding partner of the online Story Masters Film Academy.

His new book is The Defining Moment How Writers and Actors Build Characters.

Aimed at both the head and the heart, The Defining Moment plumbs the depths of the most memorable characters ever to appear on the screen, the stage or the page. The book focuses on those moments so pivotal in a character’s formation that they create a distinct boundary of before and after, moments without which the character couldn’t exist and moments through which characters can transform before our eyes. Writers, actors and storytellers of all stripes will discover a powerful new key to unlock any character they seek to develop, write or portray. They may even unlock a deeper understanding of themselves.

Features:

  • The first in-depth study of the essential principles that will redefine the way storytellers understand their characters and themselves.
  • Essential insights into the forces that create character
  • Dozens of examples of character-defining moments from film, television, theater and literature
  • An exploration of pivotol moments: birth, death, discovery, decision-making, injury and healing
  • An examination of how writers and actors employ defining moments in their deepest and most unforgettable works
  • Insights into how directors, editors, cinematographers and composers dramatize key moments
  • Practical exercises for defining and redefining character
  • Tips for discovering the moments that matter most
  • Deeply personal stories from the authors’ lives to illustrate the variety of moments that define us.
  • For every storyteller, no matter their medium, The Defining Moment will redefine the way they understand their characters and themselves.

Right-click here to download the MP3

LINKS

SPONSORS

  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Chris Riley 0:00
Well, I think you do start with that kind of question. Like I know I have a character who's going to dress up like a bat and fight crime. Why?

Alex Ferrari 0:08
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Chris Riley. How're you doing, Chris?

Chris Riley 0:24
I'm doing well. It's good to see you again Alex.

Alex Ferrari 0:26
Good to see you. My friend. Last Last we spoke we talked about formatting and the Hollywood standard and how to format a script properly. And it was a very successful conversation and episode people really loved it. And when you wrote your new book, The defining moment how to write was it how writers and actors build character, I had to have you back on the show to talk about it. Because it's a really fascinating book on the process of character development.

Chris Riley 0:55
It's been a fun book to write. And it's, it's fun to talk about. Talking about script format is a little dry topic. But yeah, in this book, we get to sort of go straight for the heart,

Alex Ferrari 1:10
The more sexy parts of writing, it's like, that's the formatting not so sexy.

Chris Riley 1:14
Yeah, without, you know, it's necessary. But that's not what draws us to stories. It's the characters. And that's what this book is about.

Alex Ferrari 1:22
Absolutely. So let's get into it. How do you build deep characters in your pitch?

Chris Riley 1:28
Well, it's a, it's such an important part of the work we do. as storytellers, characters, are the most interesting thing. And it's, it makes sense characters represent people and people are the most interesting thing. So the challenge for a storyteller for a writer is the people and characters are complex, there's an infinite amount of stuff you could know about them. But what do we really need to know to go deep with characters and the idea of the book is that there are a small number of moments that define each one of us that define a character. And if we know what those moments are, that have been the moments that have most profoundly shaped a character, then we can get a deep understanding of them without knowing a million details about them.

Alex Ferrari 2:28
So you're, you're talking so so that so that the definition of a defining moment, or what is the defining moment,

Chris Riley 2:34
So a defining moment would be one of those moments that creates a before and after for us that, you know, we were one thing before that moment, where something else after it, so it can be a moment of birth or death, like literal or figurative, can be a moment? You know, we're talking to filmmakers here, the moment when the birth or the dream of making movies was born. And you're one way before that, and then after that, you're you're hustling, you're obsessed, and, and you but like nobody really could be said to understand you deeply. If they don't know what that moment was.

Alex Ferrari 3:18
So So Bruce, Wayne, was hunky dory until that night of the theater.

Chris Riley 3:24
Exactly. So that's a moment where something died, literally, his parents died. But something else was born in him what which was his drive, to stop crying to prevent other people from suffering, the way he suffered, it was also the birth of his lifelong emotional agony.

Alex Ferrari 3:48
I mean, he's got some issues. I mean, he's dressed up to the bat. So there's, there's other psychological things that he's going to have to deal with growing up. But but you know, I think the great defining moments in in Hollywood history are in films. A lot of it comes around death, the death of of a parent the death of Uncle Ben for Spider Man and Star Wars, the death of his his family, and forcing him to go with a with the Obi wan to, you know, train and so on. That seems to be the big catalyst. Can you give me example of birth and how birth? I mean, obviously, when a child is born into your life, life changes. That's in real life because I know I was one person before my kids were born. I'm definitely a person after the kids are born. A few more wrinkles and a few more gray hairs. But, but in movies, though, are there examples that you can kind of give for the audience as

Chris Riley 4:49
Well, so we can think about the events in Finding Nemo surrounding the birth of Nemo? There's deaths that precedes that Um, it's it's really a traumatic scene to open a children's movie with a barracuda shows up and eats mom and several 100 of the babies and just leaves dad Marlon, and one little egg Nemo. And so Nemo is birth represents the opportunity for life to go on for Marlin to build a family. But he also carries with him the damage of his losses. And so often, you know, birth and death are linked deaths, clears the decks for something new to come. The death of Bruce Wayne's parents leads to the birth of Batman key as you can understand, Bruce Wayne, if you don't know that moment of death that has defined him,

Alex Ferrari 6:02
Yeah, because if you look at you know, I use Spider Man as example. I mean, he was so brilliant at what Stan Lee wrote in that first step. And that first issue was, what would you do if you had superpowers as a kid? The first thing you're going to do is not fight crime. First thing you're going to do is like show off, and how can I get rich? How can I get chicks? How can like that's a teenage boy's mind is exactly what he did. And he went to go fight and he won. But when he was so self involved, he let that that burglar or that robber run by him, and then later that guy kills servitor. Spoiler alert, everybody kills Uncle Ben, which then sets him on his paths. So that was so brilliantly done, because you needed that catalysts are else who knows where spider man would have gone without the death of Uncle Ben, he might have gone into debauchery, and gone down a dark path, where he could have very easily turned into a villain. If he wouldn't have if he would have just kept going down the self indulgent ego state stick way of going about things. So Uncle Ben's death was absolutely necessary for his character development.

Chris Riley 7:11
Yeah, it was absolutely defining. And really, we've got two defining moments there. In that story, we've got the death of Uncle Ben, which sets Spider Man's course. But before that, we have the moment when Spider Man is born in response to the bite of the spider. So we have to understand both of those moments, if we're going to have an understanding of what's up with Peter Parker.

Alex Ferrari 7:37
And why and why does he do what he does and how he does it, and so on. Yeah, it's fat. And what I always find fascinating about story it is it's such a complete analogy for our own journeys. The Hero's Journey is our journey, we everything that characters go through in movies, and books, and novels and comic books. I mean, you know, to a certain extent, we go through in our own lives, we all have birth moments, we all have death moments, we all have defining moments of what makes us who we are. I was so funny when I wrote my first book shooting for the mob, which is about me almost making a $20 million dollar movie for the mafia. I said, we could talk about that later. I said it when I announced it on the show, I go, if you guys want to know what my origin story is, this is why I do what I do. And if it wasn't through that horrific experience that I went through, and all of the shrapnel that I've picked up since being in the film industry, that's what prepared me to do a show like this, to speak the way I speak about the business because I'm speaking from a place of being in the trenches, and going through it and and also having an urge to help others not have to go through those things. So if I said it out loud, this is my origin story, if you want to know where the grizzled voice comes from, this is it.

Chris Riley 9:03
Yeah, and it's, you know, it's so fascinating when we learn those things about one another or even about ourselves. And so I think it's fair to say that your closest friends, the people who understand you most deeply know that story about you. And if they don't know that story, they're more of an acquaintance. And to the extent that we can excavate our own defining moments, and face up to them, sometimes they're painful moments that we don't want to look at. We we understand and know ourselves more deeply. And we can then draw on those things. When we shape and develop character. So whether we're actors, directors, writers, we are then drawing on the real stuff of life rather then being derivative of something that we saw someone else do.

Alex Ferrari 10:04
I mean, those moments in our lives when we are tested, you know, like, the metal gets stronger. The more that you beat down on it, the more it's heated, the more it's beaten, the more it's it gets stronger and stronger. So those defining moments in our lives really do shape who we are. And if you could take those, those experiences in your own life and add them into your story. That's when you have really deep characters really deep story. That's not like you said, derivative. I always and I've said this 1000 times in the show, and please forgive me audience but Shawshank Redemption, again, it's one of those movies that has no reason to be as good as it is on paper. Not anything, particularly, you know, mind blowing, horrible name, one of the worst titles of a movie, ever. And yet, when you watch it, it touches you in a way, and it touches everybody no matter. I saw it when I was a knucklehead in my early 20s. And my knucklehead friends even felt something, you know, and I was like, if it can connect to that kind of mentality, what did Darabont do in the script that made those characters so, so vibrant, to the point that they connect with us on such a almost spiritual level, honestly. And if we want to look at Andy the frame, I mean, his defining moments, the finding of his wife, his wife is cheating on him to find the moment number one, to being charged with a crime he didn't commit, I pretty much said those are two big defining moments. But there are some defining moments within the story that he decides I'm going to fight back. And I'm going to, and then also the the moment that he finds out spoiler alert, that the rock is weak. Those are those defining moments in that movie,

Chris Riley 12:03
I think they are, you know, some of them have to do with plot finding out that you can you can cut into the rock wall is the, you know, the opportunities are different after you know that. There's this, you know, beautiful, defining moment when he makes his escape. And it is, it is a we can think about all the ways his life is different before and after. He's a prisoner. He is without hope. We actually believe that he may have taken his own life.

Alex Ferrari 12:45
Oh, that's a beautiful

Chris Riley 12:48
Yeah. And so he has at a moment of death. But he goes through this. We can all different kinds of transformative imagery. He passes through a birth canal. Oh, yeah. Into life. He has a baptism. It's a baptism in the sewage,

Alex Ferrari 13:07
Of life the sewage of life.

Chris Riley 13:10
And then he comes out, he comes out clean, he says, that is a that is a life transformed when we see him. Next on the beach in Mexico. He's a new he's a new man.

Alex Ferrari 13:24
Yeah. And so it's red. And so it's red.

Chris Riley 13:28
Yeah, red is also transformed. And red is also at that place where he could tip into death for a while. And and so he, and he has wrestled with this idea of hope and the danger, how dangerous is hope. And he's a guy who rejects hope and the before version of himself. But when he decides that he is going to go and get that message that's buried in the wall, he is choosing hope he's choosing life, that is a defining moment of healing. Now, I think the reason that it reaches us knuckleheads is because it's credible, I think it's drawn from life. And that's the great thing if if I can identify not only moments where I got broken, or where I got damaged, but moments where I actually grew and experienced some restoration or healing, then I can draw on that and create incredible moments for my characters that the audience will recognize and say, oh, yeah, me too. That is how life is.

Alex Ferrari 14:51
Yeah, I've said that as well that I feel that that story specifically is an analogy for life in many ways that we many times feel like Things are thrown up, like we're accused of things we didn't do, which could be or things happen to us. And we're punished and it's not our fault. And how he's able to transcend that almost again, it almost be I love the spiritual imagery that you use is like going through the birth canal, being baptized, you know, being coming up free. There's such there's so much subtext in those that imagery, and and that story that connects with arguably, almost anybody watches it, because I mean, it's not considered one of the, you know, ranked according to IMDb, even sometimes higher than the Godfather, you know, so it's really interesting, I always love using that as an as a movie to look at. Because on paper, it makes no sense that it's just like, it's a very basic, it's not a horror, like, okay, guy, you know, he, he's accused of something he didn't commit those through jail, escapes. Life is good. It's not, I mean, complex on paper and the pitch.

Chris Riley 16:05
The plot is not what's great about it, is the characters with the character transformation. So we both reveal character, but we also then transform character and defining moments are the basis of who we are when the story begins. But they are also the way then that we are transformed. So there, they both form the character, but also transform the character and storytelling concerns itself with both of those processes.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
So when you're writing a character, how do you discover what their defining moment is? So like, when when Bob Kane or I forgot, they just discovered someone else who wrote Batman? You know, writes Batman, like, what's the thing like I got, I want to dress this guy up isn't bad. But what does it cause this guy? What is what has to happen to this guy to dress up isn't bad, and fight cry? So like, how do you discover that moment for your characters?

Chris Riley 17:06
Well, I think you do start with that kind of question. Like, I know, I have a character who's going to dress up like a bat and fight crime. Why? Why? So that's both a a dream or a drive a goal. But it's also there's, there's damage. And so what sort of moment what sort of experience gives rise to that? The way that you find the answer, I think, is not by resorting to reading other people's comic books or watching movies. Because then your work is just derivative, I think you look to your own life experience. Why do I do what I do? Why do I go to the crazy lengths I go to achieve my goals? And why am I so messed up? And how did how does that happen? And out of that, you end up with something that is real? And that is relatable? Because, like, don't we all swim through a river of sewage hoping to come out clean? On the other end? Aren't we all? Yeah, as you say, we're suffering with shame, much of which somebody else dumped on us? And yet, how do you get clean? And so we can look to if, if we will do the hard work, first of looking at our own moments that have defined us and then pausing when we have this great idea of a man who dresses as a bad what a great vigilante, and we can just rush headlong, without pausing and asking ourselves the question you asked, why, how did he get to be this guy? And if we do that, and we think, yeah, there's probably a handful of moments that have defined him. And we look for those until we recognize a moment that rings the rings true to us. And then you grab on to that.

Alex Ferrari 19:17
It's fascinating. I'm gonna I want to bring two characters to the very famous characters into the conversation, Indiana Jones, and James Bond. Now, James Bond had multiple movies, without really is knowing anything about him. Indiana Jones had two movies, before we really truly knew why he does what he does. And which was going to bring me to my next question, can a character have a defining moment outside of the current story that happens before the story? And I think the answer is I'm going to answer my same question, I think is yes, if we use those two examples, because if you look at Indiana Jones The third part, we discover his relationship with his father And that that one moment when he was a kid, where he did the cross and all of that stuff with a guy in the, in the quasi Indiana Jones that he met when he was a kid launched him on his path. And then with James Bond, it was Casino Royale. And those are two probably, I argue, because it was probably the best Bond movie because there's so much character in it. And it's not just, I'm cool. I have a gun. I sleep with a lot of women, which is basically what James Bond was for decades. And then Indiana Jones you have that loving back and forth between him and Sean Connery is probably one of the most beloved of the Indiana Jones series. Do you agree with what I'm saying?

Chris Riley 20:37
I do. And I think that when you you know, when you find out the defining moments for your characters, you don't do it in a in a sort of a cynical Oh, that'll be a good scene and that I can put that you know, great ending back to, but you're seeking to understand the character, you don't know how you're going to play those moments, or if you're going to play those moments. In the book, I talk about my experience on the set of the movie Twister. And that movie was rushed into production before the script was finished. Helen Hunt plays this obsessive storm Hunter who's trying to place scientific instruments inside a killer tornado, which is a dangerous, obsessive thing to do. And there's a scene from her childhood in the movie where you come to understand why she does that. Well, that scene had not been written when I was on location with them. And they had decided we'll write that later, because we're not going to shoot it until later. So you can imagine, Helen Hunt the actor, running around chasing tornadoes, putting herself at risk. And you could imagine that it would actually help her performance,

Alex Ferrari 22:05
She might have done it in her own head that she created that.

Chris Riley 22:08
She's a yeah, she's an Oscar winning great performer. So she probably created that for herself. But wouldn't it be better? If she knew that, wouldn't it potentially shape her performance? If she knew that moment, even though it might never appear on screen, and for for writers and directors as well as actors? I think that knowing those moments that have shaped your characters, whether or not they appear on screen, helps you know what they'll do, what they'll say, and why they will say and do it. Many of those moments do end up coming into the story one way or another. But I would say maybe half of the moments that I developed for my characters. Really, I'm the only one who will ever know them. But I can write that character so much better. And I have more compassion for that character. So I'm not writing even my antagonist, I'm not writing with contempt for them. I'm writing with a sense of empathy for them, because I know what they've been through.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
Well, and that's the thing about writing good villains, and is that a good villain is not a villain in their own store. Nobody is the villain in their own story. We're all the heroes in our story. Even if you're doing gnarly stuff in the world and bad stuff in the world, you are that you're the villain. So I always find it. When you have the villain that is twisting their mustache at the railroad tracks. That's not very interesting. But you got someone like Thanos, who truly is actually trying to help the universe, but he's going about it the wrong way. Snapping half of it in existence is probably not the smartest way of going about it. But he actually has good intentions, if you will. The Joker, his I mean, the movie Joker, my God, you go into such deep understanding of the torture of that soul and you get it. You just you actually identify Joker as the hero of that movie. Which is is the antihero, Wolverine and other anti hero, Deadpool The Punisher, these kinds of superhero characters. But the greatest villains are always the ones that have the most traumatic or damaging backstories that you feel for them. You feel for Darth Vader, you don't feel for him in Star Wars, then you hope when you first see him, you start to feel a little bit more an empire and then you truly feel in return to the Jedi. And then when you go back to the prequels which we generally don't like to talk about. But but there are some moments in those films that you go, Oh, okay, I get why he is the way he is. So those are listening, please, when you're writing villains write something they have to have. They want it, they have to have a good reason for doing what they're doing.

Chris Riley 25:18
They really believe in the justice of their cause, even though it may be twisted, completely evil and destructive in its outflow. Michael Corleone is another great example of someone who does horrible things, destroys his family in the name of saving it. And yet, because that storytelling so brilliantly brings us along his journey, including in that moment in the middle of the first Godfather film where he picks up a gun, and guns down, the two men responsible for his father's shooting. That is the moment that that makes Michael, the godfather. And without that moment, you don't understand it with that moment. You go with him on that journey, even though you're kind of, you know, you're watching through your fingers, and you're recoiling at what he's doing. And with K, at the end of that first Godfather film, you recognize, Oh, Michael is now a monster. But like, I'm fascinated, and I get it. And it's because I was privy to the moments that shaped and transformed him.

Alex Ferrari 26:37
I mean, well, Tony Soprano, I mean, look at Tony Soprano. And there's a scene in, I think, episode five or six, that HBO had a major problem with it was a moment, it was a defining moment in his character, where I think there was a rat, or something along those lines, and he found the rat, and literally killed him on screen choked him to death. On screen, vividly, the camera was in, no one had ever done that before. I'm on a television show. Like, it was so brutal. And that's the defining moment for that character in the series, because it's also a defining moment for the audience. Because you gotta go, am I gonna follow this gut? Like, am I gonna keep watching this, this, this monster, you know, because he's not a good guy, and the whole shows about him and his family, what he goes through. So I feel that there was that that was such a wonderful moment that David Chase brought in, and he fought for it big time. That because the HBO says, like, you're gonna lose the audience. And he's like, No, we're not, he knew more about the character in the audience than, than anybody else did. Even the audience didn't even know what they wanted until they saw it,

Chris Riley 27:51
You know, exploring interesting characters who are like us in some way, revealing their secrets. I mean, that's such a draw to us, as an audience. I, I really think that, you know, one of our, one of our giant drives as people is to, to know to connect. And that's really hard in real life. People don't share their secrets with us. You know, you're at Starbucks. And you got so, you know, what was your most wounding moment that defines

Alex Ferrari 28:26
Those conversations all the time, Chris, I don't

Chris Riley 28:29
Tend to edge away from you. Right, but great storytelling, great movies, great television, allows us to know some characters better than we know, our closest friends. And I really do think we're hungry for that.

Alex Ferrari 28:45
And I think that's, I think that connection is your right, we all want connection, you know, we're all striving to connect with other human beings, and in a deep, meaningful way. And when there's lack of that, in our lives, we connect with the characters in movies. I know I did when I was growing up. You know, when you don't have friends, you can still pop in a VCR tape. That's how old I am. And and watch Indiana Jones or watch a movie and go on an adventure and connect with those characters. I mean, look at the Brockie I mean, I mean, Jesus, you you know, a movie like that, that still holds up from that there's very few movies from the 70s that can be watched today. And it still has the same impact that it did back then. Rocky is that that story? I mean, if you want to talk about defining moments in his in his story, I mean, the moment Apollo Creed shows up and says, Hey, do you want a shot? Pretty, pretty big, defining moment.

Chris Riley 29:45
Absolutely. He was he was a failed boxer sleepwalking through life, and someone opens a door of opportunity for him and he would He would talk about his life, if you, you know, interviewed him later on, he would say, well, before Apollo came along, this is me after, this is me. And that, for me is the great telltale sign of any defining moment that it creates this boundary of before and after. So, you know, your family would talk about, oh, that was before the house burned down. That's that was after the house burned down before the diagnosis after the diagnosis, before we met, after we met, not, it's not all sad. Some of them some of the stuff is good, you know, before therapy after therapy. And it is in discovering those things that we we recognize the person and we also recognize ourselves and and realize, Oh, I'm not the only one, I'm not alone. And that is, that's the great relief that comes from connecting with characters is just discovering. Like, oh, other people are, are struggling, like me, and then when Rocky Balboa is able to find meaning and triumph in life. Maybe I can do maybe I can't tell exactly

Alex Ferrari 31:31
What I mean. Isn't that interesting, though, that story is something that is so integral to us as a species. We're the only ones on the planet who tell stories. Truly tell stories. I'm going to show what some of the Apes do, but I don't think they'll you know, they're not they're not telling Batman stories. But we tell stories, it's not only that, we tell stories, it's that we need story in our life, we need that expression of this journey to help us understand what the hell this whole life thing is, it's a way for us to grasp on to something because we show up. And it's a this is a mess. And most of us walk through life as this is a mess. All this stuff is happening to me. I'm going through tragedy and going through highs and lows. What does this all mean? You're trying to find meaning in what you're doing. And story provides that, and it doesn't have to be a complex novel or movie or comic book. It could be like, Did you hear what happened to Bob down the street? That little little gossip of what might have happened? A tiger ate them around the corner? Well, there's a value to that concept, like don't go down the corner, because they're Tigers down there, and that can eat you. So there's that that function of it. But I think that I mean, without story, I don't even know how we function as as as a human being. Yeah,

Chris Riley 32:51
I don't I don't think we can. And I think that one of the insights of neurology is that when we lose track of our own stories of ourselves, and we can't remember, if we've got say Alzheimer's disease, we can't remember our stories. We're not just losing contact with our history, we're actually losing contact with our identity. Because our our identity is built out of our stories, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. And as you say, we're also looking at the cause and effect of like, why did that happen? And what does it all mean? So a story that could look like a very lightweight comic book story may really be like, philosophically, undergirding our whole sense of the meaning of life. That's, that's what it's getting at is, what does it add up to? And the most satisfying stories help us understand what the events of the story add up to?

Alex Ferrari 34:02
And also, when you are able to go on a ride with a character and live vicariously through the character, it's a way for you to kind of almost disconnect as well, obviously, from your day to day stuff. But there's some times there's some times when especially when you're younger, you watch a movie and it just hits you in a way that you can't let go. I mean, Shawshank was not for me, believe it or not, I mean, I know it's it's just one of those movies that doesn't let go of me. The Matrix was one of those films, doesn't it doesn't a Fight Club was one of those from they don't let go of you. There's concepts in it that connect with you in a weird way you, you know, I don't connect with Tyler Durden. You know, but a lot of the concepts and ideas that Fincher and Jim rules and the writer Chuck was trying to portray in that story, connected with me personally. And in The Godfather and those kinds of things. There's just those things, but at the end of the day, it always comes back down again. Correct, because how many people say how many people can truly remember? plots from James Bond?

Chris Riley 35:07
Yeah, I mean, interesting.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
How many plots do we really remember from James Bond other than maybe something you just saw? You don't really remember plots? I vaguely kind of remember the plot of Temple of Doom, vaguely. But I remember key moments that have to do with character.

Chris Riley 35:26
Yeah. Yeah. Kathy, my wife and co author of the defining moment, and I draw heavily on Band of Brothers. Yeah, World War two series. There's so many life lessons from those characters. We think about there's a battle scene with a terrible leader, who, who sort of bogged down in the middle of battle. And winters, our main character, just keep shouting at him keep moving forward, you have to keep moving forward. And that refrain of keep moving forward in the face of Battle of danger of resistance. That's, that's something that we we draw on. And then there's, during the Battle of the bolts, there's the troops that just been there being shelled, for days, and days and days. And there's just a little line in narration that says, If a man could just get off the frontlines, even for an hour, it made such a difference. And, and we will, sometimes when we're engaged, and it feels like we're on the frontlines of the Battle of life, we'll look at each other. And so I think we need to get, you know, 45 minutes away from the front lines just to catch our breath and decompress. Yeah, and so those, those lessons of life, don't stay on the screen, we incorporate them into our actual lives.

Alex Ferrari 37:14
I mean, I mean, George Lucas said it very, very distinctly when he wrote Star Wars, and he used the hero's journey that Joseph Campbell laid out, he did it so perfectly, according to Joseph Campbell's work. He's like, stories are the meat and potatoes of society. And, you know, that's what keeps these big lessons, these big ideas moving forward. You know, there'll be generations who will watch that movie or read that that story about Star Wars, and there's obscene amounts of life lessons, that maybe you and I will look at and go, Oh, that's we completely understand that we know that we've been through, it's not that big of a deal. But imagine you're 15 Watching that for the first time. And you really haven't had those kinds of lessons before about life. That's pretty profound. It really is.

Chris Riley 38:02
Yeah, for me, when I was in that age range movies are some of my defining moments, because they taught me things about life that I didn't know. They were the first really well made. movies that I had ever seen. And the impact on me was, was life changing. I can say, you know, there's, there's me before, I saw ordinary people in the deer hunter, and there's me after, yeah. Wow. And the me, the me after, wants to make movies. And to do that, the me after also understands that I'm not the only one who struggles because those movies taught me that. And the me after also understands that because other people struggle, even though they don't look like it, they look like they have it all together. I gotta treat people with more compassion. And so I'm a different person in those three important ways after watching those two films, but I mean, these are defining moments,

Alex Ferrari 39:11
But according to Instagram, everyone's having a fantastic time. It's just me that's having horrible life. I'm just saying.

Chris Riley 39:19
Right, right. And so Instagram will not tell you the truth. That's either a news flash or a spoiler alert. But yeah, but stories can I mean, I think stories can also lie to us and send us chasing after mirages. But good storytelling can tell us the truth about us about life.

Alex Ferrari 39:46
Now, you speak about in the book, the awakening of longing in a character How do you awaken longing in a character? Because I know so many of us just as human beings walking the earth in so many ways where we're lost looking for that meaning in life looking for that thing that we're here to do. And it's so painful, become bitter and angry because you're not getting what you want. But when you happen to fall into the thing, that the door is open, that you happy, you wake up in the morning, and you're happy to go do it. That's what we're all searching for. We're also searching to be happy with our day to day business. Truly, I mean, in every way possible in our relationships with our family, you know, career based, we're looking for happiness. And but to find that meaning, and to also awaken the longing to find that meaning is not very easy. Took me a minute to figure out some get it when they're born, they get there, they know at four years old, I'm gonna sing and they become Mariah Carey, or they're 65 and start KFC. Like the Colonel Sanders did you know he started at 65? He's like, I'm thinking I'm gonna start a new company. And he was 65 when he started it. So obviously, it took him a minute to figure out what his purpose and purpose was to make chicken.

Chris Riley 41:10
Yeah. delicious chicken.

Alex Ferrari 41:13
Yes, very healthy, very healthy.

Chris Riley 41:14
I think that was one of the characteristics of defining moments is that we don't make them happen. They sort of happened to us. Bruce Wayne's, the death of his parents happened to him. But, and so the like a moment that awakens, deep longing in us, is not something that we can order up. But I, as an example of a moment where a longing was awakened, I think of my wife, Kathy's story of as a child. She had a dad who was not warm, who she cannot recall him ever saying the words, I'd love you. And I don't know that she knew what she was missing. Because, you know, life is normal to you as a kid, whatever it is. And then she was at a wedding sitting between her uncle and her aunt. And her uncle was the handsome uncle, the cool uncle. And he looked at that Kathy, he looked at his own wife. And he said, I'm sitting between the two most beautiful women in the world. Kathy had never been spoken to that way. And as soon as she heard those words, something woke up in her that said, Oh, that's the kind of man I want to spend my life with. Now, this is a little bit of a self serving story. Since I'm the husband,

Alex Ferrari 42:55
I was about to say, How did you how did you how did you end up in this story, Chris?

Chris Riley 42:58
So we'll leave it to her to say whether that longing was satisfied. But that was something that stayed with her. Forever. Sure, it wasn't there, the moment before. And then it was there the moment after, not because she chose for it to be because that experience, awakened that longing at her now she can write characters who have a moment like that drawing on her own experience. And it will be credible, because it draws on that authentic emotional experience of her life.

Alex Ferrari 43:40
It's so funny, because I look back when I was 18. And I was like, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And one day, I literally sit that sat down in my bedroom. I looked around, I had 3000 VHS tapes that I had collected, I worked in a video store. So I collected about 3000 in my collection at the time, I looked around and I said, I like movies. I guess I'm going to be a director. And that was it. And that was the moment. And this was also in a time that it wasn't cool to be directors. There wasn't YouTube, there wasn't a lot of information about writing or direct. I don't think so. I think Syd field might have just come out. Like there wasn't a lot of information within

Chris Riley 44:17
The first one though. And it was it was tough to learn anything, right?

Alex Ferrari 44:20
There was just it was not so it wasn't like in the zeitgeist of like, filmmaking, that's a that's a career option. You know, my parents were like, what do you what? Like so, but that was the moment I never forgot that moment. I was like, I guess I'm gonna be a director. And that was, I was before that moment. And after that moment, and that was it.

Chris Riley 44:41
Right. And it's, and it's lasting. I mean, it's we're here we are sitting about

Alex Ferrari 44:45
For better or worse, better or worse, or for better or worse. It's because it has been and it's, you know, I've documented well, and I think every filmmaker and screenwriter goes through this. It's not an easy path. It is not an easy path to go down. How to be an artist in general, it's not an easy path. But that is speaking of defining moments. That was the moment that I decided. And then there was other defining moments that you decide, do I want to keep going or not? How do I keep going or not? And that's also very difficult to, to understand. And like, again, we'll go back to Shawshank How does and it uh, Frank keep going 20 years of, or 30 25 years, whatever it was, he was in there. Going through that day in and day out and read just that little, that little montage, so beautiful one red light. Some days were good. Some days were bad. You know, some days he fought off the sisters. And one, some days he fought off the sisters and lost. And he goes, I would have feared that he wouldn't have made it if things kept going that way. But one day this happened. And then this character gets introduced, and his whole life changes inside the prison because now now he can go off and he needs someone needs to cook the books. He's good at that his life change that from that moment on. But those are those things.

Chris Riley 46:08
Yeah, I'm life, I'm that quality of life, that there are these seismic moments of of shifting, right. And then there are long periods of silence. And that life consists of both things. The moment the volcano erupts, or the default ruptures, and we have an earthquake, those are the exciting moments. They're terrifying, dangerous, but exciting. It's much harder on film to render the long expanses of just keep at it, just keep scraping away with that rock hammer, dig in that tunnel. And yet life, you know, to be fair, consists of more of those moments. But those are not generally the ones we tell. I talked to students about that. So you can look at my CV or my list of credits. And it looks like I've had this, you know, great, exciting life. But I have to tell you, you know, look at the dates, there are gaps. Five years here. I talk about my Time Warner Brothers in the script department, and I was able to write the Hollywood standard based on all that I learned there. But there were long days of me, you know, just reading script after script. That's, that's finding finding typos or sitting alone in the middle of the night. We've got 300 copies of script revisions for the Dukes of Hazzard and someone has to paperclip them. And that doesn't end up in the credits list. But most of life is that in between stuff. And so yeah, I admire Shawshank Redemption, for finding a way to give a nod to that because that's where like most people listening to us right now are in those in between moments. If they're in the middle of a defining moment. They don't have time to talk listen to

Alex Ferrari 48:21
Maybe this podcast is a defining moment. For them.

Chris Riley 48:25
It can be I think it can be.

Alex Ferrari 48:27
It can be like wait a minute, I listen. I've listened to podcasts before and I'm like, I've never thought of story that way before. You know, I remember talking to John Truby. And I was like, oh my god, he just something clicked after I talked to him. I was like, I never thought of story that way the plot the way he he explained it. I was like, oh, and other people will read other books and other people will watch a movie and go, Oh, I get I get something now. So there are moments that could be this could be a defining moment. I'm not putting any pressure on this episode, Chris.

Chris Riley 48:55
But I think it can be and, and and if you know if today is one of those in between days, then we have to take that lesson from Band of Brothers and keep moving forward.

Alex Ferrari 49:10
Yeah, it's like Rocky Balboa says How Hard Can you get hit and keep moving forward? And that's what in many ways, what life is all about. It's about being able to take the hits, and keep moving forward. And it's such a great talk. He doesn't end the movie Rocky Balboa, he does this like three minute monologue. And it's all about life and how hard life hits you and it brings you to your knees. And what are you going to do? Are you going to get up and keep going? Are you just gonna lie there and in your, in your story, all that mundane work that you did in the story department sometimes sometimes I'm sure it was a lot of fun. But all those in between moments. That is what prepared you to write the Hollywood standard. Without that stuff. You couldn't have moved in the direction that you are right now.

Chris Riley 49:52
That's That's exactly right. And all of those scripts I read are what taught me how to You write scripts. So I couldn't have gotten to where I am now, without that, and you know, writing a book, there's a lot of sittin alone. I wonder what the next word is? And oh my gosh, there are a lot of words on the page of a book compared to a script page. That's mostly air.

Alex Ferrari 50:24
Yeah, I remember it's like, how many were 50,000 55,000 words? I gotta do. Okay. A lot of words. All right. But we're trying to do 500 to 1000 a day. Let's just start cranking it out and just start, keep going, keep moving, keep moving and keep moving and keep moving. Take a bite of the elephant a day.

Chris Riley 50:40
Yeah, exactly. There's, I don't know where this phrase came from. I heard it from my wife. And the phrase is embrace radical, incremental ism. You're just going to take one bite of the elephant a day, you can eat a whole elephant that way if you keep it up over time, so I've learned, even working a full time job at Warner Brothers. If I, if I wrote every day in whatever minutes, I could scrape together, I could write a movie every year. And over time, that added up to my career breakthrough. And the script that was the one that we sold first. But we were, you know, overnight successes after 14 years of taking a bite of the elephant. And that's, that's the difference between the people who get there. And the people who don't is the people who get there just kept going.

Alex Ferrari 51:43
Well, and I think you can attest to this, in this business. It's not the most talented that wins. It's the one who doesn't stop. Because there's a lot of people who are not as talented, who are working in the business right now making big movies, who aren't the best writers in the world. But they're the ones that just kept showing up. And they just kept pounding it and kept pounding, kept pounding, grinding it out, where someone who was very talented, just maybe didn't have it in them to keep going. It was too hard for them. But they were more technically more talented. And I've seen it, I've seen it.

Chris Riley 52:19
Yeah, no, I see that as well. Though, the one who quits cannot when they definitely take themselves out of the running is only the ones who keep going, who are in the place where they can develop their skills. So level, they need to be there, and they've done the work. And they you can't sell a script that you didn't finish. And and in almost any case that I'm aware of you can't sell a script, you didn't finish a bunch of drafts. And you know, if you're a director, it's so many things that you have to figure out and get to go right to to finish any film to finish a good film. Oh, my gosh, it is a miracle. And then that there are great films is that shouldn't be possible. And yet we know there are great films.

Alex Ferrari 53:18
Yeah. And I just want to put a myth to rest. The rocky story of the script being written in five days or something like that. You've heard that story, obviously, right?

Chris Riley 53:27
I've heard other stories along those lines, but usually involve like the back of a cocktail napkin,

Alex Ferrari 53:34
Where he wrote that he apparently wrote the script according to sly, he's like I wrote, I wrote rocking five days. That was draft one. But he did get the first draft out because it was so he just he just didn't stop. And it wasn't like three hours here, two hours there. He sat down for 12 or 15 hours a day and just beat it out. And then beat the hell out of the drafts again and again and again and again afterwards. So there is no, there's no genius. There's no one who just there's no Mozart's of screenwriting, there's a couple who feel like it like Tarantino and Sorkin and Kaufman. But all of them work at all of our people.

Chris Riley 54:17
People work really hard. And I I think any good movie or television episode consists of hundreds of really good ideas. And it takes time to have those good ideas to collect them to squeeze out all the hot air all the stuff that's not brilliant. And so you end up like reading a great script, seeing a great film and going oh my gosh, that person's a genius. No, they just work harder than you. And they just kept at it until they had enough good ideas to fill the thing up.

Alex Ferrari 54:52
Well, I mean, if you look at Tarantino who everyone's like, everyone tries to emulate his writing. No one can ever emulate his writing because he had what 20 years of reading, every novel watching every movie doing, the amount of work that he put in, to be able to have the the bass and the ability to retain all that information in his head and retrieve it at will, is a talent that doesn't exist. He's a he's an anomaly he is. He's a genius in that sense. But even that I know people who work with him, and he is fairly brilliant, but he does work. Like he doesn't just Inglorious Basterds wasn't written in one pass, like he could go back, you know, Eric Roth and write Forrest Gump and one pass, he goes back and beat it up again and beat it up again and beat it up again. But someone like Tarantino like that you all those years you're reading at Warner Brothers. It's him working at a video store him reading every novel. Without all that information. He can't she can't be who he is. You can't write Pulp Fiction.

Chris Riley 55:59
That's yeah, no, that's exactly right. I, I was at the Disney Concert Hall recently to hear Itzhak Perlman play his violin. And for him, it looks like it's effortless. And in that moment, I think it's sort of is effortless. But that's because it's built on decades of practice, work, mastery. And then yes, you get to go and you get to play. And you you're able to do it, but only because you've done all of that work, to reach mastery, where you can sort of dance on top of all of the skill and the discipline.

Alex Ferrari 56:48
I listen, I feel very comfortable having a podcast now after doing 700 plus 800 podcasts at this point in my career. And I can I have no no issue in first first year, a lot different conversation much more nervous much. But you start building skill sets on how to talk to people how to feel them out, all the all this stuff, just, it just comes in, but it's just grinding it out. It's just grinding it out to the point where now they're like, oh, I can jump on with it. I'm not intimidated by anybody. When I interviewed and trust me, I've interviewed a couple intimidating. But you feel very comfortable in the space, you're in like, no one's going to come to you. You're not going to feel uncomfortable about format. There's nothing really that can be thrown at you about format that's going to shake you generally speaking.

Chris Riley 57:38
Yeah, yeah, that's right. I'm very comfortable. I'd stand up in front of any audience and and feel formatting questions because I spent 14 years fielding formatting questions. And so I have learned how to answer those.

Alex Ferrari 57:54
Now, in the book, also you talk about Dr. Showers, eight character traits. Can you talk about those?

Chris Riley 58:01
Yeah. So Sidney showers is a Minnesota based pediatrician who came to LA to learn TV writing, and is really a very good writer. And she talked to me about these eight character traits that she just kind of collected this list, they come from different places. And some of them overlap. You know what other people talk about. But I think it's a really useful grid to use to think about a character just to get prompt yourself to have more good ideas. So she thinks about what is the character's drive. And that's not that's different from their goal. Their drive is just what keeps them going. Whether or not there's a story happening. So for Michael Corleone she thinks his drive is to please his father, whether or not anything else, whether or not his father is still alive, he's still driven to please his father. And then the characters goal character, you know, has to be going after something. She thinks about a character's genius, which is really interesting to think that every character is really strong in some area. So Forrest Gump genius, obviously is not high IQ. But he tells us what it is. He says, I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is. So Forrest Gump genius is love, the way he loves Jenny, his purity of heart. That's a great thing to think about. And then what is the character's most closely guarded or embarrassing secret? That assumes that we all have one and I'm going to think that's probably a safe bet. You know, what do we most not want people to know what question do I most hope you don't ask me. What What will reveal me as a fraud and So that sometimes will certainly motivate a villain to protect a secret might motivate a protagonist to protect a secret. And then there's what's the character's flaw? What is their weakness? So the flaw might have the more of a sort of a moral failing, there's selfish, they're arrogant, whatever their weakness is the Achilles heel. It's not a moral failure. But it's, you know, it's their kryptonite. What is that? What's their redeeming quality? Why do we forgive those other things the way we do our friends? Yeah, he's a bit of a jerk. But he was there for me when I was in the hospital. And so that redeeming trait is is also useful to know and I don't know if I've hit all eight of them, but it's just an example of a way that we can give ourselves prompts when we think about a character to give ourselves the opportunity to discover more.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:02
So Hannibal Lecter, what, there's something so beautiful about his character, because we'd like him, but he's a cannibal and a murderer. Some others that yeah, there's that. But yet, there's something redeeming about him. What is redeeming deeming about Hannibal Lecter? Why do we? Why do we cheer that he's going to eat somebody at the end of the movie? Yeah. It's insane. But you're sitting there going? Yes. That's

Chris Riley 1:01:36
He's charming.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:38
There's that's a superpower he does.

Chris Riley 1:01:42
He's really smart. Yeah. Right. So his genius is his genius that. And so we admire someone he's working his plan. You know, Clarice is using him. He's using her. And that's brilliant. And so we will be attracted to somebody who is very smart, and who has a plan. Now, you know, why do we want him to eat someone at the end, I think that has more to do with will root for someone if they're up against someone who's even worse. Even more horrible. And that's just sort of the the sense of justice. There is a little bit of justice. Yeah, I will root for any football team. That is, you know, going up against Tom Brady, because for me, Tom Brady is the ultimate supervillain. Sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:37
And the Yankees were that for the Yankees were that?

Chris Riley 1:02:40
Exactly. And you know, and I have to, I have to admire the guy. He is a great, great athlete. But, you know, for me hearing that he's coming back. It's like, well, of course, it's the zombie movie where he's just you can't kill the guy. And I said,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:56
Listen, as as a guy who's just a couple years older than him. I'm rooting for him. And I did not like the Patriots. I'm a dolphin fan. I'm a very depressed dolphin fan, for many, many years. And when he said when I heard he was coming back, I'm like, you know, what, just makes me feel good. That dude in this age is out there doing it at that level. And that's just my connection to that story.

Chris Riley 1:03:15
Well, and that's another huge key to understanding why we connect with characters we we relate to them, we identify with them. And now there's a bit of an underdog quality to he's he's fighting the clock, he's he's fighting age.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
He's, he's not, he's not Superman. He's an aged Superman, who is now fighting against youth against other other football players who are in better shape, I guess. But he's at such a level of mastery, that he can pull off what he's doing that nobody had ever pulled off and has ever pulled off in the history of the sport. So even though I wasn't a Tom Brady fan growing up, as he's now passed over that level, and you're right, he's now an underdog. I'm like, can he take a team back to the Super Bowl? At his age? Can he fight that 22 year old kid from Kansas City? Like, who's arguably one of the best quarterbacks playing in the game today? So it's, it's fascinating, but you're absolutely right, I think. And I guess the older guys are looking at it a very different perspective than the younger guys are. Because they don't understand what he's going through. They're like, ah, get him off the field. He's old. And we're like, Nah, man, look what he's doing. He's giving us all hope that they're still caught for the rest of us.

Chris Riley 1:04:36
Yeah. Right. And so because we identify with him, then we were able to project ourselves into him as a character. And yeah, and then we, for me, like, I know people are gonna hear me say this, and I am so I shudder to say it, but I think I might route for a little bit of, of Tom Brady's success too, for that reason, in a way I never would have in the past.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:00
And same and same here. I mean, he's caused me more heartache over the years with my dolphins. Anybody else as and you were speaking about, we are attracted to you genius. I mean, I think one of the reasons genius or superpowers of one's word, and it doesn't have to be fifth like real, real superpowers, like superhero superpowers like Superman and things like that. But someone like Maverick from Top Gun, who's the new Top Gun movies coming up? Who's I'm really interested to see what they do with that character. Because in the first Top Gun, his superpower is his abilities. But he's arrogant. And there's all these flaws and weaknesses that he has to deal with. He has a fight the defining moment of his father's history, that baggage of him carrying his body. But but we're, we're attracted to greatness. We're attracted to highly skilled characters. So Rain Man, you know, Dustin Hoffman, who is you know, artistic is artistic. Right? Yeah. It's artistic, artistic. We, and he has no other superpower, other than what he's able to do. He completely deficient in every other way, socially, that he can be. But yet we are attracted to him because of what he's able to do with his mind. That no, that seems on, it seems super power like, and we're so attracted to that. And it was just like that, that movie. If you people who are younger, have not seen rain, man, please go watch it. It's it's an It's a masterpiece.

Chris Riley 1:06:32
It's fantastic. And it's a script that we had in the the came through the script processing department of Warner Brothers as they were working draft after draft after draft to crack the ending. So that's an example of a movie that was written over a long period of time. And then paradoxically, why we're attracted to people's genius, we're also attracted to their vulnerability. And going back to Tom Brady, he's now vulnerable, he never was before. And now because of his age, he's vulnerable, and that for the first time, to me, it makes him seem approachable and relatable to me. And so then that, that sort of combination of his genius and his humanity is vulnerability makes him interesting. And maybe James Bond is another example, you read my read more interesting to me when he's vulnerable than when you know, bullets bounce off of him, then how can I worry about him? Or relating?

Alex Ferrari 1:07:40
Well, this is one of the reasons why it's so difficult to write for Superman and make a good Superman movie because he's a god, he's walking around as a god and, and that's issues with all the DC characters. They're all very godlike, you know, and where Marvel characters are much more, much more vulnerable. There's not really many Marvel characters who are Superman indestructible at all levels. They all have powers, but they all have weaknesses, you know, Peter Parker, super strong, but he can get shot. He and he also has acne. And he's a teenage boy dealing with teenage boys stuff.

Chris Riley 1:08:19
So make him relatable to teenage boys.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Right. And that was the genius of Stan Lee that he was able to do with all of his the characters he created. He made it. Even Thor, who was a god are literally a god is very vulnerable, extremely vulnerable. And in a way that Superman has difficulty being. I think it was one I think one of the writers of Superman said, you know, we knew we had a problem when we had him blow out of star. Because at that point, you just like, it's not interesting seeing someone win all the time. You need to have some sort of adversity to make it interesting.

Chris Riley 1:08:59
Yeah, you want a fair fight you you don't want to know how it's going to turn out.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
Exactly, exactly. Now, Chris, where can people pick up your new book, The defining moment?

Chris Riley 1:09:10
Well, they can find it on Amazon, they can find it at the publishers website, mwp.com. Or they can go to thisdefiningmoment.com, which is the books website.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Chris it's been a pleasure talking to always have a great time talking to you. This is more interesting than formatting. I'll give you that, as far as a conversation is concerned, but I appreciate you putting this book out and hopefully this episode will be the defining moment in some screenwriter filmmaker slots. So let's help him pray.

Chris Riley 1:09:41
I would really hope that that's true. Thanks for a great conversation Alex.


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Spike Lee Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Spike Lee born March 20, 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from artistic, education-grounded background; his father was a jazz musician, and his mother, a schoolteacher. He attended school in Morehouse College in Atlanta and developed his film making skills at Clark Atlanta University.

After graduating from Morehouse, Lee attended the Tisch School of Arts graduate film program. He made a controversial short, The Answer (1980), a reworking of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), a ten-minute film.

Lee went on to produce a 45-minute film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983) which won a student Academy Award. In 1986, Spike Lee made the film, She’s Gotta Have It (1986), a comedy about sexual relationships. The movie was made for $175,000, and earned $7 million at the box office, which launched his career and allowed him to found his own production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks.

His next movie was School Daze (1988), which was set at a historically black school, focused mostly on the conflict between the school and the Fraternities, of which he was a strong critic, portraying them as materialistic, irresponsible, and uncaring. With his School Daze (1988) profits, Lee went on to make his landmark film, Do the Right Thing (1989), a movie based specifically his own neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.

The movie portrayed the racial tensions that emerge in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood on one very hot day. The movie garnered Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay, for Danny Aiello for supporting actor, and sparked a debate on racial relations. Lee went on to produce and direct the jazz biopic Mo’ Better Blues (1990), the first of many Spike Lee films to feature Denzel Washington, including the biography of Malcolm X (1992), in which Washington portrayed the civil rights leader. The movie was a success, and garnered an Oscar nomination for Washington.

The pair would work together again on He Got Game (1998), an excursion into the collegiate world showing the darker side of college athletic recruiting, as well as the 2006 film Inside Man (2006).

Spike Lee’s role as a documentarian has expanded over the years, highlighted by his participation in Lumière and Company (1995), the Oscar-nominated 4 Little Girls (1997), to his Peabody Award-winning biographical adaptation of Black Panther leader in A Huey P. Newton Story (2001), through his 2005 Emmy Award-winning examination of post-Katrina New Orleans in When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) and its follow-up five years later If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise (2010).

Through his production company 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks, Lee continues to create and direct both independent films and projects for major studios, as well as working on story development, creating an internship program for aspiring filmmakers, releasing music, and community outreach and support. He is married to Tonya Lewis Lee, and they have two sons, Satchel and Jackson.

Below are all the screenplays written by Spike Lee available online. If you find any of his missing screenplays please leave the link in the comment section.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple and Spotify’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcastwith guest like Oscar® Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.


(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

DA 5 BLOODS (2020)

Screenplay by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott – Read the screenplay!

BLACKkKLANSMAN (2018)

Screenplay by Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz – Read the screenplay!

BAMBOOZLED (2000)

Screenplay by Spike Lee – Read the screenplay!

CLOCKERS (1995)

Screenplay by Spike Lee – Read the screenplay!

MALCOLM X (1992)

Screenplay by Spike Lee, James Baldwin and Arnold Perl – Read the screenplay!

DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)

Screenplay by Spike Lee – Read the screenplay!

BPS 197: From Broadway to Hollywierd with Tony® Winner Stephen Karam

Today on the show we have writer and director Stephen Karam. He is the Tony Award-winning author of The Humans,  Sons of the Prophet and Speech & Debate. For his work he’s received two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an OBIE Award and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Stephen recently directed his first feature film, a rethought version of The Humans for A24 films, to be released in 2021.  He wrote a film adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull starring Annette Bening, which was released by Sony Picture Classics.

His adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard premiered on Broadway as part of Roundabout’s 2016 season. Recent honors include the inaugural Horton Foote Playwriting Award, the inaugural Sam Norkin Drama Desk Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, Drama League Award,  and Hull-Warriner Award.

Stephen and I have a great conversation on how he went from Broadway to Hollywood, adapting his award-winning play to the big screen, his creative process and much more.

Erik Blake has gathered three generations of his Pennsylvania family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the group’s deepest fears are laid bare. The piercingly funny and haunting debut film from writer-director Stephen Karam, adapted from his Tony Award-winning play, The Humans explores the hidden dread of a family and the love that binds them together.

Enjoy my conversation with Stephen Karam.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show, Stephen Karam, how're you doing?

Stephen Karam 0:16
I'm doing really well. How you doing today?

Alex Ferrari 0:18
Good brother. It is Karem. But it's Karam in the motherland. So I was trying to be authentic.

Stephen Karam 0:28
You actually nailed it. You nailed it. No I'm doing great. I'm excited to be here and, and be on the show.

Alex Ferrari 0:37
I appreciate that man. Listen, I just got done watching your film literally 10 minutes ago, cuz it's been it was it was I was like wanting to do as fresh as humanly possible. And I absolutely loved it. We're gonna get deep into that the humans and how you came up with it and all that stuff. But first things first, how did you get started in the business?

Stephen Karam 0:58
Good question. Um, I fell in love with storytelling in Scranton, Pennsylvania, not through any formal education or i My sister was in a production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Scranton Intermediate School. I remember seeing the movie and kind of just being blown away and wanting to get as many VHS tapes as I could. So it started just as an interest Public Library. How many videos can I take out how many plays can I read? And because what was going on in my high school where student theater, I started imitating whatever playwrights, you know, I'd be reading in in Scranton, high school, whatever we were doing. So my first like memory of like creating stuff and participating was both was both acting in school plays and then and then trying to imitate writers that I loved. So just writing skits sketches. In eighth grade, I made a film version of The Cask of Amontillado for a school project with three of my classmates. I didn't know how to I had no editing equipment, so I had to using the crazy heavy camcorder I had to film it. The only way I could figure out how to do was to film everything on the tape in order. So it's like I didn't think right you had to go back.

Alex Ferrari 2:26
And then try not to eat into it. Try not to eat it to the previous steak. I feel

Stephen Karam 2:35
I aggravate my first that was like my first like stab a dragon. But you're laughing Do you have any? Do you have any similar Oh, my experience

Alex Ferrari 2:43
I've first I've been directing for 25 years, my friend and I lived in a video store actually worked in a video store in my in my high school day. So my editing in college, before college was to VHS tapes to VHS decks, and I just would crash. So I was I was just a step ahead of you. In the huge step. It's it is like my hero. But but the first ones though, the first very first thing that I did in high school, because there was no technology was exactly your technique. I would I didn't know how to add. I didn't know what editing was I didn't even understand the concepts because it was no information about I mean, the only information I had was the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark VHS and the Making of Star Wars VHS. And that was essentially all that film education I had at the time, not so much on the editing. So I just kind of just like well, if I shoot it in order, and you would see it and I actually watched it the other day, I don't know why I pulled out my old high eight tapes. And I would see where the splices would come in because I hit the record button. And if you don't hit pause, it would be like a janky cut Oh was just horrible.

Stephen Karam 3:46
Janky cut you get the spice. You know you have to run with it. But it was the there was a there was a moment where the splice was so bad. I remember we added like I couldn't figure out how to bridge it and so we added a commercial so that it would seem like the staticky slice was like stooping us into genius sponsor

Alex Ferrari 4:06
Oh so you were doing you were doing like crazy transitions even in camera.

Stephen Karam 4:11
No, it was we there was this really? I think the like I remember the special effects I remember was like we I did no learn how to there was like a fade button and so there was a great sequence where if you know that truth story, he's it is a horror story. And it's basically like he ends up these these friends end up like one he ends up burying the other alive we walling him up brick by brick, and my sister's like playset like play kitchen house had like there was one section of those brick exterior so I kept like gently fading with this trial like losing my my dad's like trowel, and then we'd like fade back in and just felt like cardboard bricks would be a little higher, with the trowel and then we fade out fade back it

Alex Ferrari 4:56
Well, you know, but the struggle was, this is the struggle was real the struggle was real.

Stephen Karam 5:01
It's also just, I guess the short answer to your question is that this was not my entryway into making plays and films was not that sophisticated route. It was sort of, I was at a public school, there were no artists in my family. So I had wonderful arts educators here and there, and that sparked the love. But I was like a, probably later than a lot of when I think of what, just incredible access young people and film students now have, oh, technology wise, and it's just, I'm giddy, like when I met people outside of the Paramount last night, and just talking to students who, you know, at that time, I was, like, you know, talking about, well, I still don't have the money to buy anything else. And I don't know how to, I can't make any more movies on my parents recorder, because it takes too long to edit it. Now you're just talking to kids where it's like, it's just incredible, like the technology is there it's in if it's not there, it's in their hands on their phone. And so they already know, and are able to do so much. It's just is really just completely thrilling. I don't want to get too far ahead of me. But I felt like the recall that these early experiences was in pre production, like using my iPhone and Artemis Pro on my phone to just go and line up those opening sky shots of the opening credits. And just not taking any of that for granted. It's like I can't imagine being born into that technology. Because doing it was just such a sense of wonder, I'm just sharing that with my cinematographer like the back and forth. And I like to be able to map out something in a way that feels pretty sophisticated, especially once you figure out like what the, my, my oldest iPhone is like an iPhone eight s whatever, you know, I think the focal length, it approximates, like 18 millimeter. But you know, like, I did have a lot of recall, like, How incredible is this, that that I can be having these discussions like and I remember just not being able to figure out how to do anything other than making the movie perfectly in.

Alex Ferrari 7:07
No. But you learned though, I mean, doing the that's the thing. I think a lot of times, filmmakers nowadays and even writers, they don't, when you when you're when you're doing like I sound like to old farts. But like when you do the struggle, like when you're struggling through that kind of technology, you're forced to learn things that you might not if you have everything at your disposal. So even if you even if you using your iPhone, they're still you know, it's a lot different than shooting with an airy or red, you know, so. And if you're editing on on your iPhone or editing on, you know, Final Cutter DaVinci your premiere, you're learning things and you're right, I can't even comprehend what I would have done with this technology.

Stephen Karam 7:50
In some ways, I guess it's like everybody makes the most out of what? Yeah, the pros and cons of where of what you know. And to your point, I think it's interesting. Like, I think about my being unafraid of like, starting from not being seduced by the technology, like I feel like I wonder if I would be so seduced by if I came of age at a time when I knew how like just maximizing the amount of like coverage you get, especially like, over the shoulder over the shoulder, then we'll go and close, then we'll get the established if I was like really married to how, cuz I would have been an obsessive editor as a kid, I imagine I might have just been so attuned to that, that I would have abandoned shots that might have required a little more thought like, like, lost out on the joy of that. And when you start by being like, the only way to do it is to like rehearse and get things ready. Suddenly like the idea of doing like a two minute shot where you have to like coordinate six actors like it's so much of the way that humans is filmed. It's like I sort of love that I feel like you end up your weaknesses become your strengths because you sort of have both in your arsenal like I'm so in awe of how a movie you know with a lot of coverage could be taken away from a director and and maybe to a different movie by someone imposed Oh yeah. That I feel like my focus I'm grateful that I also like know the benefits of what even on movies have to move so quickly like just the benefit of what you can get from if there's a reason for it for like a longer take or what what that emotional read resonance the payoff of those moments can be because I could see myself just being like oh my god just literally cover everything from every angle so that you know I could make this movie you know, into it doesn't even have to be about a family if I decided to add enough voiceover in post.

Alex Ferrari 9:51
Now when you when you go when you start your writing process, how do you approach the process in general do you go with Characters first plot first. You know, how do you actually approach the process in your world?

Stephen Karam 10:08
Ah, it's a little different every time I it ends up being centered around the characters. But in this case, I the initial impulse was like, I was feeling a lot of fear and anxiety about, you know, I was that my day job just about life in general financial crisis and just hit I was an assistant at a law firm thinking about writing my next play. I always like to write from fear or questions I can't answer. I guess that's not character. But in that realm, I was thinking like, Well, why I guess I should be. A lot of things are keeping me up. And I should maybe, what would it mean if I decided to write about these questions I can't answer or these fears. I'm having money, anxieties, worries about health and health insurance, and they'll feel so mundane. And I've always loved the psychological thrillers horror genre, I've always loved being scared, I was always the person who wanted to go on the Haunted Mansion ride or the haunted house. And I just thought, I've never written anything genre, but I was like, what if I write a play about people I love are the things that are keeping me and people I know up at night. And it's actually like, somehow the story itself is like, actually scary, like viscerally scary. And so I was like that, I think I might like to see that. And it might, might be my interest might. So I thought I was going to do something away from character super genre. Almost almost like a slasher movie, like where I would put a family in a haunted house and watch, go jump out of closets and, and I still want to see that movie. And maybe I will see that movie. And those movies exist, but but I just when I put the people into the house, I started to really love them, they got more and more complex. And that kind of like three 417 layers deep kind of layers of character doesn't necessarily lend itself it sort of almost takes it out of being pure genre, even if you're trying to make it pure genre. So that was the origin of the humans on stages, sort of it went from being what I thought was going to be more of a camp, stage thriller, like death trap, like a throwback to these like sleuth, yeah, those old commercial Broadway hits that didn't really exist anymore. And it just kind of in spite of myself, I ended up with with a bit of a genre collision with something that that really was a family drama, comedy, but also completely infected by my love of the horror genre.

Alex Ferrari 12:39
Oh, there's no, there's no question that the horror genre is like drizzled all over the place. Because I'm watching the there's certain scenes in the movies. I'm watching and I'm going, is there I mean, am I safe? I mean, I walked in with with this movie, I felt like I was watching this movie, then all of a sudden, it's like, I he's not gonna there's no monster is it? There can't be a monster. But it was just so brilliantly done that at any moment, like you got me on edge. And I'm like, no, no, I trust the director. He's taking me to cetera as a storyteller. The I can't believe like, you know, an hour and something in they're gonna show the monster like, that doesn't make any sense to me. And, and the monster wasn't in the trailer. So that I

Stephen Karam 13:21
Well, what's crazy is I so somebody who loves more genre, but also loves like, like stuff that's subtle and skirts around the edges. It's like I, I, you know, you're always like, create, I think it's like I was talking about students. It's like, you just you make the movie that feels like the only one you can make. And part of that is running, writing towards what you want to see and what you love and what scares you. It's excited to you and I love movies, even when there are like literal ghosts, but I'm always disappointed. Always and with With few exceptions, like like, even a movie that I'm obsessed with, like Rosemary's Baby, you know, early plants can repulsion of course all these great movies but eat the Rosemary's Baby. My least favorite part of part of that I think is the least scariest when you see the demon baby right? Of course, you get the peek into the crib. And I don't even want to call it a misfire because when a movie is that brilliant, you don't need to you don't need to fix anything, it is exactly what it should be. But it is funny that like that impulse even in movies that I hold up as like, you know, like pinnacles of the genre. It is funny that I'm always like, just as a personal like clocking where I feel like a little less scared or like Oh, my imagination was going to such a more interesting place then that demon that little like the puppet baby with the makeup and

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Oh, yeah, let me you don't want to see the shark. You don't want to see the shark in Jaws,

Stephen Karam 14:46
You know, but if you watch the end of the humans again, I promise you you will see something that will shock you that you will you're going to be shocked that it's hidden in there so explicitly and that you didn't see it.

Alex Ferrari 14:59
Okay,

Stephen Karam 15:00
It helps when you see it big cuz you did. Did you see it on a movie screen?

Alex Ferrari 15:03
No, I couldn't make it to the screening last night so I saw Yeah, I saw

Stephen Karam 15:06
Just to say that there is something there is an effect of a potential I don't want to say a faceless entity coming out of a wall in a way that on a rewind or on that.

Alex Ferrari 15:17
Oh, no, I saw I saw the thing that scared them.

Stephen Karam 15:21
You guys saw the thing that scared of it at the end?

Alex Ferrari 15:23
Yeah. I know. I saw I saw no, I saw that. I know. I saw that completely. Yeah, when he drops us. Okay, we I don't want to. I don't want to give away too much.

Stephen Karam 15:31
So let's we shouldn't spoil it. We shouldn't. Yeah, okay,

Alex Ferrari 15:33
So let's not go too deep into it. Because I don't want to spoil it for people.

Stephen Karam 15:37
Curious because you're we both love Cooper I can see Stanley's the O ring above you. But like, I'm like, how do you it is a fun push and pull. And it's I kind of love that you were thinking I guess the my big joy with this movie is that the potential feels really real in a way that maybe it didn't quite as much on stage. But where you actually are like, is she actually going to open a closet? Or like is something really crazy going to jump out? Or is this the tension coming from?

Alex Ferrari 16:07
So this is what I loved about the movie, man? You know, cuz when you first start watching it, I walked in cold. I didn't know the story. I only saw a trailer I walked in cold. So that's the way it's best way. I love watching movies. Just like I don't want to know anything about it. Just do what you're supposed to do. You turn the lights up. Did you turn the light? Yeah, yeah, everything was dark. It was everything was dark. Okay. Anyway, of course, I mean, you have to watch a movie in the dark. So I'm watching it. And as I'm watching it, and I love the way the camera moves, which is so brilliant. Because you do a lot of frames within a frame in the film. I noticed that right away. There's just so much framing within framing and framing. And the camera moves. I wouldn't say fly on the wall. But it's definitely distant. So you feel like you're voyeuristic in the in the entire, this is just my feeling on it. You're voyeuristic and you're overhearing something that you might not really should be overhearing. This is very pretty private stuff. So I love that aspect. But then the the noises and the booms, and then how you build that tension. Which is so fascinating, because I'm like, but this is not a horror movie. And this is not a thriller, I think. And that was the thing that I loved about it because it kept me someone who's seen 1000 movies. 10,000 movies at this point in my life. Kept me on edge going, Wait a minute, is the is her monster here. And then, oddly enough, I feel the monsters within the there's so many, there's so much of that within the characters in the stuff, some of the stuff that the characters are saying, I'm like, Jesus, these people are horrible. Like they're so mean. And I'm like, That's my family. I know that I got that person in my family. I got that person in my family, I got that person in my family, they would say something like that. So it's like this. It was just such a at the thing is the thing I love about it, and then I'll let you. I'll ask you another question. But the thing I love about it is that I'm faced level. It didn't seem like it was it like it was I was going to be a good story. I knew it was going to be well written and all of that. But it when you first the first few friends you just like this is I didn't expect what I expected. And that's so rare in today's world, that you walk in thinking something and you walk out thinking something else. And it's so hard to do that nowadays because we're so jaded and so literate visually and seeing so many things for us to be surprised, and anything and it wasn't a cheap surprise. It wasn't like the cat jumped out at you. It was just done on a psychological level. May I say almost Kubrick Ian in the way that it gets under your skin a bit if that makes sense.

Stephen Karam 18:41
It does make sense. I don't even know that I want to say anything other than I know it's a real joy to just listen to somebody you know process the film it's it's a private experience for so long you you sort of make it and you're hoping long for the opportunity to hear what other people think and experience and yeah, like from from the the voyeurism I mean, it's interesting, it's such a slow burn and the movie in a way that I was really hoping or couldn't really anticipate was how many people like you kind of come in cold in a way that the dream was that there would be need to be no preparation that this wasn't the type of adaptation that was like you love to the play now coming up that it was really its own entity. And so the surprise element, which I guess I'm most proud of, because it it felt it feels like it's born out of the just the emotion of the the ride of the story, the characters and their journey. That sort of bending are really familiar thing that we all know but so slowly, while also not being dishonest. It's from the opening frames, everything. The DNA of what I'm doing is embedded in the shots and it's a very bizarre opening shot of a dad to be hiding behind like the molding in a distant, like you said, so part of you knows. And yet I also wanted the audience because none of it needs to be processed, you know, consciously, which is part of like, you know, watching Kubrick it's like you don't even know what some of those images and the frame is doing to your but what the folk but but you just know that you're feeling unsettled. And so I was actually blown away by using domestic drama and comedy how it's such a familiar thing, right? It's in our bones. We know what the family having Thanksgiving, know what those these movies? Do we know what they do, and we love him for it. And so I was surprised how just shooting them differently. I mean, it literally working with my cinematographer, and just framing them in unfamiliar ways, right? How much power that has almost because it doesn't announce itself. It doesn't that like, you know, you noticed it, you were like, okay, he's keeping his distance. This is a lot of a lot of empty space here for but but to an audience who's just going to watch a movie, you sort of like the slow burn of it, as you sort of the movie teaches you how to watch it. I think if you forget it more, and you almost don't know where the dread or the creeping suspicion that something's off, I didn't want to say dread but like, just the power of synonym of just the visual imagery of just image by images that you can hold familiar things right a little askew, you can go down a tenement hallway, you know, on the right focal length, and you're just like, why am I scared watching Amy Schumer walk down a hallway like this is not this is not a weird moment. I just laughed at her in June Squibb like what's happening and you know, last night like the Paramount's so great because it's such a large, huge and it went from a laugh line about you know, Amy's like should I should I just dumped you want me to just dump grandma down the staircase How am I supposed to supposed to go down there to just cutting to the next shot of this read this like blood red?

Alex Ferrari 21:56
Yes with with that lovely always with that lovely image on the on the on the elevator

Stephen Karam 22:02
With a lovely image on the elevator like the audience and this is something that's like now I'm just getting experienced where there's time just kind of went like, like, they felt something about that was eerie to the point that there was like, like, like, the way that one does in a horror movie where you just instinctively know it's like too claustrophobic. You want June Squibb to have more room in her wheelchair. And I just love that. I mean, that's the power of like a photograph and the moving pictures like you the just how powerful the frame is. And I think for me, it was always a balance of not to lean too much into like, I I think the things I love about the genre are what I hate about it, and that I hate being told so early on that a scary thing is coming. Like with music with a staying and and I still love it because it's like, Oh, scary things about to happen. And then it happens, but it's still satisfying. And with the humans just kind of playing with all the tropes that I love, like, like, wrapping my arms around them, but also like, what if it's also like a horror movie with jumpscares, but also much quieter? What if it doesn't have the lead in underscoring of a horror movie like the thing that Telegraph's like creepy, creepy? And weirdly, for the movie like this? I think it makes it feel a little like creepy or creepy. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. There should be. Someone should be telling me more how to feel like someone should be holding my hands as an audience member. Because we're so used to that, like, there's no scary scene, or this is a funny scene,

Alex Ferrari 23:34
You definitely leave the audience out there. You're guiding them to be you leave them out there, you're like, like you said, you're not guiding them. So they're kind of just like, I have nothing to hold on to. I like what's going on. And it gets gets worse in the best way possible. As the as the film goes on, as you build it. You just start like I can't, I can't hold on to this thing. I can't hold on to the score. There's no monster like and you're just like, I don't It's uh, you're off kilter completely. And it's so brilliant. That scene in the hallway. I mean, you using blood red as the, the dog the cover of the elevator. So um, like, and, and all the other stuff so I can understand why people felt like a little bit off there. But, you know, going back to what we were talking about with Kubrick. I mean, I was trying to explain to my wife who's never seen the shining before she's like, is it a scary movie? And I go, I go, it's not as much that it's scary, is that it gets in your bones. And it's that it's not like there's, yeah, there's a couple of scary images in it, but it's not really like it's not a horror movie in the, in the grand scope, and it has that kind of just eeriness, the way things are framed the way things are sitting there. And there were there touches of that in, in the humans, which was so beautiful because you just like I just feel weird here. I don't know why and it just gets you it gets inside. You and that is not a super, that's not superficial, like a lot of horror movies are or a lot of cinema is a lot of times it's always on the front. But when you can get inside someone's psyche, or in their bones that you've achieved something, no question.

Stephen Karam 25:15
Well, thank you. I mean, it's a challenge, it is really hard. And you never know, you know what, what works for one person might not work for another person who, you know, I respect everybody's opinions and tastes. And so I also don't, you know, I don't think somebody is wrong if their adrenaline only gets fueled by like, you know, quick cuts. And I think, you know, we are who we are, and so, but they're sort of share that love of the like, you know, why can't I stop thinking about, you know, the tenant? It's like, these movies that feel deeply imperfect? Or why can I stop thinking about the shining? Why does the imagery still to this day, you know, more than a movie that might might be so hell bent on exploiting the why just dump blood in the hallway? That's not scary? What if we see should we be seeing people split open, that spills the blood into the, you know, so even the people come away from the shining, thinking of it as like the ultimate like, gory movie, it's almost like you have to see it again, to really remember that like, intestines, the movie is not about like intestines being being thrown and eaten at every, every turn. It's almost like, I agree with you that it's more shocking, how much it is about, like the architecture and the framing. And the fun thing about like making the humans was going down the wormhole of like, pre war, architecture and empty space. And, you know, there's, there's been a lot of like, interesting writing about, like, the horrors of empty space and that empty, the more empty the frame, the more horror is implied. But it's also a lot to like, take the leap. To hope that you know, cuz, because I think other people, understandably, are just like, fill the frame like, I've no, no, don't, don't I don't make me be patient. And, like, what you said was the goal, but also a lot of people in a way that I understand as somebody who likes to watch, like a good rom com every now and then, like, I literally will tune in, in those moments, to watch a movie when I want the hand holding, or I don't I want to a movie or a TV show that's going to tell me what it is, at every turn. I don't want to have to be like, what's going on? Why am I feeling this way? Yeah. And then, of course, my favorite movies are movies that, that, you know, take that journey and take that risk and feel like complicated people. Like, you know, my favorite movies have this. They feel like people to me, like in the same way that my favorite people on the planet are not all good or all bad. They're complicated. But they're specific, but there's, like so specific. And so you can revisit them again and again and again. And again. Because they never really bore you. Or there's something that just feels authentic about the fact that they're sprung from like, a vision. Instead of like, my biggest fear, which is like movies made by committee, you know, where you are too many, you know, I mean, I'm not talking about collaborations, like where people choose to work in teams, I'm talking more about like, you know, for writers got fired for the other writers got brought up and 17 more writers got came out of the project and 50 more on credited writers got brought on and then you know, and then three producers re edited the movie after it got taken away from the director of a few years from now, it's just gotten. So yeah, there's there's the beauty in a 24 and that they've essentially found success in movies that are those movies or that that let's just say they're just they're not fazed by slightly genre bending or harder to pin down. So I also feel like I had I had like, the right home to do that. Those kinds of things that you're talking about.

Alex Ferrari 29:01
Now, you know, the the humans is originally a play in that play won a Tony Award, I got to ask me, what was it like, winning a Tony?

Stephen Karam 29:11
Award? I mean, it's great. It's also like, the big gift of like, a words is that they don't, it's not that they don't mean a lot they do and that it's like, you know, it's like it's like a you know, it's it's affirmation, it's a nice thing, you're but the it almost like the real gift of like, getting the golden ticket, like in a moment like that is that it also shines a light on how to reveal, like Joy gifts, everything about what you do, it really just comes from, like, are you making stuff that you feel like how do you feel about what you're doing? Right? No external, you know, and so the moment you get it, or you get the brass ring, I'd say you kind of just confirmed like, why I was staying on my day job to make to write the plays that I was writing. Why? You know, I never took Like more commercial, screenwriting options that, that I just didn't want to, I think there's nothing wrong with taking them. But just, I didn't feel like drawn to the specific projects or in other words, I just think it's, it's not that it's a piece of hardware it has meaning. It's just that it also sort of reminds you that the the debt kind of looking to other people to give you a trophy is also is not where it's at. It's, it's kind of like a, it's a great lesson to learn. And I think I think I had that crazy good fortune that come my way. You know, in my mid 30s, which is great that it didn't happen to me when I was 22. Oh, God, I've actually thought I might have thought that it mean, something it didn't. Yep. That I actually am fancy. And it's that it was just a season like incredible. I mean, what's fascinating as it was, it was up against the father, which became a movie last year, the one with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman. So there's like two, it's fun to see, like, you go after there's often long droughts of like plays that become movies. And it's fun. funny to see in one season like that we both got our movies made. He did such a brilliant job. But just to say, I mean, does that answer your question?

Alex Ferrari 31:23
No, it does. No, it does. It's because I mean, I've had Oscar winners. I've had any winners on the show I've talked to and I always like to ask that question. Because I'd like to see, there's so many people listening think that's that's the end goal. And I always, like, when you win the Oscar, you've got maybe a three minute, four to five minutes situation, you don't even remember it. When you're up there. It's from what I understand. And then you're whisked away, you do a bunch of press. And then it just starts to wean away. But I've talked to so many people who've won those awards, who afterwards were depressed, because it's like, where now where do I go now because they associated so much to those awards, as opposed to know what you need to associate is the journey have fun in the journey, because that's a lot longer than that one minute.

Stephen Karam 32:10
And it's also it's just, you know, going back to like the staying connected to work that comes from your, your, your gut and your heart or just that, that that you're obsessed with, to make it like a Hallmark card. You know, the joy that comes from being obsessed with what you're making, you know, it feels very childlike and very cliched, but it's like, nothing is better than that. And then taking the journey to try to make something that has meaning to you that you want to share and make with others. It's just It's just where it's at. And the everything else is a red herring. It's just, it's it's just a red herring. It's just like dangling. It's like, what are all these sci fi movie? I feel like it's like, I just watched Lynch's dune again. And it's like, the spy. It's like, you know, it feels like the spice. It's like a hallucinogen.

Alex Ferrari 32:58
Yeah,

Stephen Karam 32:59
It's like, you know, it's like one of those movies where you spend the whole, like, looking for the golden Snicket or one of those things, and it's, and then you, you know, it's so cliched, but it's like, and you know, I experienced this with I have incredibly brilliant students, and I'm so impressed with everybody that I get the chance to work with every year. And then I'm just like, you have to, like leave room for how hard it is to their fears about like, the focus is like I want an agent and I want to get you thinking about all the wrong things. But you know, you also remember the hunger and how those things do feel important. Because before until you have some validation, you feel like that's what's gonna make you a writer that's gonna make you a director. And it's like, I do tell them that but it's it's funny to see you know, to make space for like, the feelings on both sides. But the best gift of it is it just for my case, it sort of refocus me to not just to see for what it is like, a great sort of feels like a like a slice of birthday cake. And just nice piece of birthday cake, eat it. It had too much icing on it, you end up feeling a little like, should I be cake but it was delicious. You don't regret it. And then you know, the next day it's gone. And so you're just I'd say the big thing that is true about Awards, which which is hard to admit because it feels as somebody who doesn't have a publicist and is not going to chase them. Yeah. They do get more people to see your work. And so So I would say like, it would be a lie to say that if you know you win the Tony Award for Best Play or you win the Academy Award for Best Picture. You know, the thing that if someone were to say like do they have any value? I would my answer is no in terms of personal value, but yes they do and marketing more eyeballs.

Alex Ferrari 34:55
Yeah, marketing and branding everything. Oh, absolutely. No question.

Stephen Karam 34:59
So So there's there's to me there's a bit of it's that isn't that like I don't the focus that gets put on awards. And I also hate that these things that I don't think have truth beneath them or literally mean that you wrote the best play of like, a godlike way. I hate that they do really result in, you know, and being cinephiles like we all have those screenplays and movies we're obsessed with where, you know, almost everybody's favorite movie did got ripped off or snub,

Alex Ferrari 35:30
Shawshank Redemption, Shawshank Redemption.

Stephen Karam 35:34
Or just saying I read some crazy article where someone was like, Will this be Paul Thomas Anderson tear where like he finally gets right. I was like Paul, Thomas Anderson hasn't been recognized.

Alex Ferrari 35:43
I, I know you read you read my mind. I'm like, wait a minute, did he does he not get like an Oscar for a script?

Stephen Karam 35:50
That's never been gotten gotten the golden ticket or something

Alex Ferrari 35:54
Neither did Kubrick neither did Kubrick

Stephen Karam 35:56
Of course, it doesn't matter. It's like is so you know, or someone like even you Stanley coupe. It's like, it's like, you know, we know these things. It's like, they're totally true. And sure, sure, sure. Sure. You know, I'd say that just so I don't sound completely like Guy Smiley. But I'd say the complex thing is that they really can help a movies get seen by more. Absolutely. And, you know, as writers and directors like, of course, it feels like a lie. To not say like that is part of the dream is that people also see your work, especially in the independent film market. It does feel like it's just so hard to get right. Especially in this landscape. How do you when you can't do platform releases anymore? Like what is? What does it mean for these movies? to just get blasted to very quickly to 1300 screens, and then to VOD, and,

Alex Ferrari 36:47
Right! You want to get people to watch it. You want to get people to watch it. I have to ask you. So I've talked to so many screenwriters and, and, and filmmakers in general, that they talk about the zone and tapping into that, that place that creative place where you can, you know, whatever comes I always consider myself a conduit. I think many of the people I've spoken to who are writers specifically, they're like, I don't write this, I just, I'm here and it comes to me and it just comes right through me. But there's certain people that know how to go there and tap into that all the time. What is your process to kind of center yourself to get to that place where these ideas flow in and you you can just like like Tarantino says it's so beautifully he's like, I'm not writing this. I'm just I'm just dictator. I'm just snog refer on these guys talking, you know? And he gets into that place and there's so many people who know screenwriters who know how to do that. Almost on demand, but it's rare. How do you do it? How do you do it in your work?

Stephen Karam 37:48
I I don't rush it. So I I'm not the person to hire if you need if you need like a very quick

Alex Ferrari 37:55
A quick two weeks, two to three week turnaround.

Stephen Karam 37:59
I become obsessive and I let myself I'll tell you what I do. I I like with this film. I very much felt haunted by Ali ferrets, the soul of Fassbender film because of the way it held its middle aged female character in this pre war architecture, a lot of frames within frames like you mentioned. Keselowski being very interesting colors like being very close, very distant. And so. So I had this concept of like, running with that and being something felt very right about not filming and traditionally being very close, or very wide, and not a lot of in between. So I let myself like do I do research trips a lot before I write. So to your point about the zone, I don't force it. I'm not the person that's still at 7am writing 10 pages of a screenplay. If I'm feeling stuck and a little blocked, I will go back to a really like visual place especially that tends to get me excited and gets me more in the zone. And it just gets me thinking in a way that is more filmic and more dimensional. And you know, I watched the by Edward Yang like 100 times, and it's just a movie. I mean, I found it years ago because it was on some obscure Thank you Martin Scorsese. It was like on one of his like, top 10 movies of the 2000s. I was like, What's this movie, but it's film very wide. It's also people's feel very like ozouf, people spilling in and out of the frame the very patient. And so I kind of just let myself when I'm not in the writing zone, like go into a watching zone and watching other people's work and feeling doing a lot of reading. And usually that points me back to the writing like back to where I'm ready to open final draft and get going again. But I don't have the practice of like pushing through five screenplay pages every day. I don't think that's a bad practice. I just you know that for you. You know part of creative is also figuring out what your own crazy and processes. And for me, I do really get sort of like fuel from more dimensional thinking and that that often involves reading, visual art and just and watching movies.

Alex Ferrari 40:14
Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Stephen Karam 40:21
Great question. I would say the core thing that has never sort of altered is just is it focusing on work that comes from your gut level place, making, making, making movies or coming whatever, you're creating a short film, Play feature? Keep keep the focus on the kind of movie that only you could make. And stop looking at these external guides or Wow, that did really well, that film festival or that was a big hit last year. And you can you can play that game. And you can probably do it even really well. I mean, I think I think a lot of people probably do, I just feel like my advice would be, I've gotten the most traction, success, personal happiness on the journey in making these things. By by focusing just Yeah, being reminded that the largest thing you can make is often the thing that already inside you like the the kind of thing that the qualities and quirks and the sense of humor, and a weird sense of everything about yourself is that you actually have, it's so freeing to me, as opposed to thinking like, I got to make this movie more important with the capital I by writing about someone else's family, or I know, she'll be pregnant. Like, suddenly you start drawing from these ideas that are so external, and I think it's much more frightening and hard to remind like, especially young writers, how, once you if you actually accept that the biggest ideas are already some somehow like locked inside view. It's kind of like, it's almost scarier because it's, it's a nice like, scapegoat to be like, What am I What will my next film be i It should be something like that, or a war movie or big, it's, it feels very abstract, because you're drawing on influence in the wrong way. Instead of like, knowing from a gut level, like I want to write about my mom, or I want to write this comedy, I want to make myself like doing something that feels no matter how abstracted it becomes Right? Like, but when you're anchored in that, I just feel like you never go wrong, even when you're screwing up and you have to and you are failing, and you have to try to figure out what the structure is that'll hold that that gut level. idea, it's, it's just the the only way that I think I know you you go wrong in a million ways is when you start from the other place, like wow, it seems like these things are doing really well or No, I guess I should write a horror movie. You know, it's it's always it comes from the wrong place. No matter how talented you are, it comes it. It never sort of, yeah, the journey is never as rich,

Alex Ferrari 43:15
I always tell people that the best the only thing that you have that makes you different in the marketplace is your own secret sauce, is that thing inside you that nobody else has. And I was talking not to drop a name but David Chase, who is the creator of The Sopranos, of course. And he wanted to write a movie about his mom, his his and that's how the sopranos was brought to the world. You know, he wasn't going you know, what's, you know, what's big now superheroes? Like he didn't say. So it was that and what

Stephen Karam 43:43
Or like somebody that he's influenced being like, not knowing the people never know that the deep personal connections, even creators, right mob movies or write series about that. And so, so the hilarity is, so many young writers try to imitate the sopranos and create something that they think is about crime guns and they think that's what's underscoring this friend is which isn't this the reason sopranos is so unbelievable is is it's all the emotional undercurrent that clearly like David's connection to these characters is the undergirding you think it's the action and all this stuff and that's that's delicious, but it's the that's the secret sauce is not that is not the guns and the and the murder. It's it's that part of the I mean, I didn't know that he said that. That's amazing. Yeah. And I also I want to steal the secret sauce because it'll save me a lot. I felt like my answers get winded and yeah, it's about the secret sauce.

Alex Ferrari 44:38
It's about the secret sauce. It's the only thing that you have like it's the only thing your life experience your your interest your things like you like things that I couldn't write to humans, no one could write the humans only you can write the humans and you couldn't write, you know, the sopranos because only David can write the Sopranos. And that's the thing is you got to find that thing with inside you. That's so brilliant.

Stephen Karam 44:58
Like, do you feel the struggle Feel yourself though, like how easy it is, I guess the counter this should be like it is really easy to get away from it. Like it can be hard to keep reminding yourself like, oh, it's when you're getting from that place.

Alex Ferrari 45:11
I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what I I chased the dragon I call the chase at the drag chase that dragon so much like, Oh, that's hot or I'm going to be like that director, I'm going to write like this person. And I did that for so many years till I finally I guess in this only happens as you get older. You just said no, I need to, I need to focus on what's inside me. And the second I started doing that. My work got better. I was doors opened up. You know, I was thinking that things just started to lay themselves out at me where I didn't have to work as hard to get certain things. Whereas when I was trying to chase the dragon, all there was is block block block block. Oh, you're almost there. Nope. Take it away. block block. Almost there again. Oh, nope. Block. And it was just so fascinating to like, and only when you finally can show when you're comfortable enough in your own skin. And it takes a minute for you to do that in life. You know, some some kids, some guys have it in their 20s Some guys and gals have in their 20s I didn't. Like you said when you when you got your success was in the mid 30s and think it was because you probably would have lost your mind in your 20s. And I would have lost my mind in the 20s If I would have lost my mind. Yeah, of course we would have probably self destruct because we weren't prepared for that. One person have a friend of mine an actor said this a great comment. He's like, when you're when you fame is like a bucket of water. And when you're when you're young, you're a seedling. And inside the bucket, there's a seat and the water comes in and just swashes you all over the damn place. But when you get older, the roots take place. And then when the water comes in, you don't move as much. That's awesome. Isn't that amazing? Who do we have to Who do you credit that to? So that

Stephen Karam 46:48
Is that a friend of yours?

Alex Ferrari 46:49
That is Carlos. I was Rocky from Reno 911. And he was playing a character and my first feature. And his character was like a guru. And he just blurted that out. And I'm like, Carlos, I know you're trying to make fun of the guru. But that was damn good. And I quote that quote all the time. That's in the mail. I don't know if you got it from somewhere else or not. But that's where I heard it from. So shout out to callate parlous Ellis Rocky from Rio de illusion.

Stephen Karam 47:15
And what I see with with younger writers a lot too, is that what's very funny, it's like the first taste of any kind of success. People you're you're then the way that there's this illusion that the way to capitalize on it is that the opportunity that comes your way is often like people seeing your special sauce, and then trying to weirdly like capture your special sauce, but then add their own ingredients to it because maybe they want you to staff, right for a shot where Oh, your special sauce can easily get drowned out. And I think that's a hard lesson to learn for a lot of younger writers too, because who can fault anyone for wanting a good paycheck? And, you know, and and I went through one process. I mean, I don't have not written a ton of screenplays, I've written two before this both got made. One I saw a third of it got rewritten a gay character got turned straight, you know, but it was even in those things, that they're valuable lessons in terms of even like now going forward. It's like, well, what, what if I ever do write a play that I think could be a film, you know, the play before this son of the Prophet, I was happy to just let it not become a movie. Because once you but you have to sort of live through these things. And once you live through the fact that like, a little bit of extra money doesn't actually make you happy. Like if you're waking up and working on something that you Yes, that's causing you a lot of stress. And I'd fall asleep at night going like now there should be two gay people in this movie. Why? Why is one of them as straight, it's not going to be more commercial, it's going to be a disaster. You know, it's like, it's like, okay, well, you have to when you're in your 20s you have to learn that lesson, where you really feel the truth of it. Because in your 20s after like, you know, day job for 10 years, I was like, I think maybe I think maybe the security in this money for a year was gonna will make me exclusively happy in a way that I am under estimating. And then I had and I was like, oh, yeah, I forgot. Like, I don't like buying a lot of clothes anyway, like, I don't, I do want to pay my rent. I but once you have your shirt every day, like every week anyway. Yeah. And so. So this, so this didn't feel fancy in the way that I thought it would feel fancy. And I do think some lessons have to be learned. I mean, I guess I guess it's not easy, but I love talking advice like with you and this it's like it's like the it's like how to find that sweet spot of like, not forgetting that like you arrived with a certain degree of knowledge. But by also by like needing to learn some of it viscerally instead of like, thinking that like yeah, if I was 22 and someone gave me this talk, I would just believe them and would just,

Alex Ferrari 49:48
Oh no, if someone gave me this talk at 22 I would have said your chat, whatever. I know everything. You know nothing. I'm serious. No, that's the way you know it. That's the way it was when we were 22 Just like you look at someone would have had this conversation. They could have given us the keys to the universe literally. And like if you it could have been me from the future coming back talking to my younger self and I would go dude, I've gone through this don't do this, don't do this, do this, do this invest in Apple at $7 and everything is going to be fine.

Stephen Karam 50:18
Also Roth IRA, right? Where was the guy? Someone should have given me that lecture if you don't have parents that know obviously, you need some you got to Google it or your own rod

Alex Ferrari 50:34
And last question, sir, because I have to ask this question three of your favorite films of all time.

Stephen Karam 50:40
I feel like it kind of gave them away in the making of the human so it's like I listed three films but that Ali fury the soul incredible love story and clip incredible drama incredible everything about it I love striking movie in every sense of the word and completely surprising. I guess this is three movies, but the three colors trilogy. One of them are the bestsellers written loving

Alex Ferrari 51:10
Double life Double Life Veronique double life

Stephen Karam 51:14
I guess I could be giving a I guess that is three movies. Edward Yang is a favorite as well. And I feel like there's so much in the horror genre and psychological thrillers that like it's hard to be asked this question because the truth is, I just want to sit and just keep hearing yours. And then I want to say three back. And then I want you to say three more. I want to go oh yeah, because even in like with the Stanley Kubrick it's like how did not like 2001 like I still remember like actual feelings I had when watching something even the first time when I didn't understand it, I just remember like, like, feeling like things world's expanding like you because I didn't grow up with going to like some sort of sophisticated arts camp or something. Or I felt like I was in college really sorting this out in my 20s before I was even be exposed to a lot of incredible filmmakers and art tours. But Stanley is one of those people who like like 2001 weirdly slipped its way into my like, like Blockbuster experience in high school and I just do remember like like just kind of like understanding something you don't even understand that there's a whole way to reveal yourself and other worlds through art that is just like beyond what you even thought was possible. Because I didn't think people were allowed to do things like

Alex Ferrari 52:44
Not at that level not at that level now at that point you know without budget now would that budget my friend

Stephen Karam 52:51
So but basically I guess what I'm saying is like this game is only fun for me if we if it's just 45 minutes of us talking about cuz I don't actually happen the same way that I think all wars are bogus. Really believe in favorite films. I just believe in like the 170 movies.

Alex Ferrari 53:07
Right, exactly. And I feel like this conversation is something that you would have heard at three o'clock in the morning at a Denny's. After watching a midnight showing of a Kubrick film I feel this is what this conversation would be like, and you're laughing if everyone not listening.

Stephen Karam 53:22
I don't want to just go with you get the Grand Slam special and just go have that conversation. It's exactly what that is exactly what that takes me back to Scranton. And I do want to like the moons over Miami, Miami.

Alex Ferrari 53:37
You remember that? Of course I remember that. And you Oh God, it was a happy place. Yeah,

Stephen Karam 53:44
I'll go with go to the middIe let's find the next midnight screening. I'll meet you there.

Alex Ferrari 53:49
Oh my god.

Stephen Karam 53:49
We can zoom Danny's so we have no excuse.

Alex Ferrari 53:52
Oh my god. That's it.

Stephen Karam 53:53
We are next interview.

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Steven. Thank you again. So first of all, what can people see the movie?

Stephen Karam 54:00
So we're going to open in I don't know how public this is yet but we're going to be in about 20 cities on November 24. Okay, so anywhere you can google and find out which which arthouse cinema is playing your the new movies is that will be revealed very soon but November 24, day before Thanksgiving in theaters and then rolling out largely slowly after that, but that's awesome morning Mark 20 markets starting November 24.

Alex Ferrari 54:36
I am so you can I am so glad I'm so glad the powers that be gave you the keys to the car so you can drive this thing and I'm so glad that you that they gave it to you and I hope you continue to get the keys and you continue to make amazing films because I want to see what else you come up with my friend. So thank you again so much for being on the show and keep making great movies man.

Stephen Karam 54:59
Hey same to you thanks for having me.


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BPS 196: The Good, Bad and Ugly of the Film Biz with Adam White

Today on the show we go through the good, the bad and the ugly of being an indie filmmakers. On the show we have filmmaker Adam White. 

We discuss the making of his new film Funny Thing About. We discuss financing, casting, how he got Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) to say yes to a supporting role in a romcom, shooting an ensemble cast during the pandemic, how we were filming the movie without having all of the funding in hand, securing distribution and much more. It’s a pretty insane story.

Samantha Banks is a successful business with a handsome fiancee. But over one crazy Thanksgiving Holiday with her scheming family, her whole world is thrown into a tailspin when they invite her ex-boyfriend, “the one that got away.”

We also discuss how he financed his first feature Inspired Guns and when that was a box office flop he lost everything including his house. It took seven years for him to bounce back and make another feature.


The last thing Elder Fisher expects when he and his brand new companion, Elder Johnson, hit the streets of New York is a couple of seemingly golden prospects. But dimwitted brothers Roger and Larry, low-level Mafioso, think the two Mormon missionaries who approach them have been sent by the “Boss” to deliver their next assignment.

So the brothers are willing to listen to anything the young men in dark suits have to say—including a message of salvation—even if Elder Johnson is the most overconfident and underprepared missionary to ever attempt to preach the word of God. Soon the witless brothers are searching through the Book of Mormon in a quest to find a hidden message.

But as the missionaries and Roger and Larry continue to meet for discussions, both the mafia and the FBI have their sights set on Elders Fisher and Johnson. The mob thinks the missionaries are FBI; and the FBI believes the young men are hitmen on a mission—and both groups want the elders out of the picture. The Elders come to realize they must rely on each other to survive this case of mistaken identity.

Enjoy my conversation with Adam White.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome the show Adam White. How you doing, Adam?

Adam White 0:14
I'm doing great thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
So, thank you so much for reaching out, man, it is I get like I told you, I get pitched on a daily basis for filmmakers to come on the show. And I'm always looking for stories that can inspire and teach about the process. And you definitely have a story like that.

Adam White 0:35
Yeah, I hope that I hope that my pain and suffering can be someone else's inspiration. And you know, they can learn from my mistakes, you know, not repeat them.

Alex Ferrari 0:47
Talking, talking from somebody who's gone through a lot of pain and suffering has a lot of shrapnel himself. This is my bread and butter. This is all I do all day, every day is my pain to help other filmmakers. But first, before we get going, Man, how did you get started in the business?

Adam White 1:03
Oh, man, that's a great question. I, you know, I, I, my brother, I had a brother who's five years older than me. And he, my whole childhood, he was like, I'm gonna go be going to film school, UCLA, I'm going to be a screenwriter. And I didn't know what that meant. And I was like, that's the thing you can go to school for that. And he was he had just graduated high school and was getting ready to he was taking a couple classes at junior college getting ready to go to UCLA and end up dying in a car accident. Oh, yeah. And so that just kind of was always on my mind of, you know, just in from his memory, my memory of him, you know, I was 12 he was 17 or 18. And I always was kind of like this, the screenwriter thing was always on my, on my mind. And then and then as I got into high school, I started playing, I wrote an episode of Seinfeld, just for the fun of it, because I thought, you know, I just had an idea, I thought that'd be funny. And, and, you know, and thought this would be cool. I should write movies, you know, and, and then, as I got into college, I was like, You know what, maybe I should go to film school and did that. We went for three weeks, but I already had two kids, and wife, and they were like, you'll never make any money. If you have a family already. Don't do film school. You're crazy. This is my advisors at film school. And so I'm like, Well, I also like entrepreneurship, so maybe I'll go get a business degree instead. And, and, but I was writing scripts at the time and going, I'll come back to this. I'll come back later on when I have when it when I can do it, you know, when things are a little more financially secure when I have kids, and you know, I need to take care of them. So that was kind of a it was kind of a weird way to kind of get, you know, meander through that. But yeah, and so then you decided to make your first film inspired guns, how, how did that come to be? Well, so yeah, so I started a business, I had done multiple online businesses. And what I found is, if you're a writer, and and want to be a filmmaking, like, probably the best crossover is to get into do an internet business that has to do with that kind of uses search engine optimization as like, the main traffic for the for the website, right. And because Google loves content, and I figured that out that I could create content that Google would consume, and I would rank higher in Google and I would get traffic and I could make money. And so over the next, I think it was five or six years, I just built these internet businesses. And then I sold many of them. And I had a big one that I sold, and it was like, Okay, that was big enough to where I can now for the next two years, just do film and and see what happens. Right? So I started volunteering on movie sets, just to learn how a set ran. I started making short films, I did like a short little web series and a couple other short films and got to the point where I'd met enough people in the industry and I was like, Okay, I think at this point, I'm ready to make this film and, and I had I had written it 10 years prior to ever filming it. You know, it was the first one that I wrote, I went I had written other since then. And I went back and really, I accepted some people I trusted and said, right, you guys just rip this thing apart because I don't want you know, if I'm gonna do this, I want to make sure it's a good movie. And, and so that so we went through many revisions, and then I was like, alright, let's let's, let's make this thing. I had a former business partner that I pitched and said, Hey, do you want to be involved? And he, he did a small investment, then his his current business partner also did a small investment. And so we were kind of on our way. And I'm like, you know, what, if I don't do this now, I'll regret it for the rest of my life. I have the funds that I could make this happen. That was the whole point. So I just financed the thing, the rest myself. Yeah, so that was kind of how that came to be.

Alex Ferrari 4:40
Now, from what you told me, the film wasn't a blockbuster hit.

Adam White 4:48
That's an understatement. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:50
It wasn't a blockbuster hit. So what actually happened with the release? What? What caused Why do you think it failed? You know, because it was a very kind of niche. You know, it was a mix of two niches it was kind of like spiritual, but yet with the mob, and fun, yeah.

Adam White 5:07
Yeah, yeah, it was, it's probably the worst possible niche you could choose, I assume. But, um, and you know, the title, every time I tell somebody what the name of the movie is inspired guns to secondary, they're like, what was it? I can't remember. I mean, they can never remember the name. So that also didn't help. But yeah, it was, you know, it didn't it didn't go well, I did, we didn't have traditional distribution, right, I essentially became the distributor on the movie. And I had no experience doing that. So. So there was a there was a theatrical consultant. In that niche, it's a very specific niche. And we were I was in Utah at the time. And out of Utah, there's a lot of films that kind of do the same thing where they'll just release locally in Utah, because it's a specific audience there. And so you do a theatrical run throughout Utah, you know, and, you know, and there's been movies that have done, you know, seven figures doing that, right. So it's so it's, you know, it can work. And the film, there was a film that released just three or four months before mine did that was also kind of in the same niche, but not comedy that had done really well. And so so it was, you know, we were, I was hopeful and thought, Okay, this is this can really work if we do this just follow the same model. But yeah, as I as I did that theatrical run, one, the price like doubled in terms of my investment, which I wasn't, I knew I had to make a bit take a big shot if I was going to have a chance to succeed. And unfortunately, that meant I also had to, like, really leveraged my, the money that I had, and my home on that. Wow. But that was the only way to make it work. Right. And I just kind of found myself in a position where if I didn't do that, I knew it wouldn't succeed and it would have been, I would have lost all the money anyways. So

Alex Ferrari 6:47
So then you decided to instead of just lose the money you invested? You actually put your house up as well?

Adam White 6:52
Yeah. So So I basically just did like a because I, at that point, I owned my home because of the business sell, right? And so I just took that money and you know, did a home equity line of credit to pay for all the everything we had to do? And you know, everyone's like, You're crazy. You're stupid, you shouldn't do that. And I'm like, Well, no, this is gonna be a huge hit. What are you talking about? There's no risk here was just the delusion, delusion filmmaker, blinders were like, in full effect, right. So so yeah, so I did that. And as you know, when you do a theatrical release, you have to pay for all of the promotion of everything right? Yeah. Commercials the billboard

Alex Ferrari 7:29
Did you? Did you four waller? Or did you partner with the theaters?

Adam White 7:33
We partnered with the theaters

Alex Ferrari 7:34
Okay, so at least you didn't have to pay for the four walls but you did have to pay for all the marketing so radio play and posters and other things like that

Adam White 7:40
Exactly. All of that and essentially almost doubled the investment right in terms of the amount to make the movie versus to promote the movie is basically the same price. And you know, and we did have we did have distributions set up for DVDs like that was that was all set but they had no interest in doing the theatrical and that's why I kind of fell on me to do that. And then first weekend, the first week of the release our DVD distributor does a press release that the movies coming out in a couple months on DVD and so the theater half of the theaters saw that there was a Cinemark theaters they saw that they said well we're not going to we don't watch a movie anymore because you did that because you just told everyone when the movies on DVD so we're pulling you so after one week they pulled us destroyed any chance we had and you know and half the state to be successful so it was just you know one thing after another that was just you know went bad.

Alex Ferrari 8:34
Wow, man. And is it is it true? You said it did you lose your home for this?

Adam White 8:40
Well yeah, so so we got to the point where I had no income right because I stupidly sold everything off and you know and and then leveraged myself to the hilt essentially and then so it was like well I can try to get a job and but but when I did that I still didn't I still thought when DVDs come out there's a chance this will be successful so we'll sell the home so we can start paying back the loan also we can pay back the loan and we had we still had a little bit of equity leftover not much not not enough to do anything fun with but you know to live off of for a little bit anyway so I was like Well dude we'll sell that will live off the money until the DVS hit and then we can see where we're at right and I thought this can still be successful the DVD sales can still make it work and and then reality set in about two or three months later where I was like yeah, there's no there's no cavalry coming to rescue me. We're we're pretty much in big trouble at this point.

Alex Ferrari 9:35
In your marriage at this point, you have a family at this point.

Adam White 9:38
I had six kids at this point.

Alex Ferrari 9:40
Jesus Christ, man oh yeah.

Adam White 9:43
So my mid 30's had been very successful business wise and I was had to move back home with my parents for eight months. Let's just say my wife was pregnant by the way so she was not happy about the situation although she's been very supportive.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
Oh, She got an angel with you, brother. I mean, I'm sure, trust me, I have one of those myself, who've supported me through all my insanities over the years. It's so funny because when I was starting out in my career, I, the concept of making a feature. When I was in my 20s was just, it was too expensive. There was no digital technology, it was all film still, we're still in like, like mid 90s or so. So it was just too expensive. So what I did was commercials. So I spent 50 grand on a commercial real. And I just borrowed, borrowed, borrowed, and then I started shipping out three quarter inch tapes FedEx overnight, to every production company in. So that's my marketing. So it's 50 grand, plus all my marketing, and I'm just credit card credit card, like one or two jobs, I'm back, I'm back baby, just, I just gotta go want nothing. Crickets. And then then my then the thing happened with the mob, which is the movie that I almost made, which then brought me all the way back down to almost bankruptcy. So I went down a similar path, not as extreme extreme in different ways. But it just goes to show and I hope if there's a young filmmaker listening right now, just listen to two old farts talking about what what the delusions, delusion strong man, the delusion is. The delusion is so strong, it's that lottery ticket mentality I was talking about where you're like, this arm could shoot, you were like, oh, no, I just I'll just mortgaged my house. It'll be fine. It'll be it'll be fine. DVD sales will sale save us or the, it's this and you just start talking yourself into it. And you get deeper, deeper, deeper. And I've seen that happen many times with filmmakers who aren't married don't have families, when you're younger, you can get away with that kind of stuff. Because you're like, Oh, I'll eat ramen. You know, I'll sleep on someone's couch. But when you get six kids didn't think you were rolling. You were taking a huge swing. And it's and and many times you strike out and it's

Adam White 12:05
Frankly, it never crossed my mind that you tell me I'd be like, they don't they're talking about, you know, you haven't been did

Alex Ferrari 12:12
You have no understanding my genius? And, and and and obviously someone's going to see my genius and and it's not going to work out? And that's unfortunately not the reality. It happens for one out of 1,000,001 out of 2 million filmmakers is those stories, the stories that you that we all hold on to the Robert Rodriguez story, the ED Byrne story, these kind of stories of like the lottery tickets. But that is that was an extreme. Your story is extreme. Because I saw the trailer for the film, and it definitely looked professional. It wasn't like a complete mess. It would look awesome. It looked you had the potential for success. There was there was no, it wasn't like you were so delusional, that you didn't even know how to, you know, light a movie because I've worked with those filmmakers, or direct a movie it looked, it's professionally done. It just so happened that the way things the chips fell, that didn't fall on the way it could have very easily gone the other way. If the DVD guy wouldn't have put that out. Maybe you would have had a run at theaters, maybe you would have made some money back. Did you ever see any money from DVD or no?

Adam White 13:21
Um, a little bit? Yeah, one thing I did do, which I which I'll explain later was with the smartest thing I could have done was any money that I got back, I immediately paid back the other two investors with interest, you know, and smart like a penny myself. Because I wanted to make sure that they stayed happy. And plus, I had a real personal relationship with them and want to make sure nothing, even though they're both very wealthy, you know, I'd still didn't want there to be any hard feelings or whatever. So I did that first that I've definitely recouped some for sure. I remember when I first got on Amazon Prime because I owned the digital rights to it. And I put it on Amazon Prime and I think it made like nine grand in the first month it was on or whatever. Back in the day back in the day when you could do that. Yeah, I'm like, I'm back in business. Maybe if I do this every month, I'll be fine. You know, and then of course, it dropped off very quickly.

Alex Ferrari 14:09
The delusions even then you're like look nine grand. So if I do nine grand a month, that means I'm going to make almost 100 G's. I'm going to make 100 back I'll make my money back. I'm back baby. And then of course the universe just goes sit down.

Adam White 14:23
Here's $200 How's that sound? To feed your family of nine.

Alex Ferrari 14:30
She took it so what I always find fascinating as well is and I've talked about this on the show multiple times is the disease of being a filmmaker it's a disease it's it's it's it's this thing that once you get bitten by that bug it just you can't let go. So after this colossal you know, lack of failure, I don't want to I don't want to beat you up on it because we all go through shit. But this failure in the back of your mind most people would lick their wounds and like I'm out of this, I'm gone. Let me just go back to what was making money, I'll go back to being an entrepreneur, build up some more businesses, and move on with my life. Maybe I'll make a short film every once in a while for fun. But yet in the back of your head, you're like, how can I get back? And that's the insanity that we are as filmmakers. You're just like, I just took a beating from Mike Tyson in his prime in the ring. And I'm about I was about to die was on life support and you're like, When can I get back in the ring?

Adam White 15:28
I want to rematch.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
I want a rematch. So then you it takes you how many years before you are able to get back in the ring?

Adam White 15:37
Yeah, I mean, like, it was a dark time. I'll tell you what I I had those thoughts of I mean, you know what the worst fear for me was throughout that whole thing. I mean, other than being financially destitute, which sucked obviously, with with a family of six or seven, right? Exactly like that, that once the money ran out from the equity in the house, that's when it got really, really low. But But even then, it was like, the biggest fear for me was, I may not ever get to make make another movie again.

Alex Ferrari 16:03
Not that you won't eat nothing you won't eat.

Adam White 16:06
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I can get on government assistance and eat, but I couldn't. I was like, I might not make another movie. And this that's, that, to me is like the worst of all of this. Right? So everything from that on became how do I get back to a point where I can make another movie. And so I did do exactly that. I went back to my roots and said, Okay, I know I can build up some more businesses and, and just get to a point where I can breathe again. And then And then, you know, cuz again, taking care of my family is number one, right? And so that's what I did. I started I got back into the internet business stuff. And yeah, and then I just got to a point, I was like, Okay, I'm feeling great, things are going good. Again, it took five, six years to get to that point, though, where it was like, Alright, I'm financially, I've recovered to a point where I can start doing this again, you know, and it was a long, it was a long period. It was it was it was tough. I actually saved probably three years before I really hit that I took me about three years. And then and then the next over the next couple years was like, Alright, now I'm going to start looking into this again. And, you know, without the risk of, you know, financial ruin again,

Alex Ferrari 17:10
Right, so then so you I'm assuming, during this time, you've had a conversation with your wife going, hey, you know, I know things are bad, but we're gonna get back up and, and then what? How did you approach the conversation of like, I'm thinking of making another movie? Yeah. Kevin, Matt, cuz I've seen that I've had these conversations. So I know like, how did it go?

Adam White 17:32
Yeah, she is she is not she is very, very supportive. She she wasn't as supportive the second time around, it wasn't like, Oh, this is gonna be great. I'm so I'm there with you. And that's, you know, but at the same time, you know, my income grew to a point where she's like, alright, yeah, go ahead and do another movie, you know, but I said, Look, I'm going to do it different this time. I'm not going to first of all, I'm not going to pay for it myself. That's the number one thing that I learned. And, you know, and then that that takes away all the risk right? There. There was huge risk, because I it was my own money right now. Frankly, I look at that as my film school. Like that whole experience. It cost me a couple $100,000. Right. But it would that was my film school. Like, you could not have gotten that good of a learning experience. In four years of school, there's no way No, I mean, in 10 years of school, you couldn't have gotten Yeah, you couldn't have Yeah, so So yes, it's if I think of it that way. It's not nearly as painful to swallow the what happened, right. But at the same time, nobody wants to feel like that. Right? Like it's not. It's not fun, you know, living with your parents when you're 35 and have kids is not fun.

Alex Ferrari 18:39
I can't even come from I can't even comprehend that my I feel you I feel your heart. I just go visit my parents. I'm like, yeah, no,

Adam White 18:46
Yeah, eight months. My wife's like, Alright, that's it done. I can't do it another day. And like, Okay, let's get out of here. Let's figure it out.

Alex Ferrari 18:53
And one of the reasons why I wanted you on the show is because I wanted people to really see, this is the real life. This is what this is what they don't show you at film school. This is not what this is not what Hollywood puts out there for filmmakers to see. They only put out the stories of like the Sundance winners and the lottery tickets in Palm Springs sold for 17 point 5 million and that's what they show. They don't show the realities of it. And I mean, on the show, I've had multiple filmmakers go through what you've talked about, not exactly like you, and I've gone through my own headaches as well. So I've got shrapnel just like you. But what I found fascinating about your story is that it is it is truly insane. And we are insane to go I just got my ass beat and I'm going to go back and and then that your thought process was like the worst thing that could happen is I can never make another movie. There's something so primal within the artist that you're like I can if I can't create again, is worse than death. Almost it's it's a weird thing that we have as filmmakers. Unlike writers on Like painters, unlike musicians, there are just cheap. Ours, ours is not.

Adam White 20:06
This is the most expensive hobby in the history of Earth. That's what it was, for me the first time around anyway. I, frankly, and ironically, while I was during the downtime of like the three years of like, trying to recover, I wrote a youth fiction novel, because it was like, the one release I had was very hard to be creative at that time, because, you know, oh, no, I know. I don't want to see I was depressed, you know, oh, super depressed. So I feel hard to be creative when you're depressed. But for some, somehow I was able to write this book. And like, that was like the, the therapy that I needed to just get me through that time. You know, and then until till I get to a point where I'm like, Alright, let's think about making movies again.

Alex Ferrari 20:48
Yeah, it's Yeah, trust me. I was I was hiding in a garage sorting comic books for two years after my my near bankruptcy, and my whole life went downhill with that shooting for the mob scenario. So I feel you bro, I feel I feel that So alright, so So now like the Phoenix, you will not you are rising again. So tell me about your new film. Funny thing about love?

Adam White 21:13
Yeah, so I just, you know, during the, during the pandemic, I Well, my wife loves Hallmark movies, first of all, and and like, I've seen 100 of these things. And oh my gosh, it's like torture for me. Every time I have to watch one with her. There's probably three out of 100 that I was like, Okay, that was all right. Yeah, but But I but I'm a huge fan of like the, the romantic comedies from the 90s. Like, while you were sleeping, or you know, you go, those are like iconic movies. And I'm like, why don't we have any movies like that anymore? Like, they don't make them there. They don't exist. And so I was like, You know what I'm going to, I can do way better than Hallmark. For me personally, like, as a man watching this. And I want to do something that's a throwback to that era, right of like, it's you have these really, you have good romantic comedy, but you have these awesome supporting characters that just make it super funny, right? Like, they're just, that's how all those were kind of modeled. And they're all family friendly, too, which is a good thing. For me. Anyway, so I started writing one, and then the pandemic hit, and I was like, Dude, I have all this extra time on lockdown. I'm just gonna finish this thing. And I busted out really fast. I was writing like five to 10 pages a day. And you know, and then and the characters just kind of came alive. I've written five or six screenplays. And this one was like the easiest to write of all and maybe it's because I'm a family man and or whatever. But, or because I've seen so many Hallmark movies, maybe that's why I don't. But whatever it was, it came with it came really easily. And you know, went through very few revisions. And yeah, and then once I had it done, I'm like, Look, this, this movie can be made for pretty cheap, pretty cheaply, right? We could do this for, you know, less than a million for sure. Probably less than half a million. And so I had some producer, friends, brothers that are producers, and I was like, Hey, let's, let's make this thing. And they're like, Yeah, let's do it. So during during the pandemic, or in the lockdown, we like literally started going and looking for money, you know. And that's kind of that's when me taking care of my investors from the Inspire guns really paid off. Because I went back to those guys. And I'm like, Hey, I'm doing another one, guys. Finally, you want in? And they're both like, Yeah, I'll go again, right? Because they were happy that it was a good return for them. So sure. And they both went in higher than they did the first time. Right. So now I had more money than I did the first time to start. And nobody wants to be first with investors. That's what I found out. Nobody wants to come to the party first or two. Yep. To say Yes. Then it's so much easier to get other people to say yes. And that's what happened. I happen to mention to some friends of mine, some neighbors and like, yeah, I just got our first or two investments in the movie. And then like, two days later, he approached one of them posed to me at the gym, he's like, Hey, tell me more about this movie? How do I get involved? You know, and then he drops, you know, 50 grand, and then another another neighbor's like, what you're doing this movie? What? Tell me more about this. And then they end up investing about 50 grand? Yeah, just like just like a snowball effect. Wow. So then we're like, we got to make this movie. So we just went like the full pre production mode at that point. And so good. So it's like divine providence. I'm like, this is I can't believe how easy this is happening. Compared to the previous experience, right? Just like Porcher

Alex Ferrari 24:14
Yeah, I think the universe was like, okay, okay, we beat them up enough. Let's skim a little bit of an easier, right. So gotta be tough. But you know, let's just give him a couple of

Adam White 24:22
Yeah make it Yeah, there was definitely no doubt in my mind that I should make the movie right at that point, when you have that much money when you have over six figures of you know, for an indie film that it's people have committed, and we had the cast like we immediately we got made people pay, like right away so they wouldn't back out on us. And, you know, it was we're like, let's do this. Now, we got to make this movie.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
So you're in the middle of pandemic, and, you know, I get, I get pitched all the time about like, Hey, man, I made this movie in the pandemic. I'm like, that's nice. I did three shows that I'm good. But your story about not only your inspired gun story, but then you're also shooting during the pandemic which has A very, has a couple of added stresses.

Adam White 25:06
Yeah. Well, we knew we had to do it quickly, right? Because Because if anybody gets COVID, you get shut down. Right? So you can't, and were to shoot it and shot it in Utah. No, no, Arizona. I'm in Arizona. Okay, so, so I wanted to stay close to home. This is my hometown. So so we we shot here in the Phoenix area. But we are we got to shoot this in 12 days is what we said. So we did it in 12 days, which to me is, you know, inspired, I think 20 days, right. And that and that seemed fast. So 12 days to me is insanity. But you know, I know people have done it faster. But it was not enough time but but we were able to do it somehow we finished but even then we're testing everybody three, three times a week we were everyone had to wear masks, except the actors. You know, it wasn't very fun for that that part yet.

Alex Ferrari 25:50
It was it was pretty. It was pretty vaccination. It was pretty everything like you were it was a weird, the world is still coming to an end kind of scenario. Yeah. And again, I always enjoy it. So and on top of that, it's the craziness of, hey, we're in the middle of pandemic, I kind of shoot my movie, like, that's the Saturday that we have is filming.

Adam White 26:10
I better do it quick before the world ends. Otherwise, I won't get to

Alex Ferrari 26:14
Like the you see that? The I really want to just spotlight how insane you're not the only one I'm the same way. We're all we're all the same way. But it's just like, I want to just just stop for a moment and just live in that moment. Like I got to hurry and shoot this before the world.

Adam White 26:33
I will I do not want to die not have a film this thing.

Alex Ferrari 26:36
It's like I need to get this out of me. I don't want to I don't want to die with the music in me. So you're shooting this thing? You shoot it. Let me ask you what was the toughest day on set? And how did you overcome it?

Adam White 26:51
The toughest day was? Well, they're all long days, right? Because, again, they were like 16 hour days every day. But the toughest day was we had we had to outside outdoor shoots, because you know that the movie takes place over the Thanksgiving holiday. And we had so we had an outdoor walk. And we also had a football game, we had to film that that part was difficult because I didn't realize that no one in the cast had ever played football in their lives. They had no idea what the rules were. They didn't know what this mean other

Alex Ferrari 27:21
What is this last thing? What is this ball? What is this? I don't understand.

Adam White 27:25
So then I'm sitting there, like, I didn't factor in time and teach them the rules of football. You know, I didn't. I didn't I was a part of this. So so I'm like, as quickly as I can, like, are you just lined up here and run that way and you line up here and run this way and you stand next to that person and make sure they don't get the ball? Like it was like it was It was chaotic. That's so that that made it go longer than the police showed up and said, Hey, you guys are supposed to be here. Then one of the homeowners associates, the people said you can't be here and we just ignored them. And like we just gotta hurry to finish this, you know, so we just kept filming, and then our our grip truck broke down, and we had one more location to go to. So then we're, we're move over to the other location. We don't have any of our equipment. They're like, what can we bring? What is the essential stuff we need to bring. So we bring that stuff over, we have our DP literally sitting in a wheelchair being wheeled around as our dolly because that was because it was a hospital scene. And we had a wheelchair there. You know, so that was probably the hardest day but but you know, and oh, and there was a choir practicing because it was at a high school. There's a choir practicing and they're super loud. We can hear them through the air vents. As we're trying to films we have to keep waiting on them. And they're they're like, it's like these angelic voices singing but we're like, we can't, that's great. But we can't, we can't use that. So we had to sit there and wait and wait until they would stop seeing and then they hurry and film and then they start singing again. So that was just one of those days where it seemed like everything was going wrong. And you know, if I but you but you made it through obviously you got Yeah, we finished the day. You know, not everyone was happy about it. But you know, I was

Alex Ferrari 28:52
When you like you know, it's always fun when you have perspective, like your first experience with inspired guns that shrapnel does give you a level of, of perspective on where you're at in your career. Like when you're when you're going through like when the when the when the the fittest hitting the Shan as they say, and, you know, you're just there, like, you know, everyone's losing their mind because they haven't had your perspective. Just like, I'm just happy to be here. Like, I'm just

Adam White 29:18
You don't know how lucky we are guys.

Alex Ferrari 29:20
Like, isn't it insane? That as artists, we really only get to practice our art for a short amount of time in our life. You know, unless you're Ridley Scott, who's on set 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has a cot there are some shit, I have no idea. But generally speaking, most filmmakers shoot a movie once a year if they're lucky once every two or three years or four years. So to actually practice our art is so rare. It's most of the time is getting the project up enough off the ground getting it ready casting if getting the money. And then did you get those 12 days or 20 days when you're actually directing? And then you're like, Okay, now I'm gonna post it As part of that process, if you feel that, but then most of the times distribution, how am I going to get my money back and we're gonna do this, it's you, you barely ever get a chance to actually direct and when I'm on set, I'm just like, oh my god, I gotta, it's like, you just want to soak it all in because it's such a rarity to do

Adam White 30:18
It is it's a rarity. But it's like, it's funny, because when I did inspire guns, when I was on set, I thought, I have found the thing that I'm supposed to do for the rest of my life. This is the greatest experience I've ever had, you know, outside of family and marriage and kids, like, this is the greatest experience I've ever had. You know, so that is what pulls you back. It's like, I've experienced that now. That's why the for those three years, I'm like, I might not ever get that feeling again, like I found the thing I'm supposed to do for the rest of my life. And I might not get to do it's been taken away from me, you know, it was like, hard, you know, but so the 12 days, that was like, the big the worst part about the film shoot was that it was only 12 days, because it was like, I just want to keep doing this, I want to I want the next one, I'm going to go for 24 days, at least just so I have 24 days to do it. You know what I mean? Where it's like, you get that feeling for 24 straight days. And then you go into the rest of, you know, into business mode to market the movie, but But yeah, you're right. It's that feeling of when we're actually doing the art form. It's such an amazing feeling you just wanted to last forever.

Alex Ferrari 31:20
And that's what and by the way, that's with as an indie film, as a filmmaker as you can get making a $5,000 movie two guys who are making 30 $50 million dollar movies, 100 million dollar movies, those, those guys, they get on set for a few months. You know, like if you're, if you're shooting a Marvel movie, you're shooting a Marvel movie for two, three months. And you're three years in development. And then post like doing all the visual effects and all this. It just, it's just an it's just so weird. As I always, always tell people, like, I wish I could just be a musician. I wish I could just pick up a guitar and play. Because that's why you just see sometimes you just see a musician, like throwing a guitar, just just playing around like or a jazz player, just like you know, just just, you know, jazzing it up,you know,

Adam White 32:09
It's gonna be doing that. Yeah. And they're, they're getting to do it.

Alex Ferrari 32:13
Right. And we don't get that we you know, as writers writers get to do that. But writers are different. It says a different. Writing a script, writing a book. It's a different feeling than being on set. And when you're on set, there is this energy. There's this magic, especially when you're the director, that you It's addictive. It is a truly addictive process. Even if it's a bad experience. It's still it's like pizza. Like if you have the worst pizza still pizza. Like

Adam White 32:39
I haven't I haven't had a bad experience yet. I mean, like both experiences, I think maybe because they were both comedies like it was. You know, people tell me like the film crew is like, this is such a fun set. Everyone's happy. And I'm like, I don't know any different like I've never been I don't I didn't I've never done a set where if people weren't happy where people weren't having fun, or oh, we're getting you know that. Oh, never. I've only done it twice. But you know, I'm pretty, you know, especially like you said after the first one with the shrapnel I'm like, oh, man, everything's fine. Guys. Just calm down. We're good. Like, it's nothing's bad here. We're so good.

Alex Ferrari 33:10
It's kind of like after Francis Ford Coppola did Apocalypse Now. He just everything else was just like, yes. Like, I spent three years almost killed myself. In a jungle. I'm good. It's all good. It's all good. So it's all it's all perspective. It really really is. Now I have to ask you, man, you have a you have John heater in your movie. For everyone listening. It's a heater, right? It's a heater head. Yeah, heater. So John heater for everyone listening. If you don't know the name doesn't sound familiar. He was Napoleon Dynamite. He he did blaze of glory with with Will Ferrell. And he's been in a ton of like, comedies, you know, big budget comedies. Yeah. I mean, he's done a lot of stuff in his career. I know he does a lot of vO work and stuff like that, as well. But he generally doesn't do supporting roles. So first of all, how did you get him? And then how did you get him to be a supporting role as well?

Adam White 34:08
Yes, he doesn't do romantic comedies either. So So though, that was there were two hurdles we had to climb. It really came down to as we were casting this and we had it fully cast, right. Except one roll. We hadn't called the guy we were going to cast yet. Because I was like, because because the whole time or like, one thing I learned the first time is if you don't have a name in your movie, nobody cares about your movie. They just don't. It's rough. It's rough. Yeah. So so even if it's the greatest movie of all time, then maybe they'll you know, it may find its way. But other than that people don't care. So I was like, alright, we don't have we had Barry Corbin. And he's been you know, he was like the general and more games of stuff. He's been in a ton of things. But even he wasn't a big enough name. I didn't think no. And then so I was like, so we got to like, we're like just a couple weeks out from shooting and I'm like, Alright, we have to get a name in this movie or else Or else we're going to set ourselves up to fail and this is just the business mind me going worse. I don't want to make the same mistakes again. So I literally went through IMDb and Like went through every male actor in that age range, and made a list of like, five to 10 guys that I thought, okay, we might have a chance to get this person for cheap. And he was one on the list now, because like he and I went to the same college right? And so there we have some connection there. And and I happen to we had cast Brooke white, she was an American Idol finalist. And she had she had a supporting role in this. And we reached out to the cast. I said, Hey, does anybody know John heater? And she's like, well, actually, I just shot a music video with him. And so I have his number. And we're like, Okay, well, listen, we need you to just text them and just say, Would you be interested in an a rom com that we're, we're shooting I'll be I'll be playing your wife. They're friends, right? I'll be your wife. It'll be fun. It'll be two weeks shoot during the pandemic, you have nothing else to do. Right. So. So she she texted me. He's like, well send me the script and buy like the script. I'll do it. And so he I sent him the script. And he liked the script, but he's like, I don't want to be in a Hallmark movie. And so I had to convince him that it wasn't a Hallmark movie that it was too much. There was too much comedy for it to be a hallmark. Right, right. You know, they won't want it. So he's like, okay, so yeah, I think it'd be fun. So I think it just was a matter of circumstance, honestly, the timing. And the timing was just perfect, right? He had nothing else to do because of the lockdown. And so he's like, alright, well, you know, and, you know, and we obviously made an offer that was enough to incentivize him to come to come be in the movie and be the kind of the Topfield

Alex Ferrari 36:27
How many days and how many days? Did you shoot him?

Adam White 36:30
Oh, he was there all 12 everybody was there.

Alex Ferrari 36:32
Really? So you didn't it wasn't a shootout thing. You had them all there for 12 days. Wow.

Adam White 36:36
Yeah. Yeah. What really helped that he was friends with with Brooke white though, because they just they had the time. I mean, they had a blast together. And there was a Brooke wife's best friend summer blesses our lead actress. So that was just like a party for them. Right. So they, it didn't feel like you know, it just worked out that way. It was just it was just like, perfect.

Alex Ferrari 36:57
Wow. So so the universe was really truly giving you an Attaboy.

Adam White 37:01
Oh, yeah. Well, that that even like, and the actors don't even know this, but like, we hadn't raised all the money.

Alex Ferrari 37:08
Right. I was gonna ask that was my next question. Like you started shooting without all the money?

Adam White 37:12
Yeah, we did. And I was like, Okay, I, we've raised this much. So far. Everything's worked out everything. The universe is aligned for us. We're just going to go for it. It's I'm just going to take a step into the darkness and hopefully, the light the way he is lighted, you know? Yes, I see now that I mean, even then, like, again, the blinders are on. And I'm like, I will get it fully fine. You know,

Alex Ferrari 37:32
That could have been man that okay, so everyone listening? Don't ever do what Adam did. Don't ever start production without your least at least your production budget, you might have to go find post, that's fine. But don't ever do what he just said he did. Because it's not wise. Because again, and even after your experience, this was a part of that experience that you didn't have the first time you're like, oh, no, everything's working fine. We got John here. We're gonna get going, it's gonna be fine. We'll just keep going. So what happened?

Adam White 38:02
Well, okay. Now to be fair, we had the money for production. But then we had to go through the Screen Actors Guild, right? Because that oh, yeah, of course. And that opened up a whole other world of problems, right. For independent filmmakers, it is not easy to work with the Screen Actors Guild. And so they said, alright, we need you to send us $80,000 of your budget as a bond to make sure that actors get paid. Well, we assumed because we hadn't I had worked with Screen Actors Guild before. I assumed that meant they were going to pay the actress for us, right. But that's not what that meant. They're just gonna hold that money. In case we don't pay the actors, you know, then they'll pay them, right. But we still had to pay the actors, even though they had that 80,000 We were going to use to pay them. So we were like, stuck because they had our money. And we couldn't, we didn't you know, we didn't raise more money. So we were like, What are we going to do? Because they're like, they said, they're going to give her money back, like 120 days after we're done shooting.

Alex Ferrari 38:53
That's it, which is very, very long. Yes. Very convenient. That way, yes. The way this act is very convenient that way.

Adam White 38:59
Yes. It was fantastic. Right? So so that's why we were scrambling it was it was like Alright, well, we could we were going to get through production one way or another because they weren't going to get a check till the end of production anyways, they got the first check the second one, the movie would have been shot. It's just that people would have been mad because they didn't get paid right away. So we were scrambling and we just like basically Big Screen Actors Guild said, hey, look, that's our money to pay people and we can't pay anybody if you don't give us our money back. And we had to escalate it, you know, inside their organization and get them to finally say, Alright, how much do you actually need? And we got the money back.

Alex Ferrari 39:31
But it was like, Okay, I get Yeah, I don't want to get into that conversation with sag in that because they're not it's not a lot of people think it's super easy to work with them for independence. It's not, it's not

Adam White 39:41
It's very hard. It's not a huge disadvantage to because you can't get big actors without using them so. So it's like you have to have one without the other if you want to have a chance to succeed and then they make it harder for you to succeed by doing stuff like that. But meanwhile, my my producers they were really good about they kind of didn't let me know that this was even happening. They did They did a really good job of like, shielding me from any of the external problems that we were filming. So I didn't find out till after but even then they were they were raising money that whole week, you know, like reaching out to people that they had worked with before and going, Hey, we're doing this movie this guy, John heater and that, again, getting a name was so important for that because anytime we started on John hitters name around, everyone's wants to listen like Oh, really? You got Napoleon Dynamite? Okay. Yeah, I'm interested. Right. Like, it's just amazing how, how many doors that has opened, you know, and right now we're on the press phase of this of the film. We have a national PR company working for us, and he's getting booked on some really big shows him as a supporting actor in this movie. He's getting booked on really big shows, because he's John meter. Right. So we're gonna get some amazing national press, frankly, just because we have him in the movie.

Alex Ferrari 40:47
Yeah, that's, that's awesome. And again, I've talked about this so much on the show, man, you if you're listening, getting a name or a face at minimum is so so so important in the process, because you're right, like when you're scanning through. If you're scanning through all those, you know, your cat, your cat, cat was, catalog, whatever it is carousel, going back and forth on Netflix or on Hulu or on wherever you're seeing it. You're gonna stop if you see the familiar face. Right. And John is one of those faces that people are like, oh, yeah, I've seen John because he's been in a billion dollar stuff. And he's, and he's just been in a lot of big shows. So it's super, super helpful to do that, man.

Adam White 41:33
Yeah, it really is, you know, Napoleon Dynamite still, you know, 17 years later, carries so much oh, this analogy. And it's just an iconic movie that people still they love him so much in that movie that everywhere we went, it was like, we had to stop people from taking pictures. In fact, I had to yell at him one time, because he was taking pictures with fans. That didn't work mask, you know, and I'm like, Dude, you can't get COVID Man. Shoot, man, you cannot be talking to anybody until the shoots over, you know, the last day of the shoot? Sure, take all the pictures you want. Because by the time you get tested, we'll be done. But until then, please stay in a bubble. But yeah, he it really has made for an experience that would that would have a chance to succeed. I mean, I feel so much more positive about what can happen with this. I mean, even the distribution deal that we got, which, you know, most I didn't know this, but most people don't get minimum guarantees.

Alex Ferrari 42:27
You had an MG.

Adam White 42:28
Yeah, we did.

Alex Ferrari 42:29
Because of John.

Adam White 42:31
Well, yeah, well, I don't know why you

Alex Ferrari 42:33
Get it's because of John. Because like, this is how it works. This is how it works. You got an MG because the distributor saw John and he goes, I can pre sell that or I already know, I can make money with it because of John's face and name attached to it. And that's what people don't understand who who are listening, or filmmakers might be listening is that no distribution company in today's world is going to give you an MG unless they guarantee no, there's a guarantee of that money. They've already sold it. So if I'm giving you $10,000 I already called up Bob over in the Netherlands. And I already know that Bob's gonna buy this movie for 10 grand. It's a done deal. So that's why that happened without John. Almost positive, you wouldn't got an MG. It's hard. It's just too hard.

Adam White 43:15
Right! I don't I don't even like it was interesting. Because the because it was gravitas ventures who we ended up going with a PR distribution. And they they they emailed us we weren't really because we were going to do the same dumb thing I did last time, which is just do our own distribution theatrically first and then see what we do after that and, and I started getting cold feet on that and didn't feel right about it. And I was like, I don't want to, I don't want to go to that same road again and have it fail, even though this movie has a much wider appeal. Um, and then Gravatars reached out to us and they said, hey, send us a screener. I sent the screener like 11 o'clock at night and 6am The next morning, they're like they offered. We want to distribute this, here's what we'll do. Plus, here's your here's your mg. Like it was like that fast that they are offering an MG to us. And I was like, wow, they must they love this movie. This is great.

Alex Ferrari 43:58
Did the MG is the MG covering. It's not covering your budget, is it? But it's

Adam White 44:01
Oh, no, no, no. Yeah, we were I was able to negotiate more than double what they initially offered on the MG. It you know, it's probably about 20% of the budget, but even then, like, you know, the fact that it was you know, anyone got it. It's something we know they're 100% committed to the success of the movie, right? Because because they put their money there. They're writing us a check right from the beginning. So

Alex Ferrari 44:23
That's awesome, dude, that's that's really I'm glad I'm glad for you. Well, you are a you are a success story in the sense that you were able to bounce back after you got punched in the face hard. And I'm you might have heard this on my show. It's like, no matter who you are in this business, you're always getting punched, you're in a fight constantly. You're getting punched in the face all the time. But many of you don't even know that they're you're in a fight. So when that punch hits you you're out for the count. You got you didn't know it was coming you got knocked out. And then in your days, you're like, I gotta get back in the ring. And we're able to work your way back to that and still be able to do what you love to do and that isn't enough. inspirational story that I think a lot of filmmakers need to hear, because I've hear that I talk to so many filmmakers on a daily basis that it's, I just hear it. I hear all these stories so often. And it usually ends in tragedy, it normally doesn't have an uplifting story. So that's why that's one of the things that caught my eye about your story that you went down. And then you came back up like a phoenix and nothing in the thing is to like you didn't like win the lottery, you didn't like, win an Oscar, you didn't get into Sundance, you didn't like, this is not that story. But you were able to get back to a place where you can practice your art, you could do what you love to do. And hopefully make another one. And that's success enough. Hopefully, your continued success. But as filmmakers, man if you just get to make another one. Get out.You've won.

Adam White 45:48
Yes, I didn't really consider I wouldn't. I was always ashamed to call myself a filmmaker after the first one, right? Because I paid for it myself. And it was only one movie and, you know, they're like, No, anybody could do that if they had the money, right? But But now that I've done to Okay, and and, and I got other people to invest, you know, where I'd have to use my own money, alright, I'm a filmmaker, I did it, you know, like that's, and that's probably just a dumb way for me to classify myself, but just just a maybe my own insecurity of talking about it. But but, you know, it definitely feels a lot better to know, I came back again, and I did it. And I've made a movie that I think people are gonna really enjoy. And you know, it's gonna kind of meet that need of good family entertainment, that that you can wash together and feel good. And that's what we all need is some good feel good stuff.

Alex Ferrari 46:34
Absolutely. Now, if you would have thrown a puppy in there that saved Christmas, then you would really have something. But until I'm sorry, you didn't

Adam White 46:41
Hey there's time for a sequel.

Alex Ferrari 46:44
I always ask people like, what should I make a movie about? I'm like, if you have a puppy who saves Christmas, it's presold

Adam White 46:51
You have a winner.

Alex Ferrari 46:52
You have a winner, Puppy saves Christmas, all day, every day, put Dean Cain in it done. Now, I'm going to ask, I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to make it into the trying to break into the business today?

Unknown Speaker 47:08
I think that it's, first of all, and you know, I can't give any advice that not everyone else's given I'm sure. But, but and people that are a lot smarter than me. But I would say, you have to know that nobody cares about your stuff nearly as much as you do. Right. And most people don't care at all about your stuff, right? So. So it's, it's really a matter of how you can help other people and getting people on board with what you want to do. But having said that, once you get the ball rolling, like just putting it out in the universe, and I'm doing this, it's amazing how people will jump on board, right, want to be a part of something. So you kind of have those two things working against each other. Nobody cares. But once you're doing something, and they and they know you're doing it, then they want to be a part of it. So you know, just like you the great thing about filmmaking is like, I didn't have to go to film school, and I didn't have to get permission, right? Like I could just do it. You know, you can just make a movie. Nobody can stop you. Right. And that's what's so amazing about it. Plus, it's so cheap now that anybody can do it. So So yeah, I mean, just just get out there and do man just just make it happen. You know, just the book. Speaking of Robert Rodriguez, that book was so motivational to me before I did inspire young

Alex Ferrari 48:19
Everybody, everybody, everybody who reads that book is like,

Adam White 48:22
Okay, okay, I can do this, I can make this movie, I only need 10 grand, it'll be fine. You know, that's not true.

Alex Ferrari 48:28
Which is the thing I think is the best and the worst thing I love Rebel Without a crew. Um, anyone who listens to the show knows I am a huge Robert Rodriguez fan. And that book has done I think his story is done more good and bad at the same time, because he made everyone believe that they could do what he did. It wasn't his fault. It was the narrative. It was a story that they got put out to everyone talks about this. They still to this day, talk about El Mariachi, and in from 91. Like everyone's still talking about that movie. Yeah. And the thing that most people don't understand is that you're not Robert Rodriguez. Like, he is a once in a generation kind of talent. Like he's such a talented filmmaker. Whether you like his movies or not is irrelevant. It's how he makes them the amount of talent the amount of skills he has. Not everybody could do that.

Adam White 49:14
Yeah, I think the timing and probably some luck, frankly. I mean, we all need luck. Oh, to be you know, most of those guys are so you know, it's just it won't work for everybody because we don't have those things all working together in our favor.

Alex Ferrari 49:26
Right. No question and I've said this many times on the show before if all mariachi shows up today do we does it doesn't even break through? Do we ever have a robber or do we have a Kevin Smith if Clark shows up today? Yeah, yeah, probably probably wouldn't make it through the noise. But in the 90s At that moment of time, it was it was it was it was destined to be what he would he became. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Adam White 49:52
There's probably lots of lessons in terms of business that I could share, but I'm Taking care of the investors was was a really really good one getting a name actor was a really really good one I like I've literally started I made a document where I like said here's all the things I learned from the second film shoot right but I don't think that I want to make sure that I put into practice next time and and there's there's a lot of those things but the biggest one was no matter what cast a name actor no matter what you find whatever you have to do to get a name actor raise more money, whatever it takes, you know, cut in other places so you can afford one because that will make all the difference because they don't care like distribute distributors. And you know, buyers don't care if the movie is good even.

Alex Ferrari 50:44
That's not that's not even that's not even a question that's not even in the equation it so Exactly. It's not even in the equation. That's the thing that filmmakers don't know. So there's that is that just like, oh, but my movies really good. Don't care. I can't sell it without Danny Trejo without John here without some face on the cover that I can sell. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Adam White 51:08
You got these on the back wall? He's probably right. He's probably high on the list I have. The Fellowship of the Rings is probably my number one favorite movie of all time. Nice. Love the Bourne series, but it's probably Bourne identities, the the best of those. And then Toy Story, which I'm not like a big animated guy, but I feel like that might be one of the greatest movies ever made.

Alex Ferrari 51:33
I would agree with him. It is a pitch perfect film. It started story wise, it's

Adam White 51:39
Yeah, and the perfect story for that medium of CG animation. Right. And they did it on the first try. Which to me is like unbelievable. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 51:51
three Yeah, that's not not not a bad combination Bourne totally story lords. Lord of the Rings, if it's not okay,

Adam White 51:57
Give you give you a variety.

Alex Ferrari 51:58
And where can people see the movie? When is it coming out?

Adam White 52:01
So the movie comes out December 3, it'll be on in select theaters, probably about 10 to 20 cities and then also on demand the same day. So December 3, it'll be everywhere. Essentially.

Alex Ferrari 52:14
Adam and I appreciate you sharing your your story with us and and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. And hopefully, it's some inspiration. And some warnings will be picked up from this this from this conversation, but I appreciate you man. Thank you again.

Adam White 52:30
Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 52:31
Best of luck in the future.

Adam White 52:32
It's has been very therapeutic for me. This is the first time I've really talked about that story publicly. So So now I'll be able to sleep at night again. So let's be good.

Alex Ferrari 52:42
Thank you man. I appreciate you.

Adam White 52:44
Alright man!


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Simon Kinberg Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Simon Kinberg (born August 2, 1973) is a British-born American filmmaker. He is best known for his work on the X-Men film franchise, and has also written such films as Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Sherlock Holmes. He has served as a producer on others including Cinderella and The Martian, the latter which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. His production company Genre Films had a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox. Kinberg made his directorial debut in the 2019 X-Men film Dark Phoenix from a script he also wrote.

Kinberg was born in Hammersmith, London, England to American parents Monica Menell-Kinberg and Jud Kinberg, a New York City-born writer and producer. From age six, he was raised in Los Angeles, California. He is Jewish. Kinberg graduated from Brentwood High School, and then from Brown University, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude; in 2003 received his MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts, where he won the Zaki Gordon Fellowship for Screenwriting.

Below are all the screenplays written by Simon Kinberg available online. If you find any of his missing screenplays please leave the link in the comment section.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple and Spotify’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcastwith guest like Oscar® Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.


(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

THE 355 (2022)

Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – WILL POST AS SOON AS IT’S AVAILABLE

DARK PHOENIX (2019)

Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – WILL POST AS SOON AS IT’S AVAILABLE

LOGAN (2017)

Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

DEADPOOL (2016)

Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

THE MARTIAN (2015)

Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005)

Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

BPS 195: The Profitable Feature Film Formula with Rob Goodrich & Jason Armstrong

Today on the show we have film producers Jason Armstrong and Rob Goodrich.

Armstrong and Goodrich founded Walk Like A Duck Entertainment, a film production company that develops and produces high quality scripted and non-scripted content.

With a combined 30+ years in the entertainment industry, Armstrong and Goodrich have held positions in all aspects of production with a focus on IP acquisition, development, packaging and raising capital.

The company has forced strong and supportive relationships with filmmakers and talent, advising and collaborating through all aspects of production.

Jason and Rob are currently in pre-production on Andy Armstrong’s SQUEALER, and recently completed production on the following films: SLAYERS (starring Abigail Breslin, Malin Akerman, Thomas Jane), DIG (starring Thomas Jane, Emile Hirsch, Liana Liberato), SKELLY (starring Brian Cox, Torrey Devitto, John Palladino), and SALVATION (Claire Forlani, Thomas Jane, Skeet Ulrich, Theo Rossi, Ashley Moore).

They have also acquired life rights of John Fairfax, an adventurer who crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans in a rowboat, which they’re currently developing with Tiffany Fairfax, widow of John Fairfax.

Armstrong and Goodrich puts a premium value on developing creative and strategic partnerships across sales, distribution, co-production and post-production companies. The trajectory of a project varies on a case by case basis, Armstrong and Goodrich are uniquely positioned to manage all aspects of a projects lifespan.

As music, publishing and sync-licensing continue to establish increasing revenue streams and relevance in a financial model for a film or TV series, they have established 6 To Midnight Music, an ASCAP / BMI affiliate with a Co-Publishing deal with BMG Music, headed by Walk Like A Duck Entertainment partner, Cameron Goodrich.

Film producers Jason Armstrong and Rob Goodrich have created a way to produce profitable feature films in record speed durning one of the craziest and uncertain times in film history. I sat down with both producers to see how they are doing what they are doing, how they ramped up so fast and how they are making money with there system.

Enjoy my conversation with Jason Armstrong and Rob Goodrich.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show, Rob Goodrich and Jason Armstrong. How're you guys doing?

Rob Goodrich 0:17
Good. Thank you so much for having us.

Jason Armstrong 0:17
Great. Thank you!

Alex Ferrari 0:19
Thank you so much for coming on the show guys. You guys are you guys are as they say, in fuego right now, doing a lot of a lot of productions. And I want to and you have a very kind of like a different way of doing what you guys are doing, which I really want to kind of get into. But before we get started, man, how did you both get started in this insane business?

Rob Goodrich 0:43
Well, I leaned over to Jay, he's my senior. So I'll let him go first.

Alex Ferrari 0:49
I'm sure and I'm sure he reminds you about that all the time.

Jason Armstrong 0:55
Or vice versa.

Alex Ferrari 0:56
Exactly.

Jason Armstrong 0:57
So yeah, no, I started off in the business originally as a copywriter in in commercials and everything. And then Antalya commercial down in LA met a producer asked me if I was interested in writing for television. So So then he developed a children's while sort of a tween series. At that time, he had an Oprah deal with Nickelodeon. So it was originally something for Nickelodeon. And then Disney came in and, and sort of swept, swept, swept it away, to get worked, worked on that, and then created another series. I would say probably about a year after that, and and then you sort of fall into that writers room, you know, sort of the in house writers and, and everything else. But that was sort of the the early, you know, the early stage into the business was was very much from a writing perspective. And then in that tween world, and then started slowly moving into producing, you know, my own content, having a little bit, a little bit more control, obviously, right or over the creative to an extent, to an extent that that stage, and then yeah, and then did a lot of children's series Brucella children series, a lot of CO pro deals. At that time, I was in Canada, so I was doing a little copro deals between Canada and the UK. And then just kept, kept rolling into two different things. There's some obvious some lifestyle stuff that came into play. And then and then dove into into the features.

Alex Ferrari 2:35
And how about you, Rob?

Rob Goodrich 2:39
Well, you know, it's funny, I never, I never considered myself much of a film guy growing up, I always enjoyed going to the movies, I enjoyed renting movies. But you know, as far as telling you, who was in every movie, who directed it just never really was my forte, I never took a huge interest, what I did find was that I had a really good rapport with people. And I had a good, good ability to sort of put pieces together. I found that through playing sports as a kid and, you know, always sort of being in a leadership position. So I guess through college, which had no film intentions, I started to develop more and more of an interest in entertainment. I ended up working on the music side. First, to be honest with you, I was working with a lot of artists helping to coordinate sort of like those radio concerts that they would do, seasonally. So what that really did was that taught me how to work with artists and work with sort of the in and out demands of not just a rapper or a band or this or that, but their entire entourage. And so it was sort of a culmination of taking my ability to sort of put puzzle pieces together and my growing fascination with film. So through that sort of music thing and introductions to a lot of managers and sort of that, that circle of that high level music world. I took an interest in film, and I did what we all sort of hope I hope we all do his IPA, IPA on a ABC reality show, which I will not name. Realize that that was not for me. And then I got a call from Paramount that said, hey, you know, you you work with Justin Bieber? On the music side? Would you have any interest in coming and sort of consulting as a producer with us on the Never Say Never Bieber tour, which Paramount did? So I worked with some of the other producers on that prior. And that really sort of kicked it off. I mean, I think it's I don't know if I had a career path set in mind. I've always looked at producing in sort of a broad scope. You know, I think entertain entertainment is entertainment and what is entertaining to somebody is different to another row, I, I've always taken my background in music, transitioned into film, and a little bit of TV. It's all sort of just being the same thing. You know, it's all just sort of management from top to bottom. So through that, ironically enough years later, that's how Jay and I met under the roof at BMG Music through a colleague who said, I think you guys would really mesh well. And so we'd both sort of taken our own paths in the film world and had some success with that, and certainly climbed our way up, and touched every corner of the business and had some success and had some failure and got our bruises. But by the time Jay and I met at BMG Music, it was actually to discuss the film and immediately hit it off. And I think it was that perfect moment where we collided and could really complement one another with where we were at in our own careers and where we were, you know, aiming to go.

Alex Ferrari 6:03
You know, it's so funny, because I've been in the business now for 20 odd years. And, you know, when you're when you're working with somebody, especially a producing partner, it's like dating, like you're getting into a marriage you are, you know, there's no question about, especially when you're like, on one project, it's like that, let alone multiple projects over the course of years. So that's something a lot of filmmakers don't really understand about the partnership scenario. It's you're dating before you get married, and, and you're married after you signed the deal to make the first film. And then you're like, alright, well, we dated already. You know, we could divorce after this project, but we're going to go through this project.

Jason Armstrong 6:47
As soon as you create an llc.

Alex Ferrari 6:54
No question it is, and there's so you guys seem to like, you know, from what I was able to gather through your IMDB profiles, you guys have been hustling for a while, in your own worlds. But it seems like when you guys got together in more recently, actually, you just started all of a sudden, like you were in a lot of productions, and a lot of different things going on at the same time. So that's very unusual for a new, you know, producing partnership that I've seen, I don't see like it just doesn't, overnight, just come up, you guys have both been working out. You've done some work in the future world who doesn't work in television world, but really not likely, you're doing now not at the level, you're doing it now with the cast and things like that, what kind of what started this explosion of, of these, you know, doing so many projects and with the caliber of people you're doing so recently,

Rob Goodrich 7:45
You know what it was sort of a collection of years where we very mindfully said, you know, let's, let's get that IP, let's get the content, let's make sure that our catalogue is full of stuff where we know we can pull something out. And when we've got that extra piece, we can really start to package it more seriously. And, you know, look, I mean, we've been fortunate with the snowball effect. We've identified IP that we that we think fits into the market well, but we've also identified a time that, unfortunately, has been so damaging for so many businesses, we've, you know, we've used a formula in the past two years, where we've been able to create, you know, marketable films, for modest budgets. And, and really, when the world has been so scared about, you know, big crowds and heavy footprints, we've been able to go shoot these movies, you know, not on a Netflix budget, we're not concerned about insurance, but really more on a smaller budget with smaller crews, where we can say to actors, look, we need you for six days, or we need you for three days. We've limited our shooting schedules, and you know, this, the scope of our films are sort of in that mid range. But you know, we've shot six this year as a result. And I think that snowball effects, when you can go to an agency and actually deliver a fee on time and escrow. And you can get an accurate, calm and have a pleasant experience. It really has a positive effect. And I mean, we're fortunate now where we've got a lot of agents calling and saying, Hey, what do you have that I can sneak in accurate? Or would you look, would you look at this project. So so we really were aware of not trying to jump the gun and just make a movie to make a movie, but really be a little bit more strategic in how we rolled it out.

Jason Armstrong 9:39
Yeah, and also, I would say I'm just sort of add on to that. You know, through that time, a story can be achieved in just the same way haven't be self contained. You know, you can still have great stories that doesn't that don't have to have an incredible number of company moves and have all these different settings. There was you know, through COVID, there was this opportunity to still have, you know, tell great stories, and focus very heavily on the character development through the story. And that could be achieved, you know, with fewer cast members of your locations, and still, you know, still deliver great content that didn't speak to the market. So, you know, it was it was just that opportunity, and also to touch on the other thing that you mentioned, Alex, with regards to sort of moving quickly. I feel as though there's, you know, everyone's sort of, if they've been involved in the business from every angle for a long period of time. So, I mean, like, Robin, I like before mentioning, the PA, you know, worked is, I mean, I've been a scripting, you know, I've been a continuity director, I mean, I've been a general, I mean, so like, hearing through all these things, and what happens with all that is you have, you start to develop this very, very large network. And when you find someone to partner with, that isn't so safeguarded, and protects that network, because I feel a lot in our industry, you know, even if people partner together on one film, you're like, Oh, these are my guys, or these are, this is my network, this is who I access. And the problem is that just puts up these walls immediately. That shouldn't be there, because this is a collaborative business. I mean, that's, that's where you thrive. And I feel as though Rob and I wouldn't be partnered, our success sort of happened very quickly, because there were none of those walls it was, each of our networks became one large network. And we're able to sort of pinpoint where certain strengths and certain projects could stand and, and access those without delay. And I think that's sort of you know, that's, that's what you that's what you need to do, if you're going if you are going to partner together and build a slate, and evaluate the IP and determine whether the market speaks to that, you know, that content and everything you need to be able to, you know, open book with regards to what your access is.

Alex Ferrari 12:00
It's interesting, because if I go back to the analogy of the marriage, when you start dating someone or you, you start moving in with somebody, you don't have a joint account just yet. You have separate, you have separate accounts. And then when you have a joint account, it's serious. Now we're sharing our money. So it's the same thing. You're sharing your contacts, you're sharing your network. And by doing that, you're able to basically put gasoline on the fire because you're able to access so many things. Yeah, I've been with I've, you know, I've had I've partnered with people, they're like, I, I hang out with Tom Cruise every weekend. I'm like, Can Can Can you? Can you? Can you talk to Tom Cruise? No, no, I can't. That's very sensitive. I can't talk to Tom Cruise. I'm like, yeah, what the hell are we doing here? I'm using as exempt. I don't know anybody who knows toppers. But anyway. But I get the boy, you get the point like and, and it could be something as like, Oh, yeah. Me and Thomas Jane, go hang out. And we go golfing. Oh, can we maybe pitch them this project? You're like, well, that's, it's my that's my connection with Thomas. That's not with you know, it's weird. But it's, it's kind of this whole energy that a lot of people in the industry have of lack of, of fear. Because you know, I think you go it's gonna agree this entire business is run on fear, Hollywood is run is completely run on fear on FOMO fear of missing out huge deals have been dropped huge amount of money have been dropped purely on the fear of losing out. And if and we and we unfortunately have seen some of those movies over the years, but But Rob, you were talking about your formula, can you kind of dive into this, this formula that you're that you're you guys are working on that are able to do all this and today's environment? Cuz I think you probably started prior to COVID. But you were kind of like, primed, ready for it when it came out in a way.

Rob Goodrich 13:50
Yeah, we really were. You know, it's interesting look, at the end of the day, for any filmmaker, it's always about money. And and not necessarily, hey, how am I going to make money? But how are we going to source money. And I think that's where that's where I think we really separate ourselves. We, you know, we're genre agnostic. And by what I mean by that is we don't measure ourselves to a horror film or a drama or this. I mean, we're looking at the market, we're filmmakers, but we're also businessmen. And we want to be able to say, alright, if I want to do this one day, I have to have the track record of doing XYZ before that, to be taken seriously. Right. And so we're really in the business of establishing partnerships, creating, you know, good relationships with people. I know, that sounds sort of cliche. So a big part of our formula is, you know, who do we like to work with? Because who can we call next to say, Alright guys, you know, I'm in I'm in Las Cruces, New Mexico right now. So okay, guys, here's the tax credit here. Here's where we know we're certain soft money sets. Can we go to the usual partner so we start to analyze a product Based on certainly location, and what those tax credits look like, so we can get some semblance of where, where our financing structure comes into play. As that's happening, we're in daily communication with our sales partners, our distribution partners, really working backwards, so that we can say, alright, this finance plan actually does fit in line with the scale of the film, the budget, we can make this type of movie with this amount of crew, for instance, we're a union production company, we're always hiring union crews. So by working backwards, obviously, like a lot of filmmakers, we're in daily communication with those distributors, or those sales companies say, Okay, what do we think about this cast list? What do we think about this so that everything that we're doing, we're checking a box, so that we don't have that pardon my French that oh, shit moment, you know, when we're supposed to go off, I, if I just did this differently, if I just had that actor, or I just thought about that other seat currently. So we really, we try to work backwards to a degree. One of the things, you know, that I think it has been working for us is, you know, we built some good relationships with talent. We've We've got actors that enjoy working on our set, we try to keep it relaxed. And, you know, we welcome the creative feedback and collaboration. So when we're able to call an agent or an actor, and say, Hey, we've got this project, or they're calling us and saying, I'm looking for something for two weeks, what do you have? Well, that's such a big piece of the puzzle, that we're then able to really get that packaging process, going a lot faster. You know, we're not necessarily always hunting, to make a movie, bring it to a festival, get all the awards, do everything. I mean, it's a different climate today. As we all know, we were very interested in exploring and evaluating every project and every sales opportunity every day that we're prepping, filming, and then post so that we're always elevating the value of a project. We're looking at streamer deals, we're looking we look at the article, but we're always exploring what that best fit is for any film. And we've been very fortunate. I mean, New Mexico has been terrific. Massachusetts has been terrific. Toronto has been good to us. So I hope that answers part of it.

Alex Ferrari 17:30
So usually, what you guys are basically saying is don't shoot a $2 million period piece personal film, with no stars attached shot in black and white is generally it's generally not what you want to do. And that's the approach of so many filmmakers they just like I want to make art. I'm like, great, if you want to make art make it for $5. Don't make it for 5 million and mortgaged your house, which I've had people on the show who have mortgaged their house have lost their house, because they're like, Hey, I think this is gonna go it's the craziest in our business is so insane. Because I've talked to investors and the like, you guys, this is insanity. I'm like it is Yeah. But yeah, if you know what you're doing, it can be you can make money with it. But the scope of of, you could spend $2 million and have literally a useless product, you spent $2 million on cookies, you have $2 million worth of cookies you could sell. Right? So there's a product, there's a product there.

Rob Goodrich 18:33
Yeah, you know, and we're not afraid either. And I think it's important to be honest, in this business, I don't think you have to be a jerk. But I think it's good to be transparent. And look, I mean, we know how to finance films, we know how to package talent, we know how to sell films. So we can we can analyze a project from really any perspective, not to say we're the best at it. But you know, we've got a pretty good understanding of each, so that when we're talking to a filmmaker, or we're talking or evaluating a new project, we can very easily to your point, say, look, I totally love where you're coming from. But here's why that wouldn't work, right? In today's world. Instead of saying your project sucks, we're not going to do it. Maybe there's some value in it. So then we can have a more collaborative conversation and say, Look, this is how we might approach it. These are the types of people we might bring into it to help you see, you know, this follow through with your intentions. We never want to say no to any project off the bat. But we are pretty quick to say, here are the things that we know won't work. And that's based on real time, experience, real time, market trends, real time investors, etc.

Jason Armstrong 19:43
Another thing I would want to say too, is I mean, a lot of art is a timing chance, right? I mean, it really does play by time and chance, especially within the arts. So there are things that are going to speak to certain types there. You know, there's going to be an audience for certain content at a certain time. And unfortunately, you know, something can get lost. If it if it isn't, you know, released or, or evaluated at the right time. So I mean, that's the other thing that will pay very close attention to is, is recognizing you know what, right now, this would be unfortunately the it's not so much even how it's being built out so far is just that it will not achieve the audience that it should right now. So in order to and then that and then that becomes just this lost art. And to your point before it is a business. So if it's, if you are going to do it as a hobby in the arts, then that is one thing. If it is going to operate as a business, then yes, you need you need to develop something that people want, and that will sell. And, and that doesn't. And then there's a lot of fear that surrounds that, then people when they hear that they start to think, oh, how is that going to jeopardize the creative? How is that going to alter this, this, this and this, this, and it doesn't actually have to do that. And, and at the same time, let's let's look at that, if it's something that is not flexible, that cannot be flexible, cannot be examined, you know, in order to sort of build it in a different in a different way than it might be it's something that just sits somewhere and is never seen. Never heard of no one's ever aware of which is fine. But one of the one of the most valuable things in the art world is literally in you know, having an effect on people you know, provoking a conversation, excitement, anything like that. That's that's that's sort of the the largest payoff outside of VR was that, you know, investors obviously, one of the largest payoff is actually having that developing an audience having an effect on its audience. Right. So that's, you know, that's something you really, you know, you do have to pay attention to the timing of these things. And if something's not now it can't be a year from now it can you know, in or find a way for it to be that So,

Alex Ferrari 21:54
Right. So in other words, contagion not gonna come out right now. As a brand new movie. Not really like it. I don't care if it's Steven Soderbergh not happening right now. Nobody wants to see them. How many? How many? How many pandemic movies have you turned down in the last two years?

Jason Armstrong 22:15
It's wild.

Alex Ferrari 22:16
Right?

Rob Goodrich 22:18
It's funny how quickly people pick up on a trend and go, here. I've got this. What do you think?

Alex Ferrari 22:24
I've been yelling on my show for the last two years. Nobody wants your pandemic script. Nobody wants to watch it. Nobody wants to see it. I don't care if Meryl Streep's in it. Nobody wants to watch it. Because we're living it. It's kind of like having a terrorist movie A week after 911. So one of the things is there something that you see, in your, in your day to day, some mistakes that you see filmmakers make when they're pitching to producers, or trying to pitch you guys a script, or or project or something like that, because there is a you know, I do my best with this show to educate as many filmmakers as humanly possible about the realities of this business. And the realities of life. Don't run up to you at a Starbucks and go, here's my script. Read it. I don't know who you are. You don't know who I am. You don't know who I am. But here read it. There's certain ways of doing things. Is there mistakes that you consistently see that you can kind of call out and hopefully help some people listening?

Rob Goodrich 23:22
Well, Jay, I can jump in first. I mean, I think I think a common thing that sort of gets under my skin a bit just because it never works. And I never, you know, we've all pitched something before, right? So I don't ever shame anybody for doing that. You know, when you come up and you say, Oh, I've got money attached to these investors or this actor, I want to call BS every time. I mean, one of the ways that Jay and I typically vet a project and about five seconds, is I say, tell me where your bank account is. And I'll make a $1 deposit. Because if they've got a bank account open, well, then they're more of a business to me. But it how do you have these investors? And how do you have this infrastructure set up to make a movie that we can just jump in and start packaging? It's not really set up. And then it's the Phantom investor or it's the Phantom actor, who to your point earlier is like the cousin of Tom Cruise that went out once but I don't want to call him yet because he's, you know, Uruguay. So that's a big red flag. I would much rather see a project when somebody says, Hey, I love this movie that you guys just did. I think I have something that might connect with you might not let me just send you a logline. Or would it be okay, if I just send you some preliminary info? Without all the baggage, you know, then it could be more appealing to sort of say, oh, you know what, this is pretty cool. Let us follow up. Let us see where it's at. Because we have the tools to help package that if it's something that we like, it's just sort of the

Alex Ferrari 24:59
So the letters of intent, not so much?

Rob Goodrich 25:11
it's nice to have I guess?

Alex Ferrari 25:14
Be honest, be honest, it's absolutely almost useless. It's like it's literally it's absolutely almost useless letters of intent. I got I was up, I was packaging a deal. And the producer was like, Oh, we have this letter of intent from this Oscar winner. And, and I saw it. And everywhere he, I mean, literally, if he could have tattooed it on his frickin chest, he would have tapped because everywhere he walked in, he's like, here's my letter of intent with this dude, that I spoke to unconvinced the first talking point. Yeah, that's first talking points. I have a letter of intent from this Oscar winner. Here's his signature. So all that says to me is that you were able to calm this poor, older actor with a little commitment. No, no. The letter What? No, I said letter of intent, sir.

Jason Armstrong 25:52
From the talent, a letter of commitment for the financing,

Alex Ferrari 25:57
Commitment, stop it.

Rob Goodrich 26:00
Well, you know what, here's here's the, here's the behind the curtain of all of that, right? Yeah, we obviously work with a number of agencies and ensure projects from that. And they'll have talent, quote, unquote, attached, that are, quote, unquote, attached. So it's hard enough for the people that are in the industry, the managers, the producers, the talent, actually have a project that is that far along. So when you've got somebody that is fairly new to the game, or trying to break in, or has a great idea, it's just that much more unbelievable, to no fault of their own. But it's just such an uphill battle. I mean, really, where we are in an industry right now. And we're, we've had some success, not to give the company sauce away. But look, you make an offer, you make a payer play offer, and you deliver the funds. And that's going to make it real to an agent. And it's amazing how quickly that reverberates through the industry. Oh, wow. They, they actually escrow that talent, a day before it was due, or was due, oh, yeah, they signed the contract. So that's what makes it real, no one is attached until that money is in that account. And for better or worse, where we are, I mean, it's such a competitive market right now, there's so much out there, and there's so many places to put content, that you've got to make it real by putting the money in the account. And you got to be willing to part ways with it. And with that comes a lot of risk for producers. But you know, you got to be confident in what you're doing.

Jason Armstrong 27:26
You got to be offering the model that you put together, right? Because there's always been a filtering system that's existed, right? We know that. And it's because otherwise, there just be so much being channeled into all of these outlets. And now there's just so many, so the filtering system is just become even more prominent, and important. And so the way to actually get around that is to have everything built. So if you are going to engage, you have the money to engage, it's not, it's not oh, we're engaging, and then there's going to be this long period of time where nobody's talking about it, because you couldn't really have the follow through. That's, you know, immediately that's a red flag and people are going to take seriously. So the second that you do engage with the people that you do need to put your project together. Everything has to be in place. So that if you get a yes, immediately.

Alex Ferrari 28:22
And that is that's refreshing, because that doesn't happen in our business at all. It's a lot of talk, it's a lot of talk a lot of luck in the lip service and all this kind of stuff. And I mean, God, how many people like oh, I have this guy attached, or I've got this money's about to drop. Oh, I love that term. The money's about to drop tomorrow. It's dropping. Oh, we got pushed back. Oh, because his allowance hasn't hit yet. Because, you know, he's a multimillionaire in England. And his wife gives him a million dollars every month as in and he just wants to be in the movie. And we've Yep, sure. I'm not telling you stories, you're gonna hurt. It's a small, it's a small little roll, like maybe at the bar or something, you know, give him two lines, and he'll finance the whole movie. Like we hear all these stories. And by the way, everyone who's not watching this we're all laughing we're all we're also we have smiles on our faces because we've all heard these stories before. But it's so fascinating over my career, it doesn't change now what those stories that we're just talking about happened to me in the 90s when I was coming up and they're still happening today and they think that they work and that's why I kind of call out you know letters of intent and like the all this kind of stuff that's all kind of fluff you know or I could get this guy on the phone right once walked by this person or you know I parked cars or where this guy plays golf or something. There's always so many of these stories but when you guys are doing is interesting because you're actually I don't know doing what you say you're gonna do. Which is oddly a rarity in this business. How I've always found it fascinating how anything ever gets done in in Hollywood and I can't even comprehend at the 100 $200 million world, how many moving parts? How many things because even that world, they're still financing these things, they still they're still banks, they're still like, you got to go? Absolutely. I mean, it's not like, Disney is just writing checks, though they probably can at this point, but they're smart enough not to use their own money. Yeah, right. You know, it's

Rob Goodrich 30:24
Our big thing, too, is look, I mean, we've got, we've got projects in pipeline for the next year or two years that that are those studio level films. But for right now, we're the world's at where we're at, we control the clock, you know, and we're able to really, we're able to work with AD's and work with mine producers and work with directors that we can talk to every day. And, and, you know, we can control the financing and the model, and control the sales and control the marketing, you know, to a degree, right, but we're able to control the clock a little bit more, which is, which has been helpful, and it keeps us busy. But it allows us to sort of work with and to spit out a product that, you know, we know, sort of shares the integrity that we went into it.

Alex Ferrari 31:13
Can you guys talk a little bit about the importance of a bankable star, based off of budget. So you know, cuz I always tell people, like, Look, if you got a $50,000 movie, anytime you could put a bankable star, and even if it's a phase, do it anytime, at any budget range. But as that budget continues to go up, you at that point need to have bankable stars of certain magnitudes depending on the budget. So certain actors can finance a million dollar, or $2 million, even a $5 million, but they're not going to finance a 30 million, then you need another two or three of those guys. Well, you need Bruce Willis to show up. Or you need to, you know, and Bruce does I think movie a week now I think he's doing a movie a week.

Rob Goodrich 31:55
A One day One day shop.

Alex Ferrari 31:59
Pops up it's 365 movies this year. It's fantastic. But, but filmmakers don't really get that a lot of times and they're like, Oh, I wanted to, again, it goes into that hobby thing. Where like, oh, I want to be pure. I'm like, Well, I'm not the best actor for the role, then do it for 50 grand, don't do it for 500 grand. So can you talk about the importance of it, and then how you're able to attract these actors, I think we kind of touched upon this, like money talks. So if you show up and drop some money, you're gonna get people's attention pretty quickly.

Rob Goodrich 32:29
We through the years, everybody's got a gatekeeper. Right. And so the agents and the managers, they're gatekeepers, it's like any business, you know, you sort of all come up together, or you meet here and there. In my world, I was in Venice Beach for a long time. And it took a lot of the sort of the razor blades out of the agents out of the managers, when we were having a beer at Hinata, or the whaler or, you know, at the beach. So forging those relationships, you know, it's a q&a, you know, we're on the producing side, they're on the, they're on the deal side. So we've been able to, over the course of a few years, balance each other, say, Hey, let me you know, pick your brain on this, let me pick your brain on that. So that access to talent, or that access to a quick read, has been very beneficial. And that's a relationship thing. And I hate that term, but it is relevant, like any business. I think that you know, money talks, that's how you get your talent, you got to get to the talent. So how do you get through the gatekeeper? Oh, good story, some level of packaging, and then the offer that you can come in with. Now, once that talent is there, what we really focus on is having a good experience, you know, we want our talent to feel as though they're valued on set, they're not just a hired piece, you know, and so far, that's been pretty successful. Those conversations, go beyond the film, they turn into text messages, hey, you watching this game? Or hey, are you gonna be in LA or boulder or this or that? So it is it's relationships. And then, you know, we've been very fortunate to sort of repeat working with certain actors, and then when you do that, like anything else, it's human nature. People say, Well, these guys got to be doing something right. This guy's working with them a number of times and they bring in their friends and it's sort of a pyramid

Alex Ferrari 34:26
It's like kind of like who's dating the you know, the hot girl and then like, and then all the other girls all the other girls are like, well, in this ugly dude, obviously is I'm not the guy with the ugly dude. But

Jason Armstrong 34:40
I didn't know this was visual. So normally we need to

Alex Ferrari 34:48
But it's it's always kind of like but it's it goes with investors too. It's like who's the first one to the party. And then when you you have, you know, a hot girl or a hot guy at the party all the time. Everybody else all the other guys and gals go away. And why is that movie star hanging out with these guys? Constantly? Yeah. And then like, then you start investigating it. And they they're like, Oh, well, this. And I have to ask you, though, you know, once you build relationships with actors, which I've had the pleasure of being able to build relationships with actors over the years, I call them up sometimes directly, I'll go, Hey, man, I got a project you want in? We've already know it's a, it's a one on one relationship that we've built over years. And I go, I don't want to cut out the agent because you don't want to piss off the agent. So can you talk a little bit about the political minefield that is calling up the actor directly? Or maybe talking to the actor first and then go into the age? How do you guys know it straddle that?

Jason Armstrong 35:41
Well, we do exactly that. So I mean, we'll we definitely play by the protocols of how to detect it. Because the reality is, even if you have that relationship, you can have that conversation, you do need then to engage the team, because there's a lot of moving parts behind, you know, and certainly in the caliber of the actor actress, it that, you know, that teams obviously larger or smaller, there's a lot of moving parts in there. And, and you could probably have a Creative Conversation with talent for a little while. But in order for it to become real, it has to it has to go through the proper channels. And I feel as though there's a lot of cases where there is maybe that one on one relationship, and, and they'll talk about something for, like for an extended period of time. And because they haven't started engaging the right parties, it never really gets there. Because things are being built behind all of these talents. All the time. I mean, things are being evaluated for them to be started. Their schedule is filling up. I mean, sometimes their schedule is filling up, almost without their being aware of it. And it really I mean, I mean, they have to, they have to, they have to okay, but my point is, it's like there is a machine behind them. That is that is handling what they are attached to what they get engaged on. So So we typically, and I don't want to speak for both Rob, like for both of us, but we typically will have that conversation, but then we will then we go immediately to their team. So that so that everything, there's just clarity, and everything was just transparent, right from the start. Otherwise, it's almost getting the reset button. You know, you engage have this long conversation with town, and then you hit up the team. And it's like, you might hit reset, because right, it starts all over again. So

Rob Goodrich 37:35
Yeah, I mean, let's not pretend that there are egos that go top to bottom.

Alex Ferrari 37:39
What Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a bit. There's egos in this business? No,stop it.

Rob Goodrich 37:44
So the funny part is, is there, I hope agents and managers aren't listening. But you know, a lot of times, there might be bigger egos on that side of the aisle than the talent. And so I think that if you're not sort of appreciating and respecting every lane of the business, sure, then there's a lot of butthurt people, and they will literally stall, what could be a pretty easy transaction, you know, they get paid, the Africans paid, we get our actor, you know, and so, you know, what we try to do is, even if there's that personal relationship, we're very quick to stay in our own lane. Hey, you know, actress acts or actress bathroom, what, you know, we would love you for this project, we're gonna have our attorney reach out to your representation and have this go the right way. We present offers through the appropriate channels, we really tried to lead on our legal Well, we can just sort of create some buffer between what could be a relationship, whether it be an agent or an actor, and the actual business. I mean, we all I like to think we all have the same goal in mind. And 99% of the time, that's the case. But to Jay's point. I mean, we really are adamant about just doing things the right way. And we're the type of people that will go the extra mile and do the extra work. And if that means, you know, one extra step to make sure that that last person was on that email, or got notified that hey, this is gonna come through. We just wanted to do it this way. Well, then everybody's on the same page. And then that that actor or actresses team, then they can determine how to sort of circulate around something and we're very hands on from that point.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
I can't tell you how refreshing this whole conversation has been so far. I can't it's for people listening. It just doesn't happen. But what you guys are saying is what should be the industry norm, but is not. There's so many different kinds of players out there who don't do the basics. This is not like revolutionary stuff. You guys are talking about that. It's not rocket science, guys. It is it is basic, like basic thing. Like if you want to make coffee, you need a coffee bean like it's a simple, real basic stuff for most people. Like I'm gonna make coffee But out of mind, I'm like, Okay. And I'm gonna, and then I'm going to tell you it's it's the best coffee in the world. And I have a letter of intent from the best coffee being in the world. So it's remarkable, remarkable. Now, another thing that I find fascinating, but you guys is you guys are a production company. So but you do have deep wells in the investment world, meaning that you you finance your own projects, essentially, how do you? Or do you have any advice on pitching investors on your projects and how you kind of package them to a certain extent for for filmmakers, because that is, obviously everybody wants to know, like you said, at the beginning of this conversation, it's all about how we're going to get the financing to make art and hopefully make some money doing it.

Jason Armstrong 40:44
Well, I think that sort of circles back to your, your original, one of the questions that you made, Alex, which was if young filmmakers are trying to put something together, and they're going around to either look for a CO production partner, or something along those lines. One is, you know, betting things properly. And, and to making sure that you do have a model behind you. But I mean, for, for investors, it's recognizing that it's a business that you are, you're selling something. So you know, one of the things that Robin a conversation that Robin I have had with, with people when when we maybe don't see eye to eye, they brought us something, and we're looking at building it out with them, because we actually really do like the IP and everything. And don't worry, this is circling back to financing and money. But, you know, looking at building it out, is and there's some pushback look at them saying, I mean, tell me about another business that can operate that way. Like, take yourself out of the film business, and save what other business on earth could ever operate that way? Right? Where people would where people would be like, let me in, you know, let me let me give you my hard earned money, right, that I've been working for years for and I don't even care if you inherited it, it's still it was somebody, right? Somebody worked horses part earn money and put it into this, right? I mean, so that's like, the first thing you have to think about when you're approaching anyone is, wait a second, like you in depth, take yourself out of the arts, if you're trying to if you're trying to get people to give you a lot of money for an art take, remove yourself from it and recognize how would this operate in any other format? Right. And if you can see that, then that's great. But that's the that's one of the first things that Rob and I will say to someone, how would that ever work? So then outside of that, it's, it's like any business, you are trying to mitigate risk? Okay. And one of the one of the first things that anyone is going to talk about with regards to film, or sorry, or any, any, any form of media, for that matter, is, it's a risky investment. It's, it's a risky business. Because what you're selling is you're selling the product, but but you're also you're relying on people to like it, not that they need it, and especially right now, where there's endless content available to everyone. Now, it's not so much like, oh, you know, well, I need it, I need something to watch in the evenings, right? I mean, the kids have gone to bed, ideally. And now, you know, I can sit down and watch something and escape for a little period of time before you know, the morning comes there, they start to get that, that well is mess. So now, it's got to it actually has to be It can't just be the content. That's not what you're selling, are you actually selling something that people actually like, and what? So So I mean, that's, that's the whenever we talk about finance and bringing in money, we one we will have a model, so that we can show, look, we've evaluated the market, we recognize that the budget is going to speak to the market right now in this Shaundra our talent, this comes back to where you asked about, you know, or made a comment about finding that a Lister or that star that is going to drive sales, or be your most marketable piece in the film. You know, you have to actually, you have to pay very close attention that because not every actor speaks to every genre. And that'll be something that a lot of people present to us, they'll say, Oh, we think this person is perfect. And you know, and they sell so well. And be like Well, no, they sell so well but not not genre. They there's there's no knowledge in that. So yes, there are no name, but then you do have to actually it has to be you know, well researched as to whether they are going to inform sales speak that. So all of that is is basically just trying to find ways to mitigate the risk of investment on every project.

Alex Ferrari 44:53
And it is it is when you're when you're hiring an actor or a name actor, you're basically paying for marketing upfront, is you are investing in a marketing budget up front. So if you're getting if you're paying for Thomas Jane, he has a built in audience and a built in built in awareness that he's been able to build up over his career that has valued you. Can you do that for Bruce Willis? That's telling investors and that's telling people who are buying your film and buyers, you've, you've pre invested in marketing, where in a world where you know films of your size, you can't compete with the studio's just there's no way you can compete marketing money. There's just you can't you can't market your film.

Jason Armstrong 45:38
We're not matching. We're not matching our budget in marketing PR,

Alex Ferrari 45:42
No, no, are doubling or tripling. Yeah, exactly. And even if you did, what, what would that be? What value? Would that bring? Like? Seriously? Like, how could you would you even make a dent in the universe have some sort of awareness, but you put Bruce Willis in your movie, there's automatic awareness is automatic. So when you're scanning through 1000 things, you're like, oh, there's Bruce. Or there's Thomas, or, you know, there. And that's what you're paying for when you hired these these named actors. And that's what filmmakers need to truly understand. And also, another thing I always try to say is some actors. We were kind of joking about Bruce Bruce is still Bruce. And Nicolas Cage is still Nicolas Cage, no question. But there were certain actors who oversaturated the market with themselves. And I worked on movies, where the like, oh, this poor guy, like paid a good amount of money for this one actor, but he did 25 movies that year, I'm not exaggerating. And he went out to the distribution companies, like we already got three of those guys have that guy this year, we're good. And he got sick, he got saddled with a movie they couldn't sell, because the actor was oversaturated. So there's, you've got to kind of figure that out as well. It's a, it's a lovely type rope, we work we want.

Rob Goodrich 46:51
That's why we do pay close attention to speak pretty regularly with our sales guys and say, you know, what's in the pipeline for this individual? You know, what do we need to be aware of not today, but six months from now? Right? You know, I want to add one more thing to the financing. So, two things, really, I think the most important thing for people to take away is you have to be flexible, and you have to adapt, that adapt to the money and you have to adapt creatively. Because they're, they're intertwined, no matter what. So one of the ways that we really kickstart our projects, we have skin in the game, we'll put skin in the game as a company, so we can give an investment group and investor another company for a copro some level of confidence that, that we're in it. You know, we've got something to lose to we're working

Jason Armstrong 47:39
It is like being alone. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:44
Misery, misery loves company. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Rob Goodrich 47:52
The other thing I was gonna say in sort of, as we're looking at financial models, and as we're looking at sales, and how do we maximize something being marketable, we have not not changed the the gender of an actor or an actress in a film, we have flipped roles, because we've identified Oh, well, you know, that actor might be more might be better as an actress, because we can get this individually and might increase the marketability, so long as it doesn't take away from the creative. And, you know, Jay and I are very, not pushy, but very upfront with our filmmakers to say, look, any suggestion we have, we're in your corner. As a director, we're in your corner as a creative team, we are always going to be pushing for what makes this movie, the most marketable, most commercial it can be, because aside from the money, that means more eyeballs are going to see it. So if there are ways for us to make improvements like that, that's how it all connects the marketability, the commercial ability to sales, the money, the investors get their money back, they come back to us and say, What do you have next, and the actors are happy.

Alex Ferrari 49:03
So it's a win win, win win across everybody across everybody's and that's, again, another rarity in our business. To say the least. Now one thing, most most filmmakers have this problem and I think everybody at any stage in the in the game other than in the studio system is distribution is actually making money with their product. Because before the you know, with the cost to make the product was such a difficult thing and expensive thing. Now you can make a pretty high quality product with the right people at a low cost. But getting it out to the marketplace and actually generating revenue with that is more difficult now than ever before. In the ever changing landscape where T VOD used to be a thing now is no longer a thing really, especially in the independent film market. S VOD is great, but they don't pay you for three years. So how do you how do you make that business work? You know, a VOD is great, but you know so and then foreign sales is not what it wasn't the 90s or the early 2000s, and you don't have DVD to fall back on anymore. So how do you guys, you know, generate revenue with your films? Like how is it like how were you doing sales agents? Are you doing pre sales? Foreign? What? Where's that kind of work? I mean, obviously, don't give me numbers. I don't want to your entire business model guys, but just generally,

Jason Armstrong 50:19
No, absolutely. I mean, look, we honestly, it's, it's different with every film, so that that's just a fact. You know, there are a lot of there are a lot of filmmakers right now that are a massive part of their finance model is foreign sales. So they'll they'll lock in a certain amount of foreign sales, and then they'll maybe try and leave domestic open, but more often than not, they'll, you know, make a big domestic deal, too. And then they'll evaluate with that shortfall or that gap. And

Alex Ferrari 50:49
Is this pre is this pre production? Or is this after production,

Jason Armstrong 50:53
Pre production,

Alex Ferrari 50:53
So your pre sell your pre selling based on selling

Jason Armstrong 50:56
On pre selling to foreign, and then even looking, and then looking at an MG domestically, and then evaluating what a gap or shortfall could look like, Okay, now, that's so that could that back, that's why that's we need to pay very, very close attention to the film. So, you know, to how it's how that genre has been performing over the past couple of years, how your talent within the in the film have been performing, or who you're looking at signing into the film, have been performing over the past couple of years. Because if you have sort of pre sold the fill to all the major markets, and now you're you are recognizing that you still have a gap or a shortfall, and you're filling that with potential equity, instead of or maybe looking at your senior financing and thinking of bridge or something along those lines. The problem is that, that is where you can find yourself in a spot where you're training someone you saying, Well, this is what's left. And you know, we need this as a as a shortfall. You want it as equity or make an equity investment? Where are you pointing to the potential ROI for that money for the person that's coming in, because you've pretty much sold the Fill everywhere, where it's going to perform well. And if if you were so in need of the money to make the film, to greenlight the film, that you weren't able to evaluate the best deal, either from a domestic sale or in foreign, you weren't really looking at the windows, you know, or like when it was gonna be built. So you're all of a sudden, you're sitting at a spot where sure you got a complete model if they fill the gap, but how are you? How are you explaining to them where they're going to see revenue? Right, because things are going to get eaten by the foreign distributors and then the sales agents going to take their fee and then it comes back in and then if you were working with senior financier to cover all that, then they've got their fee and then that's coming out and and then all of a sudden, there's all these things are getting paid out ahead of this gap, or shortfall and the gap or shortfall doesn't even have any collateralised territories or profitable territories to sit on so so that's something to be very, you know, conscious of when you're when you are examining that sort of pre sale model, which we do and then if you know if you if you have a strong enough relationship with with sales and distributors and you can engage in these conversations and not have to perhaps you know, sell your film right up front but but have those conversations recognize what its worth is again, that's a lot of that is relationship based but it's also having worked with them in the past and delivered right so so there's there's that and then then when you're speaking to to someone from an equity standpoint, hard money as opposed to soft money, you can say look, we've deliberately left this this this this open, and let me show you how this genre and this talent has performed and not not five years ago.

Alex Ferrari 54:05
Yeah, so no Blair Witch projections, and no Paranormal Activity projections that's a horror movie and your sales pitch now like they made a billion dollars you could too

Rob Goodrich 54:18
Those other ones when they show you the comps in there from 2003

Alex Ferrari 54:25
Blair which is still on every low budget horror movie comp ever

Rob Goodrich 54:31
We see insidious Blair Witch

Paranormal and paranormal don't forget paranormal.

Jason Armstrong 54:37
Yeah. See, that's that's also so that's that's that's that's the other you know, that you know, we're that's what brings up a very important subject. We deal a lot with sort of savvy investors, right. So that have already been in the game so they expect a certain thing from our model. They know that they're going to get a game If they're evaluating it from a from hard money standpoint, that that we have, we have we can answer to their ROI we can answer to their immediate ROI. And, and we even have room in the waterfall, right? I mean, because, you know, people love talking about the waterfall. But there's so many cases where the gap is a shortfall, it would take so long for them even get their ROI, their initial ROI and their investment. Forget about the back end points. I mean, my God,

Alex Ferrari 55:30
Well, it's kind of like, it's kind of like a river. And it's going over to a waterfall. And at first, it's wide open, and the waterfall is plentiful, and there's a lot of water running through. But every time you throw some new financing, there's another log, there's another, there's another giant rock, and then all of a sudden that waterfall starts slowing down to the point where it's a trick by the time it gets to the edge. It's it's a trickle, but you sold them. You sold on the open waterfall. And that's the problem.

Jason Armstrong 55:57
Absolutely.

Rob Goodrich 55:57
I can't tell you how many times we've been distracted at earlier stages that Jay and I are big, you know, contract guys, right? So everybody knows what's going on? Everybody involved? You put it in the drawer after you sign it. Hopefully you never look at it again. But there's no lingering. Well, what about this? What about that kind of conversation? I cannot tell you how many how many projects have been stalled by producers or other individuals fighting for back end points. And you just want to say you got to make the damn movie first. Oh, yeah. Yeah, then maybe we'll see. So. But that's, that's a target. I always sort of get turned off by

Alex Ferrari 56:39
Oh, everybody. I mean, how many times I mean, I've had I mean, when I was first starting out, we were meeting my original producing partner when I was just starting off off a short film I was producing that was getting a lot of heat around town. And we were taking meetings, we were fighting about the feature rights were like, I want this credit. I want that credit. And I want this back end point. I'm like, and you know, only time kind of shows you like you're idiots. There's this is not Spider Man, guys, you need to calm the hell down. Like it's not you want to fight for those points. Absolutely fight away. But there's no potential let's make the damn thing first. And then let's talk about talk about what's kind of music. It's the same thing. Who's got the publishing rights? It doesn't have the publishing rights, same thing.

Jason Armstrong 57:23
Yeah. And, and I think that's the thing when you're saying sort of saying people using the Blair Witch on you know, on a deck to help sell their film or to help or to help work on investment for investors, you know, drop some hard equity into it. It's I mean, that can work for for investors that have no experience in the business dentist, a dentist. Well, that's sexy. I mean, yeah, I can't get an ROI like that on any other investment.

Alex Ferrari 57:50
But it's so but it's immoral. It's immoral. You can't you can't throw an anomaly. Blair, which was an anomaly, parent paranormal activities anomaly and didn't send

Jason Armstrong 57:59
There's no longevity to that. Right. There's no longevity. So you'll make one movie. And Robin, I've had this conversation many times, we have no interest in making one movie. That's so if you if you deceive, right, essentially, that's pretty much what it is. You just see, of course, investors, or you just see partners that are coming in on your project, and never coming back. And anyone they know, is never coming back saying you. You haven't forged a relationship that's now going to come back on your next two or three films.

Alex Ferrari 58:31
It's toxic, it's toxic,

Rob Goodrich 58:33
Starting from scratch all over again, on your next bill. We put so much work into building that out, would he go nowhere.

Alex Ferrari 58:41
And then and then and again. On top of that you're not even starting from scratch, you're starting worse than scratch because now you've got a bad reputation out there. And now you're gonna fight against that. That's when you move. That's when you move from Louisiana to Atlanta, Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to New Mexico, and New Mexico to Vancouver.

Rob Goodrich 58:59
Well, it's crazy, because it's such a it's such a big, big business, and it's expanding across the world. But it's a

Alex Ferrari 59:06
Small business

Rob Goodrich 59:09
That traveled

Alex Ferrari 59:10
You have no idea like I'm sure if you and I started you guys and I started like talking off air about who we know. I promise you we know the same people. And I've talked to so many people on the show and I'll be like, Oh yeah, I worked with that guy. Or that guy. I started with them when they were coming up or oh this guy or that. There's this but now and it's it's people think it's a big business. It is not everybody knows everybody small world. It's very small and it never ceases to amaze me how small of a world it really is in our business. And if you piss somebody off or you do somebody wrong, it will come back to you. There's no question, no question about it and the best advice I ever got for being in the film business and everyone listening knows this because I say at nauseum don't be a dick right? that goes from the grip to the PA all the way to the producers in the director. Because you don't want to work with you don't want to work with a dick. Oh,

Rob Goodrich 1:00:09
Well, you know, I always find it takes more energy to be a dick to just either be nice or walk away.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:17
Well, that's for you because other people have made it into an art form of being a dick. Have you run it? Have you run into that guy? I've run into that, but he might just only one. There's only the one guy in Hollywood. Who was a dick. Everyone else is super cool. But now, so what do you guys up to next? Well, your next project.

Rob Goodrich 1:00:39
So we're out in Las Cruces, New Mexico right now doing a film called Squealer with Andy Armstrong of the Armstrong family, huge stunt coordinating family and he is behind the camera right now. Big second unit director. So our idea behind that was let's take a sort of a horror thriller actually feel and punch the hell out of it and really pump up the stunts make it look like something people haven't seen before. We've got West Chatham, Theo Rossi, Catherine knotek, our cast is growing we're attaching to more today. We're thrilled about that. We dropped a pretty good nugget the other day in variety. We've acquired the rights to fame adventure, John Fairfax, who if you haven't been familiar with who this man is, the most interesting man in the World commercials were based off of him. Wow. So we're, we're very excited rode the ocean twice single or guys wild

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
Single word, single or really?

Rob Goodrich 1:01:41
Yeah. So I mean, I would advise anybody to go to his obituary New York Times, John Fairfax 2012, your mind will be blown.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
So you mean to tell me that sharks have a week dedicated to him is what you're saying.

Rob Goodrich 1:02:01
But now we're looking at a couple of big properties. We just, we just options, something with Thomas Jane, we're going to copro his next movie of Western late spring. And a number of things in the works. I mean, we've been very comfortable and excited and happy living where we've been living right now. And I think 22 and 23 are going to see us take a take a Leap, leap forward with some sort of higher caliber higher scale projects. That really, instead of doing this, four to four to seven movies a year, probably get it down to about three or four,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
Three or four Bigger, bigger ones, as opposed to bigger pictures. Yeah, that's a good four to seven super fun.

Rob Goodrich 1:02:45
That's a pretty good standpoint. I mean, we're always, you know, if we're EP in a project, that's fine, if that makes sense for us, and we can be of use, we're always looking, and we're always happy to help friends or finding projects. But from a real hands on producing standpoint, I think we're really looking to, to elevate the scale of what we're doing a bit, and we've got some good property to deal with.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:08
Now, I'm gonna ask you guys, quite a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give to a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Well, JJ is literally pissing himself right now. Jay is literally pissing himself right now.

Rob Goodrich 1:03:22
My assistant Alyssa, who is a huge fan of this podcast.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:27
Oh, that's awesome.

Rob Goodrich 1:03:28
She is She was a PA. And on our last production, I said, you know, I just My hands are too full to the production office. Do you guys have anybody who can help me out a little bit? Well, I'll tell you, she and her boyfriend have been the hardest workers on set as PDAs. And what they ended up doing on our last film was Alyssa was working with me on her third film, she's now flying out here to work with us. Her boyfriend ended up driving talent around, ended up working in different departments. So my advice and j then you can chip in is get in, get in there and PA, because if you are within eyeshot of somebody you're within your shot, and you're within arm's length, and they're going to pull you in, and they're going to give you an opportunity to say, come help me out. And eventually that conversation turns into, Oh, what do you want to do? Oh, you want to be in the camera department? Well, let me see if I can get you to be a camera PA, something along those lines. My big thing is start at the bottom. You know, you don't have to have a script. You don't have to try to be a filmmaker to be a filmmaker, I would really urge you know, try to get in on the ground and do as much as you can onset or in an office working with the people that are doing it.

Jason Armstrong 1:04:39
Yeah, I mean, so just to touch on and carry off what Rob said. The Yeah, I mean, really get engaged, get really engaged because understanding all the roles is so valuable. I mean, even if you're even if you're a screenwriter, an aspiring director, anything Understanding every everyone's job that's required in order to produce these things to deliver these things, because it's a lot of moving pieces. And if you're ignorant to any of those moving pieces, it's gonna affect your ability to, to, to properly present yourself or your material. So, so yeah, I mean, get in there, get different jobs, you know, even if it's not something that you want to do, learn it so that when you do actually get that door open to the, to the field that you love, you can actually speak intelligently, but what you need from different departments, different key heads, everything else. And then I would say outside of that, don't be precious, just don't be precious over your material, right? I mean, God, the number of people that are sitting on potential IP, and they're like this, well, I just it, this isn't the right, this isn't the right fit, or, you know, this, I'm worried that they're going to do this with it, or if I show it now, it's not gonna work out, and then I'm gonna, you know, and then it's gonna be gone. So, just don't, because the truth is, you will do that forever. And then then that material that you thought was just so valuable, it's not relevant, or, or you've given everyone so much time to either touch on a small piece of it, right? Because, you know, so many of our ideas, and so many of our creative ideas that we come up with, they're, they're triggered from something we've read something we've seen something we've experienced. And to think that there aren't a vast number of people that are experiencing the same thing, and might have similar ideas or anything else. So get it out there. See an opportunity? Don't hold it close to your chest. You know, be smart. Be smart, right? I mean, protect. Sure, Mark, but don't be precious.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:56
Yeah. And I always tell people, the business is tough enough, man, you don't need to throw more obstacles in front of you. There's going to be plenty of them along along the way without you screwing yourself up. Just you know, don't as as, as a famous sage once said, don't don't push the river. Don't it's yeah, don't push it's gonna flop.

Jason Armstrong 1:07:13
And you know what the best thing to say about you know, don't be a dick. Honestly, our business is stressful enough. Oh, God. I mean, be around dicks. Come on.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
Oh, and we all have been we all had been when we were coming up, we all have to do we all have to deal with either bosses or? Or egomaniacs? Or you know, or sociopath. I dealt with a mobster for a while. That's a whole other story. That's a whole other conversation. Um,

Rob Goodrich 1:07:42
You know, I'll tell you a quick story real quick. And I don't want to press time. But you know, I was a PA before and we're talking about Bruce Willis. And, you know, he was he was due to come into the office, and I was working for a very well known producer at the time. And he was neurotic. And I was like, why are you erratic? He goes, well, well, Bruce really likes a clean office, which understandably, and I'm looking around, and I'm like, David, this place is spotless, and he gets on his hands and knees. And he gets under a desk and he pulls out a piece of trash. And I got it, I'll get it. I'll get it. I'm the assistant, right. And he goes, doesn't matter. We're on the same team. I'm going to get reamed out by him. He doesn't know who you are, doesn't care who you are. And he goes, I'll just do it myself. I'm right here. That little lesson taught me so much. I'm going to just go ahead and do it. We're all in the same team. I don't have to have any level of hierarchy, hey, you go do this. It's got to get done. And I think if you can lead by example, it travels down all the way down the line. I mean, for some, for somebody that's coming up, you know, impressions matter. And if you if you listen, and if you're, if you're astute, and you're a go getter, and you don't have to talk to necessarily, you know, just absorb everything and be in the room. And I think that that could really go a long way for a lot of people.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
I mean, I saw a video of Keanu Reeves on John Wick for carrying camera gear up Astaire upstairs. Yeah, on a company move. And everyone's like, look at Keanu Reeves. Oh my God. He is literally you know, a saint. And I'm like, he's a human being man. He's, he said, he's just a good dude, man. I mean, he's like, he's just a good dude. That's all it is. Like, he's not like, he's not Jesus guys. You know, but he's, he's a good dude. And I love to work with them. As I'm sure everybody. So Kiana if you're listening, any three of us, any of us would love to work with you, sir. Well, we'll make it work for you. We'll make it work for you. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Rob Goodrich 1:09:48
Yeah. So you know, out mine is it's it applies to both. I have two young daughters. The lesson for me has been didn't know when to turn it off. So I always just been a hustler my whole life. And I always thought, Okay, I have to do all of these things if it's ever gonna happen, bla bla bla, you know, part of it's a function of being where we are career wise, that makes it a little easier. But, you know, especially during the pandemic, I was much more able to just press pause on everything, have lunch with my kids. And I think that that has translated into work as well, where I don't feel like I need to answer every email within five seconds. You know, there's a, there's sort of this, like, hurry up and wait mentality in Hollywood, but there's panic if I don't do it now. So I think the lesson learned for me is that it's okay to sort of take a be, you know, it's certainly been reflected in my work as well. Because I'm, I'm more you aware of what I'm putting out there. And I'm more conscientious of let's, let's just not push, push, push. But let's actually take a second, sit back, a take care of yourself for a moment, enjoy what's around you, and be you know, take some time to make sure that what you're doing, you're doing right,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:11
But is that but that also is his age. I mean, your 21 year olds are not generally coming to that enlightened state. You know, and it took me a while to man, I've been hustling as you can see still hustling with everything everywhere. Non stop. Yeah, to a certain point, my wife actually said, you don't, you don't need to garage sale anymore. We don't need you to go hustle out, you know, this or that. I got a real quick story. I gotta tell you, because it's so funny. And I think it really hits this point. A years ago, when we moved to LA for the first time. I was, during Christmas, I always figured out how to hustle things. So I figured out that on GameStop, there was this video game that you could buy on sale for like $15. But on Amazon, it was on sale for $50. So I was like, Oh, wow, this is cool. So most people are like, Oh, you must have bought like a whole bunch of things from GameStop. I'm like, No, that's way too much work. So what I did is I posted it on Amazon for 60. Anytime a sale would come in, I would then have buy it off of Gamestop put their address in and have Gamestop ship it directly to them. So I was basically doing auto arbitrage. And I pulled in like oh before Gamestop stopped, like 40 or 50 sales in before Gamestop saying what the hell's going on with this account. And I was so proud. I went to my wife. I'm like, Look how much money we made for Christmas. This is great. She's like, we didn't move across the effing country for use of video. We're here for you to be a filmmaker. I was like, oh, gosh, and this like that moment. You just have to go okay, I need to pull back for a second. Really what's important, and why am I here? What am I doing? As opposed to the I gotta make money? I gotta make money. I gotta hustle. I gotta hustle. I gotta hustle. Jay, what's your what's your answer to that?

Jason Armstrong 1:13:06
Uh, well then see, if we're looking at you know, without the years and age sort of coming into play. And young, I would say not to wait for tomorrow, like, where it's gonna be a little bit more perfected. Right. And, and so, and Rob was just sort of touching it like, I've got two little girls too. And same here.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:29
Yeah, same here. Amazing. Well, well, twin girls, twin girls, man, it's a I'm 25 Look what they've done to me. I'm 25 years old. Look what I've done to me.

Jason Armstrong 1:13:39
I think that's the thing. You know, I mean, it's it's basically, it's a you don't, because there is that, especially in this business. And again, you sort of touched on that where I was sort of saying to be loving, precious. It's, um, it's waiting, you know? Oh, it'll be I'll have this other piece attitude by tomorrow, or this will be finessed a little bit more by tomorrow. And then that tomorrow becomes the tomorrow tomorrow. And, and yeah, I mean, that's just it ends up being wasted time. So I would say I would say that that's something that took me a while to learn at the beginning. Especially as a writer at that time. It's it's you know, yeah, don't wait.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:22
The art of good the art of good enough. Yeah, the art of good enough because if not, you'll be five years on one script. And, and last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Rob Goodrich 1:14:39
Oh, boy, you want to jump in there?

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
Not really.

Jason Armstrong 1:14:49
I mean, this guy you got to put in Weekend at Bernie's.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:52
I mean, obviously, obviously,

Jason Armstrong 1:14:55
Obviously Weekend at Bernie's has to be in there.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:00
David Oh God I forgot the director's name well, man

Rob Goodrich 1:15:04
Whatever you say is gonna sound better than mine

Jason Armstrong 1:15:08
I don't know we can hit one hit one we'll go bounce back and forth.

Rob Goodrich 1:15:13
Okay so I'll give you my three but one of them has an A attached to it So in no particular order we've got Rudy we've got Tommy Boy we've got Love Actually.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:27
Wow, so that pretty much told me everything I need to know about you sir. It's a pretty much got your entire personality wrapped in those three films.

Rob Goodrich 1:15:36
And I'll give you I'll give you my three a national treasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:41
Oh my God.

Rob Goodrich 1:15:45
Listen, I'm in this game. entertainment. Entertainment. I swear to God if national treasures on I am not moving and I can recite every line.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:56
I am I think I think you're not gonna have a beer sir. Those three those those three combination that's a hell of a. That's a hell of a compliment. Love actually thrown it will laugh. Tommy Boy, Rudy.

Jason Armstrong 1:16:10
It's so true though. If you actually back up and just evaluate your favorite films, but the films that you've watched 1000 times rideable number of times, and if it's on you don't turn off. And you actually don't even start multitasking. But watching well actually, I mean, that happened what for that? I can't even imagine the 100th time over the holidays. This you just keep watching. Because it's always on the holidays. And all of us go anywhere. And

Alex Ferrari 1:16:43
It's it's it's you know, we all could say Citizen Kane. We could all say Godfather but I haven't watched this again since film school. And Godfather is not a movie I watch every weekend. You know it's and don't get me wrong Godfather is an AMAZING film. But it's those movies that you just watch again and again. You know, for me, Shawshank fightclub the matrix that solid, solid solid three like they turn on, then you want to get into the 80s actions Lethal Weapon predator, Die Hard. And then we now we could just

Jason Armstrong 1:17:18
See this is what? I can't do this. I start saying

Alex Ferrari 1:17:24
Oh, but this was Oh yeah. You know, it is I always like throwing that out. There's like it's three that come to mind at this moment in time. It will change tomorrow will change five minutes from now. But at this moment in time, That's it boys. It has been an absolute joy talking to you guys. I wish you guys nothing but continued success in what you're doing. And I appreciate you guys coming on and sharing some real knowledge bombs with with my audience because if they need to hear it, they need to hear from people who are doing it and doing it right. So I do appreciate you guys coming on man and much continued success. You guys.

Jason Armstrong 1:18:01
Thank you.

Rob Goodrich 1:18:02
Thank you. It's an honor for us and we're fans of the podcast and you know, we're looking forward to making more movies.


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