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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Riley 41:10
Yeah. delicious chicken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spike Lee Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

DA 5 BLOODS (2020)

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


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


Screenplay by Spike Lee – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Spike Lee – Read the screenplay!

MALCOLM X (1992)

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


Screenplay by Spike Lee – Read the screenplay!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Stephen Karam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 14:59

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 32:58

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 35:30
Shawshank Redemption, Shawshank Redemption.

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 35:54
Neither did Kubrick neither did Kubrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 53:49
Oh my god.

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

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

Stephen Karam 53:53
We are next interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Adam White.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam White 7:33
We partnered with the theaters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam White 15:28
I want to rematch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 42:27
You had an MG.

Adam White 42:28
Yeah, we did.

Alex Ferrari 42:29
Because of John.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam White 46:51
You have a winner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam White 52:30

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

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

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

Adam White 52:44
Alright man!

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Top 15 Television Showrunner Writing Podcasts

Behind every great television or streaming show lives a showrunner that is running the creative and business journey. Below are some of the top showrunners working in television. In these interviews they discuss ow they got their start, what they look for in a writer for their writer’s room, how to navigate the politics of television, and imposter syndrome. If you want to work as a writer in television then these conversations are must list to. Enjoy!

David Chase (Showrunner of The Sopranos)

The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.

As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.

Marta Kauffman (Showrunner of Friends, Gracie and Frankie)

Marta Kauffman is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning television writer, producer and showrunner behind the hit series Friends and Grace & Frankie. After graduating from Brandeis University, Kauffman got her big break alongside David Crane when their pilots Dream On (1990) and The Powers That Be (1992) were greenlit. The pair then launched Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions with Kevin Bright and became the trio that created the iconic sitcom Friends.

He next project, Grace & Frankie, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston premiered on Netflix in 2015 and is Netflix’s longest-running original ever. The series has received multiple Emmy and SAG nominations and is premiering the final episodes of its seventh and last season later this year. In 2018, the company produced the documentary Seeing Allred, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is currently available on Netflix.

Danny Strong (Showrunner of Empire, Dopestick)

Danny started his career as an actor in numerous classic films and TV shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls, then transitioned into screenwriting, exploding onto the scene with his 2007 script Recount which was #1 on the Hollywood Blacklist and became an award winning HBO Film.

Since then he has become a prolific film and TV writer, director and producer, garnering numerous awards for various projects, including two Emmys, a Golden Globe, two WGA awards, a PGA Award, and the Peabody Award.

Through out his career he has shown a wide range and versatility moving between mediums and genres with films like the political docudramas Recount and Game Change, the civil rights epic The Butler and the big budget action blockbusters Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part I and II).

He co-created the smash hit TV show Empire which won him the NAACP Image Award and he produced the civil rights drama The Best of Enemies starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. He has also written numerous theater projects having made his theatrical debut with a new book to the musical Chess that premiered at the Kennedy Center.

Steven Kane (Showrunner of The Last Ship, Halo)

Steven Kane got his start in the entertainment industry writing and directing independent film and theater. His first feature film, The Doghouse, won Best Director at the NY Indy Film Festival. His collection of One Act plays, Out of Your Mind, had a successful run in Los Angeles at the GuerriLA Theater.

His television credits as a writer and producer include The Closer (for which he received an Edgar Nomination), Major Crimes, Alias, NCIS, and Without a Trace, as well as comedies American Dad and Curb Your Enthusiasm. From 2012-2018, he served as Creator, Executive Producer, and show runner of TNT’s The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic drama based on William Brinkley’s novel of the same name.

In 2019, it was announced that Steven would join the HALO series at Showtime as Showrunner, Head Writer, and Executive Producer.

Daniel Knauf (Showrunner of Carnivale, The Blacklist)

Daniel Knauf had a couple of small credits to his name—a TV movie here, a stint on Wolf Lake there—when he managed to sell the intricate Great Depression-era genre show Carnivale to HBO.

The series, an intricate blend of meticulously researched period detail and secret-history fantasy, purported to tell the tale of what happened when the last two “Avatars”—superpowered beings of light and darkness—met in the United States on the eve of World War II. The series attracted a cult audience that remains devoted to this day, but a mass audience wasn’t sure what to make of the program, and HBO canceled it after two seasons, saying the show’s story was finished, in spite of Knauf’s plan for a six-season run.

Edward Zwick (Showrunner of Thirtysomething)

We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is writer, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allenin France on the set of Love and Death. He then moved to California in the summer of 1976 and has since forged a respected name for himself in Hollywood.

Edward Zwick is a multiple Academy AwardGolden Globes, and BAFTA award-winning director, writer, and producer.

Marshall Herskovitz (Showrunner of Nashville)

Our guest today is producer, director and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick whose films, he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.

Now, Marshall had already written for the TV show, Family, in 1976. So his understanding of TV was pivotal in the success of ThirtySomething.

Other projects he’s credited for executive producing or creating include Traffic (2000), The Last Samurai (2003), Nashville (TV show 2016), Blood Diamond, and Women Walks Ahead(2017), starring the incomparable, Jessica Chastain.

Steve DeKnight (Showrunner of Marvel’s Daredevil, Spartacus)

Showrunning is a mysterious art form to many so I wanted to bringing he someone who can shine a light on what it takes to be one. Today on the show we have powerhouse show runner, writer, director, producer, and all-around good guy Steven DeKnight. Best known for his work across the action, drama, and sci-fi genres on TV shows like SmallvilleSpartacusDaredevilBuffy the Vampire SlayerAngeland Jupiter’s Legacy.

Realizing his strengths early on in his career, Steven is a jack-of-all-trades who studied acting at the onset of film school transitioned through to writing, playwright, and screenwriting. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was his big break – starting off as writer and story editor on the show, DeKnight went on to produce 42 episodes of the Spin-off show, Angel.

Mick Garris (Showrunner of Masters of Horror, Fear Itself)

I am extremely excited to have on the show today a fellow podcaster, established producer, director, and writer, Mick Garris. Mick’s podcast, Post Mortem with Mick Garrisdives deep into the devious minds of the greatest filmmakers and creators of your worst nightmares to bring their distinctive visions to life in fascinating one-on-one conversations. 

He’s renowned for his classic screen adaptation of Stephen King’s books like Sleepwalkers (1992), The Shinning and The Stand. and creator of 2005, Masters of Horror series.

Edward Burns (Showrunner of Public Morals, Bridge and Tunnel)

Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity. His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend.

Ed jumped into television with the Spielberg-produced TNT drama Public Morals, where he wrote, directed, and starred in every episode.

Set in the early 1960s in New York City’s Public Morals Division, where cops walk the line between morality and criminality as the temptations that come from dealing with all kinds of vice can get the better of them.

His latest project is EPIX’s Bridge and Tunnel is a dramedy series set in 1980 that revolves around a group of recent college grads setting out to pursue their dreams in Manhattan while still clinging to the familiarity of their working-class Long Island hometown. He also pulls writing, producing, and directing duties for all the episodes.

VJ Boyd (Showrunner Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector)

Today on the show we have television writer and showrunner VJ Boyd. VJ is a producer and writer, best known for his work on the critically acclaimed  Justified (2010), the CBS smash hit S.W.A.T. (2017) and creator of Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector (2020).

Barry Sonnenfeld (Showrunner of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, or simply A Series of Unfortunate Events, sometimes also shortened to just ASOUE, is an American black comedy-drama streaming television series from Netflix, developed by Mark Hudis and Barry Sonnenfeld, based on Lemony Snicket’s children’s novel series of the same name.

Michael Jamin (Showrunner of Glenn Martin DDS, Maron, and Rhett & Link’s Buddy System)

Today on the show we have writer and showrunner Michael Jamin. Michael has been writing for television since 1996.  His many credits include Just Shoot Me, King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Out of Practice, Rules of Engagement, Lopez and Tacoma FD.

He’s also served as Executive Producer/Showrunner on Glenn Martin DDS, Maron, and Rhett & Link’s Buddy System. Michael currently lives in Los Angeles where he’s working on a collection of personal essays to be released in 2020.

Erik Bork (Band of Brothers, From Earth to the Moon)

Today on the show we have screenwriter and producer Erik Bork. Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band of BrothersFrom the Earth to the Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team.

Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University, and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

Simon Kinberg Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

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

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

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

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

(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

THE 355 (2022)

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


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

LOGAN (2017)

Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!


Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!


Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!


Produced by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Simon Kinberg – Read the screenplay!

Sam Raimi Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Below you’ll find a list of every film in Sam Raimi’s filmography that is available online. Watch the videos below to get a deeper insight into the writing process. 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 guests like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.

Watch Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead “Prequel” short film Within The Woods.

(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

BOOK OF THE DEAD – Early Draft of Evil Dead (1979)

Screenplay by Sam Raimi – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel – Read the screenplay!

DARKMAN (1989)

Screenplay by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Joshua, and Daniel Gordan, and Chuck Pfarrer – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen and Sam Raimi – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi – Read the screenplay!

ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2015)

Written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Michael Waldron & Jade Bartlett – AS SOON AS IT’S AVAILABLE

Sam Raimi – How Does Horror Comedy Work?

A horror comedy, in theory, seems very hard. Comedy provides joy by making us laugh, and happy. While horror movies prey upon our deep emotions, disturbing and unsettling us. If successful, they thrust us out- causing uncontrollable laughter or genuine fear. While their aims are different, comedy and horror movies both affect us on a base level. This sets them apart from other genres of movies. So what happens when the line between these two genres fade out? What is so fascinating about horror comedies is that there are so many radical ways to approach it. Maybe the most appropriate method is putting comic features as well as characters in scary movies (which started way back 1948). There is also the medi-textual approach that balances both genres (having a horror and comedy scene).

There is another method used by one of the experts in the horror-comedy “Sam Raimi.” Unlike most horror comedies, there is a scary part and funny part. In this case, the funny parts are the scary parts and vice versa. What Sam Raimi understands is that the creation of a scary movie is more or less the same as the construction of a comedy. There is the setup and a payoff, suspense and then a scare.

Horror movies, like action, is the kind of genre that relies totally on the manipulation of a formal element (the controlled perspective, or the style of editing that can be utilized to create vivid stretches of pregnant intention or immediate action).

The makeup of a scary movie and that of a comedy are the same (a payoff and setup). These two genres rely mainly on ‘timing’ to get the best results. Without the few seconds of intensity to arouse some form of anticipation, both the laugh and scare will fall flat. On an emotional level, these two genres have a significant disparity, but on a physiological note, there is so much in common.

However, when the two genres are being combined, the result can be a very strange satisfying experience which plays with two main opposing sides of our subconsciousness and at the same time gratifying both. And so, even if you decide to play it out through an open comedic situation, dialogue, or gags through a unique creation of Sam Raimi or just as Edgar Wright does, it is entirely up to you.

There is no wrong or right method to produce a horror-comedy movie, but Sam’s approach is much subtle than most directors in the game. The outcome of the integrated piece is hard to recognize and very unexpected, thus making it thrilling, potent, and surprising. So instead of making these two scenes a distinct unit, he intertwines them, making it the same thing. Like the ‘Evil Dead’ movie by Sam Raimi in 1981, the primary tool in his approach tones just like me musical note. Playing them in the right sequence to put the viewers in a role of ‘mind blowing’ experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Jason Armstrong and Rob Goodrich.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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

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

Jason Armstrong 0:17
Great. Thank you!

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

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

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

Jason Armstrong 0:55
Or vice versa.

Alex Ferrari 0:56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Armstrong 22:15
It's wild.

Alex Ferrari 22:16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 25:57
Commitment, stop it.

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

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

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

Rob Goodrich 30:24
Our big thing, too, is look, I mean, we've got, we've got projects in pipeline for the next year or two years that that are those studio level films. But for right now, we're the world's at where we're at, we control the clock, you know, and we're able to really, we're able to work with AD's and work with mine producers and work with directors that we can talk to every day. And, and, you know, we can control the financing and the model, and control the sales and control the marketing, you know, to a degree, right, but we're able to control the clock a little bit more, which is, which has been helpful, and it keeps us busy. But it allows us to sort of work with and to spit out a product that, you know, we know, sort of shares the integrity that we went into it.

Alex Ferrari 31:13
Can you guys talk a little bit about the importance of a bankable star, based off of budget. So you know, cuz I always tell people, like, Look, if you got a $50,000 movie, anytime you could put a bankable star, and even if it's a phase, do it anytime, at any budget range. But as that budget continues to go up, you at that point need to have bankable stars of certain magnitudes depending on the budget. So certain actors can finance a million dollar, or $2 million, even a $5 million, but they're not going to finance a 30 million, then you need another two or three of those guys. Well, you need Bruce Willis to show up. Or you need to, you know, and Bruce does I think movie a week now I think he's doing a movie a week.

Rob Goodrich 31:55
A One day One day shop.

Alex Ferrari 31:59
Pops up it's 365 movies this year. It's fantastic. But, but filmmakers don't really get that a lot of times and they're like, Oh, I wanted to, again, it goes into that hobby thing. Where like, oh, I want to be pure. I'm like, Well, I'm not the best actor for the role, then do it for 50 grand, don't do it for 500 grand. So can you talk about the importance of it, and then how you're able to attract these actors, I think we kind of touched upon this, like money talks. So if you show up and drop some money, you're gonna get people's attention pretty quickly.

Rob Goodrich 32:29
We through the years, everybody's got a gatekeeper. Right. And so the agents and the managers, they're gatekeepers, it's like any business, you know, you sort of all come up together, or you meet here and there. In my world, I was in Venice Beach for a long time. And it took a lot of the sort of the razor blades out of the agents out of the managers, when we were having a beer at Hinata, or the whaler or, you know, at the beach. So forging those relationships, you know, it's a q&a, you know, we're on the producing side, they're on the, they're on the deal side. So we've been able to, over the course of a few years, balance each other, say, Hey, let me you know, pick your brain on this, let me pick your brain on that. So that access to talent, or that access to a quick read, has been very beneficial. And that's a relationship thing. And I hate that term, but it is relevant, like any business. I think that you know, money talks, that's how you get your talent, you got to get to the talent. So how do you get through the gatekeeper? Oh, good story, some level of packaging, and then the offer that you can come in with. Now, once that talent is there, what we really focus on is having a good experience, you know, we want our talent to feel as though they're valued on set, they're not just a hired piece, you know, and so far, that's been pretty successful. Those conversations, go beyond the film, they turn into text messages, hey, you watching this game? Or hey, are you gonna be in LA or boulder or this or that? So it is it's relationships. And then, you know, we've been very fortunate to sort of repeat working with certain actors, and then when you do that, like anything else, it's human nature. People say, Well, these guys got to be doing something right. This guy's working with them a number of times and they bring in their friends and it's sort of a pyramid

Alex Ferrari 34:26
It's like kind of like who's dating the you know, the hot girl and then like, and then all the other girls all the other girls are like, well, in this ugly dude, obviously is I'm not the guy with the ugly dude. But

Jason Armstrong 34:40
I didn't know this was visual. So normally we need to

Alex Ferrari 34:48
But it's it's always kind of like but it's it goes with investors too. It's like who's the first one to the party. And then when you you have, you know, a hot girl or a hot guy at the party all the time. Everybody else all the other guys and gals go away. And why is that movie star hanging out with these guys? Constantly? Yeah. And then like, then you start investigating it. And they they're like, Oh, well, this. And I have to ask you, though, you know, once you build relationships with actors, which I've had the pleasure of being able to build relationships with actors over the years, I call them up sometimes directly, I'll go, Hey, man, I got a project you want in? We've already know it's a, it's a one on one relationship that we've built over years. And I go, I don't want to cut out the agent because you don't want to piss off the agent. So can you talk a little bit about the political minefield that is calling up the actor directly? Or maybe talking to the actor first and then go into the age? How do you guys know it straddle that?

Jason Armstrong 35:41
Well, we do exactly that. So I mean, we'll we definitely play by the protocols of how to detect it. Because the reality is, even if you have that relationship, you can have that conversation, you do need then to engage the team, because there's a lot of moving parts behind, you know, and certainly in the caliber of the actor actress, it that, you know, that teams obviously larger or smaller, there's a lot of moving parts in there. And, and you could probably have a Creative Conversation with talent for a little while. But in order for it to become real, it has to it has to go through the proper channels. And I feel as though there's a lot of cases where there is maybe that one on one relationship, and, and they'll talk about something for, like for an extended period of time. And because they haven't started engaging the right parties, it never really gets there. Because things are being built behind all of these talents. All the time. I mean, things are being evaluated for them to be started. Their schedule is filling up. I mean, sometimes their schedule is filling up, almost without their being aware of it. And it really I mean, I mean, they have to, they have to, they have to okay, but my point is, it's like there is a machine behind them. That is that is handling what they are attached to what they get engaged on. So So we typically, and I don't want to speak for both Rob, like for both of us, but we typically will have that conversation, but then we will then we go immediately to their team. So that so that everything, there's just clarity, and everything was just transparent, right from the start. Otherwise, it's almost getting the reset button. You know, you engage have this long conversation with town, and then you hit up the team. And it's like, you might hit reset, because right, it starts all over again. So

Rob Goodrich 37:35
Yeah, I mean, let's not pretend that there are egos that go top to bottom.

Alex Ferrari 37:39
What Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a bit. There's egos in this business? No,stop it.

Rob Goodrich 37:44
So the funny part is, is there, I hope agents and managers aren't listening. But you know, a lot of times, there might be bigger egos on that side of the aisle than the talent. And so I think that if you're not sort of appreciating and respecting every lane of the business, sure, then there's a lot of butthurt people, and they will literally stall, what could be a pretty easy transaction, you know, they get paid, the Africans paid, we get our actor, you know, and so, you know, what we try to do is, even if there's that personal relationship, we're very quick to stay in our own lane. Hey, you know, actress acts or actress bathroom, what, you know, we would love you for this project, we're gonna have our attorney reach out to your representation and have this go the right way. We present offers through the appropriate channels, we really tried to lead on our legal Well, we can just sort of create some buffer between what could be a relationship, whether it be an agent or an actor, and the actual business. I mean, we all I like to think we all have the same goal in mind. And 99% of the time, that's the case. But to Jay's point. I mean, we really are adamant about just doing things the right way. And we're the type of people that will go the extra mile and do the extra work. And if that means, you know, one extra step to make sure that that last person was on that email, or got notified that hey, this is gonna come through. We just wanted to do it this way. Well, then everybody's on the same page. And then that that actor or actresses team, then they can determine how to sort of circulate around something and we're very hands on from that point.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
I can't tell you how refreshing this whole conversation has been so far. I can't it's for people listening. It just doesn't happen. But what you guys are saying is what should be the industry norm, but is not. There's so many different kinds of players out there who don't do the basics. This is not like revolutionary stuff. You guys are talking about that. It's not rocket science, guys. It is it is basic, like basic thing. Like if you want to make coffee, you need a coffee bean like it's a simple, real basic stuff for most people. Like I'm gonna make coffee But out of mind, I'm like, Okay. And I'm gonna, and then I'm going to tell you it's it's the best coffee in the world. And I have a letter of intent from the best coffee being in the world. So it's remarkable, remarkable. Now, another thing that I find fascinating, but you guys is you guys are a production company. So but you do have deep wells in the investment world, meaning that you you finance your own projects, essentially, how do you? Or do you have any advice on pitching investors on your projects and how you kind of package them to a certain extent for for filmmakers, because that is, obviously everybody wants to know, like you said, at the beginning of this conversation, it's all about how we're going to get the financing to make art and hopefully make some money doing it.

Jason Armstrong 40:44
Well, I think that sort of circles back to your, your original, one of the questions that you made, Alex, which was if young filmmakers are trying to put something together, and they're going around to either look for a CO production partner, or something along those lines. One is, you know, betting things properly. And, and to making sure that you do have a model behind you. But I mean, for, for investors, it's recognizing that it's a business that you are, you're selling something. So you know, one of the things that Robin a conversation that Robin I have had with, with people when when we maybe don't see eye to eye, they brought us something, and we're looking at building it out with them, because we actually really do like the IP and everything. And don't worry, this is circling back to financing and money. But, you know, looking at building it out, is and there's some pushback look at them saying, I mean, tell me about another business that can operate that way. Like, take yourself out of the film business, and save what other business on earth could ever operate that way? Right? Where people would where people would be like, let me in, you know, let me let me give you my hard earned money, right, that I've been working for years for and I don't even care if you inherited it, it's still it was somebody, right? Somebody worked horses part earn money and put it into this, right? I mean, so that's like, the first thing you have to think about when you're approaching anyone is, wait a second, like you in depth, take yourself out of the arts, if you're trying to if you're trying to get people to give you a lot of money for an art take, remove yourself from it and recognize how would this operate in any other format? Right. And if you can see that, then that's great. But that's the that's one of the first things that Rob and I will say to someone, how would that ever work? So then outside of that, it's, it's like any business, you are trying to mitigate risk? Okay. And one of the one of the first things that anyone is going to talk about with regards to film, or sorry, or any, any, any form of media, for that matter, is, it's a risky investment. It's, it's a risky business. Because what you're selling is you're selling the product, but but you're also you're relying on people to like it, not that they need it, and especially right now, where there's endless content available to everyone. Now, it's not so much like, oh, you know, well, I need it, I need something to watch in the evenings, right? I mean, the kids have gone to bed, ideally. And now, you know, I can sit down and watch something and escape for a little period of time before you know, the morning comes there, they start to get that, that well is mess. So now, it's got to it actually has to be It can't just be the content. That's not what you're selling, are you actually selling something that people actually like, and what? So So I mean, that's, that's the whenever we talk about finance and bringing in money, we one we will have a model, so that we can show, look, we've evaluated the market, we recognize that the budget is going to speak to the market right now in this Shaundra our talent, this comes back to where you asked about, you know, or made a comment about finding that a Lister or that star that is going to drive sales, or be your most marketable piece in the film. You know, you have to actually, you have to pay very close attention that because not every actor speaks to every genre. And that'll be something that a lot of people present to us, they'll say, Oh, we think this person is perfect. And you know, and they sell so well. And be like Well, no, they sell so well but not not genre. They there's there's no knowledge in that. So yes, there are no name, but then you do have to actually it has to be you know, well researched as to whether they are going to inform sales speak that. So all of that is is basically just trying to find ways to mitigate the risk of investment on every project.

Alex Ferrari 44:53
And it is it is when you're when you're hiring an actor or a name actor, you're basically paying for marketing upfront, is you are investing in a marketing budget up front. So if you're getting if you're paying for Thomas Jane, he has a built in audience and a built in built in awareness that he's been able to build up over his career that has valued you. Can you do that for Bruce Willis? That's telling investors and that's telling people who are buying your film and buyers, you've, you've pre invested in marketing, where in a world where you know films of your size, you can't compete with the studio's just there's no way you can compete marketing money. There's just you can't you can't market your film.

Jason Armstrong 45:38
We're not matching. We're not matching our budget in marketing PR,

Alex Ferrari 45:42
No, no, are doubling or tripling. Yeah, exactly. And even if you did, what, what would that be? What value? Would that bring? Like? Seriously? Like, how could you would you even make a dent in the universe have some sort of awareness, but you put Bruce Willis in your movie, there's automatic awareness is automatic. So when you're scanning through 1000 things, you're like, oh, there's Bruce. Or there's Thomas, or, you know, there. And that's what you're paying for when you hired these these named actors. And that's what filmmakers need to truly understand. And also, another thing I always try to say is some actors. We were kind of joking about Bruce Bruce is still Bruce. And Nicolas Cage is still Nicolas Cage, no question. But there were certain actors who oversaturated the market with themselves. And I worked on movies, where the like, oh, this poor guy, like paid a good amount of money for this one actor, but he did 25 movies that year, I'm not exaggerating. And he went out to the distribution companies, like we already got three of those guys have that guy this year, we're good. And he got sick, he got saddled with a movie they couldn't sell, because the actor was oversaturated. So there's, you've got to kind of figure that out as well. It's a, it's a lovely type rope, we work we want.

Rob Goodrich 46:51
That's why we do pay close attention to speak pretty regularly with our sales guys and say, you know, what's in the pipeline for this individual? You know, what do we need to be aware of not today, but six months from now? Right? You know, I want to add one more thing to the financing. So, two things, really, I think the most important thing for people to take away is you have to be flexible, and you have to adapt, that adapt to the money and you have to adapt creatively. Because they're, they're intertwined, no matter what. So one of the ways that we really kickstart our projects, we have skin in the game, we'll put skin in the game as a company, so we can give an investment group and investor another company for a copro some level of confidence that, that we're in it. You know, we've got something to lose to we're working

Jason Armstrong 47:39
It is like being alone. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:44
Misery, misery loves company. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Rob Goodrich 47:52
The other thing I was gonna say in sort of, as we're looking at financial models, and as we're looking at sales, and how do we maximize something being marketable, we have not not changed the the gender of an actor or an actress in a film, we have flipped roles, because we've identified Oh, well, you know, that actor might be more might be better as an actress, because we can get this individually and might increase the marketability, so long as it doesn't take away from the creative. And, you know, Jay and I are very, not pushy, but very upfront with our filmmakers to say, look, any suggestion we have, we're in your corner. As a director, we're in your corner as a creative team, we are always going to be pushing for what makes this movie, the most marketable, most commercial it can be, because aside from the money, that means more eyeballs are going to see it. So if there are ways for us to make improvements like that, that's how it all connects the marketability, the commercial ability to sales, the money, the investors get their money back, they come back to us and say, What do you have next, and the actors are happy.

Alex Ferrari 49:03
So it's a win win, win win across everybody across everybody's and that's, again, another rarity in our business. To say the least. Now one thing, most most filmmakers have this problem and I think everybody at any stage in the in the game other than in the studio system is distribution is actually making money with their product. Because before the you know, with the cost to make the product was such a difficult thing and expensive thing. Now you can make a pretty high quality product with the right people at a low cost. But getting it out to the marketplace and actually generating revenue with that is more difficult now than ever before. In the ever changing landscape where T VOD used to be a thing now is no longer a thing really, especially in the independent film market. S VOD is great, but they don't pay you for three years. So how do you how do you make that business work? You know, a VOD is great, but you know so and then foreign sales is not what it wasn't the 90s or the early 2000s, and you don't have DVD to fall back on anymore. So how do you guys, you know, generate revenue with your films? Like how is it like how were you doing sales agents? Are you doing pre sales? Foreign? What? Where's that kind of work? I mean, obviously, don't give me numbers. I don't want to your entire business model guys, but just generally,

Jason Armstrong 50:19
No, absolutely. I mean, look, we honestly, it's, it's different with every film, so that that's just a fact. You know, there are a lot of there are a lot of filmmakers right now that are a massive part of their finance model is foreign sales. So they'll they'll lock in a certain amount of foreign sales, and then they'll maybe try and leave domestic open, but more often than not, they'll, you know, make a big domestic deal, too. And then they'll evaluate with that shortfall or that gap. And

Alex Ferrari 50:49
Is this pre is this pre production? Or is this after production,

Jason Armstrong 50:53
Pre production,

Alex Ferrari 50:53
So your pre sell your pre selling based on selling

Jason Armstrong 50:56
On pre selling to foreign, and then even looking, and then looking at an MG domestically, and then evaluating what a gap or shortfall could look like, Okay, now, that's so that could that back, that's why that's we need to pay very, very close attention to the film. So, you know, to how it's how that genre has been performing over the past couple of years, how your talent within the in the film have been performing, or who you're looking at signing into the film, have been performing over the past couple of years. Because if you have sort of pre sold the fill to all the major markets, and now you're you are recognizing that you still have a gap or a shortfall, and you're filling that with potential equity, instead of or maybe looking at your senior financing and thinking of bridge or something along those lines. The problem is that, that is where you can find yourself in a spot where you're training someone you saying, Well, this is what's left. And you know, we need this as a as a shortfall. You want it as equity or make an equity investment? Where are you pointing to the potential ROI for that money for the person that's coming in, because you've pretty much sold the Fill everywhere, where it's going to perform well. And if if you were so in need of the money to make the film, to greenlight the film, that you weren't able to evaluate the best deal, either from a domestic sale or in foreign, you weren't really looking at the windows, you know, or like when it was gonna be built. So you're all of a sudden, you're sitting at a spot where sure you got a complete model if they fill the gap, but how are you? How are you explaining to them where they're going to see revenue? Right, because things are going to get eaten by the foreign distributors and then the sales agents going to take their fee and then it comes back in and then if you were working with senior financier to cover all that, then they've got their fee and then that's coming out and and then all of a sudden, there's all these things are getting paid out ahead of this gap, or shortfall and the gap or shortfall doesn't even have any collateralised territories or profitable territories to sit on so so that's something to be very, you know, conscious of when you're when you are examining that sort of pre sale model, which we do and then if you know if you if you have a strong enough relationship with with sales and distributors and you can engage in these conversations and not have to perhaps you know, sell your film right up front but but have those conversations recognize what its worth is again, that's a lot of that is relationship based but it's also having worked with them in the past and delivered right so so there's there's that and then then when you're speaking to to someone from an equity standpoint, hard money as opposed to soft money, you can say look, we've deliberately left this this this this open, and let me show you how this genre and this talent has performed and not not five years ago.

Alex Ferrari 54:05
Yeah, so no Blair Witch projections, and no Paranormal Activity projections that's a horror movie and your sales pitch now like they made a billion dollars you could too

Rob Goodrich 54:18
Those other ones when they show you the comps in there from 2003

Alex Ferrari 54:25
Blair which is still on every low budget horror movie comp ever

Rob Goodrich 54:31
We see insidious Blair Witch

Paranormal and paranormal don't forget paranormal.

Jason Armstrong 54:37
Yeah. See, that's that's also so that's that's that's that's the other you know, that you know, we're that's what brings up a very important subject. We deal a lot with sort of savvy investors, right. So that have already been in the game so they expect a certain thing from our model. They know that they're going to get a game If they're evaluating it from a from hard money standpoint, that that we have, we have we can answer to their ROI we can answer to their immediate ROI. And, and we even have room in the waterfall, right? I mean, because, you know, people love talking about the waterfall. But there's so many cases where the gap is a shortfall, it would take so long for them even get their ROI, their initial ROI and their investment. Forget about the back end points. I mean, my God,

Alex Ferrari 55:30
Well, it's kind of like, it's kind of like a river. And it's going over to a waterfall. And at first, it's wide open, and the waterfall is plentiful, and there's a lot of water running through. But every time you throw some new financing, there's another log, there's another, there's another giant rock, and then all of a sudden that waterfall starts slowing down to the point where it's a trick by the time it gets to the edge. It's it's a trickle, but you sold them. You sold on the open waterfall. And that's the problem.

Jason Armstrong 55:57

Rob Goodrich 55:57
I can't tell you how many times we've been distracted at earlier stages that Jay and I are big, you know, contract guys, right? So everybody knows what's going on? Everybody involved? You put it in the drawer after you sign it. Hopefully you never look at it again. But there's no lingering. Well, what about this? What about that kind of conversation? I cannot tell you how many how many projects have been stalled by producers or other individuals fighting for back end points. And you just want to say you got to make the damn movie first. Oh, yeah. Yeah, then maybe we'll see. So. But that's, that's a target. I always sort of get turned off by

Alex Ferrari 56:39
Oh, everybody. I mean, how many times I mean, I've had I mean, when I was first starting out, we were meeting my original producing partner when I was just starting off off a short film I was producing that was getting a lot of heat around town. And we were taking meetings, we were fighting about the feature rights were like, I want this credit. I want that credit. And I want this back end point. I'm like, and you know, only time kind of shows you like you're idiots. There's this is not Spider Man, guys, you need to calm the hell down. Like it's not you want to fight for those points. Absolutely fight away. But there's no potential let's make the damn thing first. And then let's talk about talk about what's kind of music. It's the same thing. Who's got the publishing rights? It doesn't have the publishing rights, same thing.

Jason Armstrong 57:23
Yeah. And, and I think that's the thing when you're saying sort of saying people using the Blair Witch on you know, on a deck to help sell their film or to help or to help work on investment for investors, you know, drop some hard equity into it. It's I mean, that can work for for investors that have no experience in the business dentist, a dentist. Well, that's sexy. I mean, yeah, I can't get an ROI like that on any other investment.

Alex Ferrari 57:50
But it's so but it's immoral. It's immoral. You can't you can't throw an anomaly. Blair, which was an anomaly, parent paranormal activities anomaly and didn't send

Jason Armstrong 57:59
There's no longevity to that. Right. There's no longevity. So you'll make one movie. And Robin, I've had this conversation many times, we have no interest in making one movie. That's so if you if you deceive, right, essentially, that's pretty much what it is. You just see, of course, investors, or you just see partners that are coming in on your project, and never coming back. And anyone they know, is never coming back saying you. You haven't forged a relationship that's now going to come back on your next two or three films.

Alex Ferrari 58:31
It's toxic, it's toxic,

Rob Goodrich 58:33
Starting from scratch all over again, on your next bill. We put so much work into building that out, would he go nowhere.

Alex Ferrari 58:41
And then and then and again. On top of that you're not even starting from scratch, you're starting worse than scratch because now you've got a bad reputation out there. And now you're gonna fight against that. That's when you move. That's when you move from Louisiana to Atlanta, Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to New Mexico, and New Mexico to Vancouver.

Rob Goodrich 58:59
Well, it's crazy, because it's such a it's such a big, big business, and it's expanding across the world. But it's a

Alex Ferrari 59:06
Small business

Rob Goodrich 59:09
That traveled

Alex Ferrari 59:10
You have no idea like I'm sure if you and I started you guys and I started like talking off air about who we know. I promise you we know the same people. And I've talked to so many people on the show and I'll be like, Oh yeah, I worked with that guy. Or that guy. I started with them when they were coming up or oh this guy or that. There's this but now and it's it's people think it's a big business. It is not everybody knows everybody small world. It's very small and it never ceases to amaze me how small of a world it really is in our business. And if you piss somebody off or you do somebody wrong, it will come back to you. There's no question, no question about it and the best advice I ever got for being in the film business and everyone listening knows this because I say at nauseum don't be a dick right? that goes from the grip to the PA all the way to the producers in the director. Because you don't want to work with you don't want to work with a dick. Oh,

Rob Goodrich 1:00:09
Well, you know, I always find it takes more energy to be a dick to just either be nice or walk away.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:17
Well, that's for you because other people have made it into an art form of being a dick. Have you run it? Have you run into that guy? I've run into that, but he might just only one. There's only the one guy in Hollywood. Who was a dick. Everyone else is super cool. But now, so what do you guys up to next? Well, your next project.

Rob Goodrich 1:00:39
So we're out in Las Cruces, New Mexico right now doing a film called Squealer with Andy Armstrong of the Armstrong family, huge stunt coordinating family and he is behind the camera right now. Big second unit director. So our idea behind that was let's take a sort of a horror thriller actually feel and punch the hell out of it and really pump up the stunts make it look like something people haven't seen before. We've got West Chatham, Theo Rossi, Catherine knotek, our cast is growing we're attaching to more today. We're thrilled about that. We dropped a pretty good nugget the other day in variety. We've acquired the rights to fame adventure, John Fairfax, who if you haven't been familiar with who this man is, the most interesting man in the World commercials were based off of him. Wow. So we're, we're very excited rode the ocean twice single or guys wild

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
Single word, single or really?

Rob Goodrich 1:01:41
Yeah. So I mean, I would advise anybody to go to his obituary New York Times, John Fairfax 2012, your mind will be blown.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
So you mean to tell me that sharks have a week dedicated to him is what you're saying.

Rob Goodrich 1:02:01
But now we're looking at a couple of big properties. We just, we just options, something with Thomas Jane, we're going to copro his next movie of Western late spring. And a number of things in the works. I mean, we've been very comfortable and excited and happy living where we've been living right now. And I think 22 and 23 are going to see us take a take a Leap, leap forward with some sort of higher caliber higher scale projects. That really, instead of doing this, four to four to seven movies a year, probably get it down to about three or four,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
Three or four Bigger, bigger ones, as opposed to bigger pictures. Yeah, that's a good four to seven super fun.

Rob Goodrich 1:02:45
That's a pretty good standpoint. I mean, we're always, you know, if we're EP in a project, that's fine, if that makes sense for us, and we can be of use, we're always looking, and we're always happy to help friends or finding projects. But from a real hands on producing standpoint, I think we're really looking to, to elevate the scale of what we're doing a bit, and we've got some good property to deal with.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:08
Now, I'm gonna ask you guys, quite a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give to a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Well, JJ is literally pissing himself right now. Jay is literally pissing himself right now.

Rob Goodrich 1:03:22
My assistant Alyssa, who is a huge fan of this podcast.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:27
Oh, that's awesome.

Rob Goodrich 1:03:28
She is She was a PA. And on our last production, I said, you know, I just My hands are too full to the production office. Do you guys have anybody who can help me out a little bit? Well, I'll tell you, she and her boyfriend have been the hardest workers on set as PDAs. And what they ended up doing on our last film was Alyssa was working with me on her third film, she's now flying out here to work with us. Her boyfriend ended up driving talent around, ended up working in different departments. So my advice and j then you can chip in is get in, get in there and PA, because if you are within eyeshot of somebody you're within your shot, and you're within arm's length, and they're going to pull you in, and they're going to give you an opportunity to say, come help me out. And eventually that conversation turns into, Oh, what do you want to do? Oh, you want to be in the camera department? Well, let me see if I can get you to be a camera PA, something along those lines. My big thing is start at the bottom. You know, you don't have to have a script. You don't have to try to be a filmmaker to be a filmmaker, I would really urge you know, try to get in on the ground and do as much as you can onset or in an office working with the people that are doing it.

Jason Armstrong 1:04:39
Yeah, I mean, so just to touch on and carry off what Rob said. The Yeah, I mean, really get engaged, get really engaged because understanding all the roles is so valuable. I mean, even if you're even if you're a screenwriter, an aspiring director, anything Understanding every everyone's job that's required in order to produce these things to deliver these things, because it's a lot of moving pieces. And if you're ignorant to any of those moving pieces, it's gonna affect your ability to, to, to properly present yourself or your material. So, so yeah, I mean, get in there, get different jobs, you know, even if it's not something that you want to do, learn it so that when you do actually get that door open to the, to the field that you love, you can actually speak intelligently, but what you need from different departments, different key heads, everything else. And then I would say outside of that, don't be precious, just don't be precious over your material, right? I mean, God, the number of people that are sitting on potential IP, and they're like this, well, I just it, this isn't the right, this isn't the right fit, or, you know, this, I'm worried that they're going to do this with it, or if I show it now, it's not gonna work out, and then I'm gonna, you know, and then it's gonna be gone. So, just don't, because the truth is, you will do that forever. And then then that material that you thought was just so valuable, it's not relevant, or, or you've given everyone so much time to either touch on a small piece of it, right? Because, you know, so many of our ideas, and so many of our creative ideas that we come up with, they're, they're triggered from something we've read something we've seen something we've experienced. And to think that there aren't a vast number of people that are experiencing the same thing, and might have similar ideas or anything else. So get it out there. See an opportunity? Don't hold it close to your chest. You know, be smart. Be smart, right? I mean, protect. Sure, Mark, but don't be precious.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:56
Yeah. And I always tell people, the business is tough enough, man, you don't need to throw more obstacles in front of you. There's going to be plenty of them along along the way without you screwing yourself up. Just you know, don't as as, as a famous sage once said, don't don't push the river. Don't it's yeah, don't push it's gonna flop.

Jason Armstrong 1:07:13
And you know what the best thing to say about you know, don't be a dick. Honestly, our business is stressful enough. Oh, God. I mean, be around dicks. Come on.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
Oh, and we all have been we all had been when we were coming up, we all have to do we all have to deal with either bosses or? Or egomaniacs? Or you know, or sociopath. I dealt with a mobster for a while. That's a whole other story. That's a whole other conversation. Um,

Rob Goodrich 1:07:42
You know, I'll tell you a quick story real quick. And I don't want to press time. But you know, I was a PA before and we're talking about Bruce Willis. And, you know, he was he was due to come into the office, and I was working for a very well known producer at the time. And he was neurotic. And I was like, why are you erratic? He goes, well, well, Bruce really likes a clean office, which understandably, and I'm looking around, and I'm like, David, this place is spotless, and he gets on his hands and knees. And he gets under a desk and he pulls out a piece of trash. And I got it, I'll get it. I'll get it. I'm the assistant, right. And he goes, doesn't matter. We're on the same team. I'm going to get reamed out by him. He doesn't know who you are, doesn't care who you are. And he goes, I'll just do it myself. I'm right here. That little lesson taught me so much. I'm going to just go ahead and do it. We're all in the same team. I don't have to have any level of hierarchy, hey, you go do this. It's got to get done. And I think if you can lead by example, it travels down all the way down the line. I mean, for some, for somebody that's coming up, you know, impressions matter. And if you if you listen, and if you're, if you're astute, and you're a go getter, and you don't have to talk to necessarily, you know, just absorb everything and be in the room. And I think that that could really go a long way for a lot of people.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
I mean, I saw a video of Keanu Reeves on John Wick for carrying camera gear up Astaire upstairs. Yeah, on a company move. And everyone's like, look at Keanu Reeves. Oh my God. He is literally you know, a saint. And I'm like, he's a human being man. He's, he said, he's just a good dude, man. I mean, he's like, he's just a good dude. That's all it is. Like, he's not like, he's not Jesus guys. You know, but he's, he's a good dude. And I love to work with them. As I'm sure everybody. So Kiana if you're listening, any three of us, any of us would love to work with you, sir. Well, we'll make it work for you. We'll make it work for you. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Rob Goodrich 1:09:48
Yeah. So you know, out mine is it's it applies to both. I have two young daughters. The lesson for me has been didn't know when to turn it off. So I always just been a hustler my whole life. And I always thought, Okay, I have to do all of these things if it's ever gonna happen, bla bla bla, you know, part of it's a function of being where we are career wise, that makes it a little easier. But, you know, especially during the pandemic, I was much more able to just press pause on everything, have lunch with my kids. And I think that that has translated into work as well, where I don't feel like I need to answer every email within five seconds. You know, there's a, there's sort of this, like, hurry up and wait mentality in Hollywood, but there's panic if I don't do it now. So I think the lesson learned for me is that it's okay to sort of take a be, you know, it's certainly been reflected in my work as well. Because I'm, I'm more you aware of what I'm putting out there. And I'm more conscientious of let's, let's just not push, push, push. But let's actually take a second, sit back, a take care of yourself for a moment, enjoy what's around you, and be you know, take some time to make sure that what you're doing, you're doing right,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:11
But is that but that also is his age. I mean, your 21 year olds are not generally coming to that enlightened state. You know, and it took me a while to man, I've been hustling as you can see still hustling with everything everywhere. Non stop. Yeah, to a certain point, my wife actually said, you don't, you don't need to garage sale anymore. We don't need you to go hustle out, you know, this or that. I got a real quick story. I gotta tell you, because it's so funny. And I think it really hits this point. A years ago, when we moved to LA for the first time. I was, during Christmas, I always figured out how to hustle things. So I figured out that on GameStop, there was this video game that you could buy on sale for like $15. But on Amazon, it was on sale for $50. So I was like, Oh, wow, this is cool. So most people are like, Oh, you must have bought like a whole bunch of things from GameStop. I'm like, No, that's way too much work. So what I did is I posted it on Amazon for 60. Anytime a sale would come in, I would then have buy it off of Gamestop put their address in and have Gamestop ship it directly to them. So I was basically doing auto arbitrage. And I pulled in like oh before Gamestop stopped, like 40 or 50 sales in before Gamestop saying what the hell's going on with this account. And I was so proud. I went to my wife. I'm like, Look how much money we made for Christmas. This is great. She's like, we didn't move across the effing country for use of video. We're here for you to be a filmmaker. I was like, oh, gosh, and this like that moment. You just have to go okay, I need to pull back for a second. Really what's important, and why am I here? What am I doing? As opposed to the I gotta make money? I gotta make money. I gotta hustle. I gotta hustle. I gotta hustle. Jay, what's your what's your answer to that?

Jason Armstrong 1:13:06
Uh, well then see, if we're looking at you know, without the years and age sort of coming into play. And young, I would say not to wait for tomorrow, like, where it's gonna be a little bit more perfected. Right. And, and so, and Rob was just sort of touching it like, I've got two little girls too. And same here.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:29
Yeah, same here. Amazing. Well, well, twin girls, twin girls, man, it's a I'm 25 Look what they've done to me. I'm 25 years old. Look what I've done to me.

Jason Armstrong 1:13:39
I think that's the thing. You know, I mean, it's it's basically, it's a you don't, because there is that, especially in this business. And again, you sort of touched on that where I was sort of saying to be loving, precious. It's, um, it's waiting, you know? Oh, it'll be I'll have this other piece attitude by tomorrow, or this will be finessed a little bit more by tomorrow. And then that tomorrow becomes the tomorrow tomorrow. And, and yeah, I mean, that's just it ends up being wasted time. So I would say I would say that that's something that took me a while to learn at the beginning. Especially as a writer at that time. It's it's you know, yeah, don't wait.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:22
The art of good the art of good enough. Yeah, the art of good enough because if not, you'll be five years on one script. And, and last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Rob Goodrich 1:14:39
Oh, boy, you want to jump in there?

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
Not really.

Jason Armstrong 1:14:49
I mean, this guy you got to put in Weekend at Bernie's.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:52
I mean, obviously, obviously,

Jason Armstrong 1:14:55
Obviously Weekend at Bernie's has to be in there.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:00
David Oh God I forgot the director's name well, man

Rob Goodrich 1:15:04
Whatever you say is gonna sound better than mine

Jason Armstrong 1:15:08
I don't know we can hit one hit one we'll go bounce back and forth.

Rob Goodrich 1:15:13
Okay so I'll give you my three but one of them has an A attached to it So in no particular order we've got Rudy we've got Tommy Boy we've got Love Actually.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:27
Wow, so that pretty much told me everything I need to know about you sir. It's a pretty much got your entire personality wrapped in those three films.

Rob Goodrich 1:15:36
And I'll give you I'll give you my three a national treasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:41
Oh my God.

Rob Goodrich 1:15:45
Listen, I'm in this game. entertainment. Entertainment. I swear to God if national treasures on I am not moving and I can recite every line.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:56
I am I think I think you're not gonna have a beer sir. Those three those those three combination that's a hell of a. That's a hell of a compliment. Love actually thrown it will laugh. Tommy Boy, Rudy.

Jason Armstrong 1:16:10
It's so true though. If you actually back up and just evaluate your favorite films, but the films that you've watched 1000 times rideable number of times, and if it's on you don't turn off. And you actually don't even start multitasking. But watching well actually, I mean, that happened what for that? I can't even imagine the 100th time over the holidays. This you just keep watching. Because it's always on the holidays. And all of us go anywhere. And

Alex Ferrari 1:16:43
It's it's it's you know, we all could say Citizen Kane. We could all say Godfather but I haven't watched this again since film school. And Godfather is not a movie I watch every weekend. You know it's and don't get me wrong Godfather is an AMAZING film. But it's those movies that you just watch again and again. You know, for me, Shawshank fightclub the matrix that solid, solid solid three like they turn on, then you want to get into the 80s actions Lethal Weapon predator, Die Hard. And then we now we could just

Jason Armstrong 1:17:18
See this is what? I can't do this. I start saying

Alex Ferrari 1:17:24
Oh, but this was Oh yeah. You know, it is I always like throwing that out. There's like it's three that come to mind at this moment in time. It will change tomorrow will change five minutes from now. But at this moment in time, That's it boys. It has been an absolute joy talking to you guys. I wish you guys nothing but continued success in what you're doing. And I appreciate you guys coming on and sharing some real knowledge bombs with with my audience because if they need to hear it, they need to hear from people who are doing it and doing it right. So I do appreciate you guys coming on man and much continued success. You guys.

Jason Armstrong 1:18:01
Thank you.

Rob Goodrich 1:18:02
Thank you. It's an honor for us and we're fans of the podcast and you know, we're looking forward to making more movies.

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BPS 194: Inside Making One of the Most Insane Indie Films Ever! with The Daniels

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as DANIELS, have been writing and directing together for over a decade, initially with a slew of viral music videos, commercials, and short films, then with feature films and TV directing.

They’ve developed a reputation for combining absurdity with heartfelt personal stories. Oftentimes they incorporate a unique brand of visual effects, and visceral practical effects into their genre blending projects.

They have directed music videos for Manchester Orchestra, Foster the People, and won a VMA for their video for “Turn Down For What,” which Scheinert bullied Kwan into being the lead actor in. Kwan is a really good dancer.

They wrote and directed the feature film Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, which went on to win the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival, received multiple nominations, and gained a large cult following.

While they were writing & developing their new movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, a kung fu sci-fi dramedy starring Michelle Yeoh, Scheinert went and directed a small redneck dramedy called The Death of Dick Long, also released by A24.

When an interdimensional rupture threatens to unravel reality, the fate of the world is suddenly in the hands of a most unlikely hero: Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), an overwhelmed immigrant mother. As bizarre and bewildering dangers emerge from the many possible universes, she must learn to channel her newfound powers and fight to save her home, her family, and herself, in this big-hearted and hilarious adventure through the multiverse.

They both live in Los Angeles. One of them has a son. The other has a goofy dog. But to be honest Daniel does most of the work.

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Alex Ferrari 0:44
I like to welcome to the show The Daniel's. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert how you doing guys?

Daniel Kwan 3:45
Good. Thank you for having us.

Daniel Scheinert 3:47
Pretty good. Hello!

Alex Ferrari 3:48
Good, guys, thank you so much for coming on the show I am. I am a fan of what you guys do you guys are insane. And I love about you. It's, it's, it's such a wonderful thing to see the work that you guys have been doing over the years. That's the only word I can use is insane. But in the most wonderful way humanly possible. So when you guys got into the future game, I was so excited to see like Swiss Army Man, Miranda Bailey was just on the show a few weeks ago. And she was like telling me the whole story about Swiss Army Man. I'm like, how the hell what the how is that? How did that get financed? What happened? It's just like, it's her fault. Exactly. She told me, she told me the whole story and is it was fascinating. But before we go down that road, how did you and why did you guys want to get into this insanity? That is the film industry?

Daniel Scheinert 5:50
I just did whatever my brother did as a kid. So like, he did like math team. So I did math team. And then like, he and his friends started making movies. And so I started making movies, with with my friends in high school, but but there's that's a very different thing than the industry, you know. And it's interesting, like, I did a lot of theater as a kid. And then the older I got more, I was like, Oh, I don't actually want to be an actor that industry seems not for me, you know, and, and the film industry is, you know, there's, there's a lot of warts, there's a lot of problems and things but like, you get to like, especially as a writer and director on your own terms, collaborate with friends and tell stories, you know, like it was the funnest thing I'd ever done. I was I just got hooked and and we're so lucky that our careers we still get to do it in a way that's pretty similar, you know, to like the the high school college version of making movies.

Alex Ferrari 5:50
No, no question.

Daniel Kwan 6:56
For me, I I'm like the, in the heroes during the talk about the refusal to the call, you know, you run away from the thing, and I feel like I've been running away from your bio pics can be more interesting than mine. I guess, though. Yeah, cuz because I get yeah, as you refuse the call. Exactly. The setup is so much better. But I, I grew up really disempowered for some reason. And I don't know where it comes from, like, I did not believe in myself, I didn't believe that I had worked and, and yet people would tell me like, Oh, you're pretty good at this, or you're pretty good at that. And I wouldn't believe it. And I just kind of run away from all of it. Especially coming from my mother, you know, my mother would be like, you're a good storyteller. Why don't you write some more? And I was like, No, Mom, you know, that's like, that's stupid. That's a waste of time, that's not going to help me get into college, I was a very nervous person had a lot of anxiety. And so everything was about what was the most practical route forward. And I was miserable because of it. Because I wasn't how I my brain, you know, wasn't built for practical, it was built for, you know, wild, insane storytelling. And apparently, my mom, when I was younger, met a Christian like a fundamentalist Christian fortune teller, for lack of a better word. And she saw me apparently this this, this soothsayer, and the great bio, exactly. So wild is fast, and it's fast. No. But she she said to my mom, your son, I was in like, third grade, just like your son is going to be a great storyteller one day, maybe even a filmmaker. And he's going to spread the word of God. And my mom never told me this story until much later until, like, as an adult, she's told me now, but now I understand why she was pushing me to go to film school, which is so funny. Anyone who is a Asian American kid who is the kid of like, the son or daughter of immigrants will understand how profoundly strange that is. To have a Yeah, to have a Chinese mother, say, Son, don't go to business school, like go to films go to film school. And so I did what, you know, all children do. And I ignored my mom and I went to business school. So again, I was like, fuck that. I don't want to do that. Sorry. I don't know if we're allowed to swear on this. Fine, it's fine. Art that for that. I don't want to go. I don't want to risk my life. I don't want to be a miserable starving artists. I'm gonna go to business school. And I was miserable. I was I was I hated every minute of that experience. And that was like, well, maybe I should go to maybe I should try this out. And so it's even when I went to film school, I didn't want to be a director because I looked around. I was like, I'm not a director. I don't know how to talk to people. I don't know how to command 100 people in a crew. And so I was like, I'm gonna become an animator. I'm gonna learn how to animate and just make things on my computer by myself. And that's where I met this guy. And and this experience of meeting, Daniel shiner has been one in which every single time I feel like I don't belong in this industry, kind of like going back to your question of like, how do we get into this crazy industry? Anytime either of us felt like we didn't belong or the way that we worked and processed, our arts felt incongruous with, with how the industry worked. shiner being such a contrarian, we'd be like, so what, let's do it anyways, and I think was one of the biggest, most satisfying lessons I've learned over and over again, with every project is like, Oh, the way things are, aren't, aren't exactly how they have to be. And in fact, we can find better ways to suit ourselves. And I think if more film students learned that like that they can build a film process suited to their specific style. Just like every painter has a different process. Every poll has a different process. Like growing up, you learned about all the tours in film school, and I didn't see myself in any of their work, you know. And so I'm sorry, yeah, we have a it's all good. It's all good. If a dog in the background, it happens. It's all good. And so anyways, yeah, it was it was a series of accidents. And we have slowly built a career around this project of trying to figure out how can we be ambitious filmmakers who make great work that we're proud of, while still staying grounded and human and not not be assholes? I think that's one of the things that for some reason our industry has really built up is this idea that like, in order to make great stuff, you have to be a really mean person.

Daniel Scheinert 11:33
But in order to have a good biopic, I think we might have to turn me into the villain for the second half. I'll be like the manager of Brian Wilson. Yeah. Mercy. Oh, me, Paul Giamatti. Like taking advantage of you. Like you should take more drugs more ADHD

Alex Ferrari 11:53
That helps with your creative process. Absolutely. It would be the equivalent of my Cuban parents going go be a filmmaker. Yeah, go ahead. Because when I told when I when I told my parents I wanted to be a filmmaker my mom's like okay, let's do it on my desk like what what do you what? Yeah, what is that? What is that I'm like I can be a PA I can make $100 a day. That was that was my pitch to him to be

Daniel Kwan 12:14
It's so practical. You know how to appeal to an immigrant father I can 100 bucks a day dad come on

Alex Ferrari 12:20
$100 Cash a day. That was as far as my vision of my career had gone now you guys you guys obviously got a get started with shorts and and and then made made your bones and music videos. By the way, some of the music videos, some of the most interesting music videos of the last decade have been directed by you guys. And I'm not just smoking smoking

Daniel Scheinert 12:44
Smoking our butt

Alex Ferrari 12:46
Smoking your butt blowing smoke up your butts. I came. I came up in the 90s with Fincher and rubberneck and all these amazing films, I love music videos, especially in the 90s, late 80s, early 90s is when the form really took took you know, they took it to other places. So when I saw what you like, you know turned down but what I was just like, What is this? This is I mean just the clocking of the gun cocking as she sits on his face is a level of brilliance I have not seen very often in music video so thank you sirs.

Daniel Scheinert 13:23
Creative peak.

Daniel Kwan 13:25
That sound effects was

Daniel Scheinert 13:28
On your face

Alex Ferrari 13:29
It was just such a beautiful thing. It's such a small thing and only I like everybody else might have seen other things but when I saw that, I'm like they're filmmakers.

Daniel Kwan 13:40
That is to our audience. That's where the metaphor or the the term smoking your ass came from.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
So you guys did some amazing work in music videos. What lessons did you bring from your music videos experiences into the feature world which are obviously two different though I could argue to say that Swiss Army Man and and your current film both are just really long music videos, in the sense of the visuals are just insane.

Daniel Scheinert 14:09
Like the fact that like there's music nonstop. Like,

Daniel Kwan 14:13
We rely on music a lot.

Daniel Scheinert 14:15
Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, we learned a ton. Obviously, like some, some incredible music video directors do kind of like non narrative aesthetic tone poems. And we always did like short films, we always like tricked a band into paying for our short films, you know, like, they were very narratively driven. So we, we kind of were honing our voice as writers while doing music videos. And that made the transition a little, like, more organic, I guess, you know, because we were like, Oh, we're, um, you know, a lot of videos have like a beginning, middle and end turned out for what doesn't have much character development. But you know, there's a little bit of a linear story, you know,

Alex Ferrari 14:59
I'd argue to Say there's a lot of character development. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Daniel Kwan 15:14
Notes you see the world right bends around the protagonist over time. This is the constant in the world is when you don't turn down in sales turns up exactly. But to piggyback on what he's saying, like, we didn't think of ourselves as writers like I again, I don't even think of myself as a director at the time we first got hired for the for a dancer or a dancer. Yeah, there's so many things that I we did not

Daniel Scheinert 15:36
He's the star have turned down for what that's him.

Daniel Kwan 15:38
Yes. Yeah. In case you didn't know.

Alex Ferrari 15:39
It's fantastic.

Daniel Kwan 15:42
Thank you. But so we treated every project as, as Film School in some ways to be like, Hey, we've never worked with a DP before. What's that? Like? Let's let's bring a DP on for this one. More? Oh, well, you know, what is what is the production design team supposed to be? In? What's that? What's that relationship supposed to be like? Let's let's bring on a production designer. And every project, we just built our family out and started adding more and more people and learning new skills. You know, we like I've always wanted to play with motion control camera rigs. And so we did that for a battle's music video. We've always wanted to do

Daniel Scheinert 16:18
We started out doing a lot more like visual effects. Yeah. And we slowly learned more and more practical effects. gags Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that's so much more fun when you can actually like, blow up in the air mortar have a breakaway prop,

Daniel Kwan 16:30
Right. And then like, we wanted to play more with stunts, and just see what that was like. So we did a foster people video about car chase. And we learned that we hate shooting car chases, you know, so every every project was was like a selfish way for us to learn something new. And then by the time we were ready to do features, like we had accrued a team with a very specific skill sets that, you know, really supported our process. And we felt like we were ready. The only thing that was really hard, I'd say the hardest part of the transition was the timeframes of, of music videos versus features, you know, music videos, you prep, pitch, write, shoot, edit, and release within a month. With features, you know, it takes you a year just to write like the first draft sometimes. And that was a that was a real struggle to like, slow down, and step back and say no to everything and basically turn off the faucet that we had of work coming in. Because we were at the peak of our of our music, VO careers. And we had to step away from that and say, You know what, I've always we've always wanted it to be filmmakers, who did features and narrative. And that was probably the hardest part. And I see a lot of contemporaries, who are in the music industry, who never did that. Never had the I don't wanna say discipline or self control. It's more just we had each other to keep each other accountable. So we, we were the ones who were able to say, Hey, should we pull back and we had someone who, who basically was there to keep us accountable and not get tempted to get pulled back into the whirlwind that is music video,

Daniel Scheinert 18:09
And we got lucky. You know, we know friends that do turn off the faucet and write a screenplay and can't get it made.

Daniel Kwan 18:15
Yes. It's hard out there.

Daniel Scheinert 18:18
But yeah, yeah, we learned a lot. We still use all the same tricks and work with all the same crew.

Alex Ferrari 18:24
Yeah, that's the thing is once you once you find people that you can work with you hold on to them for dear life, because it's, you know, there's a comfort level there. You could you could just look at them and they know exactly what you want. Or they're, they know what you want before you know what you want. So once you walk into like, perfect, exactly the aesthetic I want. Famous.

Daniel Scheinert 18:43
Now we're going to like, quit working with them, although,

Alex Ferrari 18:46
Obviously, obviously, obviously, that's what you do. You let you leave them alone. And you go get high Oscar winners. Just Hi, Oscar winners.

Daniel Kwan 18:53
All of this. This is the this is the industry way.

Alex Ferrari 18:55
Yeah, exactly. Now I so you guys have done some insane projects. What is your writing process? Like? Were you two working together? Because I write but I write by alone. I've never written with somebody else. So how do you guys go back and forth with the writing process?

Daniel Kwan 19:10
Yeah, it was a real that was a real learning. Like that was that was a lot of growing pains in that like leak from music videos to screenwriting, because neither of us thought of ourselves as writers. But when you're a musical director, you're constantly having to write new ideas. And so our process for music videos was actually pretty organically formed from the fact that we just had to be constantly pitching. Like we put out two or three pitches a week to different songs, and we get rejected 90% of the time, but that really like the exercise a part of our collective muscles where we were basically throwing ideas back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until someone laughed or someone gasp or someone emoted and then we're like, okay, what is that? Why, what like, let's let's latch on to that. And then we would start to throw ideas back and forth until they became these snowballs that kind of kept attaching more and more or conceptual ideas, narrative ideas, visual ideas and like we would start putting on different visual references that we'd pull up from YouTube or Vimeo. And we would never write anything down, it would all just be in our heads and just be ping pong back and forth for a couple of weeks, you know, without writing anything down, just seeing what stuck. And then finally, when it came time to pitch, we just write it all down and send it out. Which is great for music videos, because you have to have that speed. Once we transition to features that became really hard to do to ping pong the feature back and forth without writing down without you know. So what is our process? Now I feel like he changed.

Daniel Scheinert 20:36
I feel like it changes on every project. And that might be the lesson you know, is that like, we're cons. It's almost like a weird therapy exercise. And if you do the exact same thing, each time, you're not going to like make discoveries, you're just going to like, kind of create, figure out a pattern of how to make a similar, but not as good thing because it's not as like authentic and heartfelt and, but we still bounce ideas off each other a lot. We spent a lot of time apart. And we're each other's biggest fan. And also like biggest like, critic, because we built kind of a common vocabulary and trust of each other's thoughts. So it's a lot of like, time apart and coming back and being like, I have this thought it really resonates with me. I do I write very poorly by myself. And so like, sometimes I'm hungry to be like Dan, hang out with me. I want to throw ideas out.

Daniel Kwan 21:33
Sometimes Daniel Daniel Scheinert comes from like, an improv background. So everything about that world is about like reactions and

Daniel Scheinert 21:39
Collaborative and a sort of an extrovert who's feeds off other people's energy. And then Kwan is like, introvert extrovert. And so like, every once in awhile, he just disappears. It's like, nope, leave me alone. I'm writing, you know, and he'll come back with, like, really great stuff. But sometimes, you know, the great stuff is five times longer than we agreed it was gonna be back to the drawing board of like, how do we do we keep it all which parts do we keep? You know, it's an editing process. And just a lot of trial and error.

Daniel Kwan 22:09
Yeah. So with our first draft for everything everywhere, we spent a long time outline together, throwing things back and forth the ways that we have been talking about and then shot it went off to do his other movie Death a dick along with not a porn. Yeah, not respectable.

Daniel Scheinert 22:29
Exactly. It's misleading, I understand.

Daniel Kwan 22:32
But I wrote the first draft while he was gone shooting that movie, and it came back and it was like 240 pages, you know. So it's, I'm definitely I have ADHD, I realized, while writing this movie, and I think because of that I'm different, very generative. I'm just constantly writing constantly, I have notebooks that are always open, I have like five different. I write stuff on my phone, on my notebook on my laptop on my, you know, I just need to be writing constantly on things. Otherwise, my brain will explode. I just need like, let them out. And so I handle a lot of that over to shiner. And then China just like points out things that are working and points and like, tries to help form it into something that like makes both of us excited. So it's so far it's been more like scares the producers less. Right. Exactly. That's, like I'm, I'm very ambitious. And China is very practical minded. And so I think the combination of our brains has been very, very good.

Alex Ferrari 23:33
You know, it's funny when I had Miranda on the show, everyone listen, you gotta listen to Miranda, the producer of Swiss Iron Man. The stories that about how that movie got me because I was fascinated and like, how in God's green earth did anybody put money up for this film? Like, In what world is this movie exist? Apparently this this and this universe? It exists and others it might not, but in this universe exists? And she said that she said, like she talked to I think somebody intercompany and they like she'd read they're like, we're not gonna make this right. We're not gonna make the movie about the farting with a dick. And that, really? She's like, No, we're, we're really gonna make you gotta you guys got to listen to that interview. It's so fantastic. That pitch Yeah, no, yeah, there was like, how did you? How did you come up with the idea? It's such an insane idea. How did you come up with it? And how in God's green earth do you pitch that in a room?

Daniel Scheinert 24:24
Which ones was Army man? It was Army man. Yeah. The idea started work were the same way. Like all our music videos started it was kind of like an an image or a gag or a little scene that like, made us laugh. And it was just the opening scene of a guy. Initially the idea was like, feeding a corpse beans. Like it's fuel, and then writing it's far it's off a deserted island to freedom,

Daniel Kwan 24:53
But it was like very beautiful and like it was very

Daniel Scheinert 24:57
And then we were like, that would be a funny like the

Daniel Kwan 25:00
The music that shows, right. Yeah, the music I was listening to was Ben Zeitlin, you know who did be some Southern Wild, his short film that he did before that was called glory at sea. I don't know if you guys have seen it, but it's fantastic. They have best ambitious indie film, made on with no money. And like it was such an aspirational thing for us to watch in college. But the score is incredible. And Ben, you know, worked on the score, but I was listening to that score while we're on an airplane. And just imagining the beauty and the catharsis of a man riding off on a farting course was like making me laugh. But I will say that, like, a lot of our stuff, as wild as it is, comes from a very practical place. Because, you know, you mentioned in the 90s, the great music players like Fincher and Romanek and Spike Jones and Michel Gondry know, they had big budgets, you know, $5 million stars, stars who, you know, millions, when we were when we, by the time we got into the music industry, you know, Napster and streaming had decimated the industry, so that, you know, we were working with $10,000, you know, most of that 10 20,000, or whatever. So, we got to, we got stuck in this really interesting mode of, of filmmaking, which was very practical and based off of problem solving. So like, we happen to be flying to Alabama to visit his family, and do sort of a mini writer's retreat for another movie we thought we were going to write, and we were asking ourselves, what resources do we have there? Because we should shoot something while we're there. That'd be fun.

Daniel Scheinert 26:33
And they live on a lake in Alabama, their neighbors had a boat. And so we were like, maybe we could do a weird gag with a boat.

Daniel Kwan 26:40
And I was like, Okay, there's two of us. Okay. It's a short little thing with two people on the water. What could that be? And that's where this idea came from. And I think like, a lot of our work is kind of coming from very practical, like, problem solving. And so yeah, so that's where it came from. I pitched it to him. And shine, it was like, that's amazing. We have to make it and I immediately regretted pitching it to him, because I was like, I don't want to make that though. You know, like, I don't want to show that to my exactly the person, the person that Miranda's company who said, we're not really going to make that as like, oh, yeah, that's that was what I was saying to it's not Yeah, they weren't. They weren't crazy for thinking that. And then it just, it just kept grew. It really was like a cancer in my brain, and are both our collective brains. It doesn't have growing and more ideas kept latching on to it.

Daniel Scheinert 27:28
And then it became a long short film about like, the amnesia, the like, the amnesia corpse, trying to figure out what happened to it and learn about life. And then that short film got bigger and bigger. And we were like, maybe it's a feature that would be hilarious. Like an almost as like a joke. We started fleshing out the feature, and then

Daniel Kwan 27:47
You know, as a joke, we pitched it to a in a general meeting, we were actually speaking of industry. So we're getting we're getting passed around Hollywood, doing general meetings, and we kept pitching our joke ideas, because we didn't have any ideas that we thought would appeal to most studio heads or to any producers. And one day, we decided to pitch this movie to a producer almost as a joke. And he leaves

Daniel Scheinert 28:09
Like, do you really want to make that? Yeah. And we're like, yeah, he's like, why haven't you written it? And he's, and we're like, oh, because we don't think it would get made. And he's like you. If you believe in it, you should make that no one else. No one else is ever going to make that movie. Like, mysteries are true. And it was like, it was a good kick in the ass.

Daniel Kwan 28:26
Yeah. So yeah, that was Lauren. singly, one of the producers on our on that film was the one who kind of liked Miranda. Yeah, he kind of like pressed the button to turn, turn that part of our brain on and say, Don't do it. Why not?

Alex Ferrari 28:41
Yeah, but I have, but I have to ask, like, you guys did some pitches. Right. So did you What were some reactions from the pitches? Like I gotta believe that somebody's like, I could just see the pale white skin of a of somebody, like just all the all the blood flow coming out of their bodies, like, you guys. You're not serious. Sorry. Yeah,

Daniel Scheinert 29:01
Were pretty good at pitching our ideas because we're also like, self deprecating, and, like, totally ready for the, the criticism, you know, I agree and like, and sort of have the attitude of like, you know, if you don't get it, it's not for you. Don't please don't, please don't give us money. Like, I don't want you in a great you know, regretting this or, you know, just every draft and every screening. Like not getting it but but it was hard. Yeah. And it took like someone with a weird sense of humor like Miranda like to say yes, that got the ball rolling. And then I will say something we discovered later that really helped was we we got the band Manchester orchestra. Robert and Andy to start making some songs for us when we were developing it. Before it was Even though officially greenlit, And then we started pitching it with music. And we were able to pitch the opening scene and press play, and just start describing it as you heard this, like, oh, gorgeous music. And it was such a different feeling in the room where like, people were suddenly like, what the hell's going on? This music is making me emotional, and it's so beautiful. And what you're describing is profane and stupid and should not I should not give you money. But I think it helped, that really helped crack the pitch in that case, just to be able to, like, you know, play music, which is something we still do sometimes.

Daniel Kwan 30:49
Yeah. The other two things that really helped us was the fact that two things happened. While we're in the middle of trying to get funding and trying to get actors. The first thing that happened was we somehow got into the Sundance Institute, like the Sundance screenwriters lab for the screenplay, and we were like, what? Like, who at the sun, like, you know, right? Think about Sundance, you think about so many other movies, and not so sorry, man. That's not what you think about when you think about Sundance. But you know, to their credit, they saw something really earnest in our work, and they saw our past work and saw that we were trying new things, and you know, what is Sundance if not a place to foster new voices. And so they brought us in, and it was, incredibly, creatively, just exactly what we needed at that point in our careers, regardless of whether or not the movie was gonna get made. It was so healing. And it also showed us that there was a place for us in this industry in the way that we were talking about at the beginning, where we were talking about, maybe we don't belong here, it's like, oh, the Sundance Institute was one of the first places that we went to were like, Oh, this beautiful, creative environment can exist. And it does exist. And we should be chasing after this. And so that was really great. But we got the stamp of approval from Sundance, which made suddenly our foreign corpse movie people had to like, really lean forward and and process and then maybe have

Daniel Scheinert 32:13
Robert Redford so this. So this is a good move.

Daniel Kwan 32:15
Exactly. Yeah. Robert Redford, his stamp of approval. And then, oddly enough, while we were at the Sundance Labs, we were so fed up with how intellectual we had become, we had been talking way too much about themes and characters and, and all this stuff that is really important. But after a while, as filmmakers who want to be on set who want to be making things and really expressing things that you can't even put into words, it was very frustrating. And we happen to get a song in from Columbia Records from one of our Commissioner buddies, Brian Downes, who, who works at Columbia, he sent it over, and it was turned down for what and he was like, What do you guys want to do with the song it's kind of a wild song. And so we were like, this is perfect. Let's turn off our brains. And let's do the opposite of what we'll be doing no theme, no character, no, just like pure ID, let's create something so wild and so frenetic and beautiful and strange. And then basically, will basically will hold nothing back. And will will will say to the, the label, like I dare you to let us make this. If they actually let us make it and we'll have to go make it. And so we did that. We put that online, instantly a viral hit. And so we got the viral hit, we got the Sundance stamp of approval, and suddenly making the foreign incoax movie made a lot of sense to you know, certain investors obviously, we still scared away a lot of people but yeah, we're really lucky.

Alex Ferrari 33:41
No, it's it's it was the right place. Right time. Right product. And also, the thing is, a lot of people might not see this in your films, but there's so much emotion in the characters. There's like, you know, everything everywhere. You're you know, you're tearing up like it's yeah, they're hot dog fingers. But there's so much emotion behind what's going on. Same thing with Swiss Army Man, like you tear up watching that film. So it's not just insanity for insanity or gag for Gag sake. You know, there's, there's heart behind it. And that's what stick makes you because, you know, I can't say anybody can come up with a 40 corpse idea. But in the wrong hands. It's a movie about a 14 corpse total but yeah, and what you guys did you elevated it and that's because what Sundance saw in your work, you're like, Oh, there's more here than just the gag. The gag is just super It's interesting. It's no one's ever seen this before. And that's what's really beautiful about what you guys are doing. Now. Now you guys, you know we all as directors, we're all on the onset. And there's always that one day on set if not every day, but always that one day specifically the the entire world is coming crashing down around you. The world is coming to an end. You're not going to make your day you're going to lose the actor. The sun has gone the camera fell in the lake What was that day for you on Swiss Army Man? And how did you overcome it?

Daniel Kwan 35:06
We probably have different answers for this. But yeah, go first. Yeah,

Daniel Scheinert 35:10
We shot sorry man in like five weeks and a bunch of we had a bunch of travel days in there too. So it wasn't even like five days of shooting per week. And week four, we did four night shoots in a row. And it was like all the bear stuff and like, and we just burned the candle at both ends and started going insane. And

Daniel Kwan 35:34
I thought I was gonna want everyone's getting sick.

Daniel Scheinert 35:36
Yeah, I thought I was at rock bottom at that point. And then I got sick after that, as we traveled up to Eureka, with a small crew to get all the beautiful redwoods stuff. So like on day one or two of wandering around the redwoods that morning, Quan like wanting to rewrite the scene, again, we were constantly rewriting while shooting on that one was not a good idea. And so like, and he was like, we don't have time to rewrite it. Oh, well, but it's a bad scene. Let's go shoot it. And I was sick and sad and demoralized. And that was how we started our day. And then we went out into the woods. And while shooting it, I just started feeling like I was gonna pass out like just, and like hopeless. And we were just kind of a boring scene where the camera we're just doing normal coverage. But I was like, the movies going to be a disaster. It's not going to work. That's not going to work. Dan hates it. I don't even know how to give notes on this scene. I like walked away and walked up to my producer Jonathan Wong. And I was like, I don't think I don't know if I'm I don't know if I'm gonna make it. And he's like, what's up? Apparently, I said something. Like I said something where he he interpreted as like Daniel thinks he's gonna die. But I thought what I was saying was that I couldn't finish the movie, but I'm not sure what if I was speaking English. I was like, I was like, You were gone. I was like, close to a mental breakdown. And that seemed turned out great. It's great. The writing was fine. Like in the edit. We like our met him edited it together. And we watched him. We're like, What the fuck is good. That day was so sad. I guess I don't have to direct I guess the key to directing is to walk away is to walk away and get sad. And it'll turn out good. But uh, but yeah, we did. We learned a lot of lessons on that movie about how to manage morale, you know, and, and that that's a huge deal on a feature that like, it's not just about do you have a good idea and a good plan? It's about like, are you taking care of yourself?

Daniel Kwan 37:35
Are you take care of your crew?

Daniel Scheinert 37:37
Are you taking care of your crew and, and we and we left that one being like, whew, a lot of room for improvement. You know, like it got too hard.

Daniel Kwan 37:46
My quick stories last day, or sorry, the last scene of the movie is everyone on the beach. I'm sorry, spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it. There's a beach. There's A beach. Everyone's on the beach.

Alex Ferrari 37:57
There's some there's some beans.

Daniel Kwan 37:58
Yeah, exactly. And then we, you know, a small budget, no lighting equipment. Nothing. We literally we had to wait for, you know, the 1520 minutes of magic hour to shoot that entire scene. And it was Radcliffe's birthday. I remember. And Radcliffe really wanted to lie down in the water, even though it's freezing cold. Like we're like Daniel we have, we have a dummy. And he's like, no, no, no, I want to be here. I want to like I think it's important for Paul to see me here to be part of this and like, okay, great. And so we neurotically blocked it all out and tried to like come up with a plan to shoot that whole scene, which is like, you know, 1213 It feels like 12 setups, right? It's like everyone has their own Spielberg pushing on like in the medium shot plus three or four wise plus a couple of very specific shots between Radcliffe and Paul. Anyways, it was a lot of set shots. And we had to do it in 15 minutes. And so we literally we just our anyway, I think we on our No, I feel like we once by the time we started shooting, it was like half an hour and we basically just didn't cut we went we basically we made the plan and Larkin was operating for the whole movie or DP. And so he knew exactly like when, where to move from each setup. And so we'd be like, Okay, we got it. Next up. Okay, we got it next. Okay, we got it. Next up, okay. Now, everyone, all the actors get ready, you're gonna shoot your one shot and we're just gonna do a couple takes back and forth and we move on to the next person. And like I said, I don't know how many times we cut but we really like there was no time to sleep. You know, we just went like, Okay, now you're close up. Okay, now you're close up. No, you're close up. And then we missed the last final interaction between Paul and and Daniel. As the sun was setting, we cranked the our ISO was cranked wide like like as high as possible.

Daniel Scheinert 39:50
Real bad. And Larkin was just muttering we have to stop.

Daniel Kwan 39:53
Yeah, it was it was so grainy and like, and we're like shit I think we might have last week. I don't know. I don't know if we got our funds. Only and it was just like a really just scary feeling to have to like, we didn't nail the ending. And, you know, we like like Shannon was saying we were kind of already, like, burnt out from the process of making this film. So that was definitely like, that was week two. Yeah, that was.

Daniel Scheinert 40:19
Yeah, that's the end of week two. Yeah.

Daniel Kwan 40:22
So that was really scary. And you know, we ultimately finagle some some

Daniel Scheinert 40:26
Was it week one because maybe on Friday, I sort of remember the schedule in my head, but it was fast. I remember as being like, Oh, my God, we just started and now we're shooting the ending.

Daniel Kwan 40:35
Yeah. And we're exhausted. And we're exhausted. And like, yeah, I guess it's a short film. We're Yeah. So we just learned a lot of the limits of of our, you know, of our budget versus our ambition.

Daniel Scheinert 40:46
But we've been, I will say, like, you know, I hear stories of films that's gone wrong. And I've and makes me feel so lucky. That like, like, it's, it's been hard and things have gone wrong, but just because it's just because it was ambitious, not because of like, we've been so lucky that, you know, we haven't worked with assholes. And that, like, we've had good producers and that we've headed off a lot of the really disastrous types of things that can go wrong before. You know, we got to set so we're Yeah, we're such lucky filmmakers that you know,

Daniel Kwan 41:22
These are our horses.

Daniel Scheinert 41:23
These are ours. Like I was tired, and it was hard.

Alex Ferrari 41:26
Yeah, it's not like Coppola on apocalypse. Now. You're not in the jungle for three years with a gun to your head. So it's not putting things into perspective.

Daniel Kwan 41:34
Yes, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
That's No, those are no, I feel but I feel both of those. I love the Best Directing tip just walk away depressed, and it'll come out fine.

Daniel Scheinert 41:46
Weird. I mean, we did kind of thing this was starting man, there was a part of a masochistic part of us that we're like, it's about a guy kind of losing his mind in the woods. I think that might happen to us while we do this, but maybe that'll make it an interesting movie. This will be our Apocalypse Now.

Alex Ferrari 42:05
I was about to say this is very Apocalypse Now a very method directing. It's very,

Daniel Scheinert 42:11
I don't aspire to do for that. Yeah. Now, I like having fun.

Alex Ferrari 42:17
So speaking of fun, I just was I had the pleasure of watching everything everywhere, all at once. A couple of weeks ago. I think at this point, we can we can half ago, I saw it. And as I'm sitting there watching it in theater. I'm just looking at it and going. I'm so glad this is in existence. I'm so glad somebody put this out into our art mold over our universe. And then hotdog fingers show up. And I'm like, oh my god, I love this film. There's Hochberg fingers. I have to ask, how and it's such a beautiful and I joke, but it's such a beautifully done movie. And, and I'm not smoking about again. But that's it. I promise you there'll be some YouTube comments saying no. Smoking uh, but no. But honestly, though, I'm watching it. And it's, you know, Michelle Yeoh is a is a goddess. Data from the Goonies oh my god, what a powerhouse actor. I was not. When I saw him. I was like, Oh, look, it's data from Goonies Oh, he got work. Fantastic. You know, that's why that's the first thought. And then I'm like, holy crap. He's really good.

Daniel Kwan 43:26
Yeah. And then underestimate data.

Alex Ferrari 43:30
I heard his voice when I heard his voice. For the first time I have this data. He's like, I just because I've seen the Guney 1000 times. Of course, yeah. Jamie Lee Curtis, and then just the whole cast that you put together. It is such a beautiful ballet of insanity. And emotion. It's remarkable how. And I have to ask you the same question again. How on God's green earth? Did you guys come up with this idea?

Daniel Scheinert 43:54
Yeah, I mean, I feel like we could do a whole podcast one day about where ideas come from and how it's a mystery and what isn't the human brain? And how does neuroscience work? And this is of the neurons firing that make us giggle? And then at what point does do we then test that against the culture to see if it's something worth putting out there as opposed to just an inside joke? And much of that is, like, with intent, and how much of that is pure luck or just like subconscious, you know? This thing's like

Daniel Kwan 44:26
Like, we're, we're all discovering that genius doesn't come from individual ideas don't really come from individuals. We're all just conduits for this like bigger, mimetic battle that's happening all around us.

Daniel Scheinert 44:37
We're gonna get philosophical with your very simple

Alex Ferrari 44:40
ExI love it. I love it. So you're channeling, channeling

Daniel Kwan 44:43

Alex Ferrari 44:43
From the ether from the ether from

Daniel Kwan 44:45
It's all from the ether. And I think the only thing that makes us different and I think the thing that is our superpower is we say, Yes,

Daniel Scheinert 44:51
We say yes to the idea that we haven't seen that sound unproduced. Yeah,

Daniel Kwan 44:56
We say yes to the to the bad ideas, we say yes to the things that should not be A mostly because the moment we tell ourselves, oh, this shouldn't be made. We we question the angles, like why not? Hold on, but it didn't resonate with me. This is interesting. Yeah. Oh,

Daniel Scheinert 45:20
If it sounds on producible, that means no one else is going to beat us to it.

Daniel Kwan 45:24
There's also that

Alex Ferrari 45:24
There's no competition. There's no competition.

Daniel Scheinert 45:27
There is like, I was just talking about the philosophy of ideas. And there's, there's this book impro by Keith Johnstone. It's like an improv book that I read in an acting school. And he has a chapter about creativity and about how, you know, effortless it is for the human mind. But it's hard for a lot of people because it's trained out of us, like our school system, and our culture teaches us how to curate and focus and ignore, you know, playful ideas. But that like, it's, it's like, if you don't do that, like if you talk to like hunter gatherer cultures and stuff, like it's creativity is like, effortless and it's everywhere, and that there was an he loves. There's some anecdote about some like, that's like an Inuit tribe or something that like, one of those tribes that has, you know, 20 words for snow. And they think that there is a sculpture inside of every rock. That is that is that has to be discovered. Not that there's a sculptor who's really good at it's like, and they're like, so instead of being like, Dan Quan is a really good sculptor. The way that the tribe talks about it, apparently, is there like there's a lot of weird rocks around lately, like what's with all the, all the rocks have some really interesting animals inside lately, and I just thought it's such a beautiful counterpoint to how we normally talk about, you know, creativity,

Alex Ferrari 46:52
And not to spoil anything, but you know, there might be a rock or two.

Daniel Kwan 46:55
Yeah, they're pretty weird rock. Yeah. Weird. But yeah, I feel like to sum it up, I feel like every idea we had in this movie, a 10 year old could have come up with, you know, like, it's all it's no hotdog hands and cocking rocks. It's like, there's nothing special about any of this stuff. It's just the fact that we, we chased it, you know, and I think I think we're like there's a sort of naivety there where we like, foolishly chase after these things.

Daniel Scheinert 47:24
Ourreal skill isn't coming up with weird ideas. It's convincing people to invest millions of dollars and to risk their entire artistic reputation out those good ideas.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
You guys should do a masterclass on how to convince people to give you money to do ideas, because you guys are the masters at this because not once but twice with to like, again, the pitch How is that? How do you pitch this? They could such a visual thing? And and how do you attract the cast that you do? Like, it's, that's the other thing is that like, you guys are going off and doing it with some unknown actors. You're bringing in some of the top actors around to do the show yo, was Michelle Yoda how she has not been a lead in a movie outside of Hong Kong is beyond me. Like I could I heard that I was like,

Daniel Kwan 48:12
I know, we felt the same way. We were like, what?

Daniel Scheinert 48:15
We did not know that. And so let's tour

Alex Ferrari 48:18
What she's she's so she says she's a goddess. She's amazing what she does, and how she how she played this part was so beautifully. I mean, it's so beautifully directed. And everything is just, it's, it's just going better. As I'm talking to you. The images are flying back into my head. Hotdog fingers. I still have nightmares, by the way, about duck fingers. When I first saw the motions. I was just like, why has no one ever done this before? And I go, I know why. It's disturbing. It's a wonderful, beautiful way. It's like, Oh, my

Daniel Kwan 49:00
But to our earlier point, like you say, why? How come no one has done this before? Ever since our movie has come out? It's only been about a month now. But yeah, people have been sharing past work that feel like somehow we ripped it off or whatever that we've never seen before. So like there's been two or three different instances where people have sent us hot dog finger scenes from other movies that we've never seen. Or, like, you know, there was a children's book, my friend sent me a children's book, where they're just to talking rocks on a hill. And I was like, This is amazing. You know, like it's all there. It's on the ether. It's just it's how you cook it you know, it's how you it's how you make the stew that's that's

Alex Ferrari 49:36
No pun intended. No pun intended with no look. I mean, it's not that it's not that we haven't seen that before. I can't remember seeing it but like you see like a movie like I forgot one of the Spy Kids had guys made of thumbs, you know and like giant Yeah, you know, like it's not that but the way you guys that fingers in the way the movement and stuff was just so and I don't want to make this a podcast about the hotdog fingers but it's just such Have a just an amazing visual. How did you guys do the quality of visual effects on such a low budget? Because this is, this is not $100 million Avengers $100 million as a catering budget for Avengers. But how did you guys use it to make because the visual effects are remarkable. They really are.

Daniel Scheinert 50:18
Wow, thank you. Yeah, I mean, we, you know, coming up in music videos, we did a lot of our own effects at first. And then like I said, we

Daniel Kwan 50:26
But that was kind of our calling card, like, labels would reach out to us be like, Hey, do you have any cool visual effect ideas that are cheap? Oh, yeah,

Daniel Scheinert 50:34
Those guys who can do like, yeah, like tons of effects for no money, because you just do them yourself. And that was our, our thing. And then we learned a lot about practical effects, mostly by working with Jason because of our day, our production designer. And, and kind of brought all those tricks to this movie. And so a lot of it's like, not that fancy, you know, and, and while writing, we would write gags that we knew could play to our strengths. So we were very rarely writing things that were going to require, like a huge VFX team to strategize and bring on 3d generalists to design myths to figure that out, you know, and instead we're like, oh, no, it's, it's all going to be practical. And when it's not, we know which tricks we're going to use. And they're not too hard to pull off.

Daniel Kwan 51:27
Yeah, we're using a lot of the same techniques that, you know, filmmakers in the 80s were made, we're using, it's the only difference is in the 80s, or the 20s. Or even like wondering, oh, yeah, yeah, a trip to the moon, a trip to the moon, like, just like the match cuts with the with the poof of smoke, like, we're just using those same exact techniques. Except the difference now is, we don't have to do 20 takes to get the practical effect, right, we can do one and a half good takes, okay takes and then we fix it in post with with with our very, you know, rudimentary skills as after effects artists. And so we're kind of cheating every way we can to make the illusion of, of these effects work for as little effort and as little money as possible, which is why I think people say, like, the one talking about the fact that we had about like five to 600 visual effects shots. And it was done with a team of like five to seven people, we say seven, because we're also including ourselves in that number.

Daniel Scheinert 52:26
And there were a couple of people who came on for a few weeks, but the like, core team was pretty small, like really small, the coaching was like our friends were people. And we all just like had synced hard drives. And we would just like, we did it on After Effects. And I think some of it's very impressive what the guys pulled off, you know, and somewhat was very ambitious, like the kind of bagels, bagels. But the other kind of secret weapon is that Kwan has great aesthetic taste. And with a small team, and it all being an After Effects, it was possible for like, Dan to push certain shots over the finish line. And instead of giving like 20 emails to try to refine it, he could just be like, great, give me the project file, open it up, I'm going to spend an hour or two, that's exactly how I want to feel we're done. But like, we didn't have to do all the effects that we also got to put our fingerprints on it.

Daniel Kwan 53:21
Yeah, efficiency there. Because I think one of the reasons why so many visual effects in movies look the same is because they, they there's so many layers of communication between the director and the visual effects artists now that you kind of as a director, you go into these post houses, and you're not really allowed to play that much you're not allowed to explore. And that's really frustrating as directors who love visual effects. And so this was a way for us to be able to have our cake and eat it, we can, we can do it for less money. And we get to have our fingerprints all over and really play with the style of how it's going to feel.

Daniel Scheinert 53:59
But people who are great at visual effects. would listen to your comment about our effects looking incredible. And they'll be like, no, they don't. Because a lot of it's like real, real janky little janky. But there's like a charm to it. And it's about energy not about like, pause the pause the frame. That's a perfect shot, you know, kind of

Alex Ferrari 54:20
I've been I've been a VFX producer, a VFX supervisor, a lot of indie projects. So I mean, I understand you're janky but it's perfect for what you're trying to do. It's not it doesn't have to be Thanos throwing a moon at somebody. But that's not what that's about. And that's why I'm like even at that budget level, it still looks phenomenal. And you're so caught up with the kinetic energy of the scenes. I mean, the bagel stuff and all me you just get caught up with it you just like you're in it because if I'm looking at all that law, that comp was just a picture sort of blurred that a little bit more if they could have just comp that a little bit better or thrown. No, I wasn't there. I was in the story. So with that, I'm sure if I go back and analyze it, I'm sure I'm sure you guys go back and analyze it like, I did I do that 100 $200 million movies. I'm like, how did that get through? Like, obviously see, that's a really, when my wife is looking at a movie and going, that's a bad green screen. And it's like a $200 million movie. I'm like, oh, figured it out. Have a few more at last couple questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Daniel Scheinert 55:31
Adjust your goals, bro. breaking in. Breaking in shouldn't be your goal, because a lot of people break in and then they're sad. And they make the world a worse place. And they make like upsetting weird content. And they talking about us talking about us.

Alex Ferrari 55:48
Look what happens when you follow your dreams, everybody.

Daniel Scheinert 55:51
Turns out, I'm cynical, this was all a front. All these nice jokes for you kids. As you know, I like to say that, like, if you love making movies, chase that feeling find people that you love making movies with. And, and maybe you'll end up getting paid to do it and and find a niche, and then that'll be great. Or maybe not, and you'll still be happy and, and having the therapeutic beautiful experience of making and sharing artwork, you know. And that breaking in can sometimes be the worst thing for you, you know, if you don't get to make what you love, or with people that you love doing it with. And so, it'll happen. If you just make stuff you love. You know, you'll find your niche in the world, you know, and that niche might mean your local film festival. And that's dope. Awesome, you know, or it might be a 24. And that's cool, too.

Alex Ferrari 56:57
And that and that's fine, too. And let's just give a shout out to a 24 Thank you for allowing and helping movies like this to put on to the world because there's just really isn't your only isn't that there? Isn't that another a 24?

Daniel Scheinert 57:10
Their fighting the good fight getting tricking people into watching provocative challenging things.

Alex Ferrari 57:16
Right! It's fantastic. Now what is the lesson that took you guys the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in lif?

Daniel Kwan 57:24
Longest to learn. I'm trying to think of lessons I'm still learning right now, maybe something I'm trying to figure out is this balance of, of, it's more than work life. Because I think work life is like, that's, that's a given. Everyone has to tackle that. But it's like, it's from a leadership position. Because, you know, again, I never wanted to be a filmmaker, I never wanted to be a director, I never wanted to be a leader. And so a lot of this feels like it's been put upon me in a way that like, makes me very uncomfortable and unsure of but the balance of, of being a a leader, who is also who's just as concerned with the final product, as the process is something I think I'll always be learning and always reflecting on, I think with this movie, we got really close to a perfect process, in that and the fact that like, it's the most ambitious thing we've ever done, it was is like foolishly, foolishly ambitious for how much money and time we got for to make it. And yet, it was the most fun, the most loving the most just gracious environment. And I like I really, I really think it was like, it was so much easier than so sorry, man, even though you know, technically it like it's like, exponentially harder in every way. As far as production goes. But because we went in with the the goal of creating a, an environment that was just really fulfilling, and, you know, all push towards this idea of letting everyone who walked on tourist sets, be able to show off their best version of themselves. You know, that was like one of our goals was to empower people to just, you know, become the best version of themselves on our set. And it was so fulfilling and so fun. And I have so many great memories of the shoot in a way that I can't say the same for our previous work. And I think this is something I think we'll always be chasing after because if we can have it all if we can be ambitious and you know, creative directors who also just build in beautiful environments for peace. able to exist in into Korean like that that is going to be such a beautiful, beautiful thing to prove to our industry, you know. to myself into our crew, but also to the rest the industry.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:22
That's a beautiful answer. By the way. That's a beautiful answer. That was a really wonderful answer. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Daniel Scheinert 1:00:32
Ah, this is always hard. I like giving different answers, you know,

Daniel Kwan 1:00:37
You go first.

Daniel Scheinert 1:00:42
I love I love a crazy documentary. Love American movie, the movie, boys trying to make their movie not available for rent digitally anywhere. For some reason. You got to figure this out. But

Daniel Kwan 1:00:56
The first thing that my brain went to was Magnolia, probably. That's why I just keep returning back to because it's a movie that does everything wrong. And it feels so right. And it doesn't matter. You know, like, and I'm like, I wanted to be chasing that as a filmmaker for a long time. Just that feeling that I got when I watched Magnolia for the first time

Daniel Scheinert 1:01:23
My brain just went to like, Moonlight is insane. It's just like the hype, it pays off is great. So beautiful. And like it was like at the right place at the right time where like our culture was trying to like quit being so homophobic. And like, it was like, here's how like, here's, like, empathize with this person, like 100% successful and it was like, just like this, like, epically important thing for our culture. And for me, you know, to just like to fall in love with this love story. And for a beautiful heart. Yeah, to thing and for it to win Best Picture. Yeah. And then for it to go. And he feels alive. Yeah.

Daniel Kwan 1:02:04
I'll go back to one of my childhood favorites, which was it's probably the movie I've seen more times than any other movie. It's Groundhog's Day.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:11
It's a masterpiece.

Daniel Kwan 1:02:14
Yeah, it's a masterpiece. And it became like a spiritual guide for this movie, because it was a film about, about nihilism about the treasury of existence, but wrapped up in a really fun comedy. And they and then he pulls off both those things wonderfully. And I was like, I want to do that with our movie, The whatever we do with this film, it has to pull off both of those things. It has to be so much fun. And so philosophical and insincere. And so the long answer is only

Daniel Scheinert 1:02:47
Princess Mononoke gay. Oh, yeah, just blew my mind when I was a kid. And then I've been I've been thinking about it lately. And just how like, brilliant. Like the the ambiguity of good and evil is in that and how important it was for me as a kid to like to chew on that, you know, when like, we're usually fed these kind of like violence is the answer beat the bad guy stories, like just go blow up their building was like, is the moral of, you know, a lot of, you know, action adventure movies. And it's like, no, this one's confusing, and it's about people with different interests. And also, you're gonna fall in love with a little wolf girl. It's very confusing and exciting for me as a kid.

Daniel Kwan 1:03:35
For my last answer, I don't want to say this because it's so obvious, but I have to say it just because I need to pay tribute to how much it the movie means to me. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Never heard of it.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:50
Never heard of it. Who's in it? No. No, that's me. boundary is a master. I wish he would be making more movies. Now. I want somebody please listen to give him a budget. Let him do whatever he wants

Daniel Scheinert 1:04:03
Back up with Charlie. He spirals a little like, I think I would if I didn't have Dan.

Daniel Kwan 1:04:10
Yeah. And you got to have a balance is just, yeah, it's the movie that like that. Really. I feel like it changed me as a person and made me understand. Yeah, my world, my the, my place in the world in a completely different way. It was, I think it was the first time I experienced meta modernism in the wild. This this idea of trying to get beyond postmodern, like post post modernism. And it was so cathartic and healing for me to see that play out in a story for the first time. So that yeah, it's incredible. And also, it's just so much fun, like the filmmaking of it. It's just so fun. And obviously we stole so much from boundary when we started making these videos and even in our features, you can see his fingerprints in it as well. It's all there.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:55
Yeah, guys, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you guys so much. On a continued success, I tell everybody to please go watch everything everywhere all at once. It is. It is a brilliant piece of cinema and I'm so glad it exists in the world. Thank you guys for doing you. Thank you for being a conduit for the insane. And to bring it into our universe, my friends. Thank you so much.

Daniel Kwan 1:05:17
Thank you for having us. This was fun.

Daniel Scheinert 1:05:17

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Denis Villeneuve Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Denis Villeneuve born (October 3, 1967) is a Canadian filmmaker. He is a four-time recipient of the Canadian Screen Award (formerly Genie Award) for Best Direction, winning for Maelström in 2001, Polytechnique in 2009, Incendies in 2010 and Enemy in 2013. The first three of these films also won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Motion Picture, while the latter was awarded the prize for best Canadian film of the year by the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Internationally, he is known for directing several critically acclaimed films, including the thrillers Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), as well as the science fiction films Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). For his work on Arrival, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. He was awarded the prize of Director of the Decade by the Hollywood Critics Association in December 2019.

His latest film, Dune (2021), based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival; the film received critical acclaim, was a commercial success at the box office internationally, is currently his highest grossing film to date, and earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, with the film itself winning a leading six Oscars at the 94th Academy Awards

Below are all the screenplays written by Denis Villeneuve 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).

DUNE (2021)

Screenplay by  Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts & Eric Roth – Read the screenplay!

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Directed by  Denis Villeneuve – Read the screenplay!

ARRIVAL (2016)

Directed by  Denis Villeneuve – Read the screenplay!

SICARIO (2015)

Directed by  Denis Villeneuve – Read the screenplay!


Directed by  Denis Villeneuve – Read the screenplay!

ENEMY (2013)

Directed by  Denis Villeneuve – Read the screenplay!