Spike Jonze Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Adam H. Spiegel (born October 22, 1969), known professionally as Spike Jonze, is an American actor, filmmaker, musician, and photographer. His work includes commercials, film, music videos, skateboard videos and television.

Spike Jonze made up one-third (along with Andy Jenkins and Mark Lewman) of the triumvirate of genius minds behind Dirt Magazine, the brother publication of the much lamented ground-breaking Sassy Magazine. These three uncommon characters were all editors for Grand Royal Magazine as well, under the direction of Mike D and Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch before the sad demise of Grand Royal Records.

Jonze was also responsible for directing the famous Beastie Boys: Sabotage (1994) short film as well as numerous other music videos for various artists.

Below are all the screenplays 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).


Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Directed by Spike Jonze- Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Produced by Spike Jonze- Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Directed by Spike Jonze – Read the screenplay!


Produced by Spike Jonze- Read the screenplay!


Screenplay and Directed by Spike Jonze- Read the screenplay!

HER (2013)

Screenplay and Directed by Spike Jonze- Read the screenplay!


BPS 231: How I Got My Shot to Write & Direct for Sony Studios with Jessica M. Thompson

Jessica Thompson is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker who made her feature writer-directorial debut with “The Light of the Moon”. The film won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Film at the SXSW Film Festival. “The Light of the Moon”, starring Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, In The Heights, Encanto), enjoyed a limited theatrical release to sold-out screens in both New York and Los Angeles and heralds a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. Critics called the film “harrowingly effective” (Variety), “honest and complex” (The Hollywood Reporter), and Film Inquiry stated, “for any filmmaker this would be an unmitigated triumph, but for a first time filmmaker this is revelatory.”

Jess was the lead director on Showtime’s original series, “The End”, produced by the Academy Award-winning See-Saw Films (The Power of the Dog, The King’s Speech). “The End” is a dramedy, told through three generations of a dysfunctional family who are trying to die with dignity, live with none, and make it count. The series received five-star reviews from The Guardian and The Times.

In 2021, Jess directed her second feature, “The Invitation”, a Sony Picture’s thriller-horror, written by herself and Blair Butler. It will have a worldwide cinematic release on August 26th, 2022.

After the death of her mother and having no other known relatives, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) takes a DNA test…and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, she’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocrat host but is soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets in her family’s history and the unsettling intentions behind their sinful generosity.

In 2010, Jess founded Stedfast Productions, a collective of visual storytellers who use film to explore the complexity of the human story.

Jess is an Australian filmmaker who resides in Los Angeles. She is repped by CAA, Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment, and Independent Talent Group (UK).

Enjoy my conversation with Jessica M. Thompson.

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Jessica M. Thompson 0:00
You have to keep going, you have to keep trying. Because you know, if you became you know, I think it's like a professor or whatever, you know, if you could change something else, you will never love it as much as you love filmmaking, you will never feel completely satisfied. So really what kept me going always kept making waking me up in the morning. And don't get me wrong. There were some days where I really like I really didn't get out of bed. Like I was like, just like, I had a big no, after working so hard for free. And that's something else that they don't tell you, especially with directing how much work you do for free before you get a job.

Alex Ferrari 0:30
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show. Jessica M. Thompson. How're you doing Jess?

Jessica M. Thompson 0:45
I'm doing great. How are you doing?

Alex Ferrari 0:47
I'm doing great. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I am excited to talk about your new project the invitation which is just insane. It's insane. It's beautiful. I want to talk to you about production design. I want to talk about how you got that. Everything I want to talk about all that stuff, because it obviously wasn't done for five grand. So

Jessica M. Thompson 1:05
I've moved on. I've moved on in the world from my little indie films that I made for, you know, $100,000.

Alex Ferrari 1:11
You know what, but that that those are the ones those are the ones who get you started. And you probably learned you've learned Christ so much in that $100,000.

Jessica M. Thompson 1:20
Oh, no. And I actually do think that restriction helps you be more creative. You know, like, you've got to stretch that bother you got budget, you've got to make it work, you know, and that's why indie filmmakers, so entrepreneurial, you know, there's so they'll make any budget stretch.

Alex Ferrari 1:35
I mean, you have to I mean, there's no choice in the matter, kind of like you're against the wall when you're an independent filmmaker, because, you know, there's no one's show, there's no as as Mark Two plus as the Calvary is not coming.

Jessica M. Thompson 1:46
That's right, it's you. And that's why I mean, I'm sure it was my first film, I was like the writer, the director, the editor, the producer, I also was the Social Media Manager, I did the posters, instance you end up wearing every single hat. But by that, by that, what's great about that, as you get to know every single aspect of the industry, you know, and so that makes you better informed. And so that's why I always whenever there's like, executives that I meet with and they're a little bit hesitant about hiring an independent filmmaker to do either TV or whatever. I'm like, You don't understand how you know, we're scrappy, scrappy, resourceful, you know, independent filmmakers, if you need to film you know, seven pages, eight pages, nine pages in a day, we'll do it.

Alex Ferrari 2:24
There's no question. No question. So my first question is how and why in God's green earth? Did you want to get into this insanity that is called the film industry?

Jessica M. Thompson 2:33
I mean, that's a great question. But to be honest, I was. I come from a family that is not you know, in the creative arts by any means. My mom, first generation Australian, my mom is from a tiny little country called Malta. And yeah, so we grew up very much blue collar roots. She's a single mom, I have three siblings, you know, and I at 12 years old, I watched Brave Heart. And I decided, I want to tell stories. on film,

Alex Ferrari 3:01
How old were you when you watch Braveheart?

Jessica M. Thompson 3:03
Well may may 15 Yeah, I can't remember the year but made me think that I was 12 years old. It was one of those blockbuster Fridays, you know, where you every family goes down to Blockbuster and picks them here in the new big here. It was like Braveheart. So we all watched it. And because like I said, I was the youngest of four right before the end. My mom was like, Jess, she paused it and was you know, I can spoil Braveheart. Everyone should have watched it. But right before William Wallace gets like hung drawn and quartered. She pulled it she's like, Jess, you're too young for this go to bed.

Alex Ferrari 3:34
Really? Now. Now?

Jessica M. Thompson 3:35
I was like, no, no, you can't do this to me. And so as I say, as we say, in Australia, I checked the tanti like fruit and stormed upstairs and I had this I did this crazy thing where, you know, there's big old school alarm clocks. This is before the internet came before mobile phones, yeah. Before iPhones or whatever. So I set my alarm clock to 230 in the morning, and I put it inside my pillowcase. And it so that it would wake me up at night, wake up the rest of the house. And I crept downstairs, and I rewound it and had to rewind because it's VHS, and I had to like not watch what happened around it and watched it. And then I was just I was like, that's it. I want to that's it. The story just moved me so much. I just wanted to tell story. So I opened up the Yellow Pages.

Alex Ferrari 4:21
How is that possible? You look like you're 20 my dear. How is that possible? You don't even know what a yellow?

Jessica M. Thompson 4:27
I'll take. I'll take that. I'll take the couple of bucks. But yeah, so I opened up the Yellow Pages. And I looked up Film, film schools, like in film, like, you know, places to go to. And like I said, we grew up on welfare like I didn't, you know, we had, luckily the government of Australia is very, you know, kind to its citizens. And, you know, and my mom couldn't afford it. So I went to work at Toys R Us to pay for my screenwriting classes by acting classes, my directing classes, and I've never looked back. I've never wavered.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
So the fascinating part about that story is that at the end, is when your mom said you No, I think this will be a little bit too much for you, not the not the decapitations, or the legs being cut off, or any of anything.

Jessica M. Thompson 5:08
No horse dying.

Alex Ferrari 5:12
The horse dying

Jessica M. Thompson 5:14
100 horses that died out.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
You know what's so funny about that movie that horse dying sticks out in so many people's head even though it's a fake course, obviously. But it sticks out in people's head more than the 1000s of men. Well, you know, that was?

Jessica M. Thompson 5:28
Well, you know, Francis Ford Coppola with apocalypse. Now, that whole scene where he picks up the Labrador puppy, and they hold the gun to its head. That's the thing that people remember. And like, you know, in his whole point of putting that in was like, we have become so desensitized to the death of humans and the violence against humans. And it's such a great way visual way to tell that and of course, as soon as that happens to everyone in the theater, I mean, I was, I am a bit too young. I did not watch that in the theaters.

Alex Ferrari 5:53
But then, when he was when he was slicing, I think they were killing it. Was it the calf or the cow while they were killing? Marlon Brando? Again, sorry, spoiler alert, guys, if you have, it's not our

Jessica M. Thompson 6:03
Failure on movies that everyone listening to this podcast would have listened to it, I would have watched it.

Alex Ferrari 6:08
If they haven't. It's not my fault that these are prerequisites. These are prerequisites. So alright, so when you when you started going down this journey, I'm assuming coming from Australia, the Hollywood just called you right and just said, Hey, can you come over? Do you want and how much money works.

Jessica M. Thompson 6:25
So like, you've got like a really great accent. Let's like you're here, you're in New York. So what happened was at 18, I went to film school in Australia called University of Technology, Sydney, they have a really good film film program that was super hard to get into. I was the only kid from that side of town, just I know, people listening might be more American skewed. But I come from like the not pretty Bondi Beach part of Sydney, basically. So I used to have to commute to university an hour and a half there an hour and a half back. Yeah, but I was with all these posh yuppies, whose parents were in the film industry already. So I already hadn't had to, you know, compete with these kids. And I just put my all into it. You know, we went to a technological film school. So we had access to 16 millimeter cameras, we have access to digital, you know, everything I learned to edit on a Steenbeck originally, you know, and that was just to show us the trade. That's not because of my age. Yeah, you know, and so we made a film almost every month, like you had access to every URL to, you know, you know, industry standard equipment, and recording studios and things like that. So you're encouraged to use that as much as possible. And I just did, I just dived in and like, did it. And it's through university, through film school that I really fell in love with editing. And I realized how important editing is to, you know, to crafting a story. It's basically, you know, the three storytellers, the writer, the director, and the editor, you can make a completely different film in the edit room, right. So so then I just, I looked at some of my favorite directors, and a lot of them have an editing background like you know, Jordan, Cohen, Kurosawa even you know, like so I decided after that to go into editing, it felt like a bit more of a clear path and doing the production hustle. That being said, I've also done you know, production managing and things like that. But yeah, so I got into editing climbed up the ranks, only doing commercials and music videos at that point. Did one documentary and then and then I kept applying I kept making short films. I kept applying for grants in Australia you most things get done through the government there which is called Screen Australia. It's like our I don't know it's like really anything to get anything made in Australia. And I just found I couldn't I couldn't break in in Australia. I couldn't it's a smaller industry obviously. But we have a lot of American productions that come down there which is great you know, we have the doors and you know, the Batman's whether they go but come down there and shoot our commands and stuff. So but that's not really if you want to be a writer director. That opportunity Yeah, because it's the they're gonna bring the American directors and stuff so

Alex Ferrari 9:02
So let me ask you because your path is similar to mine because I started in the editing world as well. That's how I learned the AVID. I did Steenbeck I thought it was the

Jessica M. Thompson 9:11
I did the I did the AVID as well. I can say that was nice. Just for like, you know,

Alex Ferrari 9:16
It was in my school they taught me they taught me our dad taught me nonlinear editing, online editing. And then they took me to a Steenbeck I'm like, Are you just what you savages? Like what is this that you want me to film with a scissor or razor and it was just it was mind blowing to me like and you want me to put tape on and if I'm kind of on the fence, but if you really liked the cut you glue it are we like how is like it would blow my mind

Jessica M. Thompson 9:47
And to do a crossfade you like actually like crossfade it? Oh my god,

Alex Ferrari 9:52
What is what is going on? By the way I have to ask I have to ask because in America in every film school in the country when You use the Steenbeck you always use the same footage. It was just stock footage, the same one. It was an episode of Gun Smoke. No, that was Was it okay. I was wondering what that was. Because every from USC to NYU to my little school down in Orlando, they all used the Gun Smoke it because when I talk to other editors or other filmmakers, I kind of see my digital gun smell. Yeah, that's what we did.

Jessica M. Thompson 10:26
Guns. Mike is getting some residuals from this. But nothing smokes it.

Alex Ferrari 10:31

Jessica M. Thompson 10:33
We had to, we shot on it was our own films, we stop and fix. Oh, wow.

Alex Ferrari 10:38
Yeah. So yeah, so I did the same thing. And I because I wanted to be a director. So I was like, I'm gonna go through the editing process, because that's like, I don't want to be on set because I did the set thing. And waking up at three o'clock in the morning for like, 50 bucks to be a PA and then just sitting somewhere in the not even near set in the mud somewhere, driving, telling people where to park that's like, this sucks. This is not well.

Jessica M. Thompson 10:59
And also, when you think about it with editing, you're one step away from the I mean, you're right there, you're working with the directors, you're working with the producers, actually. So therefore, you know, when you're a PA or you know, you're so far you never meet those people, you never even get to interact with them, though. It's great experience. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone should pay the dues. And you know, you know, work on sets as well. But I think it's like, I don't know, I found editing to be a bit more of a clear a defined path for me. And also, I mean, it's an incredible skill to know, and it helps you as a director. So

Alex Ferrari 11:28
Massively, it massively helps you as a director. So let me ask you that, how did you make the trip? How do you make the transition from Australia to the US? What what was that? Because I think that's where the interesting part is in your story, because you had to come up. It was tough in Australia, but now you're a little fish in a very big pond out here. So how did you make that transition? And how did you even just get work and survive?

Jessica M. Thompson 11:50
Yeah, so I was 24. When I moved over to the States, I got to LA for six weeks and was like no, not for me. At the time, I now do live in LA but at the time, LA is a brutal place when you don't know anyone I literally knew nobody in the state 00 connections. I started to go on a road trip for nine months. And I visited 40 states and all a lot of Canada, Canada as well. And I filmed this was during the 2009 kind of financial crisis. And I shot a little like kind of documentary road story, meeting some of the people that I met, you know, on the way and things like that never finished that. So, but it was really fun. I really got to know I think the US, you know, my new my new home, and I landed in New York, it was a bad decision in that I really used up a wall with my money on that road trip.

Alex Ferrari 12:39
Don't beat yourself up. You're 24 We were already there.

Jessica M. Thompson 12:41
And I slept I slept in the back of my car. I like made a very, you know, I did it. I did a very low key. But yeah, I got to New York and New as the second I made in New York. I was like, this is this is my home city. I love this place. And yeah, like I said, move there with very little money. And I because I had these skills of an editor. I started to get freelance work as a commercial editor. But of course, knowing that I wanted to kind of transition into features. So I actually took a step back in my career and took an assistant editing job with Liz Garbus. The, you know, she's done a lot of great documentaries. She did the Nina Simone one recently on a HBO film called there's something wrong with that, Diane. And then what was great is she brought me into her next film, which was called Love mountain and and that was actually a narrative documentary hybrid. And so he brought me into edit that one. So then I got to, you know, a new that I started to get. Yeah, so then I was off. So then I started to get a lot of editing. And being a bit which is a bit easier for women documentarian and filmmaker in the industry and the feminists are definitely like, much more common and more accepted. So it felt like a little bit easier to break in, in that regard. And I feel documentary and narrative. They're all storytelling right there to me, they're not we put such a divided between them, but especially in terms of editing because you just get all the footage and then they're like, Okay, make a story. Like, okay, so with the, for instance, the Greg Louganis documentary that I edited HBO Yeah, like that had archival from like multiple Olympics. And I should say my brother was an Olympian. So that's why I was really interested in like this, you know, what happens to our Olympians once they've kind of done and especially when, you know, Greg, being queer and HIV positive, he really didn't have an easy go though. He's like, the best diver in the world. So I was really interested in that story. But then we had sit down interviews, then we had buried a footage and it's literally like, craft the story. And that was really, you know, in terms of screenwriting, that's a really incredible process to go through. You know, it's a really great skill to know. Yeah, and then basically, I felt I'd made another short film in New York, and then I felt ready. I had written a lot of the moon I realized a lot An idea is actually bigger than a lot of them. They're shocking, shocking, shocking. So a lot of them are more sci fi or more genre based. And I have a joke that my friend that I made day one of film school color below, where he's produced all of my short films and produced the light of the moon with me. And he I have enjoyed that. He said to me, Okay, Jeff, you've got two characters in six locations now, right? Something like, he was like, you keep writing things that are just too big to make, like

Alex Ferrari 15:29
45 locations five, five company moves in a day? Yeah, got it.

Jessica M. Thompson 15:33
Yeah. Yeah. So he's like, that's all that's all we'll be able to fundraise, you know, so we did this, I did that then a lot of the men came to be, unfortunately, because it happened to a friend of mine. And and I said to her, I haven't seen this story told in an authentic way, you know, about a woman's recovery and about how it affects her relationship to work. But also, when she really doesn't want to be the label of a survivor or victim. Like she's like, No, she just wants to, she wants to keep a sense of humor. She wants to like, you know, she doesn't want her friends to worry about it like, and I just thought that was a really interesting modern story. And one that had not been very well. So I wrote it. And then And then yeah, we made it from $100,000.

Alex Ferrari 16:14
And you know, it did its job because it got you your new film the invitation. But before we get to the invitation,

Jessica M. Thompson 16:21
I want to say that everybody in that in we'll get back to that every single person who in the light of the moon, I'm so glad that their star has risen because of that film, from the producers, to the actors to the you know, to the hair and makeup artists. Everyone you know, I love that when you when you everyone puts their heart and soul into something and it really pays off. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
Now you also did the apprenticeship on The Handmaid's Tale, which, to be fair, not a bad apprenticeship. I mean, if you're going to do one, I would have liked that that would be nice. So

Jessica M. Thompson 16:51
What I told my rep, I mean, so that was the light of the moon and I met my managers at South by Southwest, which I really was ill prepared for like, I did not realize how much film festivals I just like a meat market. Sorry, I should say that.

Alex Ferrari 17:04
It is at the top guys like Sundance South by Tribeca, like some of the big boys. They are something like that. But yeah, if you got a movie in there, you'll get.

Jessica M. Thompson 17:12
Yeah, you also and we sold the film at the festival, which sometimes doesn't happen. We were very fortunate that it did happen to us. So you're having those meetings, you're meeting lots of managers. And I was like, Whoa, this is like I thought I was just gonna go and watch 100 movies. No, I saw like three films. It was so sad. Yeah, so I met my reps there who have just been incredible supporters of mine. And I said to them, I really want to do an apprentice and I want to do it on The Handmaid's Tale, and they made it happen. Now I will say like as glamour it was fantastic. And I really like helped me. And, you know, it was an incredible experience. But what they don't tell you is that you pay your way you pay for the flights you pay for your accommodation. It's expensive and it's really it shows you how classes this industry is you really so I really went into the red that year. And I'm very grateful that because I came up in commercials that I had a little bit of savings behind me but I'd really I mean, I'd maxed out my credit cards to make the film. I donated my eggs. To make the film

Alex Ferrari 18:10
I found another one I had a I had a filmmaker who came on to donated her eggs and Sanyo Hara of course Anya Yes, she was in life. She was in my last movie. She was the star of my last movie.

Jessica M. Thompson 18:21
Yeah, she's my best friend.

Alex Ferrari 18:24
Sonya is amazing. I love it.

Jessica M. Thompson 18:26
Yeah, but we did it. We actually donated our eggs separately, did not know each other and then met and we were like, Hey, you must be the only other person to have done.

Alex Ferrari 18:35
So So what were some lessons you picked up on The Handmaid's Tale, because that's a heck of a set to be on.

Jessica M. Thompson 18:40
Yeah, I mean, it was really like that scaling up of all the ideas that you have, right. So it's like, you know how to do it, you know about doing it on that scale and doing it with that timeframe doing it with that amount of departments that amount like this. So many people, it's like such a well oiled machine, that show an actor's really know their characters inside and out. So a lot of your work as a director, if you're coming in episodically is already done in terms of, you know, your actor, it's not like you're doing extensive rehearsals or anything like that, because unless there's a specific scene that's like a little bit novel or something. So, yeah, I mean, I learned so much about the pace of TV, and like, and how quickly everything news and how well I mean, I learned how your first ad can really make or break a day like news like that. Oh, yeah. And really saw that come into action. You know, it's basically taking what you know, and doing it on a small you know, obviously, we had 15 days to shoot the London and so then going from that and scaling up and having, you know, five days in 12 days and episode for an hour, you know, 13 days an episode is like such a joy in such a you know, but you've got to make sure those days are running really smoothly. Yes, I learnt a lot I'm gonna learn about Michael Parker, who was the director I was shadowing was an absolute legend. And he really kind of showed me his process and how we goes about kind of formulating the story cracking the story of figuring out. And also, you know, the biggest thing I learned was that the scripts come in the morning. And it's crazy that like, to me, I've always had the privilege. And luckily, even with my TV series, the end that I did sound stress had written every single episode before I even came on board. So that's, that's a big privilege in the TV industry, you know, and a lot of the time you're, you've got the idea of the episode, you're told, they were like, you're told what kind of locations you'll need. But you quite often won't have a final script or the morning that you're shooting. And that I told me that I have to kind of relinquish control sometimes and just go with the flow.

Alex Ferrari 20:40
Wow, that's yeah, it's, it's, I've been on many sets on direct TV sets. And it's, it's amazing how insane it's a well, it's organized chaos, in so many ways, because everybody knows what they're doing. The machine is running. But stuff like that happens. You just like, and then the actors just go, they just learn their lines quickly. And I mean, isn't it wonderful? Because I mean, you've worked in the indie space, and you've worked with in the professional like really high end professional space. It's been a wonderful when you get to work with like, quality professional actors, that just Oh, yeah, that you just don't have to, like, learn your lines, man. You know, your mark, man. Like none of it. That's all they just know what they're doing. You basically are just there to capture the lightning, as I say.

Jessica M. Thompson 21:24
I mean, consummate professionals, it really does make a difference right?

Alex Ferrari 21:29
Now, when you first walked on a set as a director, in a professional manner, not your indie project, but in a professional set of a television show something, what was that day like for you, because at that point, you've already got a handful of hours under your belt, you know, you know, hundreds of hours, probably under your belt of being on set one way, shape, or form, plus all your experience in the editing room. But that first day, when they're like there's a check at the end of the week for you. And you're walking and you're like, I gotta run this whole thing. And these guys all know, hell a lot more than I do. Probably. What was that feeling? Like?

Jessica M. Thompson 22:05
I mean, first of all, I never sleep the day before. So it's just I always try I try every technique, I get the lavender scented candle down. And I you know, you know listening to hypnosis and sleep stories and things. It doesn't matter, none of it, I take a yeah, all the melatonin and none of it works. I will just I just know now that I will be up all night. And it's fine. Because the next day you just done pure adrenaline, right? You have it that first day was probably was on the set at the end. And I mean, it's such a it's your, your heart is buzzing, you're you're just saying what the smell of your face. But also there's like a nervous energy, there's a nervous, you know, anticipation, to, you know, your all the things that you've been working towards, or the things you've been studying over, or that now it's coming into play. And I can feel you know, there's this kind of it happens on every set, where the kind of executives and the producers they all kind of lean in a little bit. They're all a little bit like, Okay, this you know, we know this one was incredible. We really love her work, but is she does she have the goods and then I love that throughout that first day when that first like kind of take and at first, you know, the scene starts to come together, and whatever. And I love feeling that relaxed moment where everyone's just like, Oh, she knows what she's doing.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
Okay, good. She knows what a camera is. She knows what an actor is fantastic.

Jessica M. Thompson 23:25
Yeah, she knows how to make it look great. She knows how to get the right performances. Fantastic. And so I love when there's that moment when I feel that element of trust is like, okay, she got this.

Alex Ferrari 23:35
So let me ask you, because so, so many people don't talk about this. And this is something I love talking about on the show, the politics of the set. Nobody talks about the politics of this, especially when you're a young director, someone coming in for the first time when you're dealing with some of these veterans on set. I had a script supervisor who was questioning me on set when I was on a job. And I had already been directing for quite some time. But she didn't know my resume. This is pre internet as pre IMDB. So nobody knew that, you know, just to see as young director, and she was giving me crap every second and she was questioning me in front of other people every second. And she had been around forever and I had to deal with I had to pull her aside. I'm like, look at you know, either get on board or get off the set. And I had to put her in her place. And then with after the first day, we I think we had it this is an insane amount of setups, but I must have done between the two cameras about 70 or 80 setups. And in a 10 hour day, I move really really quickly. And because of being an editor, I just, I just know what I need. So I just have probably at the end of the day, I found out that the producer had sent her in as a spy, to make sure I was doing it Ken is this guy capable of doing this job? And then at the end, she's like, No, he's perfectly fine. You could do the job. But this is the kind of stuff that you've got You don't talk about so how did you I'm assuming in your career, there's been a one or two times that some a crew member, a DP or a production designer or scripts, or first ad, push back or their ego got out of control, and you had to kind of step up, what was that like and how you deal with those kind of political situations.

Jessica M. Thompson 25:21
I mean, it's luckily the more and more that I've gotten on and then less and less that happens, which is fantastic. But yes, there was definitely something a little bit I'm sure the structure but like young filmmakers and female filmmakers, I don't think I know it's crazy. But I come in and I'm pretty we have a word that bolshy, which I don't think really translates that bad. Like, you've got good stuff. I think I've got a lot of good stuff. So I think they I think there's a little bit of respect already that's done it but I will say the people that I have the usually have the biggest problem with his gafas. Yah, grips blessa. But for some reason gafas they usually come from these kind of old school. Tough guy on the set, yeah, got it. Exactly. Drinking beer out of there, like, you know, camo pack. And things I love to take the peace and love to shoot the cheered, I love to you know, I can, I can, you know, keep up with the best of them. But sometimes I just think there's a moment where it's, there's always been a bit of like, Look, you need to you need to, you know, chill out, and you need to like, listen to me, and you need to stop this. Luckily, I will say I've worked with incredible first, they think they have a real knack for picking a person ID. And I've always, you know, gotten along really, really well. My first they didn't have always had my back and always kind of helped me navigate those situations. And that's another reason why a first idea is worth their weight in gold, because they really protect the director from some of those situations. You know, and I will say in the commercial work because I do commercial directing as well. DPS in that are certain type of animal, and I cannot handle the talkback, I cannot and I have a like now I just have a no alcohol policy. So if someone is really doing that, then no, I don't have time for you, like, get off my set. And you know, luckily, I'm in a position where I'm allowed to do that. But even even with the invitation, you know, there's always there's always here's what, here's what I say I'm so good at picking my hods I made sure that we have such similar tastes and sensibilities, I look at their bridesmaids. I love what they do. And I make sure that, you know, we've got we've got, it's like a mind meld, right. But there's always going to be focused on at the time we disagree. And I think that those 5% is really telling of a person's character and personality. When how because I love to collaborate. I love to I want to hear your ideas and why you want to do it that way. And at the end of the day, I'm the director, like, you've got to, you got to, you got to do what I say. And so that was you know, and I won't name names, but there was some times aren't even on this set, where I was like, Oh my gosh, like we just at the end of the day, I understand where you're coming from, but this is where I'm coming from, you need to just do it. But it is it is odd and I wish it's getting like I said it's getting less and less. And I really do respect everyone having their own in their opinions, but it's when it's in a disrespectful manner. And I will say I want to put shout out to the Hungarian crews most respectful crew up there in Australia and America nothing compared to the Hungarian cruise. I was like wildly impressed with how much respect that and then you got it you can imagine that it's a very male dominated crew. It's still I never felt like anyone was didn't think that I was capable or you know, everyone, everyone really respected me that even called me Madam Director, which I thought was a fun.

Alex Ferrari 28:38
That's actually adorable. I love that. I would like to serve director that would be nice.

Jessica M. Thompson 28:44
I was like guys need to stop. I've no no keep going.

Alex Ferrari 28:47
But no by you please more more of that, please. No, it's important to put these kinds of stories out there because a lot of directors will walk on set not even know that this is a situation that because I remember when I first got on set, and I had to address something like that I wasn't prepared. I just you're just not told about this. You don't have the tools or the ammunition to kind of deal with it. And if you've got an older you know, you got a gaffer who's been in the business for 40 years is like when I worked with Coppola. I'm like, What do you like? And you're like, 25

Jessica M. Thompson 29:19
Yeah, exactly. And that there was a reason why you've been hired right? There's a reason was because the the producers they trust on your vision, you know, someone or the financier is or whoever it is someone you are the person with the goods, right, and you're the person that hires all these people. So I think as long as they there's great respect and I you can tell straight away when someone respects you or not. So I mean, I find it pretty early on, if I feel like someone's gonna be a problem like and I've never, you know, it's only happened once where and it wasn't like a big wasn't a gap or anything, but I could just tell that it was like, someone in the camera team wants that. I was like, No, this guy he won't look me in the eye. He won't, you know, he like kind of mumbles every time I asked him something, you know, I'm like, we need to replace him. Like it's just not gonna work right, right. But mostly, mostly people were so excited to make films people want to, you know, succeed in your vision, especially if after like after a couple of days and they realize that you're, you know, you're not doing the stock standards. Why move close, like or something and I feel and I feel

Alex Ferrari 30:18
Isn't a fun isn't it fun when you put when you push as a crew and you're like, Okay, well, so we're gonna do we're gonna do the shop like Kubrick did, like, oh, it's like, you know, and you'll end up only using about three seconds of that of that 32nd shot. But yeah,

Jessica M. Thompson 30:31
Exactly. I know, we have this incredible crane shot. And then we go to a ronin handoff and do so joyous when you get this, like the CRO crew working together seamlessly. And the act is knowing that. Yeah, but also like the energy in the room when you finally achieve it. Without one, you know, it's

Alex Ferrari 30:49
It's remarkable. Now, is there anything that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career? Like if you could have a chance to go back to the young Jess, listen to we just snuck down to watch the Braveheart ending. And go Look, honey, you're gonna be in the film industry. But this is you need to know this.

Jessica M. Thompson 31:10
Yeah, I mean, there was something that I would the first thing is, I wish I could just tell myself everything is going to be okay. Because I honestly used to get so when you know, and I'm sure you the same, like when you're working so hard on the script, and you get so close that you don't get it or you're pitching on a job and you don't get it and the amount of noes, right everyone thinks that, you know, your, your success, they look at your resume, because she's had like an ad or something like that. There's so many nose for every yes, there's like 100 nose, right. And I just wished because I used to get like so you know, upset and destroy and like wonder whether I was being a fool. And like whether I was chasing just a dream that was not going to eventuate I will just go back to school, but maybe you need to go through that right? And maybe you need that energy that I get up, get you up in the morning, but I wish I could just let go give me a hug and be like, it'll be okay. It's gonna

Alex Ferrari 32:00
Just keep going. Just keep going. You'll be fine. Yeah. So let me ask you.

Jessica M. Thompson 32:03
Also, though, stay stay true to your vision, like when someone is trying to push you or challenge you, or push you in a certain direction. Just if you in your gut know something is right, just really listen to your gut.

Alex Ferrari 32:15
So that's another question. I love asking people because I've asked myself this question after almost 30 years doing this. What keeps what kept you going in those times? What kept you going in the nose and the nose? And I'm assuming it wasn't like a month or two, it might have been a year or two could have been years where you, you maybe get a little win, but you've got like 400 losses, like and you just you question your I think I think every filmmaker worth is waiting in salt. Wood would say at one point or another in the career, is this the right path? Am I have I made a mistake? Is this worth the pain that I'm going through? How did you? How did you keep going?

Jessica M. Thompson 32:57
It's a great question. And I I want to let people know that even before so when we we missed the deadline for Sundance. So for for the light the moon. And so the next one was sapphire that I really wanted. And we submitted to South Bend we'd already found out that we got into Tribeca, but I really wanted South pie. And because we had that pressure of knowing that we got into Tribeca we tried to set us up by could you make a decision soon because we have to let you know we have to get back into turbo, another incredible festival but I really wanted South by and they told me that they would tell us before Christmas, which is a very early to know that you're going into a much festival, but in competition, and I was waiting I remember I was in Australia with my mom because my brother had just gotten married and mum and I were on a road trip and it was like I want to say December 22 or 20 Like it felt like before Christmas it was like getting down to the wire and I remember I had to pull over the car because we were driving. So I was burst into tears and I was like Is it too late to become a doctor like bombs like it's not Christmas yet. But then you'll never guess two hours later I get an American call on my cell Mike and I answered and we got in and we got into the competition so so I'm saying that happens even when you've made something that you know is good. It's still like you still have the all that doubt. But I think what got me through is sheer desperation. I never had a backup like I never was someone and I'm not saying you know that you shouldn't you know, everyone's path is different. But there was nothing else that I loved. Like there was nothing else that I could do you know, because so to me, it was like, you have to keep going you have to keep trying. Because you know if you became you know, I think it's like a professor or whatever you know if you could change something else. You will never love it as much as you love filmmaking. You will never feel completely satisfied. So really what kept me going right away kept making waking me up in the morning and don't get me wrong. There were some days where I really like I really didn't get out of bed like I was like just like I had a big no. After working so hard for free. And that's something else that they don't tell you, especially with directing how much work you do for free before you get a job. Like, it's insane. It's insane. The pictures, the amount, you know, the amount of effort the decks I'd made, you know, to get the end, I made like an 18 minute video, you know, I was like, and did like a montage of me speaking like, you know that this is how when you especially when you're starting out, right? You've got to put in so and then when you get to know at the end of doing all that,

Alex Ferrari 35:26
Or the buyer does or the money doesn't drop?

Jessica M. Thompson 35:29
Oh, you get it? Yes. And then the money doesn't come in or whatever. It's just brutal.

Alex Ferrari 35:33
It's me psychologically what we go through his absolutely brutal. So I love asking everybody from a young filmmaker, like yourself all the way to Oscar winners, everyone goes through the same process as everybody, everybody. No one is just born and thrown into the mix. They all have a level of it even even the Wonder kids like Robert Rodriguez when he's 23. You know, Orson Welles when he was, if you want to go back that far, but they all go through some sort of struggle even. Yes, most of us go through more straight.

Jessica M. Thompson 36:05
I knew, like, you know, I had this skill of editing, I knew that I could be an underdog. Like, I know, financially, I knew. I was like, but I knew that it wasn't a love, like, don't get me wrong. It's a joy. Editing is great, but it's not a deep love, you know, people who are real editors that like want to do that every single day. They've got like a deep passion for editing. And so I was like, okay, yes, sir. So I'm not going to be poor. That's not the problem. But the problem is, I'm not Am I ever going to, you know, get to tell the stories I want to tell you so.

Alex Ferrari 36:34
So let me because because this is something that only editors who turned into directors couldn't we can talk about this, I need some therapy myself. So we're gonna talk about this for a second. There's a thing about when I always said the same thing, I'm like, I need I always tell people advice when they're coming up, like what should i What job should I get, I go find a job inside the business or in the satellite of the business. So you can make connections, you can work with people, and making you know, and that kind of stuff, build those kinds of relationships. But as an editor, being in the edit room, I mean, I've delivered probably over 5060 movies in my day as an editor and colada color, I suppose supervisor, all that kind of stuff. Out of all the projects I've done on my IMDb, maybe three or four I enjoyed, like, truly loved the process. Love the filmmakers love. The rest of them are just a paycheck. Honestly, there is something about being so close to the process, and yet not being able to do it yourself. That is a frustration in that. And only an editor who wants to be a director can understand it. Do you feel the same way? Did you feel the same way?

Jessica M. Thompson 37:42
Not Yes, yes. Yes. Yes, yes. But I will say because I edited documentaries that it was and I really, and I don't have much of a desire to direct documentaries. I actually don't think I have any. Unless I mean, it depends. Maybe I won't

Alex Ferrari 37:58
Say that one that never got finished.

Jessica M. Thompson 38:00
Oh, that's why I didn't finish it. But like, Um, no, I've always wanted to direct narrative. So to me, I had that distinction because I so at least it was like a different part of my brain. Even though I truly believe that documentary narrative is all the same tool. It's all the same storytelling. It's got to start middle and end You know, it's got you know, the climax everything. But so to me, I at least never had that I want to do this i or i could do this better than you know. And, you know, this afternoon, I'm meeting up with Sheriff magenic, who's the director of back on board and so that shows you how much I loved editing that film with her. But yes, I really do especially in commercials. Okay, so, today is the day the light of the moon came out of the IFC here in New York, we you know, it was a limited release, we had 1010 or 12 cinemas around the States and North America. I was finishing up a water commercial. And they I needed to get down to the cinema like these. These people didn't know I was editing it. So these people didn't know that I had a feature film coming out down the road. And I needed to go and these people were what I am I like to swear on this podcast a little bit. Sure. Okay, okay, so I call it pixel fucking when just like people are just

Alex Ferrari 39:08
That's the term I use years ago.

Jessica M. Thompson 39:10
Yes. Because that's Yeah, yeah. And I was just, I was just like, I couldn't tell them that I couldn't do this anymore. Because I was like, and I'm not you know, I'm someone who usually is quite pleasant, but I was being so short like coming back and I literally I think I said in the room. I said in the room we're not curing cancer dies.

Alex Ferrari 39:28
Like it's enough. Oh, no, oh, no, that with commercials. You can spend weeks on on the shot of the bottle. And that just just tweaking and maybe a frame here and can we get a light there, maybe we could do a visual effect, just endless because there's so much money, they could just keep going and going. I was part of a project once that was six weeks for three commercials 3/32 commercials six weeks. I just we just have there all day waiting for clients to come in and move things here. Let's add that It was it was in absolutely insane commercials.

Jessica M. Thompson 40:03
Yeah, he's uh, yeah, so that's definitely like, but now um, yeah, I will say I really respect the edit that it has I worked with. And I think I think another thing that I don't know how you if you get their silence, but like, people think that I'm going to be really controlling over my editor. We're good. Yeah. But I'm actually the opposite. And like, No, I respect them so deeply because they are another storyteller. I literally said to Tom Elkins, who edited this, I was like, turn that director's cut like that first six weeks of that director's cut time is yours. Like, don't show me anything. You just craft the story that you can do whatever you want, and literally go with your gut, because you're going to then show me things that I didn't even think of editing that way. And that's the, that's the joy. And that's the, that's the collaboration. And he was like, wow, I thought you were gonna be like, over breathing down my neck. And I was like, No, you know, of course, there's going to be some stranger. I'm like, yeah, nice try, but let's like do it this way. But then I really, there was a couple of things, especially with the scares because he's like, you know, a horror aficionado and has, you know, edited a lot of big horror films. He really like showed me something that I that I knew I catch it, but like that, he showed me it in a different way, which was really incredible.

Alex Ferrari 41:12
And I and it doesn't editor, I always love handing off the grunt work of organizing all the dailies, and the bins. And like, that's brutal. So I'm like, when I actually sat down, like all the works done for me to Office is nice.

Jessica M. Thompson 41:27
I don't know, it's funny when, when, at the end of the end of the film, you know, the editor and the assistant editor know the movie so much better than you. And like, they'll be like, Oh, that scene 42 part. But I'm like, I remember being that person he like knew every single being in there every single file. And I you know,

Alex Ferrari 41:46
I'll tell you one quick story, that when you were talking about like we're having to work on a commercial than trying to get into direct doing the directing, at the same time with the pixel fucking, I was, I was posed supervising, coloring, and VFX supervising a 10 or $15 million show for Hulu. At the same time prepping an entire series that I was producing, my production company was producing, and I was directing. And there was and I told everybody what was going on. But then I had to overlap. So I would like my first day, I almost died. First day shot 12 hours, went home, had to edit, conform, export something up because Hulu wanted it. So I was and I woke up the next morning, just it's just it was I had to do that for two or three days. Because they overlap. And I needed to get that episode out in order to get it out for Hulu for that week. And it was just brutal and is one of the most brutal production times of my life. But it was just

Jessica M. Thompson 42:47
You have to go through it. But it's so hard to like be present, when present in the in the more survival job when it's so hard to be present. I remember one time I was at I was on like, a third date with a guy and I was transparent cards. So every like arrows, excuse me, gotta go. So I was literally we're at a bar. And but it was me and my house and I was like run back upstairs to transfer cars. And I was like, This is me trying to have a life.

Alex Ferrari 43:11
Well, that's amazing. Because he's like, look, I want to have I want to have to date but I got car transfers. I have to transfer parts. I'm sorry.

Jessica M. Thompson 43:18
Yes. Yeah. I mean, it's just gonna set an alarm every 45 minutes. And then but that's

Alex Ferrari 43:23
the insanity that we we were insane. I mean, filmmakers are insane. And artists are insane. In general, filmmakers are a different breed of insanity. Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's just an absurd. It's an obsession. I call it the beautiful disease. Because once you get it, you can't get rid of it. Like you can't get.

Jessica M. Thompson 43:40
We torture out so then you can't get rid of it. Once you're done. You're done.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
You're done. You're done. Now, tell me about your new film the invitation. It is stunning. It looks beautiful. And now you mentioned Hungary, Hungary. So I was like, Okay, that makes more sense now, because I'm assuming this castle wasn't in Texas. So

Jessica M. Thompson 43:58
I made it. I built it all.

Alex Ferrari 44:02
The Marvel movie budget, you'd have a marvel? Yeah, absolutely. But tell me about it.

Jessica M. Thompson 44:06
Yeah. So yeah, the invitation you know, um, so it's about a young woman who's an artist down and out and in New York, and she just recently lost a mom and she does a DNA test and finds out she has a long lost relative. And he invites her to this lavish wedding and you know, basically everything goes away. It turns into a horror film. You know, it's about it's really like a mashup of genres, which is what drew me to drew me to the script, the initial script that Blair Butler wrote, and then we rewrote it together and kind of weapon it together. You know, I loved one that it was an origin story of the brides of Dracula, which I was like, I have not seen this and I want to make it you know, but also that to me, the metaphor was all laid in there in terms of like, sticking it to the man smashing the patriarchy, you know that but without hitting it over the head, you know, it was entertainment first and that's always what I want to do. Yeah, and, and then immediately, you know, one of the biggest things was I want to didn't need to be a woman of color. So I thought that added once again, another layer literally, it's the metaphor of rich eating the poor, you know, the upstairs downstairs world. And then, you know, having a lot of power adds another layer to that to that story of Dracula, what we're doing is saying he represents the pinnacle of the patriarchy. And he's got all these people in cahoots with him supporting him, which is how these people work. You know, Harvey Weinstein, although they did work in a vacuum, there was people who were keeping them up there. That's what the film was all about. Without like I said, Without belaboring the point. Yeah. And then I you know, so yeah, Blair and I worked on the script, really focusing on those character relationships, building the those arcs, those character arcs, and really grounding the dialogue. I really love naturalistic dialogue and humor, and you know, peppering humor throughout. And then yeah, Natalie Emmanuel came on board, who was always like, my top choice for the role, and I was so glad that she, you know, saw herself in a character. And then it kind of all snowballed from there. I mean, yeah. So screen James obviously, making it the screen job. So my first studio film took me about, I had to pitch it like four times all the different people there. And then it was right at the start of the last meeting, march 16 2020, before the world

Alex Ferrari 46:14
Stop for a second. So stop for a second. So now, everybody listening, you will now have a studio and I've had by the way, so many filmmakers have been on the show that's had this exact problem. I got to I got greenlit, and the entire world shuts down. And then of course, the filmmaker thinks, Why me, like, burning for like, but I want to shoot my movie were insane.

Jessica M. Thompson 46:37
Yeah, no, it's crazy. It's crazy. So literally, I would say like the last day birch, the president of Screen Gems, I want to say that the last thing was that he shook my hand and said, You got the job we did. And we fist bumps because pandemic and and he was like, okay, and now we're all shutting down Sony Pictures. So that was the last meeting, he took the last meeting I took about I got the official, you're the you've got the job. Luckily, though, because I still had to rewrite, you know, there's still work to do on the script. And we thought, you know, the pandemic is going to be three weeks or whatever, we'll be fine. So but it didn't give us time to really perfect the script and really, like kind of, you know, work on it. And then yeah, it took a little bit longer than I wanted it to to get it the green light to get it into production. But then, you know, we swung it to production. I think I flew over to Hungary in June of 2021. So not crazy, not a crazy like, wait.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
But and that's the other thing I hear from a lot of filmmakers. I went through this process of like, oh, we had all the time in the world to do a recut to pick up shots and figure out what we would do. So if they were in production, I had to stop, they can go back at it, like oh, you don't really need to do this, this. So they come and they kind of rewrote, so you had time, which is

Jessica M. Thompson 47:44
And I will say we got shut down twice during production for COVID, just two days each time. And I will say that one of them fell right in the middle of the shoot the 40 day shoot. And we had, so the whole crew got a long weekend. And I will say everyone came back refreshed. And I was like maybe we need to just put a four day weekend in the middle of every shoot. Because it really like you know, the energy checks. I think there is some point it taught us to slow down a little bit, which is maybe a good thing.

Alex Ferrari 48:09
Yeah, absolutely. Now, I always ask this question on the invitation. What we all have that day that the entire world is coming crashing down around us as directors. And I argued to say that's every day. There's something that happens like that. But there's always the one day that was just such a massive thing. What was the worst day? And the worst thing that happened to you on this and how did you overcome it?

Jessica M. Thompson 48:34
Yeah, I mean, I'm with you. Every day, there's always new challenge, right? And I love the challenges, they often end up becoming the biggest joy when you finally get through it. But I am like insanely well prepared and organized directly. So I think my challenges are usually pretty, like limited. Like, I'm not I'm not saying that it's just I'm like so insane on organization. I'm kind of a little bit micromanaging that way. But I will say there was a day that I came in, there was this ice out scene, and there was hardly any ice. And I was like, what how did this get miscommunicated it's literally called the Ice House. And then so we had to move all the ice from once and whenever I couldn't do like any wise because you know, which I love in epic wide. Yeah. So then everyone had to like move the ice from one side when we wanted to shoot on that side and the move that I saw that other side. And then also we definitely spoken about because we had three actors one who was a 65 year old woman you know, lying on top of these ice blocks and we definitely talked about having three blocks of faith is for them to do that and they did not show up. So I could not believe I had to ask my actors to do this. They were all willing to do it one of them though got so cold that we needed to take like you know, she almost got hypothermia, you know, she had to go get warmed up because she was that Britain lips was so blue, you know? So I just felt like it just felt like there was so many miscommunication that day. And I was just like it's so as a director you want to especially my any responsibility to the actors, you know, to make sure their life is easy to make sure they're safe. And they're happy. And so I just felt like it's just more like, I felt like I'd let them down. And that's hard for me is when it's especially when I know that it's even if it is my fault, like it easily isn't my fault. It's like, I hate having to let my actors down, for whatever reason. So that was a hard day, emotionally hard day because I was just like, and I knew as well it took longer to shoot, right, because yeah, I had to cut out some of the shots, though. And I still think the scene was beautiful. And it's absolutely effective. And it's great. But I just, you know, yeah, having to like stop every however long to move all these giant ice blocks was just like crazy.

Alex Ferrari 50:45
I have to I have to because when you were saying this a story came into my head when I was doing my demo reel, back in the day shot on 35 for commercials, right? We went with a club scene was supposed to be in Senate club, and you know, some sort of comedy bit Comedy Spot that I was doing. And we get there. And the the actress that my quote unquote, production manager was supposed to get me. They didn't show up. So it's a club scene. You need a Club member, you need people to be dancing and moving around. Even if it's by the bar, you still need like five people 10 people I can get into frame. And, and it was so bad. The footage was so bad because I was I was I was starting out I was just starting out as a director. I was so bad that I had to. Eventually I burned the paper in the negative and I had to reshoot the entire thing later and cost me another 10 grand and 50 grand out of out of my credit card to reshoot it. But I remember that I still remember the footage in my I still remember in my mind, seeing the dailies I'm like I can't I can't release this. This is horrendous. And it's just some time and I couldn't I couldn't overcome it that day. I just and I had to DPS to DPS to DPS. At the same time. Have you ever worked to DPS at the same time?

Jessica M. Thompson 52:00
No, because I mean, on a splinter unit but not

Alex Ferrari 52:04
On the day at the same time. I didn't know enough to say no to that. So I had to deal with two DPS, who were both egomaniacs and idiots and idiots lit the thing horribly. So these are hard lessons that cost me 10s of 1000s of dollars.

Jessica M. Thompson 52:22
That's what the thing is what people don't realize you put your name on this. So it's got a you know, you, the buck stops with you. So if it's not going to look good, that's all on you. You know?

Alex Ferrari 52:33
Let's give her the job anyway, because that the DP did a bad job.

Jessica M. Thompson 52:35
No, no, it's, it's, you know, that's why you gotta keep fighting, you have to always keep fighting. Now, when I've learned how to fight differently over the years, I should say, I realized that it's not always best to come in just guns blazing, like you've got to like, you know, there's, there's different techniques to fight. So it's like, if you know, something's really vitally important is, you know, I something that I've learned mine. And his process is that if someone has a crazy idea, you know, you've got producers, you've got executives, you've got bosses about you, you know, especially in the studio system, let them try it and let them fail. You know, it won't work. So you're telling them, this won't work because of ABC doesn't help them because they can't visualize it the way you can. So the best thing to do is to just take the time, isn't it sad that you have to tell your editor Look, I know, it's laborious, but do it and show them why it won't work otherwise, because me telling them they're just going to think I'm being you know, difficult and not wanting to participate. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 53:33
I don't know if you ever did this when you were editing. But I always used to love doing this. I would always throw a red herring into the edit. For the client. I would throw something that's so purposely bad a misspelling the cut, obviously was wrong, something that they would justify their position in the room.

Jessica M. Thompson 53:50
Yeah, I have. Absolutely. Always worked because they just have something to talk about.

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Give them like, oh, man, that cool. We got to cover that. Oh, thanks for catching that. I appreciate that very much. As opposed to like, it's perfect. And like then they start screwing with your cut.

Jessica M. Thompson 54:05
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Really happy. None of those people are listening to the podcast, but that's exactly what I do. Generally, leave that in there. Yeah. Means you know, absolutely. You know, put that in there. Let them comment on that because then they will ignore the other thing that I want to

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Get them something big to look at, but start a fire over here. So they ignore this. The bank robbery over?

Jessica M. Thompson 54:32
Exactly, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 54:35
When's the invitation out and when people get where can people see it?

Jessica M. Thompson 54:38
August 26. All around the world. 20,000 screens. Let's do it!I'm excuse me how many screens you can do is you know, 20,000 Wow.

I mean, I know Yeah, I think it's 3000 in the US is so and then I think it's like between somewhere between 15 to 20,000 in the in the world. My mom You know, it was really funny because, obviously, the love of the moon when it played in Australia, she had she lives an hour and a half north of Sydney, but also all the indie theaters are in Sydney. So she had to, like, you know, drive down and like, you know, make it make a day. She's like, Oh, do I have to do that? I was like, Mom, it's gonna be fine at the mall down the road. But I think she's like, at the mall. And I'm like,

Alex Ferrari 55:18
That's awesome. I'm so happy about that. Because it is genuine that indies but like non IP based movies in today's world don't get the kind of theatrical

Jessica M. Thompson 55:28
Original ideas, original ideas don't typically get and

Alex Ferrari 55:31
No, no, and you don't have Tom Cruise in it. So it's not like a massive, you have just, you know, really great actors in it.

Jessica M. Thompson 55:38
And I think Sony, you know, believes in the fact that they gave us a summer release date before we didn't finish shooting. I mean, they obviously really love the film. And I'm glad you know, they're incredible partners. And yeah, and so I'm excited to see how the world responds to that.

Alex Ferrari 55:52
Oh, my god, that's amazing. Congrats on that. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Jessica M. Thompson 56:01
Don't give up, persevere. Just keep going. Down the nose. Everyone gets nose. Don't you know what Hafele like, this is your this is your gotta hustle. You got to work. Although you got to work. All the jobs. I know. At the start. No job is beneath you. I'm sorry. At the start. No job is maybe of course if you're directing something, you should be really picky. You should have discernment. Absolutely. That's what I'm saying when you're just earning your stripes. Do it all do it all.

Alex Ferrari 56:30
I had I just had a guest on last week that they did wedding videos at the beginning.

Jessica M. Thompson 56:37
That was my number one. I'm sorry, I hadn't even mentioned that. I used to. I do when I moved to New York. I used to do very high end wedding videos for a lot of you know, kind of aristocratic New Yorker. And that was one of the my main gigs and I will say the chips from the father from the data the bride were fantastic. That's awesome. Yeah. Oh, and so I still to this day, I would be particular girl and class. I was always my favorite tequila. I steal from a client that I edited at that I directed never their wedding Do they still send me a bottle of tar sands every year. It was it was great to be honest. Because it's one day. And it's there's a lot of money in it. So it was just it was that's like you said you've either got to do jobs that are adjacent. So like editing jobs, that things where you can learn the craft and when you can build connections, or you need to figure out how to make the most amount of money with the little amount of effort so that you can focus on your writing and your filmmaking

Alex Ferrari 57:37
Absolutely absolutely no question. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Jessica M. Thompson 57:45
I think I've still I've I think I've learned that yet. Patience.

Alex Ferrari 57:51
That's my number one number with patience so

Jessica M. Thompson 57:54
I'm definitely better than I was like, I used to have absolute, you know, fits crying fits when I was like 14 because I hadn't won an Oscar. No joke. I was like, so I've definitely I definitely am much calmer than I used to be as a human being, but I'm still learning. I'm still learning patients.

Alex Ferrari 58:14
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Jessica M. Thompson 58:19
Is I hate this question. So many today, okay, today, today, the shining Stanley Kubrick is always my number one horror, and I just I could watch that film every year. It's just every time it's a masterpiece.

Alex Ferrari 58:35
Did you did you watch? Did you watch it room two was a two to the documentary.

Jessica M. Thompson 58:39
I actually really I mean, but actually knew all those things. But I'm such a geek that I kind of knew all the little facts and and knew what was the one with you and McGregor actually thought was not awful. It's knowing

Alex Ferrari 58:51
Doctor sleep, actually, but it was good.

Jessica M. Thompson 58:53
I was better than I expected. I expected to be treasurer. So I mean, I was I was into it. Yeah, so the shining Ainley Brokeback Mountain. I've never had a film that I thought about for like, five days after that. I kept getting emotional about that. I was just like, why couldn't they be together? It was just one of those films that just like nearly moved me and broke, broke broke my heart. So you know that one for emotional reasons. And then the last one, I'm going to be douchey and say similarities. There's so much yeah, it's great. And I love the child in it and I just think it's like you know a classic that I love actually Oh, that even on the waterfront, they're out there also like they're all about even on the I just I love those guns. So those three are kind of they all go together.

Alex Ferrari 59:51
And like Sullivan's Travels, I mean, you could just watch that person. Any movies about making movies? I always love watching status.

Jessica M. Thompson 59:59
Absolutely. You're crazy what's crazy with all about it? He does that it still works now you can literally make all about it now maybe I should look into this, but like it actually is still extremely relevant. I love that.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:13
Jess it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you. It's been so much fun. Congrats on your success and the invitation and I can't wait to see what you come up with next. I really appreciate you my dear.

Jessica M. Thompson 1:00:24
Thank you, Alex. It's been so much fun.

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Taika Waititi Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Taika Waititi, also known as Taika Cohen, hails from the Raukokore region of the East Coast of New Zealand, and is the son of Robin (Cohen), a teacher, and Taika Waititi, an artist and farmer. His father is Maori (Te-Whanau-a-Apanui), and his mother is of Ashkenazi Jewish, Irish, Scottish, and English descent. Taika has been involved in the film industry for several years, initially as an actor, and now focusing on writing and directing.

Two Cars, One Night is Taika’s first professional film-making effort and since its completion in 2003 he has finished another short “Tama Tu” about a group of Maori Soldiers in Italy during World War 2. As a performer and comedian, Taika has been involved in some of the most innovative and successful original productions seen in New Zealand.

He regularly does stand-up gigs in and around the country and in 2004 launched his solo production, “Taika’s Incredible Show”. In 2005 he staged the sequel, “Taika’s Incrediblerer Show”. As an actor, Taika has been critically acclaimed for both his Comedic and Dramatic abilities. In 2000 he was nominated for Best Actor at the Nokia Film Awards for his role in the Sarkies Brother’s film “Scarfies”.

Taika is also an experienced painter and photographer, having exhibited both mediums in Wellington and Berlin, and a fashion designer. He attended the Sundance Writers Lab with “Choice”, a feature loosely based on “Two Cars, One Night”.

Taika became a blockbuster director with his film Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and received critical acclaim, and a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, for his film Jojo Rabbit (2019).

Below are all the screenplays 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).


Screenplay  by Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi- Read the teleplay!


Screenplay by Jemaine Clement and Created by Taika Waititi- Read the pilot!


Directed by Taika Waititi – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay and Directed by Taika Waititi – Read the screenplay! (Won the Oscar®)


Screenplay and Directed by Taika Waititi – WILL POST ONCE AVAILABLE!

BPS 230: The Writer’s Room Survival Guide with Niceole R. Levy

Niceole grew up under the bright stars of the Mojave Desert before swapping them for bright lights of Los Angeles. Studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts yielded the epiphany that she preferred writing. She worked as a police dispatcher to pay her way through undergraduate USC, and then completed the Master of Professional Writing program, also at USC. An alum of the CBS Writers Mentoring Program, NBC’s Writers on the Verge, and the WGAw Showrunner Training Program, Niceole has written on Ironside, Allegiance, The Mysteries of Laura, Shades of Blue, Cloak & Dagger, Fate: the Winx Saga, and S.W.A.T.

She also co-wrote a feature, The Banker, with former Allegiance showrunner and director George Nolfi, available on AppleTV+. Niceole is currently a co-executive producer on Graymail, which will air on Netflix, and has several TV and feature projects in development. The Writers’ Room Survival Guide is her first book.

Writers’ rooms can be a heaven or hell, depending on a few things. The best rooms foster inclusive and productive creative flow. The worst create a toxic stew of bad feelings and doubt. Both kinds and everything in between require basic knowledge of how the room works. These fundamentals are best learned before you go in. The mystery box of the writers’ room need not stay sealed shut forever. Consider this book your crowbar.

Please enjoy my conversation with Niceole R. Levy.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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

Niceole R. Levy 0:00
So in its most basic form and you get your first writing job, you're a staff writer. At present staff writers get a guild negotiated minimum salary, they do not get script.

Alex Ferrari 0:11
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, Niceole Levy. How you doin Niceole?

Niceole R. Levy 0:26
I'm great. How are you doing?

Alex Ferrari 0:27
I'm doing great. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm excited to talk to you about your new book here. The writers room Survival Guide. I've had many showrunners on the show. Many TV writers on the show, I'm fascinated by the writers room because I've I've only worked in the background of a writers room meaning in the office seeing what the rooms do when I was starting out as an office PA, and, and seeing, you know, talking to some of the writers and supervising writers and what is it? What's it called when they the cleanup guy that comes in and kind of cleans up dialogue and he wasn't in the room like he was not even in the room. It was like outside, like doing more technical

Niceole R. Levy 1:07
Like a consult more like a consulting producer.

Alex Ferrari 1:10
Yeah, I think something like that. We're gonna talk about the hierarchies well, because there's way too many producers. I'm just gonna throw that out there. Way too many producers. I know there's a mystery behind that as well. But before we get started, how did you and why God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity? insanity that is the film industry?

Niceole R. Levy 1:31
Well, the why of it is really I grew up in the middle of nowhere in this little town in the Mojave desert called Ridgecrest. And it's like 110 115 degrees every day in the summer. And so literally, I spent summer vacation in front of the television, because nobody was going outside till the sun was going down. And just was in love with it was in love with movies and TV shows and all the things and my parents were older parents, so I got to watch stuff that none of my friends got to watch because my parents were exhausted by the time I came along. So it was sort of like Yeah, yeah, whatever it took, we don't care that that shows to grown up for her. And so I just loved it. And I originally thought my love of all of that meant I was going to be an actress, which now seems like an even crazier career choice, but at the time felt very reasonable, obviously. And my parents were horrified, of course, but I was very independent spirit. And so I moved to LA and I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. And it was really while I was there. And while I was performing all the time that I realized I was in love with storytelling, not necessarily with performing. And so that's when I made the transition into writing. And I managed to get some some decent day jobs and put myself through USC. And here I am.

Alex Ferrari 2:54
So what was so what was the when you when you when you got your first writing gig like someone was paying you to type? I'm assuming that to put pen to paper because you're not that old. But but to actually type. What was it like that first day walking into the room? Or did you start off as a, you know, a writer's assistant or something else, but just the first time you were ever in that room when you walked in for the first time? What was that? Like? Because I love I love letting other writers know, the feeling what, what the normal feelings are? And they're not crazy to feel?

Niceole R. Levy 3:30
Absolutely no, by the way, I do have writer friends who still write pen to paper and then type it up.

Alex Ferrari 3:35
So the aircraft still uses dos. So he has a machine that's DOS and then he has he has a floppy disk over to his assistant to translate it over to final draft. I'm not kidding you. So he did doo doo was written in that.

Niceole R. Levy 3:52
So to gauge their own journey. So I got my first writing job, really after about 10 years of actual effort training. Overnight overnight success. Yeah, um, I, because I had hefty student loans from USC, I could not afford to work as an assistant. It just was not realistic. I could not keep a roof over my head and somehow maintain those loans so that nobody came after me to pay them back. And so I did a whole bunch of day jobs. Some of them industry connected, some of them not. And, you know, wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, and finally, after 10 years and two network writing programs, I got an opportunity. I did the CBS writers mentoring program, and I did NBCs writers on the verge and, you know, got a show runner meeting and it was with Ken Sam Zell, who was running iron side that year, and I got a phone call at lunch saying congrats. collations you just got an offer to join the writers room. And of course, it's literally just, you can't even believe it. Like you've worked so hard for it. And the fact that someone's actually said, Yes, I would like you to come to my writers room. It's a little like, is that real? Is it real?

Alex Ferrari 5:17
Oh, is this Oh, is this are you?

Niceole R. Levy 5:22
Well, and the funny thing was, because I was at lunch, my phone was in my purse, because Ken had said it would take a couple of days for him to decide. And so when I went to take my purse, my phone out after lunch, there were like, 17, missed calls. And I was like, Well, this is either really good or real, that was really good. Um, and so you know, that first day, basically what happens when you finally get a job as a staff writer, you will get a start email from showrunners assistant, or the writer's assistant. And it's like, Hey, welcome to x show. This is where our office is going to be that since that, what time we start the first day, if you have any requests for special things, let me know and like, special, you know, special things like you know, do you need an ergonomic keyboard, or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 6:16
I can't eat green m&ms. start becoming a diva right off the bat,

Niceole R. Levy 6:22
That's probably not a great ask when you're a staff writer, like I was afraid to actually put my Clif bars on the food menu in the writers room, and one of my EPS came in and wrote them on it was like, well, you stop buying your own Clif Bars. But that's so yeah, it's a learning curve.

Alex Ferrari 6:45
But let me ask your question, though. So you said 10 years of the hustle of struggling to try to get noticed. There's so many people listening right now, who are writers who are in that boat right now? Who are just writing and writing and knocking on doors and nothing is happening for them? How did you get through a decade? Because generally, I always tell people have a 10 year plan. And if it doesn't, if it hasn't panned out after 10 years, you might want to rethink situations, unless it's something that's still burning inside you. Because I forgot who was oh, it's Taylor shared. Sheridan was saying he was I've never seen anyone. Anyone pop after 10 or 15 years of putting their heads against the wall. Because it doesn't happen. He goes after maybe seven or eight years, but after like 15 years, if it's not, if it hasn't happened by then the business will tell you he said, the business will tell you, in his opinion, because he finally he busted his ass as an actor for so long, before he finally started to write. And he's he's doing okay, now. He's, he's on right now. Because after 15 years, you really need to reevaluate what you're doing. It might be another aspect of the business, but it might not be what you want to do. So I have to ask that question to you like, how did you keep going? After all this time?

Niceole R. Levy 8:10
Yeah, no, it's a really valid question. And one of the things I tell the writers that I mentor now is, you have to know what you're willing to sacrifice. And where your lines in the sand. And only you know that right? Only, you know, what's the final straw for when it comes to doing this, you know, I have lots of friends who have succeeded in this business while being married and having families, I did not feel that I had the space for that. So it is only now that I am established that I am taking time to try to like, go on dates and do all those things. Because I was so this was everything in my life. And I just didn't have time for anything other than keeping a roof over my head, my friends. And that's like that was that was my life. Um, you know, I got to about year nine. And I guess your eighth it was your eighth. And I did get worried. I did start to think like, what if this is never gonna happen? Because I kept getting almost right, like, Oh, I got a call. I got a play produced. And then nothing. I got I was in the finals of the Disney fellowship, but I didn't make the last cut. Alright, so it was like that, that almost thing right? Where you just it's so painful. And I, I the only other thing I'm great at in the world is making desserts. And so I started a baking business and that was my father. And I was working it diligently in in what little free time I had while also writing and doing all those things. And I thought, you know, I could do this I could make I could make a life from this. But what I knew to be true was I was going to write the rest of my life See whether I ever got paid for it or not. There are 1000s of pages of material on my old hard drives that no one's ever going to pay me for. That I had to write. I mean, I used to when I couldn't think of a new spec script to write I wrote fanfic, like pages and pages like 1000s of pages of fanfic write on those hard drives. I did it because I had to write. So I wasn't going to stop writing. And so I was like, Okay, you can hang in and keep trying to get someone to pay you for it. But you have this other thing that you know, you could do if you had to. And literally, my what I always say is, the universe was like, Oh, she means that we got to get her off this baking thing, because it's taking up too much of her time. So I was at the kitchen all day baking to go to a food show, because I was going to start trying to get business to do like wedding favors. I came home from the kitchen. And there was an email from the CBS writers mentoring program that I had applied to for what was going to be the last time saying, congratulations, you're a semifinalist. Please call us to schedule your personal

Alex Ferrari 11:17
I can't believe after vehicle because I look very similar to you. i man i so many close calls over the course of when I was starting out. I mean, from the earliest part of my career when I was meeting some of the biggest movie stars in the world. I wrote a book about our almost $20 million movie theater mafia and I was flown out to LA and I met the biggest movie stars in the world. I'm at the Chateau Marmont, I'm at the IV having dinner with like, billion dollar producers. I had all of that happened to me early in my life was 25 26 of it. So that was the beginning of many close calls. I was always I was almost on Project Green. Like, I was almost on the on the show on the lot the Spielberg show. And I was I was almost sort of so many close calls, oh, the money's about to drop for this movie. It's almost gonna drop the money's there. So there's so many close calls. And at a certain point, you just have to go like, when is this going to happen for me? And then you have to figure out what are you willing to keep doing? And, and I found my happiness. And I was looking at I was in post. So post was my fallback. So I was always in the business. Oh, I was I was always told always had food on the table, and I was at a roof over my head. And my student loans were extremely low. Thank God only like 18 grand 20 grand or so.

Niceole R. Levy 12:38
Can you know, that was barely a semester of loans for me.

Alex Ferrari 12:45
I went to full sail, not USC, I still feel it. My time at Full Sail was fun, but fairly worthless. And I'd love to hear if you thought your time at USC was worth the money. I'm sure it was a fantastic education. Was it worth the money was worth the ROI the return on investment? I'd ask you that question before we continue.

Niceole R. Levy 13:05
Okay. Um, I would say this, I, I did not go to film school. Contrary to what most people assume I was an English major, an undergrad and I did the creative writing program in the English Department. And then I did what used to be at USC and they they gave the program to another university, it was called the master Professional Writing Program. So you did everything right. You did technical writing, you did poetry, you did playwriting, you did the whole gamut. And why I say it was worth it is that I actually paid my bills with my degrees until I became a TV. All the jobs I got after that were jobs I got because of my degrees. I wasn't like, who I have this fancy film and TV degree, but I'm working in an office typing. It was like, I was an assistant editor at a magazine I did your writing.

Alex Ferrari 13:58
So you are you are being paid as a writer, but just not the kind of way that you want it. So that's that's that I feel in many ways. It's almost more frustrating than if you were working as a barista at Starbucks. And I wanted to write because this is my personal because I from my experience, being an editor, working with directors, helping other filmmakers fulfill their dreams, and fixing mistakes that they made in post production. Being so close to it was almost like it's so it was so angry about that so many times, I became very bitter. Maybe it was very angry, bitter filmmaker for many, many years. So I can imagine it's like I'm working on writing, but just not doing the kind of work that I want to do. So was that frustrating for you? Or did you look at it completely differently?

Niceole R. Levy 14:51
I looked at it differently, I think mostly because I felt really lucky to be with the people I was with and they were all really supportive like I have been very fortunate to not have a bunch of people in my life who were like, Yeah, sure, you're gonna make it as a TV writer, like, I was working at the magazine when I became a finalist in the Disney fellowship. And everybody was like rooting for me and in it. And so I think I just felt like I had, it brought good people into my life. So it felt worthwhile to do. Certainly, there were day jobs that I wish I could have quit five minutes after I started. Oh, yeah. But those were mostly the non writing jobs, honestly, like it was. And it was jobs where I mean, I tell the story famously that like the last day job I had, my boss yelled at me for caring too much about how I did my job. Which is what made me go home and apply to the CVS program for the last time. I was like, I mean, I can't do this job. So I hate this job. So I gotta do something. So I applied.

Alex Ferrari 15:58
But that's, that's fascinating. Now, is there something that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career that you that you wish, if you could go back and just say, Listen, this, you really need to figure no of this? What is that one thing that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning?

Niceole R. Levy 16:19
I wish someone would have told me at the beginning that, um, that I could spend more time on my life than I did. I feel like I just, I felt so like I cuz I didn't have contacts. And I didn't have anyone supporting me. And it was sort of like, it's all me. And I just was so all in that there's so many things I missed out on that, I think, would have been fun experiences and would have been great. Now, would I go back now and change them? No, because it might change something about my life. Now. Thank you get the facts, right. But had I had someone said to me that, and been able to get through to me and said, I know how important this is to you. But you can go to the concert with your friends, you don't have to stay home and write every single day, like, cool, with

Alex Ferrari 17:13
A little bit of a little bit of, but little bit of balance. But for us in this business, we have to be obsessive. This is not just a job. It's an obsession, it is a calling. It is that thing that drives us when you wake up in the mornings, the first thing you think about when you go to bed at night is the first thing. And the last thing you think about it is and I tell people all the time that there's there's an insanity to what we do. And it's an insanity, we there is no logical conversation to be said like, I'm good to go right for television, that's generally not a conversation you have with your parents or with your friends. I remember when I told my friends in high school, I'm like, I'm gonna go be a filmmaker. They're like, what? Like it's not. And that was in the 90s when it really wasn't a thing. Now everybody's proud of the Creator. And we all got cameras. I was an absolute ruin. It is not there hasn't you have to have a sense of insanity to believe that you can even achieve this kind of dream? But that is Do you agree?

Niceole R. Levy 18:12
Yes, absolutely. Because I mean, look, I had, you know, black southern parents, they were like, don't you want to just get a teaching credential, though, by school, like just go to school, like you don't have to become a lawyer, but just go to school in case you need to become a lawyer like, they were classics in that regard. And, and I remember, when I got my job on Iron side, the first thing I did was call my mom and tell her and she just broke down crying on the phone. She was like, I'm so proud of you, and so proud of you. And I called my big brother. And he was like, wow, he was like, I guess you were right. I guess it worked out. Because it took that for everybody to like, exhale. Because you know, they were always having conversations behind my back about like, be able to take care of herself like Chelsea African buy a house like all those things.

Alex Ferrari 19:08
My parents deal. My parents didn't know what I did. My father had like little to no understanding of what I did as a director 20 years in 20 years, and he's just like, I know that you make money. I know someone pays you I know you have a roof over the edge of a family. So you're obviously doing something. So I took him to the set one day. And he saw me on a commercial set. He's like, he went back and told the whole family. Everyone just listens to him. He just tells everybody what to do. And they go around and they do what he says. Because that's what his job is because he could they just couldn't grasp it. And then I told him on a podcast. He's like, why? Because I interview people. Like it's like I barely grasp what you're doing as a filmmaker now you're podcaster and the only time it made sense to him is when I interviewed Billy Crystal all the time. The only time I called them up and I said hey, just have to do with crystal because you when you watch he goes, Yeah. And I had Billy Crystal send you a little message and here it is. And Billy was so sweet. And he actually gave him like a shout out to my dad and my dad's like, the craziest. It's a he goes out talks to famous people. So now I'm back. I'm a filmmaker.

Niceole R. Levy 20:20
Know when I, I got iron sights, so Blair Underwood was our lead, my mother just adored and is, by the way, one of the loveliest human beings in this business. And he was so sweet. Like, every time I'd go to set to observe, he'd be like, How long till 109? And I'd like we had a countdown and my first day, he's like, 109, it's fine. Oh, that's so lovely. And so we took a picture, and my mom printed it out and put it in a frame on a table in our house.

Alex Ferrari 20:50
Like, it was like, it was Obama, it was like Obama or the president.

Niceole R. Levy 20:53
And it was next to the photo. It was hilarious. I was just like, Well, Mom, I was like, you realize people are gonna think that's my boyfriend or something. She was like, that's fine. They can think that I was like, I don't think this is unwinnable like them. But to your you know, to your point, there is that level of like, you, it takes so much the cost is so high, right? Because you are constantly creating things that you believe in, that you pour your soul into that someone else is going to be like, like, it's, it's, it's debilitating in a way emotionally, so you have to be a little bit crazy to want to do it. But then right, when you get that call of like, you get to come work in this room, and you get to go for that first day. Which to get back to one of your first questions. It's like, you walk in, and you're a little bit like waiting for someone to be like, just kidding. security, security, get out of here. But like, you show up, and they take you to an office and your names on it. And you're just like, oh my god, this is real. This is real. Also, you're terrified, because oh my god, I gotta work. Everybody's like, how do I prove I deserve to be here? I mean, I feel like that's the right attitude to have. I've certainly encountered people who were like, now they're all gonna see how brilliant I am. And I'm like, I'm not gonna do well.

Alex Ferrari 22:24
Let's see how this works out for you. Let's see. really

Niceole R. Levy 22:26
Yeah, it's go in and prove that they made the right choice.

Alex Ferrari 22:32
It's interesting, because you feel like at any moment, security's got to come in. It's like security police. It's scored in a call and our Clif bars out of the building. Yeah, out of the building, just get her out. And by the way, that imposter syndrome is rampant throughout our industry, from the biggest to the smallest person in the business. And I've had the pleasure of talking to some really, you know, legendary people, and they still like, oh, yeah, I still get pneumonia. You're, you're this person. You've created this show, are you? Why would you be nervous? Like if you felt like saying, I'm like, You made like $20 million a week, what's wrong with you, like, you've made it you have arrived already. But in their mind, it's a completely different perspective. So it's really always interesting. It's all perspective, a lot of time with these with creatives. But at the end of the day, a writer, no matter if you want an Oscar, and Emmy, made the best show the world when you sit down in front of a blank screen with a blinking cursor, we all go through the same process.

Niceole R. Levy 23:33
Absolutely. I posted on Twitter about the fact that, you know, I just wrapped another room. So I wrote my 19th episode of television, and literally had the same thought every time of like, Oh, what if I can't do it this time? And it's like, there's 1818 pieces of evidence that you couldn't do it. But that one time, but I just have you seen the Paul Newman Joanne Woodward documentary, but yeah, it's, it's amazing. And the big takeaway from it is Paul Newman literally suffered from imposter syndrome his entire career. And I was like, if Paul forget, Newman could never get past imposter syndrome. There is no hope we all just surrender. It is a permanent condition. Because Wow, Paul

Alex Ferrari 24:18
Newman, Paul Newman, Paul Newman. Oh, man.

Niceole R. Levy 24:23
So impostor syndrome, just it's real. We all have it. It's not gonna go.

Alex Ferrari 24:28
Wow, that's crazy. That's I mean, I mean, to a certain extent, I think yeah, I mean, even then, Sal will like walk on set or Meryl Streep or walk on set. They might have a little bit of it. But at a certain point, you just like, I been down this road a few times. I, I think I'm good. I think maybe there'll be a challenge about what the circumstances are. But they have to have some sort of confidence in the ability to like, like you like, I can write an episode of television. Like I've done it enough. When I was not getting paid. And when I was getting paid, that I have the skill sets to do so like I could walk on a set and go, I could probably direct this scene without a shot list and just roll with it. Because I've been on set enough to feel comfortable in my skill set that I built. Does it mean that if Meryl Streep walks into the scene that I'm directing, I'm not going to crap my pants, probably from because I have had the opportunity to work with like Oscar winners sometimes and you just sit there like, work with Tarantino? Like, who am I? Who am I? Yeah, it's crazy. It's just the mental mental games we are displayed with ourselves.

Niceole R. Levy 25:39
Oh, I know, my first episode of television, which was on Iron side, Robert Forster guest starred for us.

Alex Ferrari 25:45
I've worked. That's what was talking about.

Niceole R. Levy 25:47
And I literally, I walked up and I was talking to him, and I was like, Oh, it's so good to have you here, Mr. forester. And he was like, You can call me Robert. And I was like, I don't think I can. I'm gonna call you Mr. Forrest.

Alex Ferrari 26:00
I'm telling you, I directed Robert inish. In a film that I was doing. And my god, he was just the level of professionalism, the gravitas of his his weight of just walking in the room was remarkable. And he was so humble. So so so humble, because I've absolute, as they say, a match. He was wonderful, just wonderful to work. And when you when you work with that level of professionalism, you go, Oh, this is what it's supposed to be like, yeah, not what I've been doing. Oh, this is this is at that level, okay. And I'm assuming as a writer, too, when you work with certain writers, or if you're in a room with a certain showrunner, you go, Oh, this is what it's like to work at this level. Because there's many different rooms, many different shots, many very different skill sets within those we can show runners and how they run a room and so on. But when you get to work with high caliber, even with another person in the room with you, another writer and other staff writer, go, oh, that's what I Okay, I gotta get my game up.

Niceole R. Levy 27:06
No, it is absolutely that. Look, I and I talked about this in the book that like every room you're in, is an opportunity to learn how to do your job better, and to learn what you never want to do when you're the boss, right? Because every room has some foibles. Like, I've never been in a perfect room. But I've been in really good rooms. And I've been like, Oh, this is how you get a story break to move faster. Oh, this is how you get clarity for everybody. Oh, this is how you help a writer who needs help without humiliating them. Oh, that's right. And so you learn all those things, right? Watching. Now, when you're in the not so good rooms. That's where you learn how, oh, I never want to treat people like this, oh, I never want to read 10 pages of a script and throw it out. Because it's dehumanizing to the entire staff. Like it's, you see those things? And you're like, nope, nope, not gonna operate that way. I hope because there are plenty of people who absorb those things, and then take them with them. And then they run toxic. So the goal is to watch the good people do it.

Alex Ferrari 28:09
Well, let me ask you this session, since you brought it up that you've been in, I'm assuming a toxic room or two in your day? How do you as a writer survive that kind of room? Because it is, you know, I've been with? I mean, there's, I've met a few toxic people in this business. I know, surprising. But oh, by the way, some egos too. But um, so I know what it's like to work with toxic people when you don't have power? Yes. When you when you have power. If you're the director or the showrunner, or a staff writer who has some gravitas to them, it's different. And you still dealing with toxic people, you have a little bit more armor, you have a little bit more skill set on how to deal with it. But when you're starting out, and you have no power. And you have to deal with toxic people above you. What, what suggestions do you have for young writers to survive a toxic room? Not just for one episode, but for a season?

Niceole R. Levy 29:06
Right! Absolutely. So one of the first things I'm like, Just be honest with yourself that like, Oh, this is not a great situation. I think sometimes we especially I will say writers who come from underrepresented communities historically, tend to like, I can make it better your staff, right, or you're not going to make it better. It's it is the environment that it is right. So just accept that this is a situation out of your control. Um, and then, you know, one of the big tricks, it depends on if the toxicity is at a to a point. And then the rest of the people in the room are good people just trying to survive too. That's going to be your lifeline, right? Because usually, hopefully, there's someone in that room whose job is to look out for the lower level writers anyway, or who just is that kind of person and so they're going to like check in on you. Make sure you're okay. Make it fine. In a way to say to you, oh, I know this is batshit crazy. If you need to talk about something, you can come to me it's okay. Right? Even if they don't use those exact words, right? If you are in a place where and and thankfully, I have never experienced this, but I've heard about these rooms from friends of mine where it's just a constant, one upsmanship everybody out for themselves, because the showrunner sort of pitting them against each other. It's a little Hunger Games Room, right? That the best advice I have is look to the community that you have built as a writer, right? Look to the people who've mentored you, or to other writers, you know, at your level, and just go to them and you don't have to name names, you can just be like, I got this thing happened in the room today. And I don't know how to deal with it. And get advice. You can do it real time, I once was in a situation where somebody was in my office, saying a lot of things that made me very uncomfortable, because of I was a staff writer, and they were complaining about people above me and I have no power in this situation, right. And so I literally because I was already at my computer anyway, typed one of my friends who was an upper level writer and was like this happening right now. What do I do? And she was like, you go, Uh huh, uh huh. Really, wow, don't agree to anything, and find a way to get out of that office when you can. And so I was like, Oh, I gotta go to the bathroom, and like, got up and left the office. And it's like, I wouldn't have thought of that. Because I was panicking. Right. But I went to a writer who had been in a similar situation, or knew people who had been in it. And that's how we help each other. We need, you know, sort of brainstorm solutions to terrible situations. Because sometimes you don't know sometimes you literally walk in the door and all you've heard or good things about somebody and then you get there in your life.

Alex Ferrari 31:50
This is not this is not what was advertised this was definitely not it's almost kind of like prison yard ish. Whereas in that you're like, out in the yard, and you gotta I gotta find a friend. I gotta find a friend or group of people that I can connect with, to protect ourselves from this onslaught, even if it's quiet, and nobody needs to know that we're a team are helping each other because, because if that comes out, then that becomes a whole thing. So these are politics that no one talks about. These are things that generally other than your book, people generally don't talk about the politics of, of a room, how to handle toxic environments. And I'm not sure how much different these toxic environments are now versus five to eight years ago, where, you know, people were getting away with murder literally saying whatever they wanted to say do whatever they wanted. And because they were the powerhouses, they could get away with it. Where nowadays I'm not sure in your in the rooms now is it? I'm assuming that that that toxicity is kind of less it's not accepted as much as it used to be the the crazy showrunner. yelling and screaming and throwing things and being abusive to the writers like they show in movies is not as accepted as it used to be just like it isn't accepted to be a yeller on set anymore. Like, you know, James Cameron is legendary for what he's how he, you know, everybody, everyone has a James Cameron story. Everyone's got a I got to I got 20 of them myself. They're fantastic stories. I love. I've heard that he's less he's, he's calm himself with age. But he's still James Cameron. Right, and he will hit the teeth will come out if you rub them the wrong way. But it's not like it used to be where there was just like, you know, I had friends of mine who worked on Titanic, he which he would literally just fire departments, departments, because they know what you screwed up on the plate, no alternative gon get me 20. And you'd be like, That's not as accepted anymore. So what's your advice for that?

Niceole R. Levy 34:00
I would say I definitely think it is known as accepted anymore. There are still people working in this business who don't treat the people who work for them. Great. And I think it's, you know, I talked about in the book. Again, it's one of those things, right? I grew up in a military family. I used to work in law enforcement. It takes a lot to shock me in terms of commentary, those kind of things. So my skin for that kind of stuff might be very thick compared to somebody else. So the way I look at it is my job is not to constantly be on people and be like she say that can't say that. Can't say that. But if I'm in the room, and I see someone say something that doesn't bother me, but clearly make someone else sort of cringe. My job is to intercede there and just be like Guys, guys, we're going to end up in an HR meeting. Let's move on, like, try to steer the conversation away. Or to to say like later if I'm worried about putting that right around the spot, go in later and be like, Guys, let's not joke about that kind of stuff. Okay, I saw a couple people feel a little uncomfortable, like, let's not do that. And so as you as you become a more upper level writer, that's how you can help in those situations in a way that you can't when you're a lower level, right, right, because you don't have, you're always afraid you're gonna get fired. People are afraid to report because studio HR still works with the studio. And people are not sure how much they trust it. But you can be the person who can tell that it's causing a problem and try to do it because you have a lower risk. If I as a co EP is off the showrunner and get fired, I'm still getting paid. Right? They okay, my contract out, the staff writer can't do that. And so you have to be willing to take the hit to to help protect those people. As you rise up the ladder. When you are lower level writer that what I say is, if you're in an environment, that's a little tough, or you're just in a great environment, but you have a tough day, right? Sometimes even really good rooms, like an episode falls apart, and the showrunners pissed that you gotta read, break it and all of that. If you're the kind I am, I'm the room mom, I always have it. I'm a natural born room, mom. And because I bake, right? I bring cookies into the I do all kinds of stuff, like, do what is in your nature to try to make that room a better place. If you're the person who loves to organize things be like, hey, once we survived the shitty rewrites, should we all go have happy hour at blahdy? Blah, and plan? Be the first like, do what you can to keep the morale up? And that's fine to do at a lower level, nobody's going to be like, you know, who the hell do you think you are. And you're not trying to boss around people who are above you, you're just being a nice person. And, and if your room is having a really difficult day, especially if it's a good room that's having a bad day, don't be afraid to be the person who says something ridiculous. Like, I've been in a room where the break was just completely stalled. Everybody was starting to snap at each other. And I was like, what if we just drove a truck through the building. And everyone was like, what hours I mean, I'm just saying, The I get in the building, let's start tracking it. And it got everybody talking it, let some of the air out of the room and like, people could breathe again, you know, so you can find little ways like that to help. But if look, if it's a full, toxic situation. And I do hope we have fewer of those rooms now. But it does still happen. You just got to get through it, you do not no job is forever. No job is forever. Alright, so if you don't want to report, if it doesn't feel like the kind of thing that you want to go to studio HR about, and just tell your reps, I'm going to tough it out, I'm gonna get through the season. And then I need to go. Right, I want to do this job.

Alex Ferrari 37:51
Right. And it's, it's a thing that you just have to look, we all, especially at the beginning, we all have to go through crap. This business is called paying your dues. And it's a little bit different than it used to be. You know, I had my first boss and I was bipolar and didn't take his meds. And he would yell at me, I was working at a commercial house and I was the default guy. And I would get yelled at. And then the next morning he would walk in and sweetest human being in the world. So it's like a couple minutes literally a bipolar, like, did he take his meds or not today kind of scenario. And the verbal abuse that I got was, what was it I was making 20 Some $1,000 A year it was in the ballroom, and I was in Florida where there was not a whole lot of stuff going on in production. So I was like, I gotta just toughed it out. And that's exactly what you do. Like I gotta, I gotta, I'm gonna learn this Avid, and I'm gonna get out of here, right. And that's what I did. So the second that there's toxicity, or things that come at you, which this business is gonna throw at you, you've got to kind of sit down, take the hits, as long as it's nothing, you know, to an out there, like you were saying, but take the hits and keep moving forward. Because take this opportunity for what it is and learn from it. And like you said, learn what to do, what not to do, how to handle people like this, what you should do, it's all learning lessons. It's all everything, all the negative stuff that's happened to me in my career is built into who I am today. And I will not and I wouldn't, I wouldn't I wouldn't not not have those experiences.

Niceole R. Levy 39:29
Like you learn from those experiences. Absolutely. And I just tell people, you know, it's, if you are working with someone, and I don't care if they're a producer or a, you know, showrunner or whatever, who is creating a work environment in which you don't feel safe? You need to tell someone about that situation. Yes, being being angry and not liking the person is different than that sense of I am not safe here. Correct. Even if it's just emotionally safe because they pick on you in front of the room like that's not okay. it and it's especially not okay if you're a woman or a historically underrepresented writer like it's not it's not okay for anybody, but especially none Okay, then. And so if you don't feel like you can go to someone on your show, talk to a friend about it, talk to another upper level writer, talk to the guild do something to protect yourself in the situation. But yeah, there are, look, there's just, I, I worked for somebody who is not what you would consider a tyrannical showrunner in this business. But who literally treated us all, like we worked for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, had no respect for our private time, or family time, any of that. Just call it whatever, whatever that is debilitating, to expect people to work seven days a week? Yes, we get paid really well. We're also all human beings who have doctor's appointments and, you know, nieces and nephews to spoil and kids to take care of and all those things. And you have to, to be the kind of person who respects other people's time to be good at this at this business and to be good as a showrunner. And when you run into someone who doesn't, it'll make you want to punch walls. Was that a job? I was going to quit? No. But I was certainly angry the whole time I worked it.

Alex Ferrari 41:21
And these are the things. Look, the things that you put up with when you're in your 20s or 30s are not the things you put up with in your 40s and 50s. I mean, it's just, I look back at some of the stuff I did, I'd be like, no way I would put up with something like that now, but I'm in a different place. I've been around a little bit longer, and also a much stronger position to be able to, and I also see it coming down before you didn't see them coming. Yeah, you go into that interview with that showrunner. Now you like, Yeah, this is not gonna be a good match for me. I I smell something. There's something here? I don't know. But you're just like, I just need an opportunity.

Niceole R. Levy 41:58
I just I'll take absolutely, absolutely. Look, I have I have had, you know, writers who are about to get their first job come to me and say, Hey, I've got an offer from this show. I've heard this person might be a little problematic. What do you think, and I'm like, Oh, I will tell you everything I know. But at the end of the day, you need your first credit, you need your first job. And if your first job has to be with one of these toxic human beings, just go in knowing it's not you. They treat everybody like this, like, that's what that that word of mouth thing that we do, right, that's how we look out for each other is to be like, Oh, you're probably gonna get fired, but they fire everyone. Don't worry about it, like everyone in town knows it. Just go in there, you have your first job, you get your first credit, you get out. And it's a terrible thing to have to say to somebody. But it's real. Because our business still functions like that you need credits to get more credits, right. But I just say, like, let us Let's send people in with their eyes wide open, let them choose what they're walking into, as opposed to being like, oh, no, it's gonna be great. When we know it's a night. Like, let's tell them what it's really going to be like and let them make a choice. Because then they can already be strategizing how they're going to deal with it, when the bad stuff comes up.

Alex Ferrari 43:15
And this is why I do what I do, I want to be I want to let people know that there's a punch coming. And, and most most people don't even know that they're in a ring, let alone that there's a punch coming, you know, by a professional by a professional fighter. Rather than, like it's coming and prepare yourselves either learn how to dunk, and we've learned how to take it and keep moving forward. But this is this is the reality of the business. And that's why I do what I do. Because not many people tell the truth about that. Everyone loves the sizzle, but no one is really good at that steak.

Niceole R. Levy 43:49
And it's in luck. And it's always right, even once you become a showrunner. You might have talent that's toxic. And sometimes that piece of talent is the only reason your show's gonna get on the air. So you got to manage that toxicity. affect everybody, right? And it's your job as the showrunner to manage it. Don't expect everybody else to deal with the fallout of it, you're the person who agreed to it. So manage it. And I've been in situations where I feel like that isn't managed and it just makes you want to scream bloody murder, because you're just like, well, I can't do anything about it. If the boss won't say anything about it, they're not gonna listen to me. Alright, and so, you know, it's, it's, it's all so much of this business is about personalities, and understanding who people are and understanding how you need to be around them. Right? And not to that you shouldn't be your authentic self, but like, recognizing like, Oh, this is not a person I should trust with my secrets are that you're safe, right? Yeah, there. I tell people all the time. You know, part of being in the writers room. It's so much of being willing to share your experiences. ready and willing to tell very personal stories to help build a better show. None of the show runners who are screamers and yellers and abusive get that out of people. Nobody tells their best stories because they don't feel safe.

Alex Ferrari 45:12
You know what there was? I had the privilege of having Martha Kaufman on the show. And we were talking about friends. It's just like, do you remember that scene? Where Joey is getting measured by the the, or Chandler's being measured for Pat by the Italian? Taylor. And it went too far. He went too far up, and he was doing things he shouldn't be doing. Yes, that was real. That was one of the writers in the room, told us that story. So they felt comfortable enough in that room to say that story and it became a classic sitcom scene.

Niceole R. Levy 45:46
Yes, exactly. And that's the thing, right? So like, especially because sometimes we get hired in for experience, I worked in law enforcement. So my first several jobs, I was there, because of my law enforcement experience. If I'm worried about being ridiculed, when I share a story about something awful that happened at work, I'm not sharing that story, right? Just not. And so you need to create a space where people feel safe enough to say really hard, honest things. For the sake of making your show better. They're doing it for you. So make them feel safe. And there's lots of different ways to do that. Lots of different showrunners have different methodologies. But at the end of the day, it does fall completely on the show runners shoulders, to make a room where people feel safe.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
Now, I agree with you 110%. Now, there's I we talked about this earlier in the show, there's too many producers on television. And there's there's 1000 versions of them. And television, it's not movies. So it's a completely different vibe, different different things mean different things. Can you please explain the hierarchy of the writers and the producers? Because I know some I look, I'm in the business. I talk to people like you all the time. And I see people asked me to like, I think a call EP is a writer who's been promoted. The EP is not the showrunner, but it could be a co showrunner. There's so many rules in regards to this. Can you just explain it a little bit, please?

Niceole R. Levy 47:20
Sure. So in its most basic form, when you get your first writing job, you're a staff writer. At present, staff writers get a guild negotiated minimum salary, they do not get screwed, and sort of considered like an apprenticeship being sort of position, there's conversations about changing that. That's how it is right now. So in a perfect world, you do your staff writer year, let's say on a traditional 22 Episode show, because it's hard, it's harder to get promoted right away on the shorter orders. So do your 22 episodes, you become a story editor the next year. After that, you become an executive Story Editor. So though all three of those positions are considered lower level writers, and basically what that means is you come in your first year, you're learning what the job is, you're learning what it's like to be in the room every day, you're getting a feel for how you're how to pitch stories in the room, it's your your staff, writer, yours, you're learning, right? Story Editor, you're you come in, you've written, you've probably written at least one script or half a script, you've been in the room for a whole season now. So now your confidence is a little bigger, you can pitch faster, you follow the board easier. And hopefully, you're looking out for the new staff writer who came in behind you, right? Be that person, pay it, pay it back. Before then, yes. And then you get to executive Story Editor, executive story editors where the money starts to change in terms of instead of getting paid X amount of dollars per week, you now get paid per episode. And so it changes how long you can be stuck working on a show. And it's all a lot of complications that I sort of talked about the book. After that, you go to co producer level co producer is basically mid level writer, so co producer and producer. And typically, what the differences now I know back in the like 70s they were bigger demarcations of all these jobs. But what it means now is your showrunners just rely on you. Right? If you're a co producer, you've probably hopefully been to set to produce an episode. Your you've done prep meetings for episodes. So they might be like, even on an episode they're writing and producing be like, Hey, Nicole, can you sit down those prep meetings for me today? Because I got X, Y and Z and you just get thrown into the mix to do that kind of stuff. Um, if they need really quick rewrites on things, they might look to you because the upper level writers are busy on something else and they need two scenes rewritten. And they'll go to the mid level writers and be like, Hey, can you guys take a pass on this side effect. So you just start to get a little bit more responsibility, a little more assumption that you know what you're doing is really right from the top. And then after that you move into the upper level writers. So supervising producer, co executive producer and executive producer, what that really means is at supervising producer, there's a real good chance you might run the room sometimes, because the CO EP or number two is on an important call with the showrunner. And so the supervising takes over and keeps the train running in the room. You might stay on, especially on a streaming show, you may stay on for production when everybody else gets released. Once you get to that level, that's what I did on fake the week saga, I stayed on for three months and helped with the first block of production. Um, and it co EP, it's really, you're probably running the room most of the time, or some of the time, depending on if there's another co EP, um, someone in that rank and that CO EP supervising producer, in a really well run room is looking out for the lower level writers making sure that they know what they're doing that they have questions, they know who to come to all that stuff. And, um, you know, you probably are staying on for production for the whole run, unless somebody else has already agreed to do it. And you're popping out after 20 weeks, which just happened to me on the show. And it EP level EP level gets tricky, because right, you can get executive producer status without being the showrunner, because you just have the career right to have earned that title. If you've been, you know, a co EP for 10 years, and you're gonna basically be running the room and overseeing post and doing all that stuff, they give you the executive producer title. You can also be an executive producer, because you're in the showroom.

And then we have non writing EP, who are executive producers who do not write but came in as producers, when the show was actually being birthed when it was going through the development process. And you can all level of involvement from non writing up, some are right there. In the mix. Some of them you literally never see their name just appears on the screen and they get a check. So level of involvement. I added

Alex Ferrari 52:40
I had a friend of mine who Oh, my goodness, say the show. But it's a very famous show from a very famous showrunner, and, and writer. And I knew the EPS and question and they told a different story. But then when I actually talked to someone, staff, writers, and some staff producers on that show years later, they're like, We never saw them once. I think we saw them on the first day. And they never showed us this again. And they just collect checks, and they own the IP. And that's why and that's why they own the IP. So that's why this show was that's why they own it. So I was like, okay, so I didn't know that was a thing. Oh, yeah, but that one this business decision basically set them up for life. They're never have to work a day. They're gonna keep getting residuals. They're gonna keep making movies, they're gonna keep doing things off the off the rip the comic books, and amazing, remarkable but yes, they never showed their face ever.

Niceole R. Levy 53:39
Yeah. And the one other thing I'd say when you're in that upper level territory, that's where you get called on right for a staff writer script came in and it's not very strong. And the showrunner doesn't have time to give it back to the to the staff writer for notes. So you might get called on to do a page one and then give it to the showrunner, that kind of stuff. So you get called on more for you know, someone was supposed to cover set and something happened and they can't go, your name is going to come up to go covers that because you're one of those top you know, two or three writers on the show. So you definitely get more responsibility more crunch time. Everybody, you know, I these are the people I need to help me get through this emergency from the show.

Alex Ferrari 54:23
And so as you go up on the the ladder, if you will, you're not just a writer anymore, you are actually a producer, you are actually producing the show, helping produce the show, getting in prep meetings, things like that. So it's not only a title, per se, you're actually producing and actually handling things that writers generally don't handle.

Niceole R. Levy 54:44
Yeah, it is it is definitely more work. And you know, the trick to it now is one of the things that we're finding right with all of these streaming, six to 10 episode shows is people are getting promoted title is because they have the clout to do it. And they've done a decent amount of work to get the title bump. But because they're not going to set, you're having people get all the way to cotp. And they've never produced an episode of television. Right. So that's when it gets a little bit tricky. And you better be able to bring all that other stuff to it in terms of being able to do a factory, right? Being able to run the room, all those things, make sure you're honing those skills, because now you're going to have to learn a new skill, which is going to set and producing an episode of television, when everyone's going to assume you know how to do you so right, because

Alex Ferrari 55:38
You you've actually played both you believe played in both kind of rooms, you've played on streaming shows, and you've also played in network television. And network television still seems to be the old school, you know, you're gonna learn a lot going through 22 episodes of standard television, as opposed to being on a Netflix show. Or a cable show that maybe only does eight episodes. So like, it's a completely different mindset, even though the title might be the same. The experience is not so you got to prepare yourself.

Niceole R. Levy 56:08
It is absolutely and I encourage young writers like if you get an opportunity for broadcast show, he fell into it for one season, do it because you will never understand what it's like to be in that process of like, we got to write this episode, right? This is episode shoot this episode, it airs a month later. Like, it's so different than the streaming model. And it's like, it really teaches you how to move quickly how to make quick decisions be very decisive. How to handle emergencies, how to you know, I learned how to read one sheet, because number one on the call sheet had to drop out and we were like, Okay, what are we doing? Like, we got to figure out what the schedule looks like. Um, so it just, it teaches you skills that are very hard to get outside of broadcast right now. And I myself, I went back to broadcast, so that I would get experience and post because even though I had produced episodes of television post is like the place nobody lets you go. And so I was like, I need to, I need to go through post on episode. So I went back to broadcast so I could do post and get a feel for what it was like, what's fun? Oh, it's fun. I love I mean, I was a closed caption ER for years. So I thought, wow, oh, yeah. And so it was like, you know, it fascinating to me. And so I was really happy to finally get to be there. And like, see, there's a reason you have multiple people watch it, right? Because not any one person is going to catch everything you get, you know, people who are really all about the music and people who are like, we need more dialogue here. We need more dialogue here. And the people who are like shortage, shorten and shorten it feels wrong. And that's what makes it all work. You get all those people together. And it's not as one person having to catch every mistake.

Alex Ferrari 57:57
Right! Exactly. There's always the like, is that a boom in the shot? Let me that's the worst go through the entire episode, edit and 1000 people have seen it. And I QC kicks us back you like yeah, there's there's a there's a boom in the shot guys. Can you can you remove the boom?

Niceole R. Levy 58:13
Yeah, I know. I was unsettling time. And I swear the boom dropped below the safety rider. And everybody was like, No, it didn't. No, it didn't. And I was like, I mean, we're gonna do another tape anyway. Can we just mark that it might have like, calmed down. Like I'm telling you, I wouldn't have said anything. If I didn't feel confident I saw it drop a lot of

Alex Ferrari 58:34
safety. As your imagination recall, it was just your imagination. That's not a real it's a phantom. It's a phantom boom, mic.

Niceole R. Levy 58:41
Yeah. That's why we do more than one takedown.

Alex Ferrari 58:45
So let me ask you, as a writer, and I, I've gone through this as a writer, but I don't write nearly as much as you do on a daily basis. When you're in a room, and you're on a deadline, this is the thing that's fascinated me about a room is different than a screenwriter. Screenwriter can take a year, his time, even if there's a deadline, you got 12 weeks maybe to turn something around, you know, something will get a draft done or a rewrite done. But when you're in a room, you have a deadline, and it's a hard deadline. There's no There's no Mickey Mouse and around with that deadline. I have to believe that there's a point in your career that you just sat down, you're like, I can't I just nothing. I'm dry. There's nothing there for me. I can't my muse is on vacation. I can't get through this. What do you do as a staff writer to power through those moments when you just don't have the thing that you normally tap into as a writer?

Niceole R. Levy 59:45
So I'm one of those people who doesn't actually believe in that.

Alex Ferrari 59:50
I think there has to be times when the floor was not as heavy as

Niceole R. Levy 59:53
Yes, definitely. There's times when like it's not coming out in that natural state that I know it's the best writing Ever. But you know, and I think part of it is starting in broadcast, right where the deadlines are not fungible, like John balls to tell you don't ever miss a deadline on one of my shows, because it'll be like, you only do it once. And, and so I think the way to do it is, is again, I think the saving grace is remember, it's a job. So like, even if all you can do when you're feeling like, oh, I don't know if I can do it, take the outline, or the beat sheet or whatever your show has created. Put it in final draft, and just start formatting. Just start adding slug lines and being like, Okay, this is all description. Oh, I need some lines of dialogue here about this and about this and about this. And it'll be the world's worst first draft, but just doing that will get you for a file and it'll get you in your flow. And then I have literally had, you know, where the episodes flowing great, but then I get to a scene where I'm like, what is the scene anyway? I totally ah, stupid. garble garble. garble, you know, like all the, the crap that has to get spewed out in a procedure or whatever. And I will literally just write like, the Cole has to say something funny about whatever, you know, Alex has to do whatever and just write that and then keep moving. Come back later, and fill it in. Because when you have a hard deadline, you just have to keep moving forward. And you can say, when you turn it in, hey, here's the draft. I'm really not sure about that. That act added act to like I tried, but like, I'm just not sure why it works. That's fine. You have yes, no one's expecting a staff writers first draft to be perfect. They just hope it's serviceable. They hope they do not have to page one rewrite. So as a staff writer, please give yourself a break. Nobody's expecting it to be like, Oh, my God, this is the greatest script I've ever know. And as you move up the ranks, you know, different shows have different voices, and some are easier to pick up than others. And so have I been on a show where I wondered if I could nail the voice? Sure. But I wrote the script first. And then I went back and worked on the voice well with the rest of my time. So it's about budgeting your time, right? If you have five days to turn the script around, I highly recommend getting a really bad, you know, vomit draft done in like two days. And then spend your time just going back through going back through it going back through working on it. It's it's a process and you just have to make yourself do the work. And, and I think, you know, broadcasts was a really great training tool for that. Because in streaming, definitely, the deadlines become more fungible, right. It's like you have a schedule, we're going to try to stick to it. Oh, wait, we just got three episodes blown up. Well, we'll get to your script we get to.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:59
Right. It's a whole other world. It's Yes, it's it's streaming versus network. I mean, that work has a time you got eight o'clock on Tuesday, so it's gonna show up in streaming. You know, we'll wait another half a year for Stranger Things to come out.

Niceole R. Levy 1:03:12
Yeah, I think.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:16
Now, how do you deal with notes when you get it because as writers, you're gonna get notes. And screenwriting is a screenwriter for features is one way of studio notes. But as you're getting, you're getting feedback, like in the room sometimes. Or studio notes or executive notes. How do you deal with these notes?

Niceole R. Levy 1:03:37
So until it's your show, what I would say is just remember, like, it's all about what the what the showrunner wants, right? So the studio might send you two pages. And it'll be very overwhelming. And then the showrunner is gonna look through that and gonna be like, Okay, try to address this one. Ignore this ignore, ignore this. This is a good note. Try that. Like they're going to help you sift through it right? Very few show runners are just going to be like, here's the notes go with God, like see what happened? Because they're trying to protect their vision from the studio or the network as well, who are not trying to give you bad notes, but sometimes give you bad notes. I think you know, I was brought up by showrunners who were like, at least consider it right when you read it read it legitimately like, is there something here? Sometimes you're just like, can you guys read it literally says it on the page, the thing that you're asking for and you want to scream bloody murder, but sometimes they're really confused about something and and just looking at it and changing three words, gives them what they want, it makes clarity and they feel heard. So as you're coming up the ladder, you know on staff, you will have guidance on how to handle those notes when you're showrunners Giving you notes. Just remember, it's their show. You're their service that you're there to service them. And you might hate the note, it doesn't matter. So at your show, go to the note. And when you see things like I had a show runner who I love, by the way, who rewrote every joke I ever put into a script. And I was like, annoyed by it, but also what I would say was like, well, at least I was right. There was supposed to be a joke there. And just right, you were right, that it needed a joke. The showrunner just wanted to tell a joke they thought was funny. And, you know, instead of yours, so you just have to roll with that kind of stuff. Because almost everybody on staff gets rewritten. Sure. I mean, I've been on shows where COVID keys get rewritten, like it just happened. So you just got to roll with it. When it's your project, when you're doing development. And you know, you're trying to do your own stuff. It becomes sort of a dance, right? Because you're producers in the studio. And if you get there in network, we'll all be giving you notes. And it's tempting to want to say no to all of them. And you can't do that. And it's tempting to want to say yes to all of them to just make your life easier. And you can't do that. And it's really about now, what's your vision? What are you protecting here? And if the note doesn't completely offend something that you really care about trying? But sometimes you're gonna get notes that are like, Well, I think it should just be about one person instead of all four of these characters. And that's a different show. Right? And you're not, and I, and I've gotten that note, and I had to say, I'm not doing that. And sorry, if that's the show you want, I am not the right person to write that show. And you have to be sure, because they might say, Okay, then we'll go get someone else to write it. My experience was, I was so passionate about it. And I explained it so clearly, that they were like, Okay, try it. And then they were like, Oh, my God, it works amazing. But like I had to get them to that point.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:05
Right! Right. So these are the things that they just don't, unless you're in the room. Unless you're unless you're SSA say in the shit. You don't, you just don't have the experience until you get it true.

Niceole R. Levy 1:07:19
It's really true. And one thing I really stress to writers coming up, especially because a mentor taught me this, if it's your story area, or your outline, if it's gonna get you the guest to go write the next thing. Take the note, if unless it's that catastrophic, right? It's just like, we don't think you need this in the pitch. And you absolutely think you need it in the pitch, but cut it. And then later, someone's like, going to ask you a question. And you're going to be like, it was a little thing like that. But okay, you already know the answer. So you don't have to. But they're all sales documents. They're all trying to get you to here's money to write your script. So remember that, like, someone might give you a bad note and outline. And if you can finesse it, so that you take their note, but it doesn't ruin anything for you. When you write the script, you can try to write them out of that. No, because now they're gonna get scrapes, they're gonna get story with the characters and all the dialogue and stuff. And you might write the scene in a way that they don't even remember they ever gave you that.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:27
Did you watch the offer? yet?

Niceole R. Levy 1:08:30
Not yet. No. So yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 1:08:34
I loved the writing the directing the production, the acting is all done well, but there's no there's a scene there where Albert the producer is trying to negotiate with the mob, to let them make the godfather. And one of their notes is like, it was actually from Frank Sinatra, apparently, who was a very against the movie. And he said, I don't want to hear the word mafia in the script. And he's like, how can you make a movie about the mafia without the word mafia, the spirit. So Albert, very coyly, just went over to Francis and Mario Puzo in like, on a location said, like, Hey, guys. How many times is the word mafia, the script? And he's like, once, and he's like, precise, the line goes, can you get to get rid of that? Word doesn't matter. You know, I'm fine. And they just moved on. So what was considered a catastrophic, like, how could you make a movie about the mafia might say the word mafia. They literally had no, it was just it was all a family, the family business, it was never referred to generally speaking. So it was interesting. So everyone was happy after that.

Niceole R. Levy 1:09:42
Yeah. Yeah, it's exactly that kind of like sometimes the notes here like,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:47
What in the world are

Niceole R. Levy 1:09:49
You talking about?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:51
The door what?

Niceole R. Levy 1:09:52
Right! And then you have a conversation and someone gave me great advice that when you get a note that literally you're just like, I would like to murder you for giving me this. Go back to them and say what is it you're trying to feel? What what what is it you're trying to feel from this note? And usually, it will get them to talk about it. And you can find out what the what they're actually talking about. Because oftentimes those notes are poorly worded, and not actually communicating what the issue is. And sometimes what they're looking for is a moment between two characters. But it sounds like they're asking you for some huge drastic rewrite. And then you're like, so you want these two people to talk again. And they're like, Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:37
you're supposed to rewrite this entire scene from scratch. Yeah.

Niceole R. Levy 1:10:42
And then you're like, great, I can do that. I can do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:45
You know what? That's so interesting, too, because you're right, because a lot of times people who are giving notes are not writers, especially executives, financiers, actors. They're not writers. So the notes that they give you, they're doing their best to interpret your language, just like when I worked with a composer, and God forbid, I tried to talk music to them. Like, look, no, I remember, my composer was working on a movie once and he was trying to talk, I was trying to get fancy. We're like, can we get this note here to do this? Or that? And he's like, no, no, what emotion Do you want to hit there? And then I will interpret the emotion that you and the thing that you're trying to hit, and that is how notes should be given. It's like, I feel like they need to talk again, because I don't feel that there's a connection with these two characters, as opposed to me writing. You know what, I think the structure of this scene is off because of this, this and this. And I'm talking to a language that I might not know. And we as writers have to take those notes. And they said decipher them. Yeah. But that's great. Great. When what does it mean emotional? Was it that festival?

Niceole R. Levy 1:11:54
What are you trying to feel?

Alex Ferrari 1:11:57
Great for you?

Niceole R. Levy 1:11:58
Oh, man, it was incredibly helpful. It literally saved me a huge fight. It was like I was ready to throw down. I asked that question. And the answer was so simple. And I was like, Hold on, I can totally do that. Like, that's fine. And it's like, because you want to be right TV is a team sport. You want to be a team player and be cooperative. But say, I'm just like, What are you talking about? What's what's, I don't even understand what that means. Sometimes you just like, what? And so you need, you need to find a way around it to figure out what's really happening.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:36
So I have to ask you this question. Because I am a fan of the movie. You wrote the banker. I love the backer, and Jonathan is a friend of the show. And he's wonderful, wonderful guy. I've known him for a while now. How did you get that movie? Made? Because it is not an easy pitch, my dear. This is not a this is not this is not a blockbuster by any stretch?

Niceole R. Levy 1:13:05
Yes, well, I'm gonna say all of the credit for that movie getting made falls to Georgia annual fee, our director, and Joe Vitale, who was our editor, and one of our producers, um, the backstory on that is that Joel came across that property when he was an executive years and years ago. And once he started working with George brought it up to George and Anthony Mackie while they were making the Adjustment Bureau. And Anthony and George, were both like, yes, we should definitely do. It's the sounds amazing. And then it kind of sat there. And then George decided to make a TV show. And brilliantly hired me to come work for him, obviously, his TV show. And that's how we built our relationship. And towards the end of allegiance, which was the TV show. He was like, Hey, do you have a feature sample? And I was like, That's random. But yes. And I sent him a feature sample. And he called me the next week. And he told me a story about Bernard and was like, you know, you want to you want to make this movie with me. And I was like, Yes, please, I would love to do that. And so that's really how I came into the, to the process. And they really did all the hard work of drumming up financing and doing all those things. Like they were amazing. And what I will say is because, you know, we always knew Anthony was involved, and he was gonna play Bernard. And so we were, you know, it was there. And the, you know, one day my phone rang, and it's George and he was like, guess who we got? And I was like, did you get he was like, Samuel Jackson, who we always wanted, but didn't know if we could get and I was like, Nick Fury and the Falcon are both gonna be in this movie. I mean, not as Nick Fury in the Falcon but yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:56
Though that would have been a very interesting version of the movie. It's been a very different version, right?

Niceole R. Levy 1:15:04
I feel like there would have been a lot less, a lot less racism if it had been taking on

Alex Ferrari 1:15:12
Versus the first time someone say something in the curious, like, does.

Niceole R. Levy 1:15:19
But it was an amazing experience. And I'm so proud of it. And I actually because of knowing Anthony from that is how I'm writing. Well, I have already written my next feature, which is another true life story that Anthony is directing.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:36
Nice. Yeah, just back. So what are you up to next? So that's the next job.

Niceole R. Levy 1:15:42
That is next thing up? Well, we'll see. Because, you know, Anthony has 17 jobs. So it seems like he's Captain America. He's, he's Captain America. He's got all the jobs. Because he's got like three TV projects, whatever.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:57
Just announced his movie, but that's used to two years ahead. I think it's two years down the line. Captain America will be the new one at least but yeah, he's, he's gonna be in the Marvel Universe for a few years. Let's just put a few years.

Niceole R. Levy 1:16:08
Yeah, yeah. So but very excited. It's a really it's a it's called spark. And it's about this young woman named Patek Colvin, who has a 15 year old refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery nine months before Rosa Parks, and it's sort of why you don't know her story.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:28
Oh, wow. Nice.

Niceole R. Levy 1:16:30
Yeah, very, very so and we get to work directly with Miss Baldwin, which was delightful. She's wonderful. Sherpas attack and tells a great story. So

Alex Ferrari 1:16:41
That is awesome. That is awesome. f&b my favorite. Well, when I first saw it, and it was a mile, like everybody else. And I mean, what else can be said about that? I mean, he's a Million Dollar Baby. Oh, love that is such an acid. That movie is great. I wanted to punch him in the face. I swear to God, I just I was so happy when Clint beat the hell out of Yes. was so great in that part. He's wonderful actor. He's such a wonderful actor.

Niceole R. Levy 1:17:11
He's and he's lovely. He, it was so funny. Because when we were on set for the bank, or you know, I was trying to fan girl too much. Right? And, but and so I was like, super chill with Anthony. And then Sam showed up and Sam was like, your Marvel fan, aren't you? And I was like, Yes, sir. And he was like, let it out girl. And so then my fan girl just exploded and I was like

Alex Ferrari 1:17:36
Oh my, so he kind of feels so he has said Jackson understands like, are you You Tarantino or you're a Marvel fan. Okay, so your mom okay, just, let's get it out of the way so we can move on. And

Niceole R. Levy 1:17:48
Yeah, like literally talk to me about Marvel for 45 minutes? Because I gotta,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:55
I gotta ask you because people ask me all the time. Like, do you fanboy out and you know, when you meet people or you know, I interview people but or when I work with somebody or something like that. And I my personal thing is I generally don't fanboy out often. Even once in a blue moon offense. I mean, look at Sam Jackson walked in. I probably That's right. He got a bit. I'm not going to be honest. I'll probably geek out a bit. But how do you like how do you handle those situations when you're working with like Blair Underwood? You know, the first time you saw the?

Niceole R. Levy 1:18:29
Yeah. Do you know what I'll tell you? Honestly, the hardest one I ever had when I was working on the Mysteries of Laura. Stockard Channing get started on the two part episode that I was covering. And like, the amount of like, self talk I had to do with like, the professional human being she's here to do a job. You do not go in there and start screaming Rizzo at her. Like, no. Like, you have to be a grown up. And she was so wonderful. And like, I finally like, we had a break and it was getting towards the end of her time shooting and I was like, you know, this chant like, you just You're wonderful and I've admired you your whole career when she was like, me this thing and like, I kept it very, like sedate and I waited till the end but like I couldn't pass up a chance to tell soccer Channing how amazing she is.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
He thought I mean, and the worst The worst is like, do you ask for the picture?

Niceole R. Levy 1:19:26
Picture like we usually don't ask for the picture. I took pictures with Anthony and fam but mostly for my nephews who were like the biggest Marvel fans after me so they needed that but yeah, I usually don't ask for the picture. I think them and Blair might be the only times I've done it.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:44
Right. And again, if you're doing it it's like you there is there a vibe is there and energy with the person? Yeah, feel it out. But you're right. You want to act professional. You don't want to just go oh my god, you're Nick Fury in your pulp fiction and you're like He didn't you just like, you know.

Niceole R. Levy 1:20:02
But there's times I think, you know, as artists, we all love to know that our work is appreciated. And so like, like I met John secret young at the Writers Guild, we were both mentoring for the veterans writing program. And like trying to teach was a pivotal thing for my family, because my father would talk about Vietnam until that show came out. It was like such a thing. And so I'm so glad I took the time to go over, like on a break, and just be like, I just really wanted you to know this. And he was like, thank you so much for telling me that you know, and like, you just want people to know, and one of my greatest regrets is that I always meant to try to get a note to Steven bochco to tell him he was the reason I was a TV writer. And like, you know, I just was like, well, I'll have time. I'll have time. I'll have time. And then of course, he passed. And so I don't, I ran out of time. And so I think if you have a moment to tell someone how important they've been to you, it's fine. You just keep it professional and low key. And you know.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:02
I think Quinton was talking to John Travolta the first time the first time he was interviewing him to do Pulp Fiction because he had just done reservoir so he wasn't appointed yet. Right? You know, but he was just quit it. John Travolta years later, he's like, I think that first meeting was much more about signing his Welcome Back Kotter lunchbox, and it was that was really what that meeting was all about. I might get the part. I might not get the part. But it's really about signing that. Welcome back out on lunch box.

Niceole R. Levy 1:21:36
Yeah, yeah. It but you know, if you're in a fan thing, like I met me know, when at a fan event, and I was a total dork. You know, but then I went a friend took me to the Agents of SHIELD like wrap party. And I was like, Oh, I'm gonna have to behave here. And they were all just like, who are you? What do you love about the show, like, so wonderful. And so just excited to talk to someone who loved the show. And Henry Simmons was there. And he, I'm a huge NYPD Blue fan. And so I was like, Oh, my God, like, I've been following you ever since blue. And he was like, you watch it. Like he blew. And I was like, watch it. I own it. I love it. And he was so impressed that, like I knew his work from NYPD. Oh, yeah. Again, it's like, people just like to know that, like, stuff they did mattered to someone you know. So that's awesome. You just gotta find the right time.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:31
You gotta, you gotta feel the vibe, you got to feel the vibe. Sometimes you just like, not the time, not the time. But. But these are all these are all good problems to have. Let's just yeah, we're very lucky.

Niceole R. Levy 1:22:42
That's very lucky.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:45
So I'm going to ask you a couple questions asked all my guests. What advice would you have for a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Niceole R. Levy 1:22:53
I would say, first of all, it's going to sound really cliched and ridiculous, but just always be writing, like the amount of times that I've had to counsel counsel, young writers, or new and emerging writers, I should say, because we're not all young when we break into this business, that they need to write more samples. You know, like, one great pilot is not enough. One solid spec is not enough. Like you need to have material because even if they someone read your script, and they love it, it doesn't mean they're going to make that they're going to be interested in you for something else. And they might be like, Oh, my God, I think you're amazing. I want to put you up for the show. But it's more of a procedural than this character thing. Do you have something else? So you, you want to have every arrow in your quiver, right that you can possibly have? And so think about what's in your portfolio? You only write male leads, write some female leads? Do you only write sci fi? Can you try one straight sort of drama in case that's the job you can get first before you can go make sci fi shows because that's what I did, right? Like, you just you really have to have the material so that when someone answers your knock on the door, you have everything ready to go.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:08
Fair enough. What did you learn from your biggest failure?

Niceole R. Levy 1:24:13
I learned that I am not a person who likes to duck responsibility, and therefore, learned that the easiest way for me to solve a problem is just to walk into the the boss's office or whatever and be like, Hey, I fucked this up. I just I you know, the worry about someone finding out I did something or whatever, like, on a time for it. It's like it's ridiculous. Like, I'd rather take the heat for making a mistake and being honest about it. Then let something go and it gets found out later. And it's like who but this happened. Like I just I just learned that it's easier for me to Oh, no.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:56
Fair enough. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn what During the film industry or in life?

Niceole R. Levy 1:25:04
The lesson that took me the longest to learn was to live my life. Very true, it really did. And it took my my mentors in the writing business to really just sort of be like, every time I talk to you, you're writing every time I talk to you, you're working, like, go have fun, get out of your house. And it's how I learned how to have balance in my life that I had people who loved me enough to be like, Girl, you're taking the next three days off, go do things, go like whatever. And, you know, I am a workaholic. By nature. It's just how I'm wired. But learning to be like, it's okay to go to happy hour, three nights in a row, because all the writers I know are on hiatus and we have time. So I don't write for three nights fine. Like, you know, you're on deadline for a script, but your friend's wedding is on Saturday. Go to the wedding. Don't drink as much as you normally would, and come home in a decent hour. So you can get some work done. But go to the wedding. Don't miss your friend's wedding. I know it's really important to just live your life because that's the stuff that's going to matter to you in the long run.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:21
And three of three pilots that every writer should read.

Niceole R. Levy 1:26:28
Hill Street Blues dice is the greatest show in the history of television as far as I'm concerned. I'm wise guy. Oh, yeah. Remember wise guy?

Alex Ferrari 1:26:40
Oh, yeah. Brilliant pilot.

Niceole R. Levy 1:26:43
And huh for my third. I'm gonna go probably unusual. But I remember being so struck by this pilot, Masters of Sex. Oh, yeah. I'll tell ya that they hit they set the characters up in that is really, really beautiful. And I think it's a good character piece for people to study.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:12
The call. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Where can people find your new book, The writer group Survival Guide.

Niceole R. Levy 1:27:21
You can pre order it right now on Amazon, you can just plug the title in. And also, the I believe that the order link is pinned to my twitter throne which my handle on Twitter is at Nicole cooking, because I started on Twitter for my baking business. Obviously just stayed for the fangirling and the TV. So

Alex Ferrari 1:27:43
Niceole it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for writing the book. And hopefully this conversation will help a few writers along the way. So I appreciate you my dear. Thank you again.

Niceole R. Levy 1:27:50
Thank you so much.

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Cobra Kai TV Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Thirty years after their final confrontation at the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny Lawrence is at rock-bottom as an unemployed handyman haunted by his wasted life. However, when Johnny rescues bullied kid Miguel from tormentors, he is inspired to restart the notorious Cobra Kai dojo.

However, this revitalization of his life and related misunderstandings find Johnny restarting his old rivalry with Daniel LaRusso, a successful businessman who may be happily married, but is missing an essential balance in life since the death of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. Even as this antipathy festers, it finds itself reflected in their protegees as Miguel and his comrades are gradually poisoned by Cobra Kai’s thuggish philosophy.

Meanwhile, while Daniel’s daughter Samantha finds herself in the middle of this conflict amidst false friends, Johnny’s estranged miscreant son Robby finds himself inadvertently coming under Daniel’s wing and flourishes in ways worthy of Mr. Miyagi.

Below you’ll find a collection of Cobra Kai scripts. The scripts below are the only ones that are 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’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guest like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.

(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

BPS 229: How Indie Film Super Troopers Made Millions with Jay Chandrasekhar

Today on the show we have director, writer, comedian, and actor Jay Chandrasekhar has contributed to and appeared in a wide variety of critically acclaimed television programs and films throughout his career.

Chandrasekhar assembled the sketch comedy troupe Broken Lizard, which includes Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. Together they performed comedy across the nation until they set their sights on producing television and feature films.

Under his Broken Lizard banner, Jay directed and co-wrote Fox Searchlight Picture’s comedy cult classics Super Troopers, Super Troopers 2, Club Dread, and Warner Bros’ Beerfest. He also directed the Broken Lizard comedy special, Broken Lizard Stands Up.

Super Troopers hit theaters in February 2002 and went on to gross $23 million with glowing audience reviews (and $80 million on home video.)

Jay continued on to direct The Dukes of Hazard, direct and star in Millennium Entertainment’s The Babymakers, and appear in DreamWorks’ comedy hit, I Love You, Man. Recently, Chandrasekhar published his book, Mustache Shenanigans: Making Super Troopers and Other Adventures in Comedy that gives a behind the scenes look at the making of Super Troopers.

In addition to his feature film work, Chandrasekhar has directed various TV shows, including several episodes of the Emmy Award winning series Arrested Development, Community, Chuck, The Grinder, Up All Night, Happy Endings, New Girl, and Psych. More recently, Jay has also directed episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, The Goldbergs, Speechless, and Schooled.

His new film is Easter Sunday.

Stand-up comedy sensation Jo Koy (Jo Koy: In His Elements, Jo Koy: Comin’ in Hot) stars as a man returning home for an Easter celebration with his riotous, bickering, eating, drinking, laughing, loving family, in this love letter to his Filipino-American community. Easter Sunday features an all-star comedic cast that includes Jimmy O. Yang (Silicon Valley series), Tia Carrere (True Lies, Wayne’s World films), Brandon Wardell (Curb Your Enthusiasm series), Tony nominee Eva Noblezada (Broadway’s Hadestown), Lydia Gaston (Broadway’s The King and I), Asif Ali (WandaVision), Rodney To (Parks and Recreation series), Eugene Cordero (The Good Place series), Jay Chandrasekhar (I Love You, Man), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) and Lou Diamond Phillips (Courage Under Fire).  

Easter Sunday, from DreamWorks Pictures, is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers, The Dukes of Hazzard), from a script by Ken Cheng (series Wilfred, Betas). The film is produced by Rideback’s Dan Lin (The Lego Movie franchise, It franchise) and Jonathan Eirich (Aladdin, The Two Popes), and is executive produced by Jo Koy, Jessica Gao, Jimmy O. Yang, Ken Cheng, Joe Meloche, Nick Reynolds and Seth William Meier. The film will be distributed by Universal Pictures domestically. Amblin Partners and Universal will share international distribution rights.

Jay also just launched a new app designed to give the power of reviews back to the people. It’s call Vouch Vault.

“When my film, Super Troopers, showed at Sundance, it played to big laughing crowds. But when it was released to the public, the reviews were only so-so. On Rotten Tomatoes, Super Troopers, got a 38%-fresh aggregate score from less than a hundred reviewers. With the public, though, the film garnered a 90% fresh rating from more than 250,000 non-reviewers. This 38% reviewer-number stuck in my craw. I remember thinking, “Who are these reviewers, these strangers with outsized power, and why are we listening to them? Seriously. When’s the last time you walked up to a stranger and said, “Hey, what movie should I see?”

Our goal with Vouch Vault is to take recommendation power from anonymous strangers and give it to the people whose tastes you know and trust.”

You can download the new app here: Vouch Vault.

Enjoy my conversation with Jay Chandrasekhar.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Jay Chandrasekhar 0:00
As the human mind works at a much faster rate than you think it does, and so you can pull things out and tighten it tighten and tighten. And the tighter you get. Often the closer to the rhythm you even imagined was and you're trying to lock into a rhythm with the audience.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Jay Chandrasekhar. How're you doing Jay?

Jay Chandrasekhar 0:31
I'm doing great. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:33
I'm doing great, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I've been a fan of yours, brother since since I can't even tell you when spac obviously some Super Troopers came out. I pissed myself and continue to piss myself every single time I watch it. So I appreciate you guys making that.

Jay Chandrasekhar 0:49
Maximum reaction we are always hoping for.

Alex Ferrari 0:54
So I wanted you on the show, man because, you know, Super Troopers and the sequel and many of the other films you've made. I mean, specifically Super Troopers was kind of like this. In the you know, it's kind of like the beginning. Again, if you remember the 90s it was like every week there was a new El Mariachi or brothers mall in or clerks, brothers broken losers was that for the early 2000s is one of those films that kind of just came out of nowhere from you know, group of filmmakers who really nobody knew and exploded on the scene. So before we get into that, how did you get started? Why did you want to get started in this insanity? That is the film industry?

Jay Chandrasekhar 1:29
Well, I was an actor and in high school and college. Almost not an actor I've my sister was, I was kinda like, little lost in high school my freshman year. And my sister was like, why don't you just get in the play? It's super fun. You make a lot of friends. And I'm like a play. I don't know, like, what am I going to do? Like act? And she goes, be like an extra be in the chorus or something. I'm like, Alright, so I auditioned for a play to get in the chorus. I guess. I didn't make it. And I'm like, I was like, wow, I didn't make it. And so the next time they put up a play auditioned again, and I got into the head, a couple lines. And it was really, it was rejection that made me dive back in the second time. I'm like, How dare you? And once I started doing it, I thought, Okay, this is incredible. This is really fun. I was so and I became like, kind of that one of the main guys in the in the theater group in high school. And then in college, I started the lead in place. And then I looked at the television and movie screens. It was in the late 80s. And I was like, hey, there are no Indians on there. I mean, the Ben Kingsley was the one Indian and and they they weren't going to make it Gandhi too. Right? So I was like, well, when they wanted Indians, they put you know, white guys in brown face and these guys did this hilarious accents. I thought like Fisher Stevens and

Alex Ferrari 3:01
Wow, yeah, yeah, that did that does that age well at all? It's a short circuit.

Jay Chandrasekhar 3:05
It's funny, short circuit. My dad told me he goes he goes you have to see short circuit. And I said why? Because they didn't Indian in it. And I'm like, that's not a real Indian. He goes, where does this closest we'll get.

Alex Ferrari 3:19
Look, I'm Cuban and Scarface. I mean, so there you go.

Jay Chandrasekhar 3:25
That's such a good foot. Peter Sellars played a good Indian in the party. I thought I thought he did a nice job. But, you know, like, Indians were showing up but they were the guys who are selling Brad Pitt the pack of cigarettes before he went over and hooked up with cheddar friends or whoever, right? Oh, it'd be the guy would have picked up whichever is. So I decided in college. I started a comedy groups. You know, because I was. I don't know, I don't know how much of this you want. But anyway, I was in college as a junior and I decided I'm going to try to make it and show business. And I said the way I'm going to do it is I can make my friends laugh, no problems. But can I make strangers laugh? And so I moved to Chicago, which is where I'm from. And I spent the summer in Chicago and then I took a semester off college and I went to college in Chicago got credits there, and I immersed myself in the improv comedy world. And I got involved in this thing called the Improv Olympic. And Chris Farley was the top guy at the time and Dave keckler. And they would go see their shows or improv shows, and they were incredible. Like, just like it was like magic. It was he couldn't believe how funny he was. And then I would go do my improv shows with my group, which was like eight beginners, and we would get almost no laughs I mean, I don't know if we got any laughs And I thought, well, wow, that's really failing the test of this. Can I make strangers laugh? So I decided I'd better go cross down and write some stand up. And so I went down an open mic and I did five minutes of stand up and I got laughs and I was like, okay, okay, I passed that test, I'm going to do it. And so I got back to Colgate. And there was an opportunity to start a comedy group. It was basically like, Hey, you want to direct a 1x? And I said, instead, I'll start a comedy group. And so I went around and getting look Magnificent Seven, I gathered all the funniest people I knew. And I put them in a room and I said, Here's, hey, we do improv. And I'm like, now I'm like this worst improv improviser in Chicago, teaching seven other people how to improvise. And it just didn't go anywhere. First of all, we had no the audience. So we were like, Is that funny? I don't know. Is that funny? I don't know. And then we're like, you know what, we're all history majors and English majors. This is right sketch. That's you Saturday live, we can do that. And so we started writing sketches. And one of the guys who I hired was from Los Angeles freshman, and he goes, I really pretty good with this camera. It's like, okay, well, like Santa Claus. We should share video. So we started shooting short videos, and we put on a show and the first night about 30 people showed up. And but it was a good show, I thought and the next night, it was 400. And you couldn't get enough seats it. And the next night was sold out in the next night was sold out. We're like, oh my god, this thing is really caught on. And so we did another show them, we moved to New York, and we reformed his broken lizard. And that was 1990. And I'm watching what was happening in the film business. And I'm like, so all these, like, just Kevin Smith, who's any person what's going on with that guy, Rick Linklater. And I'm like, you know, maybe the only way I'm gonna get because still, there are no Indians on screen. And I'm like, maybe the only way I can get into a movie would be if I wrote it myself. So we wrote a movie together. And then I'm like, you know, we had an experience of Comedy Central with another director who directed us. And I'm like, it didn't really feel right. until like, maybe I should learn how to direct. So that, and I've been directing all these little short films for broken lizard. So I kind of had a leg up. And so we raised money, and we made a half an hour film, and then we raised more money, and we made puddle cruiser, which got into Sundance. And it was just us, me and my friends in the movie. And that group, obviously, then went on to make Super Troopers. And you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:13
And the rest, as they say, is history. It's funny that you say like, you were looking at the 90s. And for people who listen to this show that many of them are younger, who does understand what the 90s and independent film was, it was the first time you really saw the technology is so cheap, and the opportunity for the festivals and Sundance and that Sundance decade, to blow up, you know, filmmakers, there was just a window of about 10 years really, that you could do that that gave you the inspiration to go. I think I could do this. Because if, if, if Kevin Smith made clerks for $27,000, and it's funny as hell, good writing and everything. Wow, what can I do that I'm funny? Similar, same idea?

Jay Chandrasekhar 7:51
That's exactly right. It's very much like if that guy can do it. I mean, it was very much like that. And, and it was, No, the truth is the, you know, the landscape was littered with the bones of filmmakers who didn't make it.

Alex Ferrari 8:06
Oh, and still are, sir.

Jay Chandrasekhar 8:10
But, but we, you know, I've always been some, like, like cocky to the point of stupid,

Alex Ferrari 8:20
Which has to be you have to be

Jay Chandrasekhar 8:23
Attempt to write and direct your own film and shove yourself into Milan. And help.

Alex Ferrari 8:30
Which, which, which. So you made your short film, which was Super Troopers. It was called Super Troopers Three?

Jay Chandrasekhar 8:35
No, no, the first No, the first fish called the tinfoil monkey agenda.

Alex Ferrari 8:41
Oh, fantastic. Name. Fantastic. Fantastic.

Jay Chandrasekhar 8:46
The second the first feature film was called puddle cruiser right. took place at Colgate. And then the the film after that was Super Troopers. One I'm writing Super Troopers three right now,

Alex Ferrari 8:57
When I was so so puddle cruiser. So that was kind of like your clerks. That was the that was your that was going to be that first film that was going to like, and you got to Sundance, which is a huge.

Jay Chandrasekhar 9:09
And Harvey Weinstein saw it and was, you know, tested it and it tested it tested well, but he didn't end up buying it. And he's like, I want to make it into a TV show. Because he just had a deal with ABC. So he's like, you gotta make it a TV show. And then we ended up making it into a TV show with another company and another guy but but we came like inches from being purchased by Miramax just didn't. He wasn't in the room at the right time.

Alex Ferrari 9:44
Fair enough. Fair enough. Now on when you made panel cruisers, I mean, that's the first time you made a narrative feature face you know, as a director, what was the biggest lesson you learned on the directing side making that first feature?

Jay Chandrasekhar 9:55
Well, you know, the thing about A comedy is it's all about rhythm and timing. And if you watch those, you know, I keep mentioning canceled people. But if you'd like to Woody Allen's great work, he'll have three minute takes where the actors are creating his comedic rhythm. And I'm sure he's telling it faster, faster, faster, faster. And he had his he has it taken one of his phones or two people are arguing in the living room, they walk into the kitchen, the camera just points the kitchen while they keep arguing that they walked back after about a minute of arguing in the kitchen. And the reason it works is because the rhythm, right. And so I always had a sense. I mean, I don't know, it may be if you're a comic, you know that it's all about really. And I was like, I think this movie is going to work based on the rhythm we've written into the script. And I don't know. And so we would shoot these scenes. And I'm like, Yeah, that's feels right. This sounds right, right. And then we cut it all together. I'm like, yeah, yeah, there it is. But But what we learned most is that there's so much extra stuff, and space that you need to eat, because the human mind works at a much faster rate than you think it does. And so you can pull things out and tighten it tighten and tighten. And the tighter you get, often the closer to the rhythm you even imagined was and you're trying to lock into a rhythm with the audience. And we were able to do that. So you know, what it taught me is that we couldn't we can do it. Making

Alex Ferrari 11:30
Which is, which is a very important thing, which gave you the confidence to make Super Troopers, which was a slightly larger budget.

Jay Chandrasekhar 11:38
It was 1.1 million.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
How did you get that? How did you get that movie? Money?

Jay Chandrasekhar 11:42
Well, we just asked everybody in Hollywood, and they all said no. And we were like, no, no, we're the pokers. Guys. They're like, yeah, where Joe was sold to Harvey Weinstein, but

Alex Ferrari 11:53

Jay Chandrasekhar 11:58
You know, we, we, we went to so many different people. And they were like, so let me get the stripe. You guys are the cops. Like, nobody knows who you are. You know, one guy is like, I'll give you the money. But we put Ben Affleck and as the role of authority. I'm friends with them. They'll do it. And I'm like, no, no, I'll play that part. Because good luck with that. And then we and we would we went from place to you know, we were repped at CAA at the time. And they introduced us to all their finance ears. And they interested in this and we got close again, we'd like the we were friends with the Zucker brothers so that they introduced us to the Farrelly brothers and the Farrelly brothers tried to get a made of Fox and they were like we just the studio won't. Because you guys, they just won't do it. And we went with Bob Simons, who was producing a lot of Adam Sandler films and he goes, I'm doing it. We're doing it for 5 million. I'm like, great. And then Bob couldn't get paid the amount he wanted to get paid in the budget. And so he's like, sorry, guys, I can't do it. And I'm like, Oh, okay so then.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
God just all this back and forth. I love people hearing and hearing the stories because it's like, oh, you know, one day you get into Sundance next day, you make broken lizards in the money just comes rolling in. Like, that's not the way it works.

Jay Chandrasekhar 13:18
So then we ended up a friend of ours was George Clooney as assistant. We moved to LA right. And we're like, we were hanging out with her. We're partying with her. We're you know, doing ecstasy. I don't know. Anyway, whatever we're having, but and we were sleeping at George Clooney his house because she was he was off making the peacemaker, I think, and we were, she was alone. And she's like, I can't sleep in this house alone. There are all these paparazzi in the woods. And we're like, okay, so we moved in there for a month. And we

Alex Ferrari 13:53
Does George know this?

Jay Chandrasekhar 13:57
Robes around the slippers and we go feed his pigs. Thanks. That's right. And we had a bomb. And when he got home, he's like, you know, introduce me to these knuckleheads are sleeping in my house. So we met him and he goes, What are you guys trying to do? And we're like, well, we're trying to do this movie and he read it and he goes, this is a great movie, I'll participate. And I was like, Alright, okay, so that was how we're going. And I think we asked him to be in it because I'm just gonna produce. Okay, good. So, then we, you know, we're like, trying to take that around town. And, you know, the jersey films, which is Dan to beat us company is like, we're simultaneously trying to create a television show with them around Super Troopers, because, you know, didn't make it as a movie. We're well let's make his TV show. Then we are unable to sell that. To Fox. We've had a pilot to Fox right. We had a pilot and there We're like, we don't know about them. We don't know about you guys. And they pass. So then Jersey films like why don't we make it move? And I'm like, Well, we're already making it with George Clooney. Great. We'll jump on. So now we're in Danny DeVito and George Clooney and two companies. And Soderbergh is giving us notes on the movie because he's with Clooney. And Soderbergh's, like I don't know about this opening scene, I guess. I don't even know what this he goes. I don't know what's so funny about these cops because I think you guys need a new wrinkle to it like you need you know how, like in Point Break there were those those President United States masks, he was like that, like, Why can't hide our faces? Because we're not famous. But I did. But but we're like, we're not doing that notice. In any case, so then we go around to all the studios, and they all go Yeah, already said no to that. We're not doing it just because you guys are. So now we're like, what the hell? All the independent people said no. And, and, you know, so finally, we're like, I'm in my office pack. I had a New York office, and I was I had moved to LA but I go in there, bring everything back. So pack in the opposite. Get ready, get unplugged the phone again. It's done. I'm moving out. And the phone rings and I pick it up and it's my friend cricket. And she goes, Hey, I hate to do this to you. But you know, my father is a investment banker. And he's, he's retiring and he wants to write scripts, and you're the only one I know is kind of in showbusiness kind of cricket. And he goes, Do you mind just talking to him? He wrote a script, he needs somebody else to look at it, I guess. And I'm like, alright, I'll do it. Right. And so I get on the phone with this guy. And he's like, because you write scripts. He's like, Donald banker, kind of like, tough guy. And I'm like, yeah, yeah, we've written a couple that goes, All right. Well, I wrote a script to it. I'm like, Oh, great. Don't make me read it. But I know you will. And then he's like, I guess I'll send it to you. But why don't you send me your script first. So I can just see what kind of writers you are. And I'm like, I'm being audition to read. Terrible script to sell Exactly. But I like cricket, and I kind of want to kiss her. So I'm like, you know, then I didn't kiss her. But anyway. So I said, I send the script over to this guy. And he, you know, a few days later, he calls me back. And you know, I'm unplugged the phone. Yeah. And he goes, I read your script. I said, Okay. I'm waiting for him to go. Okay. Now. Now I get to read your script. And he goes, pretty funny. Oh, yeah. Because what are you doing with it? I said, Well, it's a banker and raising money. Because how much you need. I said, we need a million to six. That's our budget. And he goes, I'll do it. And I hang up the phone and walk in my producers. I'm like, I know, the banker on the floor, wants to do the movie. And he goes, I will. My producer was an investment banker, too. He goes, Oh, to get this guy to fly? I'll find out, you know, I'll be able to suss him out. And he gets on the phone. He goes, Okay, right. Oh, and then he hangs up because he's a real deal guy. And within within about two weeks now, the bank,

Alex Ferrari 18:24
No, money dropped within two. I've never heard of a movie drop money dropping.

Jay Chandrasekhar 18:28
I'm funding the deal. Let's do it. That's how he looks at it. He goes, when I say I'm funding the deal, the money goes in the thing. And I'm like, why? Wow.

Alex Ferrari 18:38
That is what that is called. Just some some force in the universe just said, It's time for these boys to go make their movie started like that and

Jay Chandrasekhar 18:49
Run them all the way to the end where there's just unplugging the phone.

Alex Ferrari 18:55
Just just as a joke, we'll just go. Here's one last.

Jay Chandrasekhar 19:00
What do you got to pass the test? Which is to be nice to cricket.

Alex Ferrari 19:03
Right! Because if you so basically, we weren't I wouldn't be sitting here right now. God knows where your career would have been. If you wouldn't have been nice to cricket.

Jay Chandrasekhar 19:11
I would have been the Indian guy in the deli selling cigarettes to Brad Pitt when he goes to have sex with whoever.

Alex Ferrari 19:19
They're really funny. Really funny.

Jay Chandrasekhar 19:24
I it may not be true, but I call myself the Indian Jackie Robinson of of comedy. And it's because there were no there were no Indians in comedy. Right. And I got in and a lot of them have come up to him and like, Hey, I saw you on the screen. I thought I could do that too. And you know as these and Mindy and all these folks, I mean, if you look at the wave, there was me and then everybody came in and they're doing great work. I mean, look at all these great people. So

Alex Ferrari 19:58
Yeah, um, You were the Jackie Robinson, sir. You were the Jackie

Jay Chandrasekhar 20:02
Robinson. Yeah, I mean, you know, nobody hurled things at me from the stands are called me.

Alex Ferrari 20:07
There's that. There's that. But But you did have to sit in a room with Harvey Weinstein. So there's that.

Jay Chandrasekhar 20:15
You know, it was it was quite, it was actually quite thrilling. I didn't know. Obviously, all the stuff he had done.

Alex Ferrari 20:21
No, look, not everybody, every week could correct trash him now, because he's a monster and all that. But in the 90s, he was a god.

Jay Chandrasekhar 20:28
Yeah, I don't trash everyone's I mean, he's, what he was doing was awful. But you know, there were a lot of people around who seemed to know what he was, what he was doing, like it was just what the boss did. And you're like,

Alex Ferrari 20:48
I don't and there's, and there's a lot of that stuff that happens in Hollywood. I had heard stories running around town about that since I was starting out. So it's something that hopefully has changed a bit, but I think it has changed, I think, a tremendous, a tremendous amount since since the 90s. And early 2000s, without question, alright, so you get Super Troopers funded by a miracle. Miracle you're shooting? What is it? What is it like shooting? How did how did the production go smoothly? How did it run?

Jay Chandrasekhar 21:17
It had to go smoothly, because we only had the money for 28 days of shooting. Like he's like, in fact, peatland God put in 1,000,002, not a million to six pieces. Like that's all I'm giving you. And so I put in 30, and credit card and rich per element producer put in 13 credit card and we were like, hanging on by a thread. And, you know, like, the weather had to go well, the film. I mean, we shot on film, it had to be you know, everything had to go well, and it and it did. It went it went according to plan. And then we you know, we cut it together. And you know, it was Sundance was, was interested in the film because of the previous thing. But we were so close to the deadline that it was, it was you know, like we had shot it. We shot it in June and the Sundance deadline was, you know, September. Yeah, September. So we cut it together, we put together we sent it in, and I was in. I can't remember. Anyway, whenever we got the call, you get a Thanksgiving that they see or, or your or they don't call it. But the we got the call that we were in and we were like, oh my god, we have to finish this movie in time. And we're not sure we can even do it because we were the do art film lab. And yet all the films that got in were rushing. And so we just received finished, right. And, in fact, it was so close that we we ended up in the do art film lab on the morning that we were flying to Salt Lake City, that we're watching the final approach. And I was sitting in that room with Kevin Halford into play farva And the color timer. And we're watching it. And we're watching it and like watch the first the opening scene of Super Troopers. If you haven't seen it, like I'm a cop, and I know you've seen it though, I guess. And another, we pull over some stoners, and we we mess with them. And there's some other things that's so and it's you know what, it has gone on to become the scene which we're known most for, I would say like, you know, like they're like, it's the scene that describes broken lizards comedy, I think quite well, and people were like that to you guys. Okay, so I watched that scene. And the title of the film comes up Super Troopers. And I'm like, Can we can we turn the lights on for a second? And they stopped the film. And I stand up and I look at Kevin, I'm like, we blew it. That opening scene sucks. And he was we talking about? And I'm like, it's terrible. Otherwise, I act like that. I don't know what. Nobody was telling me that I was acting like that. And he goes, I think it's pretty good, dude. I'm like, What the hell do you know? And the color type of goes, I think it's pretty good too. I'm like, You know what, pal? It's not. And we got to go to Utah tomorrow and show this terrible learn. Right? And I'm like, Ah, Doom. I was just feeling doom. Wow. And in fact, the opening scene a puddle cruiser is the worst scene in the movie. It's just okay. You know, like, like it with comedies. You want to get them laughing fast so that you can keep them laughing and they're like, oh, yeah, we're laughing we're supposed to. So I was like, we tried so hard to make Super Troopers a good opening scene. It was just because of how bad the opening pedal cruiser was. We the product was there opening was so it wasn't bad. It was just slow and whatever. We used to take up a marionette. Like it was Jimmy the dummy, right? And it's like a little ventriloquist guy. And we did a whole scene at the first Sundance with this dummy, where, you know, like one of us would go up on stage and go, Hey, the film print broke. And we're getting a new one shipped in from Salt Lake, the whole packed audience, and the audience have grown. But it's coming, it's coming. We'd make up this thing. And then the dummy had like somebody on the on the, in the audience ago, unprofessional. That was one of us, right? And then another guy would be like, Hey, leave him alone. And is this guy with a ventriloquist dummy. And they go, what? I think these guys are young filmmakers, and they're trying really hard. And then the guy you shut up, you dummy. And then everybody be yelling at each other. And then a guy in a UPS uniform. What am I guys would come run it in. I got the film. And he'd run unspool everywhere, right? And the audience was laughing and laughing. And then we started the movie, and they're laughing and then they go, I was like, to Kevin, I'm like, we gotta go back to my house right now. We'll take the cab go back to pick up Jimmy, the dummy. We're doing the things sketch again. Because we're not doing it. We're just showing it and I'm like, to go to Park City. And we're in a bar, and I'm sitting in the bars, Harvey wants you. And I'm like, oh, we gotta get this guy in the screening, right? And so we send Marissa Coughlin who's in the movie, and she knows him. And she's, he's, she's, he's like, he's like, come on over. And so it was I'm telling the story of this criminal now. So and So Harvey, and, and he's like, look, Jay, I'd love to go to your movie. But I got a meeting right in the middle of it. I can't. If I go to your movie, and I leave, you're not selling your movie. And I'm like, I know. But if if I said, well just put you in the back seat. just sneak out and then you know, he goes, Okay, I'll come to your movie. Put me in the back seat. I'll sneak out and I'll come back. And I'm like, great. Let's do it. And so we do it. We put them in the back seat, back row. place is packed with really high and kind of drunk people because it's like a midnight screening. And we know a lot of people in LA and New York. Everyone's like, yeah, revved up, right. And they all turn and look at Harvey Weinstein. And they go well, right. He's here. Holy shit. He's here, right? And so he's sitting in the back. The movie starts unlike, it's gonna be terrible. And immediately the laughs start rolling and rolling. And then I mean, it rolled. And then when that title came up, the place blows up into an ovation. And tears rolled up. Because I was so tense. I was so tense. And then I'm like pacing in the lobby as enlisting to the movie laughter. And Harvey gets up around the 30 minute mark, he goes, this movie is killing, because I'm coming back. And he, he leaves goes to thing and he comes back and he slides right in he goes, incredible. And at the end of the movie, he goes, come over, talk to me talk to me, because I'm not going to necessarily buy your film yet, because I haven't seen it all. But this is going to help you. Because he watch what happens here. And he goes, in fact, I want you to meet me at this bar. And you watch where we'll be in. You'll be in the daily, whatever the page six. I'm like, okay, so we meet up at this bar, right? And, and I'm there and like, whatever. We're kind of chatting, I'm a spy the movie, because I got to watch it first, give me the print. So we're kind of doing that thing. And I'm at the bar and executives from searchlight. And executives from Sony are like don't sell don't sell to Harvey. Let us we need more people to come see it don't sell or don't sell. And in fact, it created this frenzy. And then we showed it again Saturday night. And we showed it again Sunday night and searched late and made an offer a three and a half. And we're like Harvey, you want to beat that with Sony, whatever. And search sites like that offer expires when your Sunday night screening starts. So take it early. And we're like, We'll take it. We'll take it. Thank God we took a search like because we had such a nice career with those guys. And we never had to deal with, you know, Harvey Scissorhands, which is what he was called by a lot of filmmakers. So we went in recut. I mean, like, obviously a lot worse things recut movies, but I always grateful that I never fell into his his hands.

Alex Ferrari 29:36
Right. But at least he did whatever he did for you back in the day. It started the conversation. It's that's that's an amazing story. So you tripled your budget, and your career was off the ground. I have to ask you, I mean, it turned into a huge hit. I mean, it was it and not only huge financial box office hit but then DVDs back then and

Jay Chandrasekhar 29:58
It made Fox over 100 A million dollars, cheese, a million dollar movie. Almost every penny of

Alex Ferrari 30:07
I was about to say almost every single buddy I like I'm sure that you didn't get that. But but so let me ask you a question I always love asking filmmakers who get this kind of situation happen to them this kind of lottery, I call it the lottery ticket. Because it's like it's, it is a lottery, it's a lottery ticket moment that you worked very hard for. It's not like you was lucky to get it. But all the circumstances that happened like crickets was gives you the money. And then Sunday, there's a lot of these things that happen. How did the town treat you as the director of this film afterwards?

Jay Chandrasekhar 30:43
That what happens is there's a period of, of heat, right? So we instantly got to television deals one with the NBC and one with ABC. You know, like we we entered into, you know, searchlight one at our next film, which would become Club Dread. And, you know, we were, I was in the conversation around town as one of the new guys. But I wasn't pursuing that I didn't even know how to pursue it. Because I was like, I would read these, you know, often not great comedy scripts. And I go, Well, no, I can't make a not great movie, but didn't occur to me that I could then put my improvement tour on it and rewrite it 10 Guys rewrite it or we rewrite I didn't even know that sounds like, well, if it's this now then I can't make that movie. That's how kind of dumb I was. And so I passed a lot of good movies. And then I said, Oh, well, you know what, this is an idea for a film this movie. And I'll just take it, I'll rewrite everything. And and then it'll be the same movie, but it'll be about my version, which should be in my opinion, a good now, like, that's what I do. But then, yeah, I was, I was like, one of the guys who, you know, I was on variety, top 10, directors, you know, all that stuff,

Alex Ferrari 32:22
You went through the water bottle. So you went through the water bottle tool, or you just went, you met everybody.

Jay Chandrasekhar 32:26
The bottom line is, in the film, business is a largely self generating business. And if you relax and be like, I made it, I'm in the top 10. Director, so it's meaningless. It's like, yeah, some producer might call you and go, Hey, can you do something with this, they're still trying to get the money. And, you know, if you're not generating yourself, if you're not out there going, I want to make a movie about this. And this, this, and I'm gonna write this script. And this is the writer is going to do it. We're going to do that together. And if you're not doing that, you're not getting movement. Still.

Alex Ferrari 33:00
Still, at any level. I mean, even Spielberg can can get some things made, but he still has to develop and build and do things like that.

Jay Chandrasekhar 33:09
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, he's has a little easier.

Alex Ferrari 33:13
But yeah, a little bit a little bit easier. That

Jay Chandrasekhar 33:15
Leads me to this. I don't want to jump off your train. Yeah. But if you want to continue we can I have a spiel Brooks. I love skills.

Alex Ferrari 33:24
I have so many people who've worked with Spielberg on the show. I have he, it seems to me that he always he's always in the mix somehow, with any any, any big thing that happens in town, you always get the call from even if it's just like, hey, man, great movie. What was your what's your Spielberg story?

Jay Chandrasekhar 33:39
Well, I was I was sitting at home in the pandemic. And I basically had turned into like a full time golfer, like I played every day. And I was just sort of there and I get this call from my agent that said, hey, what do you know about Joe coy? And I said, Well, Joe coy the comic I mean, it's funny, funny, dude. Right? Instead, well, okay, here's the deal. Joe coy has done a stand up special on Netflix. And Steven Spielberg during the pandemic happened to watch it. And he loves Joe Callie. And now he's like, wants to make a chill coin movie. And they want to do it in Vancouver. And they want to and you gotta go any day now, because the film can only be shot in May in June because that's Jo Koy standup window, where he's got stand up shows all over the world and the big show so and I'm like, big shows really? sells out 16,000 seat arenas. I was like, oh, oh, okay. And I'm like, okay, so May June. So we got to be in Vancouver when Monday and they're like, Yeah, kinda. And I'm like, Okay, so I'm in the strips. So I read this rapid I'm like Okay, I got it. I mean, I know Joe's stand up, and it's, uh, it's like attempting to be about his family. And I'm like, Yeah, I said, you know, look, this script, were I to do it would need some work, but it's not work that can't be done. So I said, y'all go. Well, I mean, cuz they Amblin was asking for me to go. And I said, Yeah, I'll do it. So I flew to Vancouver. And and when did a quarantine for two weeks in a in a hotel very nice. But it was hard, where I couldn't see any but I can step over the the entrance to the I just stayed in that room. And then I got out and Jo Koy came to town and I met him for the first time. I mean, I we'd met on Zoom. And we you know, I hired a writer, and she and I rewrote the thing. And, and then, you know, I started I met Steven Spielberg, I just because of the quarantine and the COVID thing, I get to know from every now and then like movie stars don't wear hats. And I'm like, okay, he can't wear a hat and the next thing but

Alex Ferrari 36:10
Steven, Mount Olympus called, and you can't,

Jay Chandrasekhar 36:14
You know, like, we were gonna hire an activist for a part that, and we sent it to him the choice. And you know, she was the more famous person, right? And I've been at Warner Brothers for years, I had to deal over there. And they're, like, just hire the most famous person, we'll put them on the poster, and we'll make it work. And I'm like, I just assumed everybody did that. And so I'm like, I get in the choice most vampers. And he sends a note back. There's other woman's much better actor than the most famous person or anything. And I'm like, Well, yeah, but she's not the most famous person. And he has when he when she was a better actor, I like of course I do. I didn't know I could. I did. So then I did. And it's the it's the central decision for the whole movie. Like, it's because we hired this woman. The movie works in a way you can't even believe in my view. It's called Easter Sunday. Right? Has this you know, you know, he's not just some rando. He's like, who just said, my name is on it? He's like, what about that? What do you think about that? And you're like, Okay, great. But you know,

Alex Ferrari 37:19
I'm assuming one day, you'll get a phone call, maybe,

Jay Chandrasekhar 37:22
You know, I will, I will. I will go to my grave, not assuming I'm gonna meet Steven Spielberg. Even though he's my boss, I just don't I don't see how that could happen. I live in a world where I'm like, constantly convinced I'm about to be kicked out of show business. So there's no space in that world for me to believe that I will meet Steven Spielberg. So

Alex Ferrari 37:41
I always love asking this question from from, you know, people who've hit a certain level in the business is like, do you do you? So you just said, you truly believe that at any moment, security is gonna come in, like, what are you doing here? You need to be escorted out.

Jay Chandrasekhar 37:54
Right! Like, I realized how ridiculous it is. Because I was I did a stand up show recently. And it was me. And Tiffany Haddish. And Anthony Jeselnik. And Tom Arnold, and we're upstairs. We're just chatting for comments, chatting. And I'm like, moments like these were my were where I have to admit that I might have made it. And I hate to admit that, because I'm so hungry. And I'm so they don't want me and show business. I'll show them I'll make a I'll make my 10th movie.

Alex Ferrari 38:33
No, I have to ask you. So that's fantastic. By the way, I was gonna bring you Easter Sunday because I saw Easter Sunday. And we've been working on this interview for months now. And then all of a sudden, I'm like, oh, Easter Sunday is coming out and like, and I'm such a joy cliff. I'm like, absolute huge joy play fan. And I've had I've had the pleasure of meeting him we almost work together on this close up almost working together years ago. And Joe is just wonderful. It's just I'm such a such a fan of his but Super Troopers to is such a unique story and how you got that made? Because the studio didn't want to make the sequel and you had to raise the money yourself. Right?

Jay Chandrasekhar 39:11
They were worried that it was too long. Between films. You know, first one came out in 2002. The second one might have come out in 2016 or 18, or something, I don't know. But it was it was it was a long time. They were like ah or no. And they're like, so they said well, why don't you raise the money yourself? Really, you made $100 million. You can't just carve a couple up. And they're like, yeah, it raise the money yourself will distribute it and like okay, and then they said and you have to raise the prints and advertising budget to which is all the money. It's the budget and all the money to release it. So you're talking about, in this case, we had to raise $30 million. And I'm like, I can't raise 30.

Alex Ferrari 40:13
Cricket, cricket.

Jay Chandrasekhar 40:17
Cricket, British jazz, like, I'll put money in. And we put money together. We had like, I don't know, maybe we got to about five or so. And then we were like, kind of hit a wall didn't weren't eight. And then they also said, we'll never let you take to another studio because other studios are like, Neff. You know, Netflix they will do. Oh, yeah. Can't take it out of work. No. And we're not making it but no, he can't take. So we happened upon this. I mean, we, you know, we, we watched watch the news, we saw these brought from Mars had raised some money for the movie of that. And we thought, well, cat, I mean, we're at least in a similar position, and you know that a thing they loved and they're doing a thing. So we we hired the guy did that campaign sky Ivan asked cough. And he he, he put together account, he first of all, he goes, I'm not terribly familiar with your work. That's the first thing he said. And I'm like a computer guy. And you have no tact or anything. It's so funny. And he then he goes, You know, there's quite a bit of interest in your comedy. around the internet. I've done a search. And I was like, how do you what, okay, and he goes, I'm gonna take this job. And I'm like, okay, great. Let's do it. Thanks. This incredible campaign with great art and incentives. And we made a video where you like, we locked farva in the trunk of a car, and I remember it, and then we said, Give us money, or else we won't let them out of the truck. And then we push go on the campaign. And it was like, oh, like, I mean, we raised I think $5.8 million

Alex Ferrari 42:15
On Indiegogo, right,

Jay Chandrasekhar 42:16
Indiegogo, something like that we were second to product remarks. Whatever they made, we've made a little less. And, and search site was like, what? Oh, how many 50,000 people gave me money. And they're like, Oh, okay. Oh, wow. Great. And then. So then we were able to then now they were really excited about it. And and then they agreed to release the film for us with their money. It's nice. And so yeah, so we still funded the production. They they funded the you know, but we made the movie. And then we tested the movie. And the reaction in the audience was like, I mean, it was insane. The reaction and all the searchlight executives are there. And when they put the they take keep 20 people back to talk to him about the what? How would you feel about the movie? And that and they're like, this is from a franchise? And yeah, so the test did I tell you about the testing of the screen. It tested incredibly well, like the numbers were astronomical. The audience was comparing it to franchises like Star Wars. And Fox, people were like, Oh, my God, we gotta hit. And so they pour the money and they did great campaign, two posters, super cool. Everything was great. And we were like, holy, this is incredible. We're gonna we're gonna have a, you know, it looks really good. We're gonna have a hit movie. And so then the weekend, the week we arrived in New York, it's what you do at the end of the of the campaign to do press in New York Press. We're, it's Monday, and the policy is with us. It's like, I hate to break it to you guys. But whatever, you got really bad tracking on this movie. Like, and the tracking predicts what the box office opening weekend is gonna pay. And they're like, it's it's tracking to open to about $3 million, right? In order to be a success. This movie would in search sites view what he wanted to open to 10 You know, that would be a success for a small film. And we were like, 3 million. How's that possible? Like we had a 50,000. And they're like, Well, you know, like our fans have been notoriously stoners, right? They're like a little slow to the mark. A little slower the market. Got there, like they would have to do a Stand Up Show. There'll be tickets available up until an hour before the Friday and there's like 100 Tickets available. And then boom, it's sold out and you're like gas kit. Get your internet Oh, can you do this? So I'm like, maybe that's it. And they're like, maybe I don't know. And Monday, Tuesday is still tracking three, Wednesday, it's still tracking 3 million. And everyone's like, we make the president of searchlight calls and go, Hey, man, we tried. I'm sorry, right. And then Thursday morning, we're in an interview in some brewery or something in Brooklyn or something. And publicists, because she's looking at her phone. She goes, there's some weird there's some weird and numbers out of the matinees that, well, they're just not, they're not right, but we're gonna get a check. We're gonna check. And I said, What are they there? She's like, well, the next are sold out. And I'm like, Yeah, that's that's true. And so she goes, yeah, there's a problem with the computer the system. There's a problem, obviously, obviously. So then the next screening she goes, yeah, these these numbers are stupid. They're all sold out. And the so two screenings are now sold out morning at 11am. And one and then the third one, she was sold out again. Like he's a real numbers, and suddenly, we've now we went Thursday, we went Friday, were the top movie in the country. And, and we had 1800 screens, I think, or something like that. And Amy Schumer had 2600 2800 screens. So we were beating her on per screen average. And then with the volume of Sprint's they ended up winning the weekend, but we won the per screen average for the weekend with our 1800 scripts. It was a miracle. It was a miracle, and searchlights. Like, let's make two more movies. And then you know, there we go. And there we go.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
And now that's why now you're writing Super Troopers 3.

Jay Chandrasekhar 46:51
We made a film called quasi, which is set in 13th century France. And Steve Lemmy plays a hunchback, and I play the King of France, and Paul said, replace the Pope. And it's a full on Monty Python esque style movie. I'm sure people are gonna go, you guys aren't as good as Python and will go away agree. But still, we made one and we said, You know what the end knew we were in it with this accent. You're like, oh my god, we're in the middle of a Python movie.

Alex Ferrari 47:22
That's amazing. That's amazing. Now I'm jam and ask you a couple questions. Ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Jay Chandrasekhar 47:31
Well, my advice would be don't wait around for other people to let you in. Because there are people like me on the other side of the door, pressing our shoulders against it to keep you up. And the only way and is through that door. So keep pushing. Until wait for me to let you in.

Alex Ferrari 47:55
That's not gonna happen.

Jay Chandrasekhar 47:56
I got this side. I'm in Vegas, the hotel. That's good. The answer as it's awesome. We respond to the same things you would think we respond to, which is followers. And, and numbers. Like if you can demonstrate an audience by making your short films and putting them on the internet and having people watch him, you know, and we go, Oh, my God, a million people watch Oh, wow, that's good. Maybe well, you know, comes with a built in audience, you know, it's like it. It, it's not easy, but it's also you have an ability to chart sort of do things cheaply. The problem for the new generation is that so many people are trying to do things cheaply. There's so much stuff you're like, it's hard to really get your mind around it. And so, you know, the system benefits those with access to capital. And that's sort of the sad truth of it. All right, if you can, if you can raise money. I mean, it's even harder now. Because it's like, Sundance isn't what it used to be, you know, like the people are not. Companies are not going to Sundance and necessarily buying. I mean, they are they're buying phones, but it's a little different. It's not, you know, you don't have these people are automatically in the theater. So yeah, I was streaming a little bit and you know, and that's all good. And that's all good. But that's sort of the changing moment here.

Alex Ferrari 49:20
Do you think that Super Troopers, what would happen if Super Troopers got released today?

Jay Chandrasekhar 49:24
It probably would have gone to somebody like Netflix, maybe?

Alex Ferrari 49:30
Maybe we've ended up knowing that you did. Nobody knew who you were, you made a million dollar movie,

Jay Chandrasekhar 49:35
I believe it would have sold because the response in the room was electric. And that's really the game right? If you can get to Sundance and show the movie in a room full of people, you've flipped the power dynamics so that the buyer instead of watching it on their desk on their laptop and drinking coffee and walking around and doing all this stuff, they are now in a room with audience in the hall. Do you have to like and they're like oh no what do i do i better buy it. I mean that's sort of how that works. And that still works that way you know like I you can still get a movie it into the theater so if you're nobody's and you know nobody's in the movie then it's harder right it's like the probably end up on a streaming service first and maybe you'll never get out of there. I don't really know. I mean, the problem with the problem and Netflix is they pay more money than searchlight does. And and you know, and then the movie ends up being sitting there you know, lost in the soup doesn't have the same when you get a postcard campaign and interviews and it you know, the movie series into audiences brains in a different way. You know, the the movies on Netflix, currently don't do that in my view.

Alex Ferrari 50:55
Right. Yeah, you've right I mean, Top Gun. did what it did because of it. Well, it did. Okay. Yeah. The biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever. Oh, good.

Jay Chandrasekhar 51:05
Good, good. Good. I you know, the whole thing is I want I you know, I said to universal when we were getting ready to think about how we're going to put out this movie in the middle of the pandemic, of course, the movie tested well, Easter Sunday tested really well. Joe coy is the biggest ticket selling stand up comic in showbiz. He's number Wow, wow. That was 56,000 seats in Los Angeles and three nights. He says 30,000 in Seattle, he is filling hockey arenas everywhere he goes. And I said to them, Look, guys, we got to we got a theatrical comedy that works really the audience's we tested. They love it. We've Jo Koy in his first film, this is like having Steve Martin before the church or Eddie Murphy before for eight hours. We got him. And you guys are universal. And I mean, like, if we can sell this as a theatrical comedy. We you guys, we should all stop. You know. Cuz I said we gotta be you know, we're all looking around go, who's gonna bring the actual economy back? You know who it is? It's us. We're, we're, we've been put here to do this. This is our turn. It's time to do it. And so I've been telling people like, we're bringing the company back. And we're the only theatrical comedy coming out this summer. That's how bad it's gotten.

Alex Ferrari 52:22
You're absolutely right. I mean, yeah. I mean, it is outrageous. And now it's like everyone's saying that theaters are just for the event films. And they are for certain extent, of course. But, you know, like a film, a film like Easter Sunday will absolutely open. Well, I mean, you've got an audience that is used to buying tickets for this artist on top of it sounds like, make sense.

Jay Chandrasekhar 52:44
We'll see if I'm right. I mean, we'll see if I'm right. But I but I hope I am. I mean, you know, it's a gambling business, you know, that it's gunslingers and gamblers

Alex Ferrari 52:53
We're working on we're such a big joke, my fans, my family and our daughters, everyone. So we're gonna we're gonna head out to the theaters to see it when it comes out.

Jay Chandrasekhar 53:01
To do we do you know about my the APA credit, are you?

Alex Ferrari 53:05
I don't, ah, tell me about the app.

Jay Chandrasekhar 53:10
So it all goes back, Super Troopers comes out after this incredible Sundance experience comes out in the theaters. And the reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, a site named for throwing rotten fruit that people like me some site. They give it a 38% Fresh, the reviewers, right? And I was like, what, what, what do we have to do? Like and the and then that's 100 people. Then over time, you know, the audience weighed in, and and the audience gave us a 90% Fresh, right? That's 200,000 people read it that way. And I'm like, Who are these strangers with outsize power, right? They're just, they're, you know, a reviewer, I got no problem with reviews, right? I shouldn't think they're valuable. But aggregating all of them, and putting it into a score is just nonsensical, like we got reviewed for Beer Fest from a woman in Arizona named grandmas reviews. And her review of the film was, I didn't like it. There's too much drinking. I'm like it's an ode to binge drinking. It's called Pure fats. So but that goes into a reviewer score. And you're like, I said, Oh, my God, I need to get revenge on Rotten Tomatoes and stood with me for 1820 years. And then I said, I know how I'm going to do it. I'm going to build an app. Right? I mean, look, the premise is this. reviewers are strangers. When's the last time you walked up to a stranger on the street and said, Hey, what movie should I see? That's what we're doing

Alex Ferrari 54:54

Jay Chandrasekhar 54:56
In Rotten tomatoes. You're taking all these strangers aggregate They're strange opinions and putting it together. There you go. Here's what the strangest thing. So I said, you know, I want to build an app that is, you if you want advice for a movie, you talk to your friends, right? You talk to your friends, your or maybe you know some celebrity on something that some filmmakers today, this is a good movie road to Busan or whatever it is, Train to Busan era. And so I made an app, I started to develop an app that was going to be a recommendation site for movies, TV books, podcasts, music, right? And I connected with these two guys who are computer guys, and they were already reacting to this. You know, like Amazon reviews or Yelp reviews, they're like, who wrote the review? Was it the owner of the restaurant who wrote it? Was it the restaurant across the street and wrote them a bad review? Was it somebody who doesn't like the waiter who gave them a bet? I mean, you know, you're like, you just you're strangers, right? So they were working on an idea to try to solve that problem. And we teamed up. And we made a thing called vouch fault. All right. It's in the App Store notes in the Apple Store. It's in the Android store. And it's basically that says, basically Instagram for recommendations. So if you open my vault, you'll see that I like Reservoir Dogs, you'll see that I like Pulp Fiction, you'll see that I like Richard Pryor live in Long Beach that Stand Up Show. You'll see that I like that joke Koy stand up, you'll see I put Super Troopers there you see, you know, if I like this indie hustle, you could see that like, you can put anything you like. And so if you follow me, like, oh, Jay likes this thing, and you push a button, you can try it, right. But books, anything, I have all sorts of books on there, right? And so it'll work best. I think the goal is to say it's a word of mouth machine, you know, it's also a memory machine so that when I tell my children you know, this Fleetwood Mac rumours album was very important for you to listen to they go, it's not just me saying it. It's there in the vault. Right? They go, Oh, yeah, Dad was talking about this album, I listened to it. You know, it's like and if you if you somebody recommend something in the past, you write it down on a little note in your phone right here. There's a tribal you just stick it in there. So when you're home on a Friday night and like what's in my tribe while you're like oh, yeah, this new BBC Three documentary I wanted to see I remember I wrote it down there it is. Try it. And so it's it's a machine that I hope is going to change the way specifically film is judged the way you know, I want reviewers on there. I'm gonna talk I'm trying to get oh and gleeman and trying to get Drew McWeeny and go hey, guys, I tell me what you love. Right? Tell me the films you love that nobody knows about. And then I'll watch them. You know? I'm not trying to kill reviewers. I'm I am trying to kill Rotten Tomatoes. I am. It is a revenge ploy. It is a revenge.

Alex Ferrari 58:02
You are not the only assert. You're not the only one who feels some vengeance as needed against Rotten Tomatoes, many filmmakers, many filmmakers feel the same way you are and I

Jay Chandrasekhar 58:12
All get on this app. And let's show them who we are.

Alex Ferrari 58:15
Fantastic. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Jay Chandrasekhar 58:20
48 hours, Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas

Alex Ferrari 58:29
Rest in peace Ray Liotta

Jay Chandrasekhar 58:31
They're all the reason they're all on that list is because they're all tough, funny films. And I like I like it when the guy when the people are tough in the movie. And I like when they're when it's that funny and it's that you know it's sometimes you know, violent and funny is some sometimes really funny but they played straight for eight hours you're like there's some broad stuff but there's some the bad guys are bad the violence is is terrifying and obviously Goodfellas is a way it's funny as hell.

Alex Ferrari 59:06
Joe Pesci scene alone

Jay Chandrasekhar 59:09
I can't believe really leave it at that Reservoir Dogs is still work.

Alex Ferrari 59:17
It's a masterpiece masterpiece. Jay and when is Easter Easter Sunday coming up

Jay Chandrasekhar 59:23
August 5th.

Alex Ferrari 59:25
Man I cannot wait to see it. And Jay thank you so much for coming on the show man and and sharing your adventures and your knowledge with experiences with the tribe man, I really appreciate you. Thank you for your inspiration and just like you were inspired by Ed burns and and Clerks and Kevin and Mariachi and all those kinds of films. People listening now hopefully will be inspired by us like if this guy can do it.

Jay Chandrasekhar 59:49
That's right. That guy can do it. That's a John Oliver said to me when I was I was directing him community. He had never acted before. And I'd seen him do stand up and I loved him to stand up. I said John has first acting scene ever and then like, he nervous at all. And he goes, how hard could it be?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:23
A pleasure meeting you my friend. Thank you again for being on the show brother continued success and I can't wait to see Easter Sunday, man. Thanks again.

Jay Chandrasekhar 1:00:28
For indie hustle, buddy. I'm gonna put indie hustle in my bouch ball.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
Indie Film Hustle. I appreciate you brother. Thank you again, man.

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BPS 228: The Art of World Building – Immersive Screenwriting with Margaret Kerrison

Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Margaret Kerrison received my Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Her career spans television, film, digital media, games, brand storytelling, location-based entertainment, and immersive experiences.

Margaret worked as a Story Lead, Story Consultant, and Writer for multiple projects around the world, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars: Launch Bay, Hyperspace Mountain, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, Avengers Campus, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, National Geographic HQ, NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted, Heineken Experience, StoryGarden by AMOREPACIFIC, and the Information and Communications Pavilion (Expo 2010 Shanghai).

Margaret was the writer for five projects that received Themed Entertainment Association (THEA) Awards. She appeared in the Disney+ series Behind the Attraction, the Freeform television special Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Adventure Awaits, and the online educational program Imagineering in a Box. Margaret has been invited to speak at prestigious conferences and universities including SXSW, Star Wars Celebration, D23, IAAPA Expo, FMX Conference, University of Southern California, and Johns Hopkins University. Her projects have been featured around the world in The New York Times, Good Morning America, The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Wired magazine, and the official site for Star Wars. Margaret Kerrison was a Disney Imagineer from 2014-2021 and was recently featured in a blooloop article.

Margaret is currently a Senior Experiential Creative Lead in Airbnb’s Experiential Creative Product team.

Enjoy my conversation with Margaret Kerrison.

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Margaret Kerrison 0:00
But an immersive storytelling. We're seeing a lot of this really popping up all over the world right? Where you can go into a place and suspend your disbelief meaning that you for that moment feel like you're in that world in that place that the Creator has created you know for you.

Alex Ferrari 0:19
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, Margaret Kerrison. How you doin, Margaret?

Margaret Kerrison 0:34
Hi, how are you Alex, thanks for having me on your show.

Alex Ferrari 0:38
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm like I was telling you earlier. I'm excited to talk to you. I've never spoken to an imagineer before a former imaginary imaginary Imagineer. But you worked with with Disney as an imagineer for so long. And there's so much myth and mystery behind that. That's that kind of position that Walt, you know, created all those years ago. So we'll talk a little bit about that, and about your new book, The immersive, immersive storytelling and all of that. So first, first question, how did you get into this business?

Margaret Kerrison 1:10
Oh, wow. That's a it's such a huge question. But I think I always want to start it with the fact that, you know, I always wrote all my life, I always created things. I've always loved to tell stories in every kind of medium, like, I was that kid, who was making like finger puppets and like casting my family and friends into my own, like skits on my, like, huge camcorder at home and everything. And I never really thought about it, writing, but is and storytelling as a professional career. Because I didn't see that many role models growing up, who were who were in that creative field. And, you know, I was born in Indonesia, and I grew up in Singapore. And at the time, like, the creative field wasn't really that flourishing or anything like that, especially in Singapore. And when I moved to the United States for college, I was exposed to a lot more, you know, writing classes and creative classes, and just movies and TV in general, which I have always loved. So I had one, I did a screenwriting certificate course at Emerson College. And there was a professor there who encouraged me to apply to film school. And he had gone to USC and he, you know, spoke all really great things about it. And he's like, You should really think about applying to film school, not specifically to USC. But I did apply to USC, I got weightless that the first year, but got accepted the following year. And from there, you know, I was taking mostly writing courses for film and TV. And I didn't know about this whole world of themed attainment. I didn't even know about the word Imagineering until in my like, early 20s, you know, and I went to Disneyland, all of that stuff. But I just didn't know that there were these magicians, these people behind the curtains, doing this kind of work. And so it was really my thesis professor at the time. You know, she was talking to us about like, you writers need to think about different industries to get into not just film and TV, they need writers for games, they need writers for roller coasters, and she was going on and on. But I remember just pausing being like, they need writers for roller coasters. Like who does that? That sounds awesome. That sounds like something I totally want to do. And that night, you know, I was just searching on the web, like all kinds of information about like, what does that mean creating writing for themed entertainment and everything. And I was basically just sending emails to people to companies based in LA, and introducing myself and trying to get into the my foot into the door. And so one of those companies got back to me, and that's BRC imagination arts in Burbank, and I met with the founder, Bob Rogers, as well as a handful of other people. And they were really, really receptive and open to having someone like me come in. And especially, they're very, very, you know, they love having writers and working with writers and everything. So it was that was really my first professional job into this world. It was a lot of museum design. I worked on like, experience centers for like Heineken, and cosmetic company name Amaury Pacific, but it opened up my world to this possibility of telling stories, using all of your senses. You know, it's not just looking at watching a story unfold on screen. It was really experiencing it and feeling it and being immersed in that story of a place.

Alex Ferrari 4:54
It's really interesting because as you're telling this story, I mean, I mean, obviously I've been to Disney World a million times I've been at Disney And, and universal and all these kinds of stuff. And when you're in these kinds of rides, as a writer, someone had to sit down and go, Okay, when the ride gets to this point where when the audience gets to this point, this, maybe the smell comes up, maybe this, this water comes up, the heat pops up over here, a light pops up over there. So it's a lot, there's, there's a lot more thought. It seems more complicated than just writing a narrative, screenplay, which is as difficult as you can get in the writing, art.

Margaret Kerrison 5:30
Ohh definitely, definitely.

Alex Ferrari 5:32
Screenwriting is the toughest thing you could do. This is another level, even harder, almost.

Margaret Kerrison 5:38
Yeah, it is challenging, because, you know, you really have to work as a team, I think a lot of writing, at least in my experience screenwriting because I had, you know, helped to write feature film scripts for independent directors, and also for children's animation and all of this, it's really a very solitary craft, for the most part, I'm sitting with my laptop I'm writing, I occasionally get notes occasionally have meetings. But writing for immersive storytelling, and for themed entertainment. In general experiential design, there's so many different names for it. And that you really, you have to work together with all the various disciplines, to figure out how you're able to tell that story and share that story in all of these different disciplines. You know, everything from graphics, to media, to architecture, to what you're eating in the experience, what you're hearing, what you're smelling, what you're sensing who the characters, you're meeting all of that, right, you have to work hand in hand, with a talented group of people who are experts in the various fields that they're working on. And being able to be the story champion, to really kind of rally everyone together to make sure they're building the same world, the same thing, the same story, the same context, to all of these to whatever story you're working on. That's the challenge. And it's tough, because, you know, as artists, as creatives, we all have our different interpretations of what that story can be. And so being this, you know, world builder, storyteller, you really have to ensure that everyone is aligned to that creative intent, and making sure that you're all building the same place. So that's really the challenge of it is really how do you work as a team to move forward together? And to really think about, you know, what is that heart and soul of a place? And how does that manifest into design into music, into words into graphics into moving media, all of these things? It's, it's one big orchestra, you know, for lack of a better analogy, it's how do you how do you have all these different instruments come together to make this beautiful symphony?

Alex Ferrari 8:09
Is it is it kind of like working in a writers room, because at the writers room has very similar ideas to that, like, everyone's gonna be together, there's one person who's leading the charge the showrunner, and everyone's there to service that show or that vision. And kind of working is a kind of like that.

Margaret Kerrison 8:25
It's so different. It's so different, because in a writers room, it's mostly writers, or people who are have a very strong understanding of story. And sometimes you're going to work with people who don't have a good or strong understanding of story. Right? So I think that, you know, in a writers room, you typically do have a showrunner with a ton of writers who are, you know, throwing out ideas and all of that stuff, it's never that it's never that simple. You know, it's, it's, there's a lot of trying to, you know, gather people or meet with people individually, trying to socialize an idea by, you know, there's no one process or anything like that, in that is like a tried and trued method. And I think like in writing my book, even I try to, you know, simplify as much as possible, what would go on in that process. But ultimately, every project is different. Every team is different, depending on the scope of your project to if you're working on a smaller museum versus a 16 acre land, you know, that's going to be that's going to be very different, right? So I think that ultimately, you have to have this open communication in order to make that plan, set up that strategy and involves a lot of people coming together, you know, holding hands and marching together towards towards the finish. line.

Alex Ferrari 10:00
So So then how did you get involved with Disney and becoming an Imagineer? And first of all, what is the definition of an imagined Disney Imagineer?

Margaret Kerrison 10:12
A Disney Imagineer is you know, Walt Disney had created this word of imagination and engineering and put it together to make up this new word of Imagineer. Because really, it's a combination of art, science and technology, innovation, always pushing the boundaries, and always trying to find new magical ways to surprise and delight people. And there was no greater master storyteller than Walt Disney himself. I mean, he was such a visionary. He really thought about, you know, the different ways that people can feel like they're immersed, or participate in a story without merely watching, right? Like the story of him sitting in the park bench watching his daughter ride the carousel in Griffith Park, and how he was thinking about how do I take part in that? Why am I just sitting here? Why can't I be involved in that too? And why can't I participate and engage in play with my children? You know, so I think that Imagineering and Imagineers, in general, they are really they come from all kinds of disciplines. So you have people, you know, architects to, you know, audio engineers, to writers, to creative directors, producers, everyone that meets all of the various products and experiences for the Disney parks, resorts, cruise lines, all the wonderful things that you experience in any of the parks and resorts and cruise lines. So it's a really cool job. It's a, you know, I spent seven years at Imagineering and met some of the best most talented people ever in the industry. And it was really, you know, in seven years, I felt like it was a masterclass in everything in environmental storytelling, and how to work as a team in really working with some of the greatest IP on Earth, and trying to, you know, adapt that that into a story world in which other people can experience it. So it was a very, very magical journey for me, you know, for lack of a better word, and I think that it's something that I can see, you know, a lot of people having ideas of like, what Imagineering is, you know, before they come in to experience what that's really like, but ultimately, it's a lot of work. You know, it's a lot of work. And there's a lot of fun and play in it, too. But we take that play very seriously.

Alex Ferrari 12:49
Without question which I have to have to ask you being a massive Star Wars fan. You got to play and you got to play. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. In that in that playground?

Margaret Kerrison 13:01
Oh, yeah. Honor. Oh my gosh,

Alex Ferrari 13:04
I've worked on Galaxy's edge, which I haven't had a chance to go to Galaxy's edge, because of the pandemic and all that stuff. I haven't gotten there yet. But many of my friends have and I've seen obviously videos and images of it. What was your story consultant on that right?

Margaret Kerrison 13:20
No, I was I was working full time at Imagineering. So I was the story lead for Star Wars Galaxies edge. And I was I worked on a whole everything Star Wars for in my time there. So my first project was Star Wars launch bay, which was in both Disneyland and Disney Hollywood studios, worked on Hyperspace Mountain, worked on Star Wars Galaxies edge worked on Star Wars, galactic starcruiser, all the Star Wars activations on all the cruise lines as well. So I pretty much had a, you know, the privilege of a lifetime working with Luke, our Lucasfilm partners, who are amazing. I mean, they really set the bar really, really high for us. And we did not take that lightly at all. You know, when I remember one of the very first meetings for Star Wars Galaxies edge, and we had, you know, turn to the Lucasfilm Story Group and asked, you know, what kind of stories are they expecting from us and all of this and I remember, Pablo Hidalgo who's one of the executives on the storage group was saying, you know, what, we haven't told all the stories in Star Wars. So we'd like to hear from you what you think the stories should be. And that was really empowering to hear that, you know, and I think that, that that's really the magic of being a Star Wars fan is that you know, you have this like, great you know, Power, our responsibility to carry that torch and try to really figure out a way to understand like, what made Star Wars Star Wars, you know what made people over the decades? You know, come back to it time and time again and George Lucas, you know, you can't talk about Star Wars without talking about George Lucas and what a powerful story he had created and touch so many lives, generations of people, you know, I was an 80s kid. So, you know, I grew up with the original trilogy and all of that stuff and the power and the magnitude and the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars and how that is integrated into everything in our lives. You know, 40 plus years later, people are still seeing me the force with be with you and everything like that, right? Like it is part of our society. Like you don't know, Star Wars. I don't know where you've been living. You know, your whole point.

Alex Ferrari 16:00
Even if you haven't seen the movies, you've heard of Star Wars. You know what the force is, you might know what Yoda is, you probably know who baby Yoda is, even though it's grown girl. Yeah, but you know what? That must have been so much fun working in that world was amazing. In a it's in a different scope than a John favor, or Dave alone or any of these other creators are doing because you're, you get to actually build the universe that people get to walk in and, and things that we've seen on screen for so many years, you get to walk into a cantina. Yeah, you get to see the Millennium Falcon you get. So it must have been as immersive. You must have been geeking out for years.

Margaret Kerrison 16:43
Oh, yeah, it was amazing. I mean, you know, we started off talking about that bucket list of all the things that we wanted to do as Star Wars fans. And the amazing part was in our team, there were like the people who really knew very little about Star Wars, they don't know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. And then you have the people on the other end of the spectrum who read, you know, Arabic. And they were already basically our resident Star Wars expert, right? And everyone in between. So I think that it was so neat to work as a team to talk about, well, what is the bucket list for all the things that you want to do in Star Wars, the cantina was way high up, right? Like, we want to go to the cantina. We want to, you know, not only ride the Millennium Falcon, but pilot it, we want to be in an epic battle between the, you know, the light side and dark side at the time, we didn't even know about first order or any of that stuff, right? We didn't know about Kylo Ren, when we were starting this process, you have to remember that, like, there was no The Force Awakens. And it was very top secret, you know, and so we only got little tidbits of what was coming. But we always knew like, Okay, if we don't have the details of what the Force Awakens was going to be about, what do we know about Star Wars, that will always be true, there's going to be droids, there's going to be awesome ships, there's going to be species, aliens, you know, walking around, there's going to be the light side, the dark side, Jedi, you know, Sith, all of that, right, the light side, dark side, the force, everything. So that was it, we had a lot to work with. But we didn't have like specific details until, you know, pretty, like maybe a few months a year into the project as we're building it. And from there, we have to be flexible enough to say, okay, it has to be this era, you know, it has to be these characters, all of that stuff, right. Like, we had to work closely with Lucasfilm to do that, because we couldn't just do whatever we wanted. I mean, we have to make sure that everything was in canon, everything was going to be, you know, in evolve the stories and the, you know, the brand, the franchise all of these things. So we had a really, really huge responsibility. That was a great honor and privilege, but boy, was that a lot of pressure on us.

Alex Ferrari 19:11
By the way, did you ever get to meet George?

Margaret Kerrison 19:14
No, I didn't know. But you know what, it's funny because I had I had seen him before when I was an intern a long time ago. But I'd never got to see George because he wasn't you know, involved in the creation of the land or anything like that for sure. By then he had you know, sold Lucasfilm for billions of dollars, all of that stuff. So he did come to visit when we opened the land and everything but now he wasn't part of the process in a direct way.

Alex Ferrari 19:44
Yeah. Oh my god. I got to I got to meet him once. Oh, did you and you know what it was and he was next door to me in Burbank having lunch? No. Why is he in Burbank it was ready for the sale before anyone knew about the sale. So he was he was he He was meeting at Disney and he just having lunch next door and I had had just happen to have a star which lunchbox I got autographed.

Margaret Kerrison 20:08
To autograph your lunchbox.

Alex Ferrari 20:10
I actually didn't have the I didn't have the components to do it. So I had the receptionist, the older receptionist, walk up to him and ask him to make it out to me.

Margaret Kerrison 20:20
It's amazing

Alex Ferrari 20:23
I knew he wouldn't see he'd see me coming a mile away. But he wouldn't see her coming.

Margaret Kerrison 20:28
Ah, that was smart.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
This obviously this woman's not going to bother me. And then Mr. Lucas, my friend over there, he has a launch party, which you just sign it? Oh, wow. And it was his daughter. He's like that sign it. And I couldn't make it up to me because I'm never selling it. That's my quick George Lucas story. But yeah,

Margaret Kerrison 20:50
Women save the day for you, the receptionist, the daughter,

Alex Ferrari 20:53
Absolutely. I've been Surrounded by women my entire life I've noticed dosterone in my house at all. All I have is women everywhere. My daughters and my wife and I love it.

Margaret Kerrison 21:05
Love it!

Alex Ferrari 21:05
So you have this new book about immersive storytelling? What is immersive storytelling? And how can it be used in the screenwriting and television work? Because that many, not many people are gonna have the opportunity to tell the kind of stories you were telling with Star Wars and that kind of stuff. But what lessons can you pull out of that to apply to television and feature films?

Margaret Kerrison 21:25
Yeah, you know, immersive storytelling is such a broad term, to encompass this idea that you want to be able to tell a story in a medium that you can experience. And that meaning that you're you, as a visitor, as an audience member are part of that story. Because in a lot of the traditional media, which I love, by the way, you know, reading books, and watching film, and TV and all of that stuff, you don't have a part to play in that story, you're pretty much a passive observer viewer of those stories. But an immersive storytelling, we're seeing a lot of this really popping up all over the world, right? Where you can go into a place and suspend your disbelief, meaning that you for that moment feel like you're in that world in that place that the Creator has created for you. And this creator storyteller is using different tools and techniques in order to make you believe that you're in that place that you are present. And in that moment. And I think some of the most powerful, immersive storytelling are the ones that transport you into that world. And so there's so many different examples of that, right? There's really, you know, tiny museums or galleries or even stores, retail stores that does that. When you walk in, you're like, holy moly, what is this place? Right? Immediately, you're transported into a different dimension. And then there's some that you go into, you know, that are places for you to explore and to discover. And so I use a lot of different examples, in my book, everything from the museum's to the really, you know, epic theme park lands and attraction sort of thing. And everything in between. Because I think that there isn't any one true model, per se, of like, this is what immersive storytelling should be. Because I think once we can define the optimal, or, you know, the peak of that experience, I think we, we would have failed, I think we always need to continually develop and evolve what that means. And I think that now with a lot of various organizations and companies trying to figure out like, how do we blur you know, the real versus the virtual and digital and all of this stuff, I think there's going to be an even bigger, broader meaning of what immersive storytelling is. But ultimately, it is a place for you to physically be present, and to feel transported into a whole other world. And to be able to use all of your senses as a human being, to understand what is real to you, because what is real besides your own. You building your perception of reality, right? Everything from VR to AR to real life experiences where there's nothing virtual or digital, anything virtual or digital about it. So, you know, even when I'm thinking about like, talking about real and imagined worlds, sometimes they're one in the same I feel. So I think that it's a really great opportunity for future storytellers and the next generation of storytellers to think about how they can really push that. Because Can you imagine, even a few decades ago, a couple of decades ago, we can't even imagine being able to do something like this, right? Like you and I talking, you know, in real time and being able to see each other can see and hear each other in real time in such a way. And who knows, five years, 10 years from now, what could that mean, you know, to be able to do something that is, you know, being present with someone else, something that social, something that is emotional as well? How do you think about telling stories in an immersive way that touches upon all of those things?

Alex Ferrari 25:31
So what are the different kinds of immersive storytelling?

Margaret Kerrison 25:34
Oh, my goodness, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 25:39
Just a couple

Margaret Kerrison 25:40
I mean, everything from you know, it's funny, because like, people would argue that reading a book is immersive. If you're a very, if you're really into a book, right, you can fully immerse yourself in it, you can forget about, you know, time goes by, right. So I think that there, it just really depends on how you define it. But I think that, you know, everything from really cool museums, like I think about, one of the examples that I brought up in my book was the, the National Museum of African American History in Washington, DC, and going through that experience, and feeling completely immersed in that starting from the bowels of a slave ship, and rising up and just going from Florida, Florida floor, and climbing up to that, to experience that entire history, and ultimately realizing that American history is African American history. So going through something like that was extremely, you know, immersive for someone like me. And I think it's very, you know, subjective for a lot of people, right? Some people might feel differently about what's immersive and what's not. So museums, to me are extremely immersive. I mean, there's examples that we're seeing with places like Meow Wolf, you know, where they have a whole bunch. It's an artist collective, where they're creating a place where you can play and engage and go down slides, there's the first one was house of eternal return. In Santa Fe, New Mexico. There's another one in Vegas, and another one in Denver, Colorado, and one coming out in I believe, Austin, Texas. And it's a playground for all ages, basically, right? You can let loose, you can interact with things, you can go explore these really bizarre rooms that at first sight may not have any meaning. But then as you go through and do the little games and interactives you uncover and discover all of these things that are just kind of a layer underneath what you thought was, you know, your perception of the world. And then you uncover that there's something hidden all along, right.

Alex Ferrari 27:51
What's really interesting about what you're talking about is that for so many people listening, you know, they think that screenwriting a movie, you know, writing a movie or writing a television and television are the only two ways that you can write in entertainment. Many, you know, while ago, I had a video game writer on which was a fascinating conversation, how that. I mean, I'm like, how big is descriptive? Like, it's six feet tall, six feet tall. It was literally the six feet from the ground all the way up of papers. And that's the script. It's like, I'm like, what? And so there are other ways to do it. And I'd have to imagine that there is less competition in this space than there is in the screenwriting television space, but probably less opportunities as well. Is that a fair statement?

Margaret Kerrison 28:37
Hmm. I don't know if there's less competition, I think there's, you know, there's always a, it's a very small world, this whole industry. And I think there's always this healthy competition, of wanting, you know, whatever the competitive company or theme park, whatever it is, right. Like, we never had any ill feelings towards someone who would open an experience that's truly immersive because that that challenges us to be better. And for people who are really interested in this kind of immersive storytelling industry, I think that that healthy competition is very good. Oftentimes, these companies collaborate with each other too. So I don't think it's, it's this fierce, you know, Doggy Dog like competition or anything like that. I think that, you know, when I was an imagineer and went to Harry Potter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time, I was so impressed. And I even mentioned it in my book as one of the examples of really excellent, immersive storytelling. So for me, as a fan of immersive experiences, I want more and more and more of it, and not only that, I want a variety of it to from the really small experiences to the really epic ones. So for me, I think that I'm Oh, yes, it is there is a healthy competition between all of these between all the companies that work in this field. But I also think that there are opportunities, but it's probably not as mainstream as like thinking about like, oh, try going for the writing job in gaming, or film or TV, because oftentimes, these listings, or these job postings aren't posted. And it's a lot of word of mouth. And it's all a lot about relationships and networking, and working with the smaller companies first or a consultant, you know, and then moving yourself up from there. So it's not as easy I would say, to get into that door, but that's changing, because there's a lot of colleges and universities now that are offering programs in themed entertainment. And so there is this understanding or appreciation for the fact that our kind of work is very nuanced and very, you know, it's, it's, it's different in that you have to think about storytelling in a holistic, multi sensory type of perspective, rather than writing words on a page and handing it off to someone who will do who knows what with it. Right. So I think that it's a lot more of a collaborative industry that you're looking into.

Alex Ferrari 31:20
So what tips do you have for writers trying to create worlds in their stories, regardless of the story? Are there any tips or ideas or things that you can tell them about? How to move from just telling a story to creating worlds I mean, George Lucas was the master of that Walt Disney was a master of that. Because when you create a world, it's it just goes on, and it started being genre Gene Roddenberry was was, you know, famous for that, obviously, as well. So how do you have any advice for screenwriters?

Margaret Kerrison 31:50
You know, I think that my main thing is always the question of, Why are you telling the story? And why are you the best person to tell the story? And, you know, with all of the other things aside of like, of course, you want it to be fun, and like you want it to be engaging, and all of that stuff, I think those are the two important questions that I always ask whenever I go into any project, is why should I care? You know, because, like me, the creator, storyteller, if I don't care, and I'm writing this or creating, helping to create this, then no one's gonna care. Because, you know, as human beings, we empathize with any sort of universal human truths. And George Lucas knew that well, when he was creating Star Wars, right? He knew about, you know, there's, it's very Shakespearean, you know, like Star Wars about how Oh, my gosh, the villain this whole time was my dad, like, it's sort of Shakespeare, you know? Mad Sorry, sorry to spoil it for you. You know, but it's that sort of thing that like, it's always these universal themes. And these universal human truths are, that's now like, you know, only in the past few years, do I really understand when people say, write what you know, and all the feelings, all the emotions, the stories that have happened to you, like, how do you take all of that, and bring it into the stories that you're helping to create, right? Because if you're just, you know, taking a template of something else, or you know, you watch something, or you experience something, oh, yeah, let's do that. And let's do it our way sort of thing. It doesn't feel true, it doesn't feel genuine. And so that's kind of my advice to screenwriters is whenever you write your story, or script, like, ask that question of like, why are you telling this story? Why should you care? Because that's going to, you know, influence why other people should care? And what's that universal truth or a theme that everyone can resonate with, that doesn't feel like it's superficial, that doesn't feel like it's, you know, something you've seen or heard of before? You know, you want to be as unique and as personal as possible. You know, I like when I talk to, or read sometimes writing samples from writers and it's very, it you can tell that there's a lot of influences from other movies or, you know, scripts and things like that, right? It's just the same thing over and over again. And I think there's a lot of fear and insecurity as a writer, to want to expose that deeper side of you. And a lot of the times I think about it, I'm like, you know, what, I think as a, as a writer, you have to write about your traumas, you have to write about the things that, you know, killed you inside. That disturbed you that really bothered you that really hurt you, you know, and, in addition to the trauma As you also write about your triumphs, right, you write about the things that like, you started really low, and you work yourself up to being able to succeed in the end. So what are those cases or situations or scenarios in your life? Where you went from that trauma to triumph, right? And that's a character arc. That's a story arc, how do people transform and change in your story, because no one wants to cheer for someone who has it all, in the beginning of the story, right? Unless the story is about a person who has it all and then loses everything in the end. But what is that arc when you're thinking about it? And so I think that really drawing upon your own personal experiences, and really going there, you know, all the really uncomfortable places, the places that you think that no one would understand, believe me, people will understand, especially if it's more specific and more personal to you. I think that there's going to be, you'll be surprised to find out that there's going to be a lot of people who feel like holy cow, like, I totally resonate with that, you know, I know what it's like to, you know, be a parent in that situation, or a child in that situation or friend or whatever it is, right. So, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 36:18
Even started even Star Wars had George Lucas's was, it's about his father. Yeah, exactly. It was about his relationship with his father. Right. So it's a certain way, you know, after speaking to so many different successful writers and directors, I realized that years ago that I realized that the thing that makes them all successful is that they are able to tap into their own unique uniqueness, their own secret sauce, as I call it, that nobody else has. I mean, Tarantino is a secret sauces you get, there's nobody else on the planet. He's not trying to write like somebody else. Many other people are trying to write like him, right?

Margaret Kerrison 36:54
I remember. Yeah. No, let's see. Who is Chris? Chris? Oh, gosh, you're you're mentioning all my heroes.

Alex Ferrari 37:02
Right, like Chris Nolan. Nobody else on the planet, really? Maybe his brother, because they write together. But there's, there's such a unique perspective. Yeah, that comes from them. And that goes for directors as well as writers. Oh, definitely.

Margaret Kerrison 37:17
You have to be brave enough to be you have to be brave. And, you know, that's a lot of the times. You know, I remember watching Pulp Fiction for the first time when I was in high school. And I was floored. I didn't know what was going on. And what is this? Like, you know, I know, this is a movie. But what is this, like this format is nonlinear storytelling. And there have been nonlinear storytelling before, you know, Citizen Kane, all of that, right. But there was such a fresh, unique perspective to it. And the characters that he wrote that are so unique and so interesting, right? At the end of the day, there are interesting people with interesting problems. And you're rooting for them as despicable as some of those characters are you your, your, you can't help but kind of explore what that is, you know, not everyone's just, you know, it isn't just black and white, a person, right, there's a gray area there. And what is that gray area? And how do you really explore and really reveal that in a movie in a story in a script that makes it interesting for people and, you know, he was a is a master of that. So I completely agree with that. It's like, you know, what is that thing that, you know, makes you feel kind of uncomfortable. You should look into that, as a writer, you know, go go into that go deep into that, and really uncover. And you know, if anything, it's some kind of self therapy to as a story. Writer, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 38:49
My first my first book was a complete therapy session. story. It was just like, you did go deep into things. And you, I would skip chapters, because I knew where I had to go visually. I had to go emotionally to go there. Yeah, because I was like, I don't want to go there. It was like a dark corner with a door and like, I don't want to open that door. Yeah, but then like, when you go in there, just like, Oh, God, I'm in here again. And but that's where, but that's where that's where you mind the best stuff. If you look at any of the if you look at any successful writer, especially when they're starting out, that's where they start coming out with these kinds of things. And maybe later on, you know, after years, where they have such a mastery of the craft, they can apply it to any story and kind of still put their taste and flavor on it. But doesn't have to be as personal but when you're starting out personnel, I mean, the personal story is where the personal connection I mean, like we just said with Star Wars, George Lucas, I mean, Darth Vader and Luke were him and his father. Now wrapped in insane Well, yeah,

Margaret Kerrison 39:53

Alex Ferrari 39:54
But there was a chord there that we all can relate to, like, Oh, our parents don't understand us.

Margaret Kerrison 40:00
Do we just want love and acceptance. You know,

Alex Ferrari 40:04
That's for you to kill me with the force, you know.

Margaret Kerrison 40:07
Exactly, exactly. You know, it's it's so universal, like anyone can understand that, right? And I think that like, a lot of people are like, Oh yeah, I don't watch like, you know, those fantasy films like, you know, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, because it's just too out there. And it's like, if you look at all of those stories, they are bathed, feel more real, you know, to our ordinary lives, more so than, you know, some of the other stories out there that try to be set, you know, the tracks that are set in the real world, you know, and I think that that's something that, as storytellers and writers, you just go back to, again, and again, it's like, a lot of these themes are recurring. And we want and especially like, during these times, right, when there is so much uncertainty in the world, we want and need storytellers to help us navigate through this crazy, crazy rollout. process and make us feel and feel less alone. Because when you tell those stories, and people resonate with it, you have done, you know, great work in terms of being able to open up people's minds and eyes. And every time they read your book, or watch your movie, or play or TV show or experience, and walk out with new eyes and see a better world a more hopeful world that they want to live in, then you've done your job. Well, you have helped to transform people's minds and open their minds and eyes into what's possible. And that's exactly what we need to do as storytellers.

Alex Ferrari 41:48
And isn't it interesting, though, as you're talking, the thing that came into my mind was when you see these big movies that create these massive worlds, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter star wars, the reason that those films are successful is not only because they built these beautiful, insane, wonderful worlds, but but the characters are so universal. The themes are so universal, you know, Avatar, and what, what Jim is doing with? I think he's doing five more.

Margaret Kerrison 42:21
I think so. Five or three or five? I don't know. Ambitious? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 42:27
It's five more he's like, I'm gonna I think I heard a quote, he said, I'm gonna die on Pandora. Because this is it. This is he's in the avatar baking business. He said for the rest of his life. He's

Margaret Kerrison 42:37
Pandora or bust. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 42:39
I mean, that this is basically the way it's gonna go.

Margaret Kerrison 42:39
And come on, we have to mention the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, oh, my gosh,

Alex Ferrari 42:47
Oh, that's been immersive. But that's been immersive storytelling when Stanley created that kind of world back in the comic books, and that's what comic books are. It is very, I mean, it's world building. I mean, comic books, ceiling. That's all they do. But and we've never really seen it done in cinema before. Yeah. And yeah, and what they've been able to do, whether you like them, or you don't like them? It is it's world building. And I'll use another example of a more contemporary film Top Gun.

Margaret Kerrison 43:14
Oh, my gosh. Oh, I have. I've watched that so far. Twice in the theater. Oh, my God, oh, good. One in a, you know, just the whatever normal theater AMC and one in IMAX. And I have to say when I was one, it was 35 years ago, that I went to watch it. I was eight years old. And I brought my eight year old son at the time he was a last year, you know, whenever it came out, and I brought my eight year old son to watch the sequel. And it was amazing. The sequel was way better, you know?

Alex Ferrari 43:50
So, but, but do you want to talk about immersive storytelling in a cinematic experience? There's a reason why it's now number six of all time, which is insane for a sequel, which is the longest time it's ever taken to do a sequel in the history of cinema. 36 years, 36 years for it to do its whole round. And when I was watching it, it's just like you are in that world. But you also are you also care about the characters. And there's also a little nostalgia that dabbled in for all us older folk. But my kids saw it and they didn't know the first one. I was trying to explain to them the first one they're like, who's goose? And then like, what happened to goose? I'm like, well legit, and then they see it in the movie like Oh, okay. Is but that's such a really interesting way to look at story. What they did.

Margaret Kerrison 44:44
Exactly, and you know, and that's kind of the going back to this idea of immersing yourself and transporting you into that world. And wanting to be with those characters and wanting the story to never end Right. And that's the most important thing about immersive storytelling is that once that movie is over, or the TV show is over, there is a hunger and a need and that desire for people to fulfill their deepest wishes of carrying out, you know, in their heroes footsteps, and, you know, whatever they felt like being able to fly, like, you know, Tom Cruise like Maverick, right? Being able to be up in the sky and doing all those crazy the dog fight all of those things, right? Like, how can you as an immersive storyteller, extend that story? And continue it so that people can always go back to it? Way after that movie ends? Or way after the TV show? Or whatever it is? Right? How do you think about Leto doing making games for it? I mean, I remember after watching Top Gun on IMAX, my husband who's a huge Top Gun fan, as well started, you know, wanting to play with the microphone, Microsoft simulator? Because he back yeah, oh, no, no, no, yeah, yeah, exactly. They have a Top Gun version. I think it's Microsoft semula has a Top Gun version, but one of them has a top conversion. And so it's being able to, you know, continue that like, going on that journey again. And again and again, right?

Alex Ferrari 46:23
It's so interesting, because when I saw avatar for the first time, and I only seen avatar in 3d on the theaters, I don't like 3d movies. But when Jim does it, it's done. Right. So I remember getting I went bought the game, because I wanted to live, I want to go back to Pandora. I wanted to just kind of walk around it. And I wanted to be in it. And yeah, all of that. And I know there's a Pandora experience at Disney as well, I gotta go to but it was just it was one of those times when I just he built such a beautiful world that I want it to kind of just go in and live in and yeah, knows, in 1015 20 years, what kind of entertainment will be based off of Star Wars and, and Harry Potter and this kind of stuff. And we'll we're going to be able to go with all of that. It's pretty remarkable as storytellers what we can do.

Margaret Kerrison 47:11
There are no limits, right? There are no limits, right.

Alex Ferrari 47:14
And that's the thing that I think a lot of writers need to understand is, I've also seen movies that try to build worlds. The movies fail. Yeah, because the story didn't work, or the characters didn't work. They got too busy building up the environment. But they forgot what was really important about the environment. It's a Star Wars, you can throw that in feudal Japan, and it works. Yeah, yeah. But in the wild, wild west, and it works. Right. Mandalorian is basically the wild wild west and space. I mean, that's basically what meant,

Margaret Kerrison 47:45
Yeah. And it's a lot of it is like, you know, understanding what the character archetypes that people really gravitate towards, but also in that, you know, the journey. In fact, like, if you think about the more difficult or challenging the journey is for the character, the more compelling it is for us, because we want to know, it's like, are they going to make it you know, especially if you've fallen in love with those characters. I mean, my I, I keep bringing up this example, because I rewatched it all over again recently with squid gain, and having all of the characters every single one of them, you know, all the main characters, again, some despicable some likable, you know, most of them despicable, and being able to go on that journey with them. They're very, very unique journey. I mean, that movie is so stellar in so many ways, just in terms of the like Sinha visually sort of cinematography, but the writing and the acting and the directing, was just that completely immersed me into that world, right? To the point where after I had my second run of watching all of the, you know, the first season again, I felt like okay, I want to go out I want to I want to experience these games, you know not to die, but then like,

Alex Ferrari 49:03
Do you want to do red light green light? Do you want to go red? Like you and me Alex, we're gonna go to the playground and play red light and green light. Because I remember watching it too, and you want to talk about it, you know? And that was a beauty. The beauty about that story is that it's a world that I particularly didn't want to go into that world. It wasn't I didn't feel like I wanted to go in there. Personally. It's a pretty jacked up world. I don't want to go to Blade Runner world. Yeah, Star Wars. I got a bunch of other players but that's But you knew that everybody was going to die except one. The one that was going to make it and you just really didn't know. Yeah, every episode got closer and closer. It was just a brutal beauty. Yeah, watching that, that thing. And to use another contemporary show that I consider this consider the writer one of the best writers in Hollywood right now. Taylor Sheridan?

Margaret Kerrison 50:01
Oh, yes.

Alex Ferrari 50:05
And as I watch Yellowstone, I'm like, do I want to buy a ranch? And my horses now? Is that what I want to do? Like because he makes it he writes it so beautifully and romantically and, and either with warts and all. I mean, it's a pretty brutal show. But it just, you're just like, Man, I think I want to I think I need a horse. I think I need to buy 10,000 acres and just roam free.

Margaret Kerrison 50:33
But it's, it's inspiring you to want to do something to want to be someone else, right. And I think a lot of immersive storytelling is that aspirational quality is that, you know, not only does it inspire you, but you aspire to be like that character or live in that world or live that story, whatever it is. And that's what stories should be like, right? Like they should have that feeling of, I want to I want to experience that I want to I want to walk in someone else's footsteps for a while, I want to experience a place that I've never been to before. And what does that what does that mean to me, you know, and I think being able to think like that is only going to do good in our society be having that curiosity, and having that desire to want to expose yourself to different worlds and people and situations. And all this can only make us grow as, as people. So I think that that's so important. And everyone again, like everyone has their own preferences to what that world is to, you know what kind of environment or people they want to be around all the time. But it's having that idea that you can live differently, that you can aspire to something better or greater or more like yourself, because let's not forget the people who are actually living their lives and not feeling very good in their own skin. And having those worlds or stories expose them to who they truly are. So I think that that's also extremely interesting for people, you know, if they design an avatar for themselves, and they're like, that's, that is what I want to look like, you know,

Alex Ferrari 52:21
And that's the basis of cosplay. I mean, that's where you go to a comic book convention. And I remember taking my wife to my first comic book convention deck a decade ago, and she was fascinated by grown adults, superheroes, and she would stop them. And I'm like, what do you do for a living because I'm an attorney. I'm a doctor. And like, we just do this on the weekends because we love it. But it's a way to feel like you're in that story. You're trying their that's their attempt to be part of the story that means so much to them. Story is such a powerful thing we as human beings can't live without story. It is part of its, I want to say is as important as water and food. But after water, food and shelter and the other key thing or Yeah, out story. We don't function. I mean, even if it's if you've been asked to tell you, Hey, John just died around the corner because there was a tiger there. That's a story that helps us survive.

Margaret Kerrison 53:16
Exactly. And this was, yeah, it was a survival mechanism. It was a way for us to communicate, don't go to that part of the woods or wherever, right? It's a wager. It was cautionary tales. A lot of the children's fairy tales started off as cautionary, but then it became inspirational, aspirational and entertaining, and all of these things. But stories serve so much so many different purposes. But ultimately, it's really a reflection of ourselves. And you know, wanting to experience different worlds and stories that help us to understand who we are and why we're here.

Alex Ferrari 53:54
Amen, sister. Amen. preach, preach. I'm gonna ask you, Mark, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Margaret Kerrison 54:05
Keep writing. I know that a lot of writers are waiting for the magical phone call. But that magical phone call does not happen unless you work for it. So writers you got to write. And even if you're not getting paid for it, you got to write, you know, your whatever it is like if you're going to write a book or a play or script for feature film or TV, write something you're super passionate about. Don't worry about who's going to buy this or read this or any of that write the story. If there's only one story that you got to tell before you die, write that story. That's my advice, so that when someone does come knocking on your door, and you want to share that story, then that's the perfect time to do it. And you gotta you gotta write. I think that that's something you know, I need a lot of young people who are like I'm gonna be a writer one day. And I'm like, What are you writing now? And they're like, Oh, I haven't written anything for a while. Writers, right? You gotta write?

Alex Ferrari 55:11
Absolutely. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Margaret Kerrison 55:17
Oh, boy, wow, that's a good one. That's a good one. You know, one of the best lessons that I keep learning again and again, and one that I, you know, yeah, I didn't learn until like, maybe into my 30s or something, that as you rise up, you got to bring people up with you. And I think that that's so true. And I have had a lot of mentors in my life. And I see how they do that. And I'm starting to realize that how important that is, that when you do find success in whatever you do, you got to bring people with you, the people, the people that you like, the people that you trust, you know, and I think that you got to give back, you got to give back what you got. And that's something that I think a lot of, you know, when you're first starting out, it's, you often think about, you know, me, me, me, and how do I get ahead all of that stuff? And how do I get to the top by stomping on people or whatever it is, you know, I think that that's, that's not how the world works. You know, be kind, be gracious, be generous. And be generous with what you know. And you know, who you know. And I think that that's something that I always remind myself of, you know, every day, no matter you know what I'm doing, I think that you got to treat people. You got to treat people, right.

Alex Ferrari 56:48
And three of your favorite films of all time. Oh, no, don't ask me. Oh, my God, three have to take that come to mind today. You won't be on your gravestone. Don't worry.

Margaret Kerrison 57:00
Wow. Oh, I mean, I there's so many movies that I go back to again and again. I mean, recently, I've been, you know, I was I rewatched. This I mean, Mad Max Fury. Fury Road. Wow, Mike. So good. So it's all good. And black and white version? Oh, no, I didn't have to watch. Oh. Okay, okay. But I read the book on the making of the movie and everything. I was just like, holy moly. Like, all the various things that have to happen for this movie to even exist was a miracle in itself. And I had it's just craziness. And that is it was a I felt like it was creativity, unbridled creativity. You know, there was just the costuming and like, the makeup and just some of the words that people were saying. It's like, what is this right? Beautiful, chaotic mess. Like, it wasn't a mess at all. It was beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 58:08
The thing I love about that is like, from the director of Happy Feet. The Oscar winning director of Happy Feet gum. Road. What?

Margaret Kerrison 58:23
So true. So true. Oh my gosh. But Charlize throne is amazing in it. And like I mean, she can play anything, but she was really great in it. Oh, two more do I have to say two more? Oh, my gosh, there's so many. You know, I like one of the movies that I rewatched over and over again when I was in high school in college, I think was Chungking Express by Ben Hur. Why? And it was such it was so beautiful and quiet. But I love the character development. I love just just how it was such. There's simple stories about everyday characters, you know. And that also reminds me of lost in translation to like that I can watch over and over again as well. So, so many, I mean, are

Alex Ferrari 59:14
I won't I won't talk to you anymore. Margaret, where can people find your new book?

Margaret Kerrison 59:21
So as of yesterday, my book is available everywhere Amazon target in your local bookstores. I think that I'll definitely available online, in your local bookstores. So really anywhere and hopefully anywhere. So immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds are writers guide. And I'm actually having a book signing if you're in Pasadena, California, on September 9 at 7pm in the Romans bookstore in Pasadena too, so it'd be really great to see some people there as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:00
It has been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show and thank you for building these worlds that we're walking in and experiencing and and inspiring future storytellers of the future. So I appreciate you my dear, thank you so much.

Margaret Kerrison 1:00:12
Oh, thank you so much, Alex for having me. It was really fun talking to you.

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Wolfgang Petersen Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

A controversial filmmaker, Wolfgang Petersen, who died August 2022, has at once been lauded for his professionalism and attention to detail and decried for turning out a string of standard commercial Hollywood blockbusters. The son of a naval officer, Petersen held a lifelong fascination with the sea and naval subjects. He was born in Emden and attended drama school in Hamburg. Having already made some 8 mm films while at school, he proceeded to direct as well as act at the Junges Theater in Hamburg (later renamed the Ernst-Deutsch-Theater).

In 1966, he joined the newly formed Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB) where he made several short films while simultaneously directing plays in Hamburg. Having caught the eye of German television networks, Petersen went on to direct a string of TV movies which often dealt with such contentious issues as environmental pollution and underage sex. An early success and also his first cinematic release was the taut psychological thriller One or the Other (1974), which starred Jürgen Prochnow and Elke Sommer. This led to more regular assignments on the ever-popular detective series Tatort (1970) for which Petersen directed six episodes.

In 1980, Petersen was commissioned by Bavaria Studios to direct The Boat (1981), based on a 1971 novel by Lothar G. Buchheim. Filmed on a budget of 32 million DM, it became the most realistic and harrowing portrayal of life aboard a submarine in wartime filmed to date, the action of ‘Das Boot’ being set during the battle of the North Atlantic and culminating in an abortive attempt to cross the British-controlled strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. The film concluded with a bitterly ironic climax. ‘Das Boot’ (re-released as a miniseries in 1985) starred Petersen’s long-standing collaborator Jürgen Prochnow (who became an international star as a result) and was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Director and Best Writing).

In its wake, Petersen directed and co-wrote a children’s fantasy –again filmed at the Bavaria facilities near Munich– The NeverEnding Story (1984). Though successful at the box-office (especially in Germany), it did not attract universal critical appeal. By contrast, his second English-language film, the science fiction drama Enemy Mine (1985) was only a modest financial success but rated better in reviews over the years, the Los Angeles Times describing it as “surprisingly coherent, surprisingly enjoyable“.

In 1987, Petersen moved to Santa Monica, California. For a while, he was part of an A-list of directors tasked with helming mega-budget blockbusters starring big name actors like Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Most were palpable box-office hits, especially In the Line of Fire (1993) (often cited as his best Hollywood enterprise), Air Force One (1997) and the historical epic Troy (2004), which grossed $497.4 million worldwide.

Reviewer reception for Troy tended to be lukewarm to cool, even more so with the disaster movies Outbreak (1995) and The Perfect Storm (2000), the latter criticized as suffering from “a lack of any actual drama or characterization”. Attracting even lower critical esteem was Petersen’s remake of Irwin Allen ‘s original 1972 disaster movie, Poseidon (2006). It ended up both a box office and a critical flop in the U.S. with only the superior CGI special effects gaining plaudits. Poseidon was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Remake. Following this debacle, Petersen withdrew from Hollywood and had a decade-long hiatus before directing his final picture, the German heist drama Vier gegen die Bank (2016).

Petersen’s second wife was the assistant director and script supervisor Maria-Antoinette Borgel with whom he had a son. Petersen died from pancreatic cancer on August 12 2022 in Brentwood, California.

Below are all the screenplays 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).

DAS BOUT (1981)

Directed and Screenplay by Wolfgang Petersen – Read the Screenplay!


Directed and Screenplay by Wolfgang Petersen – Read the Screenplay!


Directed and Screenplay by Wolfgang Petersen – Buy the Screenplay!


Screenplay by Lawrence Dworet & Robert Roy Pool – Read the Screenplay!


Directed by Wolfgang Petersen – Read the Screenplay!

TROY (2004)

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen – Read the Screenplay!

BPS 227: How To Write & Direct Your Dream Project With Adrian Martinez

Today on the show we have returning champion Adrian Martinez.

Adrian Martinez has over 100 television and film credits including several standout sidekick roles -“Focus,” opposite Will Smith and Margot Robbie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” opposite Ben Stiller, “Casa de mi Padre,” opposite ‘Mexican’ Will Ferrell, “I feel Pretty,” as Amy Schumer‘s office buddy, ‘Mason,’ and as ‘Elliot’ the dog catcher in the CGI and live-action re-imagining of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.

Adrian also co-stared with Will Smith and Margot Robbie in the film Focus.

Will Smith stars as Nicky, a seasoned master of misdirection who becomes romantically involved with novice con artist Jess (Margot Robbie). As he’s teaching her the tricks of the trade, she gets too close for comfort and he abruptly breaks it off. Three years later, the former flame—now an accomplished femme fatale—shows up in Buenos Aires in the middle of the high stakes racecar circuit. In the midst of Nicky’s latest, very dangerous scheme, she throws his plans for a loop…and the consummate con man off his game.

On the television front, Adrian recently starred in ABC’s crime drama series “Stumptown” alongside Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, and Michael Ealy, and in the CBS all access comedy, “No Activity,” produced by Will Ferrell and Funny or Die. Adrian was also a series regular playing computer hacker, ‘Dumont’ in “The Blacklist: Redemption,” on NBC, opposite Famke Janssen and Ryan Eggold.

Adrian’s directorial debut, “iGilbert,” a drama he wrote starring himself, Dascha Polanco (“Orange is the New Black”) and Raul Castillo (”Looking”) was recently released by Gravitas Features and currently available on demand and in select theaters.

iGilbert is a future fairytale about being seen and feeling unseen. Gilbert feels isolated from the world, life, and people, and is starving for human connection, as he reaches for his cellphone to connect with the world, with dangerous consequences.

“There is beauty among the broken in writer/ director Adrian Martinez’s iGilbert, a dreamlike ode to human connection at a time in which our phones keep us safely cradled in our own bubble of safety….”  — Filmthreat.com 

Enjoy my conversation with Adrian Martinez.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome back to the show, returning champion, Adrian Martinez. If you can wake up, sir, I appreciate that. Thank you.

Adrian Martinez 0:21
Alex, it's an honor to be here. And I thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:26
I thank you for coming back on the show, my friend. It's been it's been a few years since you've been on the show. You were you were on early early on. Because, you know, we knew each other from now leap and, and worked a little bit together on on that stuff back then. And I asked, I asked, you know, a giant in the field, like yourself to come and humb to my humble podcast to talk shop back then. And now you're back, sir. And I appreciate you then. And I appreciate you now.

Adrian Martinez 0:59
Well, I couldn't be more grateful to speak to you because you know, movies. Uh, you know, the price we all paid to make them. And so I'm grateful to be here.

Alex Ferrari 1:09
Yeah, we're going to talk about your new film, which is your directorial debut iGilbert. And a little bit, which is, which I love by the way, and I'm sure there's a couple stories I'm sure it was very easy to to make it random and very quickly. I'm sure the money just flowed in. And you shot it what in like, a weekend and got all the all the actors just showed up? It was great. Yeah. And yeah. And it got released right now like this is? So for people who don't, who aren't aware of your career, how did you get started in the business?

Adrian Martinez 1:45
I was a complete an abysmal failure and everything else. Then, I actually started as a teenager, and I was at high school Springer. And, believe it or not, and they were going around schools, putting up signs for a crime reenactment show called Unsolved Mysteries. And they were looking for sprinters. So my friend said, Yo, you're the fastest one here, you should do it. And I was like, I don't know. They're gonna pay you like $500 for the day. Alright, where do I go? So the whole audition was a sprint, literally, like a 40 yard sprint. And yeah, I was a medalist, and I left everyone in the dust tonight. And I booked it. And I became sag eligible. And now just 87 years later, on directly my little bit

Alex Ferrari 2:45
But we did you use? Did you? Were you method when you were right, when you were running? And sprinting? At the time, did you what kind of acting techniques did you use?

Adrian Martinez 2:56
I I said go for the money, go for the money and go for the money. I had an objective. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:02
There was an objective no question. Now you've worked with some of the best directors in the business over your long career. I mean, you're one of those actors who I constantly see pop up everywhere you just one of those actors who's always working and it's so funny

Adrian Martinez 3:18
I was standing behind you.

Alex Ferrari 3:21
You're like David Pumpkins you like standing right behind me. But it's true because I you know, I'll be watching a movie or a show on you know, on TV and with my wife and I'm like up there's Adrian. Oh, there's Yeah, it always puts a smile on my face. I'm like, Oh, that's awesome. He's still he's cranking along. I love it. And I love what you know, when you're doing your your thing. And by the way, there is nobody else like you like you have no competition.

Adrian Martinez 3:48
Let's just keep it that way.

Alex Ferrari 3:50
There's not an Adrian Martinez type, like you are a there is nobody else like you. You have such a unique energy to you, to you and everything you do so but all these shows you've worked on all these movies you've worked on, you work with some of the best directors in the business. What were some of the lessons you learned watching them that brought that you were able to bring into directing your first feature?

Adrian Martinez 4:11
Well, I tell you, when I worked with Ben Stiller, Sheikha Latifa Walter Mitty, I learned all about hard work. Because he produced it, he directed it, he started it. And he was the first one to show up the last one to leave and then he would go work on the Edit. And I just, I just stayed on him like, like white on rice, or, in my case, off white on rice. And I just really just tried to learn as much as I could, but extremely powerful hard work ethic. And then, of course, at the Pollak rescue piece that worked with him on the interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn and this is a man who was just so vs understated power like he ran the set. But but he did it with a whisper. And you don't have to yell at anybody. You don't have to be a dick. Just have to know what you want, and deliver the message with passion and commitment and authenticity. And he did that. And he knew how to speak to different actors, as if they were each a fingerprint. And I was nervous. I was working with Nicole Kidman, and he's an Oscar winner. And I was just I was nervous. I was kind of starting out. And he was just like, Dude, you got this. You got this. See that lady over there. And he's talking to Nicole. She's, she's, she's gonna be there for you. 100% This is a safe place to work. So just take a deep breath and joke. Yeah. That was it. That was it. You were done. It was just, I was so moved by that. I still fucked up. But

Alex Ferrari 6:04
I mean, you you almost brought the whole movie down. But but but at least you felt safe.

Adrian Martinez 6:08
But. But he was so generous to like he told me. I said, What about if I? Because I was worried. I was doing a scene with her. And I'm like, I'm like the sound man of this booth, right? And I said, What if she gives me the line? Can I leave my violin here? And I say, number one, stop flirting. It's not going to happen. And he laughed. He's like, that's absolutely ridiculous. But I want to shoot it. So you know, this was $100 million movie. And he gave me the generosity of shooting Matt. And I just, I'll never forget, I

Alex Ferrari 6:48
Did it make did it make the cut?

Adrian Martinez 6:50
No, of course not. It was absolutely ridiculous. But he gave me the time of day and he respected my idea. And you know, he believes in me not to shoot it. So I mean, they were spending $300,000 a day on that. Oh, yeah. So each take is pricey. And he still let me do it.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
And Nicole. And I'm assuming Nicole cracked up.

Adrian Martinez 7:16
She was like

Alex Ferrari 7:22
That's amazing. Yes. And it's and he was I mean, he was a master and, and you know, I've seen those directors who just just their mere presence commands attention. And they're, it's kind of like, you know, when you're Sydney Pollack, you know, everybody knows you're on set just by you walking on it. It's one of those things. Now, you've worked as an actor for many years now. And one of the things that actors have to deal with a lot is rejection. What is the mechanism that you use to deal with that? Because I mean, it's, I mean, as a director, when I when I do castings, I'm trying to be as nice and unkind to actors as possible. But you guys go, you know, sometimes on, especially when you start out, you know, five or 10 castings a day, and you're rejected from almost all of them, if not all of them, almost on a daily basis. And so you go through 100 upside. Stop crying, stop crying. Stop crying agent. It's but but I'd have a month, you might get one, you might land one if you're lucky. How do you deal with the rejection?

Adrian Martinez 8:24
Oh, my God, I'm having that Oprah moment. Dude, just just the life I chose. And like my mother would say, nobody's forcing you. Shoot, it's true. She would crockery finger like dollar. Nobody's forcing you, right? Thanks, man. But look, resilience. That's all it is. I was watching this documentary with Rita Moreno. Yeah. The one that just came up. Yes. Great. And she was like, you know, because she admits that she was actually raped right by her agent, what she was just a teenager and kid she fought through that fought through that football, that racism and ageism in the vicinity. And they asked her how just you have to be resilient. That's it resilience. There's no and some people have a capacity for that more than others. And I understand that a lot of my friends no longer are no longer in the business and I respect that. But you just have to fight and be resilient.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
And I think that's something that every every person in every part of our business needs to understand from directing to gripping to screenwriting to acting, it is resilience and and that's what they don't teach you at film school. And they don't announce that they don't sell that Hollywood doesn't sell you that they sell you this. I always say they have they're really great at the sizzle but they suck at the steak.

Adrian Martinez 9:54
Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 9:57
Now you you also worked with With, with one of the biggest movie stars, if not the biggest movie star in the world at the time with Will Smith as a co star on focus. Were there any valuable lessons you learned from working with, with will and you know, just being around someone who is so not only so famous, but how he works and how he got to where he is with any valuable lessons you learned.

Adrian Martinez 10:25
Two quick stories about him I, my first day, just seeing I'm in an ambulance on a gurney. And sitting over me is Margot Robbie, and Will Smith. And we have no air in this ambulance. We have lights right over us. And I'm like in a polyester suit. And I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm sweating my ass off. And Will Smith reached into his pocket, took out his personal handkerchief and dab the sweat off my head. And that was day one. We were in New Orleans. And I'll never forget. And I said to myself, I'm going to be good on this movie, I'm going to be safe. Because if the biggest star in the world had the humanity to do that, I'm going to be good. So that's what Smith that you don't read about. But he is like a parade float. He is larger than life. When we were in Buenos Aires. He came out of his trailer just like frogs and people like the Beatles just came after him. But what he taught me is treat everybody, everybody with respect. Because you don't know who they are where they fit. me tell me that. But he showed me that just by dabbing my forehead.

Alex Ferrari 11:51
That's a great, great, great lesson. Now, I want you to tell you, you've been talking about I Gilbert for a couple years. Now I remember, you know, we threatened to work with each other a little bit on that on the post end. When you guys were trying to get something going or finishing up the film. How tell me first of all, tell me about the film. I Gilbert, what is it about?

Adrian Martinez 12:14
Well, it's a personal story for me, because I there was a long time in my life when I felt completely disconnected to everyone. Just just being Latino in this business, being a big guy walking into, you know, a drugstore and just having people look at you just because you're paying or whatever. And I just kind of like, let that simmer inside me. And then one day, I'm on the subway in New York. And there's this guy sitting opposite this attractive woman. And he starts just taking pictures. And then he kept doing and it's just like, what did that What are you doing? He didn't say anything was just dead. And then you got off the next stop. And I thought to myself, Who is this guy, that he is so dead on the inside that he could, you know, dehumanize someone in that way. And just keep moving. So that stayed with me. And then of course I have a daughter, you know, she just turned a teenager and I'm like, Who is she going to wind up with? This is the dating pool. You know?

Alex Ferrari 13:31
I know the feeling brother.

Adrian Martinez 13:35
And you know, I reached the point as a person and as an actor that I just wanted to tell stories that mattered to me. And what I felt was this growing disconnection between people. I mean, listen, we all love our phones, and we all love social media. But it can be very isolating. So just like in Taxi Driver, the metaphor for loneliness was the taxi. Today, to me, it's the phone. And so that's how I started cultivating the story.

Alex Ferrari 14:09
And how did you How long ago did you start this process?

Adrian Martinez 14:16
I wrote this maybe 10 years ago. And I shot it in 2016 and 2020. I had to do reshoots last in 2020. And then post production was a real pain in the ass. I couldn't find the right composure. The good the music was so essential to this movie. But finally, it was an act of God because that was I was in Savannah, Georgia. I was shooting lady in the trap, the remake and I'm just walking around and I see Leonard Malton the film critic heading towards the screening over Scott and I just like Linamar antics, I walked up to him, I said, it's the mountain. I love your books. They were really instrumental to me just was say hello. And you said, Thank you. Thank you so much. And he's with his family, couple friends. And I was so desperate, I just blurted out. Does anybody know? composure? Yeah, like it was a total non sequitur. But I was just so like, I couldn't stop thinking about any other composure. you compose. I was on the subway. I didn't, you know, composers. And then somebody said, Oh, I know somebody New York. His name is Gil, Tommy. Okay, Tommy. And I went to Apple Music and I started guild Tommy and I heard this song that he wrote called time, like rain. And it was like a lightning bolt. It was just like, that's, that's the tone of the song. That's the tone of the music I need for this for this one. That's it. I reached out to him. And the rest is history. He and his partner. You sell a full sell the vestry. She's from Spain. compose the most gorgeous score. It is when you see the movie. That's a beautiful spot I got. Yeah. And I kept trying to trip him up like, it's got to be sexy, haunting, sad, but beautiful. Like I just confirmed

Alex Ferrari 16:32
And creepy, but fast but it's slow.

Adrian Martinez 16:37
And I swear he like took a leak came back and boom, there was this fantastic score. And props to my wife, who, who wrote the the the end call song and the song in the flashback. But that was it. We were off and running after I got that score.

Alex Ferrari 16:56
So how how did you get the funding for the film?

Adrian Martinez 17:01
Well, that was hard. That was the hardest thing I've ever done. I move the money from savings to checking.

Alex Ferrari 17:10
Did you finances yourself finances yourself?

Adrian Martinez 17:12
I did. I don't recommend. I told my kid Listen, the good news is that he's making a movie. The bad news is you're not going to college. Yeah. But we'll see.

Alex Ferrari 17:29
But isn't it isn't it amazing though, as as filmmakers you know, I call it the beautiful sickness because we you know, once you get bitten by the bug, you're done. You can't get rid of it. It's it's in your blood you. It can go dormant for years and still pop its ugly head somewhere. And I had I had I had a director on the show who literally mortgaged his home for his first film, the movie bombed. He lost his home had seven kids had to move back in with his parents and his seven kids and his wife. And he said the only thing I could think of is like, oh my god, I'm never gonna get the direct another movie. And I'm like, that's, that's sick. That's that's absolute sickness.

Adrian Martinez 18:13
Yeah, but essentially, for me, it was same thing. I had property. In New York, I sold it to finance the movie. And I have no regrets. Because for me the choice was, am I going to be an actualized? Landlord? Collecting rents? Or am I going to be a naturalized filmmaker? Wow. Living my bliss. And you got on your comeback? Yeah, you know, if you look no worry about it.

Alex Ferrari 18:44
Exactly. Exactly. You did it. So it so but you so what took you so long? Then if you had if you had the funding, why did it take so long from the moment you wrote it to the moment it's been released almost 10 years later?

Adrian Martinez 18:57
Because at first I did try crowdfunding. I tried all kinds of, you know, I reached out to friends in the business. I mean, I went the route that you would, because who really wants to, you know, but it just came clear that, you know, it wasn't gonna happen. And then I had a window and I said, That's it. I'm just gonna shoot it.

Alex Ferrari 19:20
And you just and you ran it. You grabbed it. You grab the few friends as actors and brought him in and amazing cast by the way. Great cast.

Adrian Martinez 19:28
Well, I feel like this is the best thing. Dascha Polanco, Stan with all due respect to our interest in new black she she just gives such a subtle powerful performance

Alex Ferrari 19:40
It's beautiful beautiful spir It's haunting it's always haunting

Adrian Martinez 19:42
Yeah, yeah. And then you get people like well Sean Maher know from House of Cards coming in and help me out she was terrific money Kernan as the doctor I love her. She's gonna be on the show ghosts down. She just was on power. Whereas a regular, just good people, you know, good people, and of course, Raul Castillo, who I met on a movie called, Don't let me drown that went to Sundance. And we've always just stayed in touch. And I'm like, Dude, he's a creep. But I need you to bring that heart you bring to everything. And he did.

Alex Ferrari 20:21
Now, as a director, you know, there's always that day on set, that you feel like the entire world is coming crashing down around you. You're like, Oh, my God, you happen every day. So what am I? What am I doing here? I'm going to lose all my money. I, you know, and it could be for many different reasons. What was that? What was one of the many days that you had on the set? And how did you overcome those those moments? Because it's crippling, I've had it. I mean, I've literally had panic attacks. When I was first directing. It's It's It's horrible.

Adrian Martinez 20:54
Yeah. But it's also wonderful. Yes. That your story? Yeah. The way I was able to do it was like, I shot some short films in college. And so I said to myself, I'm going to do one short film a day. Okay, that's it. I'm doing one short film a day. And I did that 20 days. And then I said to myself, like, I remember one time we had, we had a scene change, and wardrobe forgot the change of clothes. And she was in Chelsea, we were in Harlem. It was rainy. Everything just sucked. And we're just sitting around, just kind of like waiting for the clothes. And I said, let's just grab the camera. And let's just walk the streets and do some pickup shots. And in those pickup shots, and I found some, some real gems. And it reminded me of who directed Babbo was the narrative.

Alex Ferrari 21:57

Adrian Martinez 21:59
Yeah. He was like, you know, just shoot, like, the screenplay is like the newspaper that just changes every day. Just go out. If you see something industry, interesting, just shoot that and be open to the miracles. So I was, and I wound up having some really nice shots, kind of like B roll stuff that that we use while waiting. We just got to keep going.

Alex Ferrari 22:25
Now there's there's some shots in the movie that I you know, I know, because obviously, this is not $100 million movie. So I know you didn't get to lock off grand Central's are not Grand Central is Grand Central. Jason, what's the name of? Grant says, right. So I know, you didn't lock off Grand Central and I know their scenes in like, you know, there has a lot of production value. I'm assuming some of that was, quote and quote, stolen?

Adrian Martinez 22:51
Not Grand Central.

Alex Ferrari 22:52
How did you do it? Yeah. How did you do? How did you do the Grand Central CMN?

Adrian Martinez 22:55
They will not let you in the you got to do you got to get permission. And you got to pay them. They have their own movie person. Okay. Okay. One night. And that was $1,000. Wow. Yeah. And I for that you get a platform, you get access to one train, not news. And you get access to the main area, but they won't lock it off. So

Alex Ferrari 23:23
I said there were people those were real people just walking around.

Adrian Martinez 23:26
Yeah. And then I said, Okay. Now originally in the Cass Gilbert Gets his phone. And he, he nervously is recording someone, and that he drops it into a subway track. And originally, I had it in his mind that he goes into the track to get the funnel. As the train goes by, it really jumps out of the way. And the MCC, the NTA said No fucking way. Because they were like, We don't want copycats any of that. So then I had to improvise. I said, Okay. He just records the person. And he walks away. And then the stress of it, because he's not in good health comes in and he passes out. And that's the movie. That's the scene in the movie, you see. But originally, it was a different kind of trauma.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
Well, there was, I mean, for $8,000 Actually, that's not bad. For the price. Gorgeous. I mean, I mean for what you get, I mean, try to build that set. Yeah, you know, the production value is not that bad for a day and they get a you get the train and it's not a bad it's not a bad deal. But there were some scenes that were on the street. I'm assuming you kind of run a gun did a lot of a lot of those kinds of scenes, or did you? Did you always have a permit? You always had permission? Because I mean, I've talked I've talked to filmmakers who made 100 million out movies that run a gun?

Adrian Martinez 25:02
Yeah. No, a lot of it was running gun. And but sometimes if you're going to shoot something that's instrumental to the story, like the Grand Central, you got to just pay the price. Sure, sure. I mean, but yeah, something that was running. And interesting John Carr, the DP, he had a segway. I think that's what you call those things you scoot on. And so we would, he would, we would use that for dolly shots. He would just segue from one place to the other. And we tried doing that at Grand Central and they said, now you can use the same way. But

Alex Ferrari 25:40
Is that is that a direct impersonation?

Adrian Martinez 25:45
Questions right here.

Alex Ferrari 25:51
No, it's so yeah, the segues then is this generations wheelchair which was made famous by Robert Rodriguez in mariachi, you know, using the wheelchairs a dolly now you could use a Segway as a dolly, you put that with a Ronan, you put that with a ronin, and you've got like, you know, almost a techno crane.

Adrian Martinez 26:08

Alex Ferrari 26:09
Now, um, what are the skills that you brought as an actor to directing in this film like me all this experience you've had as an actor? Were any of those skills used in directing this film?

Adrian Martinez 26:24
Well, absolutely. When speaking of actors, because I get it, I know the price they paid, right? And acting. It takes a lot of courage to be an actor. It's, you're lending your emotional life to the character to the story. And that process is harder for something that for others. So I knew going in, to speak to actors. And I know each actor is different. If you're talking to like, and I've seen Morgan Freeman say this, like, what do you want from a director? Nothing. I know, I know what I'm doing. I don't want anything. Alright, that's Morgan Freeman. Other actors want to get deep into conversations about objectives and backstory. Cool to talk about and as long as you want on this set, dacha was very much into Jada she, she could connect to her story. And we would talk about her body dysmorphia and the characters party's dysmorphia and, and, you know, rebel, was playing someone who has PTSD and we want to talk about that. And you know, the price you pay to be a soldier and then come back out of that and to be back in the regular world and not being able to connect with the people that matter to you. So it was just like, each person had their own their own journey to take and you just have to be this.

Alex Ferrari 27:59
That's a thing that a lot of directors especially young directors coming up don't understand when working with actors, because working with actors is very mysterious. It's almost like a it for many for many, you know, unseasoned directors, they look at what the actors do as, as magic almost like how do you just turn it on, turn it off. I think one of the things you just said is so important for people listening to understand is that each actor is different and wants to be spoken to differently. Some come with all the confidence in the world, give me as literal as much as you want. And you're good to go. Others are much more neat, not needy, but want more interaction with the director and, and some need time to get into seeing other others can just pop, turn it on, like in a dime. Some are methods that are not, but that's such an important part. And I'm assuming, you know, you working with the insane list of actors that you've worked with and collaborated over the years. I'm sure you've seen the gambit from everything I just said right.

Adrian Martinez 28:59
100% and whatever it is, give it to them. Because at the end of the day, people will see the memory. See the performances, you know that no one's ever said, Well, I really love the gaffer on this. The Gaffin was fantastic. I appreciate the gap, but we can't do it without it. But your moment was sink or swim on the performances. So whatever the the actors lead on the day, it would just be that without judgment, just give them up to me.

Alex Ferrari 29:29
Now have you I'm assuming on your during your your travels, you've run into performers who might either have given you not giving you as a director, obviously, but you've seen actors who've acted up on set or not give you like, you know, either ego or insecurity. How do you suggest directors deal with trouble like you know, not troublemakers, but just people who might not feel safe? Because I know that for a fact that if an actor does feel safe they start acting up sometimes depending on who the actor is and where they are in their career. And others. You know, I just always love to hear any tips that you could hear, because I know that's one of the questions I get asked all the time, like, how do you deal with a difficult actor? If they're like the star? Or if they're just how do you deal with them? So what do you what's your suggestions with that?

Adrian Martinez 30:19
Well, if you're another cast member, just like walk away, and then let the other people do with it is not your battle. Right? If you're the, if you're the, if you're the director, you just got to pull them to the side. And hopefully, there's a room somewhere where he can just let them ban because you have to keep the space safer everybody. One guy going off, it's just that it's just like, it just brings everybody down. So if at all possible, you just pull him to the side, validate his feelings or feelings and say, Okay, tell me everything you got to say just let it up. Just let me hear it. And hopefully the person just leaves that moment. I was working on a movie was a Baton Rouge and Jeffrey, Jeffrey Tambor lost his ship. I mean, he just went crazy. And he just totally lost his patience started screaming at everybody. And the director was just like, okay. 100% I get. And, yeah, you just want on the 10 minute rant. That was it. We went back to the, to the shot. And the whole, the rest of the day felt icky. You know, next day, he came back, he apologized to the casting crew. And we moved on. But that rarely happens. I haven't seen too much of that. Jeffrey losses. Yeah. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 31:49
I mean, it's rare. It's my experiences. I mean, it's, you know, obviously, that's what the attention goes on to those kind of scenes, and, you know, the, like the Christian Bale, you know, break down and those kinds of things. Yeah, but in my experience being on set, as much as I've been, I've never really seen that it that's most of them. Most people are professionals, and they don't act on professionally, at certain points, you do have breaking points. And it could be the cast, it could be the, the crew, it could be the environment, it could be financial, it could be you just got divorced. It could be, it could be a million things, it could be a million things, you never know what's going through an actor's head

Adrian Martinez 32:28
Keep your side of the street clean. That's it. You know, for the moment you show up and keep your side street clean, you're on time, you're prepared. You work and you go home. And you do that. That's the discipline. To me, I wish the whole world was run like a movie set, where everybody knew their role. And for the most part, nobody complains, we all do our job at That's it.

Alex Ferrari 32:55
And you get in and get out and move on. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was from a from I forgot which director told me this, but he's like, if you want to know how actors are feeling, you become best friends with hair and makeup. Because they're the ones are going to know, they had a rough night, they just broke up with their girlfriend, they, you know, they just got dropped from their agency or something like that, you're going to be the first to know they're going to be the first to know so always ask hair to makeup. How's Adrian today?

Adrian Martinez 33:24
There all like therapist. I mean, what's how much I was a day player. That's something I sat down. And they're like, so you married? What's goin on? Fuck, they go, they go right into it. And sometimes they catch you vulnerable when you actually feel like talking about your business. And you may say things. But yeah, that's a good, that's a good analogy.

Alex Ferrari 33:54
That's a good piece of advice for anyone listening out there make friends with hair and makeup, because they will know. And I think you were talking about it earlier is like I think as directors, this is one thing they don't teach you in film school that we are almost psychology, you know, psychologist and therapists on the set, because we not only have to deal with the actors and their emotional toll depending on the scene and the character and what they're going through in their own personal life. But you also have to run the set and all of each individual event crew member has that kind of stuff, too. So you've got to kind of the politics of it all as well is something that they don't teach you. Is that do you feel the same way?

Adrian Martinez 34:31
Yeah, but don't let them see that. I mean, like, oh, yeah, go to the bathroom, and scream. And just like, do whatever you got to do. But once you're back on set, everything is fine. Oh, yeah. He went, even if it isn't, because they look to you to know where this shift has gone. And so that's really important that you set the tone, you know, like a conductor with an orchestra. You set the tone, you said I love keeping it light. I love keeping it funny. I crack jokes all day at night, even though we were shooting the trauma. I was making jokes all the time. And you just got to keep the light and keep it moving.

Alex Ferrari 35:14
No, no question, I think. And that's a great piece of advice, because I remember my first film that I shot, day three, I excused myself, went to the bathroom and literally had a panic attack for 15 minutes, and had to go through the whole thing. And I came back out. I'm like, I knew even at that early part of my career, I can't show what's going on. If not, the whole ship goes down. And it's tough. It's not It's not easy being the captain. It's not. Yeah, but everyone thinks they could do it better. But everyone thinks they could do it better than you can.

Adrian Martinez 35:46
And maybe they're right. Yeah, sure, sure day, I'm the captain.

Alex Ferrari 35:51
For better or worse, we're on the ship. Now, I always love asking actors who direct how they're able to direct themselves, especially human, you're the lead of this movie. So how in God's green earth can you not only direct your first feature film, but then also have the ability to direct yourself be separated from yourself as far as performance is concerned? Be objective, because I've done it two or three times, and I'm not an actor, and Terry was horrible, horrible experience for me. How did you do this on a day to day basis?

Adrian Martinez 36:27
It comes very easily to me, I very intuitively had no problem with it. I would block the chain and my standing Walter Walter crews would sit in and he would just figure out what we're going to do. Then I would step in, I would perform. I maybe take a moment just to kind of like remind myself of what really matters to me in this scene. I'm just kind of like, go there. And shoot it. Cut. Check the viewfinder. Look at what look at the playback. Okay, would I be willing to see this in a movie? Is this interested enough to me? Do I want to make an audience sit through this? Yes. Good. Let's move on. No, do it again. And that comes easily what came hard for me was producing because I don't I mean, I love you know, having some money, but I don't. I don't like money. Like I don't like dealing with my taxes. I don't like you know, I don't like any of that. Just so I remember like shooting scenes and then just before an emotional scene, I can't have someone come up to 18 You have to sign these checks. Oh, yeah. should have seen him. I know. But we got so so you're signing the checks. That kind of shit just but writer director not I don't have a problem with it.

Alex Ferrari 37:58
I when I was doing my demo real. Shooting commercial. I shot $50,000 commercial real back in the 90s when we had to shoot on film, and that destroyed me nuts. Like, okay, you sign these checks. I had my UPM come over. And I'm like, but I'm in the middle of the creative process. And you need me to sign frickin checks. Like, no. Oh, God, it was it's absolutely brutal. But hey, you know, if you want to get it done, man, you got to do what you got to do.

Adrian Martinez 38:24
Yeah, these are as long as you you know, like, because what is it? They say? Pain is temporary film is forever.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
Yep. Yep. It's, it's like it's like Kubrick you so he say? He's like, you know, we're already here. We're all set up. The lights are on the cameras are here. You know, let's do it again. Let's, let's just do it again. See, see? Let's just do it again. Because we all we all got here. This has taken a long time just to get us here. For this moment. Let's take our time. Let's do it again.

Adrian Martinez 38:57
God bless Shelley Duvall.

Alex Ferrari 38:59
Oh my god. That's Oh my god, what she went through when the shining. Used to use Shelley Shelley. God bless Shelley. Absolutely. If anyone's not seeing the making of The Shining, get the blu ray go online. 20 minutes of just watching Stanley Kubrick absolute decimate Porsche lead of all I love.

Adrian Martinez 39:17
I love Kubrick

Alex Ferrari 39:18
Oh no, of course. But I think it was also but I think it was also his technique. And this is something I've always I mean, I've heard Coppola do it. You know, and other directors do it where they abused their actors because that's what the feeling they want in the scene, or things like that. And I don't I don't personally like doing that. Kubrick obviously did it with Shelley it you know, for better or worse at work because she was an absolute mess in that movie. Looking why you know what her character was? I know cool. People have tried to do it with with Winona Ryder on Dracula. Yeah, and all that kind of stuff. What What's your take on that kind of stuff? I mean, I always like just like let the actors Do them if they if they need me to yell and curse at them. There's something wrong. That's my opinion. What do you think?

Adrian Martinez 40:07
Again? It's the fingerprint thing. Oh, you're right, you're right. If an actor needs that, and they're okay with it, I mean, I'm not going to be abusive, right? That's where you draw the line, of course. But sometimes, you know, you do need an actor just to be in your face to say, Listen, this is what it is, this is what it is. This is the scene what you let her know that you're tired of a fucking fucking nail it, whatever it is. Right, right. And you got to do what you got to do. And then sometimes you go up to an actor, and they're like, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 40:48
Exactly, exactly. Now, what, what surprised you the most about yourself, during the process of directing and producing this film,

Adrian Martinez 40:59
That I could do it I mean, I took on a lot. I took on a lot. And it came at no small price. I mean, there were times when I felt tremendous despair, and, and terror. Because, you know, all kinds of things happen, people came and left. Locations came and left the food didn't arrive meal. It just like, it was just a series of tsunamis that you just have to grab this, your your surfboard, and just just keep going. But it affected me, you know, Peter Brooks says, actors are athletes of emotion. And I feel everything as a person, you know, like I take everything in. So to be able to compartmentalize that as a director, producer to stand back and see the bigger picture to allow myself to feel that our agony I was in or whatever bliss I was, and just keep coming back the next day, as if each day is a miracle. That was That was hard. But I did it. And I did it mostly because of the crew, and the cast that back me up every day. Without even knowing it, you know, like, and sometimes knowing it, but just knowing that they were there for me that they believed in the story that they gave me their time. No one got compensated a lot of money. But they were there. And just just by the fact they were there was was an affirmation of my vision and destroy. And that kept me going.

Alex Ferrari 42:41
It is the his the beauty and the terror of being an artist is what you just explained is the UPS the peaks and the valleys, the bliss and the despair, that could happen within a minute, a second of each other. And one moment, one moment, you could be at the highest of the high and the next moment, you could be at the lowest of low and it could turn on a diamond. And that's a unique that's unique to the filmmaking art. You know, I'm not sure it is like that with photography or with, you know, painting. I don't know, even with writing, I definitely think it is, as you know, could you wrote this? How long did it take you to write this by the way?

Adrian Martinez 43:21
So I write very slowly and very quickly. And by that I mean I was I was just cooking with this idea for a year or two. And then I banged it out in a weekend. So I mean, of course, obviously that was the first draft. And Jose Rivera who wrote and got an Oscar nomination for the Motorcycle Diaries. He's my up on a movie. And he has a writing group where I brought it in. And I would have other writers from different parts. And Muslim or no was in that writing group at the time. I knew I wanted her in the store. I just love her. I just love her look her presence. She's so smart. But yeah, they're the script took different stories, different lives. So like, let's just call it a year.

Alex Ferrari 44:18
Okay, fair enough. Now, besides composing, was there any other part of the post production process that you would like to warn filmmakers that never made a feature about like the kind of a couple of hiccups or pitfalls that you might be able to fall into in the post production process of this?

Adrian Martinez 44:39
Just remember that when you catch the movie, you're not just casting the cast. You cast the crew, and you're casting the post production people you got to be with people that are highly vetted, that come from personal referrals, people you trust like it was. It was Oscar winner Shaka king who taught me about the post people In iMovie, he said, Yeah, go here. Go to this guy. That's it. I believe he shocked. But this is before you blew up. But he, we did a movie together called newlyweds that went to Sundance his first movie. And he's been very, very helpful. I thanked him in the credits. Good man, smart man. But that's that's definitely the the truth. You got to really go with people that are vetted and recommended. And trust them and work with them. Make sure they're collaborative. Make sure they get what you're trying to get after. If you get any whiff of this guy doesn't know what he's doing. Go walk work. You bet. Yeah, that's not the one for you.

Alex Ferrari 45:53
The the the main question, I have to ask you, would you do it again?

Adrian Martinez 46:01
Yes, but not with my money.

Alex Ferrari 46:07
I think it was Peck and Buzet. Peck and power John Ford or somebody Africa it was like, never use your own money. Never.

Adrian Martinez 46:13
Yeah, I say that. But I just shot a trailer. Kind of like a proof of concept. For a pilot. I'm pretty together with my own money. So but that's I told him I told my wife That's it. That's it. Not gonna shoot pilot. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
For everyone that not watching this, Adrian just rolled his eyes and which insinuates that there might be a potential for music is it's a sickness, man.

Adrian Martinez 46:48
I just watched it, man. I don't want I don't like waiting for permission from anybody. I don't like you know, I mean, obviously, there are limits. So I'm not gonna shoot a series for all of my time. But sure. But I can shoot a trailer for a proof of concept. And that's what I did. And we'll see how it plays out.

Alex Ferrari 47:09
Now, you haven't you? I think you have an announcement for your next project. Isn't it called Redfield? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Adrian Martinez 47:17
Oh, yeah, very exciting. Just came out on deadline yesterday. I I'm going to be Aquafina psychic in this movie. So it's me and Aquafina versus Nicolas Cage as Dracula. And because I don't know how to pronounce his last name. Forgive me. Nicholas helped out. Okay. As Renfield it's gonna be good. It's directed by crispy, crispy. Kay, who did? Tomorrow wars. He's really smart. Wow. It's gonna be funny. Is going to scare the shit out of people. It's gonna be good.

Alex Ferrari 48:02
It's it's Nick. It's like, it's I mean, it's gonna work. Have you worked with Nick, have you worked with Nick before?

Adrian Martinez 48:08
I did. I did a movie. Called army of one. Yes. Where he? Larry Charles directed it. I don't think it went anywhere. But it was fun to meet him. It's fun to shoot it. And it's about a guy who who wants to kill Osama bin Laden. So he just like it's like this. This guy from the Midwest just got himself to the Middle East to try to try to kill a sound a lot. And the comedy ensued. But yeah, I worked with him a very nice man. Very nice man. And a real artist. People really, I mean, Nicolas Cage, you know? He went through this patch where he was just doing whatever to make money. But let me tell you, this guy can act. He's a wonderful actor. And he's got this movie coming out where he plays himself.

Alex Ferrari 49:02
Oh, I can't wait to see it. I can't wait to see it. Oh, yes. Like I'm the greatest actor in the world or something like that. It's like an amazing title. And I think he's sell like he's acting for like a billionaire off like some form Billy. Oh, I saw the trailer. I was just like, yes, he's gonna have a double. I mean, I just I can't get enough a nick. I think Nick is

Adrian Martinez 49:22
Yeah, no, we're at a we're at the precipice there but not another Nicolas Cage renaissance and Ren fields part of that. I'm really psyched.

Alex Ferrari 49:28
Oh, that's amazing. I can't wait. I can't wait to see you. You work with him and Aquafina she's, I mean, she's amazing.

Adrian Martinez 49:36
I love her. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 49:38
I just saw her in Shan-chi and she. She likes steals every scene. She said she steals it. She's fantastic. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Adrian Martinez 49:45
I'm just gonna try to hang in there. That's it.

Alex Ferrari 49:48
Now where can people see i Gilbert?

Adrian Martinez 49:52
It's everywhere streaming right now. So Amazon Prime and iTunes and movies. You to IMDb TV, like it's everywhere it's streaming. So just write i, Gilbert and enjoy the movie. And let me know how you feel that my Instagram taste of Adrian,

Alex Ferrari 50:09
Which is a fantastic handle, by the way. I've always loved that handle.

Adrian Martinez 50:15
I mean, it's just a taste. You know?

Alex Ferrari 50:17
We can't take all we can't take all of Adrian and it's too much, there's too much too much you have to taste now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Adrian Martinez 50:35
Don't waste time. Time is the enemy time doesn't give a fuck. Time. Just keeps moving on. So grab your phone, if you don't have a camp, just grab your phone. Shoot. Don't make excuses. No one's interested. Just, oh, I don't know how to write. Find somebody who does and collaborate. Just keep going and don't waste time.

Alex Ferrari 51:04
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Adrian Martinez 51:09
Don't waste time. I wasted so much time. That's why I'm saying. Absolutely. And also be professional. I mean, you know, we all know this. But it really matters to be kind like people remember kindness.

Alex Ferrari 51:28
Well, the best advice I ever got in the film business is don't be a dick. So yeah, that's a really bad. People underestimate that. By the way. Yeah. On your first interview, I asked you that question. You know what your answer was? No pressure,

Adrian Martinez 51:45
Eat. Eat salads. I can't remember.

Alex Ferrari 51:47
It was I'm enough.

Adrian Martinez 51:50
Oh, yeah. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 51:52
I'm enough. And I was like, wow, it just hit me like a ton of bricks when you said that. And most people don't realize they go through their whole life thinking that they're not enough. But when you realize that you are enough, it's pretty liberating. So I thought it was I just wanted to bring that back because it was such a wonderful answer. And it was the first time anyone had ever said that. On the show it many people have said it afterwards. They probably all stole it from you, sir. But but it was a very profound answer. So I wanted to, I wanted to thank you for that.

Adrian Martinez 52:21
Yeah, like, I mean, not only are you enough, but who else can you be? Like, I forget who said it? Like, I think it was Oscar Wilde. Be yourself. Everyone else take it.

Alex Ferrari 52:32

Adrian Martinez 52:35
So amazing. It's really it's really about embracing who you are, and bringing that gift and trusting it. Trusting who you are. And just really, there's a light inside you that that people want to see. So just get out of your own way and show it.

Alex Ferrari 52:52
And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Man as of right now,

Adrian Martinez 52:59
Well, yep. What build number ones always Shawshank Redemption, amen. Amen. me too kind of like with the same you know, like get busy living or get busy. Yep. A special I love Juncus out is a hugely inspirational actor to me. So I think of Fredo in The Godfather. I think of him. Show the Godfather wanted to. Okay, I'll throw in number three, because I just feel like gaffa three gets a bad rap. But the new kind I liked a lot.

Alex Ferrari 53:35
I haven't seen the new cut yet. But

Adrian Martinez 53:37
Yeah, it kind of streamlines everything more.

Alex Ferrari 53:41
Have you been looking after Godfather one and two, it's really tough. Like Godfather one was a tough follow. Then they beat it with Godfather two in many ways or even equal that or beat it? I mean, how many times can you hit lightning?

Adrian Martinez 53:53
Yeah, it's tough. Yeah. And how many more I gotta give just one. One more ship. This boy,I Gilbert, which I just saw.

Alex Ferrari 54:09
I hear good things about that one,

Adrian Martinez 54:11
Really spoke to me.

Alex Ferrari 54:13
I heard the act that the lead actor was, but the rest of that heifers the cast in the direction was fantastic.

Adrian Martinez 54:19
If you just fast forward his performance. He just really got a really classic film.

Alex Ferrari 54:27
Mute his performance, mute his performance. unmute it when it comes up. I appreciate you coming back on the show. I I wish you nothing but continued success in everything you do. I'm so glad you finally got this film made because you've been talking about it for a while. You've been talking about it for a while and it has just been I'm just so glad that it's finally done. It's out in the world and the you survived it. Yeah, and you're threatening to do it again.

Adrian Martinez 54:59
Yes. Last Man Standing that mean I swear the Martians can drop the bomb and annihilate the earth and out of the rubble my hand will count with my demo reel take it to your leader motherfucker.

Alex Ferrari 55:17
Oh you got in the Will Smith comes out for some strange reason some from somewhere. Always, always save the day to save the day. Adrian continued success, my friend. A pleasure.

Adrian Martinez 55:27
Yes. Thank you for having me. Thank you. Don't wait for years again.

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BPS 226: From Wedding Videos to Writing For Netflix & Paramount+ with Rel Schulman and Henry Joost

Henry Joost and Rel Schulman are a directing and writing team, producers and best friends. They founded the New York City production company Supermarché in 2007. Their most recent feature, SECRET HEADQUARTERS, premiers summer 2022 on Paramount+ and stars Owen Wilson, Michael Peña and Walker Scobell. The film is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer Films..

In 2020 Henry and Rel directed PROJECT POWER, a Netflix sci-fi action film starring Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon Levitt. The film debuted at #1 in over 90 countries. It held the #1 spot in the USA for over 2 weeks. It remains one of Netflix’s top ten original features of all time.

Their first feature documentary, CATFISH, premiered at the 2010 Sundance film festival where it received critical acclaim and went on to a nationwide release. Their second feature, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, released by Paramount Pictures, opened to rave reviews and had the highest grossing horror opening weekend in history. Their second film in the franchise, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 was released in October, 2012, and the two combined have grossed $350 million. Henry and Rel directed two films in 2016: NERVE, a summer hit released by Lionsgate, starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco; and VIRAL, a prescient low budget horror movie with Blumhouse, starring Sofia Black-D’Elia. They also executive produced the 2016 Sundance Film Festival hit WHITE GIRL, directed by Elizabeth Wood, which was acquired by Netflix for worldwide distribution.

Henry and Rel are executive producers on the long running series CATFISH: The TV Show, now in it’s 8th season, and have directed dozens of commercials and short films for companies like Nike, Google, Facebook, and Vogue. They directed the short film A BRIEF HISTORY OF JOHN BALDESSARI, commissioned by LACMA, narrated by Tom Waits, which has been screened at over 100 film festivals worldwide. Henry and Rel’s Google commercial DEAR SOPHIE was named Time magazine’s Best Commercial of the Year in 2011. In 2020 they fulfilled a lifelong dream of directing the season opening short film for the NEW YORK KNICKS.

Henry, Rel, and their in-house producer Orlee-Rose Strauss maintain an active development slate. Features in the works include: an adaptation of Capcom’s MEGA MAN which they wrote and are directing for Netflix; an adaptation of Edward Abbey’s novel THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG, produced by Ed Pressman, which they wrote and are directing. They are also signed on to direct a bio-pic about KEITH ADAMS, the deaf football coach who made history leading an all-deaf high school football team to an undefeated season against all-hearing teams. The film is being written by Josh Feldman, and produced by Freddy Wexler, DJ Kurs and Eryn Brown.

Enjoy my conversation with Henry Joost and Rel Schulman.

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Rel Schulman 0:00
But I'll say to the guy, Hey, buddy, I believe in you. You got this and then just walk away. And Henry will style over and be like what he means to say is.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
You know, it's always fascinating to me that even on some on big budget films like this shit happens.

This episode is brought to you by the best selling book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Rel Schulman and Henry Joost. How're you guys doing?

Henry Joost 0:40
Good, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:40
Good, man, thank you so much for coming on the show. Guys. I've been I've been watching your stuff for years, man, you know, back in the khakis days back to the catfish days. So you know, very first question I asked for you guys. Why in God's green earth? Did you want to get into this insanity that has the film industry?

Rel Schulman 0:56
Oh, God, I don't think we're any good at anything else.

Henry Joost 0:59
At this point, I don't Yeah, I don't know how to do anything else. That's a huge mistake. And now I can't back out.

Alex Ferrari 1:07
We should have gotten a real job somewhere else doing something? No. So how did you guys get in?

Henry Joost 1:11
It was a lot. It was a complex road. But I think we I think it started out as being just kids who loved movies growing up. And then at some point, there was the realization that like, there were people who actually do that as a job. They make movies, which totally blew my mind. At some point. You know, when I was like, I think I was 16 or something. And I met somebody who was a video producer. I was like, wow, so so they're real people who work in this business. And like that's something you could pursue. I personally became an editor. And, and that's when Raul and I met in high school. And we were both I was kind of like, interested in experimenting with video editing and shooting stuff in high school, and making films and little short films and stuff with my friends. And Rel and I met in our we met in high school, but we really connected in our early 20s. We both had a job at this public access TV station called plum TV. And that was our summer job between you know, like when we were in college, and we were it was this kind of wild place where we were, as you know, 21 year olds given the responsibility to like, they were like, you can make your own show. So I made a show about Hamptons nightlife. And relegated, like a kind of a restaurant conversation show. And oh, and also like a plastic surgery show, right?

Rel Schulman 2:47
Yep. The beauty makeover show Hamptons stuff, which was just crazy. Nice.

Alex Ferrari 2:52
How have you how the academy didn't recognize your work back then.

Henry Joost 2:57
And we were they were like, they're like you guys. You know, you can write direct shoot, edit everything your own half hour show. And but you have to turn it in every week. So we were like, we have this crazy experience, which was made to making a half hour show in one week all by herself. And we kind of commiserated over that and you know, started having our ideas of our own, like, I hope this is not our future to make, you know, plastic surgery shows and stuff like that, like like, what else can can we do? So we started making documentaries and kind of branching out on our own and then eventually formed a production company, which we still have super marchais, which we started in 2007.

Alex Ferrari 3:45
Very cool, guys. I always wanted to ask, you know, directing teams. I've had a few directing teams on the show, and I love asking this question. How the hell do you do it, man? Because I've been directing for 20 odd years, and I can't understand how, like, what like, do you want somebody handle the camera at someone handle the actors? Or, you know, do you guys just ask all the time? Like, what do you think? What do you think? Like how do you actually work together as a directing team?

Rel Schulman 4:11
You know, like, think about if you were on on vacation with your wife and kids and you have like 50 to 100 kids

Alex Ferrari 4:23
Sorry, my my estrus puckered there for a second.

Rel Schulman 4:28
You got to figure out how to get out of the airport, get onto a train and check into a complicated hotel. And there's something wrong with your reservation. How do you split that with your with your wife, you kind of just figure it out. You're both have extraordinary, you know, total responsibility and you got to work together as a team. And you've been an event together for a while.

Alex Ferrari 4:51
And you guys know each other so well at this point, then I'm assuming it's just secondhand. Yeah, you just know oh, this shots this or that shots that are at You both have and you both have similar sensibilities at this point.

Rel Schulman 5:03
Yeah, yeah. So we have to it, otherwise it wouldn't work.

Alex Ferrari 5:07
So then at what point, I have to believe, just like my wife and I, there's disagreements. So how do you guys handle those disagreements or when you're creatively not exactly on the same page?

Henry Joost 5:17
We try to disagree only in private.

Alex Ferrari 5:20
Smart, didn't never, never, never

Never in front of the kids

Rel Schulman 5:27
Because it causes lifelong trauma.

Alex Ferrari 5:31
You know why so funny. But that's what we, my wife, and I do, we're like, we will back each other in front of the kids. But the second the door closes to the bedroom. I can't believe. I know, let's have a conversation. But that's just like an unspoken rule. You never do it in front of the kids. So that's similar to you guys. Yeah.

Henry Joost 5:48
Oh, yeah. We were in production meetings. And like one of us will say, like, all say, I want a million balloons and this scene, and somebody is like, well, that's what you got. Like, that's what both of you guys want rails like, yep. We definitely want a million balloons. The door everybody leaves in the door closes. What the fuck were you talking? We didn't talk about that. We never agreed million have a million isn't a million excessive.

Alex Ferrari 6:16
Yeah, except that you go back the next day. Like, you know, we, we talked about it, you know, 10,000 balloons is fine.

Henry Joost 6:21
Yeah, it's 2 million, please. Yeah.

Rel Schulman 6:25
You can you can appear as extremely collaborative and reasonable. If we come back the next day and say, You know what, we were looking at the whole budget. As filmmakers, we could achieve what Henry was so to want with less balloons. in beta, better craft service.

Alex Ferrari 6:47
So, obviously, you made this, you know, one of those seminal movies of the early 2000s, which is catfish. I remember when catfish came out the documentary and it was a freaky ass, just freaky film. And it was wonderful. And you got into Sundance, what was that whole experience of making that film and then getting it to Sundance, which I'm assuming that was, was that the first time you were going to Sundance

Rel Schulman 7:10
First Feature Film.

Alex Ferrari 7:12
Right. So then, so you out of the gate. You get into Sundance with this documentary? That's, you know, sets the world on fire a bit. What is what was that whole experience? Like? It was, it was wild.

Rel Schulman 7:26
Yeah, it was an awesome roller coaster.

Henry Joost 7:29
We got a little spoiled, I think because we never, you know, we both of us grew up so disconnected from the film industry. And like, we didn't really know anybody who worked in the film industry and didn't end into Sundance and didn't. I don't even know if we'd ever been to a film festival, like, you know, and

Rel Schulman 7:48
I've been to the East Village Film Festival,

Alex Ferrari 7:51
Which is just like Sundance but different.

Henry Joost 7:53
Yeah. It doesn't smell

Rel Schulman 7:58
There was.

Henry Joost 7:59
So we kind of didn't know what to expect. And we had these great, we had two great guides in the experience, which were Andrew jerky and Mark Summerlin, who were the producers of capturing the Friedman's. And they were they were they became producers on catfish. After we've made it because we were just like, what do we do with this? We don't We made this movie. And we have this like, pretty good rough cut that we showed her when we showed our friends. They're like, I can't believe that. Is this real? Like, this is insane. What what do we do now? And they were like, okay, so you go to Sundance and here's how it works. And you know, and you get a really warm, really warm jacket.

Alex Ferrari 8:39
Oh, yes, we can have a whole episode on how to prepare for Sunday's long underwear. long underwear written stay hydrated real socks, thermal socks, not Yep, not tube socks,

Rel Schulman 8:51
No, not tube socks and waterproof boots. There's a lot of sloshing around.

Alex Ferrari 8:57
And they never tell you about the altitude do they? Like you walk 15 feet and you're like

Rel Schulman 9:03
You're getting good reviews, it's a little easier to deal with. It's a little it's a slight bit easier to deal with. So there was so that, I mean, I'll never forget that I really feel like that was the moment our careers began in earnest as future filmmakers. And it was but less than five minutes after the first screening, which is a 10am screening at the library. And, and, and that's Sundance. And a woman comes up to us, Rowena Aguilas, who's an agent at CAA. And she was the agent of Andrew jerky, and Mark swirling our producers. And so there was some familiarity and some, I guess, trust because otherwise we had no idea what that world looked like or who to talk to or who to trust or what agency or anything. And there was just someone we are who knew someone we knew and we said or will sign with you. And that day we had agent that's and that's the, and we've been there ever since. And they've helped us like forge a path as working movie directors, which is not something we even really planned for, or had or had totally clearly seen for ourselves.

Alex Ferrari 10:15
It's fascinating that I mean, you guys kind of like, I mean, you obviously had been directing and working hard and hustling to get to where you were. But when you got to catfish, he was kind of like, Alright, what do we do with this? And you just kind of like felt like, oh, you go to Sundance? Sure. Submit to Sundance, get into Sundance, get an agent at CAA, it sounds like yeah, this is just what you do. It's extremely difficult. Everything that you've just read the right place at the right time with the right product.

Rel Schulman 10:41
Alex, the 10 years leading up to that, and it listen, it hasn't been easy, since the hustle never stops, right that 10 years leading up to that where I mean two, three, all not multiple, all nighters every week, to make as many videos and to get better and better at our craft as possible. And that was, that was the public access TV shows like Henry was talking about, but it was like an extraordinary amount of wedding videos, Bar Mitzvah videos, industrial films, anything, anything in New York wanted on film, and desire to finish product, we said yes. And partially it was to make money. I think neither of us wanted another job. We wanted this to be the job. And the only way for that to work and to cover rent every month, which we were doing buy, like a matter of hours at the end of every month was just to make and make and make. And we ended up buying our own equipment. We ended up we had a storage locker with a couple cameras, a couple computers, sound equipment, lighting equipment, and that equipment is what allowed us to shoot and pay for catfish on our own.

Alex Ferrari 11:51
And they There you go. I mean, it's it's you're an overnight a 10 year overnight success basically.

Henry Joost 11:57
Right! Yeah, we just Yeah, we had done the legwork to be we were prepared for the for that incredible opportunity to fall in our laps that the opportunity being just the story of catfish unfolding in front of us. Like, we knew what we knew enough of what we were doing to capture the story. You know, and then we took a really long time trying to figure it out in the edit. And we had our friend Zack store at Ponte a who had been working on all of our other weird stuff that we were doing. Like, we directed the recruitment video for Harvard Business School, like that was like, it was like that, and like weddings and pharmaceutical videos and like the strangest stuff like just anything. Anything is just

Alex Ferrari 12:44
Yeah, and I said yes to everything to when I was to everything. Anything, anything that came along as I was an editor and the director, anything that showed up I genuine. I mean, I'd made I did promos for Matlock. That's like six months working as a freelancer so great. It was I was getting paid well, but my soul was dying with every edit.

Rel Schulman 13:08
But to me the toughest, toughest clients we ever had were. But also the most loyal were the Jewish mothers for the bar mitzvah videos, Bachmann's videos, and that prepared us for the studio executives. Nothing else. It may it may be dealing with studio heads. Piece of cake.

Alex Ferrari 13:29
Exactly. You don't want to mess with a Jewish mother on on the bar mitzvah.

Henry Joost 13:35
Bride relat Ral was once accused of ruining a bride's life.

Rel Schulman 13:39
Yeah. Oh, gotcha. Yeah, I don't know what you could imagine when he says that. But all it really was was I didn't get enough footage of her coming down the aisle, which was a mistake my camera in the wrong direction. There was two of us that were both shooting the groom each other like Oh, shit, one of us needs to point that way. And we tried to fake it in the edit by slowing it down, cutting away and then coming back. We use a moment. And they're like this out. She was like, Is that all you have? Because that's not enough. That was a long aisle.

Alex Ferrari 14:14
I got I got one better for you. I did have I did a wedding as a favor because I never did wedding videos. Because I just never got into that. But I did a wedding as a favor. And I shot like the I don't know the bride party or something like the dinner or whatever, that pre dinner thing. And I was shooting I was just got a new, a new photo camera. It was all film. And I was like, Oh yeah, I'm gonna use this really high speed film. I'm not going to use flash. Oh, no, no, I was. Oh, so I was the only thing shooting it. Like you guys are both just like oh, it's dude. And it was a friend of mine. And and I was the best man at that wedding. So the the the bride She was trying to kill me. She's like you've ruined have no photos of that day.

Rel Schulman 15:04
That was like we didn't know until a week, at least a week later

Alex Ferrari 15:06
A week later because you have to film all that stuff. And I was just like, how do I do that? That's brutal. And this is before iPhone. So there was literally no Yeah, average. There's nothing on that night. It was like I was the photo. So I feel you bro. I feel I've run I've ruined a bride or choose wedding myself.

Rel Schulman 15:22
I still, I still live with that guilt.

Alex Ferrari 15:27
I wake up in cold sweats sometimes.

Rel Schulman 15:29
Yeah, it sounds like you do to Alex. But you know what that kind of failure fuels me. Shooting the movies that we shoot now, which are you know, they they're their big budget, their studio movies, there's a lot of pressure. If you don't get something, we're the ones who pay for it in the edit. Six months later, right? You can't make a scene work. You can't make a transition work. And it haunts us for the rest of our lives.

Alex Ferrari 15:53
Yeah, exactly. Oh, I've been there. And then when you shouldn't be like, oh god, why didn't I get that one wide shot or, sir? And how do you cut around you're like, and then you don't want to go back and go, we need to pick up that you don't want to do that.

Rel Schulman 16:06
I mean, you know what, though, we we tried to never forget the catfish mentality, which was that we can shoot anything, it's, we can make anything happen with the equipment with our mediocre skills. And that goes for pickups, too. So we never say it's impossible. And we managed to figure out something whether we shoot it in the edit suite or in a friend's garage, or

Alex Ferrari 16:30
You read my mind, I did that on my first feet. I don't know that my first feature I there was like a whole scene. And I didn't cut any inserts. And we literally just I literally just went to the edit room grabbed the same camera shot an insert of like a dog on a pillow.

Henry Joost 16:44
Yeah, we shot stuff. We shot stuff in the editing room for this movie. Did you reality, we have we do it on every movie, I would say like we have a we have a Blackmagic 6k. Yeah, camera that we just just travels with as part of our kit. And so we're we're in the Edit constantly, we'll be like, I'm gonna go shoot that in the hallway right now. And we'll and usually we do a rough version. And then sometimes we even, you know, bring the actors back or bring break get we get the props in the editing office. So we can always we have a room just like that's full of the props. So we can just get inserts get whatever we need.

Alex Ferrari 17:20
In now you don't have to bring out a 35 millimeter panel vision camera. Yeah, wait a few days to shoot it. You could just pick up that little camera, boom, take the card out and pop it in and you're shooting and you're ready to rock. Yeah. So let me ask you. So you guys went from catfish to directing small films like Paranormal Activity three and four. Which did, which were not big budget films. They were actually all budgets considering at the studio, but they made massive amounts of money. So what is that? Like? How does the town treat you? What does that experience like? Because I know so many filmmakers would love to know what it's like being inside of the of the kind of the hurricane or the tornado that is being part of those kind of franchises and making that kind of money with those films.

Rel Schulman 18:03
Yeah, I mean, making the studio's money is it turns out to be a very important

Alex Ferrari 18:10
Key to a career as you're saying.

Rel Schulman 18:13
Hey, there's going to cut it but Jason Blum was was a big fan of cat fish. And he was producing those paraNormals at the time, and there had been paranormal too. And he had seen an early cut of cat fish in New York. He was friends with Directv. And he was like, oh shit, this is a good vibe for found footage. I think he believed us that catfish was real which it is but a lot of people didn't and so he showed it to the crew of paranormal two at Paramount and was like, Guys this is what down footage feels like. This is the aesthetic. This is the tone imitate this. And so by the time they got to paranormal three they were like, Well, why don't you try those goofballs and see if they have enough have any ideas for paranormal three. And it turned out the studio, Adam Goodman and a couple other bigwigs at Paramount were convinced it was fake, which I think made them even more interested in us paranormal being a fake found footage movie and there was nothing we could do to convince them it wasn't and I think we just kind of looked at each other and just like Zipit let let them think what they need to think let's take our first like real paying job. All

Alex Ferrari 19:30
Right, and run with it and run with it and you guys did a great and you guys did a great job with those films. And I imagined I imagined there was a little bit of pressure running into like a very successful franchise at this point. You know,

Henry Joost 19:41
The paranormal three I mean, it's not that there wasn't pressure it was it was a pressure cooker. But there was something about like paranormal three had lower because Panama two did really well but it didn't didn't do as well as Panama one. It was I think seen as sort of a steadily declining franchise. So There wasn't there was, which is pretty normal, I think, you know, unless sometimes things pop. But we were we kind of had a lot of freedom and in paranormal activity three, and had a lot of fun even though it was like, it was this incredibly compressed production window like we landed in LA, six months before the release date. We live in New York and they and Jason Blum was like, I need you guys to get on the first flight, the 6am flight tomorrow. We're like, how long are we going to go? Where are we going to be in LA for and he was like six months until the movie comes out. And we landed there. And there was no script. And there was no cast. And there was like, so we went from nothing at all to a movie in the movie theater in six months.

Alex Ferrari 20:42
And that's a Jason That's Jason

Henry Joost 20:44
That's classic Jason but the it was it was pretty fun. Weirdly, paranormal for became higher pressure because paranormal three did so well that then then all eyes were on four. And I think it actually made it a less and made it a less fun, more kind of constrictive creative environment than three three was like, actually, the codename for the movie was summer camp, I think. And it did kind of feel like summer camp like we were. We had this house, it was all wired up with lights and like, we had to cast everybody was really good at improv, and we were just messing around all day.

Alex Ferrari 21:24
You know, it's fun. And I've had Jason on the show he is a force of nature. Yes. Force of Nature, one of the most entertaining conversations ever. He's a madman. Now, is there something that you wish somebody would have told you at the beginning of your career? Like you guys can go back and tell yourself something like, Listen, guys, this is what you really need to do big first of all, get the shot. Get The Shot of that, of that bride? Yeah.

Henry Joost 21:53
Always make sure one cameras pointed at the bride.

Alex Ferrari 21:57
Other than that, is there anything else you wish you'd keep a camera on the bride? That pretty much covers everything?

Henry Joost 22:04
Yeah. Ben younger gave us good advice, which I which we took. Which was Don't wait. Don't wait forever after your first feature to make your second feature. Make your second feature as quickly as you possibly can. Don't be precious about it. Don't be precious. Just do just do it as quickly as you can. And he said he was like, advice we should have taken which was like, Well, I think when we were at Sundance, were basking in the attention. And like the movie, we're traveling with the movie and stuff like that. I'm doing q&a As he was like, you should be writing your next movie, you should be figuring out your next movie now. Because then when when things die down, you're just gonna be sitting there like, what do I do next? You know?

Rel Schulman 22:47
Yeah. And you get so caught up in the festivals and all those free dinners and meeting Danny DeVito. And you're like, oh, shit, it's been six months, and we don't have anything. And it wasn't easy to get another job because catfish was weird. I realistically, I think people like the storytelling and were curious, but they weren't like, Oh, these let's give these guys like, I don't know, Marvel movie or whatever was whatever you could, whatever they were looking for in 2012, or whatever that was. And so paranormal three was kind of the only job studio gig that we were really up for. Because it fit it matched the style of catfish so well. So we were really lucky that found footage was still a popular genre at that moment. Otherwise, it would have been a tougher transition out of catfish

Alex Ferrari 23:38
Than asking with all the all that attention you guys got off of not only staff fish, but also when you did it with paranormal three. How do you guys keep your egos in check? Because man, that is such a danger in our business. It's like when you start everyone tells you you're great. It's tough. It's tough. Do you guys keep you both? Both of you guys keep each other in check. Yeah,

Henry Joost 23:59
I guess so. Yeah, I think we're pretty hard on ourselves.

Rel Schulman 24:04
A little like Jewish self hate.

Alex Ferrari 24:07
So you said there's so there's a, there's a lot of imposter syndrome, even to this day.

Henry Joost 24:12
Yeah, I think when people are like, Oh, it's really great. I'm, like, irrelevant. Even when we talk to each other in private, we're like, it's okay. Right. It's like, it's better.

Rel Schulman 24:25
I think it's, it's a, it's a, it's a belief that we can keep getting better. So I don't think we're ever going to say like that's as good of a film as we can possibly make. Now it's time to relax. It's like there's always things that we could have improved their shots that we could have gotten. We could have storyboarded more, we could have been more prepared. And we'll get them on the next one. Yeah,

Henry Joost 24:49
We'll do better next time.

Alex Ferrari 24:52
No, I mean, I've talked to so many people on the show that you know, big huge, you know, win Oscars and so on legends and sometimes I go Do you guys still have impostor so From the like, yes. Like, really? It's like massive. It's fascinating to me, but it's like what is

Rel Schulman 25:05
The satisfaction we're looking for as filmmakers? We you know, so paranormal three was, at the time the biggest heart opening weekend ever. Right? Right, right. And we're like, whoa, okay, this feels this feels pretty great. But don't be like doesn't win an Oscar? Of course not. That was not

Alex Ferrari 25:27
What I felt you were robbed personally. That's just documentary.

Rel Schulman 25:35
Exactly. Or was it like, it's not going to the Cannes Film Festival, but a lot of people like it. Yeah. So it's like, you can't really hit every single base with a film. So what is the total satisfaction of filmmakers? I don't know. You just want to feel like you tried your hardest, right?

Alex Ferrari 25:52
And look, if you get a movie made, it's unbearable. If you got a movie finished in the can out people to watch, it's an absolute miracle every Yeah, every time a huge achievement. Oh, it's a massive achievement, especially when you're at that level when you're in the studio system. Even I mean, yeah, you got money, and you've got infrastructure and all that stuff. But that doesn't mean that anything gets even made. It's a it's a mystery, to honest.

Rel Schulman 26:15
Yeah, it's a total miracle every time

Henry Joost 26:18
You make a coherent movie is even harder. Like, I'm like, like, to me compliment start at like, well, you made the movie. Like that's, that's it. That's where they started. And then it's like, and it's coherent. Yeah. Makes nice. I understand what's happening in it. I finished

Rel Schulman 26:39
No, for you to say your kids finished the movie. Whether they liked it or didn't like it like it made.

Alex Ferrari 26:45
That's a win. That's a win. Yeah.

Rel Schulman 26:47
So hard. We married to a one on a movie just to get to the point where the operation the small business, or this has come together has come to life. It's standing on its legs. It's been a year, it's been two years, whatever it is. It's now there's 100 People standing there a lot of money's on the line, and a cameras rolling it's like, amazed. That's a miracle.

Alex Ferrari 27:09
Yeah, without question and, and you know, so you go on to do you know, viral with Jason again, and which was awesome. And nerve, which was such a unique love nerve, like the way that we shot it. The idea behind it. There was a lot of layers to that onion, which was really great. But then you make a movie like project power, which is a slight jump in budget, says cat fish. Just like yeah, it's just like a budget jump

Henry Joost 27:39
1000 times.

Alex Ferrari 27:41
So you're not working on a essentially a mini tentpole movie or a tentpole movie for Netflix. And you're working with an Oscar winner, and a massive movie star like Jamie Foxx. When you walk on the set, how do you guys deal with the pressure of that? Because, you know, look, you're like, I'm in the paranormal. That's a 5 million to depend on four or 5 million. And yeah, you've definitely jumped up in budget with the other films that you did. But even from nerve. I mean, project power is a huge jump for you guys. So how did you guys deal with the pressure of just having that on you with an Oscar winner like Jamie Foxx? You know, legend? Like, and all that stuff? How did you guys deal with it?

Rel Schulman 28:20
Besides Xanax?

Alex Ferrari 28:23
Okay, lots and lots,

Rel Schulman 28:26
Uppers and downers you know, we've never really talked about the sunray. But the moment on day one, where we always give a a speech to the crew, you know, there's 100 people standing around, something motivational like like a coach might do in a great football movie. And there's such a pit of anxiety and nervousness in my chest. Like, it makes me feel like I'm in high school. And I've got to speak to the whole school in the auditorium. Or I don't know if you guys ever jumped off a trapeze when you were a kid. And you look over and go to school. That wasn't a school and so, so I mean, that's the pressure, right? That is pressure, which is everyone's staring at us. I feel like a kid. I don't know how how old they see me as or how experienced they think we are. But I feel like like we're not supposed to be here. And dirty. Yeah. And yeah, we need to prove to them that we know what we're doing. We're comfortable and we're in charge and they can turn they can look at us as confident leaders.

Alex Ferrari 29:36
What is their I mean, that brings up a great point is a lot of times is when especially when when you're young directors, wherever when you're not that young if they just don't know what you've done before. How do you deal with the politics of the set? Like crew like you know, when you've got that, you know, 6060 or 70 year old DP who's been around is like when I worked with Coppola on on the Godfather like and you're like, What are you doing like and you have to kind of come up against like, I want to shoot it this way. You're like, yeah, no, that's not the way we're gonna shoot.

Rel Schulman 30:04
How do you deal with that? One of the special the special effects guy on project power? Feel the rock in Raiders of the Lost Ark? No, like, we were like, it's an honor to meet you.

Alex Ferrari 30:21
So, yeah, exactly. I've had I've had the opportunity to work with these kinds of people like that to you like the guy who built the boulder Raiders. He's probably done a few things in his career.

Henry Joost 30:31
Yeah, so we come out with a lot, a lot of love. Like, we're movie fans. So we're just like, you worked on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Like, why was that? How did you build the giant an Oreo? Like, how did you like yeah, that was awesome. But like, I don't know, we I learned a lot from Mike Simmons, who was our, been our cinematographer many times, just about he has this great way of dealing with people and not offending people. And he does like he, there are a couple of mannerisms. Like, he always says, I assume this he'll be he'll got to be won't be like, I assume that you're putting these lights up because we need this to come to the side. Like, it's not like, Why the fuck are you putting these over here? It's like, he'll be like, I like he'll say, his understanding of things. Like, that's really helpful. And like, I think just being being respectful and just being nice. And being you know, and giving people like, you know, I mean, we're not experts in in everything. We're really experts in nothing, you know, and like, you we hire people who are experts in things, who are, who know a lot more have a lot more experience are better. You know, and it's it's like, letting that experience learning from that, you know, but we have been lucky a bunch of times, like on paranormal three. And I think, with Jamie Foxx on project power. We were sort of seen as these like, on three, they were like, Well, these guys are kind of renegades like they made catfish. And my catfish was our reference film for the panel too. So like, maybe you guys can just like show us a thing or two. Jamie Foxx was like, just the greatest person to work with. And he's like, he's like, I trust you guys. I've seen your stuff. Like, show me the way, Tom, you know, tell me what to do. I trust your taste. I think you guys are really cool. And I think he gave us credit of being much cooler than we actually are. But like, you know, I can we haven't had that experience where it's the opposite of that with a movie star where it's someone who's who's guarded and suspicious and doesn't you know, because like that, that trust relationship has to be there for everybody. So it's establishing that making sure it's there.

Alex Ferrari 32:50
Yeah, if I if I make if I make quote, the greatest action film of all time, Patrick Swayze Roadhouse is amazing.

Rel Schulman 33:00
No. So sometimes we hear things people be like, Well, you guys are really nice directors. And we're like, how, what are the other guys like, oh, but but here's, here's the sympathy I have for an asshole director or the empathy. There's so much on the line for us on a movie, that everything that happens, every decision that gets made, everything that's in the movie sort of gets blamed on us blamed or attributed to, if you're working on the movie, you can kind of like move on. As long as your reputation is solid, you can get your next job, like, our next job kind of depends on how this movie does. And so that we feel that pressure every day, and I think maybe some directors are like, I need everyone else to feel that pressure. Why aren't they feeling the same pressure I'm feeling right now. And they explode and they go berserk. And that actually is not conducive to a good situation.

Alex Ferrari 33:59
I mean, yeah, exactly. I think you guys in the next film should show up with monocles and megaphone megaphone.

Rel Schulman 34:06
Yeah. Now, tell me if there's one thing I think you're an expert at. Hopefully, it was more than one thing. It's quiltmaking, which is the how to arrange this tapestry of experts and to get all those squares in the quilt to match and to make an overall piece. Thanks. Yeah.

Henry Joost 34:33
You're talking about people are actual quotes. Actual quotes. Yeah, actually. I can show you my my quote, man. Good.

Alex Ferrari 34:44
Tell me, tell me about your new film a secret headquarters. To family.

Henry Joost 34:49
It's the it's our first it's our first movie that kids can watch.

Alex Ferrari 34:55
Right! I was about to say. I was thinking like, filmography don't seem Yeah, this was a match for your to PG.

Henry Joost 35:02
Yeah, it's a PG movie. It's a family movie. It's really fun. It's actually something that we've wanted to make it's been on our bucket list for a long time is to make a movie that reminds us of the movies that made us fall in love with movies as kids, you know, so it kind of it What were your inspirations?

Alex Ferrari 35:21
What was your inspiration for this?

Henry Joost 35:22
Well, Jerry Bruckheimer when we first talked to him about this, which was a wild experience, he was like, I've got this thing it's it's it's home alone in the Batcave. It's called secret headquarters Home Alone in the Batcave. And we were like, saying no more. Got it. Yeah. We're in. Yeah. And it's, it's about it's about a kid. It's kind of a it's a superhero movie, but it's from the it's from the perspective of the son of the superhero. And what would it be like to be you know, Iron Man's son, but he never told you he's a superhero. Do you think he's just working all the time, but actually, he's got this incredible secret headquarters under his house full of gadgets and, and, you know, an awesome cars and stuff like that. And he's zipping off all over the world, saving the world. Meanwhile, you're at home thinking your dad's like, a nerd. Who's just like fixing people's servers. And we just like really got got our imaginations going. And we were just like, this would be my favorite movie when I was.

Alex Ferrari 36:28
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. You know, everything. If you can't, if this filament came out in like the 80s, you'd be up there with like, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or, you know, those kinds of or Neverending Story, those kinds. Yeah, those kinds of fun, fun films. And I was watching it. I mean, I definitely could have weeks, obviously nine and a half weeks and too much juncture to injunction. But when I was watching it, you know, you can there's a little bit of Spy Kids floating around. You could sense that the DNA of Spy Kids in there as well. But there's a lot of that too, so much. It was a lot of fun. And oh, and must have been a ball to work with.

Henry Joost 37:06
So great.

Rel Schulman 37:07
What a sweet guy, good natured collaborator,

Alex Ferrari 37:10
That is pretty much like he is in indices. Like what is he's?

Henry Joost 37:16
He's like how he is.

Rel Schulman 37:17
I think he's even kinder than you think he would be.

Henry Joost 37:21
And you forget what a great writer he is. Like he wrote, oh, yeah, he co wrote, you know, Royal Tenenbaums, and Rushmore and bottle rocket. Like, when he when we had rehearsals with him, we got into these dialogue riffs. And would we, we would just write it down and we and then we go home that night, we'd rewrite the scene and we'd send it to him. And he was like, you know, and we, we pop it back and forth. Like, that's, that was such a fun experience to have with an outer.

Alex Ferrari 37:50
Now as directors we all have that day on set. That is like you feel the entire world's gonna come crashing down around you. You losing the sun, camera breaks actor breaks his ankle, whatever. Generally, it's every day something like that happens. But yeah, was there one moment on that film that was like, Oh, my God, what was that moment? And how did you guys get through it?

Rel Schulman 38:10
Yeah, Henry. I don't know if you. I think I just realized today I was going through pictures what the, one of the biggest problems was, I mean, there's always money problems, but there's a huge prop slash character in the movie. And it's the GMO bill. Oh, yeah. Oh, retrofitted. 69 Volkswagen bus that Owen Wilson's character has turned into like a superhero. crime fighting truck. And it wasn't ready. And it was in scenes across the movie, like big action car chase scenes. And the guys who were building it weren't done. And it was shooting in like, two days. And it was so far from done to them.

Henry Joost 38:53
We kept pushing it back. Remember, we were like, there was in the schedule. And we'd be like, well, we'll shoot this side of the scene now. And then in a month, we'll shoot this side of the scene because the thing is background. Yeah, I mean, just like imagine

Rel Schulman 39:06
If they didn't have the Batmobile.

Alex Ferrari 39:08
It doesn't doesn't Yeah, obviously,

Rel Schulman 39:10
The schedule is so fragile, you know, especially with movie stars, like Owen and and he's shooting Loki. You know, it's all like happening the same time. And we're at the point where like the studio and the line producer, everyone's like, well, you need to be ready to erase the gene mobiel from the whole concept from the movie, but you've already shot many scenes where it exists before it gets retrofitted when it's just a VW bus. And that I mean, we really sweat that out.

Henry Joost 39:40
We had staked our our reputations on this vehicle like we like I remember we were kind of dying on our swords about it because there was a lot of pressure even before that to cut it to completely cut it from the movie. And we were like No, just because there was a cannot there can't be a superhero movie without You know, like, a superhero vehicle. And that's just, it just, it has to we have to have that. And it was kind of all it was on us. I remember pulling the picture car guy aside at one point and I was like, Listen, buddy, you got your, your toughest act. That's like, listen, I tried to I'm gonna try to say this in a really nice way. But like, if this thing isn't ready, we're never gonna work again. It was like, Oh, God.

Alex Ferrari 40:29
All right, let me see. If this isn't ready by tomorrow, guys. I know where you live.

Rel Schulman 40:36
We do like a good cop, bad cop thing sometimes where I'll say to the guy. Hey, buddy, I believe in you. You got this and then just walk away. And Henry will style over and be like what He means to say

Alex Ferrari 40:54
You know, it's always fascinating to me that even on some on big budget films like this shit happens.

Henry Joost 41:00
Oh, by the skin of your teeth. Yeah. Like,

Alex Ferrari 41:02
It's like, those indie sensibilities never kind of go away. You. You sometimes gotta like, how am I going to make this work that damn truck? The picture cars not ready. Would you would think that on a budget of this size and this kind of kind of size project? That that would be the least of your issues?

Henry Joost 41:19
Yeah. Yeah, one would think we have yet to work on that movie that's like has such a big budget that you can you know, you don't have to worry about anything. I don't know if that really exists.

Alex Ferrari 41:35
Or one day you'll hear this this sentence. All you have is time and money, guys. So enjoy yourself. You'll never that's a sentence that no filmmaker has ever heard ever. Right? No matter who you are. Maybe Chris Nolan may be crystal. Yeah, maybe. Maybe just a conversation. Now. When's this coming out? Guys?

Henry Joost 41:54
August 12.

Rel Schulman 41:55
Not just that next week. It's in a little more than a week. Yeah.

Henry Joost 42:00
Paramount plus.

Alex Ferrari 42:01
Now I'm going to 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?

Rel Schulman 42:10
Say yes. To any project offered to you.

Henry Joost 42:15
Do not don't think camera at the bride. You read my mind. At least one camera

Alex Ferrari 42:21
At all times. No, just because a lot of times we get a little uppity as filmmakers and just like no I'm I'm the next. Spielberg. I'm the next Tarantino. I don't do weddings. You know?

Rel Schulman 42:32
Yeah, I don't I don't see why not a wedding is built in drama. I mean, look at a wedding is a documentary about people on a really important day with a lot of pressure. And all fam. I mean, some of the greatest movies. It's a genre of filmmaking, which is the family gathering the reunion, you know, like the Big Chill or something like that. Or Rachel Getting Married. Those are great movies. You have an opportunity. someone's paying you to make a documentary about that. That's the way we approached it. And it was it was great training.

Henry Joost 43:03
Yeah, it. Just practice, practice, practice, practice, man.

Alex Ferrari 43:07
Any job that came along, man, I would take it. I didn't care what it was like you're gonna pay me to edit. I'll work you're gonna pay me to shoot. I'll do it. It's just Yeah. And sometimes it's great. Yeah, a lot of times it isn't. But at least you're not out there hustling another job. And you get to at least work on your craft.

Rel Schulman 43:23
Yeah, exactly. Most of them weren't great.

Henry Joost 43:25
Yeah. No, they weren't. No terrible.

Alex Ferrari 43:30
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Rel Schulman 43:36
Changed my socks midday. What what I was waiting for.

Henry Joost 43:42
That was a good one. even change your shoes.

Rel Schulman 43:44
Yeah. Oh, yeah. We bring two pairs of shoes to set now. Do you really? Yeah. Yeah. Just like yeah, freshen up.

Henry Joost 43:52
Those are like, I'll tell you what the great feeling.

Alex Ferrari 43:56
They never teach you this in film school. Good shoes on set on set because I'm always on my feet. I don't know about you guys. I'm all day. You rarely sit down. I like when I sit down. I'm like, Oh, God, I can't get back.

Henry Joost 44:11
I keep going. You gotta keep moving.

Rel Schulman 44:12
Yeah, totally. Man. I think Doug Doug Liman does not accept the director's chair on his sets. Because he refuses to ever sit down on set.

Henry Joost 44:25
And as a few directors, I've heard that don't allow chairs at all.

Alex Ferrari 44:29
Yeah, there's a there's a few. I mean, and then there's our cell phones. And then there's the Peter Jackson's who have a recliner on set.

Henry Joost 44:39
I'm talking about Lord of the Rings.

Alex Ferrari 44:40
They would just literally carry around a lazy boy. He would just sit down it was the best

Rel Schulman 44:47
Apparently the room we cut project power and on Sixth Avenue in New York City was the room that Oliver Stone cut something in Henry remember? Yeah, he had a leather recliner brought into that edit room that he just loved.

Alex Ferrari 45:00
But listen, I've had I've had Oliver Stone on the show, and, and he was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had in mind. He is so smart. Oh my God, he's he's so so smart. And, and I tell people this all the time and you guys, I think you guys would agree. There's not another 10 year period. And any filmography, like Oliver stops from platoon from platoon, every movie a year, and everyone was like Oscar, Oscar incredible. Oscar, it's just, there's just nobody that's ever had a run like that.

Rel Schulman 45:40
It's Yeah, well, a couple is run is pretty solid, too.

Alex Ferrari 45:43
Well, you know, he's sorry, you did okay.

Henry Joost 45:47
I would I recommend Oliver Stones book is really great. Oh, yeah. That's why he was especially especially listening to it on on tape or on Audible. Like, he has such a great voice. Oh, yeah, it's a great audio, but it's uh, I love film filmmaker audiobooks.

Rel Schulman 46:04
We loved Barry Sonnenfeld book.

Alex Ferrari 46:07
Dude, I got when we when we get off. I'll tell you the story. Had Barry on the show, too. And in the first five minutes, he told me his porn story of how he got started in porn. I'll tell you that.

Henry Joost 46:16
Oh, my God. To me that chapter is like I think what's in the book, right? It's disgusting.

Alex Ferrari 46:23
The first five minutes of our conversation. He's that's what he starts with. I'm like, okay, Barry. I guess you've set the tone now. Porn man, that's how I got my start porn.

Rel Schulman 46:38
But in the book he's talking about and how he started and he said yes to everything and yeah. And the

Alex Ferrari 46:45
Pays camera off. He had to pay 60 millimeter camera off. Yeah.

Rel Schulman 46:49
Maybe a little longer than he needed to.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
By the way that porn paid half half the camera off in a week. So yeah,

Rel Schulman 46:55
I mean any shoot loves really worth it.

Alex Ferrari 46:58
From a party that he'd met this tall. You know, same guy in the corner who isn't talking to anybody is like, Hey, I got a camera. Hey, you want to shoot something? Great. That's your star starts.

Rel Schulman 47:08
Yeah, but it was just the sizzle reel for blood. So that was the system. It was you don't get paid to do?

Alex Ferrari 47:14
Nope. But then he got that. And then I think Raising Arizona. Oh God. What a great conversation. Great career. And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Henry Joost 47:24
The Big Lebowski Yep, that's it.

Alex Ferrari 47:31
It stops there. Big Lebowski that's pretty much

Rel Schulman 47:37
Yeah, Big Lebowski. Gray man and red notice

Alex Ferrari 47:44
Very strategic answer sir very very steep.

Rel Schulman 47:49
I find that I find that to be the hardest question Am I still allowed to say Woody Allen movies?

Alex Ferrari 47:53
Look man look at any hostel Andy Hall brother. I'm sorry I'm sorry Annie Hall is still Annie Hall. I don't I mean, it's a masterpiece and

Rel Schulman 48:05
It's a masterpiece. You know what I've but if you're if it's there's got to be a Kubrick movie in there which there probably should be Barry Lyndon No, you're like bear Oh, yeah. Yeah, and it's not just to be different

Alex Ferrari 48:18
Mine is Eyes Wide Shut I'm an Eyes Wide Shut guy.

Rel Schulman 48:21
Oh you because you're a pervert. Very Seinfeld episode.

Alex Ferrari 48:30
Obviously the pervert that's why I love Oh, no, we could talk for hours on Kubrick alone Jesus man. Talk about somebody who just had all did whatever the hell he wanted. But but the ledges after I've talked to a bunch of people who worked with him. He's like he had a set of like, 10 people. Yeah, I finally was able to shoot for a year with Tom Cruise. Yeah. 10 people on set?

Rel Schulman 48:51
Yeah, who really believed in him. And we're like soldiers in his in his army.

Alex Ferrari 48:57
He locked up two of the biggest movie stars in the world for a year and a half. I mean, what kind of juice is that? Like? Seriously? I mean, Jesus, guys, it has been a pleasure talking to you both. So it Congratulations on all your success. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with next. And what do you guys have cooking next, by the way? Let's see something about this is something I'm Megaman

Rel Schulman 49:19
Yeah, Megaman adaptation of Megaman for Netflix. God plusspec Write about like the future of automation. Nice. Yeah, it's gonna be really cool man and robot becoming one good or bad.

Alex Ferrari 49:37
Guys, you see, it has been an absolute pleasure, guys. congrats on all your success and continue continued success.

Rel Schulman 49:43
Thanks Alex. Thanks for all the hustle .

Henry Joost 49:45
Thank you so much.

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