BPS 210: Getting in the Door Screenwriting for Netflix with Alan Trezza

Alan Trezza wrote WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, a horror-thriller set during the “Satanic Panic” craze of the 1980s. It was directed by Marc Meyers (MY FRIEND DAHMER) and starred Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson and Johnny Knoxville.

The film made it’s US premiere at the 2019 Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin and was released on all digital outlets in early 2020. Alan also wrote the zombie-comedy BURYING THE EX, which was directed by horror icon Joe Dante (GREMLINS) and starred Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene and Alexandra Daddario. The film premiered at the 2014 Venice Film Festival and received a theatrical run in the summer of 2015.
Alan has sold scripts to Paramount Pictures and Miramax Films and is currently developing a LatinX-themed horror film and a supernatural-thriller TV series.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Yeah, when you started working that first job as an assistant, what are some of the lessons that you pulled out of there? About just the business in general? What are those things that that they don't tell you about in film school but they you know, the hard knocks the shrapnel as I call it, that you get what are those things that you got in that first job.

Alan Trezza 0:21
Relationships are everything cannot meet enough people, your Rolodex cannot be big enough. Every moment you're not at the desk should be a moment spent having lunch with someone new cocktails with someone new dinner with someone new, or, you know, going on a hike with someone that you hadn't met prior or someone who's a friend of so and so's. So your network can never be fast enough or large enough. It really is a business built on relationships.

Alex Ferrari 0:55
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome to the show Alan Trezza. How you doin Alan?

Alan Trezza 1:10
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:12
Thank you so much for coming on the show man. I appreciate I appreciate you coming on. And you reached out to me that you've been listening to a couple of episodes recently and gotten hooked. So I appreciate that.

Alan Trezza 1:23
Definitely, definitely. Yeah, it's actually funny. It was the episode with Carrie woods that really sort of got me thinking about my crazy journey, becoming a writer and a filmmaker and a producer. Because my first internship during my senior year of college was actually for Woods entertainment, which was Carrie woods, this company. So it just really got me thinking about the old days and the crazy journey that I've been on. So yep. And then, ever since then, I've just been listening to all the past podcasts. And like I said, I read your book shooting for the mob, which I thought was one of the most true accounts of trying to get a movie made. And just been a fan ever since.

Alex Ferrari 2:04
I really appreciate that man. Yeah, I some people after they read that book, or while they're reading it, they call me up and like, I don't know, if you're gonna make it. I'm like, I made it. I trust me, I made it through.

Alan Trezza 2:15
Yeah, yeah, you made a positive out of a big negative, which is a lot of a lot of what it takes to make it in this industry, because there's more negatives than there are positives. But if you can change those negatives into a positive, then you're on the right track.

Alex Ferrari 2:30
So why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry, sir?

Alan Trezza 2:36
Why? Well, because when I was 11 years old, I saw a Clockwork Orange, and

Alex Ferrari 2:42
Stop for a second 11 years old, you saw Clockwork Orange?

Alan Trezza 2:45
Yes, I did

Alex Ferrari 2:46
Your parents are, your parents are awesome.

Alan Trezza 2:48
My parents did not know about. It was a big secret for many, many years. But I saw that movie. And for most people that that can also be seen as a negative, but I turned it into a positive because it made me realize that films were not just about special effects, and jokes, it films were a way of communicating ideas and thoughts and taking chances and asking tough questions. And it was really an eye opener. As you can imagine, I had been an 11 year old and seeing that film. Let me just just the first 10 minutes. And I, I just said to myself, how did this come into existence? Who's responsible for this? And of course, it was Stanley Kubrick. So I would go to the library and pull every book on him and then go through his entire ova. You know, Barry Lyndon in 2001, A Space Odyssey and the shining. And each and every film was more experimental different than the last, constantly pushing boundaries and in a way perfect. He made perfect films, in my opinion. You can improve upon them. They're the best versions of those stories. And ever since then, I've sort of been infatuated with films and making movies and that's what led me on this journey.

Alex Ferrari 4:11
So how did you get into this insanity?

Alan Trezza 4:14
Well, yeah, um, you know, I'm from Long Island. It's about as far away from Hollywood as as you can possibly get. But I went to college in New York City at Fordham University, and took every film course possible. My weekends were spent with a Super Eight camera and making movies with classmates. And then also, like I said, you know, getting an internship or was entertainment and working for Kerry Woods, who, at the time was one of the most incredible producers. He was responsible for night Shawn Mullins first movie. You know, Scott Rosenberg's first scripts he produced, he produced scream, Cop Land James Mangold movie. So I really wanted to learn, you know what it was like to get in on the ground. on floor and working for Woods was was incredible upon graduating Karis VP gave me a list of names of executives in Hollywood because I was really thinking about making a move out here where I am currently. And the top name on the list was Robbie Brenner. Robbie Brenner was an executive at Miramax Films at the time, and flew out here with a one way ticket, stayed on a few couches and eventually got an interview with Robbie, and got the job to be her assistant. And the first script that Robbie gave me and this is in the late 90s. I think this is 1999. The first script that Robbie gave me to read and cover was the Dallas Buyers Club. And she said read this Alan, I'm going to make this one day. Flash forward to 2014. It's the Oscars and she's nominated for Best Picture. And Robbie told me a very valuable lesson. She said, This business is all about passion. If you have passion for material, if you have passion for filmmaking and film, and films, you're going to make it and she's been an incredible mentor. Now she's running the film division at Mattel. And she's in London making Barbie right now with a Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie. So that's what sort of got me started. And I was on a executive path for a long time. I was a development executive for Drew Barrymore of flower films, which was incredible. And one day I get a call and it's Robbie again, saying that Tony and Ridley Scott are looking for a development executive. I said, Great. Good luck finding one for them. She goes, No, I'm calling because you're the guy. And I was like, Well, I kind of been hanging out with Drew for a while, you know, working on some rom coms and stuff. She goes, No, no, no, no one loves movies like you. They love movies, you love movies, you have that in common. It's hard to find out here. So four months of interviews later, I was working at scot free with Tony and Ridley, you know, my heroes. And that was an incredible experience. But all the while I kind of wanted to make my like my own stories and write my own sort of tie tales and movies. So when one day I had the idea to write a short film about a guy whose ex girlfriend comes back as a zombie, and can't get rid of our cat killer. So what C to do, and that turned into a short film called bearing dx, which played out a few festivals. And a few years after that ended up getting made as a feature film directed by another one of my heroes, Joe Dante. So that's what got me started.

Alex Ferrari 7:44
Yeah, well, and we'll get we're definitely gonna dive into buried with the axes. I'm really interested in that story. But I didn't know that you worked with Ridley and Tony. So I have to ask, what is it like working with those legends? You know, you know, Tony, you know, rest his soul was he literally changed action movies made. The moment he made Top Gun. Yeah, all action movies changed. And then a few years later, Michael Bay showed up with the rock and bad boys and then all action films, Jason again. But Tony was one of those guys that just even to the very end, he was more experimental than any of his younger contemporaries. I mean, you look at Domino, you look at on fire man on fire. He was doing things that nobody else had the balls to do. I mean, he was he was on the edge creatively and also technically just stuff that he was doing with the film. So what was it like working with Tony and then obviously Ridley's?

Alan Trezza 8:39
Yeah, really changed the game? And in the Sci Fi field, the epics. What was it like, you would not know from being in a room with them that they were the legends that they are. That's to say, the most down to earth, the most jovial, the most approachable, people you can imagine. So much so that I had to like, at times remind myself, oh my god, I'm across the table from the guy who made Blade Runner, or I'm across across the table, from the guy who made Crimson Tide. I remember one day, you know, and they were just like, like Robbie told me they just love movies. So they would come into my office at various times just to talk about movies. And hey, did you see this or what have you seen that you liked? And we were just kind of go on and on and on. And every once in a while I have to be like, Oh my God, that's Ridley Scott talking to me. Because they they're just so so down to earth and they were so cool. And one of the greatest compliments I can give them is, you know, they were very close, but you could not get more different in terms of their art. Right? Or, you know, I mean, most people are sort of, you know, carbon copies of their siblings and stuff like that. But you could not get more different than than Tony and read but they were each incredible at what They did. And just so funny and so witty, but always, always strive for perfection. They always strive for perfection, but at the same time tried to have a good time during that, that that mission that they were after.

Alex Ferrari 10:14
Was there any creative lessons you learned, it's ours, how they worked, how they broke down a script, what they, they looked at, at story, how they trip up, I'm assuming you, you were there, from the script point all the way to when you saw something actually get produced and how it might have changed. Along the line looking through their lenses. What are those things that you learned there?

Alan Trezza 10:35
Yeah, with Tony with Tony, it was a lot about character. It was character, character, character character. First, if we can fall in love with the character, we'll be along for the ride. The character's journey is the story. Ridley, of course, is more of a world builder. So he was really interested in the world and the milieu and the setting and the time period. And tons of research had to go into to Robin Hood and to gladiator and getting all those details correct. If he had a handle on the world, he had a handle on the story. And with with Tony, it was more about character character. So that's that's sort of what I learned from both of them and trying to merge the two in order to make something new, truly remarkable.

Alex Ferrari 11:19
When you started working that first job as an assistant, what are some of the lessons that you pulled out of there? About just the business in general? What are those things that that they don't tell you about in film school, but they you know, the hard knocks the shrapnel as I call it, that you get what are those things that you got in that first job.

Alan Trezza 11:40
Relationships are everything, you cannot meet enough people, your Rolodex cannot be big enough. Every moment you're not at the desk should be a moment spent having lunch with someone new cocktails with someone new dinner with someone new, or, you know, going on a hike with someone that you hadn't met prior or someone who's a friend of so and so's. So your network can never be fast enough or large enough. It really is a business built on relationships. And then again, perseverance, you know, a lot of the people that were coming up back then, who are now you know, very big stars now in the filmmaking world and the producing world, were people that just hustled I mean, they were just constantly constantly pushing that, that mountain that, that rock up that mountain, you know, the Sisyphus example, just constantly, constantly doing and, and then, you know, again, the passion, the people with a passion for it, the people who, when you when they got on the phone, and they were pitching you something, they weren't like car salesmen. They were really, really in love with what the script that they had, or the idea that they wanted to give you. So those were the the main main lessons.

Alex Ferrari 13:00
You mentioned, networking and building relationships, which is such a such a crucial part of our business. And I've discovered that years ago, how do you do it properly, in your opinion, because I found so many young writers, young filmmakers, young actors, they walk up to someone like you or me at a party, and they just start like, hey, read my script, hey, do this for me, Hey, can you connect it to this guy? I mean, you have no idea how many emails I get on a daily basis after like, someone comes on my show. And they're like, Hey, can you send this script to John Leguizamo? I'm like, no. That's not the way the world works. Can you explain to them how you should actually build and actually network and how to build authentic relationships?

Alan Trezza 13:43
Yeah. Well, to go back to Carrie woods, I got that internship from a cold call. I had actually seen screen at a test screening and said this is going to change genre movies. Who's involved in this? Okay, Wes. I know about Wes, Kevin Williamson, this up and coming screenwriter, but who's the person who kind of made the movie who produced it. And I saw that it was Carrie woods. I can't remember how I got the number. But he just so happened to have had an office in Chelsea, you know, not too far from Fordham University where I was going to school. And I found that number and I cold called and I just think there was something in my voice that was very honest, that I was very, you know, in very passionate about this business, and I wanted to be a part of it. And I think that that's something that you can't fake and whenever I'm approached by someone, and I can sense that passion, and I can sense that authenticity, then I'm more than likely to you know, engage. And then as I said, it's the sort of the used car salesman mentality or the people who sort of want to be in it for alternative reasons. They're going to have a more difficult time because we can sense that we have very good sort of BS detectors, right? So if they come at you being honest and true and just authentic and saying, Look, I know you don't know me, but I really want to do this. It's been my dream. And I've been writing scripts for X number of years. I think this one is the one which please read it. That's different than. So this isn't my first script. But it's incredible. And it's a masterpiece. And I'm going to be Kubrick one day, and Aronofsky wants to produce my first movie. And I've got CAA calling me and I've also got, you know, ICM calling me, it's kind of like, right, who are you going to trust more with? So if you're authentic, if you're honest, and if you're respectful to you know, respect people's times, respect people, you know, their privacy, I think you're going to be okay.

Alex Ferrari 15:53
You said something really important that I want to kind of dig into a little bit authenticity, not only the authenticity of when you're trying to pitch to not pitch somebody but trying to build a relationship to be truly authentic and being of service to that person. But do you believe that the reason for the people who succeed in our business is because of their own authenticity? Ridley and Tony, were authentic to who they were, they were not trying to be anybody else. Carrie Woods was not trying to be anybody else. You have not tried to be anybody else. That is the secret sauce that kind of sets us all apart from everybody else. Because if we all tried to be Quentin Tarantino, it's not going to work out.

Alan Trezza 16:30
Yeah, there was already one Quentin Tarantino

Alex Ferrari 16:32
He does a pretty good job with that.

Alan Trezza 16:34
That's right. Well, look, the best example I can give you as a personal example. I've been writing scripts for many, many, many years, and I've sold a few. The two that I've had made so far, were the ones I thought no one would be interested in. They were the ones only I was interested in. Okay. You know, a comedy about a guy whose ex girlfriend comes back as a zombie that was written before the Walking Dead was the number one show on TV that was written before zombie land that was written before World War Z. I wrote that because it was a story that I had that I wanted to see. And if I couldn't see it, at least it'd be there on paper. And if I wanted to see it, I could read it and picture it in my head. That one got made. My second film we Psalm in the darkness takes place in the 80s. It's about heavy metal and the Satanic Panic. That was written before Stranger Things that was written before the whole 80s Wave. I simply sat down and wanted to write a movie, I wanted to see a movie that was personal to me. I grew up in the 80s. I was in a heavy metal band, I had a lot of people thinking that I was a Satanist because I listened to Kane diamond. And I wanted to write a story about that, that ended up getting made. The other scripts that I sold, I've sold scripts to Paramount, I sold scripts to Miramax, those are on the shelf somewhere. They're commercial, for sure. And they ended up getting at studios. But as I said, it's the ones that were more personal to me that there was just some driving force behind them and other people got on board. And we pushed that mountain up that hill, and we got those movies made. So I think there's something to be said about that.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
So let's talk about Yeah, first step first film buried with the X urinate during the ex. That was short that you made first, right? So you produce a short How do you get the short? Yeah, to a feature which so many people listening have tried to do that myself included, by the way, trying to make short films to get an act to get a shot at a feature. So you didn't just get a feature. You also got it directed by a legend by the legendary Joe Dante. So what was the story from the short to the feature and getting Joe involved?

Alan Trezza 18:47
Okay, cool. So, the short, is something I'm extremely proud of. I directed it, I was one of the producers on it, I wrote it. We had a fantastic cast. The lead was John Francis Daley, from fixing geeks fame. Now a very, very famous writer, director. He's directed he's directing Dungeons and Dragons right now with Chris Pine. And one of the other leads was Daniel Harris from the Halloween franchise. You know, one of my favorite actresses growing up because I love those those movies so much. But I hadn't made that film just by calling in favors. As I said, everyone I knew everyone I had met along the way. And every company I worked with, I ended up getting a shot on the Paramount Genesis camera, which was incredible camera at the time. Yeah, my DP had a great relationship with Panda vision. And yeah, we got the panda vision genesis for a weekend. Just kind of checked it out and was like, oh, bring this back on Monday. gave it back on Monday. But yeah, that got made it was 15 minutes and played at a number of festivals, I think I think people really liked the tone, the energy. And of course, the cast was pretty cool and recognizable. We played at ComiCon and several other festivals. But the first step was really adapting it into a feature, I wasn't going to give it to an agent and say, Here's my short, make a feature of it, they needed sort of like a proof of concept, they needed a script. So before doing that, I sat down, and I had to kind of break apart that 15 minute short and see, okay, what's the story here, where's the 90 minute version of this movie, and a lot of changes had to take place, you know, and in a lot of ways, I have to kind of forget the short and start from scratch. But you know, after about three or four months of writing, I came up with a 90 minute screenplay that I gave to a bunch of friends. And they were very honest with me, they said, this is actually really, really funny. I left that almost every page. And, and after that, it was just the search for money. Of course, of course, we tried going out to studios, and there was some interest because at the time, this was at the time when like the studios had like their sort of their mini kind of genre divisions of their companies. I think like Paramount had one Fox had one Paramount Vantage. Atomic, I remember Fox comic. Yeah, they were kind of close on it, they because I mean, you know, it was, could be made for, you know, a good budget and which genre and, you know, comedic, so yeah, it just clicked all the boxes. But at the end of the day, they ended up passing. So we tried the studio route passed, again, is the passion to try to get it made that made me say, Okay, make this independently, you know, a lot of your favorite movies are the independent films and you know, out of Sundance and other festivals, maybe this one could be yours. So went to every AFM, which is the American Film Market that's which is in Santa Monica, California, once a year for about a week. People from all over the globe get together and they sell their movies and stuff like that. So I'd sneak in there because a badge is like $400 or something. So I kind of sneak in or just try to mingle with people. And eventually, thankfully, I did meet some producers, Carl Evanson, and Kyle tequila, they had a company, and they were based out of Texas, and they really believed in it, and they were getting a company together and thought that this could be made for a price. And they came on board and soon thereafter got the Joe's hands. I was meeting with Joe Dante, you know, the next day, couldn't believe it. I screwed up the first two minutes of the meeting, because I sat down and they said, I have to tell you. I was 13 years old when I saw the Halloween. And you could just see Jeremy like, Oh, God, thanks a lot for that. Like that, and I saw how far it goes. Thanks for making me feel alone. I said no, I didn't mean it like that. It didn't mean like that I meant is the best world transformation I've ever seen even better than John Landis is American Werewolf in London. Since then, you know, that was years and years ago, we're still friends, and we still email each other. And he's, he's just an incredible human being. But yeah, it was it was many, many years of just, as I said, networking, going places, meeting new people who's got money, who's interested in a zombie pick, this, this and that. And then finally, I remember you know, the movie had some starts and then stops and then starts and then stops. And then when I thought the movies, when I thought the movie was was basically dead and gone. World War Z came out, and ended up being the highest grossing film of Brad Pitt's career. And the next day, we got a call from some financers, who said, We hear you got a zombie pick. When can you get started? And we were like, yesterday, and they said, Go and we were shooting that movie. And that's how that happened.

Alex Ferrari 24:09
So between the moment that you finished the short to the moment you started production, how many years?

Alan Trezza 24:18
Conservatively five. I would say conservatively five.

Alex Ferrari 24:23
So this is the question I have to ask you, man. And this is such an important question because so many of us have to go through this. How did you get through those five years? How did you get the energy to continue to push this boulder up a hill with no no indication per se that it was actually going to get to its destination you had you had Joe Dante? Great. That's awesome. You had some elements to get the thing going, but even after the first year or two, you're just like, okay, is this gonna happen? Like how psychologically how did you get through it?

Alan Trezza 25:01
You know, I mentor a lot of kind of young up and coming screenwriters because I want them to learn the lessons that took me sometimes years to learn, I want them to learn it, you know, in an instant, to save them a lot of the hardships. The hardest part about making a movie is finding an idea that you fall in love. That's the hardest part. Okay. And if you have that, you're already on your way. Because in a lot of ways, it's like a marriage, there's gonna be some good years, there's gonna be some bad years. But if you truly love that idea, you're gonna stick with it. And that's the best analogy I can give you. Look, if it was an idea that I wasn't truly and head over heels in love with, we wouldn't be talking about this movie right now. Right? But it was a movie, it was an idea that I truly loved. And like with any relationship, there's going to be incredible highs and devastating lows. And it's just a matter of sticking by with, you know, the person that you fell in love with, or the idea you fell in love with. There's something there that keeps you going. Okay, and that's the idea. So if anyone's having writer's block, or, you know, doesn't have the energy to sort of get up and keep going. Odds are, they're not truly head over heels in love with the idea. But this was an idea that I was in love with. So I stuck with it.

Alex Ferrari 26:25
So were you on set, most of the time when you were making that film

Alan Trezza 26:29
Every single day. And Joe was incredibly collaborative.

Alex Ferrari 26:33
So I So question number one, there's always that day that the whole world is coming crashing down around you. How did you see how did if it was something that happened to you? Or was something that happened to the production or to Joe? And how did that person or that situation? How did you get through to the other side of that?

Alan Trezza 26:54
Well, thankfully, how I got through how we all got through was Joe. He was the captain of the ship, and the captain can not show nervousness, anxiousness, anger, or any type of anxiety or doubt. And Joe never did. And I remember I was on day two, which is usually on day two that I have found from, you know, the two movies that I've I've made. That's kind of, it's going to dictate where your movies kind of going day to day one, there's a lot of excitement, there's energy, you know, day two, you're kind of like more into it, but you're starting to kind of see where some of the cracks might be. So when day One day two came along, I remember, one of the producers came rolling up in a giant Escalade, and came and said that they wanted to talk to Joe and I said, Oh, here we go dope. And up until that time, you know, they had, like, happens to most independent films, they had slashed our budget, a pretty good amount. And we could only shoot with one camera. And we only had 20 days to shoot the film. So 20 days, one camera. Two cameras would be ideal, right? So you can get more coverage, you know, half the time, but one camera 20 days. I said, Okay, this thing is gonna look like clerks, unfortunately. What are you gonna do? Right? You can only put it down on sticks and shoot, and then kind of you can't get too creative, right? And I also think they like, got rid of our steadicam. I think they got rid of some dolly tracks.

Alex Ferrari 28:32
The point of doing this, Dennis, come on, man. We're all here. We're on the party's here. Let's all get this just do it. Right?

Alan Trezza 28:39
Well, they just needed to slash and burn. So then day two comes around. And one of the producers comes and an Escalade and wants to talk to Joe and I said, Oh, here it is, you know, he probably saw the dailies says everything looks really static. And what the heck are you guys doing? And I'm going to cut more, you know, I'm going to cut your days. So he asked to talk to Joe and they go in the corner. And I see Joe talking to this producer and the producer is kind of waving his hands like this. I only like that. Oh boy, oh boy. He's asking why the footage looks so static and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then, about two minutes later, the producer shakes Joe's hand, waves goodbye, gets in the Escalade and drives away. And then I said, I went to jail. I said, what's going on? Is everything. Okay? He goes, Yeah, yeah. He says the footage looks amazing. He says I'm making a two and a half million dollar movie looking like a $5 million movie. And how do I get it to look like a $10 million movie? And I said give me another camera. Give me a Steadicam and give me some dolly tracks. It goes cool. You got it. And then the next day we had our the next day we had our Steadicam and we had our dolly track and we had our B camera. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 29:53
That's isn't that the way it works is it is just so fascinating. That's just the way like we are I got producers financier, sometimes it just drives me absolutely bad. What was you know, working with Joe, what was the biggest lesson you took away from just it just working with someone like that it's such a close, you know, such a close collaborative way.

Alan Trezza 30:13
Best idea wins. That's, that's the best lesson doesn't matter if it comes from a PA, craft services, the ad script supervisor best idea wins. So keep an open set, you know, encourage collaboration, encourage freedom with the words with the script. With the story, you'll never know what you might find. The document the script is a is a is a fluid document. So what's funny is when I'm when I was shooting Burien. And when I was shooting, we summon the darkness. The person who asked for the most changes to the script was actually me. Because I was seeing how the actors were portraying the characters and I was seeing what they were bringing to it. And I wanted to bring out more of it. So I would constantly be changing dialogue and pages and have new pages. Because as I said, The movie takes a life of its own. It's not it's not on 120 pages or 90 pages of paper anymore. It's now flesh and blood. So you have to adapt to that. And yeah, that's that's what I learned from Joe.

Alex Ferrari 31:21
Now, how did you get your next film off the ground? Which also sounds like like you said, on paper, you had other ones much more commercial? How did this one get produced?

Alan Trezza 31:33
Right. So with, it's called, we summon the darkness, again, I wanted to write something that could be made. So minimal locations, not a lot of effects. But with really, hopefully, good characters, good story, and, you know, some good twists, and ended up writing we some in the darkness. Same thing, it was an idea that I fell in love with. It was something I really wanted to see come to fruition. So then I started to reach out to some producers that I had met along the way. The first person I called was a producer named Christian or Machida who was a very, very big genre fan, worked on a ton of genre movies. And I said, I think I think this guy might be the right person. I think he might see what I'm trying to do here. Because it was very specific. It was a very kind of specific genre specific tone specific time period. Again, like I said, this is before Stranger Things. There's before at the 80s were super cool. And I remember we had lunch one day, and he walked in wearing a faith, no more t shirt. And I said, Okay, that's cool. I dig them. And we just had a great talk for about two hours. And it was kind of like an informal job interview in a way, you know, because I didn't bring up the script right away. It was only like in the last 10 minutes. I said, Well, I've got something and it's a little weird. It's a little strange. It's a little unique. But here it is. And he said, I think that sounds really cool. And two days, I sent him the script. And two days later, he said I'd like to talk to you about this, I think I think he got something. So we worked on it together a little bit. He helped develop it definitely. And then he sent it out to his network of people. It ended up getting on the blood list, not the blacklist, the blacklist is you know, the list of Hollywood's you know, favorite unproduced scripts. The blood list is the year end list of unproduced genres scripts that people really love. So it ended up on there, which ended up getting more reads. And we just started to put this movie together little by little, we needed some extra help in terms of the financing. So I called up the producer of my last film, I called up Kyle tequila. And I said, Kyle, you know, I know how hard you worked on burying the ex. I know how, like when the going got really rough that you just put it all out there. You just risked everything to get this thing going. Would you do the same thing for this? And he said, he goes, alright, if if I read it, and if I like it, I'm all in. I said, Well, that's why I'm calling you. So he read it. He liked it. And sure enough, he was all in so we had this little team now Christian, Kyle and myself. And then the search for a director began and that that took a long, long time whereas with burying the ex Joe Dante was pretty quick to come on board. We went through I think about five directors. That's including a directing team. So that's two so ultimately, again lot of highs a lot of lows you know you're working with a director one day for several several months only to have their managers call you up and say yeah, they just got offered a film at Universal and it's shooting next month. He's gonna have to drop out. Needless to say that film at Universal never got made. So and And we would say that we would say is it is it real? And managers would say yes, it's 100% real, that film ever got made, but we still lost the director as a as a result. And then finally, when we again just when we thought the movie was done and over, it was just before Christmas break. I think it was 2017 just before Christmas break, and Kyle and Kristian, call me and they said we saw a movie called my friend Dahmer. I said, I know that when they played at Sundance, it's really, really quite amazing. It's about Jeffrey Dahmer, but when he was in high school, told from the eyes of his best friend, and I said, Yeah, that movie is actually kind of amazing. We've been looking at these genre filmmakers, like these kind of genre film festival kind of guys who were making a big splash. But he was like, a real, like arthouse filmmaker, a real sort of character driven filmmaker. His name was Mark Myers. And I said, well, good luck getting him. Because he makes like real movies like we're looking for like a genre fun genre film. It's a no he likes it. And I got on the phone again, it was just before Christmas. Within five minutes, Mark says, I think the script you know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of a clockwork orange. And then yeah, I remember. We were all in separate parts of the world. I mean, Mark is New York, New York City based and I'm in the valley in California. Kyle, I think is the most fearless and I remember texting Kyle and Christian, holy shit. And, again, it was the passion in Mark's voice. It was the authenticity. At the end of that call. I said, Mark, you and I will make this movie together. And he goes, Yeah, cool. Let's make a movie. Less than a year later, we are in Manitoba, Canada making the movie.

Alex Ferrari 36:57
That's amazing how. So from that point, because this was done independently. How did you get it to Netflix? Because that's another journey, I'm assuming as well.

Alan Trezza 37:05
Yeah, so thankfully, Mark directed the hell out of the film. We had an incredible cast. Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson Johnny Knoxville, amazing cast incredible production. Incredible acting, just mark made such a fantastic movie that really struck a chord with people. And we ended up getting a deal with a film distribution company, Sivan films, and they were the ones responsible for getting it released all over the world. And on Netflix, it was supposed to have a very nice theatrical run. However, it was slated for a theatrical run in April 2020, just when the pandemic hit. And I remember we got a review from Olynyk Lieberman and variety, a fantastic review. And he said I'm the only sad thing about this is that this, this will get a theatrical review. And if anything is meant to be played in with an audience of raucous film goers, it's this movie. So that that was unfortunate, but who knows, you know, it could still play on the midnight circuit, you know, somewhere down the line as a cult moving?

Alex Ferrari 38:20
Is there anything that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career?

Alan Trezza 38:27
Just that is going to be 10 times harder than you thought it would be? And that you'd work 10 times harder than you thought you ever would. And not all hard work is rewarded. A lot of the times a lot of the times that we reward a lot of times the reward has to come from the work itself. Right. So as you said, so what kept me through, you know, what got me through the years of trying to make bearing the acts, are we some in the darkness, it was, well, I had this document, I had the script. And I remember, Christian would say like, sometimes he would just read it just to read it because it would make him smile, you know. So a lot of the times the reward comes out of the work itself or the reward comes from, you know, I got a piece of fan art about three or four weeks ago from someone who had seen we some of the darkness and they just loved it so much that they they drew like a mock poster of it and gave it to me and that's it. That's That's an incredible thing, you know, so not all not the rewards won't come in the way that you expect them to. But their rewards, they're just have to know how to recognize them.

Alex Ferrari 39:42
Isn't it interesting that most people in general, but specifically in the film industry, they work towards a goal and if they don't get the goal, they're unhappy. But the majority of people in the film industry don't get to their goals, not the goals that they set out in Maybe other goals, maybe other situations, maybe other opportunities. But generally speaking, all of us, I think, at one point or another said, we're going to be Steven Spielberg, we're going to be Stanley Kubrick, we're going to be Eric Roth, we're going to be whoever that person is that you idolize. We generally, almost always never get to that place. But we get to wherever we're supposed to be. But so much of our journey is depressing. Many times, because we don't focus on the journey, we focus on the destination. And if you would have focused on the destination with these two projects, you wouldn't have made it you were actually focused on like, just the enjoyment of whatever you'd say the joy of it. But the process is that a fair statement?

Alan Trezza 40:47
100% 100% Yeah, it was the, like I said, I wrote the movies that I wanted to see. And even if I didn't get to see them on the big screen, or on a 60 inch flat screen, they still existed in my mind, and on paper.

Alex Ferrari 41:05
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter or filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Alan Trezza 41:14
Okay, for screenwriters. Find that idea that you fall head over heels in love with? Don't chase the marketplace? Okay? Don't try to be the next. You know, don't try to write the next Marvel movie. Okay, they they've already got the next five years of Marvel movies already lined up. And if you really think about it, if you really think about it, look at who Kevin Feige is hiring to write and direct these Marvel movies. Is he direct? Is he hiring the big tentpole folks, the people who have made those 100 300 400 $500 million grossing movies? Or is he hiring someone like pica? What TD is he hiring someone like James Gunn, he's hiring people with unique and original voices. Okay? That's the trick, find your voice. Okay, if you have something to say, and only you can say it, and you have an idea, and you're the only person that can execute that idea. That's what you should do. Okay? Because that's how you'll get noticed. That's how you'll get a meeting at Marvel or any other place because they've got all the big action guys they've got all the big dialog guys are the the next Tarantino is and stuff but what they're really looking for is a unique original voice who could take a property like for and bring a whole new life, right? Or take a properly like the Guardians of the Galaxy, and just completely up end, you know, that whole franchise? So that's my advice for screenwriters do not chase the marketplace. Work on your voice. You know, when you're talking to friends when your friends are like your seniors, you're so funny because only you do this or you think this way. Okay. What is it that that that that gives you your voice? What is it that your friends are constantly entertained by? That's your voice work on it, find it take chances, don't worry about selling. Okay. And then for filmmakers out there again, it's it's the network of people it's about getting seen by as many people as possible. Okay, always produce find your fight injure. You know, I say a lot of the times making a movie, it's kind of like forming a cult. Okay, you have a you have a document you have words written on paper that people believe in that people trust in and then they the Cabal grows larger and larger and larger. And then before you know what money's been spent, okay? And then at the end of the day, everyone gathers in a room to see what the document has produced, right? It's almost kind of like a cult or religion, right? So find that team find that team of people that you trust, like when I found Christian and Kyle, and you know, the other people that I work with, and you'll be on your way.

Alex Ferrari 44:06
Isn't it funny though, when you watch, you know, when when you watch guardians of galaxy, or or Thor The third one is, you know, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the oddest properties that Marvel owned. They were kind of like in the bargain bin of comic books. I remember them when I was collecting comics. I was just like, the Rocket Raccoon. Yeah. And he turned it into a huge franchise. And then Thor was pretty much kind of like a almost a third tier character behind all the other ones. The first two movies did you know? But then he's now one of the favorites because of this humor that you bring. And I'm dying to see the new one. Love and thunder it's it looks amazing. But it was because of that unique voice I hope people listening understand that those those to James Gunn, and to keep I can never say his name Taika Waititi take a look at they both are so authentic to who they are. That's what made them that's what made the pop. That's what got them these jobs. That's what got them. The success that they've gotten, they didn't try to be anybody else. So,

Alan Trezza 45:17
And their highest grossing films, which are, I think, still today, Infinity War and endgame, were directed by the Russo brothers who are directing episodes of Community and Arrested Development. Okay, they didn't go and hire the guy who, whose last movie was a huge hit at the box office, they, they hired according to voice and according to a perspective, and a point of view and something unique.

Alex Ferrari 45:43
Right, and they just I mean, and the only time they they've broken that rule once in a blue moon, where they could Sam Raimi with which, but he also but Sam hasn't done anything big in a while. Right. And Sam has one of the most unique points of view in, in, in Hollywood history, honestly, so, but they gave him someone like him, every toolbox, every tool in the toolbox, and he's like, this is great. I want to keep working like this.

Alan Trezza 46:13
The best parts of those of that film, you know, and even the reviewers and audiences agree were the Sam Raimi moments.

Alex Ferrari 46:21
The things that made Oh, that's Sam, Sam brought that in. Yes, this. Like, I still remember in Spider Man two, there was that horror movie in the middle was coming off.

Alan Trezza 46:34
Oh, that was awesome.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
That was literally a horror movie in the middle of it. And we're like, where did this come from so beautifully. That was awesome. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Alan Trezza 46:49
The longest to learn in the film industry or in life? I think that it would be what I had said is the reward is in the doing not in the finished product. That's the longest because you know, you write something you love you think it's going to sell? Not all scripts self, not all people see what you see. Is that mean that the last three, four months or a year were wasted? No, hopefully not. Because why? Because the next one will be better. Write or you learn something along the way. You learned how to write a character better you learn how to write dialogue better, you learned how to add subtext into your dialogue. So hopefully, each script you do you learn something from so that the next one's even better? Don't repeat yourself. Don't say, I'm gonna write, you know, the same thing all over again. You'll never grow that way. They'll never get better that way. And you'll never get noticed that way.

Alex Ferrari 47:55
And even if you are sold, it doesn't mean it's going to be made into move.

Alan Trezza 48:00
Because you have that experience. You get experiences. Well, yeah, few times a few times.

Alex Ferrari 48:07
Hey, listen to as long as the check clears. We're all good.

Alan Trezza 48:11
Eventually, it did eventually. Eventually it arrived. Thankfully, at the clear,

Alex Ferrari 48:17
Yeah, I mean, I know so many screenwriters who, whose IMDb might be short. But they've been working nonstop for a decade or 15 years. Script doctoring working on projects getting picked up. I mean, working with the biggest people in Hollywood, but yet they just can't, they can't get that thing, the pop, and then they only get maybe once or twice or three times in a decade. It's not easy getting a movie made, especially now. I don't I don't want to tell you, sir, I know. I want to tell you this. What is the biggest thing you learned from your biggest failure in the business?

Alan Trezza 48:58
The biggest thing I learned from my biggest failure was trying to chase the marketplace, trying to looking at deadline saying this movie just sold. I'm mad, I'm angry, I can do that. Let me show them I can do that. And then as I said, you know, you wasted six months, because at the end of the day, a that movie already exists and already sold, you know, or that script already existed and already sold or be. There's no passion in the writing because it comes through. It does come through, as I said, trust your voice stick with it. It was the moments when I wasn't trusting my voice when I was trying to be someone else. When I was trying to write something else that I'm not good at. You stumble, you can't be an imposter. So I would say you know, I've written maybe two or three scripts, simply because I thought they would sell and of course First they didn't, because people saw right through it. So I would say that that would sort of be the biggest lesson. And it's the like, as I said earlier, it's the ones that I thought wouldn't sell. And the ones I thought no one would like, but I did. Like that ended up happening.

Alex Ferrari 50:20
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Alan Trezza 50:24
Hard one, but let's go with Clockwork Orange. Let's go with Halloween. And let's go with Punch drunk love.

Alex Ferrari 50:33
That's a heck of a combo my friend

Alan Trezza 50:36
The pop, but the ones that I can see over and over and over again, and find different things in them each time. Right. That's why I think I chose those three.

Alex Ferrari 50:48
And they age. They're different every every decade. That's what great art does. As you change the arches, you watch Clockwork Orange and 11 and you watch it as a 40 year old two very different movies.

Alan Trezza 50:59
Yeah, punch drunk love came out 2003 2004 It's been quite a long time. And I saw that film twice in a weekend because it was just had such an impact on me. It was an experimental film all the way through from wardrobe soundtrack casting ilog casting, stunt casting, incredible stunt casting, and every experiment, every risk he took paid off, incredibly. And now other filmmakers can now benefit from that other filmmakers can cast Sandler in a role where he isn't comedic all the time. JJ can experiment now with lens flares because that film used lens flare as an aesthetic sort of piece of it. People started hiring John Bryan to compose their soundtracks, because they heard the work that he did. I mean, I was watching them some episodes of the flight attendant and that percussive soundtrack that, that that sort of chaotic sort of drum beat. I said, That's punch drunk love right there, you know. And I remember sort of watching it, maybe two or three months ago, I'm like, I wonder if this thing holds up. I wonder if it's still as amazing. More than ever, more than ever. Does that film hold up? It still has the same impact on me it now that it did when I saw it in the theater back in I think 2004

Alex Ferrari 52:26
Alan, it has been a pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your journey with us and hopefully somebody's listening has picked up a couple of these nuggets and hopefully won't be you know, have so many so many problems moving forward in their journey. Hopefully they'll avoid some of these pitfalls that you and I have come through over the years. So I appreciate you my friend. Thank you so much for for coming on the show.

Alan Trezza 52:50
Not problems opportunities.

Alex Ferrari 52:53
Thank you my friend.

Alan Trezza 52:54
Thank you!

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BPS 209: Confessions of a Hollywood Writer & Actor with John Leguizamo

Fast-talking and feisty-looking John Leguizamo has continued to impress movie audiences with his versatility: he can play sensitive and naïve young men, such as Johnny in Hangin’ with the Homeboys; cold-blooded killers like Benny Blanco in Carlito’s Way; a heroic Army Green Beret, stopping aerial terrorists in Executive Decision; and drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

Arguably, not since ill-fated actor and comedian Freddie Prinze starred in the smash TV series Chico and the Man had a youthful Latino personality had such a powerful impact on critics and fans alike. John Alberto Leguizamo Peláez was born July 22, 1960, in Bogotá, Colombia, to Luz Marina Peláez and Alberto Rudolfo Leguizamo.

He was a child when his family emigrated to the United States. He was raised in Queens, New York, attended New York University and studied under legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg for only one day before Strasberg passed away.

The extroverted Leguizamo started working the comedy club circuit in New York and first appeared in front of the cameras in an episode of Miami Vice. His first film appearance was a small part in Mixed Blood, and he had minor roles in Casualties of War and Die Hard 2 before playing a liquor store thief who shoots Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry.

His career really started to soar after his first-rate performance in the independent film Hangin’ with the Homeboys as a nervous young teenager from the Bronx out for a night in brightly lit Manhattan with his buddies, facing the career choice of staying in a supermarket or heading off to college and finding out that the girl he loves from afar isn’t quite what he thought she was.

The year 1991 was also memorable for other reasons, as he hit the stage with his show John Leguizamo: Mambo Mouth, in which he portrayed seven different Latino characters. The witty and incisive show was a smash hit and won the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Award, and later was filmed for HBO, where it picked up a CableACE Award.

He returned to the stage two years later with another satirical production poking fun at Latino stereotypes titled John Leguizamo: Spic-O-Rama. It played in Chicago and New York, and won the Drama Desk Award and four CableACE Awards. In 1995 he created and starred in the short-lived TV series House of Buggin’, an all-Latino-cast comedy variety show featuring hilarious sketches and comedic routines.

The show scored two Emmy nominations and received positive reviews from critics, but it was canceled after only one season. The gifted Leguizamo was still keeping busy in films, with key appearances in Super Mario Bros., Romeo + Juliet and Spawn. In 1998 he made his Broadway debut in John Leguizamo: Freak, a “demi-semi-quasi-pseudo-autobiographical” one-man show, which was filmed for HBO by Spike Lee.

Utilizing his distinctive vocal talents, he next voiced a pesky rat in Doctor Dolittle before appearing in the dynamic Spike Lee-directed Summer of Sam as a guilt-ridden womanizer, as the Genie of The Lamp in the exciting Arabian Nights and as Henri DE Toulouse Lautrec in the visually spectacular Moulin Rouge!.

He also voiced Sid in the animated Ice Age, co-starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage and directed and starred in the boxing film Undefeated. Subsequently, Leguizamo starred in the remake of the John Carpenter hit Assault on Precinct 13 and George A. Romero’s long-awaited fourth “Dead” film, Land of the Dead.

There can be no doubt that the remarkably talented Leguizamo has been a breakthrough performer for the Latino community in mainstream Hollywood, in much the same way that Sidney Poitier crashed through celluloid barriers for African-Americans in the early 1960s.

Among his many strengths lies his ability to not take his ethnic background too seriously but also to take pride in his Latino heritage.

His new project is The Green Veil premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival:

It’s 1955 and Gordon Rodgers has a dream. It’s the American Dream. And he almost has it made. He lives in the suburbs with his wife and daughter. He goes to church, he works for the government. A respected job for a respectable family man.

Gordon also has a mission. A nefarious secretive mission on behalf of the US government. It’s going well except for one final plot: The Sutton Farm. Owned by Native Americans Glennie and Gilberto Sutton, they refuse to be bought out. So Gordon must force them out by any means necessary. Maybe even abduct them. And it almost works, until the Suttons escape…

At home, Mabel Rodgers is losing her mind. Playing housewife is taking its toll. How she wound up here from a military aviator career, she still doesn’t know. When she discovers Gordon’s’ work folder marked CLASSIFIED she is drawn to the file. When she recognizes wartime friend Glennie Sutton as the mission’s subject, she has no choice but to explore the case herself. And Gordon can never find out.

Gordon’s dream is slipping away. His mission at work is failing. He’s losing control of his family. At what lengths will he go to hold it all together? At what cost to himself and others will he preserve his American Dream? Is this dream even meant for him…or is it all a conspiracy?

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John Leguizamo 0:00
Because I didn't know I was going to be a filmmaker and I thought I was just going to be an actor or writer. And then when I started directing it was like oh wow, I have this Rolodex as How old am I use the word Rolodex I have a rolodex of all this information from Baz Lurman, to Spike Lee to Tony Scott, you know, all their techniques and their problem solving is is all in here, my computer.

Alex Ferrari 0:24
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog textures, DaVinci Resolve presets and much more. After working as an editor colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out and enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. Now guys, today on the show, we have legendary actor, writer, producer and director, John Leguizamo, John and I have a revealing conversation about what it's really like to work inside the Hollywood system, his struggles to get as independent projects made, and so much more. So without any further ado, let's dive in. I'd like to welcome to the show. John Leguizamo. How you doin' John?

John Leguizamo 1:41
Good. Good. Thanks for having me on.

Alex Ferrari 1:43
Thank you so much for coming on the show, brother. I appreciate it man, as a fellow Latino filmmaker, you have been an inspiration for many years for me, my friend. So thank you for all the work you've done over the years and all the doors you've opened for all of us, man.

John Leguizamo 1:56
I you know, it has been easy, but it's been. It's been interesting. That's for sure.

Alex Ferrari 2:02
The Hustle is hard.

John Leguizamo 2:03
The Hustle is real man. The Hustle is no joke. I mean, you gotta hustle. It's so crazy that we're like the largest ethnic group in America, the oldest ethnic group after Native Americans and you know, we're all part Native American, at least I am. And, and just our lack of inclusion is so not so naughty.

Alex Ferrari 2:24
It is pretty, it's pretty sad. But I think things are changing. And I think people like yourself are opening some doors for so many people over the years. Now first question, man, how and why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity called the film industry?

John Leguizamo 2:37
You know, I don't I don't think it's a thing that you wish upon anybody.

Alex Ferrari 2:44
Only, your enemies, only your enemies not your friends.

John Leguizamo 2:46
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, it's I never knew, you know, I was naive young man from the hood and, and I knew there was no opportunities. So I didn't do it for fame, money, or, or profit. I just did it because it was my it was the thing that made me feel alive. The thing that made me feel whole that brought me sanity get I mean, and I had 17 I found acting classes, you know, and it was like, Oh, my God, this is incredible. And I started reading plays. And I was a play reading maniac addict, I read so many plays. And I just found it so beautiful that you could capture human behavior in the human condition in dialogue and, and have an experience about life and reveal life to other people.

Alex Ferrari 3:35
Now, was there a film a specific film that kind of lit your fuse?

John Leguizamo 3:40
Yeah, I mean, I loved Streetcar Named Desire. You know, that was really powerful to me. That performance was electric, or anything Pacino and De Niro. Did you know

Alex Ferrari 3:51
Anything Marty did pretty much.

John Leguizamo 3:53
Yeah, yeah, pretty much anything Marty did was was, you know, like, Oh my god. This is like Latin people. You know, like how we behave. And you know, as a Latin person being so invisible. You always try to find links to other cultures to feel seen. You know? Like, for me, Richard Pryor was everything and Scorsese.

Alex Ferrari 4:12
I mean, yeah, you look at I mean, for the longest time, I'm Cuban. So the longest time the only guy I had was Al Pacino in Scarface, I mean, that was it. And Ricky Ricardo, obviously, those are, you know, that's your and so so those are the people I had,

John Leguizamo 4:23
Of course, Desi Arnaz is a beast. I mean, they didn't even show that in that movie that that that sort of sad and Lucy movie was like, what? He's he is the bomb. He invented three camera comedies, like having a live audience and a sitcom of residual. I mean, he created all that. And he created Star Trek, you know, he was the one that was a pioneer and having he was like the first studio independent studio owner and the first Latin guy to own a studio.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
It was no it was it was insane. It was insane. But there wasn't a lot of there wasn't a lot of Latino was coming up. That's why when I always say it on the show is the first time I ever saw I could even direct was watching Robert Rodriguez. When I saw mariachi come out, I was like, oh, oh, so we can do this.

John Leguizamo 5:11
I know, I know. It's crazy. Like, you know why, why aren't we allowed? Why weren't we allowed to do this? I mean, it's so crazy. It's like, I saw so many talented actors growing up that, you know, unfortunately, couldn't this industry just didn't sustain them, you know, and they had to give up and it was sad to see all this wasted talent and all these dreams evaporate. You know.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
Now, early in your career, you had the pleasure of working with Mr. Brian De Palma on a film called casualties of war. Yes, man. What was that? Like? I've heard nothing but epic stories of the insanity on that set, and the brilliance of what they were trying to do and, and Sean and Michael and what was it like being nude?

John Leguizamo 5:56
It was crazy. It was crazy. I mean, I know we're here to talk about greenbelts.

Alex Ferrari 6:00
We will, we will, we'll get to it. We will get to talk a little bit about we're gonna go going down the road.

John Leguizamo 6:05
You know, I love casualties of war. To me, it was it was a such an important film. Because I didn't know Brandon and I are in a bind department. And I sort of started to get to know each other and trust each other. I think that there has to be a trust between a director and an actor. And therefore when I got to Carlitos way, he had this confidence in me. And he brought this incredible performance out of me by allowing me to fail on a Carlitos way, like I did like 30 takes he wasn't letting anybody do that. He let me do 30 takes on film of just my entrance as Benny Blanco. And he would laugh and I will do crazy. I would knock the waiters tray off in one takeout. I would push people out of the way. I flicked what he loved it loved that he was and that love gave me my freedom. That was my freedom. But that was probably his way. Couches was just crazy. It was crazy. Like you were he's a rehearsing kind of direct, you know, they're not too many of those. And he storyboards everything but we drove it himself. I don't even know how he reads it. I saw those hieroglyphics. I don't know how. But he maps it all out. That's the genius you're dealing with. And a lot of people got fired, you know, the rehearsals. Really, I don't know if I should say who but whatever. A lot of a lot of names got fired, and other people took their parts and became bigger actors for it. You know, it was difficult, really difficult. And then the content was, you know, he was our God at that moment, the best actor of the generation. And he was, he was married to Madonna. He was at, yeah, he left the set. We closed for three days while he went to America to see the Sphinx. Tyson fight was lasted 91 seconds. You know, like the shortest fight ever the longest flight or the shortest fight, you know, imagine getting on a plane to Thailand. That was like a 2425 20 hour flight back then another 28 hours back?

Alex Ferrari 8:08
And was Was there a filmmaker or actor that you kind of looked up to as you were coming up like you just like, that really inspired you to do what you do?

John Leguizamo 8:19
I looked at everybody. Everybody was above me. I was down here and everybody was up here and I looked to everybody, man. I mean, I gotta say Richard Pryor to me was was a big inspiration. Lenny Bruce, when I discovered him Flip Wilson Lippmann Yeah, yeah, that was that was gonna say, but I think I can't curse, right? Yeah, because it's okay. I'm gonna fucking was a big inspiration to me, you know? And then, you know, of course there was, you know, I say with Lee Strasberg. I started at HP studios. So these teachers, I work with some of the great teachers in American acting, you know, the greatest teachers. And then when Hamlin you know, who taught Denzel Washington, Alec Baldwin, you know. And then they took me under their wing and I was a big I was a big student. I love learning. It was a place that could act because they there wasn't a lot of opportunity for Latin man. So my opportunities were an acting class. You know, that's where I can do all the big plays and all the big scenes from everything you know.

Alex Ferrari 9:27
Now, there's one part man that I just want to get one of your my favorite parts that you've ever done was clown. On Dude, that was so hypnotic. I remember sitting in the theater watching that performance, and you couldn't recognize you because you know, that insane suit everyone's afterward like who was calling John Leguizamo was that holy crap that was amazing. What did you do to get in the mind of such a psychotic character?

John Leguizamo 9:58
To it it was it wasn't easy. I'm not gonna lie. And, you know, it's funny you say I was unrecognizable because the whole director was like, no, no, we're, we're doing it so we can recognize the principle. But yeah, I'm unrecognizable. I mean, I had teeth prosthetics, I had ginormous contacts, and my whole face was glued with this press. My whole, you know, after the after, like a couple of weeks, I had blisters all over my face, pause. My face is rah, rah. And I didn't know what I was gonna do. And I was kind of Flim Flam and the director was a sweetheart. And he was like, Hey, can we just get a taste of what you gonna do? I go do it, do it. It'll come when we get on that set. And we say, action, but I had no idea what was going to come out of me. And I was panicked, right, bro. And I took cloud lessons. I was doing everything that to help me

Alex Ferrari 10:58
So you were trying to figure so you were trying to you didn't know you didn't know when you accepted the role. You didn't know how you were going to do it. You were just trying to.

John Leguizamo 11:04
I knew I was gonna say some crazy shit that I knew. I knew I was gonna say some crazy stuff. And they knew I was going to ad lib. And we had, you know, I had prepared them that I was going to outlive a lot of stuff. So I was they were cool with that. This was the voice and how are you going to? I had no idea and then the day and they they kept saying please give us a taste of gold. Dude. You're interfering my process because like bullshit, because I had no idea. Action. This voice came out this weird, you know, whatever. But you know, I started and that was that was it just came out. You didn't?

Alex Ferrari 11:41
You didn't practice that prior?

John Leguizamo 11:43
No. No, what I was gonna do. I had no idea. I was like, I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 11:47
So you mean to tell me that you had all the makeup on? You never practiced the word and you're like, okay, something's gonna just come through me the same section. They say action.

John Leguizamo 11:56
Well, I was praying. I wasn't really sure. It was right, but yeah, wow. But sometimes it's moments where you gotta pray.

Alex Ferrari 12:05
Know Exactly. You just gotta like, something has to come through me because

John Leguizamo 12:08
Something better come through because he's in a lot of money. And we're disappointed a lot of people.

Alex Ferrari 12:13
I'm all dressed up. I gotta get I gotta get some I got Yeah.

John Leguizamo 12:19
Go to your wedding. And you know, that haven't made up the mind, in your mind in your head that you gotta say yes.

Alex Ferrari 12:26
Do you do take her? I'm like,

John Leguizamo 12:27
Ah, oh, I never thought about it.

Alex Ferrari 12:32
I knew what I was gonna say maybe when I got up here.

John Leguizamo 12:35
But now that I'm up here, I don't know. I'm having my doubts.

Alex Ferrari 12:38
I mean, so when you approach roles, do you? I mean, do you often do that? Or was that? No, no, no, never. Never. Never. That was just that it was such an insane scene roll. It's a character.

John Leguizamo 12:48
Yeah, just never like I'm gonna add rehearsed i I thought so. I rehearsed, the more rehearse the better I am. I mean, the roll had lived in me for a couple months, you know, I did. I wasn't doing any other job at the time. I was really just living with it subconsciously. And, you know, a lot of actors talk about that. And, and my teachers say that, you know, sometimes, like Meryl Streep will fall asleep with a script and just let her sit there. Let it take her subconscious. So, you know, I do a lot of that too. And I've always done that. It's a strange thing. But you do you, you fall asleep. And somehow you're in this meditative state, and then the character starts taking over you. And so but I was just stating with this character, not wanting to test did not want to try for some weird reason. And then it popped out like that.

Alex Ferrari 13:35
That's awesome, man. That's awesome. I always love.

John Leguizamo 13:38
So I appreciate I appreciate this. I've never shared this information with anybody.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
So I appreciate I appreciate this. Exclusive. I appreciate that.

John Leguizamo 13:43
No, that was embarrassed by that.

Alex Ferrari 13:47
You're good. You've done okay. So for yourself, sir. It's okay. Yeah, you can admit these things now? No, because I always wondered what because I've saw that performance. I was like, Man, that's he I always thought you didn't get enough credit because that was such a rockstar frickin performance, man. And the more you know, blowing smoke up your ass, it was just such like, I remember it so vividly. Doing I haven't seen spawn, since it probably came out. And I still remember the damn performance. And I've seen 1000s of movies since. So it stuck with me. So it was just one of those things just like wow, man, how I just always wondered how we got in there. Because, you know, I would I would ask Joaquin how he helped me to get into the Joker. Like, when you get into psychology and economics.

John Leguizamo 14:28
Oh, my God, that was one of the most beautiful performing. I just got chills talking about that performance. I watched that movie three times because I loved the movie. I love the script. I love the soundtrack. Oh, he is the motherfucking Mac Daddy Daddy Mac of all time.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
I mean, he's he's the goat. There's no question. No question whatsoever. And I always like asking actors this. What do you look for in a director? Because there's a lot of filmmakers who listen to the show and I want them to understand what actors are really looking for in a collaborator.

John Leguizamo 14:58
Well, you know As you get older, I mean, you understand what, what helps you be your best, and helps you. You know, I like to direct your who lets me feel safe that I can fail, allows me to fail allows me to play. And then I'll give you, you know, some horrible shit and some amazing shit. But if you give me the space to, to fail and let me try and experiment before you start giving me your input and before you start shaping me, Nick Multiset, it's so beautifully. And it stuck with me for life, he was with this director and started giving line readings and telling them how to do it. And he said, My talent, my talent is like this feather he had a feather in his hat on the way he carried it from but he said it was like this feather. And when they give me a line reading, this is what happens to my ability. Gone. And I was like, Yeah, that's what happens when, if a director steps in too early and you're experimenting, all you can hear is their choices. You can no longer hear your own impulses or your own intuition. You can't hear it anymore. So yeah, I mean, I love when directors come when I'm dried up, or I'm blind, please come with something. Somebody saved my ass. I'm more than welcome. But let me allow me allow me to do my thing first, and then come and shape it.

Alex Ferrari 16:16
You know, you gotta you gotta run around the room a little bit. You got to bump into some walls, but I saw it and have the freedom to do so as opposed to like, no, no, don't run into that wall. Like let me run into the wall so I could drive it out and hang out there.

John Leguizamo 16:28
That's you know, Spike Lee gave me that Brian De Palma and casualties in Carlitos way gave me that brat feminine the take gave me all that space like that. And Spike Lee on in summer, Sam, you know, he has had so much fun together.

Alex Ferrari 16:47
Is there anything you've worked with so many legendary directors over your over your career, my friend? What is there anything you brought in into your own filmmaking into your own producing into your own writing, that you've been able to bring in from some of these masters that you've worked with?

John Leguizamo 17:02
Absolutely, man, I had no idea, you know, that theory influence would live with me for the rest of my life. Because I didn't know I was going to be a filmmaker, you know, I thought I was just going to be an actor or writer. And then when I started directing, it was like, Oh, wow, I have this Rolodex as How old am I use the word Rolodex have a role that picks up all this information from Baz Lurman to Spike Lee to Tony Scott, you know, all their techniques, and their problem solving is is all in here, my computer, and I can have access to it. And when I did critical thinking, I was like I had all these problems at a tiny budget. I had these great actors, but we had all these problems with shooting shooting in the real hood. And they tried to, you know, put guns at us to get us out, you know, and people were being shot around. It was a madness was happening. You know, it happens in every film. It's like, and but I had the solutions and I had all these techniques and it was great to have all that information from these masters.

Alex Ferrari 18:03
Is there ever a day I have to believe there is as either a filmmaker or as an actor that it was like kind of the whole world was coming crashing down around you you thought at least and you know whatever that might be whatever it was that day was happened to you. How did you overcome those obstacles of that moment of that day? Whether acting or filmmaking?

John Leguizamo 18:44
I mean, critical thinking had that, but I gotta say the take with Brad Furman, that was his first film. And we became buds for life. You know, We're bros for the rest of our lives. I'm doing a movie with him right now called Tin Soldier with Bobby De Niro and Jamie Foxx and Clint, uh, Scott Eastwood. And my daughter actually, nice, but but the take man, everything that could go wrong in an independent film went wrong on this movie. But it made us a force. You know, I stopped by my director and then Rosie jumped in the three of us. We muscled and willed this movie into happening, and you're not protecting the director because because everything was going wrong. The first time we started shooting the chef's that way, because we were in the hood in Boyle Heights, and these these gang members came up and they wanted to eat our craft service. And it's like, Yo, when their hood let them eat the food who gives a fuck? It's like, well, how much does that chicken cost you? Let me let me buy that for you and give it to them anyway, they wanted the food. And he said no, and the kid grabbed it and he choked the dish chef tried to choke the kid kid pulls out a gun. So now we got guns. way, police come immediately shoot a shut down our set. There are helicopters flying around the director. Brad was brilliant. He was like Filming Filming. That's our opening credits.

Alex Ferrari 20:12
Because you got all that extra, all the extra production value and

John Leguizamo 20:15
Amazing production value up the ass. That was day one, day two hair makeup quit, because they can't work in this dangerous set. And Rosie like I got Caribbean hair. I need somebody to do my hair. So you know her hair for the rest of the movies like here and there. Because he's doing it herself. Right right. Now is day two.

Alex Ferrari 20:37
I love I love the idea that you said that I protected my director because on a film like that. That was his first it was his first feature, right? Yeah. So he was his first feature. And I'm sure there was money, people and producers and everything. Oh, yeah. They're looking for a reason to get rid of the director. Especially if they're falling behind or shifts happening,

John Leguizamo 20:54
I think, yeah, they turn the director easily. Yeah, right. Exactly. You know, I'm, I'm old school man, you know, I don't know, I don't know where that comes from, from being grown up in the hood. And you always taught to loyalty is the most important thing. Or being a Latin person, your your loyalty is everything, you know that we do that. That's all we care about. So anyway, all that, you know, I I'm gonna take care of this kid, this kid has hard, he's got talent. And I'm not gonna let nobody take him down. You know, so I just stopped by him and I go, shoot, we're gonna go, I'm going to the hood every day. I don't care. And we're gonna gorilla you know, I still shots and buses. Really? Were still shots everywhere, you know? Yeah. Because the third day, I gotta tell you the third day, the sag comes in and takes away. The kid who was my play my son, he shot three days with him the third day, they said he had forged his a, it was an F, and he had made it look like a and they had to take him out. So we had to reshoot with a new kid. That was it was doing every day. 28 days of madness like that. And he just kept going, yeah, just kept going.

Alex Ferrari 22:05
It's amazing. And that's something that so many filmmakers coming up don't understand the insanity of what it is to make an independent film and, and having

John Leguizamo 22:14
You gotta love it.

Alex Ferrari 22:18
You love the creative and

John Leguizamo 22:19
You're more creative, because you're being pushed against the wall. And you have to solve these problems. And you have to get through your film and you have to get you want to get creative work. You don't want to just shoot something that's average.

Alex Ferrari 22:31
So what I love about your career is that you've worked on indie films, obviously, like a really low budget world. And you've also worked on some of the biggest budget films and with the biggest directors and the biggest diehard every die hard to make every resource that you're described, right. How does, let's say a Baz Luhrmann on Moulin Rouge, which obviously was not an indie film, indie film was such a big subject.

John Leguizamo 22:57
And there was not there's nothing like that or nothing ever will be like that.

Alex Ferrari 23:02
It's one of my favorite films of all time.

John Leguizamo 23:03
Oh my god, it was a game changer. Love, I mean, 27 angles on certain scenes, bro, we would do B takes on certain stuff.

Alex Ferrari 23:14
How many cameras was shooting? How many cameras was shooting?

John Leguizamo 23:16
No, no, yeah, he had like three or four. So you'd move them all around. So it was like, you know, hours and days

Alex Ferrari 23:23
On once it so they need to just to be at the core here.

John Leguizamo 23:28
Then they move into the other section. Then they incrementally not like all the way to the other side. Just incrementally moving it around, up here down. I mean, he got every angle, you know, through you know, the Moulin Rouge I think was very disconcerting for a lot of old school filmmakers and people because it moves so fast. And it was cutting the cutting was so quick and so it made people dizzy, but it was for the rest of us who were young, we loved it. It was groundbreaking groundbreaking,

Alex Ferrari 23:56
And the music the way he was able to incorporate old music and new music and,

John Leguizamo 24:01
He was the first to do that to us all music and then they became like, such an annoying trick that everybody's using now in too much, you know?

Alex Ferrari 24:08
But so so when you're working with someone like like bass or like on Romeo Juliet cheeses, like what was it like reciting Shakespeare, and that is beautiful insanity that he had built for you.

John Leguizamo 24:20
Well, you know, I love Shakespeare, but I don't love doing it. I didn't think I'd love it. I love it. Now, as I'm older, you know, I'm not you know, like, like musicians are either classic classical or jazz. That was more of a jazz instrument. You know, that's what I fancied myself and what I liked. So I was moving towards that. But when I got into the Shakespeare, I was like, Oh, I can I can groove with this. And we did a two week workshop. And, you know, I was tickled and I was tickled too much. I was getting into fights in the street. Had my tongue broken by getting into fights. I mean, it was the character sometimes overtakes you and it makes you stupid. But it was amazing. I mean, He was so specific about his vision, you know, he had a vision. And and, you know, he told me he wanted to be a flamenco dancer and a bullfighter. So I studied that. And I started taking, I took flamenco classes and all that, to give them that, that way of moving, because they are much more much more street and he wanted me to be, you know, very elegant. thing. Yeah, mad,

Alex Ferrari 25:32
Mad. But like, so working with someone like that, who had such a specific vision. I mean, I remember watching Romeo and Juliet when I went to the theaters to see it. And my first thought was like, how did this get financed? How did this get approved? How did this sneak through?

John Leguizamo 25:48
Not easy? I mean, Moulin Rouge was not easy. I saw what that brother had to struggle to get that money out of the studios, you know, it's not just Latin people and black people who struggle to get films of a white folk struggled to a different way. But, you know, he had to prove he had to prove that, that Romeo and Juliet was viable. They don't want to do period stuff. They don't want to do Shakespeare, they don't want to do arty stuff. They don't think it has commercial value. So he did a whole audition with Leo DiCaprio and, and locations and he had lookbooks. And he had the music, he had the had the whole vision. And he had to convince the studio to cough up the cash so that he could shoot this film. And then he has his massive hit. Huge, then he's got to convince them again, that he can do a musical because musicals the last successful musical was Greece in 1972. And we're shooting now in 1999 2000. Yet, so we had to do a do it again. So we had to do you know, visual visuals with Ewan McGregor and, and Nicole Kidman, auditioning and you know, it was wild.

Alex Ferrari 26:55
So that I didn't think about that you're right and wasn't a musical since Greece before Milan was and then after

John Leguizamo 27:01
They all failed. They all fail. So it was like the musical was dead on film. Right. But then after Moulin Rouge, then Chicago ended all he opened it up. He proved that it can be successful. Right, right. That's remarkable, man. No, no, he's brilliant. Man. You can't you can't underestimate his genius. He's, he's one of the one of the one of a kind.

Alex Ferrari 27:20
Yeah, yeah, that's what I'm dying to see Elvis.

John Leguizamo 27:22
I can't wait. Oh, yeah, no, I know, everything he touches.

Alex Ferrari 27:25
It's, it's absolutely remarkable. Is there something man that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career, like, go back and be like, Man, you know, watch out for this.

John Leguizamo 27:36
I mean, I feel like I struggled with not the acting part. I mean, I didn't realize that the racism, that talent in Trump race, racism, I really thought that I really believed that I was naive, or a dreamer, whatever you just believe you can, you can change the world. But I didn't realize that there was a glass ceiling, I didn't, I didn't understand that I didn't really believe it, I didn't want to believe it, I think it would have disillusion me, but there was a glass ceiling, you just would never going to get you thought I did this role I worked with these great directors. Now I'm going to get those leads, I want to get those important leads that leads you to Oscars that lead you to, to the same equal status as as your white peers, you know, but they weren't, they weren't coming and, and you vie for them. And they don't consider you because your Latin dude or the other was there was a lot of stuff going on that, you know, kept in denial in the writing was the same way too. Like I always had all these great scripts, and I would go around from studios and they were like, all we love it. Well, and then they had no reason why they didn't want to do it. They just were never gonna do a Latin project. Written white scripts boom, there was that I would have been a famous screenwriter, but it was so difficult to get. It's still difficult to get Latin content out there. I mean, I hear the conversations that that they're having, you know, they'll be okay with two Latin people, maybe three. But if it's like, two they want the lead. The two leads to be Latin not so not not so much the money folk that the money's conversation is still like that.

Alex Ferrari 29:13
Really? I think nowadays it's I mean, considering from the 80s and 90s. Were just miles different than we were then. Yeah, as far as that kind of just inclusion in general. And other they tried.

John Leguizamo 29:25
They tried. They definitely they definitely tried but there's still like roadblocks and and yeah, yeah. And silent. You know, unspoken quotas? Definitely. I'm not gonna I'm not gonna lie. I'm being straight up with you.

Alex Ferrari 29:38
I appreciate that. No, I appreciate that. And it's so fascinating because I was like asking, you know, actors of yours, like someone of your statute has done so many things. Hasn't named people know who you are. You still have problems getting projects made, and I want people to understand. It's not like, Oh, you're John Leguizamo. You could just you know, just make a phone call and you can have 5 million and make your own movie.

John Leguizamo 29:57
No, no, I could. I could, but but I don't Want to water down? I'm an artist, I see myself as an artist and as a pioneer. Right? And I don't want to ward down my things. I don't want to have to whitewash everything I do.

Alex Ferrari 30:12
I understand what you're saying, right? So to maintain the integrity of your project, right,

John Leguizamo 30:16
I mean, you know, everything could be you know, one Latin dude and one white dude, you know, like, you know, do the do the thing that they always want. They want to just want to nepotistic Bill business in terms of wanting white actors to be in your projects, because that's what they they still old school mentality. And they think that that's going to sell. But you know, I mean, well, there was a time that Will Smith couldn't get an action film then and then he proved to the world that yeah, black people are box office gold internationally. You know, there was that whole conversation that that era.

Alex Ferrari 30:47
Yep. Yeah, I remember. Yeah. Like I remember you're like, oh, it's African American. You can't can't put them in it. Dude.

John Leguizamo 30:53
Isaac's look at Oscar Isaac, if things were fair, and non racist, he'd be Oscar Isaac Hernandez, but he can't. He is still in this modern day, he has to go by Oscar Isaac, because if he had the Hernandez still on his on his resume, he might not get those rolls those leads, because that's what is going on. That's, that's, that's a sign of the times. That's really fun. And I'm being straight up with you. I mean, most people won't talk about these things because it's ugly, and they don't want to talk about it. But But I want some things to change.

Alex Ferrari 31:24
Yeah, agreed. And that's why, you know, that's one of the reasons why I do the show is I want to educate people about what's, what the realities of this business are. And you can't look at, you can't look at life, you know, especially walking into this business with started. I'm like, I have a dream. Just because I watch movies. It's all beautiful. I watch the Oscars. It's like nice, but I always I always tell people, you want a great analogy for Hollywood. Look at Oscar night. Oscar night. Looks gorgeous. The night after the Oscars. I wouldn't go down to where the Oscars were at night. Right Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard eat pretty pleased. Except for that one week is great. But that's true. They sell the sizzle, but they don't sell the steak. They're not good at selling that statement. They sell that sizzle. Great, though. Don't they

John Leguizamo 32:08
That's true. It's true. I mean, they I mean, the people don't like to talk about what what is really going on. I mean, and you know, you if you blow up, what's going on, people aren't happy about it either. And they don't usually like that. And you become a little bit of, you know, of a lightning rod. Careful.

Alex Ferrari 32:27
Exactly. But you know, what things are changing. And I think people aren't. They are moving forward. There's things look, like I said before it like in 91 Robert Rodriguez, the first Latin director I'd ever seen in my life, right, though there were others, but he was the first one I saw. And I was like, oh, and he's 23. And oh, I could go on.

John Leguizamo 32:46
Well, you know, you thought that was gonna blow the damn open. You thought Oh, my God. Now every lap director has a chance. And it didn't happen. Which is crazy. And then now you but you got your camera Toros. And you got your Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, of course, they have to like work, you know, white. But you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:06
To a certain extent, yeah. But like, I remember coming up as a commercial director. I couldn't do I was in Miami, and I couldn't do Latino spots and put them on my reel for the Spanish, right? Absolutely. Because Because if I did that, then I would be pigeonholed as a right Spanish director, I put it then do general market.

John Leguizamo 33:25
I was told when I begin, don't change your name, you can almost pass free Italian. If they don't know, then you'll be okay. Stay out of the sun. You know, all these things. You know, work on your accent and stuff like that. And you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:38
It's insane. But look, things are changing. And hopefully they'll continue to go down that path without question. Now let's talk about your new project, the green film and I absolutely love what you're doing with it, that the idea about it? Can you tell everybody what it's about?

John Leguizamo 33:52
Yeah, well, this is another pioneering young director that I'm backing that I believe in. I think he's a great, great new talent. And he's trying this new thing. It's never been done before. It's usually what you do with independent films doing negative pickup. And this is kind of like that old school system of, you know, you shoot your film, because you believe in that you wanted to have artistic integrity, then you sell it, you know, at a film festival. So we did this with a TV series, six episodes. And so we shot that first, raise the money, shot it. And now we got into the Tribeca Film Festival, which is incredible, that they gave us this space, because they love the project. And it's about in the 1950s. And before that the government and the FBI and come in oil companies wanted Native American land. And they started in the I think late 1800s, or the 1900s was taking their kids away from them. So if they took away their culture and their identity, they wouldn't go back to the reservation. And they could take the land from it because it wouldn't inherit If so, and then in this 50s 60s and 70s, they started taking the children from them with excuses and giving them up for adoption. So they could end the reservation, take the land and get the oil. So this takes place in 1950. And I play an FBI guy, a self hating, you know, Latin guy who's taking these native kids from their homes and putting them up for adoption is true story based on Tuesday to events.

Alex Ferrari 35:27
When I was watching it, I was like, I've heard this story. So the 60 Minutes story about it. They did a whole bit. Oh, yeah. Yeah, they did a 60 minute story I thought it was so in saying that they literally just kidnapped kids and kind of put them in like these brainwashing scenarios like, like, just trying to strip the culture out of them. And then the abuse that happened and all the dads Yeah, that they were killed. They were dying, and they were being treated inhumanely,

John Leguizamo 35:53
But it wasn't to get the land it was to get the land

Alex Ferrari 35:55
I did'nt know about the land part. That's pretty

John Leguizamo 35:57
Yeah, he that. Yeah. That the reason was, yeah, it wasn't. Oh, it wasn't like, oh, we want to help them. No, it was to take their land. Because if they if they weren't tied to the land, they would move to cities, they would move away. And they were moving them away into white families that would adopt them that were born nearby.

Alex Ferrari 36:15
Now, Has this gotten bought yet? Or are you now hoping.

John Leguizamo 36:19
No no the first day is, the first day is coming up June. I think it's June 15. So first?

Alex Ferrari 36:25
Yeah. Oh, night and then hopefully, you're you're looking for someone to come in? And yeah, doing XPO or Showtime? Netflix or somewhere like that? Yeah. Yeah.

John Leguizamo 36:36
That's never been done before. So this is, hopefully this, this is a new thing that can be done. You know, like, Epic is sort of the new the new independent film would be like a four part or six part series.

Alex Ferrari 36:47
I mean, I think in generally on the business side of things, there's more value in a series than there isn't a film nowadays. Now nowadays. It's correct. Not artistically talking business wise. Because I you know, in distribution world, like you got more content, it's better. It's a bigger

John Leguizamo 37:04
1 4 5 night experience. Yes, six, nine. They want the quick. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 37:09
They want the Queen's gambit. That's like, yeah, Mini Series or Series that can continue. But no, when I saw what it was about, I was like, man, God bless, John for, for getting this out there, man. Because it's a story that it's just in the mainstream would come out. It just wouldn't.

John Leguizamo 37:25
Exactly. Yeah. And you know, and we have the, the the approval of, of a Native American nation. And we have a few Native American actors in it as well, you know, to keep representing themselves. Sure in lead roles. Yep.

Alex Ferrari 37:43
That's awesome, man. That's awesome. Now, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

John Leguizamo 37:54
Well, I mean, definitely go to the grade schools. You know, you got you got that's the best place to try and, you know, try to shoot as much as you can, you know, and work with everybody and work with your friends and create a community I think. I think I saw that. We all saw that with Spielberg, and Coppola,

Alex Ferrari 38:18

John Leguizamo 38:19
Oh, yeah. Yeah, they all hung together. They read each other's scripts, they helped each other. And then gamla Toro era to enough was grown, had a company, and then they were producing Latin content, they were helping each other out. I mean, that's the thing is create a community. Don't make other directors, your enemy. Make them do your brothers and your sisters, and create those communities that you help each other. You make each other's scripts better, and you make each other's projects better, and you help them make their projects that's you help each other you piggyback and you create better and more content.

Alex Ferrari 38:51
I always love that story of when when George Lucas played Star Wars for that gang of all Yeah. And everyone's like, Oh, I'm sorry, George. This sucks. That's not gonna work. It's not gonna work man at all. And the only one was Steven Spielberg. He was like, You got something here? I think

John Leguizamo 39:07
You got you got dipalma and Coppola.

Alex Ferrari 39:12
School of Film aliens. Yeah, millions, millions. For God's sakes. I mean, can you imagine? What is the biggest lesson you learn from your biggest failure?

John Leguizamo 39:23
That you can't? You can't plan for that shit. You can't You can't go around your whole life full of fear and going, Oh, I got to make the right choice. No, I think you have to take risks. And you got to live. You got to go with your gut. Even if it fails, you got in the failures. They may hurt you a little bit, but you got to keep going and don't let the failures define you. You know, that's what I learned from that. I'm not gonna let you know. Luckily, I grew up in a tough neighborhood. I knew the business was never for me. So I never really embraced it. So I don't really accept their opinion of me. You know, I mean, I just Keep going and do my thing. I'm not gonna let them define me in any kind of way because they've always tried to find me in the negative

Alex Ferrari 40:07
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

John Leguizamo 40:13
Oh shit that's that's a good question. Um well that you know that that writing takes a lot of rewriting that's that's the biggest lesson that writing is just crazy amounts of rewriting and you so you better love your rewriting because that's, that's the better be joyful because it's going to be every you're gonna spend all your hours because I'm a writer, right

Alex Ferrari 40:37
Now, when three of your favorite films of all time.

John Leguizamo 40:40
No, I mean, godfather of course, Annie Hall. And Raging Bull. I guess those are my favorite three films.

Alex Ferrari 40:48
That's a good that's my friend. That's good. True, brother. Man. You obviously have so much passion for what you do. He just it's falls off the screen as I'm talking to you. And after all the years you've been doing this man, you still are so passionate about your project you're still so passionate about what you're doing and about helping people about opening doors about creating opportunities for people man I got to thank you man for doing that and continuing to do it and being a champion for not only Latino filmmakers but for artists man and and get things out there that

John Leguizamo 41:20
I love my artists man. Yeah, I love I love

Alex Ferrari 41:22
I love and I love that you just like you are a risk taker. You have been since the beginning of when you were first on Miami Weissman back Yeah. Yay.

John Leguizamo 41:30
19, looked like such a punk. Yeah

Alex Ferrari 41:33
You know what, but everybody went through Miami Vice brother, everybody.

John Leguizamo 41:36
Everybody did everybody. That was I was like every Latin person that they gave us work. It was the time that it online people were all every actor you ever met that was Latin was working?

Alex Ferrari 41:49
Absolutely. Because it was all going to Miami Vice. I had it almost on a while ago. And he would tell me stories dude. Oh my god, the stories of him and Don Johnson battling it out and his his method and he like owned his character. So like, he just told everybody what to do about his character. And like everybody was pissed off about it. But anytime they had a problem they call Michael man up. And Michael man is like, it's Eddie. Let him do whatever he wants to do.

John Leguizamo 42:12
Oh, wow. How beautiful is that?

Alex Ferrari 42:14
It was like I was I was like, how did you get that? And he's like, I just asked for it at the beginning of my career, and I never let go of it. And I'm like,

John Leguizamo 42:20
Amazing, amazing such a great spirit to I love that dude

Alex Ferrari 42:24
God. So listen brother. Thank you again, man for everything you do. Congrats on your new project. And I hope it sells man. I hope this is the beginning of a new thing.

John Leguizamo 42:31
I know. We'll know soon it is coming up.

Alex Ferrari 42:35
I appreciate you brother. Thanks again, man.

John Leguizamo 42:37
Thank you for having me, man.

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BPS 208: Screenwriting for Emotional Impact (Audiobook Preview)

In this episode you get a FREE PREVIEW of the IFH Books release of Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End by Karl Iglesias. Enjoy!

There are three kinds of feelings when reading a story: boredom, interest, and wow! To become a successful writer, you must create the wow feeling on as many pages as possible, and this requires writing that engages the reader emotionally.

In his best-selling book, screenwriter Karl Iglesias explored the working habits of A-list Hollywood scribes. Now, he breaks new ground by focusing on the psychology of the reader.

Based on his acclaimed classes at UCLA Extension, Writing for Emotional Impact goes beyond the basics and argues that Hollywood is in the emotion-delivery business, selling emotional experiences packaged in movies and TV shows.

Karl not only encourages you to deliver emotional impact on as many pages as possible, he shows you how, offering you hundreds of dramatic techniques to take your writing to the professional level.

In this audiobook, you will learn:

  • Over 40 techniques to humanize a character for instant empathy
  • The seven essential storytelling emotions
  • Over 70 techniques to create them
  • Over 50 ways to craft powerful scenes, including the emotional palette
  • Over 30 techniques to shape your words and energize your narrative description
  • The most common dialogue flaws and fixes for each
  • Over 60 techniques to craft dynamic dialogue that snaps, crackles, and pops off the page

Not only does Karl Iglesias “get” emotion, but he also shares insider secrets for moving the reader from tears to laughter and everywhere in between.

Right-click here to download the MP3



  1. Arc StudioScreenwriting  Software Redefined 
  2. Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  3. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 2:12
Well guys, today you are in for a treat. I am bringing to you a another audio book preview from IFH books. Now the author of this book is Karl Iglesias, who is a author story guru, and been a guest on the show many times actually is one of the most popular guests that's ever been on the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, and Karl and I got together to release the audio book version, which is basically a seminar based on his best selling seminal work in story called Writing for Emotional Impact. Now you're gonna get a little bit of a taste of what this book is. And if you want a free audiobook copy of Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias, all you have to do is go to freefilmbook.com And subscribe to a free account on Audible. When you do that. You get one free book and you just go to go pick up that book. And there you go. Now you could do that or you could just pick it up on Audible if you already have an account and and pick it up that way. But it is a great, great, great book. And I'm so excited to be sharing this with you guys. So without any further ado, enjoy your free preview of Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias.

Bulletproof Screenwriting and IFH books presents Writing for Emotional Impact, advanced dramatic techniques to attract engage and fascinate the reader from beginning to end by Karl Iglesias performed by Karl Iglesias

Introduction. It's not about plot points. It's not about act structure. It's not about character. It's all about emotion. There are three kinds of feelings when you read a story, boredom, interest, and wow. To become a successful screenwriter, you must create that wow feeling on as many pages as possible. And this requires writing that engages the reader emotionally. In his best selling book 101 Habits of Highly Successful screenwriters, screenwriter Karl Iglesias explored the working habits of a list Hollywood scribes. Now he breaks new ground by focusing on the psychology of the reader based on his acclaimed classes at the UCLA Extension. Writing for emotional impact goes beyond the basics, and argues that Hollywood is in the emotion delivery business selling emotional experiences packaged in movies and TV shows. Karl not only encourages you to deliver emotional impact on as many pages as possible. He shows you how offering you Hundreds of dramatic techniques to take your writing to the professional level. What you're about to listen to, is the screenwriting masterclass that inspired Karl to write the book Writing for Emotional Impact. Everything in the book is based on this seminar. But this seminar goes a little bit deeper than the book does. So you are in for a treat. I personally read this book early on in my screenwriting career, and I can't tell you what an impact no pun intended, it had on my life as a storyteller, and specifically as a screenwriter, getting my screenplays read and optioned by major Hollywood producers. I am so proud to present Writing for Emotional Impact as the first of many books in the bulletproof screenwriting audio book series, sit back and enjoy. Alex Ferrari, writer, director, producer podcaster, author, public speaker, and founder of Indie Film, Hustle, Filmtrepreneur, and Bulletproof Screenwriting.

Karl Iglesias 6:04
Thank you very much. And welcome to this seminar on dialogue. When we talk about crafting fresh dialogue for emotional impact. We're presenting lots and lots and lots of techniques, along with script examples to give you a set of tools that you can use to go over your dialogue and and make it that much fresher and sharper, and just make it like crackle, pop and pop off the page. So my name is Carly glaces. I'm the author of the one on one Habits of Highly Successful screenwriters, and the upcoming writing for emotional impact, which is all about the craft. Okay, without further ado, let's dive into what we're going to what are we going to be talking about today? What dialogue must accomplish in the script, the most common dialogue problems and how to fix them? What constitutes great dialogue. And I've actually separated into four categories emotional impact, individuality, meaning how to write individual dialogue, unique voices to separate your characters. One of the most important things how to provide information through your dialogue in a subtle way. Because what I see a lot in scripts, amateur scripts, is just plain old on the nose, really boring, an obvious exposition. And lastly, we're going to talk a little bit a little bit about subtext, which actually will be covered in depth in the next seminar, the psychology of subjects. So I'll talk a little bit about it, but I won't give you actual techniques that will be the next seminar. And you will have a lot of homework after this seminar because I will tell you give you a list of the dialogue masters that you have to read. Okay, one of the best ways to learn how to write is to read scripts, rather than going to the movies, because you can actually see how the other writer writes on the page and how we evokes an emotion in the reader. Whereas in the movie theaters, you're experiencing the emotions, from the craft of about 200 craftsman, the music, the cinematography, the editing, so there's no way to find out how to do it on the page. So the only way to do it is to through reading the scripts. And I'll tell you which writers are considered great dialogue masters for you to study. Okay, so let's start with what dialogue must accomplish. Most of the books and seminars, unfortunately, dialog tend to be glossed over. And the reason for that is that most people believe that data cannot be taught in a sense. And there's a little bit of truth to that people thinking I've ever an ear, just like a musician. You know, Downton has a good ear, that one must accomplish several things. What you read is that it must advance the plot, right? It must events provide exposition, and reveal character. This is usually the two things that teachers teach. But as you'll see right now, it actually has to accomplish a lot of different things too. And I'll go through each one carefully. The very first thing is reveal character. That's an obvious what a character says and how he says it or she says it reveals their character, it must reflect the speaker's mood, and emotions. It must also reveal or hide the speaker's motivation. The most common one is advance the action and carry information or exposition. And this is what I see in about 99% of amateur scripts. Most of the dialogue is a straight information. It should foreshadow what's to come. And of course, it should have emotional impact. And by that I mean that the dialogue should be funny, tense, you know, etc, etc. This is what great dialogue does, it provides emotional impact. So what I'm going to do is actually talk about some of the most common dialogue problems that I see in amateur scripts. And we'll talk about also how to fix them. Okay. And this will be in order meaning from the least common to the most common

So what I see a lot is what we call stilted or formal dialogue. And stilted means that it's very literary, it's grammatically correct. Another thing you see a lot is that dialects are hard to read. A lot of amateur writers create a character that's from a particular region or country and actually write and actually phonetically spell the dialect, so that when you when you read it, you technically hear it. It's good to certain point, but what I see a lot is that there, it's really hard to read, and that takes you out of the reading, you try to figure out what is he saying, okay, and I'll show you a way of how to fix that. So Dalits are to read, try to avoid, try to avoid that characters talk too much. In other words, you see a lot of huge chunks of dialogue, in scenes, characters all talk the same, this is a very, very common thing. And usually the voice is the writers, obviously, you know, it's every chunk of dialogue, you see, every character speaks the same way. And one of the ways to, one of the standards you should shoot for is to actually hide the characters names in your script, once you print it out, like the first draft, hide it and then read the dialogue. And you should be able to know who's speaking just from the dialogue customer, that's your standard. Dialogue is predictable. You see this a lot in bad television, and even good television sometimes actually see that. And this is when you're able to predict what the next response will be to dialogue. You know, if somebody says I love you, the most common response I was all the time I love you to write. And your job as a screenwriter is to write unpredictable dialogue. Dialogue is wooden, flat and bland. And this usually occurs through the exposition when you see exposition, and this is, you know, straight information. It's also flat, it's bland, it's boring. Dialogue is to expose a story. And the reason for that is because the writer doesn't know how to write, provide exposition in a subtle way. And then, of course, who can predict what the last and biggest problem is? Dialogue is on the nose, the most common problem. And under nose means that the dialogue has exactly what a character is thinking, what the character wants. character's motivation, desires, it's just on the nose when it's exactly what they're thinking and want to say. And the reason is boring. I'll talk about it in a second. I shall talk about it in subtext seminar, because that will be the bulk of this of this problem. Okay, so what constitutes great dialogue, emotional impact, individuality, meaning each character has their own voice, subtle exposition, and then subtext. Okay, so I'm gonna start now with the very first category, emotional impact. And what I'll do is actually give you the technique, and I'll show you examples from scripts, okay? And you'll be able to see it in action from great scripts, so cliche alternatives as your very first technique. And as the title implies, it just means turning nucleus taking cliches, cliche lines, as you've heard and turning them to your advantage meaning use an alternative to that okay. And let me show an example. This is from Lethal Weapon by Shane Black. Oh, by the way, guy who shot me Yeah, same dose shot Lloyd Jesus. You sure? I never forget an asshole. Okay, now what would have been the cliche there? The cliche would have been I never forget to face right that's a line you've heard 100 times shame black to deadline. It's a cliche and just tweak tweaked it just a bit. And made I never forget an s&m it that made it funny. All right. So that's one example. This is an example from body heat by Lawrence Kasdan. This is a scene where received played by William Hurt and Maddie played by kissing Turner are in the bar. And obviously they're attracted to each other. Most men are a little boys. Maybe you should drink at home. Too quiet. Maybe you shouldn't dress like that. This is a blouse and a skirt. I don't know what you're talking about. You shouldn't wear that body. Okay, great line. What would have been the cliche line there? You shouldn't wear that dress. Okay, in this case, you just tweaked a little bit. You shouldn't wear that body and just raise it to another level. So that's an alternative to a cliche. Let me give you another example is from 48 hours. I love this example.

Crazy. Oh, you guys were in like last week. You better ask around. I'm not supposed to be hassled I got friends. Hey, Park the tongue for a second suite bands. We just want to search the room. Okay, where's the well What would have been the cliche, this isn't the second response that from vents on Twitter said, Hey, shut up, or Hey, quiet. That would have been a cliche, right? But he said, park the tongue for a second. Okay, a little witty alternative. So that's three examples for a cliche alternative. Let me give you another technique. That's called the combat Zinger. This is pretty self explanatory. Now, everybody knows what a zinger is. Right? So it's a quick way to come back. That's usually supposed to attack a person. This is very common in buddy films, right? Like 48 hours rush hour, one person sets up the line, the other person just comes back with a zinger just back and forth. And I think in Saturday Night Live too they had they have a character who's like, Mr. Zinger, right and the whole thing so you understand the concept. So let me give some examples of combat zingers. This is also from 48 hours. We in brothers, we ain't partners and we ain't friends. And if Dan's gets away with my money, you're gonna be sorry, you ever met me? I'm already Sorry. Okay, so it's a little Zinger there. From aliens. One of the lines that got the biggest laughs laughs in the movie. Vasquez is a is the woman Marine, right? Hudson Hey Vasquez Have you been mistaken for a man? No Have you Okay, come back so you hear this from All About Eve great strip by the way to study because it's got like hundreds and hundreds of really witty lines and comebacks from Mankiewicz. Bill is it sabotaged as my career nothing to you have you know human consideration? Show me a human and I might have Okay, so Margo is insulting. All right. Exaggeration is your another set of techniques. And this is a great device to amuse the reader. Now exaggerations are not meant to be taking literally okay, you exaggerate something so they're supposed to be taking metaphorically and I want to show you examples. You'll see what I'm talking about. This from Annie Hall, Woody Allen. After he parks the car. Don't worry, we can walk to the curb from here. Okay, remember she parked the car a little far. Okay, that's an exaggeration. And then later on, there's another line where it says Honey, there's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buicks. Okay, that's an exaggeration. Obviously, there's a spider is not the size of the Buick, but just the line itself. Metaphorically, it just sounds great. Okay, so exaggeration. Another example. This is from the Gilmore Girls. No, I don't watch that show. But I I've seen a couple episodes. And it's incredibly witty is like the lines just go like that. So it's a great script. I actually read a couple of scripts and it has been going oh my god, this is really great, great dialogue. My parents set me up with a son of a business associate. He's going to be a doctor, how old is he? 16. So he's going to be a doctor in 100 years. My parents like to plan ahead. Okay, so the exaggeration there is gonna be a doctor in like 100 years, okay. And from as good as it gets, Carol, an ear infection can send us to the emergency room maybe five, six times a month, where I get whatever nine year old they just made a doctor nice chatting with you. Okay, you see the with exaggeration here is the nine year old doctor, whatever nine year old, they made a doctor. So it just raises your dial up to my level when you use that particular technique. All right, call me comparison is another technique. Now this is about humor. It's a humor technique, actually. And a lot of people think, well, you need to be funny. I agree. Okay, you need to actually be funny to come up with funny lines. But if you really study humor, you come up with actually the code the sides. So universally, humor is a science in a sense, you know, probably more science than art. And if you really study this is one technique, which is the most common techniques in humor, which is to compare two things that creates the laughter and I'll show you an example. So this is technical comic comparison. Nice to meet you. Oh, and who might this be? This is Eddie. This is the dog. I call him Eddie spaghetti. Oh, he likes pasta. No, he has words. Okay. So that that laugh was generated because he's actually comparing it with spaghetti pasta and comparing it with worms. Okay, here's another example. This is from Notting Hill. Ah, there's something wrong with this yogurt. It's mayonnaise. Oh, okay. Remember that? That scene? Okay. It's comparing, you know, yogurt with mayonnaise.

Okay, next one is from Monty Hall. It's so clean out here. That's because they don't throw their garbage away to turn into television. And okay, we're talking about Los Angeles. You remember that is a great script to read to, obviously this Picture Academy Award. So obviously compared TV with garbage in this case. So common comparison. All right, moving on. Something called lists. This is very self explanatory. This is about using specific lists for dramatic effect, which can include usually, this is used a lot to show a character's frustration. Just feels a little secret there. Let me show you some examples. This is gonna be hard to read because a lot of it but this is the scene in Erin Brockovich where the love interest is introduced, and Isa is asking for her number. And she says, which number do you want? George? You got more than one? Shit? Yeah, I got numbers coming out of my ear. Like for instance, 1010. Sure, that's one of my numbers. is how many months old? My little girl is you got a little girl. Yeah, sexy, huh? And here's another five. That's how old my other daughter is. Seven is my son's age two is how many times I've been married and divorce you getting all this? 16 is the number of dollars in my bank account. 4543943 is my phone number. And with all the numbers I gave you, I'm guessing zero is the number of times you're gonna call it. Okay. So there's the list right there. So giving him a list of numbers. And this is really, really well done. Give me another example. Numbers some something's got to give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Can we talk tomorrow? What for? I saw your friend you were having dinner with is that what is that what you want? It's never going to work with me. Look at me. I'm, I'm a middle aged woman. Don't let this brown hair fool you. I don't have real brown hair on my head. I'm almost all gray. That would freak you out, wouldn't it? And I have high cholesterol and my back hurts every morning and I'm postmenopausal and I have osteoporosis and I'm sure arthritis is just around the corner. And I know you've seen my varicose veins let's face it, man, that's not quite the buzz you're looking for. All right, a list of all her little ailments. Now actually, this illustrates a good point because you know you have a lot of teachers that tell you to not have huge chunks of dialogue right? Tell you only one or two liners, but this works because it's using one of the techniques or this particular chunk of dialogue has emotional impact. And the secret here is that when you have emotional impact, it doesn't matter how long your your speech is. Okay? The reader is not thinking oh, this is too long. This is amateur because he's really impacted by that speech. Okay, another example this from be dazzled. Not a good film, but the script was okay. The original is even better by the way. The devil there's nothing sinister here paragraph one states that either devil and nonprofit or corporation with offices in purgatory hell in Los Angeles will give you seven wish wishes to use as you as you see fit. Why seven? Why not? Eight? Why not? Six? I don't know seven. Sounds right. It's a magical mystical thing. Seven Days of the Week Seven Deadly Sins seven ops seven dwarfs, okay. Okay, so there's the list right there at the bottom. It also creates a nice rhythm to it, which is really important in in dialogue. All right, one of my favorite techniques is metaphors and similes. Now, I think they spoke about metaphors and similes into description when you use descriptions. This is for dialog. Jenna metaphor for those. Those of you who don't know is when you compare something you say this particular thing is something else. Like, you know, you try to describe somebody, sneaky guy and you say he's a snake. Okay, that's a metaphor, but if you say he is like a snake, that's a simile. So let me give you some examples of this from Bull Durham. Another excellent script. Is somebody going to go to bed with somebody or what your regular nuclear meltdown honey slow down. Okay. So the very first one there your your conscious comparing to a nuclear meltdown, your regular nuclear meltdown, that's a metaphor. And then later on, crush this guy hit the shit out of that one, huh? Well, I held it like an egg. And he scrambled the son of a bitch. I mean, fun yet. Okay. This is after he told him you have to hold the ball like an egg when you pitch it. The guy doesn't think I pitch the ball and he slams it like a hole for a homerun and he's trying to figure out so I held it like an egg is the simile and then he scrambled a son of a bitch. Right? Instead of saying he hit the homerun which would have been on the nose. He says he scrambled the son of a bitch. That's really interesting. Metaphor. And then of course All About Eve which has hundreds of them.

There's a sudden Sharpie out from the bathroom. You're supposed to zip the zipper not me like trying to zip a pretzel standstill. Bill grins To what a documentary those two would make, like the Mongoose and the Cobra. Okay. So just in that little three lines you have like to write, zipper pretzel, and like a mongoose and the Cobra and from Casa Blanca, another great script that has a lot of metaphors, similes, and just all around great dialogue. My interest is whether Victor Laszlo stays or goes, is purely a sporting one. In this case, you have no sympathy for the fox, not particularly, I understand the point of view of the Hound to Okay, so you're comparing what's going on, you know, the Nazis after Victor Laszlo, like a fox hunt. And this is the reason when, you know, obviously, when you don't know the all these techniques, basically, when you read the script, you're going wow, this this is also conscious reading that you're going wow, this is great writing. You're not stopping on this is it? But as a writer, you have to notice this as a writer when you have mastery of the craft. This is what we're talking about. Okay. Really funny one from Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me Dr. Evil, you're not quite evil enough. You're semi evil, you're quasi evil. You're the margarine of evil. You're the Diet Coke of evil, just one calorie not evil enough. Okay. This can also be also like lists too, because he's going through the whole list of them, but obviously a lot of metaphors there. Okay. Another great technique is called parallel construction. Now this is to create rhythm and dialogue. A lot of politician use that in speeches, by the way, the parallel construction. And like, for example, Martin Luther King, I have a dream you keep repeating of a dream. Jeff Kay's line, a famous line asked, not what the country can do for you ask what you can do for your country. That's a parallel construction. And we'll show you some examples of that. This is from Rocky. Look, Bob, if you want to dance, you got to pay the band. If you borrow, you got to pay them in me I get emotionally involved. Okay, so the parallel construction is this the first line if you want to dance, you got to do this. If you borrow, you have to do that. Okay, so it's, it's the same construction as the first line, and it just creates a nice rhythm. Let me give you another example. From Apocalypse Now. shirts. We must kill them. We must incinerate them pig after pigs cow after cow village after village army after army. So you see a whole bunch of them. You see how they're all constructed the same way parallel construction. And then from the Gilmore Girls again. Oh grandpa as the insurance biz, people die. We pay people crash cars we pay people lose the food we pay. All right. Another technique progressive dialog. Now as the name implies, this means it's dialogue that actually progresses either upwardly or downwardly. And I'll show you an example what I mean by that. This from Monty Python, flying circus. This is sketch the interview is interviewing a camel spotter. So in three years you spotted no camels? Yes, in three years. I tell a lie for be fair five. I've been camo spotting for just the seven years. Before that, of course, I was a yeti spotter. A Yeti spotter? That must have been interesting. You've seen one, you've seen them all. And have you seen them all? Well, I've seen one. Well, a little one. A picture of I've heard of them. Okay, so actually this liquid exam because you have both you have the upward progression where he's talking about the years, right? I've seen him in three years on or four. I've seen seven years, right. So that creates an effect that's progressively up. And then the last line is progressively down. I've seen one. I've seen a picture. You know, I've heard of him. Okay, so that creates a nice effect. This is another example from almost famous Cameron Crowe script. Penny Lane. How old are you? 18 Me too. How old? Are we really? 17 Me too. Actually. I'm 16 Me too. Isn't it funny? The truth just sounds different. I'm 15 right? Remember that scene. So this here we have a downward progression. creates a really nice exchange, and then a famous one from Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet. Blake, we're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wants the second prize. Second prize is a set of steak knives, third prices, you're fired. Okay, so obviously another upward progression here. Okay, this is one of my favorite favorite favorites. techniques are called push button dialog. Now as the name implies, eyes. This is dialogue that pushes someone else's buttons.

And causes an emotional reaction. Now, it doesn't have to be a nasty thing like you're trying to insult them, they'll be like a combat Zinger. It could be also you want to make them like you want them to love you. So, you know, you also would say a line, and I'll show examples of that too. But if you if you think about your most famous of like, favorite favorite lines of dialogue in the history of movies, okay, there, chances are like seven out of 10 of them are push button dialog techniques. Okay? They're really really effective. So famous lines, like, you know, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. That's a push button dialog. You're not too smart. Are you? I like that in a man. That's that's from body heat. And okay, let me give some examples of this from real genius. Oh, you're the new starter? Are you? Or is it dud? How do you mean start hotshot brain? Your 12 year old right? I'm 15. Does you probably know that. Okay, He's insulting his intelligence push button. Right? They're as good as it gets as a couple of them there. Oh, come on. Come on in and try not to ruin everything by being you. All right. And then later on, Carol, when you first came into breakfast, when I saw you I thought you were handsome. Then of course you spoke and other push button. And now there's a great line from Silence of the Lambs. laughter Why do you think he removes their skins agent Starling thrilled me with your acumen. It excites him. Most serial killers keep some sort of trophies from their victims. I didn't know you ate yours. Okay, cool. Push, push his buttons there. And vice versa. Actually, one of the most most memorable scenes is when both people are pushing their buttons back and forth, you know. From another example, from something's gotta give, wow, it's the perfect beach house. I know, my mother doesn't know how to do things that aren't perfect, which explains you. Okay. So in this case, that's, you know, he's actually giving her a compliment, right? So it's pushing her romance buttons there. So it doesn't all have to be negative. Okay, and this is kind of a little long, but this is the famous body heat scene. I'm a married woman, meaning what? Meaning I'm not looking for a company she chose back towards the ocean, then you should have said I'm a happily married woman. That's my business. What? How happy I am. And how happy is that? You're not too smart. Are you? I like that in a man. All right, famous line from body heat. All right. Let's do one of three more techniques under that category. This is reversals. And this is when, as the name implies, a reversal is when a character takes the opposite turn in the middle of a thought. All right, let me give some examples of that reversals as good as it gets. You want to dance I've been thinking about for a while. And Carol rises and no. Okay. You see the reversal there? That creates humor. When Harry Met Sally. I've been doing a lot of thinking and the thing is, I love you what? I love you. How do you expect me to respond to this? How about you love me too? How about I'm leaving. Okay, so you got a reversal? And actually, this is also an example of another technique you just saw. How about you love me to hop on? I'm leaving parallel construction right? From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid William Goldman's famous script. I think we lost them. Do you think we lost them? No, neither do I. Okay, it's a very simple right very simple reversal. Creates creates an emotional impact right there. Okay. Another technique you have at your disposal is understatement. And this is the opposite of exaggeration, right? Remember, you had exaggeration in your toolbox? This is the opposite understatement. And this is when you actually that you downplay the dial up downplays you know the problem. Like the famous line in Apollo 13 Houston, we have a problem. That's a good example of understatement. All right, from almost famous, and he just shakes hands with mom and exits. As the car takes off. She'll be back in the distance we hear the whoop of her daughter. Maybe not too so that's an understatement. From psycho mother isn't quite herself today very simple. The Mother of All understatements right from last boyscout want to shame black scripts the two minute approach to door Jimmy takes out his key ring the cops are going to want to check this place out so don't disturb anything. Yes Massa Jimmy opens the door flips on the lights stopped stops in his tracks in his tracks the room has been systematically torn to pieces broken furniture shredded clothing everywhere it looks like a combat zone. I think someone disturbed some stuff Joe okay understatement.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:22
I hope you guys really enjoyed that free preview. Again, if you want to get a free copy of this audio book on Audible, all you got to do is head over to freefilmbook.com and sign up for a free account on Audible. Or you could just pick it up on Audible or Amazon if you want to purchase it outright. So if you want to get links to not only how to get a copy of this book, but also check out the other interviews I've done with Karl, all you have to do is head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/208. Thank you again so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 207: Adventures in Making My 1st Indie Film with Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick is an award-winning actress, producer and director. She is best known for her Emmy and Golden Globe-winning role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT crime drama “The Closer” and most recently starred on the ABC comedy “Call Your Mother.” She recently directed the feature film SPACE ODDITY, which stars Kyle Allen and Alexandra Shipp.

In 2018, Sedgwick received a DGA nomination for her directorial debut with the feature STORY OF A GIRL. She then helmed the short film GIRLS WEEKEND, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She has directed episodes of “Grace & Frankie,” “City on a Hill”, “Ray Donovan,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (on which she also had a recurring role) and many others.


Planets and lives collide in this Kyra Sedgwick-directed feature. Alex (Kyle Allen) longs to travel to outer space and finally gets the opportunity to do so thanks to a privately-funded Mars colonization program. In the midst of his rigorous preparation, he meets Daisy (Alexandra Shipp), the new girl in town who’s trying to start over. The two wayward souls connect in unexpected ways, both of them harboring secrets that they’re desperately trying to overcome. However, when questions about the legitimacy of the program and the future of his parents’ flower farm begin to crop up, Alex finds himself questioning whether it’s easier to confront his past or fly away into the stars.

In a time where nihilism about the Earth’s future is rampant, it can be difficult to find optimism about what comes next. However, Space Oddity is a heartwarming film that encourages living life to the fullest with those you love the most

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Kyra Sedgwick 0:00
The difference between a director who has really prepared and really has a point of view and really has a vision, and also can communicate it. That's an awful lot to ask.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
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Kyra Sedgwick 1:43
I'm great. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I've been a fan of yours since my days of the video store where I was where I was moving pirates around.

Kyra Sedgwick 1:58
Yes, pirates was amazing.

Alex Ferrari 2:05
So you've had an amazing career, and you've worked with some remarkable people. But before we get into all of that, and especially your new film, which I got a chance to see which I loved Space Odyssey up Space Oddity. How did you get started? And why did you want to get started in this insane business?

Kyra Sedgwick 2:23
Oh, as an actor? Yes. Yeah, you know what I fell in love at 12. I did a play in eighth grade. Fiddler on the Roof. And I played sidle, and matchmaker much less. I mean, forget it. I was that was it. I mean, truly, like, I was not a happy kid, I had a very challenging childhood and home life. And that was like, swish. I mean, that was it. Like I knew this was where I felt I didn't even have the words for it at the time. But I remember saying, I feel like my soul has left my body and it's dancing around the stage. And then like, to this day, I feel like that is such a great, that's such a great explanation of the way that I description of the way that I felt and how it's so interesting to think that as it as I kept acting, you know, forever, and it became a vocation, and it became something I have to be good at. And then after success, and I was supposed to be good. And then I was supposed to be better. And then and then that it sort of lost that initial, like love story that brought me in it in the beginning. And then subsequently, like, falling in love with directing in that same way. It's like, oh my god, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Like, this is what I've been supposed to be, you know, I've been training for since I was 16, you know, because I started working professionally when I was 16. So I knew I wanted to be an actor. 12 I worked really hard up until 16. And then I, you know, got my first gig and that was really it.

Alex Ferrari 4:02
Now what was it like your first day walking on the set of your first professional? I'm gonna get paid to act day.

Kyra Sedgwick 4:09
Oh, on the day that I was gonna get paid to act. I'm good God, you know, I had like, that stupid beginner's like, ego about it. Like, I mean, I knew, I knew, like, it's very clear that being an actor, because I was trained well is a service position. Because it really is, you know, I mean, it may later become something else when you become more powerful and have actually people actually care about what you think. But initially, like you're there to serve, you know, you're there, serve the writer most of all, and then serve the director. And so I think I felt incredibly stoked, but I also felt like, of course, I'm doing this this is what I this is what I'm supposed to be doing. And I really didn't know that at 12. I mean, like, I wasn't going to take no for an answer. Although I guess I think I thought If I if I try this for six years try to get a job for six years and it doesn't pan out. I'm gonna have to do something else, but I was gonna give it a good six years,

Alex Ferrari 5:08
Six years that's not a bad amount of time. Some people get the Hollywood I'm gonna give it a good year. I'm like, man, yeah, no, no, no. It's gonna take a little longer than that. Now was one of my favorite films of yours. You have so many that I've loved of yours from singles and so many others. But phenomenon. Absolutely. I mean, when you were on that set, and you were working with John Travolta and there's a magic about that movie, and you're in your performance opposite of John was so riveting you balanced his performance as a character. So well. What did what was it like on set when you when you were when you when you read that story for the first time?

Kyra Sedgwick 5:48
Yeah, I really liked the story. It was funny. I remember I really liked the story. And I also got offered simultaneously like a big horror movie. I can't tell you what it was. So I don't remember. But I remember John turtle Taub you know, being like, but I want you to be in my movie. And, and, you know, and I mean, I love the movie, and I loved the part. You know, the other one was sort of my movie, albeit it was a horror movie. But you know, of course, I was going to do phenomenon. You know, I knew it was something special. When I when I went to meet with John Travolta for the first time and he's just heart is just so big, like, his heart is so big. I know, you know, maybe you don't know him or people don't know that about him. But it's like, he's so and he's so porous. And he's so vulnerable. And like, his strength isn't his vulnerability, I there was just something and he was so in love with this story. And so, so attached, so committed to making it, you know, real and, and having it you know, have so much integrity has so much integrity and and it's about this sort of fantastical thing that happens. But he was so committed to making it, making it grounded. Also, John turtle Tao is like the one of the funniest people on the planet. And he also has a big heart and loves really big. And so I just thought I felt like I'd really be taken care of. And I also felt the story would be taken care of. And I loved it. I absolutely loved working on that piece. And my daughter was two at the time. And my Kevin had Travis and I had sosi. And she would come to the satellite, John Travolta was so in love with her. I don't know, it was just like a very loving place and a family. Yeah, it really was. And that doesn't always happen. Especially not with a monumental star like that. I mean, that was insane. But also, we all really were committed. We knew we had something special and we wanted to like, you know, we wanted to make it great. And he did. They did we did.

Alex Ferrari 7:55
There was a phenomenal No pun intended. Wonderful, really, really fun movie now after working on on set for so many years and during your career. What made you say, you know, I think I think I want to get behind the camera. I want to get behind the lens.

Kyra Sedgwick 8:14
Yeah. Well, you know, it's funny, I, I, I've always, I always have an opinion. So I think that you know, it really it was my husband's my beloved husband, who was like, you know, honey, you really should think about directing, you really should think about directing. And I was always like, you know, I was terrified of the concept because I thought I wouldn't be you know, I'd work with great, great directors, and then I'd work with not great directors who will never be great, you know what I mean? And it's very clear, you know, the vast cavernous, you know, difference between the two, two things, you know, and, and so I was afraid I was going to be, you know, the ladder and and I didn't want that crushing blow to my ego, frankly, and, and I so I and I also I didn't see it a lot, you know, I mean, here's the truth of it, right is like as a woman started in, you know, acting professionally 1984 81 1981 Like, I didn't see a lot of women, right? People with a vagina directing, you know, and it was like, when you don't see it, you don't know that you can dream it or be it right. So, but having said that, it was my husband who was like, you know, kind of boosting me along and then you know, I had I had been producing since I was 27. I did my first movie, you know, in 2010 when I was 27, but I produced and we got Helen Mirren and I was in it and Sandra Bullock was in an in Marisa toma It was amazing. And it was Oh no, that was Loverboy that was my second thing. My first thing was losing chase with Helen. And in any case, so I had like balls around that like I had chutzpah about, you know I'm going to produce because I know this is a good script, and I know actors are gonna like it. And I think I'll get a good director. But, you know, a directing just seems so terrifying to me and so much responsibility. But then I had this book that I had bought in 2007, called story of a girl. And we had hired a female writer director to write the script. And we tried to get it made for like, 10 years. And you know, to quote Glenn Close, I wonder why it didn't get made. Maybe it be, because it has girl in the title. But you know, it took a really long time to get it Raven was finally time to get it made, I actually walked into lifetime to talk to them about something else. And you know, they said, you have a passion project. And I was like, Yeah, I have a passion project called story of a girl and I want to direct it. And then I was like, Who says?

I mean, literally, I was like, say, what did that just come out of my mouth. And then they read it. And like, the next day, we're like, we absolutely love this, and we'll make it for a little bit of money, not a lot of money. And I was like, I'm up for that. So, you know, it was beyond my wildest dreams. You know, I I, like I said, I felt like I was in my element. I didn't know until the first day of directing have actually being on set that I was in my element prep was terrifying for me, even though I had been in my head really prepping for this movie for 10 years. I was terrified, rightly so I think, like, Can I do it? You know, I got my husband, they're going, of course, you can do it. I got these actors were looking at me like, of course, I think you can do it, can you but I you know. And then literally the first take of the first rehearsal of the first scene, the first blocking the first thing and I was like, I got this, you know, and it was this very, like, you know, not, you know, just this ease. And this flow, I felt very in the flow, it felt very easy. You know, subsequently, I think it's become harder as again, like that sort of that little girl who's like, My soul is, you know, dancing around. It's like, after a while your ego does come in and start going, like, I don't really know what you're doing. And I know I'm doing and starts to doubt you and compare and despair and all that stuff. But like in that, that that show, I was like, I've got this. And then we were like, I mean, I can remember one day we showed up on set. There was one day that we had all outside stuff on location, and it couldn't rain. And of course, it was Vancouver, and it was pouring. And I remember everyone was freaking out. And I was like, it's going to be fine. It's going to be fine. I don't know where I got that kind of, like trust and confidence and faith that like no matter what we're gonna figure something out. It was amazing. It was an amazing day, we did figure a lot of stuff out. But but the thing is, is that being so much having, you know, I mean, I've spent so many times on set so much time on set, I know what it's like when it feels like a director has the reins and when they don't, and how awful and scary it feels like when you they don't have the reins and they don't have control. And so that was something that I wanted to emulate, but it came pretty easily for me. And also, I had been prepping this movie in my head for 10 years and had been prepping it on location for you know, six weeks. So anyway, I don't know if I even don't know

Alex Ferrari 13:21
You answered you answered the question. And I love the imposter syndrome that came in because of course every every everybody has it. And I always like bringing that up on the show because a lot of young filmmakers and young screenwriters, even young actors are listening. They think that you know, you're you've made it a certain point, you don't have that anymore. Henry Fonda was throwing up right before he went on stage every night. Yeah. And he said he was Henry Fonda. So you said you said that you've worked with great directors and you know what great directors are and you've worked with not so great directors and and you know, what is the difference from an actor's perspective?

Kyra Sedgwick 13:53
Oh, boy, that that's really hard. Because because the director can come over and give you a good note and still like, the it doesn't come together? Well, it doesn't cut together.

Alex Ferrari 14:03
Well, you know, because there could be there could be a performance director who doesn't understand the craft of telling a visual story, or visuals was all visuals. And you're just movable props at that point.

Kyra Sedgwick 14:15
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don't I think it's really, but But I can tell you the difference between a director who has really prepared and really has a point of view and really has a vision, and also can communicate it that's an awful lot to ask and one, but it feels so good, then we're all like making the same movie. And we're all you know, again in the flow and in the you know, serving the peace as a whole that has a very strong idea and a very strong vision. Like to me that's a good director.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Now, what is some of the biggest lessons you took away from working with some of the legendary directors have you worked with over the years?

Kyra Sedgwick 14:57
Oh, you know, is that everybody does it Finally, it's very, it's really interesting, you know, on, some people are, you know, super, super hyper focused on detail. And some people are like, just do it again, just do it again. And you know, like Kelly Fremont, Craig on edge of 17 just to pick someone really recent and some a female, like, was very specific, very, very, very specific. Whereas, like, Oliver Stone was like, do it again, or James ivory, you know, it was like, it was already painted the painting, the movie was painted. You were just the brushstrokes, and he was the hand doing the brushstrokes. So it's like, if you had no, it was so interesting, because he you know, he had it so much in his head that like, no matter what you brought to the table, he would always direct you back into that, that version that he had in his head, you know, it's so it was so and I remember looking at at Richard, what God death rate actor, I'm forgetting his name. It wasn't. It wasn't Paul Newman, obviously. And just going like, is it just me or is he already painted the picture? And the guys already painted the picture? Robert, Sean Leonard, he's already painted the picture. And I was like, So what are we even doing here? He's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 16:16
You know, it's really interesting, because I understand what you mean by that, because his movies are so crafted. And they were like, move, they were literally moving works of art. Like, it looks like you could hang a frame every frame, you could hang somewhere in a museum. But I never, I was always wondering about how he worked with actors. Because, you know, some actors like I've had Oliver on the show. And he's an Oliver's. He's Oliver. He's Oliver. And I, and he seems to like just do it again, kind of like any flows with it. But when you when you have a director that flows with it like that, there's such confidence, and they just understand the craft so much, that they're not afraid of what you might bring, that might be different. And I'm not saying that James is like that, but James just had, it seemed that he just had such a clear idea that anything that varied out of that box, he just like, No, this is what I'm doing. And you're just a paintbrush. It's fascinating to me as an actor, that must have been extremely frustrating, because you'd like to bring obviously, you bring something to the table, right?

Kyra Sedgwick 17:18
It wasn't that I saw the movie, and it was so fucking amazing that I know nothing, but that he cast really well. Like he knew he I mean, you know, and I was just listening to Paul, Thomas Anderson talking about casting really well, you know, and it's like, you cast really well, you really have to trust your actors to bring to bring something special. And, you know, and I don't know, you know, I can, I can really see it from both sides. Again, being an actor, I can totally see it from both sides. Because it's like, on the one hand, you know, he cast the perfect people. But he also like, kept them in a in a very strange, very like, like, tight little box. But then someone like Paul Thomas Anderson, like cast really well. And then just goes like, do it again, and try it again and try something different. It really, I think it also it's so much depends upon how much time you have. It's like, you can go like, let's do it again. I don't think I have it yet. But like, let's do it again, I won't get any direction. But if you only have like, four takes that, you know, until you have to move on. Like you have to know people more, you know, and it might make people feel more uptight. But the truth is like, then you hope the director has a plan of like, I know, I got this piece and this scene, this piece, you know, this piece in this beginning of the scene, I just need the middle and now I got the end, let's just do that little, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:40
Or you could or you could do the Kubrick and just shoot. But he but he also a lot of people don't understand that Kubrick shot with like, you know, 13 crew members. So he had days and days, weeks and months and Eyes Wide Shut. How long do you have like almost a year? That's the longest, longest shooting movie in history? I think it was a quarter because he just locked up Tom Cruise and the cocaine and

Kyra Sedgwick 19:07
I know, it's so funny. It's like I was thinking, you know, I made my movie in 21 days. And, and, you know, I and I heard Paul Thomas Anderson, who I think like made one of the greatest moves. I mean, he's beyond, you know, buddy, but and I was so in love with licorice Risa, and he was like, I have 65 days to shoot and I was like, 65 Anyone can make a good movie and 60 I actually heard myself saying that. I can't believe I said it. But no. Anyway, but it's true. It's like I think it's more fun to the actress when you have more time you can be more Lucy. I think it is more fun for the actors.

Alex Ferrari 19:45
Know how do you approach directing actors as being one for so long?

Kyra Sedgwick 19:49
Yeah. Hmm. How do I you know, everyone's different. I think first of all, you know, making actors are holding a space that feels safe. for them is so key like, and that starts from, like, the first conversation you have with them of like, you know, what do you need, like, what can I do, but also just just making a safe place because actors there's, we are so vulnerable, it is so terrifying, you know, having a giant piece of machinery looking at you. I mean, I don't know, I just think that every actor is, you know, ripping themselves open and like, you know, leaving a piece of their soul on the on the floor for you. So like, you better honor what that is. And I feel like I know that intrinsically. That's not something I had to learn. That's something that I, you know, really, really deeply understand. So I think that's, like, first and foremost, super important because people, I think that they'll feel more people give you better if they feel safe. And and, and I think that, you know, I, I've worked with a lot of green actors in my time. And I think that it's about specificity. And, you know, using all the tools in your toolbox as director, and you know, and trying not to, you know, to give on actionable notes, you know, like, just be faster, just be funnier, you know, that kind of shit is like not I mean, I, I really try not to do that, unless an actor's just like, You mean faster, right? And I'm like, yeah, actually,

Alex Ferrari 21:28
That's what I meant faster, more intense.

Kyra Sedgwick 21:30
Do like pace or whatever. But like, people need different things. Some people like, you know, we're gonna nail it on the first or second take, like Kevin's gonna nail on the first or second take, it's not going to be a warm up, we better be ready, you know, whereas some of the younger actors, it's like, they need you to warm up. And some of them needed a warm up in the beginning of the movie, but not towards the end of the movie. Towards the end of the shoot, like I've been in a great I've been, I've had like a front row seat to see actors grow within a movie. Like it's incredible. You know, and then, so everyone needs something different. Some people and sometimes, you know, you need to be pushed and pushed, just do it again, do it again. And then they start like questioning themselves to death. And it's like, no more questions, you've got to trust me, like, go again, just do it again. You just started watching yourself, because a lot of time the actors are watching themselves. And it's like, I'm watching you. Try not to watch yourself, like, keep going.

Alex Ferrari 22:23
So when actors are in the scene, I when I've worked with actors before, sometimes they get into their own head. And then once they're in their own head, they're out of the moment, and they're thinking about their acting. And then now that's a bad performance. You're not, you're not reacting, you're not in the moment. What do you do to knock them out of that? Because it happens all the times,

Kyra Sedgwick 22:42
I slapped them really hard across the face.

Alex Ferrari 22:44
No, not so much. In these days, seven days, you might have gotten away with that not so much now,

Kyra Sedgwick 22:48
Honestly, you know, I, you know, I think honestly, sometimes you take them aside and like, hey, you know, what do you need or and be like that loving, like mama bear. And sometimes it's like, stop doing that, you know, and you've got to trust me Stop it. Like, you know, I think one of Alex's, you know, one of Kyle's greatest performances was when he was feeling the most self loathing and like, I could see it in him, you know, because I know that feeling like, I suck so bad. And it's like, you know, I just made him do it again, and again, and again. And it's like, it's some of the stuff that we use the most in the movie. And it's, it's the most vulnerable and, and, you know, I just, I just tried to, like, not give him time to be in his head, because we didn't have the time. So in a way, that was a gift, right? Like, I can't, we all can't indulge this, like, I'm not going to let you indulge it because I don't think it's good for you. But we all can't indulge this. So let's just keep going. And again, again, again, and I don't, he never, he never told me he hated me for it. But really, truly, it's the it's the stuff that's like interstitially in the movie. It's the stuff when he's looking in the mirror, and we use it over and over and over again, in the movie, because because it helped it did something for us that we didn't even know we needed. Moments where we were just quiet and landing with Alex and seeing him make a decision to do something different. But for those of us who haven't seen the movie won't mean anything but but but the point being that, you know, when he was at least trusting, and I think that's also the thing that I can speak to as an actor and tell actors, sometimes when it feels the worst, it's the best. And we don't know as actors, we think we know. It wasn't good. I always know but we really don't. We really don't. And I can reflect that back to them. You know, it was good for you doesn't mean it was good for the audience. Just because you really cried doesn't mean that you made the audience cry.

Alex Ferrari 25:15
It's interesting because when you start listening to stories of like David Fincher or Stanley Kubrick where he just they do 70 80 90

Kyra Sedgwick 25:22
Yeah, not that I don't think I'll ever be that person even if it had time.

Alex Ferrari 25:26
Right, exactly. But I understand I kind of understand the mentality behind it, because you're breaking down the actors mind to the point where they can't think anymore because they've done it so much. And they just, that's where the magic happens in their, their process. Yeah. But I believe if you hire good actor, they should get there faster.

Kyra Sedgwick 25:44
Exactly. You know, so funny, because I worked with Cameron Crowe, obviously, yeah, like him. And dude, that guy did like 45 tapes of everything. And every single actor at one point, you know, looked at themselves and went, I must be the worst actor on the planet. And it was so funny, because we all felt like, I talked to Bridget Fonda. And I was like, I know, he probably doesn't do it to you. But he makes me do like 40 takes, like, Are you kidding? He always makes you do 40 takes, but she didn't have that, like, self loathing that I was born with. So, you know, so she didn't take it so personally. But you know, it's so funny because he would come the next day. I remember this vividly. I don't know if you remember the movie, but there's her first scene. I think it's the beginning of the movie. And she's doing the garage door clicker. And he has a little like for like a couple of paragraphs. And then she clicks the garage. He honestly 38 takes and the other thing is that as I'm doing more and more takes, I can feel Cameron spiraling too and being scared that it's terrible, you know, so like, I didn't think it wasn't just me making that up. Like he actually and then he would come back the next day and go dude, do had it on like, the third day.

Alex Ferrari 26:59
But that was like a second movie. That was like a second off.

Kyra Sedgwick 27:01
But then the next day, I'd be like, okay, cool. So he's not gonna make us do so many tastes. Same thing. And then he'd be like, dude, dude, or thick, Jack and Jake. Oh, it's just like, oh, and then it never changed. So I just think that's him, you know, but and he's a great, amazing director. His movies are incredible.

Alex Ferrari 27:19
And that was during the film where that cost every single time it wasn't hard.

Kyra Sedgwick 27:26
Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 27:28
Yeah, I mean, I mean, I remember that very, because again, that's the the, the time of my video store days, like 87 to 90 to 93 hours in the video working, administer. So singles, save, say anything pirates. All that time was during those I'm deadly interested in Trivial Pursuit in that time period.

Kyra Sedgwick 27:51

Alex Ferrari 27:54
So I wanted to ask you to as an actor, what is the biggest misconception that people have about the process because actors from from the outside, you know, especially young directors, it looks like a, an alien. You know, like how you work on the process. And every actor is different, every method and all that stuff. But generally speaking, what do you think is the biggest misconception that directors or just people in general have about the process of being an actor?

Kyra Sedgwick 28:18
And so that's a really good question. I mean, off the top of my head, that it's easy, that people think it's easy.

Alex Ferrari 28:26
Just do it. This is he moved the light. Why can't you just hit the mark and do it?

Kyra Sedgwick 28:30
Yeah, I mean, my, my brother in law's is an eye surgeon. And he's like, what you do is so hard. Are you freaking kidding me and bless his heart. Like he does, you know, big work, and it's amazing. And it's incredible. If I stuck a camera in front of him, he would be like, he would understand very quickly how hard it is, you know, so I think that it's hard is is a misconception. I think that a lot of people and also understandably, it's like, you know, you know, actors are sort of treated like gods sometimes eventually. And that's like really, you're not curing cancer. And it's really hard. You know, so I think that that's one of the things and again, I just keep coming back to this concept of like, it's really vulnerable. It's really it is so vulnerable, it's like most of us walk around with like, we've got a shield on all the time. I mean, you know, one way or the other, it's like there's a front there's a there's there's something going on that like makes me safe in the world. And and you're taught you're really stripping that away. Ultimately, I think when you're in front of a camera for me or in front of an audience,

Alex Ferrari 29:41
But if you only feel comfortable, because if you don't feel comfortable from what I from my experience when you're when you're an actor and you don't feel comfortable, you'll protect yourself and that's when problems occur. On on set. So that's what happens. So when you that's why safe space is so so important for our director to come to come in and out as as I see He's an actor like yourself, you can pretty much smell it on day one. How long does it take you before? You know? Oh, God, this this character has no idea what they're doing. What did I sign up for? I'm gonna have to I'm gonna have to carry this myself. Okay.

Kyra Sedgwick 30:13
Yeah. Oh, yeah, I think you know, really early on Yeah, for sure, especially at this age,

Alex Ferrari 30:20
I mean, God, you know, they want to go.

Kyra Sedgwick 30:23
Yeah. But I also give people a lot of room, you know, I mean, you know, I'm like, okay, you know, this is a new set, like, everyone's getting their sea legs, especially on a movie, like on a TV show, it's a little bit different, because three quarters of the people already hired and we're doing all the work all over the, you know, at the same time, but like, a movie or the beginning of a series or something like that everyone is figuring it out and figuring out the flow. And crews are on unmerged. And, you know, and so I think that, you know, that is, uh, you know, I definitely try to give people the benefit of the doubt for a while, you know, I may have a spidey sense, you know, quickly and go like, Oh, that's a little red flag, but that's okay, I can tuck that into the back of my head for, you know, a minute a minute, you know, and then and then if days go by, and it's just like, it's just a clusterfuck, then it's just a clusterfuck. And, you know, and you're like, Okay, I just have to protect me, you know, in my performance as much as possible.

Alex Ferrari 31:24
Yeah. And I've seen that happen with and you can kind of see when when you see a movie and you see a performances come out, and you're like, wow, she's always good, so good and bad, or he's always so good. What happened here? And then you hear the stories of behind the scenes, you're like, oh, they were just protecting themselves. They were just trying to survive the shoot as such.

Kyra Sedgwick 31:41
Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 31:43
Now, is there something that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career about like, hey, you know, can I offer this or? This is not the way it is?

Kyra Sedgwick 31:54
I don't know. You know, I was born and raised in New York. So I had a lot of streets.

Alex Ferrari 31:58
I could tell, I could tell.

Kyra Sedgwick 32:01
You know, I had two older brothers, so I wasn't going to take a whole lot of shit. Like, I'd take some you know, but like, I remember, you were prepped, ya know, like, I remember auditioning for Adrian Lyon, for line for Flashdance, believe it or not, yeah. And I and I had to, you know, I go in there, and I started the scene, and the phone rang, and he went to go pick it up. And I was like, You're not going to pick that up, are you? And I literally was, like, you know, a baby actor, you know, I was like, I don't know, 17 or something like that. And I was like, You're not gonna pick that up? And he looked at me like, wow, like he couldn't believe, you know, that I have, you know, just like, I think that, um, I think that, I think that you have value, I think telling, you know, telling an actor, you know, it's interesting, because I think that on the one hand, you want to say to young actors, like you have value, your opinion matters. But I also think it's so important that our actors know, and I somehow knew this intrinsically, that you are there to be of service, you know, you really are there, you know, I studied with, with teachers who were like, the plays the thing, you know, they mean, like, you're not the thing, the play is the thing. So I think that that's important for actors to know, and you have value, right? Like both of those things at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 33:23
It's so interesting, because you seem, we're, as we're talking, you've obviously had a fantastic career thus far. You haven't it doesn't seem from the outside, that you fall into any of these traps, these ego traps that you actually mentioned, like, oh, this or that, or you become or people think you're a god, and how did you avoid that? Is it just your upbringing in your being a New Yorker, because I'm an east coaster, as well. So I feel you, we could smell our own. So what is it about that, that, that you didn't fall into those traps? And also, your husband to Kevin didn't seem to fall into him either.

Kyra Sedgwick 33:58
You know, I think that, um, you know, I think in some ways, we have always been and always, you know, valued being a workhorse actor, and not like a star. You know, what I mean? I think that we, you know, I think that there's part of me that wished it had been easier for me, I know that one would look at me on the outside and go, God, you've had such a great career, but like, it's been hard, like many times hard and like many years, you know, not working, sometimes between jobs, like two years, three years. So like, I think that while I would have liked a softer, easier way, in a way I feel like because it's been challenging, it has made me respect and value. You know, being a workhorse actor, that's like somebody who never had it too easy. I also will say that like I feel like I'm For whatever reason, I'm like a good citizen. And I feel like it's important to be a good citizen in the world and to be a good citizen on a set and to like, treat people well and treat people the way you want to be treated. And like that kind of diva mentality or thinking that you're better than anybody else. Anybody, including the freakin, you know, crafty man, if you think you're better than them than like your, I just, I just think that that'll end up biting you in the ass, you know, and I and it's certainly not fun to be around. And it also there's humility to being an actor, you have to be willing and open to learning about human beings. And I think that if you think you're somehow better than any human being, then you're not going to be you don't you don't have that humility to observe and to, and to become that person and to represent that person on screen. Does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 35:57
It makes it makes all the sense in the world. And your what you're saying is the what everyone should strive for. Not everyone gets there, but everyone should strive for that, just that I'm here, I'm here for the for the work. I'm here. I'm glad to be working. I had the pleasure of working with Robert forester years ago. And and not to drop a name. But the reason I'm bringing my friend, the reason. The reason I'm the reason I'm bringing it up is that when I spoke to him after we work together, he said, actors need to remember that there's this many actors in this many jobs, right? And you should be lucky, if you're working to get up and be appreciative and grateful that you get to do what you love to do. And that's what a lot of actors don't understand. And I was like, wow, it was just such a, he was like a sage. And when I when I worked with him was like a sage working. Talking to me about acting, I was just like, ah, and also by the way, when he walked on set, he was prepared in a way that he was so prepared in a way that I wasn't used to work because actors I've worked with the good actors and everything but such an I was like, Oh, my God, he's he's walking in like, I'm putting Tarantino This is amazing. So it's so wonderful when you get to work with really great actors, because then you understand what really great actor can do and bring to your project. Where like you're saying green actors. They haven't gotten there yet. It takes them a little bit of time to get there. Yeah. Now tell me about space audit. oddity. How did that come to life? By the way, I watched it, I loved it. I thought it was wonderful. What an amazing cast by the way.

Kyra Sedgwick 37:39
Thank you so much. Yeah, yeah, we really, we really got lucky. So Space Oddity is a script that was given to me, I think it was 2017 Maybe even. And I loved it. And, and my company, my company, big swing, we, Valerie Sadler, and I worked with the writer for about a year about a year and a half. And, um, and then, you know, the, the little pandemic happened and so we had to push a year. But we, you know, I love the movie, I thought I had something to say I thought it's everything that I love, you know, it's about this family and, and it's romantic. And it's funny, and it's sad. And it also has like some climate stuff in it, you know, which I think is so critical right now and important for us as artists and storytellers to to talk about. And, you know, we got the money together literally, like we were in prep when the last money came in. I mean, it was not easy. There was nothing easy about this, you know, we had someone cast as Alex he fell out like three weeks before we were sparked start supposed to start prep, and then the great gift of Kyle Allen who's like, going to be a huge star, you know, came into our lives. And we had Madeline Brewer really early on the year before in like 2018 I guess we had her 19 I'm getting my I'm not good with dates. But and a lot of people cast and then, you know, lots of people came in at the last minute. And, um, you know, I was one of those things where, you know, I was bound and we were bound and determined, like you were like, not taking no for an answer. I'm making this movie, like, I will do everything I can to and I become the engine of everything that I do, I find and that's like a gift and a power of mine. But also it's like sort of the only way I know how to do it. Like literally, in the middle of pandemic I was doing a sitcom I was starring in a sitcom that only went one season called Call your mother. And by the way, call your mother. Call your mother always call your mother And, and I was like, I felt so hopeless like helpless like I couldn't like I wasn't doing I was in LA you know, I couldn't do anything here and this was what before we even had our money you know, this was the summer before we ended up shooting it. But I was like, I knew I wanted to shoot in Rhode Island because right before March 5 2019 We went on to scout in Rhode Island, I knew they had a 30% tax incentive and I went on a scout with my producing partner with Valerie and we were like, This is the place I found the town I knew with for Rhode Island was gonna be where I wanted to shoot the town and Tallinn is an important part in character in the movie. And then I was like I have to find a flower farm. We didn't find one on that scout and of course the world shut down. So I was in LA and I started looking up you know, farm flower farms on the computer. Didn't realize that it was the day before Valentine's Day cold called you know, robbing Hollow Farm, which was this, you know, I looked I found their website, I looked at their plate, it looked beautiful. So I cold called them and said Hi my name is Kyra Sedgwick. I'm gonna make a movie in Rhode Island this summer didn't have the money didn't have the all the cat. You know, I was like, but you know, saying all this stuff and, and I really loved the look of your flower farm and any chance you might want to let us shoot on it. She goes and the wife who picks up the phone who on the flower farm with her husband, Mike said, Well, you are calling a flower farm the day before Valentine's Day and then I was like, oh my god, I'm so sorry. Hey, Valentine's Day, I always thought it was like stupid holiday and then they start going to this like thing about Valentine's Day. I was sweating. I was so scared to call but but it was it was like magical. It was so magical. Because literally the next day Mike Hutchinson who owns Robin Harlow got on the phone with me and my production designer, Michael. Michael, we got I'm forgetting his last name, but I'll remember it. And we called him and he was like, I did a show for I did a gardening show with Martha Stewart. And so I know filmmaking we were like, we couldn't believe how lucky we were. And he sent us a whole bunch of pictures of what the place looks like, you know, when it's in full bloom and we were like, oh my god, I can't believe it. And this sucker actually, I mean, this really nice guy wants to let us shoot there. And you know, and you know, we turned we ended up shooting there. So it was like, you know, it was it was amazing. A lot of luck. A lot of perseverance and you know, great people supporting us. I mean, you know, it takes a village it takes more than a village it takes like God it takes a takes a planet

Alex Ferrari 42:37
Miracle it takes a miracle.

Kyra Sedgwick 42:39
It really takes a miracle the the idea that anything ever gets to me. We got turned down by so many financiers Do you have no Michael Michael Fitzgerald I'm so sorry. I had to look that up. Oh, my God, the brilliant the brilliant microfiche show but there was a lot on that far from that is that flower farm I mean, you could spend millions of dollars trying to get that look and there was like when a camera and there was me there was a lot of work that Michael did a lot of work but it was a beautiful place to shoot.

Alex Ferrari 43:08
Now what you've directed a ton of television a ton of television over the years what lessons did you bring from television to your and this is your first feature your direct if I'm not mistaken Correct? Is the what were those lessons because television is a whole different beast. A narrative a feature so what lessons did you bring onto your Indie film?

Kyra Sedgwick 43:30
Well, I mean, I think that you learned so much doing television and different kinds of TV shows like going from like Grayson, Frankie to Ray Donovan and sitting on a hill and then you know, in the dark and I mean, you know, I got to play in everyone else's playground and use everybody else's toys. And you know, I know it's only the beginning and and I have so much more to learn but I knew so much more than I did when I did my first movie. So a lot about how to shoot things about equipment a better coverage right exactly or not coverage on or no I'm kind of fast and loose with the coverage we'll take a talk about that another time. But you know, trusting that you know when you've got it you're moving on like that is something that really came so easily from to me from the beginning but I think it's because of my acting background and knowing like especially all those years on a closure like we have this scene we have this this side anyway or you know, and so that I think is such a huge and also being under the gun timelines is super important being responsible for Budget Day all that stuff? You know, I know that some people never had that problem, you know, but frankly, I love that problem. You know, I mean, I'd love to have more days don't get me wrong universe like many more days and all that but like there's something to momentum on us on a chronic crew, and on a day that serves everybody, you know, a serves cast, it serves crew and it serves, you know, producer, I mean, it just serves the piece. So, so learning how to know when I got it. Also being spending a lot of time, on all the shows I did, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time on location blocking. And being an actor, it's great because I can do all the parts, but also I could bring in pas, and you know, other people to come in and be those actors for me, so I could set shots and stuff like that, like, all that stuff. And also like being open to ideas and knowing when to go like, Okay, no more ideas. Like now it's me in my head. And the other thing I've really learned about myself as director, which I've learned through time, is that I have to hear my own voice first, without hearing other people's input first. So that's why I like to go on the on the onset on location onset. Early on, I did it on everything from the first TV show I did. And usually they'll let you like walk the sets and stuff like that, and, and going on to the set and thinking, okay, oh, this is how the scene should be. This is why it should be, you know, it comes at this time in the show or the or the movie, it should be this kind of thing. I'm cutting from this to this. So I want you know, I want to make sure that that works and spending a lot of time with my own voice so that I can hear the input of other people because it feels good for other people to feel seen and heard. That's also really important. And the other thing I know as an actor, specially on my show, the closer people like to hear you say, thank you so much for moving up, like really appreciate your hustle, you know, when you fix that sound thing for us. Thanks. You know, all that stuff is like so it's so key to you know, just give people their due man and they'll and they will kill and die for you. Am I right? crew that you appreciate them and accurately you appreciate them. They're like, that's it. I'll do anything for you now.

Alex Ferrari 47:08
I mean, because that is feeding them well, and that are feeding them well,

Kyra Sedgwick 47:13
Eating them well. craft service is not above you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:19
No crafty is the craft that could kill you. You put a bunch of sugary, buttery sugary stuff on that table. And it's an 18 hour day about 12 hours in everyone's like sugar high fights breakout. I've seen it happen.

Kyra Sedgwick 47:33
It's, it's

Alex Ferrari 47:35
Now as a director, we all go through that, you know, we all understand that the battle of making your day making, you know, cat making sure your film gets done. Project gets finished on time. But there's always that one day, there's that thing. Camera breaks actor, car car broke down. I'm losing the light. What was that day for you? What was the worst day? And how did you overcome that obstacle as a director?

Kyra Sedgwick 48:03
Shit. I know that we had a bunch of days where we were supposed to shoot something and the lightning would start. Everything would stop for 30 minutes. And we'd had to come back. You know. And I think that I think that the thing to do is to Oh, I remember oh, this was a this was a really good day to talk about because me and the actors weren't gelling. It was like they were mad at me which which foreign actor director is like, what do you mean you don't like reorder? Drive? I mean, seriously, it's so and I remember at first with with an actor and I wish I could say his name. But I'm not going to ungraceful, Frankie, because all the actors were like, We love you care. We love you. And I was like, they all love me because, you know, I'm an actor. And of course they love me. And this one actor was like, I don't love you. I don't love you at all. In fact, I think you're annoying. That was just like, say what broke my heart. And I but you know, I was telling him to do something you didn't want to do or whatever, you know. But that day, not only did that happen, where I felt like I was asking for something. I can be very exacting, like a very exacting director like I because I feel like I really know what I want and if I'm not getting it, and I'm losing the light, I'm sure I know I can get you know, I think I'm covering but I'm not that good an actor sometimes. Hard to believe I know. I'm only kidding. But anyway, so this day, it wasn't a good day anyway, we had so much to do and it was this big emotional is that big emotional scene in the fire for the fireflies where he's like talking about brother and it's like it's such a huge scene. It was such an important scene and it was such a beautiful location and I and I was so it just nothing was happening right you losing light before we could ever make this day. It was an insane day. We never could have made it anyway. But then thank God the heavens opened up and the lightning came and the rain we had to shut down. And I remember going, You know what, every time we hit those moments, it always ended up being a gift in the end. And so I had to start learning to just trust that, even though that was so hard for me, because I really do I like to stick to a plan, you know, but of course, you know, you have to let go of that plan. But, but and also there is, I mean, you always think like, there's no way we're going to be ever be able to come back to this location, and then something happens, you are labeled able to go back like, you know, again, it's like about right sizing things like, you know, it's I know, it feels like a movie, but it is just the movie, like you're gonna figure it out, like, you know, and no one needs to get hit by lightning and like, your knowing needs my bad attitude on that day, or like my forcing a solution when like, there's no solution to be had, the person is just not in the mood to take my direction today. You know what I mean? So it ended up being a blessing.

Alex Ferrari 50:53
But it was hard to go there during it because I mean, as a director, directing this compromise, every day, every every moment, it's it's just compromised constantly.

Kyra Sedgwick 51:03
For David Fincher. I really feel like that never open when you hear him talk, because like, I would never do that. I'm just an asshole. And I know it. Like I'm just really Tony's II so open about it. It's like amazing, and I've never worked them. And we'd love to know, I just said, no, no compromises.

Alex Ferrari 51:23
No, I think it was it was No, I agree with you. 100%. I think David compromises at all. I don't think Nolan compromises. But they're playing in such different sandboxes. I mean, you're talking to me, Kubrick never compromised.

Kyra Sedgwick 51:37
By the way, just three men just want to mention, but anyway, go on.

Alex Ferrari 51:39
Right, right. But they don't generally compromise because they are who they are. And that's the way they but they've built that thing about them that they can do things like that. I promise you that. David did compromise on alien three, his first feature, which he had taken away by by his studio, and then after, oh, yeah, there's a whole long story. I mean, I could go on and on about oh, yeah, he was he was he never wanted to direct it. He wanted to say, I'm not gonna go to features anymore. I'm just gonna go back to commercials. And then seven came around. And then he said, if you're gonna, I'm gonna do it my way. And, and then after that, then he start writing his ticket. Same thing for Nolan. And Kubrick, Kubrick wrote a ticket that nobody's ever written before. It's remarkable. Now I had to I do have to ask you, because this is this is, this is a story I heard that you told. And I think the audience would get a big kick out of because I couldn't stop laughing. It's your Tom Cruise story. Please tell the audience that Tom Cruise. It's absolutely.

Kyra Sedgwick 52:43
So you know, Tom and I did Born on the Fourth of July together. So we kind of knew each other. And then Kevin did a few good men with him. And I was seven months pregnant on a few good men. And, um, and back then they didn't have nice looking maternity clothes. This has nothing to do with the story, but just just as a vision of what I look like. And so we got in, we would keep getting invited to like events with like Tom and Nicole, who he was with at the time, and Demi Moore was in the movie. And so Bruce came, and then like, and then Kevin, remind me, What's his last name? Kevin Pollak, thank you. And then like, you know, throwing for a good measure, like Billy Crystal would come and then Rob Reiner, you know, and it was like, We got invited to cool things we got invited over to to Tom Cruise's house for dinner. It was a lovely meal. After dinner, we all retired to the library, where the men smoked cigars, and the women chatted, and I do what

Alex Ferrari 53:44
It's like Titanic.

Kyra Sedgwick 53:47
Well, what I tend to do is and I couldn't drink, I couldn't smoke, you know, because I was pregnant. So I was like, looking at stuff. You know, I looked at like, a, like a photo album of Tom and Nicole skydiving and I was like, Wow, that's amazing. And then like looking at the mantelpiece, there was like a little, you know, a fireplace and I was looking at the mantelpiece. The pictures. Then underneath the mantelpiece, weirdly, like oddly placed was this little button. And I was like, I wonder what that is. And, you know, maybe if I pressed it, like the door, like the thing would shift and like, we'd go into some secret place. And so I just pressed the button, and nothing happened. And I thought, huh, that's a little unsettling that nothing happened to me. You know, I'm just going to mention it to time. So I tapped on, on Tom on the shoulder. He was like mid story, you know, on something and he turns around, and I go, I just press that button under there. And he goes, you press that button? And I said, Oh, yeah, I did. I press up on he goes, that's the panic button. And I was like, Oh my God, and he goes, Why did you press that button? Now? I was like, I don't know. It was there. It was just there, you know, and the cops came, like 12 cop cars came, we were supposed to watch the Godfather one and two, we had to postpone the screening. Because at first he just told his assistants to tell them he was fine. They wouldn't leave, understandably until they saw Tom Cruise, like in one piece. So it's like, oh, yeah, sorry, I have to go upstairs because someone press the cops are upstairs, they won't leave. So we got to hold on the movie. I mean, it was mortifying, and we didn't get invited back.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
What? And finally, what did Kevin do during this time?

Kyra Sedgwick 55:39
Like, what did you do? Why would you do? I don't know. And he was like, it's just I can't believe you did that. What were you thinking? You know, he was just completely like, on one hand mortified and shocked. But on the other hand, like that's so you, you just do that kind of shit. Like, just, there's a button. I'm just gonna press it. You know?

Alex Ferrari 56:00
I think you're a victim of your industry, which is the movie industry. And you've seen way too many movies. And when you hit that button, cool stuff happens in movies, right? Of course, there's just not a panic button that something opens you go into secret passage, you find the Ark of the Covenant. There's things that happen, so I'm waiting.

Kyra Sedgwick 56:19
I'm waiting. I am completely with you.

Alex Ferrari 56:22
I probably, I'm not sure if I would have touched the button. But boy, whatever got close. Like curious. People. I just want you right now. But imagine if you hit the button and a door open and you'd be like, oh, hell, what would you have done? You're like, Tom, Tom. The dungeon is visible for everybody. Where are you? Oh my god. But Kira, where can people uh, when is this coming out? I know you're at Tribeca right now.

And what? What was it like? What was it like getting that call?

Kyra Sedgwick 56:56
It was great. It was so so so great. Actually, it was kind of a kind of anticlimactic because I call Jean because I hadn't heard and I know Jane Rosenthal. And, you know, I was like, This isn't right. You shouldn't call her and I was like, You know what, no stone unturned, like, you got to do it. And I just want to just tell her how passionate I was about, you know, my hometown of New York and what I felt about the Tribeca Film Festival, just the way I feel like it's a it's like a you know, I mean, it was it was conceived as like New York coming back from 911. And I kind of feel like I'm reinventing myself. And like, I don't know, I just like I had this whole spiel to give her you know, and then I was like, hi, Jean. Thank you so much for taking my call. You know, I just wanted to just one more, you know, just once again, tell you how pass it's just like, Oh, sweetie, you know, you just such a great job. We absolutely want to have you I'm so sorry. It's taken us so long. And I was like, Yeah, but I got a spiel, I got a hold about the phoenix rising from the ashes. But anyway, no, I mean, I'm so grateful. Because the truth is, like, I think this can play in the theater, I think it should play in the theater. And it probably won't, or may not do to, like the world that we live in. It'll, you know, I mean, I would love to have a window of theatrical anyway, no matter what. So, but I think that people seeing it in an audience, it's a joyful, meaningful movie about love and loss at a time and fighting for like, what's here at a time when I feel like we're all feeling loss and wanting to fight for something, you know, better and different. And, and, and within our means and within our grasp to fight for. So I think that I think it's an important movie, it feels like and it's fun, and it's entertaining. And it's, and it's romantic. And it's about love and like fighting the good fight, and you know, and grief. And I just think that who can't relate to that.

Alex Ferrari 58:50
Absolutely. Well, I am. I am so happy that you made the film. It's a fantastic film. I hope everyone goes out there and sees it. Kyra, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. So it's so entertaining. It's so much fun. Thank you and best of luck, continued success and go out there and tell some more great stories. So I appreciate you.

Kyra Sedgwick 59:08
Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

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BPS 206: Lessons Learned: Being a First-Time Writer/Director with Sarah Elizabeth Mintz

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz received her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she completed her thesis film Transit, starring Dakota Johnson. After graduating she mentored with filmmakers Cary Fukunaga on True Detective, Joachim Trier on Louder Than Bombs, and worked with Alejandro Inarritu on The Revenant.

Sarah was a Sundance Fellow in the 2017 Writer’s Intensive and 2018 Sundance Strategic Financing Intensive with her project Good Girl Jane. She completed a short film of the same name starring Rachelle Vinberg (Skate Kitchen, HBO’s Betty) and Travis Tope (American Vandal), with cinematography by Jake Saner (Ghosts of Sugar Land).

The short premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London. Good Girl Jane recently wrapped principal photography in Los Angeles starring Rain Spencer, Patrick Gibson and Andie MacDowell. Good Girl Jane is inspired by events in Sarah’s own life.

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Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 0:00
I think I was like, Okay, I'm not making any progress, but it's not. But I can write a little. And then and I was like, okay, the script needs to be better. Like how do I make it better? And yeah, kept redrafting and I kept sending up pieces and finally and it's funny because like it wasn't getting anywhere but then it got into the Sundance of writers and pensive. And I was like, Okay, if it's gonna get in nowhere and then get in here like, I'll take it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 0:29
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage. We're screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com. Now today on the show, we have writer director Sarah Elizabeth Mintz. Now Sarah's new film, good girl, Jane is premiering at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Now her journey and how she got to this point is pretty remarkable. She had the opportunity to work with Oscar winning writer director Alejandro Ruutu on the set of The Revenant the stories alone are remarkable. So without any further ado, let's dive in. I'd like to welcome to the show Sarah Elizabeth Mintz how you doin Sarah?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 1:10
I'm good. Hi Alex thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 1:13
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm excited to talk to you about your your new film Good Girl Jane and, and your your adventures in the film industry which have have been you've got some shrapnel along the way.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 1:27
Yeah. Yeah, sure. This is not my first rodeo. It is my first feature that I've written and directed.

Alex Ferrari 1:35
But you've been you've been you've been in some battlegrounds over the year. So we're gonna get into that. So before we get started, how did you and why God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity called the film industry?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 1:46
I'm just jumping right in, right. So it's like, I don't know if I really had a choice in the matter. Exactly. I actually, I thought I just loved movies. And when I was in high school, I would you know, do the thing where you like, buy a PG to get and sneak into the movies. I think it was like 2002 2003 I really started sneaking into all the movies. I remember I was it was like the dreamers came out to the club where Lucci like that's so cool, like 13 and ghosts, were all like Hedwig and the Angry Inch like I was, I was a teenager and I was like, I would have spent all my time watching like the weird movies that that are at the Lemley, which was like the art house theater by my house. And so at first, I just thought it was like a fan. And it was kind of shy. I was pretty shy, actually. So I spent all my time watching movies, like all night, I didn't sleep and would go to class and super tired. But I was like, Well, I spent all night hanging with my friends, you know, on the screen. So I think that I thought I was chip in. And I also didn't really know that women directed like, there were very, there were very few female directors that I was aware of. I was aware of like Kathryn Bigelow and Sofia Coppola. And truly, I think that was it. Like, luckily, later I was like, oh, Andrea Arnold. Like slowly, people started trickling in. But I didn't know that was an option at all. I did grow up in LA. I did grow up, you know, around people that wanted to act or like people's parents were in Hollywood. But my family wasn't at all and in the film business at all, in the film business at all. No, my mom's a therapist. My dad was he was in entertainment. He was in talent manager for musicians, but not, not different.

Alex Ferrari 3:46
Different worlds. Different crazy, but similar worlds. Different crazy, but similar worlds.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 3:52
Definitely crazy. Around the crazy, but not quite the film crazy. And then I went to college, I went to UW Madison for a year and a half, and I studied Russian language and political science. And I woke up one morning, sophomore year, and I was taking off film classes it like happened really slowly, sort of overnight. And I was like, I'm not going to be able to graduate. Like, I'm not this isn't my major. I can't like figure this out. So I transferred to NYU. And once I was at NYU. I was like, Okay, I'm going to direct but it didn't happen overnight. I didn't feel like it was an active choice in that it just sort of like it was always where it was headed. It was

Alex Ferrari 4:39
You were being pulled into that into that world regardless of whether you want it it was like a vortex like a black hole. Yeah, just sucking you in. That. That is the feeling that many filmmakers have. It's just like I worked in a video store back in the day so I just you know, surrounded by and that one day, I said What am I gonna do Hey, I just looked, I said, I guess I'm gonna direct movies. And that's literally how I got my start as well. It's just something that and then once you're in you wouldn't you get bitten by that bug? I call it the beautiful illness, you can't get rid of it. You can't get rid of this the feeling of wanting to as much as you might want to leave.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 5:19
Yeah, it's so hard to get rid of this. Please give me a call. You now have my number.

Alex Ferrari 5:29
No, no, it's true. And I've talked to I mean, I've talked to so many filmmakers over the years, and everyone suffers from the same illness, all of us, all of us suffer the same thing. And there's no way out and many of us have tried to leave. And many of us wanted to leave. I've tried to leave. I've been doing this for almost 30 years now. And I've wanted to lead multiple times, because it's just so hard. It's just so brutally hard over the years. And it's that insanity. That keeps you going. That makes you think that you like yeah, can make this happen. Yeah, I can get the financing. Yeah. can cast that actor. Yeah, I can get it to this festival. It's it's insane.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 6:07
It really is. And I'm not trying to pivot prematurely, but service, the movie that I the good girl, Jane, is it tackles substance abuse and drug addiction. And I definitely think there's a lot of that, in pursuing a career like this, like that sort of, I mean, the highs and lows. It's just it really mirrors. Like any addiction. It really does. It's not

Alex Ferrari 6:33
You're not wrong, you're not wrong. I mean, I mean, I have been around the block a couple more times than you have. But I've seen it as well with young and old. It is that kind of addiction to it. You just have to kind of keep going you wake up in the morning thinking about it, you get to sleep at night thinking about it. It is it is it's all encompassing, but that is art that is an artist's life. And for better or worse. That's why we were put here. We have to we have to walk this way. We have to walk this path without question. Now it was you was talking about a few film? Was there a movie that specifically lit your fuse?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 7:10
Some of those movies that I listed earlier for sure. You know, hmm, outside again, I probably that's probably the movie that I watched, like on a loop. Freshman year, like when I was like 1415. Just the the youthful energy and like that the very tight the Verity vibe, and that film that was new to me. I like hadn't really seen anything like that before. There's also sexy and I was like, you know, a teenager. I just loved that movie so much. And that yeah, probably that one, but also Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I'd say that movie really did change my life. Because it was the first time that I saw a film where it felt like anything was possible. Like you can tell any vulnerable story you want. Like there are no restrictions. Just tell your truth. Like get it out there. And that that movie changed my life like John Kerr Mitchell was my favorite director for a long time when I was when I was younger because of his bravery. And that's inspiring to me.

Alex Ferrari 8:14
Oh, no, there's no question. Once you see that movie. You go. Yeah. Oh, yeah. You could tell them your story. Today. If this has been if this has been put into the world, the doors swung wide open. Anyone can walk through?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 8:28
Absolutely. So even if it's not, even if that film didn't look exactly like the films, I mean, I knew I wanted to make it. Yeah, it changed my whole life. It was like, Oh, you could do anything telling it.

Alex Ferrari 8:42
So while you were at NYU, you made a short film called transit. And it starred a young Dakota Johnson, who was still a seasoned actor at that point. She cheated. She hadn't hit fifth. What is the gray? 50 Shades of Grey yet

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 8:58
No, no, she was on Ben and Kate, which was a Fox sitcom at the time,

Alex Ferrari 9:02
Right. But she was wearing a working actress. So yeah, you know, for a young director like yourself at the time. What was it like? Working with a seasoned actor? How did you approach that process? Because I know a lot of filmmakers, young filmmakers listening, that they get an opportunity to work with a seasoned actor. And I remember when I most of the actors I worked with growing up, were not seasoned. They were young kids like me trying to make it happen. But when you get in a room or get on a set with a real, a real actor who's got some jobs, where he got some chops, it can be intimidating with filmmaker, or it could be exhilarating. How was it for you? And how did you approach working with her?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 9:41
Well, I have to be completely honest. So I made that film, like about a decade ago. And this is really the first conversation. This is the first press I've ever done for it. Because that film, it did jumpstart my career in a lot of ways. And I did work with, you know, some really talented actors to code included, I did that movie with her. And that was, like, gigantic for me. But it didn't do a big festival run I do didn't do a big press tour. So it's like, whoa, a transit like, takes it back. Working with the coda, I mean, so I went to high school with Dakota. And, and we were, we were close. And I knew her and her family. And she had seen me go through a lot of becoming age, that coming of age that I was trying to, like capture in that film. And you're, and she was one of the only actresses that I knew that I that I could ask to do it. Like I was like, Okay, this is a close friend of mine. She is clearly like, I had a hunch about her, you know, when I was little, she wanted to act. And I was like, okay, this person is so talented, and they're going to act and like, I got to get in there and work with her. And we just cared about each other, we crafted a story that was again, very personal. And it was it was a little intimidating, even like asking him to do it, even though we were friendly. Because I remember I took her to the Greenwich hotel. And I had like $4 to my name is through the Grand Hotel. And I was like, let's get like a drink. And, and even just in that meeting, I remember thinking to myself, like she's been in so many more of these meetings than I have. And I was really trying to put like some shoulder pads on and like pitch the film to her and professional way. And anyway grateful to her, she decided to do with me, she trusted me. And it was a really fruitful like that movie, even though, you know, it's definitely a student film. It's not like my finest work yet. Sure, of course, really. It's something that I'm very proud of. And I'm proud of what she gave in that film. And it was, it was a really, it was very, it was dramatic and personal for her to like there was a lot of stuff that I think she hadn't quite put on screen yet at the time. And it was moving to dig that deep with her into that.

Alex Ferrari 12:07
Now I wanted to bring that up, because so many filmmakers, you know, it's all great and dandy when you're making getting you're in Tribeca, and you're at Sundance, but to go back to those first days, you know, working on those first short films, that's when a lot of these lessons the foundation, the bricks of the foundation are starting to be poured, or the cement is starting to be poured in that foundation. During those early short films and getting an opportunity to work with Dakota someone like of her caliber for talent is a blessing. And also, I'm sure a learning experience as a director.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 12:37
It absolutely was. And I I really I did study her on that set, because she grew up on set, and I did it. And her and you know she, she was always on time, she was always so friendly to the casting crew really collaborative. But it was also just like, I felt like I really needed to, to I keep saying this. But like I really need to do my homework in order to like have conversation with her on set. I couldn't just wing it because she had done the homework. And I did my first I directed my first love scene on that short, it was like very quick, and it wasn't really graphic. But I had to really make a safe space and a safe set for everyone. And it's actually I worked with the same cinematographer on that short as I did on the Belgian feature.

Alex Ferrari 13:29
Nice. So you brought so you brought him along? You brought everyone Yeah.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 13:33
And like that idea of safety. Yeah, no, no, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 13:37
I mean, anytime I've ever had to shoot a love scene. It is horrible. It's horrible. for everybody involved. It's not sexy at all. It's just about trying to keep a safe space for the actors. And but it's just like it's uncomfortable. Like as a director, you're like, Alright, can you caress the back of the neck more here? Like it's just weird. It's a weird, unsexy, awkward scenario to do.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 14:00
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I had no idea. And I remember both actors I was working with Steve had done love skins prior. And they were definitely like, oh, like, they knew how it went. But I really had to go in there and be like, Okay, I need to choreograph this ahead of time and be very clear on what I need, but they're not just like, uh, you know, and you're right. It's not really a sexy time. The whole point is just that you need to make sure these people feel comfortable and safe and really be clear about what it is that you want. And now we have these intimacy coordinators that are on all this. Gotta say that's profoundly helpful. Very, very profound with the awkwardness with it.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Yes, absolutely. Just having a middle person to just kind of talk to somebody and go, please help. I don't know. What do I do here?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 14:56
No yeah, but go I want to you want to make sure that doesn't look like they are you know, playing Twister like the angles really matter and these people have to give you that insight. Sorry, that's not very important, but funny.

Alex Ferrari 15:11
It is. It's funny. It's kind of the lunacy of the Carnival that is filmmaking. You know, we are carnies. We're just carnies. You know, without question. Now, you you have, you've had the opportunity to work with some very interesting people over the years. As you were coming up as a director specifically, you got to assist Alejandro Ruutu on the Revenant. What the hell was that? Like? Because all I've heard is, I've heard I've worked with I've talked to some people who worked on the movie. I've seen the documentary, I've heard stories. It was an insanity from what I heard on set in a good way, but just the nature of the kind of storytelling. You were there assisting him at that point. Were you on set? Did you were you did you watch? What was going on? What did you learn? Tell me tell me everything.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 16:01
Wow. So I was on my job in total, I think like three months, so I was not there as long as any anyone else I like I came in near the end. There was quite a, there were quite a few assistants, there was a large team of them, some had, you know, come on earlier and left. And I had, I got that job because I was in high school intern at anonymous content for Steve Golan. And he, he was producing the Revenant. And he and I had stayed in touch. He really been a mentor to me for a long time. And, and he thought it would be good for that job. Given how tricky it seemed like it was going. And so I flew out there and I was in Calgary, so yes, I was on set. I was in Calgary, during all of those like crazy snowstorms we've seen in the pictures you've heard about. And I had directed, I sorry, I guess to sit a few directors prior to that. So I did kind of know the drill. But this was a unique experience. For sure. It was I had to wear essentially like a spacesuit on set. It was that cold I had, I remember just buying out the I landed and then I had to get to set in the morning. And I didn't know how I could get to set and be on set. Like in the clothing I brought. I didn't have like a spacesuit yet. So remember showing up but I just like looked like a dodo. You know, like I was like wearing everything I owned. And everyone else just looked like they really had it down. And I just didn't have it down yet. And I'm carrying like all under his lunch and like all his bags, and I'm I just didn't look cool and like, didn't look ready. So it took me a minute to kind of get into the swing of things. But But I got to see Chivo do all those winners and I got to see natural light being shooting and after late. The day's shooting very short, very little light. Because of the winter, and it's just like the conditions we really only had a few hours to shoot each day. And it would take like two hours to get set. So it was it was a different type of thing than I ever done. It was also the biggest movie I'd ever worked on. It was like $200 million. I have no idea it was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And the most stress I've ever seen at like for them in the produce. I saw some producers like actually just go gray like in front of like, you know, I read a sure I like I probably aged quite a bit in just that short amount of time. But it was also truly inspiring. You know, so ambitious, but really, it's an art film and it's It's gigantic. And that's rare, a rare breed. It's insane did what was like the biggest lesson you learned watching him direct. Did you get a chance to watch him direct? Yeah, and I would say that's probably about all of the directors that I've worked for. But I mean, specifically all 100 Just an uncompromising creative vision. Like there. I mean, you've probably heard there was a really big challenge there wasn't enough snow on the ground for a lot of the toward the end of student was enough snow on the ground. And it wasn't like okay, you know, we'll we'll we'll create some fake snow put on the ground and like that's that you know, the texture of the snow in the way it read on camera. Like if that wasn't as authentic as possible if that wasn't reading correctly, like we would you know, be flew somewhere else. Simple as that. Yeah. Just fly through. And it's not and by the way, it's not just like you know, you you're dp and a couple of other people on the crew you're talking about 100 people plus, plus all the gear in the most insane environment ever tried. I mean, yeah, Leo almost died for God's sakes. I mean, yeah, I also remember seeing all of the mock ups of that horse carcass and and just the artistry in there's yeah so many people building such a universe and I just had never been on set like that. Like it was really stunning the amount of crops people and the amount of talent that was that was on that project.

Alex Ferrari 20:43
Same same kind of setup. Good girl, Jane, right. Obviously, just, you know, hundreds of people on set

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 20:51
Shooting for months on end

Alex Ferrari 20:53
Months on, if you didn't like the way the garbage was landing in the back alley, you would just go to a rally?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 20:59
Yeah, yeah, definitely. No, I would personally move the garbage.

Alex Ferrari 21:05
You know, it's so fun. It when you're when you have the ability or the opportunity to be on a set like that. It's just so remarkable, because you're right, it's an art film at a level that no one gets to play. And that's a that's a that's a sandbox that a handful of directors in the world get to play and literally a handful of directors in the world because,

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 21:26
Like, let go like I yeah, I mean, it was that was so cool. Because I had really I had worked on arthouse films, like that's what I had done for the most part. And this was that it was just giant. Yeah, it was just on such a bigger scale. And, you know, it's like, yeah, I'm working with see one. You know that there is a producer that does big movies, like, Yeah, but yeah, but like, but also like Michelle gone refill. And it's so it was, it was a really unique experience. And it is the last movie I assisted on. So I really did. Like, I was like, Okay, I've seen it all I've seen it all is nothing more than can be seen. Usually,

Alex Ferrari 22:15
I need to move on. Now. This is this is the next this is the next step. No, it's pretty. It's pretty remarkable. Now, how did Good Girl Jane come to life?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:25
Like, from like, day one?

Alex Ferrari 22:29
Well, I mean, I'm assuming I'm assuming they just throw money at you, right? Because this is obviously

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:33
Oh, yeah. Like I'm gonna make I'm gonna make a movie out of it directly one before and I'm just gonna find a million bucks. And then Oh, and there it is.

Alex Ferrari 22:42
Right. Right. And there's like God just just showed up. Right? And then you could just start working at the next day.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:47
Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 22:51
That's the story. And that's the story. And that's the story I'm sticking to.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:55
Yes, exactly. So, um, so I'm talking to you, I'm in this living room, this apartment that I'm submitting, and it's, um, I'm in I'm in Brooklyn. And I started this whole process in Brooklyn, seven years ago, sorry, in Manhattan seven years ago. So I, I was, like I said, assistant directors, and I finished the Revenant. And I was like, Okay, I'm going to write, I'm going to write a movie. What do I know? You know, that's, that's, they tell you to start there. That, so it's, I had one option. And I was like, so I sit down and start writing and I'm in living York, and I'm like, Oh, I can't, I can't actually write this. Without going home. Like took place in LA. It's like about my childhood. I have to go home. So I moved to LA. I didn't want to live in LA, I wanted to live in New York. But I moved to LA. And I wrote the whole thing in my mom's backyard in like a little truly like a good like, storage closet like thing in her backyard. And I wrote it and then I took me a while. And then I sent it to a bunch of like labs and screenwriting competitions and whatnot. And got a bunch of rejections. Like how it goes, nobody wanted it. But but people liked it. I think I was like, Okay, I'm not making any progress, but it's not but I can write a little. And then. And I was like, okay, the script needs to be better. Like, how do I make it better? And yeah, kept redrafting and I kept sending up pieces. And finally, and it's funny because like, it wasn't getting anywhere, but then it got into the Sundance writers intensive. And I was like, Okay, if it's gonna get in nowhere and then get in here, like, I'll take it, you know? I'll take it so, so I had a feature script. I brought it there. It was called Junk food diary at the time, it was like very kind of like punchy and like completely different had voiceover like top to bottom. And I got a bunch of notes from the finance advisors and throughout the script entirely. And they gave me a little bit of grant money for being the program and I went and made that short film. But the proof of concept short film. And I guess we're like three years in at this point, I make the short film I, I partner to make the short with this producer and Lauren Pratt. It was her first movie, but I had met her while I was assisting directors and I was like, I think she's gonna be the killer producer. I'm a partner with this girl. And so we partnered together, she helps me develop the project into the short and then much bigger. And then Sheikh senior who shot transit with me, I brought him on shoot the short and, and then after the short was made, again, still seeing this transit. It got me some attention. Like I got a manager off of it. And it played three months but had no life on the festival circuit. Like I would get emails back from programmers like good job. Like it didn't play anywhere.

Alex Ferrari 26:17
The most. The nicest of us ever.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 26:21
Totally, like people were engaging to tell me that it was really like affecting or like it really shut them or something. And I'm like, nobody's playing this thing. Like, literally nobody's buying it. So although no budge put it in like a little like a showcase it in Brooklyn. And I remember that was a fun thing. Because I was like, okay, playing in the theater, like, it's good. I got it. But took the short film, to Sundance with just like, brought it with me to say my backpack, you know, and Lauren and Jake and I, we we paired with a sales agency at the time. And they put us on a bunch of like, speed dating, basically with financiers and one of the financiers. Just money.

Alex Ferrari 27:10
So back up the speed dating with financers. I've never heard of this. Where can I sign up? Where's the speed dating for five dancers? I've heard of this is fantastic. What is that?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 27:25
It's a really, it's a really, really good question. Well, I'll back up two steps. One is that Sundance for me. And one other program, which is called like the, forgive me, it's like the women and film strategy and financing and tax of something. And so they put me into that program with my producer. And that was the first finance your speed dating. You did. So we did two. This. We did two. And this first one. It was I mean, Lauren, and I prepared. Like, as if it was the bar. It was instant. And that sounds probably like really crazy of me to say. But it's we studied for so long. We had this whole pitch memorized. We were like, it was a whole thing. We it was a whole show that we were. So we went and we pitched him on to people. And we got a bunch of meetings where we didn't get the money. But we did take a bunch of meetings, a bunch of places because of it. And we got sort of out of that a sales agent. And that sales agent, we, Lauren and Jake and I that percentage, Harman producer and I, we were like we're gonna go to Sundance, we want to make this we want to get this movie put together and the sales agent was like, Okay, we know some financiers will set you on, like two days of meetings. And that was what the speaking like,

Alex Ferrari 28:44
That's amazing. I've never heard of that called investor speed dating. That is,

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 28:49
I probably shouldn't call it that, then.

Alex Ferrari 28:51
It's fantastic. It's actually awesome. I've never heard of it that way. And it should be. There should be more of it. I think we should all have access to speed dating for investors. I think that would be a great company.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 29:04
Yeah, I mean, and it's not to say that, like again, at this point. I'm what it's like four years in like it's not overnight overnight is what you're saying overnight? Yeah, overnight. But once we sat down with a student films, which is the company that ended up financing the film, we sat down, I think on day two of the meetings, and I pitched them the movie and Lauren and I were talking about it, and they just agreed to finance it within a few moments of talking. Really? Yeah. They were kidding. They were kidding. And I thought I was going to like be physically ill because I was so I was like I don't want to get excited you know I didn't want Oh yeah. And I was like no I only here knows this like can't actually be real. And remember they took us I met with Dominica remember like to the producers over there. And they needed to take us to Fredbear and see who was the one that was gonna, like sign the check. And they're like, Yeah, we're gonna go over to talk to Fred. So it's like, I like had it. Like, I just had it prepared. I didn't know who this person was. I was so nervous. I was like pinching myself. Like, as I was walking over there, like, please just don't like fall over just stupid. Anyway, it was totally fine. He, he wanted to make a movie, too.

Alex Ferrari 30:27
It's, it's fascinating that we as filmmakers constantly are getting nose most 99% of the time we get nose most nose the most. Other than actors, actors get more nose than filmmakers do. That's true. That's a fair. That's a fair statement. That's a fair statement. But it just in the whole process of filmmaking. There's nose all the time. No, no, no, no. When someone says yes. And in the way that you just stated it like so quickly. So like, oh, yeah, let's just let's go out and you're just this cat. This was

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 30:58
Absolutely not. Like, now I'm now I'm skeptical of you.

Alex Ferrari 31:08
I was pitching myself to you. But now that you actually liked me and want to make my project, I don't trust you.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 31:15
And it's not just like, I knew I was gonna make this movie, because I was going to keep trying to make it till I actually die. You know, I was like, I'm gonna make this movie. I'm gonna figure it out. But, but it was just Yeah. I was getting a little numb from the nose at that moment.

Alex Ferrari 31:33
And at that point, and you're at this point four years in, at least Yeah, at least four years at this point. Yeah. Now, one thing about this project that when I was when I was pitched to me, it was based on on true life events. So I've seen the movie. And I was telling you earlier, like, I hope it was very loosely based on real life events, because it's a pretty, it's a heavy film. It's a heavy film, and it was based on true events of your own life. So how much of that? And how much did you want, want to expose about your own life in your storytelling? I've done something similar. I wrote a book about a horrible experience I had with making a movie for the mafia, when I was 26. And that's a whole other conversation.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 32:16
Be easy go right? Writing about

Alex Ferrari 32:18
Route your own life. Yeah. So like, you find like, I for me, I always found that, like, I got to put it all in, I can't hide anything. And I just let it all out and let it let it hit where it hits. Because if I start editing it, it's just it becomes on on authentic. So what was your experience with it?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 32:38
I'll tweak the language slightly in that it is inspired by my freshman year in high school, essentially. So my freshman year in high school, I did fall in love with a drug dealer, and I was addicted to meth. And I did have, like this sort of trajectory that we see happen in this film. But I, it was, it was not too challenging to fictionalize the narrative, really, because even though there's, you know, many, many drafts and stuff, but it was like, Okay, well, how can I? What am I trying to say, with this film, what I'm trying to do is kind of like I was talking about earlier with them, like in 2002, when I was sneaking into all those movies. I just wanted to offer that. That kind of that feeling of being seen. I wanted to offer that to the to the Jains out there, if there are any, because I was, you know, one of them. And so I was like, Okay, it's not so much about, like, what is the essence of my experience? Is it like the monotony of the day to day or is it the feelings of isolation, and the feeling a lack of intimacy, and the loneliness and the shame? And the desperation like, those are the things really that are the truth. And so the people like the characters that you see in the film, like they're definitely amalgamations of people that I was around that year. But it's all kind of like, like a new puzzle that like this stuff, that's that's really Jane is is like those, those struggles. And that love story is it tracks pretty closely.

Alex Ferrari 34:36
Very, very, I mean, applause for being so honest and authentic with your storytelling. And I think honestly, that's probably why I got the attention I got is because there is authenticity behind it. And, you know, from someone who's been in the business for a bit, you start getting jaded by stories, by movies by scripts you read, but when you find something that is off Benteke pops, for whatever reason is, you know, you want to get metaphysical on it, the energy coming off the screen off the pages. There's something about it that you just, there's something there. And I saw that in the film. I was like, There's something here. I just was like, praying. God, I hope it wasn't all this. God bless her.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 35:22
I mean, yeah, like, it's the the timeline of the film is probably it's about a year, and this moment in my life was probably was a little longer than that. So everything's kind of condensed Of course. Yeah, condense. You know, I'm alive.

Alex Ferrari 35:42
Hey, you know what, what doesn't kill us? makes us stronger. No question about it. Now, as a director, we all go through this. We all understand the insanity that is a set, especially your first movie is even more insane. And like I said, we didn't have revenant money. So there wasn't an endless amount. Not quite. When we didn't have craft certain revenants craft service budget. We didn't even have their travel budget.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 36:14
Hobbit in plain sight somewhere else.

Alex Ferrari 36:17
Yeah, there's Where's there snow, Antarctica, let's go. So, so there's always that one day, if not every day, but there's generally one day that's even more extreme that you feel like the entire world is coming down crashing around you that you're gonna lose the light, you're gonna lose your camera, financing drops, the actor can't show up for whatever reason. There's that one day, what was that one day for you? And how did you overcome it?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 36:41
So we had to, okay. First one is so, so that so I've done this. So this movie shot over the course of a year. We shot we started shooting, I'm gonna mess this data, but it was like March 3 2020. Which is like the best week in the history.

Alex Ferrari 37:03
Absolutely. shoot films. Absolutely. is the best time to start a movie. Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 37:07
Right. Like so like seven years into this process. We like get greenlit, I like on the set, you know, 10 days in the film was supposed to be 20 days shoot already, like very quick. No 10 days in. And they're like, whispers of an issue, like a virus. I may go home after Friday. I think it was like Friday, maybe Friday the 13th emergencies, obviously. Yeah, I go home anyway, wake up on Saturday. And they're like, we're gonna furnish that back. Right. And I was like, okay, yeah, yeah. Just make sense. We're gonna shut down. Yeah, I think that makes sense. Totally. That tracks with the struggle of all of this. And like, let's do it. I mean, we had to keep everyone safe. But like, of course, that's the choice you're gonna make. But it was crazy. And it felt like we might not come back up. Definitely.

Alex Ferrari 38:05
Right. No, I've had, by the way, I've had multiple filmmakers, on all levels of budgets. Come on the show that started in March, April, May have their movie was made. And then it's gone. And they just like, I don't know, if we're in a year later, they come back. Yeah. How long did it take you to come back?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 38:24
We started shooting the second round of production March 3 2021.

Alex Ferrari 38:30
So literally a whole year, a whole year of you sitting on half your movie. Yeah. I'm assuming you're editing, maybe some scenes, maybe you're rewriting some of the script. You're reworking stuff. You just that's all you could do. But as a filmmaker psychologically, I can't even imagine just the brutality of that year for you.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 38:50
So a lot of compartmentalizing and like, like a lot of what is it like cognitive dissonance, I was just like, we're going back and that is its denial. That's what it is. I was in denial. I was just like, planning my return. And I Yes, I was editing the film. I was shortlisting with Jake. Constantly, constantly, we reworked to our shots. I rewrote the end of the film. I was texting with my actors being like billbergia You know, like,

Alex Ferrari 39:24
I'm still here. We're making this

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:27
And I was like, don't get a face tattoo. Literally. That's a lot of what I was doing. I was just

Alex Ferrari 39:33
Don't change you're haircut

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:36
Because I had like, you know, 10 20 year olds that I was like, for a year

Alex Ferrari 39:45
Like, like herding cats like herding wet cats.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:48
Yeah, it was a tough like, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 39:50
So that was the first day. So that was the first thing what was the second day?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:53
Oh, yeah, right, the second day. So then the second day, and you've seen the film. So there are chip shots in, in a car. The whole half third film was in the car. But there's there's some shots in the car that were processed trailer shots. And man if I knew some stills and send them to, but we had, like revenant style day One day, like it was a massive rigging team and Jake was strapped to the top of the vehicle. We had like six cop cars circling. We had we were on like, I don't know, it was extended Sunday or Wiltshire like a thoroughfare in LA, with like six kids in the car. And we end the rigging took so long. We have like an hour to hour to get the all the shots.

Alex Ferrari 40:53
It takes nine hours to rig and an hour to ship.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 40:58
And then there was a lightning storm. Of course it was. And so my ad came up to me like sweetest, sweetest man, I was just like, insurance day like go home. We go home, right? And of course like we're not going to shoot anything. If it's unsafe as a processor. There is metal like it's all metal.

Alex Ferrari 41:18
No one can be done to China Denna.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 41:21
Yeah, so we had to track the weather, like to the second get people in the car, shoot for you know, two minutes, get them out of the car, wait till the rain stop, get them back in the car. And we already didn't have enough time. That was a day where I was like, huh,

Alex Ferrari 41:40
I don't think I'm gonna make. Yeah, but you made it through. And that thing, that's the thing with these kinds of things is generally speaking, it works out in some way, shape, or form, but definitely didn't work out the way you want it to do.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 41:51
Works out better. It works out better.

Alex Ferrari 41:53
It always does. I always does. It's just so weird. But those when things happen, I just, I now just go okay. This is obviously where the universe wants to take us right now. Yes. Let's see what happens.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 42:04
That's true. It's woowoo. But it's true. Like there are so many. We like when we shut down. We had one false start. We tried to put the production back together. And I got a call from our lead actors team. And they were like, he just got booked for six months on a job in I don't remember where it was like in Europe. And it was like, Okay, well, so never getting him back. You know, it's like, there's just there have been so many, so many times where I've thought okay, this is the worst day ever. This is the worst case scenario, like shutting down for a year. And you know what, it really benefited the movie? It really did.

Alex Ferrari 42:48
It's a painful way of doing it's a painful way of doing it. But it does. It does do it absolutely. Every time there's ever been a complete disaster and anything I've ever done. It's generally works out better, generally, almost always works out better. Now, after after this whole experience, you've you've made your movie now you've you've been around the block, you've, you know, on the Revenant and on True Detective and all these others and all this stuff that you've done over the last decade at this point. Is there something you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of this journey?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 43:23
Well, I wish someone had told me sooner that women can have this job I like it didn't. I wasted a lot of time thinking that because I was an introvert. And I say that like in a very literal way. People say that all the time. But I just like, I'm not a very social person. I'm very shy. I was a like, I mean, you'll see them. I mean, it's like I was Jane, I was like really hard to hit off like most. But I was like, okay, that person can still have this job. I did not know that. And obviously someone can't give you permission to like live your destiny. But you can go and add information. But I wish I could see you know what, it's not so much. I wish someone had told me this is changing. But I wish I'd seen women just directing seen female directors seen directors that didn't all just looked like one day. And that would have changed the game a little sooner for me.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
I was lucky enough that I'm a Latino man. And I had not seen any Latino directors growing up. This was just I just didn't know anyone. Where are they? Where are they? And then all of a sudden, Robert Rodriguez showed up in El Mariachi showed up the year that I was in high school thinking about being a director and I said oh oh there's there's the one dude he he did it and he did it in an insane way. Okay, this can be done. So you do need to see you need to see you need to see other people like yourself doing what you are doing just to give you the confidence to go if they could do it. Then I have a Shot to do it as well. And that is so, so important to be represented out in the world. And then sometimes you see these directors who, who were just breaking down doors to get to be the first to do something is so what's the word? You know, so amazing that they were able to do that and have the grit and hustle to be able to do when they didn't have anywhere at all. But I agree with you 100%. Now, um, and this is coming out on Tribeca, right, you got into Tribeca, and that was what was that phone call light.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 45:40
So it was an email. And it was was really funny. I remember what, okay, so we got an email from them. Again, after you know, some rejections get email from them. And they asked if we were still available for a world premiere, if they hadn't, like often, they're like, this was a very long time ago. It was like, it was in December, I was like, not not thinking about this festival. Yet. It was so far away, and read an email. And they're like, is goodwill Jane still available? And so I talked to my producers, and I was like, Yeah, we're still available. And then I had, like I said, I'd been in the Sundance intensive. So I spoke with the lab people at Sundance, and I was like, you know, I think like, Tribeca might want this film. And we were just like talking about the festival rent the lab, people are different from the festival, they just sort of like, they just give advice, and they're just like, really, the loveliest anyway, I was on a call with them just being like, Help me God guide me, like, how does this work? And my producer called me was like, actually, we got in and we're going, you know, like, we just got invited. I mean, she didn't say we're going, but she was like, we just got officially invited and like, congrats. This is happening. This is actually happening. They're not just like, a little interested. I think what I was asking the Sundance people is I was like, How do I convince them to take me or like, I never just like if they reached out to you, they say like it, you know, like, festivals. Yeah, I was like, oh, like, do they mean it? I'm just clearly a little skeptical. I was like, do they mean is this real? But know that they Yeah, but evil. That's the artist the spot. And then the second I spoke with the programmers, I was just, like, changed everything. They They are the perfect home for this movie, like New York is the perfect home for this movie festival is the perfect home for this movie. This is my favorite city in the world. Like, there, my whole family can come to the screenings, my producers rarely come to screening. But like a lot of the cast was here. It just it ended up just like it's one of those divine things that we were talking about before. Like, I didn't know what the future was gonna look like this movie, or where it was gonna play. And I knew it, it really needed to play somewhere. And then it's playing in the right place.

Alex Ferrari 48:08
That's fantastic. That's fantastic. Well, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 48:18
If you can do anything else, then you're probably trying to do the wrong thing. Like, if you're like, I want to make movies, and if it doesn't work out in a few years, like, I'll go do like social media direction or so I don't like creative, a doctor, whatever. Anything else, then, like, I don't know, it was real. I don't know. I mean, I'm not to discourage anyone. But I think that's actually like a fun thing to think about. It's like, if you know, this is like, everything, and this is 100% What you're you have to do, then you're gonna figure it out, because you just won't stop. That kind of passion and that kind of like true. Like that type of dream. That's, that's rare. And if you have it, you have it.

Alex Ferrari 49:10
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 49:16
Still learning. So I spoke like, briefly about how this this movie is about a moment of time in my life that was like, very shameful. And I had it felt that yeah, I felt a lot of shame at the time of like, when I was younger, and when I was pitching this movie a lot. I had to kind of show up in those meetings and pretend that I had no shame or like, you know, act very loving of myself. And it's actually just really okay. To be whoever you are, like, this process making this film has taught me that I don't know if I knew that going into making it. I was faking it. And then making it making the film has been like, cheese, it really is fine to be exactly who you are like, you don't need to put on all these errors or like pretend to be someone else, or it's going to work out if you're exactly who you are. So

Alex Ferrari 50:27
I'd argue that the key to making it work out is to be yourself. It's the only thing that makes you stand apart.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 50:34
100% it's Yeah, I mean, all you have is you you're not going to be like a great version of someone else. You're gonna be only a great version of who you exactly are. But I didn't I that took me a long time to figure out

Alex Ferrari 50:48
Oh, yeah, agreed. I know I, I, you know, I I'll never be a great invitation of Tarantino or Rodriguez or Fincher or Nolan or Spielberg. Because they're good at what they do. And they're pretty much the best at being them. Yeah. So but you can only be the best version of yourself. And that's a key and when and I think any, anybody who has any success in any avenue of this, in this life, is true to themselves. Generally speaking,

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 51:16
It's true. And, and this, like, this moment of my life that is very dark, has been the inspiration for the thing that is the most stunning and the most beautiful thing in my life, like, like this, this experience that I had, and the struggle that I had is, like, you know, I wrote this movie about it. And now, I'm here, like, I'm so happy that happened. I'm so happy that that I'm that I made it out of it, for sure. But I don't wish I could like carve some pieces out of me and take some of my history away. And it's like, what's the use of that? It's not at all.

Alex Ferrari 52:00
Agreed you are, who you are. And whatever happened to you and your past is what made you who you are today. And I've, I came to grips with that a long, long, long time, though, just like, if I had to do it over again, I would go the same way. Because that's who I am. And if you take that away, you take a big chunk of who you are away, and you wouldn't have been able to make this movie you wouldn't have, you wouldn't have done any of this stuff. So where would you have gone in might have been a different world might have been better? Might have been worse? Who knows? But this is the path that you would put on and embrace it without question. And last question. three of your favorite films of all time.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 52:34
Should have prepared for that one. Well, I eat a lot. I mean, it's definitely one of them. I would say fish tank entry Arnold. And there's so many but I'm gonna say reprise your country or the I worked with yo Keem on louder than bombs. And he is brilliant, brilliant director. So yeah. Really, really anything.

Alex Ferrari 53:04
Sarah I appreciate you coming on the show. It's been an absolute joy talking to you. It's your energy is infectious for what you're doing. So thank you for coming on the show. And congrats on all your success so far. And I know you're gonna do a lot of amazing things and tell some really remarkable stories in the future. So continued success, and hopefully, there's a little girl out there who's gonna see this and go if she could do it, and if he could do it, I mean, I got a shot.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 53:37
Oh, man, that's, that's what this is all about. That's what this all about for me, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 53:42
But I appreciate you my dear . Continued success.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 53:45
Thank you so much.

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BPS 205: How to Cast, Finance and Package a Film Project with Courtney Lauren Penn

Courtney Lauren Penn co-founded and runs the multi-faceted production company Renegade Entertainment with her co-founder Thomas Jane. Courtney oversees content: producing film, series and hybrid new media projects alongside Jane. Renegade is a pioneering outfit that has been among the most active production labels since launching in late 2019. The company is active in several verticals – feature films, streaming and TV series, and comic book and graphic novel publishing and production.

Since its inception, Renegade has produced a slew of independent feature films, a short form comedy series, a television and streaming 8 episode series for the ABC in Australia and IMDBtv/Amazon alongside AGC Television, is currently in production on a comic book series THE LYCAN for ComiXology Originals at Amazon; 3 features the duo produced releasing in 2022 and in pre-production on several films for 2022.

The first film the duo executive produced was the western thriller THE LAST SON, starring Thomas Jane, Sam Worthington, Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly) (released December 2021), followed by horror comedy SLAYERS, starring Abigail Breslin, Thomas Jane and Malin Akerman (releasing September 2022). Courtney and Jane further produced DIG starring Emile Hirsche, Thomas Jane and Harlow Jane, bowing in June 2022, as well as MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Mustafa, and Thomas Jane, set to premiere June 24, 2022. The company just wrapped on ONE RANGER for Lionsgate in March 2022.

Among the myriad projects currently being developed by Courtney and Jane is the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s FROM A BUICK 8. The duo have a large slate including several best-selling novels they are in development on. Adopting a material-first, platform agnostic philosophy, Courtney embraces the growing disruption in the entertainment ecosystem and together with Jane have built a selective slate of compelling stories and edgy material with global commercial appeal. She takes a transmedia approach to cultivating IP and collaborating with gifted storytellers and partners to build out her company’s diverse content slate.

Courtney attended the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently studied Filmmaking and Direction at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. She is a former National Chess Champion, Top 50 Women’s Chess Player, Visiting Committee Member of Hematologic Oncology at the Dana Farber Institute, Platinum Member of New York Women in Film & Television, Member of the Producers’ Council of the Producers Guild of America, and proud mother to her son. Courtney began her career in sell-side mergers and acquisitions and corporate restructuring on Wall Street.

Renegade participates annually in charitable giving to institutions who directly participate in “research to bedside” care for children with cancer and vulnerable children in high conflict zones. In March 2022, Courtney & Jaime King teamed up and used Instagram to promote the booking of AIRBNB’s in conflict zones in the Ukraine as a means of getting funds directly to the people mid-conflict.

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Alex Ferrari 0:15
I like to welcome to the show, Courtney Lauren Penn. How you doin, Courtney?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:08
I'm great. Alex, thank you for having me on the show been a big fan for a long time.

Alex Ferrari 1:13
Oh my god, thank you so much. That's extremely humbling. I always find It's so insane when people of your magnitude and and statute in the business say that to me, because I'm like, I don't know who's listening. But occasionally I'll get somebody's like, I've been listening forever. I'm like, what?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:29
All of those that have done the hustle appreciate the indie film hustle.

Alex Ferrari 1:35
I appreciate you coming on your partner in crime in a new era in your company renegade entertainment came on last last week. Mr. Thomas Jane, the incomparable Thomas Jane, which was an amazing conversation about about his perspective on producing and, and bankable actors and all this kind of stuff. So today, we want to get into the weeds about producing and working in the budget levels that you're working in, and the kind of projects you're working with Tom, and so on and so forth. But before we get into that, Why in God's green earth did you want to jump into this business?

Courtney Lauren Penn 2:09
It's a great question. Um, I was told not to for a really long time, which probably fueled my, my drive to do so. I, I grew up on the East Coast and played chess actually. So through chess, I met some really interesting filmmakers. Who are there's a really interesting camaraderie in the between the film and chess community, believe it or not, there's a lot of actors who play a lot of directors. There's something about the discipline and I got exposure in high school to a man named Josh Waitzkin, who was the subject of unity. You know Josh?

Alex Ferrari 2:50
I know, I know, I don't know him personally, but I know of him. Absolutely. He's an MMA or champion. Yeah, he's I read his book. It's amazing book, The Art of The Art of Learning. Oh, so amazing. I love that.

Courtney Lauren Penn 3:03
Okay, yes, I got to read one of them, because he was a good friend of mine. So he sent me the early drafts when he was like, pending and all that stuff. But I met Josh and I am a huge fan of Tim Ferriss and Tim and Josh are sort of very close. And their podcasts together are like, just there's some of the Gold Well, yeah, completely. Josh lives lives full, like he lives life, you know, incomplete. But anyway, I met him. And I was probably 10 or 11. I was a young chess player. And I met him at the time when all the hoopla of searching Bobby Fischer was sort of was sort of happening. And I watched this film, and I'd already played chess, but it was so incredible about this movie, was how if you play and if you're part of a family of chess players, or if you're around it, and you know how familiar the community requires you to be if you're a kid playing, it just got to the heart. And I think that that screenplay, and what that film accomplished, felt so deeply powerful and emotive, that I just remember thinking, that this crossover was really, really powerful. And then what that film did for the chess world was so incredible and powerful. And then through that, I met my first mentor, Josh Waitzkin. And, you know, and, you know, ultimately, you know, played chess, I always loved film and storytelling, and I was and I started writing short stories, but I never imagined I would end up creatively, sort of in the business. And I went to school, they were recruited me for chess, I got to go to school and play and all of that, and I was always writing. And then I ended up going to Wall Street and doing investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, which, you know, transactionally speaking, you know, very much like setting up and creating a film. Every film is a small business, as you know, very well, you know this better than anyone. And so you're starting a business from scratch. You're ramping it up And then you're selling it and parsing it off. And so it's sort of, you know, it was very similar to this transactional understanding that I got from m&a. So in terms of the structured finance side, I kind of got a lot of understanding basics from my role, my time in that world. And then I kind of followed my heart, I left banking, and I went and studied film at NYU and broke the news to my parents, I wasn't going to go to medical school for an MD MBA, I was going to go pursue film. And I, you know, I did, I just, I didn't really know anyone in the business at all, and sort of just went and started the learning about where the intersection between that creative process that happens over here, and then the business side that I had, you know, understood this entrepreneurial mindset of how you know, businesses start running it sold, where does where's that cross section, and I found independent film finance and started a little company and eventually, now we're here full fledged renegades.

Alex Ferrari 6:00
So you you jump, but you weren't you also did a little acting along the way.

Courtney Lauren Penn 6:04
No, no,

Alex Ferrari 6:06
You never did any acting. I saw your IMDB I saw you you played some parts?

Courtney Lauren Penn 6:12
No, no, I mean, because, um, we met Ron Howard through chess. And so Ron was gracious and super kind. And I became friendly with Bryce and Paige and actually taught page chess on occasion. And he invited us out to the movie set for Ed TV. And I was there sort of as a child, I was playing in a chess tournament nearby, and then the days off, we'd be going to set with Ron and it was a surreal experience as a kid, you know, watching we were walking through the streets of San Francisco. And we have people opening their windows and shouting down to them and following us on the street. And it was a really, it was the first time that I've walking with Woody Harrell, it was Woody Harrelson and Brian Grazer. And Ron and me and I just remember this weird, you know, moment of wow, this is what it's this is what that's like, this is what you know, when you're no longer have a private life. That's what this is, you know. And they were calling him by his name from the show, and it's by I'm blanking on it right now. Ron, when he was a kid

Alex Ferrari 7:17

Courtney Lauren Penn 7:18
OP, they were calling OP OP Yeah, that's what they were doing. And I and on and he was so gracious. But I just remember, it made a huge imprint. And what what really was interesting is because Ron Howard, to me was just this really nice guy who had this fascinating job. And he was so sensitive and gentle. And he allowed us to come into his editing room, and he would show us how to craft a scene and cut a scene. And the art of it was such a beautiful thing. And he was so humble about it. And I couldn't connect that, you know, the cacophony of that public experience with the actual like, art, you know, how private the art form creation was, it was just, I'll never forget that experience I didn't run on that set was like, Hey, court, do you want to would you like to be in a scene, you know, so he put me in some, some scenes and you know, I was background or whatever. And then. And then recently, I did a scene with my son at the end of a film, and we my son and I, because I wanted to memorialize my son at such a young age in film. And Ryan Kuantan, the star of this movie called Section eight that has yet to come out. His entire journey is about the loss of his son. And so he gets into a bus at the end. And he sits in the back and he sees a young mother and her son kiss and it wraps his story in about and it's really, it's really sorry, you get teary eyed, Dizzy, but it was really powerful. So yeah, that was just something I wanted to do for me and my son.

Alex Ferrari 8:49
How you're fastened to your story is fascinating. Because you live in the world of chess, and I am a I wish I could play chess at the level that Josh and you guys play. I was Josh, you, and then I'm somewhere on the floor. But I'm fascinated with like, it's one of my searching for Bobby Fischer is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've seen that movie 1000 times. I am obsessed with Bobby Fischer in general, I saw the documentaries. Oh my god, the Queen's gambit. I couldn't just I mean, I'm, I love chess. And I love the idea of moving chess and thinking 50 steps ahead and all this kind of stuff. How did your training and chess help you navigate the sometimes treacherous world of filmmaking of the film industry, especially coming from a female perspective, which is, you know, not generally, you know, especially in the producer, female producers situation. There's not a lot of you. There more now than there were before but as you were coming up I'm sure that wasn't many Things that you could, like, speak to and talk to, and I've had a few on the show. But there, I can count them on one hand, as they were coming up, like, it was a tough situation. So how did chess prepare you for that?

Courtney Lauren Penn 10:11
You know what, I think you've kind of nailed it. Um, you know, there weren't that many women in chess. Now, there are so many more, you know, so when I started playing was the early 90s. So I remember playing in Washington Square Park, as Josh did, actually. And playing with the guys he used to, you know, he used to just be chess. And that's where I, and I remember being this, you know, young girl, and then it was just, you know, they would come around, you know, all the guys in the park. And they would say, this girl, she's playing, you know, Can she really play and, you know, okay, you know, I, I started to do better and better, and I did win, but there was a, you know, it wasn't the most common thing. And then I remember going to play in tournaments. You know, I did, I did play, you know, scholastic and traditional tournament. So I would play in New York at the Marshall Chess Club in the Manhattan chess club, and there were no women, there were no girls, there were about three, you know. And, you know, you're always playing against men. And I think that that's was very similar to, you know, investment banking was still pretty male dominated also. Then, when I was when I was in it, I think I was the only woman banker at my small firm, it was a boutique firm of less than, like, 15 people. I was the only, you know, on the banking team there was, and then going into film, same, same sort of idea. Now, there are many, many more women, but I think that the preparation was just in the practice and the exposure and getting used to it and being judged for being you know, woman, absolutely. Or being, you know, presumptions made, of course, and that works to your advantage or disadvantage. You know, it really does and on all in all spheres.

Alex Ferrari 12:07
So by the time you got to the film business, you were all tat between finance, chess, you were all had like, like dealing with this situation.

Courtney Lauren Penn 12:15
Yeah, I was, I was sort of accustomed to it. Although, you know, there is a significantly more cutthroat, as you know, there's more of a cutthroat world and film, unfortunately, and TV entertainment, you know, in general. And so I think people are so much when you're, when they meet you, they're so anxious to put you into a category.

Alex Ferrari 12:41
They have to put you in a box, immediately, like

Courtney Lauren Penn 12:43
They shake your hand and you're, you're in this, you're in the silo and, you know, they don't want to move you out of it. And it's and that's, that's one thing that's different. You know, in chess, if you beat it, if you beat you know, an older male Russian master, and everyone, you were at the tournament, you you own, that was your accomplishment, people looked, you know, recognized it,

Alex Ferrari 13:02
You know, what's funny, I had, and please forgive me for dropping a name. But when I had Jason Blum on the show, Jason is revolutionized Film, film finance. And his deal is obscene. And it's like, how he got what he did. And he said that he still is not respected in town, Tyler Perry, is still not respected for the insane things that he's done over in Georgia, and built his career, because he's not in a box that makes sense to anybody. So there's no respect in many ways to these, these, these kinds of people who have been able to do things completely outside the system, and able to do it. So you're right. And if they don't, they gotta put you in like, Okay, you're the girl producer. Okay, great. You're the Latino director. Great. You're the this. They can't just keep it open. Why is that you think?

Courtney Lauren Penn 13:56
I think that humans are predictability seeking machines. And I think, I think there's a, because of the business, because of the business is cutthroat mechanism. I think everyone went through it on their way up. So once they've reached a certain level, there's like a, just a, you know, well, this is how I was perceived. And so therefore, I will continue on that to protect sort of my my world I've carved out for myself, I think that's part of it. I've seen I've noticed a lot, that there's a lot of earnestness that you, you know, you come into this business with and you recognize it in others and over 15 years, you can recognize it maybe, maybe having become, you know, a little bit more embittered, you know, you can see that and then that in turn causes you know, changes in behavior. And so you kind of, you kind of have to keep that tension of, you know, you know, of of keeping your eye on the cries wanting to be productive, keeping good relationships, but also standing, you know, being able to stand up for yourself. And so it's a constant tension, you know this?

Alex Ferrari 15:12
No, it's It's insane. It's like this the pressure that is applied. Your the pressure you apply to yourself, first of all is one thing. You throw your own obstacles in front of yourself because of your own monkey brain and negative thoughts that you have in your own head. But then, the business just pound you like I was watching, I think was Dave Chappelle, who was on the actor studio. years ago,

Courtney Lauren Penn 15:36
That was a great actor studio.

Alex Ferrari 15:38
Isn't that amazing? And he's like, there are no weak people in our business. Like if you if I'm on this, if you're in this stage right now talking to you, James, there's nobody who's talking to you. That's weak. And I was like, it's like, you know what? He's right, it because to be able to achieve a certain level of success in this business, the amount that you need to the amount of punches that you need to take. And even if you achieve success early in life, like look at like, Josh, Josh, you know, he really was thrown into the spotlight at a very young age,

Courtney Lauren Penn 16:14
He did not like it.

Alex Ferrari 16:16
I know. He hated he hated it. But yet, there's still punches that come even at that level. I mean, you see children, child actors and people that start up. But I think that's the thing that a lot of filmmakers getting into the business and people trying to get into business. They don't are not aware of the amount of punishment that you will have to endure, to continue in this business. And the ones who adore the longest is not necessarily the most talented, right, the most moral or the nicest. It's, it's really, it's really a question of how much can you endure and I always use the Rocky Balboa quote from the front when he was talking to his son and Rocky Balboa. It's like, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. And that's, that's what this business is. It's like you're constantly getting punched. You're always being brought to your knees.

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:11
Oh, Joe Carnahan said it on your show. I think it's like running the gauntlet. You think you're gonna run that gauntlet and not catch some scars and horse like,

Alex Ferrari 17:19

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:21
He visually got it. Absolutely. I love that. I love I love Joe. I've got you know, one of my favorite films, is the gray and one of the greats right?

Alex Ferrari 17:33
Oh, amazing. Amazing. Like what it like it's Liam Neeson with glass wrapped around his fist fighting a wolf.

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:41
Thomas was supposed to do that show

Alex Ferrari 17:43
Was he? Wow!

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:46
He was supposed to play the role that I think Frank Grillo ended up playing. And it's like, you know, that funny funny world. But anyway, I love Joe and he's been in it and knows knows that. But you're right. And I think that you have to try to steal yourself. I know, I like the measurements, I'm always kind of taking is okay. This terrible, you know, thing happened or a punch was thrown to us your your turn of phrase on you? How are you going to let it impact you? You know, and so I think that you have to be so aware of how you let it impact you like eat there's things you know, you never you never pay that stuff forward. You know,

Alex Ferrari 18:24
You shouldn't you shouldn't

Courtney Lauren Penn 18:27
I see people who that does happen and you're and you kind of it's sad because you say oh, when they entered the business, they had this earnestness and now they've got caught up in the wounds of coming up, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:40
You know, it's, it's, it's, you know, and I that's what I do the show for really, is to really let everybody know like I always say most filmmakers don't even know they're in a ring, let alone in a fight. And then all of a sudden they just get punched out of nowhere the liquid that punch come from I thought we were in a nice you know, in a rosy field. I'm like no.

Courtney Lauren Penn 18:58
Your audience creative filmmakers, directors and writers are they are they find it producers,

Alex Ferrari 19:02
Everybody I've taught. It's fascinating, because I talk. I've, you know, in the business and I it's a small it's a small town. Everybody knows everybody. It really is. It's so true. So as I've been making friends over the years, I find out who listens to me. So like you, you know, I'm a fan. I'm like, great. Ed burns. been listening to me for years.

Courtney Lauren Penn 19:24
I'm Oh, really? Oh, that's so great.

Alex Ferrari 19:25
I'm like, why?

Courtney Lauren Penn 19:27
Indie creators Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 19:28
So there's producers, there's financiers that reached out to me, there's distributors who reach out to me. So everybody from every aspect of the business, either listens to the show, or watches the show, there's a segment represented in it. So it's not specifically just creative. It's because we, we talk about creative, especially when we're talking to you know, certain directors about the craft and stuff, but really, it's about the business, about how to succeed how to break through your own imposter syndrome, which we all have and, you know, in listening to journeys of everybody and I try to to humanize these giants in the business to like, you know, when you're talking to Joe Carnahan and Joe tells me the story of how he, you know, he left Mission Impossible three I'm like, what, like how that worked out and, and his whole story and like so it kind of humanizes him and lets everybody know what the realities of the business are because I never got that I had to learn it the hard way. You know, my first book was based on me almost making a $20 million movie for the mafia, when I was 26. So I have a lot of shrapnel along the way that I've picked up. And I wanted to, you know, kind of give that information out to the audience. And, you know, that's, that's the reason I do it. So anyway, but let's go back on track. So, when you're when you're producing, what do you look for in a director, because a lot of directors are delusional. And I was delusional as well. We think that, like, you know, we think that we're like, I, it's my genius, when are they going to recognize my genius? What are the traits that you look for in a director that you're going to help produce a film for?

Courtney Lauren Penn 21:10
Oh, let's see. It depends if you're talking about film or TV. So, you know, luckily, we've we're, so we're sort of in several, you know, production categories, where we're, you know, doing TV and streaming series. And then we're also doing, you know, independent film. And we're also we're in a, we're in a few categories. So on the film side, you know, well, on the TV side, it's interesting, because you have this really interesting tension, again, between whether it's a showrunner, who is known for being, you know, an incredible director as a standalone, and then you work with, you know, show runners who can support sort of their vision, or it's the showrunner, who is the whole thing, you know, who sort of is in the writers room is also going to direct at least two of the eight episodes, if it's eight, you know, and is rotating with credit with the writers, you know, and that's sort of like a completely different beast. So it really depends on what on the TV side, like, where the investment on from intellectual property development it's coming from. And I mean, I mean that creatively, not just financially, so. So we have a we have a book that we've optioned from Stephen King that we're in development on called from a Buick eight. And for us, looking for the partners to crack it, we actually sort of went for a tastemaker filmmaker, who's more he's a he's a writer, director. But he, he's happy to direct this more, and let to really, really well known writers write the whole thing. And so we So we approached it from how are we going to approach the whole series? You know, do we want to find the one guy that showrunner that and that certain network loves, and that he's going to take charge ownership of the whole thing, and we're going to kind of be a part of that are we going to piece this one together, which opens up the world of directors in a more open way. And so it's very specific to what the IP is, and where you were, how you want it to live, ultimately, on the film side, you know, we get all kinds of packages that come to us, sometimes the directors on a script and approaches us, sometimes we're developing a script from the ground up, and then we're gonna go look for a director. And that takes that's quite a process. You know, I mean, sometimes it happens very easily and quickly. And then sometimes you're still looking, there's a couple of projects that we've been looking for a year for the right creative partner, as a director, and we're looking for someone, you know, bit, not just genre, but also wants to get into the weeds in the trenches and wants to either make it at a certain budget level and, you know, and then, you know, so it is, I'd say that navigating that and finding the right director is one of the hardest parts of producing.

Alex Ferrari 24:15
What advice would what advice do you wish someone would have given you about being a producer in Hollywood?

Courtney Lauren Penn 24:23
Be skeptical. Great advice. Abb skeptical, because I've had so many people offer to you know, help board say they were going to help and the motivations you know, are not what you would hope that they are. And I mean this for men and women. This is a this is a universal blanket truth. I I also believe and I believe in not becoming in bittered, which takes hard work so work there is I sort of employ the Tim Ferriss and Josh is like they have a great conversation that I think was very helpful to me as a producer, their conversation about Josh's trainer. For his type questions, championships, I forgot his name, but he's, he's a legend. He's like live streams, his training sessions.

Alex Ferrari 25:23
And it was never it was not push hand. It's the other one. Got Brazilian jujitsu. Okay, yeah, he live streams, he live streams, his fights and his practices so his opponents can see all of his techniques.

Courtney Lauren Penn 25:35
Yes. And Tim says, I will help anyone and I apologize, my cat is going to just sort of arrive here in my lap, that he's I will help anyone and give them the tips that I wish I had when I was creating my four hour workweek when I was creating this. And I'll just, I'll just give it because if someone can hack it and do it better than me, I can maybe learn from them. So I think that being less precious, because you're going to meet so many people who are very precious. I think that if you try to fight to stay precious, I think you can lose yourself and become hardened. So I would say be healthily skeptical. And don't worry about being precious. Because there's a I mean, there's a few straight facts, right? I mean, a film makes money if you make it for, you know, for less than if you make it for less than what you're gonna sell it for, like, this isn't, you know, it's not rocket science, but people act in it. So, you know, actors values, like all that information is actually quite accessible. So I'm sort of always been an open book with my with my, with my knowledge, and so I think that that helps us all kind of get to a better place. So be skeptical of you know, of what, be skeptical, healthfully skeptical, heightened awareness, and then you know, don't be don't be, don't be so focused on being precious.

Alex Ferrari 27:06
You know, a lot of people I find that interesting, because in the film industry, there is that level of being precious with like, Oh, I know something that you don't and if I give it to you, you can overtake me, kind of attitude where the opposite happened to me, the second I started giving away all this information to people, doors started swinging open, and I get to talk to people like you now that I would have never, if I would have just been a filmmaker trying to hustle it out like everybody else was, and I just started trying knocking on your door, I met you at a party or something, it'd be so much more difficult to sit down to have a conversation with you. But yet, now, I can have a conference and ask you any question I like about the business, any question I like about the business. And I benefit from it. And then I as well I recorded and now the rest of the world that's listening gets the benefit from it as well. So I found that they'd be the complete opposite. Just like the more you give, the more you connect with people, the more you're able to help other people. Yeah, some of its going to go off and be done. You know, people are not going to be nice about you know, holding on to it or something like that. That's just human nature. But a lot of people will will remember it and help you along the way and, and open doors for you.

Courtney Lauren Penn 28:19
And like you were saying earlier, that competitive advantage is like long term tenacity. You know, and so that's really the competitive advantage. You know, it's sort of like, oh, gosh, I don't want to bring up the trial. But Johnny Depp did say something really interesting the other day, he says, he said, lies, run a sprint, the truth runs a marathon. And I think that brilliant. That's great. Right? And that's that that goes to so many things, right? Everything from you know, personal conduct, professional conduct. And I think that that speaks to that openness, right? It's sort of like, if you've, you know, if you're willing and have the ability to, like stick it out and kind of stay tenacious. And you're able to the more I think you give, I really agree with you completely. The more that doors open, the more opportunity presents itself, and growth happens.

Alex Ferrari 29:18
Now, we all have been on set and the world feels like it's coming crashing down on you. You're you've lost location, the actor don't come out of the studio out of his trailer financing. You can't pay the crew that way because the finance that the money didn't drop that you were promised that was going to drop, whatever the scenario is, what was that worst day for you and how did you overcome it?

Courtney Lauren Penn 30:24
The worst day? Really when so when I first came into the business, I was sort of helping rescue films that that were had already started going. And my first big opportunity was to go and help up, helped clear up the finish out their production and help clean up a film that was already in bankruptcy. And because of my background in finance, the investor who I met, you know, said I really need help. I'm in over my head this film and several others are in bankruptcy, can you help me and it still needs to be finished. And it was a film called Gallo Walker's with Wesley Snipes. And Wes is actually a friend. And he is a terrific guy and I I just respect the heck out of him. He's G is unlimited talent. And he's like, got a very, very peaceful soul. But in the making of that movie. He had to fly back for legal reasons, most of the way through production to the United States. And that film was very compromised. As a result of producers poor conduct, fiscally. The challenges there, it was a really, it was pretty much everything that could go wrong on a movie set. Think the accountant died on set in production. I mean, it was Yeah, and I mean, I came in now I came in, after this all had happened. And this poor investor had millions of pounds invested in the film. And he said, You know, I don't know what to do. And he said, I've entered it into a bankruptcy proceeding to help clear up chain of title, what, what, you know, how, what can we do to maximize it? And I said, Okay, well, let's talk it through. Let's look at the legal agreements. What does bankruptcy in the UK look like? So in the process of, you know, cleaning all that up, we had to address the missing footage. We had to recut the film. We had to deal with existing sales and licensing agreements that are predicated upon the earlier producers and what they had papered. And it was, you know, there there were there were just some of the Titanic mammoth issues that, you know, I remember waking up one day and just thinking this film is never going to see the light of day. And, you know, we have to do the right thing for this main investor. And, you know, ultimately, sort of figured it out, started just making phone calls, looking at the paperwork, learning about contracts, got it resold to Lionsgate. It did it. But it was just I remember, there was just a cacophony of things that happened, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, sort of all in a day. And, and, you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:13
You got through it, though.

Courtney Lauren Penn 33:14
Yeah, you just, you go, okay. It's not gonna look like how we expected. But there's always a solution.

Alex Ferrari 33:22
I mean, I've been involved with projects that, you know, over, you know, a couple million dollar years.

Courtney Lauren Penn 33:28
I want to know, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 33:29
Well, my worst day was you know, almost making the movie for the mafia and you know, being stuck in that for a year and a half of my production office is being in a, in a race track and, and my life being threatened on a daily basis for about a year from a psychotic guy who was basically Joe Pesci from Goodfellas. So one day, he's once a moment, he's super, like the funniest wonderful guy in the world in this bipolar next second. He wants to he's threatening me to throw me in a ditch. And that's all great. But then I get flown out to LA and I meet the biggest movie stars in the world, the biggest power players. I'm at the Chateau Marmont, I'm at the ivy I'm doing all this, that, surviving that being that close to your dream at 26

Courtney Lauren Penn 34:10
Oh, wow. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 34:11
So sitting across the desk from Batman, I actually met one of the actors who played Batman, and him telling you I want to be in your movie do you want to sleep over tonight? So we can work on the script. So when you're that close, and then everything gets completely yanked away from you, the psychological trauma that took me two years to get out of it, literally, I almost went bankrupt. I just my whole life got destroyed. So that to me was the lowest point in my entire life. So that's the biggest everything else pales in comparison to that. So I think that was also a way the universe was like, let's give him like the most ridiculous situation up front. Because he's never going to run into something this bad again. And so for me, everything else is yeah, I've had problems and I've been part of projects that have you know, fallen around or the you know, the The set gets flipped during and flips it. And yeah, but then they lose their money and they have to wait a year and a half, two years looking for money to finish it in the in the footage is on my hard drive. And I'm doing all the posts on it. And then I'm like, there's some major stars in this movie, you guys get fined 100 grand a financier. So like, all sorts of crazy stories over the years. But yeah, that's my I mean, there's no way of I mean, I always tell people, when I when I wrote that book, and it came out, I tell people, if you want to know why, what what's the source of the grizzled voice? On the other end of this microphone, read the book, you'll understand

Courtney Lauren Penn 35:39
I sounded like when I was 26. And then hear me

Alex Ferrari 35:43
I really used to talk like this. But then. So you talk a lot about you came from the financing world. So financing is the the alchemy of our business, it is turning brick to gold, and you know, and turning led to gold, excuse me, what advice? How do you approach financing? What is needed in today's world, because financing five years ago, it's a lot different in financing in today's world pre and post COVID. How the landscape has changed as far as who's buying how much they're buying for how much more competition there is, is there as much money and finance available. That means that many people jumping in 21 jump into film, because the word is out? I mean, it's not the easiest ride for financier sometimes, unless you know what you're doing. Like yourself. Right. Right. So how do you so how do you how do you approach finance? And can you give any advice to to the people listening?

Courtney Lauren Penn 36:44
Yeah, you know, I think it depends if you are financing, or if you're looking for financing. Um, you know, and I would say that, if you're looking to finance a track record, doesn't necessarily, you know, mean that there's a financial track record. So, you know, you can have, you know, a track record as a producer of a lot of credits, but you know, what, with those films and how they look, you know, in the financial waterfall might be different. Or on the other hand, you might, you know, have done very well as a producer by helping investors find pieces of films, and that have been brought a wonderful return, and it may not be the top tier credit on the movie. So I mean, I know that, you know, I had, I had raised money, and we did, like revolving credit of around, you know, between six and 10 million revolving sort of senior debt, and it was secured monies. And we did really well with that model. While you know, this was in the post 2011 era. So before, again, the streamers came in, and, you know, film became international sales, were, you know, deeply impacted by the advent of more upfront, just transactional buy outs from the streamers, you know, and TV, you know, purchasing prices fell internationally. And so, you know, you're you were starting to deal with margins for sales that were just more and more compressed. So your financial models just look different. And I think I think that if you're looking to raise money, and you're looking to finance film, in this current marketplace, I think you have to just be much more on the dime in terms of what the market is right now. Because it is different for now than it was three months ago. And it's gonna be very different at this upcoming can that it will be in three months, because the pandemic really, really did impact things in a massive way. And so, you know, people really didn't know what was going to happen to TV, was there going to be any theatrics? At what point? So I think, I think you have to be so much more nimble for each project. And you have to be able to just say, you know, what, that film a few years ago would have been financed at six or 7 million and today, it's only three or four, can we really make this movie at that level? And if we can't, okay, you know, what, we have to maybe rethink it. So I think I think flexibility and you know, I I'm a big proponent of holding back domestic and not pre selling domestic as much as you can nowadays because I do find that if you you know what your minimum sale is. So truly, if you are just have someone financing against a minimum sale, there's there's tremendous upside, if you're working with trusted director, trusted filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 39:40
So let me ask you a question then. So I wanted to jump into distribution because distribution is also another mythical land, land field are minefield of situations. And I've talked about distribution at nauseam on this show, because it's the one place that most filmmakers get taken advantage of You know, Hollywood accounting, all of this kind of stuff. And there's a lot of there's our good, there are good players out there. But I've, in my experience have discovered that more of more or less, more, there are more bad players or, you know, great players, and there are good players in the space. And I tried to warn filmmakers about what, what the marketplace is. And a lot of filmmakers come into the business today thinking it's 2005. And, you know, there's DVD pre sales, and those days are gone. And there's also the amount of competition that's out there for product. Right? I mean, there's just 10s of 1000s of features being thrown into the marketplace, some with major stars, you know, good stars, others that will never see a dime come back. How do you navigate the distribution fields? And I'm assuming that there's, I'm assuming before you answer, I'm assuming you've been taken advantage of once or twice along the way. Sure.

Courtney Lauren Penn 41:05
You know, I think, of course, I think I have never, ever, ever, ever provided a financial model to anyone for a project that involves any economics downstream of the initial mg for upfront sales. So I never ever provided a model that promised you know, that, even that, but even even when you know, I don't even model in what it looks like when let's say you're licensing the film for seven years domestic, your return in seven years could then be an additional X percent. Even though that that is there, I don't even don't even evaluate it, I don't discount it. I don't even I don't even do that I you know, for our purposes, budgeting is completely based off of just the upfront, mg. Or if you're able to say, this is our minimum sale, we do believe you can sell it up to this, here's the here's, here's the minimum, and here's the maximum. And I really like I always recommend holding back domestic if you can, if you again, if you understand that that's truly your minimum, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:14
So to explain to the people, so when you're saying that, because I know, some people might be confused by that, when you're saying the minimum. So let's say you made a movie for a million dollars. And, you know, you have Thomas in it, or something along, you know, a bankable actor, and you go, okay, based on the cast that we have, the genre that we have, and the director and other a couple a couple other elements, we can forecast that in the marketplace, we'll get an MG at the low end, maybe a 1.5. High and maybe three. And that is that's an MG, which is a minimum guarantee. So that's upfront check that they're going to give you then everything that comes afterwards, which is you know, after after they recoup that minimum guarantee, all the money that come afterwards, technically, you're supposed to get a split of. But a lot of times Hollywood accounting makes it that it's almost impossible. So the game that the the season producers make now is like all the money you're ever going to make. Generally speaking, there's exceptions, generally speaking, is the upfront cash, anything after that, you will probably not see a dime. Until the until until you get the movie back. And let's say seven years, and maybe you can re license it at that point.

Courtney Lauren Penn 43:28
Yeah. And that's just for the financial model. You know, and I just think that's the most straightforward way and then anything else is a bonus. I mean, if if you know we did you know, for gala walkers we did we did actually get overages from Lions Gate. We did. I think it's the only film we've ever received overages for

Alex Ferrari 43:47
Wow. That says that says a lot. Because you've you've made a few movies.

Courtney Lauren Penn 43:54
But you know what? We have three releasing this year. So but yeah, but I mean that they did provide, you know, we did get overdose from Lions Gate for gala walkers. And so you know, that was a happy surprise. But everything was based off of you know what, like, and then so any modeling that we do now for sales and for financing, absolutely just based off of like what I believe the true minimum and we'll actually get that information will work with we have wonderful sales partners that are really trusted. We have a great, our agencies wonderful. I love our team at paradigm. And you know, so between them, and our trusted sales partners that we work with, and the distributors who we actually, you know, cultivated and great relationships with some of the distributors that we you know, I've had had a wonderful experience with Redbox we did the last son of Isaac LeMay with red box and their marketing department and the way they ran the release of that film so impressed with with them. They're doing another film right now that Thomas is in called Vendetta. It's been it's been tremendous. So So, you know, I just think as you get more comfortable with certain distributors, I think, too, there's just that, you know, the ability to say, okay, you know, we have a film that we're looking at doing. Where would you guys feel comfortable, you know, oh, this is the range, it helps you back into your model sort of more.

Alex Ferrari 45:16
It's funny, because I've heard Redbox is one of the best kept secrets in distribution. I've heard nothing but good things about them. And the deals that they keep out, because they buy DVDs. Still,

Courtney Lauren Penn 45:30
I guess so. Yeah. Actually, yeah, actually.

Alex Ferrari 45:35
So it's still old school DVD. So like, if you get a full buy, it's a nice chunk of change, you know, for a smaller film, like, it's my personal

Courtney Lauren Penn 45:43
Yeah, I think that they're very fair with their evaluations, you know, because they, you know, and so, you know, we did our film with Machine Gun Kelly and Sam Worthington, and Thomas, and Heather Graham, I mean, just an incredible cast. And we shot that in the middle of the pandemic. And, you know, I was just, they did such a great job with the placement of it, and, and how they promoted it. And I, you know, and like I said, we're gonna be repeat business, I really, really enjoyed working with them. Not to say that I haven't been working with our other partners, shirt market, and so on. But just recently, I looking back at the last couple of years, I just, I was really, I was, you know, what it is to I was appreciative, because there's so much content, you know, in the world so much, that I think that it's really hard for all of these distributors to really even get their finger on the pulse of what's worth marketing and for how much and how long. And so, you know, in the old days, you know, executives would swear fealty to a project, right, and they Shepherd it through, and it was theirs. And they would make sure that it got the marketing that it deserved, and get the biggest push, and, you know, sort of that was part of their commitment and their job. And so now you have, you know, executives at the big streamers and big companies, they've got so many things that they're, that they've got in front of them, you know, it's it's overwhelming. And so, you know, it's when you see a company that has the capacity to focus marketing efforts behind, you know, a film that you really believe in, you know, it was really rewarding with with roadblocks.

Alex Ferrari 47:15
And I think that's one of the things that a cast a bankable star, or or bankable cast, does for distribution company, because they'll go, Well, we're gonna put money behind Thomas is moving because we know Thomas is gonna get X amount of because he's Thomas, or it's Danny Trejo or it's, you know, you can name a bunch of, you know, bankable stars. And we'll put money behind these these names, because, at minimum, we know that people will recognize it. And it's a low lower hanging fruit for the distributor, as opposed to the old school 90s way of like, let's take slacker and put it out into the theaters and see what happens. And the John Pearson, John Pearson times, you know, like all that kind of, you know, let's see what happens with that this clerks and this El Mariachi, like, those days are so gone, that so many filmmakers still hold on to those days. And that's not the reality of where we are right now. Which brings me to my next question, when you're putting together a package as a producer, not only how important is the cast, but can you express to the audience, how invaluable it is, depending on the budget, you're making $100,000 movie, you are a lot more free, you're making a $5 million movie, anything north of a million dollars, you you got to be very responsible with what you're doing. So cast is what is one of the ways you hedge your bets. So can you talk a little bit about that,

Courtney Lauren Penn 48:50
You know, it's become harder and harder, you know, margins are just more compressed, because the amount of content and because of the impact of the pandemic to use feel to split rights and get great split rights deals, international territories that aren't necessarily there, you know, in the same way that they were so, you know, you're you're much more beholden to understanding what you're putting who and who and what you're bringing together in the package for a film. So, you know, you're thinking you're thinking strategically for your for your casting, as well as creatively. I mean, it was it was a huge boon to have someone of the musical caliber and presence internationally Machine Gun Kelly and less than of Isaac LeMay. You know, he acts under the Nicholson Baker. But you know, because of his, his overall brand and presence, it was a very different sort of, you know, it was an outside of the box casting decision. And he worked so well, you know, he nailed the part he was phenomenal in the movie, but it wasn't it wasn't what you would it wasn't the first you know, instinctual thought maybe for casting. And so I think that you know, you when you're, when you when you're saying, Okay, I think you have to be much more strategic and think, you know, outside the box sometimes that when you're when you're looking to cast and justify certain budgets and also to think about other audiences and who, who transcends, you know, a certain box, if you will, you know, we're working with another an upcoming project, I can't say it hasn't been announced, but another musical icon, who's also an actor, and, you know, we're thrilled, because now she is a phenomenal actor, but she's also got this incredible presence on the international stage. And, you know, it's a really interesting opportunity. So I think you've got to, you've got to really just put things together. And it'd be a little bit mind bending, and how you, how you and how you approach it.

Alex Ferrari 50:55
Now, you know, you've made a bunch of movies over the years, and many of them are in the, you know, the action genre. There's a lot of testosterone in some of these films. How how I have to ask, I noticed, I have to ask this for the female producers and directors listening, how do you navigate a testosterone heavy set production, because I have to imagine that it comes with a different set of challenges, let's say, then, you know, a normal a normal scenario, you know, and I, because I'm just like, I that was the first thing that was so impressive about like, while she's made a lot of like, action packed, like really testosterone, film filled movies, I love this, hear her stories, and how she's able to do all of that, and have fun doing it and doing being successful at it.

Courtney Lauren Penn 51:50
So much fun. I've always loved action films, I was always a little bit of a tomboy. And but you know, I think that, though, I think that we can with anything, balance is wonderful. So when you have, you know, this heightened energy on set, and you've got, you know, horses and gunfire over here, and you've got, you know, these incredible titans of talent over there. And you're, I do think that there's a wonderful, I think, I think, I think women are really good producers, not that men and men are wonderful producers too. But I think women have that because they tend to be more mothering in some ways. And I think that they bring, like maybe maybe a level of like, more, a little bit of softness, or there's something you know, or a good ear, I just try to be a good ear, when there's when there's a problem. So, you know, there was one actor on a film who, you know, just sort of, he was shooting some very intense scenes. You know, I don't know if it was part of his part of his style. But he sort of was became very aggressive and loud. And he did not want to come out of his trailer after that moment and left the set. And I think that, I think that if you can, you know, remove ego, and remove impulse, and you can just try to connect to the person as to why, in the moment, this is happening, I think you can try to communicate. And I think that that's been really helpful on a number of the films I've been involved with, actually,

Alex Ferrari 53:31
Can you tell me about your new project with Thomas Jane Tropo. It's part of your new company, right? We're gonna get entertainment.

Courtney Lauren Penn 53:38
Yes. So it's our first series. And we're so lucky and happy. It's going to be sort of one of the first releases for Amazon's free V brand, which was formerly IMDb TV. And so we're, it's a Bosch spin off show and troppo are launching the retitled brand freebie on May 20. And it's been such an adventure because it came to us as a book and a draft of a pilot. And it was submitted to us a few years ago. And I read the, the draft of the pilot first. And I don't want to give a there's an opening sequence to the to the show, which I never even ever seen in film before. A little bit ala Jaws, opening of jaws, and I just remember being grabbed and reactive and responsive. And I read that pilot and I called Thomas. And I said, you know I'm going to read the book, but we need to we need to look at the whole project because we haven't seen something like this before. And read the book. I think that night did sit up all night reading it. It was called Crimson lake by Candice Fox and Candice is this incredible true crime writer called true crime but also fictional crime and she used to write with James Patterson and co author with him. And so she has this beautiful like metric and style of telling stories. It's so direct, but just so great and raw and cool. And you know, it's a woman writing cry. I mean, she just is just a great crime writer, I fell in love with the story of crimson Lake, and it's about this. It's about this American who's been in Sydney, he's a former detective, he ended up joining the force there, and ends up getting accused of a horrendous crime that he, you know, didn't seemingly commit. And sort of similar to the world that we're living in now where, like, if something is printed, or stated on Twitter, or the internet, or if someone prints something, it's just assumed to be true. Before you know, it's guilty until proven innocent. Now, and so we're seeing this play out right in front of us in many ways. And when I read this, this man's life was torn apart by an accusation, and an arrest gone wrong. And then his life was destroyed his marriage, he had a young daughter, his whole life falls apart. And he he goes up to North Queensland to escape everything and maybe it ended all and let's where we meet him, and we meet him in this strange place with wild creatures where everybody goes to kind of hide away from their, whatever they're trying to get away from. And it played like a drama, like a true detective style sort of drama. And, you know, having, you know, seen so many genre pictures get made and being a part of that, to see this great drama that was given the time to play out over eight episodes, and that we could come in and work with the writers and crack it and focus on TED and Amanda, the the woman who he meets and they get into this industry together up in Queensland, it was such a rare, really incredible experience and really rare. And so we got into it with AGC, television steward for this company and great group of executives there. And then Yolanda ranky, was brought on to show Ron and Jocelyn Morehouse directed the opening pilot episode. And we shot it in Australia during wild lockdowns. And that was a whole experience in and of itself and, you know, posted very quickly and and here we are. It's sort of like a pinch yourself moment.

Alex Ferrari 57:30
If you ask it's very jungle new war in the war, that's a new term. It's very jungle new war it's it's brilliantly done. And I suggest everybody listening definitely check it out on on freebie free V. on Amazon, just go on Amazon, look it up, you'll you'll find it there.

Courtney Lauren Penn 57:51
It'll be on it'll be on the banner, they'll be on a big banner.

Alex Ferrari 57:55
Now I have to ask. I didn't get to ask Thomas this. How did you two get together build renegade entertainment? Like, you know, after talking to him, and after talking to you, you guys have such different energies that I'm just curious how that meeting happened, and how you've been able to build this up?

Courtney Lauren Penn 58:12
It's actually a great story. It actually speaks to what if you're having a hard time in the business? What gravitational pull might keep you in it? So I've gone through some really tough stuff in the business like we all have. But Thomas, you know, there are so few people who are completely who they represent themselves to be. And Thomas Jane is one of those rare people who is who exactly who he is. And so I met I met him. It was really funny. Someone I was I was working on a project, gosh, back in 2012, you know, and it was a small film horror movie. And they see seed me on an email where they say, Oh, we're going to offer Thomas we want him to come in and play the father in this horror movie just for a day. And then, you know, I'll email him directly. And so they emailed him and they made the offer. And I think Thomas wrote back and you know, it's not for me, I don't want to play that that kind of thing because I have a young daughter and it was very personal to him, which I respected. He it was about young children in the woods being Trump Tara and he said no, not for me. I have a young daughter I want I can do it. And so for some reason I read this script, this Gothic prohibition era action script which we are we've been working on for a while and God when it finds the light it's an incredible it's such an incredible action piece. It's like John wicks that and prohibition era Chicago with an undead Al Capone it's amazing. Anyway. It's pretty it's such a cool it's just one of the one of my favorite projects. So, you know something about Tom, as I just I emailed it to him. And I said, TJ, on column TJ, I said, you know, dear Thomas, you know, we were part of this interaction over this other film, but neither of us ended up doing. Would you be interested in looking at a directing or looking at this film, it reminded me of the Punisher a little bit character. And he wrote back and he said, Yeah, come over for tea, and we'll talk about it at the house. And so, you know, I've never met Thomas. So I said, okay, okay. You know, he's so direct this way. And usually, you know, in the business, you as a woman, you wouldn't say yes, and go to anyone's house ever for a meeting. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:42
I was about I was about to say that was didn't sound on paper. This is not it's not going well.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:00:47
No, no, exactly. I, you know, I said, I don't know him, you know, so I, I got a friend of mine, who had met with him before and said, He's really nice. I said, Come with me, we'll go and we'll suss out the situation from the front door.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:03
So if he shows up in a robe, not happening,

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:01:06
I'm there with it with a tall man, you know. So, so because so went the doors wide open, you hear like operatic music playing, and there's Thomas holding cups of tea. And, you know, amazing and come on in. And so, you know, we sat down on his deck, my, my, you know, my friend, myself and him. And we talked about the project. And, you know, it was, he was just so brilliant. He's Encyclopedia of filmmaking. He is the most sincere guy, I really one of the most sincere people I've met in the business. And, you know, so we started talking about that project, and, you know, left, just kept in touch via email about the project. And then we started talking about it more and more, and then he went off to shoot predator, I think, something else and while he was up there shooting predators, and then the expanse, he and I would do phone calls, and we break down and everything was just about he was so invested in getting the character write the script, right. And so was I. And he and I, together, rewrote the script, over over a year and a half, and it was like, beat for beat. And we would, we would just get into it. And it was like the was, you know, what the purest creative experiences I had had in the business. And so ultimately, I'm running a little long on the story, but it's all good. Ultimately, when, you know, ultimately into in 2018, I ended up hospitalized for about four and a half months when I was pregnant with my son in a really difficult situation. And Thomas, and I, while I was going through that really terrifying time of not knowing what was gonna happen, and my son was born healthfully, and everything that he was there through that in the sense that he said, the projects were working on court, they will wait, there is nothing more important than what you're doing. And the team at paradigm said the same thing. And while I was there, going through this really deeply personal very difficult time, Thomas was just like, doesn't matter. We wait on all protocol projects we've been talking about till after, till this is all finished on its matters is this. And I've never seen anyone really do that, like actually take, you know, professional interests aside to respect, some, you know, and so that happened. And then while I was there in the hospital, a chaplain came in, I was going through with this, you know, and I had this Chaplain come in, and I just started talking to them about life and many different things. And the chaplain sat back and said to me, character is revealed in a storm. And I said, it is it is, and I said, and I my mind, I said, you never know who you're going to be on the other side of the storm, or who's going to be with you. And so, you know, when all of that resolved, we ended up creating a company called renegade you know, the following year. And the IP that we had talked about previously became formally optioned and part of our company and our logo is a horse sewist fashion from the thing that it is afraid of most you go through the fire and what happens if you become the fire, the character is revealed in the storm. And so Thomas and I, you know, have a you know, that deep, long standing kind of loyalty and trust that is really rare in the business.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
That's amazing. That's an amazing story. I was wondering what that logo was about. So thank you for sharing the story. Now I have a few questions. I asked all my guests. If you've listened to the show, you know what they are? What advice would you give a few Don't make you're trying to break into the business today?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:02
Director or producer,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:05
Any filmmaker dealer's choice.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:10
Stay curious. Reach out to as many people as possible and you will find the authentic person who does want to help you find your way. Don't stop.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:29
Sometimes people do not care who they hurt. And that can be one of the most profound disappointments both professionally and personally. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
That's a good that out of 600 plus episodes I've done that's I've never heard that answer before. I was a very good answer. Very true, though. Very, very true.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:51
That's that goes to that. Stay skeptical, but stay open.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:54
Right! Because if you lock yourself off, you can't move forward. Exactly. But if you're too open, you're gonna get a lot of punches are gonna come in. Lots and lots of them. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:08
Oh, okay. I was looking forward to this one. All right. Well, I already gave you one searching for Bobby Fisher, obviously. Casino Royale. So good. And actually Finding Neverland.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:24
Johnny's no Johnny movie. Yes, there was

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:27
Kate Winslet.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:28
And that's right. Kate was in that as well. It's, or it's my daughter's color rose.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:34
Yeah, I really I really wanted to, you know, Titanic, I mean, Gladiator and Titanic. And of course, Star Wars are like my three like, they changed my life. But these were more characters I wanted, you know, Finding Neverland never gets, you know, a shout out. And it was such a beautifully crafted film.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:50
And Casino Royale is the best James Bond movie ever made,

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:53
Ever ever made. You know? That script? Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:58
And that's the thing about and I always tell people like, why is that the best one is because that's the one that he became vulnerable. We just We he's not just a dude that sleeps with beautiful women and goes kills and saves the day like in the all the other ones. There was no character development. He never He never arct you never aren't.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:07:15
But you know, they gave the woman Eva Green. I mean, oh, so she's the most complex, one of the most complex, you know, women we've seen on screen, you know, and that's what allowed him to become vulnerable. And it's very easy. You know, the other night I had, I just, I felt I had this moment where I just needed to watch something that was made caught 510 years ago, but Skyfall you know, the making in the craftsmanship. That movie is so mind blowing. And I had to go back and watch it just to remind myself like what you know, the craftsmanship is because we're so busy chasing budgets down. You know, you just wanted to go and eat and it wasn't there's all that fancy CGI, it just got it Sam Mendes at his finest with with just the most incredible production. So

Alex Ferrari 1:08:08
When you give when you give masters a really good set of brushes and a great canvas, they can do some amazing things. I mean, really, really, Scott, you know, I don't care what anyone says, Yeah, anything he does I watch

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:08:20
Alien. You three movies have a fair to ask just three

Alex Ferrari 1:08:24
Throw Blade Runner in their matrix in their fight club. There's a bunch of them in there. As well, but listen Courtney it has been an absolute pleasure and honor speaking to you. I hope that our conversation has helped a few filmmakers out there, understand the business a little bit more. And thank you for the inspiration and for the films that you're making. So thank you so much for everything you're doing.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:08:45
Thanks so much for having us and happy to answer your questions. Anytime.

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BPS 204: Screenwriting, Hollywood & Blumhouse Machine with Marcus Dunstan

Marcus Dunstan’s screenwriting with his partner, Patrick Melton, include such horror films as FEAST 1-3, SAW IV-V-VI& SAW 3D THE FINAL CHAPTER, PIRANHA , GOD OF WAR, FINAL DESTINATION 6, and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. Marcus Dunstan’s directing credits include THE COLLECTOR, THE COLLECTION, THE NEIGHBOUR, BLUMHOUSE’S PILGRIM and this summer’s BLUMHOUSE PRESENTS: UNHUMAN.

Dunstan is a producer of THE CANDIDATE, and executive producer of 2022’s horror-thriller TAKE BACK THE NIGHT. Currently Dunstan and Melton are collaborating once again with Blumhouse and Disney + on a soon to be announced suspense thriller series, as well as the horror film ESCAPE: HALLOWEEN with Live Nation and Insomniac.

The dead will have this club for breakfast. Blumhouse Television and EPIX bring you the story of a high school field trip gone bloody awry. Seven misfit students must band together against a growing gang of unhuman savages. The group’s trust in each other is tested to the limit in a brutal, horrifying fight to survive and they must take down the murderous zombie-creatures… before they kill each other first.

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Alex Ferrari 0:25
Today's guest has a special place in my heart because he got his start in the film business the way I want it to back in the early 2000s. He was on the show Project Greenlight where he was the writer of the film feast. Now he used that and parlayed it into writing assignments to create and write multiple soft films. He used that to make his own film The collector series of films actually, and his new film on human four Blumhouse. Now we not only talk about his journey through the filmmaking world, as a screenwriter, and director, but also what it's like working inside the filmmaking machine that is Blumhouse so let's dive in. I'd like to welcome the show Marcus Dunstan how you doin' Marcus?

Marcus Dunstan 1:59
I am grateful. How are you sir? Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:02
Oh, thank you for coming on the show man. I had a friend of mine work. He was a visual effects artist on one of your first movies, the collector went on. And I knew him. He and he told me all store all sorts of creatives, like was first big VFX job now he's working for Marvel and bond. And all this stuff. But his first thing was big, big thing that he did was the collector. So that's our connection, sir.

Marcus Dunstan 2:28
Oh, right. Oh, well, hey, special thanks. What is this person's name?

Alex Ferrari 2:32
His name is Dan Cregan. He's been on the show a bunch of times as if he's one of my best friends.

Marcus Dunstan 2:37
I owe my gratitude to Dan Cregan and because that Thank you. Thank you, Dan.

Alex Ferrari 2:44
So far, so first question, sir, how did you get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Marcus Dunstan 2:50
Well, it was an absolute. It was a it was a it was a desire, a joy I don't know it was a conversation in the dark of adolescence where I had horrible acne. Didn't want to go outside. I was embarrassed of how I looked and everything. And then I start recognizing the work of this really talented artists named Tom Savini. And oh, man, he could change the way he looked and we rang cover up my face too. And what oh, he does special effects. Well, then there's this movie, oh, this Friday the 13th. That's pretty cool. And it was a springboard all the way up until when he directed and none of the Living Dead 9090 and his episode of Tales from the dark side or episodes, I believe he did a couple and I just he was the reason he was a gateway because what I loved was this ability where the the fake traumas of life might be able to be a gateway to a little bit of healing, understanding. And maybe if you show the world everything scary through this lens that is not actually going to harm you, then maybe you can approach the next day of your life not being afraid of anything. And if you make that audience jump, maybe they're gonna jump closer together. And we'll all we'll all face the dark as as the best we can and will become light.

Alex Ferrari 4:12
That is the the most beautiful description of horror I've ever heard in my entire life. It's wonderful. Thank you very much. First, it was a very spiritual aspect to the horror genre. I've never heard it put so eloquently before. So that's awesome. Thank you.

Marcus Dunstan 4:28
Thank you very much.

Alex Ferrari 4:29
Now another connection we have, sir, is you got your start on a little show called Project Greenlight. The day Yes, well, sir. I was for five or six seconds in Project Greenlight Season Two. Okay, I made it to the top 20 of season two so I almost I almost made it onto the show. And I've had Chris Moore and I've had Chris Moore on the show and I first words out of my mouth like Dude, why don't I get into project

Marcus Dunstan 4:58
Right on okay.

Alex Ferrari 5:00
So you got your start on Season Three if I'm not mistaken with the feast, right?

Marcus Dunstan 5:04
Yes. And I was working at a blockbuster home video in a Kenyan restocking seasons one and and then to the screening the hey come see this movie screening passes we were asked to hand them out they're going to do a sneak screening of the Battle of Shaker Heights and in a theater out there and then on the radio Patrick mountains wife even heard that there was going to be a three and they'd be widening the net into potentially you know, something more genre could be you know, the at the time the the the gross out teen comedy they could do drama, suspense thriller or maybe a horror movie.

Alex Ferrari 5:47
Yeah, and it worked out that you got to it's so funny to so I did my time in a mom and pop video store for five years in high school.

Marcus Dunstan 5:56
Okay, now what have you and what

Alex Ferrari 5:59
You and I are similarly vintage, sir.

Marcus Dunstan 6:00
So we got your nametag, though.

Alex Ferrari 6:02
No, I actually was a mom and pop I didn't even have names. I didn't name text.

Marcus Dunstan 6:07
Let's not even my name. That's how this this blockbuster was struggling so I was Jamie with like a philosophy rafter scratch through. That's awesome. That's what happened to Jamie.

Alex Ferrari 6:17
That is some street cred right there, sir. That is, that's a major street cred for all the kids. For all the kids listening Google what a video store was. Yeah. Now. Now when you work with on that show? I know you were on it for a little bit. And you wrote the script helped write the script for you. Did you write it by yourself? Or did you write it with them?

Marcus Dunstan 6:35
With Patrick Mountain and it was we were adapting a draft written by Pulseaudio

Alex Ferrari 6:40
Okay, so what was your biggest lesson you learned? Which is essentially the first experience in the business? What was the biggest lesson you learned working on that?

Marcus Dunstan 6:50
Oh, wait, are you talking about feast or on human? I'm sorry. Oh, sorry. No, feast was an original creation of ours. unhuman was based on a story about Okay. Wow, it's been oppressed de la hmm. And then this is the one Okay, got it. You know, feast was entirely a reaction episode where we, you know, we took the bait of what do you want to see? And I asked, like, why don't I keep wanting to rewatch Evil Dead two. And then why? Well, because it had this endless fountain of creativity, no matter what were, the budget didn't I didn't think of what the budget was, I just knew I was entertained. And it just didn't waste a molecule without finding the most creative way to bring it. And I thought it had it was ferocious in its ability to protect the attention span to galvanize the, the eyes, the brain and rope you into it's it's wonderful narrative. I just thought, This is great. This is this is all the this is all the inspiration and hope and that, you know, to really get us going. So then we felt like okay, well we know that kind of make things in the realm of a million bucks, we know. And we actually tried to enter it in Project Greenlight Season Two against the whole advice. And at that point, you do it there, we kind of do a digital submission, we'll somehow we got the whole submission wrong. And it turned into you know, 2000 pages of triangles and squares or something. Who knows? We it is the early internet, it was early, that wild frontier. And so then by the time this came around, we thought I mean, we were certain this draft that we had worked and worked and worked on could be made for $1 million and the budget came back at 20 Oh do a little more work

Alex Ferrari 8:51
So it's still when you were working on on with on the feast Did you did you I mean I gotta imagine was kind of a culture shock for you just to kind of like a shock to the system working even with the Chris Moore and you've been watching them on the on the show for a couple of seasons and all that kind of stuff.

Marcus Dunstan 9:09
Yes, well in fact it but yet at the same time, there's a lot of small world stuff and that is I lived in Melton and I lived in the same building on tamarind in it ran around Hollywood. So there's the like the Scientology celebrity center birds lapu Bell, and then there's Tamron. And we lived there for a while. And so we had a shared computer he had this one but it would overheat because we could type faster than I could process so it would overheat. We have to turn it off every 20 minutes and we'd run it up and down the stairs depending on who could have enough time to write that night. And so then there's this Willy Wonka moment and you know your life could change if the day is of West Craven, Chris Moore, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Nick Phillips, etc. Would would dare anoint you and invite you to that side of the room. But the location of that conversation was like 16 walks away. It was just, it was just in a hotel. We didn't know anybody and couldn't get into and couldn't afford to stay there anyway. So it's kind of like, you know, an absurd way. It's like, so we're going across the street were like, really, it's been here the whole time. That's, that's, that's awesome. And then the, and then like, oh, my gosh, there's this, the attention and there's cameras and whatnot. It's, it was a lot. And I would say thank goodness, we were, we kept our Midwest in there. Like, this was a wonderful area right before the instinct would be to be to want more camera than and lose sight of the opportunity at hand. No, we were there to make him. We were there to exist and help. And the fact that the cameras were there, you know, he learned later in life that those cameras were to keep probably a lot of the other people in line that had been in that industry a while and protect the innocence of it. So I really I that was a an absolute, it was a Willy Wonka moment, it was a miracle and for a first time experience to have it documented. I mean, at some point, I'll go back and watch that show with the memories of being on the other side of that. And that I mean, how that's just whimsy, man, that's great.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
Yeah, no, I mean, I've gotten close. I got close to many times to mention on both that and like on the lot if you remember that show.

Marcus Dunstan 11:21
Absolutely I remember

Alex Ferrari 11:24
I was flown up. I was flown up to to me, I was like right there about to get in? Oh, yeah. So I've always fascinated about the whole cup project green light and the whole on the lot, that whole reality stuff. But there was really, you know, to be honest, it wasn't a lot of people that came out of those shows that had like built a career. You're one of the few that really have you made it out?

Marcus Dunstan 11:46
Well, it was you know, and we were very fortunate I really got to think not not only luck but also thank being prepared for luck because before feast came out the show when it was when it was depicting us well, that was then attractive for you know, agents etc to want to take a meeting and we had a we had a we had an agents agents at this one of the big agencies, and they dropped us when the when the cameras were off, and we were unrepresented. It was July before feast had ever come out before anything had happened. And Patrick and his wife were expecting his little boy. And if they as a couple agree that if they don't figure out a way to stay solvent in the entertainment industry, he was he was going to he was gonna just have to change. Do something, do something, you gotta you got a family now. So over the July 4 weekend, he had this idea and he wrote the first draft of what would be the neighbor. Then we have this, this premiere in Vegas. For feast we're now feast is finally coming out after 18 months of us not knowing and the separation of Disney and dimension and Weinstein and whatnot. But they took us along then now the cameras are back on then, you know all of a sudden there's attention and all of a sudden like hey, and this wonderful agent by the name of David boxer bomb.

Alex Ferrari 13:11
Dave has been on the show.

Marcus Dunstan 13:12
Oh, he's awesome. Yep, David Cheryl Debbie Doble. All of a sudden, we've got this marvelous team that you know elected to to roll the dice on us knowing that way. There's potential here you guys will actually work for this. Like you're not just being you know, needed to be handed to you know what worked for it, like, let's go. And sure enough, at that premiere party, I stepped into the back of it to do a verbal rewrite on the ending of the neighbor. So then dimension buys it. Melton breathes a sigh of relief because he's now a writer supporting his family. And then there's this movie that comes out and within a week we set up the Midnight Man, which would then become the collector and whatnot. And David, Cheryl and Debbie, it's like Thank you. Thanks for Thanks for catching us in freefall. We weren't gonna give up on ourselves and it was great to have them as team to do so that's a long way to long winded answer. But you know, it's there. There is some humanity in the in the realm that can sometimes be like our movies title on humans.

Alex Ferrari 14:13
Yeah, absolutely. Now you also got a gig, writing a sequel to one of the most successful horror franchises of all time saw? Yes. How did you how did you get that? Because you were still fairly young writer at that point?

Marcus Dunstan 14:26
Absolutely. Very. So that all happened within eight weeks of the fuse premiere. Now, we had a little bit of street cred the movie was getting, you know, favorable reviews, word of mouth, whatnot. And we and due to the sale of the neighbor, that takes a little time before the WGA makes it official. So the sophomore deal. They did not want to go with the union writers just yet. They wanted to hire three different writers with the task of writing a script called sophomore and And each of these writers or teams would be given a set of rules to follow because three hadn't come out yet. For some reason, we didn't get the thing of the rules. But it didn't stop us and wouldn't you know, we end up accidentally writing something that we got yelled at, because the budget was going to be too big. And then it then they went with it. And that was pretty cool. And then, you know, and we were able to make a deal with them to to keep working on that. I mean, my goodness. So in the span of a year, it was because they would make this movie so quickly. And you know, so efficiently. I mean, like, my gosh, we had oh my gosh, we're gonna we just got dumped dropped by our agents. This whole thing might be overweight or movies coming out. I was playing twice. And midnight. Did it say it really just gross? Like $5? Like, what is that? Wait, we got to X rating? Oh, we gotta cut Oh, we Oh, man. Oh, and then oh, and then the next year? It's my parents, my hit my world history teachers to on recommend at about a big ol premiere for a horror movie that folks have heard of. And that's it's another like, how did we get here? It was just awesome. But you know, we did. It's we've worked really hard.

Alex Ferrari 16:14
That's the thing. That's fascinating, because a lot of people listen and be like, Oh, these guys are just lucky. They just fell into it. I'm like, That's so much. No, you work hard. But the point is that you were ready for when the opportunity presented itself. Like if you would have just been sitting there like, oh, I have no other script, I don't have the neighbor, I don't have anything else I have ideas you actually will prepare for when these opportunities present. And then serendipity just happens. And after doing so many interviews on the show and talking to so many, you know, amazing writers and directors like yourself. I just realized that luck has such a big part to do with sustaining a career in this business. But every single one of them work hard. It's not like just sitting around in the middle of Ohio somewhere and an agent knocks on your door. Hey, I hear you have some ideas. Can I help you now that doesn't work that way?

Marcus Dunstan 17:06
Absolutely. No, you got to it's not it's like and you know, continues to this day, you still have to go for it. You still have to I this this experience with unhuman reminded me a lot of feast and that I wanted to bring some of the zeal and and creativity that John Gallagher did and try to say like, well, what if we were taking some of the expectations tropes stereotypes of the high school genre and flip them kind of like John was able to do with feast and what we were doing with the Creature Feature? And in doing so, can we sneak in a theme about bullying and and, and try to punch above our weight in that regard, but just can we stick this landing so this the narrative will have competent adrenalized attention span friendly stimulus, but nail that if we get that right amount of sugar, we can put in something of substance that could really keep us around for a while and bestow a lesson as some of the great horror movies had done to us.

Alex Ferrari 18:11
Yeah, and I think that's one of the big mistakes that screenwriters make with with horror movies is they don't put in that deeper underlining thing, they just do Gore or they just do the scares. But if when you're able to enter one intertwine or weave in these kinds of deeper themes and ideas, that's that's when those things become classics. And they just keep going and going and going. Yes,

Marcus Dunstan 18:35
I hope so. I mean, that's, you know, I mean, you sound like you don't have a goal to really set up we're gonna make a classic today but originally if you stick to this, this this goal of I want to get this message through no matter what can every performance synthetic in the production design, bolster it can the score enhance excellent and then oh, hey, if it's if it's lucky to earn that moniker All right, we did it right.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
Now how how did you get the collector off the ground because it you know, you guys are just at this point, just writers. So you got to direct the movie and it was a fairly decent budget and it was you know, it was by Studio and and so on. So how did you get that off the ground

Marcus Dunstan 19:17
That required outsmarting the system once again and the way it was I pre directed some stuff and I came up with a marketing and and so it was back in the day if I had a smartphone man I think would have been done in a second. But no this is when you needed to get cameras favors etc. And thank goodness it was the Gulag or family and it was after feast and fortress so this be Brett Forbes and Pat Rezai help provide a budget of about 7000 bucks to execute a scene that would show Oh, this guy can write a few words but he's he's good with actors and are like can can can accomplish the goal of the scene and And then it becomes a trailer. So then I wanted to get to jumpscares and set up the plotline. And then I wanted to earn a tagline at the end. And give it a whole sense of like if make it feel like a growing threshold event to lead up to someone that is introduced as a bad guy meeting a worst guy, and then bloodied in a rainstorm run out caressing a kid that's not his own, just with only breathing as a soundtrack. You know, just because he's like, not tonight, you know, he's he's reached a point in his criminal career where he finds something so awful. He'll stop.

Alex Ferrari 20:33
That's, that's awesome. That's a great story, because so many screenwriters want to direct. And they just, you know, you have to figure out how to get noticed. And that's a great way you shot that little demo. And they gave you they gave you the budget to do it. It's, it's so interesting, because we all have to come out when the collector came out, what were you what year was that?

Marcus Dunstan 20:54
That came out in 2009. But it was also similar to feast and that it took a while to get out there.

Alex Ferrari 21:00
So I remember when my buddy worked on it, he told me what can I use this on my demo reel? I can't use this on my tomato.

Marcus Dunstan 21:08
So like it was amortized with the production of two sequels to Paul's two sequels to feast. And then we were the last one. At this point, I felt like, Oh, this is awesome. I'm the last one, you know, everything's gonna be great. Well, learn the hard way that went into the last movie in an amortized situation. That means all the overages from those movies come out of yours. So whatever budget was supposed to be there wasn't quite there. Whatever schedule was supposed to be there was kind of cut in half. And then by the end, I had a lot of middle of a movie, I had some ending, but I took every penny I made from writing the Saw movies then and funded two weeks of shooting on my own. And now we had at the beginning, now we had a middle and we had the ends. And with that it was it was done. Because I felt like you know, I didn't come out here just to do half of a first movie. I got to you know, do the whole thing. And a wind that was exciting, like the whole cast and crew coming along for that meant a lot. So then dimension, we got a call from Bob Weinstein saying, hey, and I got my money tied up and Inglorious Basterds and you know, if you want to put the movie out yourself, I dig it. You can, you can, oh, I can self release this movie. Great. That sounds like a deal. And so thank goodness, we had the wherewithal to be like, well, what would you sell it for? If we found a buyer? Oh, let me go away, all of a sudden the budget more than doubled. You know, all of a sudden, I couldn't get a copy of the budget that I knew we had. Now I know that I'm sorry, we can't give it. And thank goodness, we had two weeks to find a buyer. And on one of the last days of that possibility, Mickey Liddell came in, watched it left the the editing room, walked around the block and said, Okay, how much and that's what led to LD hiring freestyle to release a movie that was called The Midnight Man now is called the collector courtesy of Bob is now an LD movie. It and then so then it came out in the summer of 2009. After they you know, Mickey put in even more bucks for some more spit and polish. That was awesome. And like, the songs you hope to get. I mean, here's what I just so loved and appreciate it is. He understood that when you put an attempt song, you don't want to find another song, as in these things to this song. And they and even if you can't quite understand the why it does something, they all hold hands, you can kind of tell when something has been replaced at the last second because it's like, well, it's okay, I guess you know, it's up tempo, but you know, we have relationships with all forms of art and these things. And he got it and let it be so so now then we come out. And unfortunately, he would like to do another one and that led to then the collection and so on. So yeah, it was a an absolute for, you know, fortuitous time. But again, it was I thinking about it now. It's insane. Giving Yeah, I you know, whatever little nugget I had was just instantly vanquished in the hopes that something and then oh, yeah, I you know, guess what, you get to make a movie where you get to make half of it. And if you can finish it, you can release it yourself, if you can afford it. And if you can't find someone who paid double that, and to release it on their own, and maybe you'll get a sequel or maybe you know what, I'll hear from you again, who cares I love you know what it is?

Alex Ferrari 24:32
You know, I'm so glad that people are are listening to this story because you put your money where your mouth is, and that's so many filmmakers don't do that so many people don't take the risk to do that. And in this scenario, if I was consulting you back then it was the mind that I have today. I would say absolutely do this because this doesn't happen. You don't get this scenario. It was a very fortuitous It's also very kind of lottery ticket scenario where all of these things lined up. So, so beautifully.

Marcus Dunstan 25:07
They it was it prepared for serendipity?

Alex Ferrari 25:12
Exactly. Now, it what was on that shoot, what was the you know, as directors, we always go through that the worst, there's always a day that we remember, if not every day, but there's always a day that we're losing the sun, camera breaks, the actor can't come out. The car accident happened somewhere and we lost the camera in the truck. I've seen it all. What was that day for you? And how did you overcome it and make your day?

Marcus Dunstan 25:40
Thank you for that question. Because I think, you know, every day has its challenges. But really, it's in the survival of those challenges. And the way to assess that and and outsmart it, you don't have to overpower any of this stuff. But you do have to, you do have to add smart things because ultimately, an image has to exist, that conveys some information. There's several ways that can be done, you can do the expensive way you can do it the in many more modest ways. So one night, I'm in it. Josh Stewart is masked up. It's going to be the stocking casing of the house. He's assessing it, you know, Brandon Cox, beautifully lighting these things and we're getting all this awesome imagery. And then it's about you know, we still have another little sequence to do. And I remember one point, it's just quiet turn around and where is everybody? Everybody had quit because the strike had ended. And so why stick around for the the pennies of the indie budget when the commercial jobs are now flying everybody Yeah. So if the folks that stayed you've got Brandon Cox so a wonderful camera crew. But a most of our crew just up and watch.

Alex Ferrari 27:31
Walk in the middle of the day or walk like the next day or something.

Marcus Dunstan 27:34
No like that night we didn't I just we moved some lights and shot some stuff ourselves just to like do something with the time. I was like hmm, so now how did I overcome this? I couldn't overcome this. This was this was a moment where Courtney Ballack or Keith border the producers came through and Vince Palomino, who was our line who's you know, everybody that stuck around there essentially, as you know, lifelong friends, these are the metaphor. And so, what could have been an absolute cavity crushing events is turned completely around with the arrival of one person who had become a rider die. And that is BJ McDonald's, a a who has showed up as a Steadicam operator in his cut off camo shorts and is converse and his Danzig wristband and his faux hawk Mohawk what is that hawk? He's like, I didn't worry about it, man. We're gonna get we're gonna get it we can do like this. Excellent. We the movie couldn't afford him. He wanted to get out of town for an adventure. And so I that's how I met he and his now wife, Adrienne, who was in makeup. And all of a sudden, this is a transformative event. And it was BJ who talked me out of the shakes and the shivers of like, I don't know, it's like I thought Why did I have this whole thing? storyboarded I can't do it. Like hey, it's like hey, don't worry about let's have a beer and go bowling. And you know what you don't worry about it. You go have a beer and you go bowling. Because in that action, you the mind gets to settle and you get to realize no no, you're still creating just yes those storyboards whatever whatever you put in wherever that plan is, that is on the wayside, but that doesn't mean you still don't know what you need to execute now in the moment to challenge yourself to find a way to do so. And that that has been the most rewarding lesson of all is IT professional studio big yeah that you get more toys but the lessons they get you through even those moments were learned when you had nothing but that desire and and hope to to convey a story convey an image and get it drag it into that lens however possible. And you do it again and again. So you find success what you like what you're comfortable with and and hopefully people are there with you for the ride. And it's so exciting because BJ is is now the director and that he his last film studio 16 Six. Right? So how cool is that to see him, you know, from from converse to the universe, he's out there.

Alex Ferrari 30:07
That's amazing. That's a great story. And you said something really interesting. And I think something is so important for filmmakers to listen to, is please let them know, every single moment of every single day as a director on set, the biggest thing that we have to do is compromise. Because you said I had this long storyboard list or a shot list, and all of it's out the window. Just days of working on it. You had the Kubrick, you had the Kubrick shot, you had the Sam Raimi shot, you had the oh, you know, all of that stuff. Yeah. And Gone. Gone. Can you tell it to you tell? How can you explain to people that process internally as a director, because that's what I think that's really what makes a great director, one of the elements is to be able to compromise on the fly with what is given to him or her on the day, and just flow with what you have on the day and not be so rigid that you're like, No, if I can't get my shot, I don't want to shoot it and Bolton, you're not going to work?

Marcus Dunstan 31:10
Well, absolutely. Well, this happened with this happened with unhuman. And in the way, like, we had to deal with weather, we had to deal with lightning, that could shut us down. And then our entire ending had to be reconfigured. Because the entire ending was built around a certain ability, I like a certain location, a certain aspect of the location. That was cool to look at Vintage Gray, talking about an old school amazing elevator. Well, of course that breaks. And anything that came along with it is instantly out the window. But thank goodness for 10 years of experience because you like it's not about an elevator, it's about falling distance, if it's not about the what. And then I by that point, courtesy of those Paulito are one of our producers on this on the site there who leaned in and said like, this elevator was built in the 30s it's being repaired, you might want to have a plan B at the ready just case. Now if I was a naive person that knew no, it has to be this I must stand my ground. But now it's your I asked to be an elevator, there would be no ending there would be nothing but instead courtesy of Paul and also courtesy of enough experience to listen to someone who's giving you good advice. We were ready and it and the solution wouldn't you know Eureka, it's a heck of a lot better. And we ended up getting more motion more movie more. There is it just it just it works. And everybody was on the same page because I think people get excited by talk of solutions. There's nothing more wasteful and disparaging. And that talk of just the problems like okay, well everything's got a problem. But what if we try this? Can we do this and then instantly you get everyone's back in the creative mode of of willingness thing into being and that was nice that that that allowed a lot everybody to shine.

Alex Ferrari 33:18
Now, is there anything you wish somebody would have told you at the beginning of this whole journey? That little nugget of man, this is going to do this, this and this man, you really should look out for this.

Marcus Dunstan 33:31
There are a handful of things. I'm gonna keep the two big ones to myself.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
You all could suffer?

Marcus Dunstan 33:41
No, no, no, no, no. In that sense, it was like no, you know, what if I want to find the positive not the beware but the positive and that is regard your inner voice, you know and lead in and when the when the inner voice when the little voice says something? What is holding it back from entering volume? Is it fear that maybe the collaborator won't hear it? Is it hesitation because you're not sure is it? Well, why don't we try saying and see what happens? And wouldn't you know or if you're thinking like you know, second guessing can be okay, but why are you second guessing what doesn't feel right? Do you feel you did not get that shot? Do you feel that? The the just wasn't quite there and like okay, then then respect that respect your own? I mean, no matter how overwhelmed you could elect to be no matter what happens if the little voice is just saying no, no, this is fight for this. No, no, protect that. And just have the patients and yourself to understand why explain why and you're going to find that the right team will will always understand you and give you a shot. You know, and I thought that that was good because the last thing you want to do It is have someone in editorial go. Well, I kind of wish we had that shot. I know I knew it. I know. Once you say anything, you're right,

Alex Ferrari 35:14
Oh god as an editor, I used to do it to my directors. And that is when I worked with editors they used to do to me, I'm like, I should have gotten that. It would have taken me another five minutes to get that shot. Why did I have to move on? Yeah, you know, it's sometimes when you're on set, you've got to fight, fight for the vision fight for those that coverage. You're like, I need the closeup of the spoon. If I don't get the closeup of the spoon, I'm not going to be able to cut away and I'm going to be stuck on this performance. I need this cut away. And everyone on the side and on the sets look like you're insane. It's just a spoon shot like No. If I don't get the spoon shot, it's not going to work. And that's only experienced over years of being in an edit room. Understanding like I need I need some safety. I need some escape hatches, just in case. My brilliance doesn't show up on screen.

Marcus Dunstan 36:02
Yeah, yes, absolutely. Great, Scott. I mean, you know, we and that's the that's the fun of it, too. It's really always touching that third rail.

Alex Ferrari 36:13
Yeah, no, no question. No question. Now I have to ask you, you know, when you're on set, even at the beginning, on the collector when you were first onset, or later now with your new film on human? Do you ever get impostor syndrome? Do you ever get that thing that you deal with? Like, oh my god, security is gonna come in at any moment. And go, what are you doing here? You don't belong here get out. kind of vibe. But I know a lot of artists deal with that.

Marcus Dunstan 36:38
No, no, this one it was entirely someone's gonna tap you on the shoulder and say you have COVID And then you're

Alex Ferrari 36:45
That's even scarier than imposter syndrome

Marcus Dunstan 36:49
Because imposter syndrome. I'd be like, I'm already confidently trying to, like, do an impersonation of all the great filmmakers before, like, I all admit that I want to, I want to impersonate their success and convey the story. They want their ability to scare, convey, share, you know, get get these things done. But no, I mean, on the first I would say on the first one I was I was just kind of terrified because I thought I had a really good plan. And then the plan had to be abandoned. I didn't. And that was a crash course and plan B. And ever since then, I was you know what, but I want to say like, I want to say when it comes to what's a good why, like, Why Why am I feeling I don't say yes, it is probably because of the writing part. Whereas if I was not already imagining the story, but I was putting myself onto another story, then the the footing isn't quite there. Like I don't know, I'm doing and I'm doing an impression already of what I think the writer minutes. But I know exactly what I meant, when I would be writing on this. And so then all I had to do was have a quick meeting with my own brain, it'd be like, alright, you know how to pull this off, if not rewrite it. And then and get it to that point. So that that was neat. The the writing the rewriting really of this because it was a real rewrite from scratch allowed me to almost be off book with the screenplay, and and constantly be living in it. So it wasn't I didn't feel anything other than trying to be a bit of a tour guide or an audio book for anybody just to constantly keep them informed of something that was moving at such a clip and attempting to you know, wrestle wrestle a kind of a bigger a bigger hitting movie over the line in a record amount of time.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
Now how did you get involved with Unhuman

Marcus Dunstan 38:44
I was it was a phone call out of the blue from I think Alex crooner began as a producer and seeing if, if I if I you know, be available up for coming aboard. And you know, is it was definitely a gap me at hello moment because the first time I ever felt that there were more resources than I could know what to do with there was enough time to do everything I possibly wanted. And enough support to to constantly, you know, hang the sun and the moon every day was on the Blumhouse production of Pilgrim which if you look at the budget, it was it was a very modest budget, but simply taking the advice and having a crew with a second second hand way of communicating as super passionate, experienced producers. It was an education in that. Yeah, you know, if you don't need more, you've got plenty. And in that case, we did not need any more than we had a great script from Noah Feinberg. We had it just we just had everything we needed and could actually add things along the way and they would inspiration was encouraged. So then with this, it was like wait, I get to go back and play with you guys. And there's even there's a bigger boat If there's a little more time, and there's gonna be some familiar faces, yeah, I mean, let's go.

Alex Ferrari 40:05
Simple as that. So, can you tell everybody what the movie is about?

Marcus Dunstan 40:09
Yes. unhuman the first title card says a Blum house after school special and yes, this one is going to Sledgehammer your eyes like no other as the characters who probably were intending to be in the genre of the teen comedy find themselves on a fateful field trip, designed to bring them closer together and understand each other and maybe get over the bumps and bruises of combustible adolescence. Instead, run smack dab into the rules of a horror movie that shows up in the form of a possible zombie plague invasion with a twist. Will these this breakfast clubs survive? Or will they be devoured by the on human?

Alex Ferrari 40:45
First time you've done that, right? You've never you haven't? First time, right, I was.

Marcus Dunstan 40:50
Stammering I should have been a little more polish.

Alex Ferrari 40:54
That is amazing. That is amazing. Now, what was it like, again, working inside the Blumhouse? Machine, because I've had Jason on the show. And I've talked to Jason. I don't I love Jason. It was interesting human being on the planet. He's just so much fun to talk to. And I'm just always fascinated with his model, his model of how he does it. And everyone thinks he's crazy. And he doesn't get the respect in town that he deserves to be honest. Because he's just pumping out stuff, left and right. And the way he does it is it's so I asked him straight up like, Were you afraid that once you let everybody know what you were doing that everyone was going to copy you? He goes, yes. But no one has, like, you know, the basic rules are all out there for everybody to do. But no one does it because no one has the balls to do it like he does. So what was it like going in that machine and working on the creative side?

Marcus Dunstan 41:48
It was wonderful. Because how about this, I would say in terms of the respect for him, looking at the cast that shows up looking at the crew that's dedicated to it. There is a lot of respect for this guy. Because that moniker of Blumhouse means people show up. And they they know they're getting into into business with somebody who is great at the business. And that I mean, the ripple effects of that name alone. It was just wonderful people, the recognition of it, and all it it's man, it's yes, there's a lot of steps up to the plate with with the company. And that's also marvelous, like they're the loudest voice, I watched that series three times, I never would have guessed it was a Blumhouse joint. But it is because I think there was always an evolution happening. There's always a push into different spectrums. And I also love that what started it with an even more modest kind of budget paradigm is getting bigger in certain regards, is it has figured out a way to work within COVID has has grown and blossomed. And it's awesome to give opportunity, as well. There, there's a lot of it's resulting in art, you can't instantly put a pin in it. No, no, it's they're gonna do something that surprises you all the time. And how about that? The black phone's gonna come and ring in this summer. And eventually, it's gonna be a wonderful new pillar in a palace that is Blumhouse are?

Alex Ferrari 43:20
Yeah, no question. And I mean, and a lot of people don't even know that he's been nominated three times for an Oscar. Yeah. As a producer, you know, and it's fascinating. He's such an interesting, interesting character and what he does, and I love his his technique of just like, giving opportunity to directors, just play, and he really let you play and let you go out and just have fun. And you could see it in the films.

Marcus Dunstan 43:51
Absolutely. No question. Now, that opportunity is just priceless.

Alex Ferrari 43:53
Now, you know, as a writer, you've written obviously, a lot of horror. I mean, this is this is this is your, your sweet spot? What, in your opinion, are the key elements in writing a good horror movie?

Marcus Dunstan 44:06
Well, in this case, I mean, my goodness, it what are the what are probably the three lines that have always been there? You know, and, you know, there's some there's some fairly obvious answers to go to, like, Well, you gotta give a care about the characters, you have to you have to you have to have a threat. That's a legit intimidating presence of some sort. And, and if you put as much care into the scares as you do in the creation of those characters, then maybe you've got something that will resonate and really pop. Well, then what I do like, is this this other element that sometimes comes and goes, and that is embracing a theme, what is the movie, actually suddenly teaching? What is what is it saying? And so for us, for example, is like yes, we're going to take some three familiar elements. Teens, Woods zombies. Oh, okay. Now how is that going to be any different any spent anything special to really earn the attention span? Well, one, my guy when you see Bran and you understand these characters and what they're trying to reach for and be an identifiable reflection of the high school experience in a way that hasn't quite been depicted before. Great, then next, well, what can we do with the, you know, go into the woods? Well, it's not a traditional woods in the sense that it's sort of a bridging zone between two genres the bubblegum teen comedy getting invaded by the horror movie. And then the last thing is, what are we doing with the zombies like, well, once you see once you see this sucker California is his alacrity. His wickedness, his cunning is something else this this thing seems to be working out some rage issues, and wants this to happen with some sort of other engine other design in play. And this thing is smart. Why how why does it know more about us? What that that gives us that little hook that little step into into another place, which leads to the final thing, which is, what is our theme that well, it was it was a chance to talk about bullying, and peel the layers back and not not just for a singular character, not just the typical victim number one that asks for it loud gets it nasty, and is out of the movie by you know, the first act break, but to go in and really find the hero, the victim the bully, throughout. And so by keeping that conversation, maybe, you know, maybe someone sees this and feels a little better that they can, you know, stand up over above a bullying episode that may have happened, like, I still harbor mine, I remember. And I just needed to figure out how to turn that wound into a weapon. And this this, this opportunity allowed me to really get it out, go back to high school, leave some damage there and bring some hope out that there was a I do

Alex Ferrari 47:19
It sounds like I mean, I always find that some of the best horror movies and movies in general but the best horror movies are when they slam together genres that generally have not been slapped together before so like the first thing that comes to mind is army of dark an army of darkness but well army of darkness. Darkness is definitely one of them. Army of the Dead the new one by Zack Snyder. A heist movie with a zombie movie you're just like, why hasn't anyone done that before?

Marcus Dunstan 47:48
It's fun I really enjoyed that but I also I mean I what a what a gift. Just that trailer I'll watch that trailer man the time to listen to it with its use of the gambler and this is tastic and I really love how you know now that I want to say that his his arrangement with Netflix has even given him more freedom to really make the the beautiful covers of heavy metal magazine comes to life. Yeah, there's nothing other about them that is that is cool. And yet you know, they they're they are only as impactful as the heart He's protecting as well.

Alex Ferrari 48:30
Right exactly. And I and I forgot which one it was it was either Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead. But the social commentary the one in the mall

Marcus Dunstan 48:36
Gone yeah, that was his interpretation of Don was what

Alex Ferrari 48:40
Was x was and then but the original as well but Zach's was Yeah. Oh my God, it was amazing.

Marcus Dunstan 48:46
Well, I quote was it a Stephen King and I want to say Roger Ebert both were like Hey, check this out. Whereas both were in a position Roger Ebert gave you know the original four stars and I was like this thing is amazing. You know, Stephen King Of course, your friends and collaborators with George Romero. But the but his but Zack Snyder's reinterpretation was I thought was so smart because it took the same situation and a location but did make a different movie. If you could see I would pay homage here and there with a glimpse of the chopper the reprisal of some of the actors from the original and in different notes and then if if George Romero was was was the commentary of consumerism and this was more of the commentary of of almost terrorism like at some point something's just gonna come out yet. What what do we do you know, and I man and that Screenplay by James Gunn was friggin awesome. I mean, it's that was smart. That was that was a that was just loved it that was a Droid and

Alex Ferrari 49:54
So in the in the pantheon of zombie films, because I do I do like a good zombie film and I I loved many of the seasons of Walking Dead what do you what do you think is on the top three of the zombie on the Mount Rushmore of zombie films?

Marcus Dunstan 50:12
Okay, well I mean I this is where I get super familiar by Dawn of the Dead the originals the one I keep going back to like it's opening 20 minutes I love listening to it I love the just the sense of building chaos and collapse and I also like how you know typical of the Romero verse It was bold and it's casting and lead decisions and how I think it was Miss Ross who plays our lead how she makes kind of a an utterance or not quite a scream at the beginning more of a gasp but just didn't want this this character to scream and this character would become a pilot in this yet we there's there's just respect in there amongst all that I you just love it I mean and I man the Dan Krauss Romero book The final one you know the the living dead is is just phenomenal it's it's man we've been trying to get enough people together to try to get that thing made for so long and it's just it that would I think be the ultimate because it's his voice it's him you know go on to the end. That would just be manna from heaven so come on Netflix I know you can do zombie bank heist can you do one from the from the godfather of the whole genre? Can you do that? That'd be great. So then that leaves open some other ones I want to be let's see if I can be somewhat what is the best way to do this movies okay, it may be easy to say night and then day I think but okay night and day are pretty I find does someone count dead alive? Because I just loved it yeah did alive. It's vicious dedication to you know, gruesome shocking or criminality and momentum I think that was a lot of fun. And then I would like to say ash and I want to make sure I get this one right because this is a this is a this is a very precious top three and as maybe because I recently kind of watched it and and really appreciated what it was doing but I liked WARM BODIES I thought it was such an unexpected take and in kind of how it it had something to say about romance and whatnot. So the now the more like verbose answer is like Well ideally just go anything Romero that's that's the cream so have that cream of the crop down in the desert one that still resonates with me dead alive for like, Hey, you don't have to be boxed into any corner just because it says zombie. You can have a giant mom beasts and chainsaw, you know, fights and whatnot. And to that regard I'd even say like, I think neither the creeps had a wonderful take. Well, who doesn't like thrill me and then warm bodies? Because who then what expect such an affectionate moment, you know, and something that had a genuine? Gave a genuine and literal metaphorical heartbeat to the

Alex Ferrari 53:12
No, no pun intended, sir. Yeah. Have a fun time now. Now where can people watch Unhuman

Marcus Dunstan 53:23
Unhuman begins on Paramount June 3. And then I think we'll be coming out swinging again in August. So we want to scare the kids who are graduating and then scam again when they're going back to school. June 3 is when is when we come out to roar courtesy of paramount. Thank you so much.

Alex Ferrari 53:41
Now I'm going to ask you a couple questions as well. My guess? What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Marcus Dunstan 53:50
Oh, goodness. Well, okay, in terms of a practical bit of advice, if you can answer that question, what do I want to see? Like what type of movie do I want to see? And like really be specific about that? Like, I want to, you know, and then all right, then challenge that. I mean, let's just say what I want to try to pivot into is because the theater stratosphere and the streaming stratosphere seems to exist. And there's like the Marvel Universe where it can be $200 million, or whatnot. And then there's other tiers that are depending on their budget or their need, or if it's Star driven or something all the way down to a budget that can give them a greater chance for existence because the idea while not expensive, is big an implication IE, sci fi horror, in some cases, groundbreaking action like the raid, and can you come up with something that fits in that that you haven't quite seen before that acknowledges what is kind of popular that that is something you really want to seek Chances are if you write something that you really want to see with respect to kind of a budget that is making up a larger percentage of things that actually get produced, because it's a safer bet. And you know that the imagery in there if you can then watch the trailer to that in your head and say, like, would you still see that movie? Is it about someone, you know, stuck in a bland room with, you know, interfaith? I was like, No, you're not, that's not going anywhere. Right. But I every movie that inspired people to get from A to B probably came from a point of someone just saying, I know what my resources are. And I'm still going to out create out imagine and out deliver the potential of of that, you know, Evil Dead to, like, come on, like, what do we have, we've got a similar task, we've got the same location, we've even got kind of the same plot. But we got cameras, and we got imagination. And we got to go for broke aesthetic, we're gonna do it. You know, fine. I there. It's inspiring. So Gosh, I wonder if that's be enduring if that's helpful. If that's whatnot.

Alex Ferrari 56:02
No, it is helpful and the director of evil that you did, okay. He's done okay. for himself.

Marcus Dunstan 56:07
All right, you know, yeah, the kid panda.

Alex Ferrari 56:09
The kid the kid, the kid made it, sir. The kid made it. And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life, the one

Marcus Dunstan 56:19
I got right right away, was that was on the set of feast. And this would be the last one of my last conversations with my grandmother, who procured my first issues of Fangoria walked me into dirty comics and said, this kid reads anything from that same magazine, gifted me body parts and put a camera in my hands when I was a kid. Last conversations was, Hey, there, they're making one of our movies. You know, it's it's this monster one. And boy, it's, it's, you really love it. It's just absolutely disgusting and offensive. She was, Oh, I'm so tickled. So then, you know, this is now we're on a set. And I was I went up a staircase, which the staircase didn't go anywhere, as movie set staircases kind of go and I went around the corner, I shut my eyes. And I thought, I'm going to take a soul photo right now. And that means I'm going to create a time machine right here. And I'm going to remember how it smells, how it feels. And what I see. And I will always be able to come back to this moment, if I ever need to recalibrate, my hopes, my dreams and whatnot, because right now, everything just came through. And how absurd is that? So that's been helpful along the way, was the one that took me a while to figure out I mean, that's just many like, hey, you know, maybe make it make some make a little more time to have, you know, go on more adventures in between these things. Like, you know, travel more. Yeah, it's it's pretty, pretty ordinary. And,

Alex Ferrari 57:59
But I gotta tell you about that answer. I've had, I've had six 700 800 shows at this point. That's one of the best answers to that question I've ever heard. Oh, thank you. It is so it's so beautiful. The soul photo, it is such a beautiful thing because we as filmmakers forget when we're on set, we're the luckiest people on the planet. That we as directors as filmmakers have all these other people around us, helping our vision our dream come true in front of our eyes is a very rare place to be as an artist and as a human being with massive amounts of money. I mean, even if it's half a million dollars a million that's a lot of money you know that's a lot of money for a lot of people so to take the you have the insight to go man i I've hit where I was going for it. Let me get up I love the soul photo that you can go back now now I'm sure as you were saying you were back there. As you're saying you smelled it yourself. And I have images like that in my head of like the first time I was on set the first time I got to do this the first time I'm meeting this big actor this big situation I'm in this big meeting or something like that, that you're like, oh my god, I'm I'm sitting here talking to what legend or something along those lines. But to actually have the insight to stop for a second, close your eyes and go take this Take this with you. is fascinating. I think we all need to stop for a sec because we're always hunting for the the next thing we can't stop in the moment and enjoy the insanity of where you were at at that moment, which was on Project Greenlight, getting your film made on a set and you were in you were literally you know, moving those seasons on the video store shelf a year earlier. Like that's insane.

Marcus Dunstan 59:55
It's there's a number of stops along the way where like so hoped for any of this would have been in Audacity on parallel. So if you're lucky enough for some of it to happen regard,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
Marcus it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you my friend. Thank you so much. Thank you for so much for coming on the show man continued success, my friend you're, you're a hell of a guy and I wish you nothing but the best. And by the way, everybody who's not watching this, Marcus has arguably one of the coolest rooms I have ever seen. Oh, my life has so many geek things around everything. I'm seeing the Django the Django is guys the action figures. I see rock guessing GI Joe. I see a Yoda see original Star Wars, some et I mean, all sorts. It's like the 80s exploded in your room. Thank you for that, sir. It was a joy just because I was talking to you. I was glancing over and like, is that what I think? Senator Rocky? Holy cow. That's a rocky action figure.

Marcus Dunstan 1:00:59
Yes, it is. Absolutely. And that one with the right here. This is a Place Beyond the Pines action figure by Erik Moreno. That same artists made action figures of the cast of unhuman for the movie,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:15
You see you see this is this is what it's all about, sir. I appreciate you coming on the show brother. Thanks again man.

Marcus Dunstan 1:01:21
Absolutely. Bless you have a great one.

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BPS 203: I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It (Audio Book Preview)

In this episode you get a FREE PREVIEW of the IFH Books release of I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It audio book on Audible.

Written by award-winning filmmaker Clarissa Jacobson, I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It is jam-packed with hard-earned knowledge, tips, and secrets on how to enter film festivals, promote your movie… and SUCCEED!

I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It covers everything from what festivals to submit to, how to maximize your money, secure an international presence, deal with rejection, gain publicity, harness the power of social media, what a sales rep does and much more.

Included are exclusive filmmaker discounts on services/products from the subtitling company, Captionmax, and promo merchandisers, Medias Frankenstein and The Ink Spot.

What Others Are Saying:

“I Made a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It is jam-packed with first-hand knowledge, tips, and secrets on how to enter film festivals, promote your movie, and achieve your wildest filmmaking dreams. It’s required reading for every indie filmmaker who wants to gain an audience, stand out on the festival circuit, and work towards a career as a filmmaker.” — Film Daily

“Ultimately, Clarissa’s book is a very thoughtful reflection on her experiences making and marketing her successful and hilarious horror comedy “Lunch Ladies.” This reflection is a wonderful knew resource for filmmakers who are making or have already completed a new short film, but are looking for some help maximizing its audience-seeking potential.” — Horrible Imaginings Film Festival blog

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Alex Ferrari 2:51
Now today guys, we have a special episode, we are going to be giving you a free preview to the new IFH books. Audible release of the best selling book I made a short film now WTF do I do with it? A Guide to film festivals, promotions and surviving the ride by the award winning filmmaker Clarissa Jacobson. Now you might remember Clarissa from Episode 538 When she came on the show to discuss her new book at the time. And I was so impressed with her that I decided to publish her audio book through IFH books. Now in this episode, you're going to get a sneak peek to the audio book and hear the first three chapters for free. Now at the end of the episode, I'm going to tell you how to get a free copy of the new audio book. So without any further ado, enjoy your free preview of I made a short film now what the f*** do I do?

Clarissa Jacobson 3:54
Prologue You are amazing. Pep Talk to get you stoked to wade through this book. Congratulations. You are amazing. You dare to dream dare to make a film. raise that money. Save that money. Pinched squeezed and blood that money. slaved over scripts, locations, long nights, early mornings fears, hopes worries argued with the negative voice inside your head and came out alive. Not only alive, but you finished your masterpiece. And it's awesome. NowWTF do you do with it? Well, amazing person. I was you once. I too didn't know the first thing about promoting a film or getting it onto the circuit. I'd heard the tales that politics matter how the odds are stacked against you. What types of films are successful, what types aren't? And short. I knew the word on the street. Why couldn't succeed versus why you could However, I don't listen to that stuff, and neither should you. It does not serve you. First lesson, whenever anything negative comes your way. And there will be a lot. Ask if it serves your film. If it doesn't ignore that will serve you. But I digress. Anyhow, I knew the word on the street, why you couldn't succeed versus why you could. But I also knew my film was terrific. And you must know this too about your film or you've lost already. And I had a goal. I therefore learned everything I could, battled the haters, battle, my insecurities, didn't give up on my short, believed in it, kept my eyes on the prize, worked like crazy, and had an amazing run over 120 film festivals all over the world 45 awards, gold standard distribution, over 100 reviews and interviews and a wide fan base. To be clear, for all you folks who think I had a leg up and anyway, I didn't. This was my first film. I had very few connections. No one on the circuit knew me or my work. Clarissa who and I had a film that didn't fit the mold, a comedy horror genre piece coming in at the appalling length of 19 minutes. Still, it succeeded. And want you to succeed too. And I'm going to pass on all the things I learned how to promote, how to submit to festivals, how to maximize your fest budget, how to think big, how to overcome negativity, how to laugh at rejections, how to love social media, how to get filmmaker, discounts, and more. Let's get started. Chapter One, get a goal, or be a goner. Preliminary first step to keep you focused. I know this probably makes you feel like you're back in junior high, and um, that really annoying teacher who's on your case. But seriously, what is your goal? And what are you going to do with your film, focus your delinquent. Trust me, kids, having a goal is going to make everything so much easier. You put so much time into making your short, but the true marathon is the next 18 months after you finished it. There will be a massive amount of work to do to give it a life. If you look around at the films that succeed, it's not just about quality. There are 1000s of good flicks that never see the light of day, and plenty of bad ones that do. It is also about the filmmakers goal, knowing what they want to achieve. Some people make short films just to create is that you? Some people make short films to practice their craft. Is that you? Some people make short films to get interest in their career. Maybe that's you. Some people make short films as a proof of concept for their feature is that you? Some people make short films because they can't afford to make long ones is that you? Some people make short films because you get my drift.

Figure out why you made your film. When you figure out why you made it. You can figure out what you want from it. Your goal and that will drive you and your strategy. Why do you need a goal and a strategy? Promoting a film is a ton of work. And the only thing that will keep you doing that work, which is absolutely exhausting, is a clear reason to do so. A goal. The only way you are going to achieve that goal or have a chance at it is with strategy. If you have no goal, you are not going to do all the heavy lifting that's required to make it a success. You are going to skip doing social media. You are going to skip entering festivals that require too much work. And you are going to give up with a few rejections. Further if you don't know what your goal is, you will not know what strategy to use to achieve what you want. And that will frustrate you. Figure out first and foremost why you made your film. For example, I'm a screenwriter who made the film versus the director who usually makes the film. More on that in chapter 10. I wanted to get interested in my feature screenplay. Lunch lady's, a surreal, quirky comedy horror with two middle aged female leads. But the industry would often tell me there was no market. I got sick of hearing that nonsense. So I decided I would save my money and make a proof of concept short based on the feature to show the power Here's the be that there were plenty of people who would pay to see lunch ladies and they should fund it. Every step of the process after the short was in the can was with this goal in mind. Number one email every blogger and magazine I could find that wrote about horror and cult film to get them to review it. Why? Maybe some producer out there would read about lunch ladies and want to make it number to prove lunch ladies has a market all over the world and money can be made. This is more drivel, the industry loves to spout that comedy doesn't play overseas. So I wanted to enter as many facts as I could all over the world. Number three, have a great IMDB page. IMDB stands for Internet Movie Database, and I'll explain more about that in depth in chapter two. So have a great IMDB page, put up photos, Film Fest release dates, reviews, awards, keywords, special thanks, etc. A figured anyone wanting to finance my feature, but first go to my IMDB page to check out the short. Number four. Make a Website show industry folks how I would market the film because unless they see the potential, they won't get it. In my site, I have a school store a hairnet club, fan art page, geography lesson announcements and more. Number five, build a fan base. Get busy on social media so I can find my target audience and fans, it becomes crystal clear who that is when you see who follows you. I felt if I knew my target audience, I know who to market it to. And if a producer knows there's a fan base and who they are, that helps to get it made. Number six, be seen. It had to be seen not sit on my hard drive. It must play everywhere it could no matter how small or how big because someone may see it and help. The goal of getting a feature made influenced all my choices in the festival run and gave me a strategy. I wanted to make the feature so bad that it kept me focused and excited. Even when I was exhausted and didn't want to work. I would come home from my day job. write blogs for my website. Each took about two hours. And I wrote over 200 over the course of the film. I post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, populate my Pinterest page, right reviewers, talk to fans, talk to other filmmakers, see other filmmakers films, do interviews. And generally Bob till I dropped. I am certain a huge part of lunch lady success on the circuit was because of all those things that I just talked about that I actually did. The film is great. Remember, you got to love your film. And there are a lot of films. It's the work I did that took it to the next level. Have I achieved my goal of getting the feature made? Not yet. But I'm still trying and having a great ride. Who knows what the future brings and when it will happen? Or if it opens the door to something else. So remember, why did you make your film and what is your goal? Get a flipping goal.

Chapter Two, be prepared press kits, websites, social media and being a goody two shoes. I admit it. I was the goody two shoes who always had her book report done a week before, sometimes two weeks before. Okay, fine. Three weeks. I'm not a procrastinator. So it has always been easy for me to do things ahead of time. You have it harder if you aren't a goody two shoes, but it's a must for your sanity on the circuit. press kits, your website, IMDB page, social media handles, promotional pieces. You want to have that stuff done before you start your festival right now while you're making your film. Don't get all crazy. But when you finish the film, why? Stop arguing with me? I'm trying to help you. The reason why Hardhead is because you are going to be so busy promoting getting into festivals and being a world traveler that you won't have time to do anything else. If you don't have time. Then all the stuff you've procrastinated on that you could have done before the run is going to be sloppy, which is why most press kits I see look like a four year old kid and their dog did them. Those filmmakers waited into the festival or publication asked them for a press kit and they either did one of two things. One, they had a nervous breakdown at the thought of adding more work on top of their crazy festival schedule. And they never handed one in therefore missing a huge promotional opportunity. Or two. They took a shot of tequila and made their press kit in a three hour panic. That's not for you. press kits with typos out of focus photos, bad layout, not for you missing a chance to promote your film because you haven't completed work you could have done earlier.

Nope! Not for you. Having a nervous breakdown because you're overloaded with work when you're supposed to be charming and witty on the festival run. Nope, not for you. You aren't going to do anything amateur. Because if you do, no matter how good your film is, you are promoting that you are an amateur. And you aren't. And always remember, keep your goal in mind. If your goal is to get drunk at film festivals, take your clothes off and flip off the establishment, then hey, you don't need to have an IMDB page, you may need a sexy outfit. So choose what you have to tackle. I had to tackle them all based on how it furthers your goal.

Branding, what is branding, it's how you market your product, your film and make it distinctive. You don't have to have your brand fully developed. But it's super smart to have an idea of what it is. So you get off to the right start and don't have to backtrack. There's a ton of stuff that can go into branding. But I just take it to the simplest level. What is the essence of your film. Now bottle it lunch ladies is a rebellious bloody yet full of heart playful, loud and takes place in a jacked High School. Therefore, those specifics became my brand. For example, I designed the lunch ladies website with a high school motif. The cast and crew are listed under rollcall reviews are listed under grades. There's a school store and a study hall with teasers to watch. The writing is in your face liberal fun and can be offensive like the film. Once you have a concept. Stick with it. And your ideas will evolve into a specific identifiable look which captures the heart of the film. Be consistent. Use the same fonts, colors, logos, and writing style. And you'll be golden IMDb IMDb, for those of you who aren't addicted to reading banal information about movies and movie stars is the Internet Movie Database. You want your short listed on IMDb because it's the go to place that people look for information about film, it's going to move your short up in the search on the internet, and it's going to give it legitimacy. I started my IMDB page immediately after the film wrapped well before it was edited. Because my cast and crew worked so hard for so little. The least I could do is get their credit up. Who knows what jobs it could help them land. Get people's credits up as soon as possible. After that's accomplished, add to your page as much as you can. As often as you can get a poster up, get a trailer up, get your special thanks up, get photos up, get your synopsis up, put them up now. Later on you will spend so much time adding reviews wins festivals etc. You won't have time. Your IMDB page will be the place you visit constantly throughout your films life by keeping it up to date. The initial process of getting all the names and credits correct takes work. So do it now. You won't have time later. And your cast and crew are going to be irked if they've waited a year and you don't have their credits up. Not cool. Here's a sidenote, email every single person on your cast and crew and ask them to send you their direct IMDb link. Unless this is their first credit. If you've got a John Smith on your crew, and you link it to the wrong profile, because there's 30 John Smith profiles, it's a nightmare to change. Trust me, I hooked up profiles to the wrong people at first, learn from My Excruciating time wasting experience. I'm not gonna lie. IMDB is a beast, you will be so frustrated from the learning curve. Wait until you have to tackle posting your wins. But you'll be so frustrated you'll swear your head off scream, wallow in self pity, cry and send nasty emails to some employee at IMDb who will ignore you. It's super confusing. In fact, you may need a PhD to figure it out. But just keep at it like I did. And you will learn to tame the beast that is IMDB. Once you get the hang of it, you'll love it. Nothing is more gratifying than adding new information about your film and seeing it show up for the world to see. In addition, once you really get going the IMDB people begin to know you're short. They probably hate you because you're constantly updating and making work for them. But who cares? You're a self centered filmmaker. The point is Eventually, instead of it taking two weeks for information to be approved and go up, it will take two days. Because the powers that be know you are filling the page with real information, not lying and padding it and they will get your updates up ASAP. press kits, I'm not going to sugarcoat it, press kits, or APKs electronic press kits for those in the know, are no fun to make. And it takes a while to get them right. You have to have patience. But that's why you're doing your press kit now, right? Don't be overwhelmed. I know there's a ton of ideas on how to make a press kit and that can freak you out. It did me to listen, just pick a template that speaks to you. Or make up your own style. No one cares. Her no Prescott police. All that people care about is how its organized, how it looks and what it says. There's no right or wrong way. Be creative. Be smart. Make it look good. represent your film. My Prescott took about a month to complete. Choose people you trust to edit it. They'll find the mistakes you miss. put your ego aside, get feedback and listen. Think of it as a job resume, make it as perfect as you can. And if you have 120 people in the cast and crew like I did, you're gonna misspell a ton of names. And that's disrespectful to those that helped make your dream come to life. So get everyone's name right check them over and over before you send it out. For my press kit, I decided not to list my reviews. Although you may want to. I had so many I didn't want to be constantly updating it. But often I will attach the best ones when I send the kid out, depending on who's looking at it. Also, the length of your kit is dependent on you. Mine was long because I had so many cast and crew also like to talk a lot. If you haven't noticed. If you want to check out my press kit, go to lunch ladies movie.com backslash contact and click the download link. I think it's pretty good. If you don't like it. Geez, what are you the Prescott police, social media handles. If you don't despise social media than Wow, you are ahead of the game. Most everyone hates some type of social media and you have to have them all. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, et cetera, et cetera. So stop whining like a baby. Nothing is going to get in the way of your goal. Especially not something as banal as social media. The key to social media is and I'll talk about this more in depth later, you must find a way to love it. Social media is the king pen of all your promotion. Love it like unicorns, puppies, and rainbows. Take it a little at a time. You don't have to have a huge following right away. You don't even need to start posting until the film is on its run. You don't need to do all the social media channels at once. You can build them a little at a time, but get started. Open the accounts, create your handles populate your photos. Because once you're on the circuit, you will need to promote and you won't have time to set it up. For your handles try to remain consistent so people can easily find your film. If your Facebook is the same as your Instagram, you only have to tell people one handle. And that's easy to remember. Some people on the Facebook, some only Instagram, some both. You need all types of social media to really promote or you will miss opportunities. So make the handles as uniform as possible. purchase your domain for your website first, if you decide to make a website, then base all your handles on the site's name. If you do it the other way around, you may find that the handles you've set up are not available for your site. important make sure your website name is 15 characters or less. For my domain, I chose lunch ladies movie.com Because my first choice of lunch ladies.com was taken. In retrospect, I should have chosen lunch ladies film.com because Twitter only allows 15 characters. Therefore, at lunch ladies movie is the handle for all my social media except for Twitter, which is at lunch ladies film. So learn from my screw ups website. My website is my favorite promotional tool, and I highly suggest making one and starting it now as it takes a while to get it up and running. It took about a month learning curve to figure out how to build it, but it has been invaluable. A website will be your go to spot to send people. It has your social media, your blocks if you blog, your announcements, your trailer, your cast crew and synopsis. Everything is there in one beautiful place. Start with picking a great domain 15 characters or less remember, there are many companies you can put purchase that from, but I recommend wix.com. Because it's a one stop shop, you can use their templates to build a website for free, and then purchase the domain and hosting from them at the same time, easy. If possible, make the website yourself, it will save you tons of money because you will constantly need to make updates to your site. If you don't learn how to do it, you will always be paying someone to make the simple changes for you and then waiting around for them to do it. For those of you who have never made a website like I haven't, and don't understand the difference between hosting and domain, like I didn't think of it like real estate. The website is your house. The domain is its address. The hosting is the land it sits on how to pick a domain, you will want your first choice, but often that's already been bought by someone else. So you may have to settle like I did. Remember, I wanted lunch ladies.com and ended up with lunch ladies movie.com. Once you've got a domain you're happy with, it's time to build your website. There are many out there that allow you to use their pre made templates. But Wix had great reviews and was cheap. So I took a chance. Good call. I pretty much love it. The support is super helpful, and the site I created from their template looks legit. Pay for your hosting and off you go. If you're really strapped for cash, you can opt for Wix is free hosting. However, with the free service, they print Wix on the headers and flutters it looks super amateur. So I say cough up the cash and pay for the hosting. Of course, if you're already choking from the aftermath of your overinflated film budget, then okay, go for the freebie some site is better than no site. promotional items. The two things you want to have before your festival run are your postcards and business cards. If you're strapped for cash up for the postcards, eventually you will want both because they are useful for different reasons. postcards are super important because that's what you will use to promote your short at festivals. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most audiences aren't going to seek your film out. I know it's awesome, but there's a lot of awesome films. Folks attend fests to support friends see certain genres or something specific, and your baby probably isn't even on their radar. You will get on the radar by having postcards displayed and handing them out. Most fests will have a table where filmmakers can put their cards and people do pick up cards from the table and see films that interest them. Many will see your movie just from you handing them a card and introducing yourself. I highly suggest printing postcards no bigger than three by five or four by six. I had a larger size. And though they were really cool looking. They were a huge pain. They didn't fit in my purse, they didn't fit in my pocket. And I'm sure people would pick them up and be annoyed at how flipping large they were and leave them in the bathroom after printing. Print your image on one side of the postcard and the back will have two columns. One column will be blank. This is where you will put your labels and or addresses if you end up mailing them to specific people. And I'm going to discuss this more in chapter seven. The other column will have your concise logline your website if you have one and your information on how to reach you. I know this is a major duh. But I have seen postcards with nothing but the name of the film and the logline. I envisioned some three piece suit picking it up and saying this film is genius. I must invest 5 million in the sequel. Who do I call? Forget it. I'll invest in that condo instead. Business cards are needed primarily for when you meet industry people. Sure, you can give them a postcard, but it shouldn't have your personal info on it. They send on festival tables for the world to see. And you don't want some stalker calling you on your cell phone. You do however want Guillermo del Toro calling you on your cell phone. So you will want a business card with personal information on it for Guillermo. Business cards are also great for night on the town when you don't want to carry bulky postcards are broadly promote your film. You will meet someone new, possibly someone hot trade cards and they will say oh wow, you made a movie. What's it about? Can I buy you another cocktail? Everyone you meet is a chance for promotion. And of course, a hot date. Have your cards professionally done. I know it's tempting to save money, but don't put them yourself on that dot matrix printer hooked up to your ancient Commodore VIC 20. Cheap cards just make you and your film look cheap. Plus, there's a certain pride in having a nice looking business card feels good passing them out and gives you a boost of confidence. It's perfectly fine to wait until you are in your first festival before printing anything.

But it's best to have the artwork ready to go because it will take time to get it right. This goes for posters as well, which you will want once you start the run. Printing is the least of it, you can do a rush if needed. But rushing artwork is always a bad idea. More promotional items that you can start thinking about include pins, pencils, stickers, and other types of swag. It's not necessary to have swag, but I do think it gives the film a push and pays for itself. In the end. I had some fun things when I started and added more during the run. Chapter Three spreadsheets for success. Get organized. Prevent screw ups.

I'm going to teach you to set up some super organized spreadsheets, which will maximize your money and chances that success on the circuit. It's not glamorous, but it will prevent screw ups. Disclaimer. If you are as Angel as me, then you have permission to skip ahead whenever it gets boring. But for the rest of you delinquents pay attention. The film festival grid First, open an Excel spreadsheet or scribble in a three ring spiral notebook. If you're a Luddite Excel will be easiest as you will want to sort columns. But if you don't have the program, that's okay too. Having any list will be a huge help. Title it film festival dates. Why do you need the spreadsheet? You need it so you can keep track of all the rules and dates to enter. Every film fest has a ton of rules and entry dates and they are all different. You will have to read all those boring rules and keep them straight. Because you don't want to waste money entering your film in a festival where it can't be accepted. They'll still take your money, they'll just disqualify you. With the film festival grid. You can easily track everything so no mistakes are made. Your early bird submission dates, that is the cheapest time to enter which festivals coincide, what length of film is accepted and more. You will also need to track which festivals need premieres. Some festivals not all require premieres and there are several types of premieres world premiere, national premiere, international premiere regional premiere and who knows what else. The first time your film plays, that's its world premiere that will also be either your national or international premiere, depending on where it plays. Then there are regional premieres, festivals that will only demand that you haven't screened in their city before premieres are a pain. Your first run will probably last a year and a half. If you are doing great, it can last longer, but my feeling is get out. Don't overstay your welcome. Go into distribution when your time is up and don't hang around like a 22 year old dude hanging around high school stocking hot freshmen. Of course, if some hot freshman wants to date you, for you to say no, so sure, the infests if they pursue you versus you pursuing them. That's not overstaying Your welcome. You're hot. What can you say? If you ascribe to this way of thinking, and if you don't, that's okay. You can be a creepy old dude stalking hot freshmen. Seriously, no judgments, insert sheets on your spreadsheet for two years, one for this year, one for next, because this year, you won't make the due dates to enter some festivals and will have to enter next year. To recap your pages on your spreadsheet are number one, this year number two, next year. If you're into overkill like me, add one more page called add a glance. This will be where you can easily see which festivals you got in and what you didn't hear you will add all festivals you enter in one column. And in the other two columns, you will pull from that list which festivals you got in and which you didn't only do this if you are nerdy like me, and like to know your percentage of success and failure or which festivals you have entered at a glance. Here's what your spreadsheet tab should look like. This year will be the festivals you will enter this year. Next year will be the festivals you will enter next year. Duh. Now it's time to organize both sheets exactly the same. Number one, title the first column film fests. Here you will list the name of the festival. what platform you submitted it on platforms will be discussed in chapter five. And when the festival notifies filmmakers of acceptance, this will help you in festivals are rude and don't have the courtesy to tell you your film wasn't accepted. If the due date has passed, and you never heard from them, you can be certain they want you to get lost. It's good to know and to get lost and stop dreaming you gotten there festival number two, title the second column International. This is where you make sure The festival takes international entries if it's outside your country, sometimes you will be so excited to enter your film and you forget to read the rules and you pay and then realize they don't take international films. They will never refund your money. Trust me. Basically, this is an idiot reminder to make sure you check. Number three, title the third column Oscar. Only a handful of festivals are Oscar qualify. If you win one, you can be in the running to get nominated. There are other ways to qualify but this is the simplest. This helps with decision making when or if you are low on cash. If you really want an Oscar, you can check that column to see which ones are Oscar qualifiers and can weigh their cost against the others that aren't. Number four, title the fourth column location. This is important because some film festivals require premieres as I mentioned earlier, and premieres are always based on location, so you need to keep track of what area of the world you submit to. For example, most festivals in Austin, Texas are notorious for requiring a premiere. If you decide you want to be an Austin Film Fest, wait to enter South by Southwest because if you get an Austin, you can't be in South by Southwest anyhow. And you'll know South by Southwest is an Austin because you put the location in your spreadsheet. Nothing is more aggravating than paying $50 to enter South by Southwest, getting an Austin then getting in South by Southwest and realizing you flushed $50 down the toilet because they won't let you screen because you already screened in Austin. We'll talk about premieres more in chapter four. Number five, titled The fifth column website. You want the festivals website here so you can click it up easily. It will save you time in the long run as you will want to check their website many times if you get in or see who was accepted if you don't get in number six. The next six columns six through 11 will be the entry dates and fees of the festivals. Titled The columns respectably Early Bird, Early Bird fee, regular regular fee. Final, final fee. This will help you strategize your money. You can obviously sort your spreadsheet many different ways depending on what you need. One way you will sort it is by early bird entry dates. These are the dates you want to enter by and will keep you on your toes to never miss a deadline. The reason you list the fees, even though admittedly it's time consuming to do this is so you can easily keep track of the money you are spending. And you can weigh whether you want to wait to enter at a later date if you don't have the cash at the moment. Sometimes early bird entry fees are not that much cheaper than regular fees. Sometimes they are similar. Sometimes they are drastically different. If you know the consequences of not entering a festival by a certain time, you will be much more likely to make better decisions with your money. Then, once a week like clockwork, sort your spreadsheet by early bird entry date and submit to the ones that are due, you will never miss an early bird entry that way. Number seven, title the 12 column festival begin. This is important so you know which festivals coincide in case you get into that run at the same time. This happens a lot. You can check the dates so you can wisely choose which festival you will attend. That way, you won't annoy the programmer by gushing that you are going then backing out when you realize there's another fest you'd prefer. Number eight, titled The 13 column festival and it's good to know the length of the festival. As mentioned, sometimes you get in festivals that coincide. But sometimes one lasts three days while the other is 12. So you can actually go to both. Why don't you put the festival beginning and ending all in one column such as April 15 through 19th, like I did the first time because then you can't sort the column separately, which you may need to learn from my screw ups. Number nine title the 14 column length. This is how long the film can be for acceptance into the festival. If your short is 15 minutes, and the festival only takes films up to 10 You cannot enter but they still will take your money and disqualify you see a pattern once again. If they get your money, it's theirs forever. If you find out the festival is not a fit. I suggest still keeping it on your spreadsheet and graying it out. You will enter so many festivals you will forget which ones you researched and you will waste time unless it's on your spreadsheet. Hmm, I almost forgot blah blah fast. Why didn't I enter blah blah fest? Blah blah fest is awesome. Let me look up the rules. Oh, that's right. I tried to enter bla bla fest two months ago, but it only takes films that are bla bla. And I wish I had remembered now I just wasted 10 minutes researching bla bla fest a second time. So everything you research, keep it in your spreadsheet. Number 10 title, the 15th column premiere status, do they require a premier, you may even want to consider having a separate spreadsheet for premiers to keep things in line. Because this can get confusing fast. Number 11 titled The 16 column notes, this is for anything else like hey, this festival pays for hotel if I'm accepted, or hey, this festival doesn't give awards, forget it, I need awards. Or this one needs English subtitles to submit or they only take films made in the last 18 months. Have you are a good little rule follower. Your spreadsheet will look fantastic. Excellent job, you'll have your film festival Grid Setup. But wait, you aren't done. You also need to make one more spreadsheet, the viewing grid. This is where you will list every single person outside festivals that you send the film, it will come in handy time and again. Put anyone you sent your short to here. industry people social media folks you've met reviewers press their handles their emails, the dates, you've sent them your film, where they're from notes on who they are created. Now, you will need it when you want to ask people to vote for the film if it's up for an award, or to spread the word when you get distribution. You now have a cultivated list of people to ask for help complete with emails. You will also need it if you can't remember who someone is down the line and they are gushing to you. You can look on your viewing grid and know who they are. Lastly, you will need it when you make the feature as there will be so many who will tell you during the run that they want to be part of it when it happens, you may not be able to hire them. Oftentimes we don't have a say when a film gets produced, but you will have their names and how to reach them. If you do have a say the viewing grid is incredibly useful. Now that you've made these really boring spreadsheets that are super useful. Let's enter some festivals. Wait, what's that you say? You don't have a clue which festivals to enter. Except for? Please no. Please don't say it. I said don't say it. Don't say Sundance, Sundance. I mean, okay, whatever, Sundance fine, enter Sundance Sundance, but listen, Sundance, quit saying Sundance. There's a whole world of incredible terrific festivals out there that aren't Sundance that are just waiting for your film. So let's talk about some of those in the next chapter.

Alex Ferrari 42:59
I really hope you guys liked that free preview. Now if you want to pick up the book, all you got to do is head over to indiefilmhustle.com/shortfilmbook and they'll take you straight to Audible that's indiefilmhustle.com/shortfilmbook. But if you don't have an Audible account, and you want to sign up for one, you can get this book for free. All you got to do is go to freefilmbook.com Sign up for a free account on Audible and you get one free audiobook which of course you can make it this book and download it for free there, listen to it, and enjoy the book. So that's your little free hack. Go to freefilmbook.com If you want to sign up for a free account on Audible and get this book for free. Or you could just buy it if you already have an account and just want to buy this book head over to indiefilmhustle.com/shortfilmbook. I hope you enjoyed this guy's as always keep that hustle going. keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 202: The Art of Showrunning a Hit Amazon Show with Naren Shankar

Naren Shankar is the Executive Producer/Showrunner of the critically acclaimed television adaptation of the international best-seller science fiction novel series, The Expanse, an Amazon Prime Original Series from Alcon Television Studios.

Naren spent eight seasons as a Writer-Executive Producer and Co- Showrunner of the most-watched show in the world, CSI:Crime Scene Investigation. In 2011 he helped launch NBC’s Grimm as a Writer- Executive Producer.

Prior to CSI, Naren was an Executive Producer on the SyFy Channel cult hit series Farscape for The Jim Henson Company, and spent three seasons as a writer-producer on Showtime’s The Outer Limits.

Naren began his career as a writer and science consultant for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he holds a PhD in Applied Physics & Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.

Naren has been honored with multiple Emmy nominations for Best Series, a WGA Award nomination for CSI’s two-hour event “Grave Danger” directed by Quentin Tarantino, and has received WGC and Saturn Awards for The Outer Limits, CSI, and Farscape. The Expanse won a Hugo Award for “Leviathan Wakes” in 2017 and was nominated in 2019 for “Abaddon’s Gate.”

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Naren Shankar 0:00
If I have an idea for a character and or a moment and somebody goes, that's just doesn't make any sense this character would never do that. And if the argument is good, then change it.

Alex Ferrari 0:11
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by top Hollywood professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I like to welcome the show Naren Shankar how're you doing Naren?

Naren Shankar 0:25
I'm good, man. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:27
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I, I've I've watched many of your shows over the years, you've been you have a very unique story on how you got to where you are. And hopefully it's going to inspire some people along the way. So first question, sir. Why in God's green earth? Did you decide to go into the film business? When you have a real degree with real skills that could actually help the world?

Naren Shankar 0:53
Wait, wait, are you my parents? Oh my gosh. I you know, I did have I did have kind of a strange path into the business I, I started in when I went to university. I started as undecided pre med, medieval studies, classics, French literature, I didn't know what I wanted to do. My dad was a doctor. And so I told my parents, I was going to be pre med, I didn't really want to be a doctor. And I spent the first two years at Cornell in the College of Arts and Sciences. But in that time, I started thinking about, Oh, what happens after college and I was like, I don't think any things I really love are gonna get me any kind of job. So I had always loved math and science. I was kind of I think I'm a generalist at heart. And so I transferred into the College of Engineering and, and the College of Applied Engineering Physics. And I ended up staying all the way into the doctoral program. So I stayed at Cornell. So as I was, you know, in the midst of writing my dissertation and working in the lab, I just started going back to the things I love, which were history and literature and just started taking more and more courses in the arts college. And I literally remember the moment where I was coming out of this amazing course told by a professor guy named Walter LeFevre is amazing historian, he taught a course a two semester course in the history of American foreign policy. And we had this amazing lecture about the early republic and Aaron Burr. And like, I walked out of the I walked down the hall, and I was going back, and I could see my labs sort of on the other end, across down the street, and another quad as like, God, I just don't want to be an engineer. And I think I think what it was was, it was part of what happens when you're in the hard sciences is, you end up becoming more and more of an expert in the smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And I think that's what was happening with me, it's like I had this, you know, I was doing this thing, and it was really, you know, and it was my thing, and you're adding, you know, original research to the world, which is the whole point of a PhD program. But it just wasn't the thing, that kind of jasmine, it's like, you know, and, and I had also very early on my sophomore year, freshman year and sophomore year, I joined the Kappa Alpha Literary Society, which is a Greek letter, social fraternity, but it's also a literary society. And you do every two weeks, the the members would meet, and like we would, you know, do original writing and present it to the rest of the gang is a very nerdy geeky fraternity. It's like, really, I mean, but, but I think those are the things that really got me excited. And the friends I was around, you know, like, we loved movies intelligence. So after I finished my thesis, I had some friends out in the business, who are just who had come out to LA and we're breaking into the show business side of things. And I said, Come on, tell me screenwriter. And I was like, That sounds amazing. I'll do that. And it was super easy. It's super easy. You'll be oh, oh, Ignorance is strength. It's like, it's like, for me, it was literally because I had no concept of what how high the bar was or how difficult it is to break into the business. Had I known those things I might not have come. But I also I was I had skipped a couple of grades and I was really young. And so I started college and just turned 16 I had like my parents, you know, I told my parents, you know, just let me do this. And my parents, I think felt like oh, he'll just get it out of his system and then he'll he'll go and do something sensible because, you know, it's a good Indian kid is like doctor, lawyer, engineer, businessman. It's like that's that's those are the only things that are okay, you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Screenwriter not so much.

Naren Shankar 4:54
There's no tradition of it. There's no idea of what that means. Even it's like like, you know, was gonna pay you for that.

Alex Ferrari 5:02
And so right, I can write, who's gonna pay me and so no one's gonna pay you.

Naren Shankar 5:06
Exactly, exactly. So, but they were so sweet and they were so supportive. And yeah, and I came out and and started to make this such a long story. But in my in my fraternity in Kappa Alpha, it my best friend was Ron Moore, who created Battlestar Galactica. And he at the beginning of his career, he was actually a political science major. And we had a third friend who, who was the guy who wanted to come out to LA and be in the business. And so he went out to drag Ron out there a couple of years later, after Ron decided he didn't know what to do with his life. And then a couple of years after that, run convinced me to come out and I slept on his couch for like eight weeks and, and so that was literally the chain that brought me in and, and through Ron, I got a, a spec script to Star Trek The Next Generation that brought me to the attention of the producers. And then that led to a Writers Guild internship on the program. And that really was the start of it, it led to a staff job a little while, then a little while after that.

Alex Ferrari 6:19
So that's the long story. That's obviously like a standard Standard plan that every screenwriter, only I can only imagine the conversation with your parents. I know the conversation that I had, but I didn't have a PhD in engineering.

Naren Shankar 6:39
My mom was so sweet. years later, years later, after things were going well, it's like, because I remember like, you know, I just threw, like some suitcases and stuff in my car. And I drove out of sight. My parents were like, waving it back. Years later, my mom said, As soon as your car goddess got out of sight, I burst into tears.

Alex Ferrari 6:59
I went to I have kids, I would just I would be like, Oh, my God, I can't. Because that's one of the reasons why I do on the show, like, how on God's green earth that this this engineer and physics get into, into into writing for television, it's just,

Naren Shankar 7:17
You know, there's, there's a part of it that is actually I think that's like, you know, Self knowledge is somewhat important is that, I don't think I would have been a good engineer. I mean, I certainly had aptitudes for it. But part of what what I, I had problems with is I was a little impatient, you know, I got bored doing the same thing, you know, for focused amount of time. I loved certain aspects, but I loved it. It's an incredibly creative field. And people, you know, don't they really misunderstand the hard sciences and they go, that's not you know, that's not creative, like music, or, you know, or writing, it's absolutely as creative as all of those things. It's just in a different way. But, but if you don't have the sort of, you have to be meticulous you have to be you know, there's so many factors that when I took a look at myself, I was like, I just don't think that's me. And so, maybe there was one job actually, that I came so close to getting that I absolutely would have taken, I I got a I gotta get down to the last two people at Apple Computer in in the, in the early 90s, that I was going to be the engineering software evangelist in the one of the absolute bottom terrible times darkest times in Apple history. But but they flew me out to Cupertino, I interviewed and I just didn't get the job, that job I would have taken. And now I look back I go, Oh, would have been in Silicon Valley in the 90s may not have sucked.

Alex Ferrari 8:47
If that's what they paid you in stock options backs up. And so yeah, $8 it was $8 a share something.

Naren Shankar 8:56
Anyway, so, you know, but But you know,

Alex Ferrari 9:01
Being self aware, it's very important being understanding that you're like, you know, what, I've had, I've had staff jobs twice in my career industry and been fired, probably from both. And it's just, I just am not, I work well with others, but it's not something I can't It's not me, you just have to be aware.

Naren Shankar 9:18
Yeah. It's a tough thing. And it's like, you know, being in a staff. It's so interesting, like, you get different. It's so personality driven. It's like, especially television, it's like, you know, it's like it is a I've seen playwrights who are amazing, who just can't deal with being room feature guys who are like, completely used to like going off for weeks and thinking about three lines of dialogue. It's like, they can't handle the pace. It's like, and you know, and people who are just not gregarious, because it's such a social thing. It's such a it's such a group collaboration, you know, it's like a true collaboration. If you have the right mindset, and you enjoy that it's an incredibly fun experience. That's one of the things I love about television is part of the reason I think I've been And then for so long.

Alex Ferrari 10:01
So you so you get on to Star Trek Next Generation, which is arguably one of the the pinnacle sci fi shows, arguably television shows. I mean, it was just so well written, it was so bad. It's just so well written. I mean, if you go back to those episodes now and you just like damn, and they hold up the effects and the makeup, maybe not so much. But, but this, but the writing is solid, some of those storylines. I remember watching them in high school when I was coming up, I was just like, damn, and this was really well, well written. What were some of the lessons you learn from that first job? I'm like, when you walked on the set, for the first time? What was that feeling like?

Naren Shankar 10:37
Well, it was amazing. I mean, you know, the thing was, Star Trek was an unusual show, in a lot of ways in an unusual structure. It was. It was the first show that was, you know, really the kind of open the syndication market. I mean, this is a long time ago. And so, you know, it wasn't a network show. But it was a very high profile show. It was the reboot of this thing, which had been, you know, before the word reboot existed. You know, it was this thing that was kind of Beloved, and it was, but it was its own thing, but very different from the show. It went through its own kind of struggles at the beginning. What was unique about it, I think, was as a learning experience, because what had happened on next generation was at the end of the third season, which I think that was third third season, I think, was Ron's first season on the show, the entire writing staff got fired, except for Ron and Michael Piller, who was who was the showrunner kept on on and kind of rebuilt the show and in His image in a way and just in terms of how stories were told, and, and, and when I got there. By the time Star Trek ended the last two seasons. I was like a freelance in season five, and then six and seven, I was on the show. It was it was a very young staff, it was everybody was a first timer. It was their first gig in the business. It was Ron, Ron Moore, Brandon Braga, Renee, Murray and myself. And we were the core staff, Jerry Taylor was a was our boss, supervising producer who basically ran the room with us. But it was just kind of like all first timers, we had never, you know, never had other gigs before, it was really really spirited, good. You know, we all liked each other. We're all still friends to this day. It's you know, and, and Jerry had had, you know, essentially taking the position like, look, this is a room where best idea wins. That was like, you know, Mike Nichols, like his, his mantra. And so the arguments were passionate, but it was fun. Nobody was mean to anybody. And Michael was like, he was a really good editor, he gave us great discipline on how to break a story. So as a, as a school, it was a tremendous school for learning how to how to do sort of the work of television writing. And so it was, it was great discipline, I think that all of us took, you know, into, into our careers into into the rooms that we have run ourselves and the shows that we've made. So that was kind of amazing. There was also like, there was this rigid wall between the writing staff and the production because Rick Berman was in charge of sort of, like the, that side of it. Initially, like writers weren't allowed to go to the set. They didn't want us anywhere near the cast. It was like, yeah, it was, that's, that's slowly changed over the years. And, you know, I think, you know, being fair, as, as wonderful, as many of the episodes of next generation are, and there are some terrific episodes that really hold up to this day. You know, it was, it was very much a creature of its time, I think it owes a lot of, to like television in the 80s, highly episodic Instructure you freaking out, it's a kind of hitting the reset button every week. It was also, you know, going to the people of the planet with the problem. You know, it was like, it sort of had that vibe.

Alex Ferrari 13:57
There was a red shirt, there was

Naren Shankar 13:58
Exactly that guy, you know, that guy was, you know, he was not gonna make it. And so, you know, but and it slowly loosened up. I always, you know, I think Ron has said this too, in his interviews over the years, you know, what he did with Galactica was as much a reaction to, you know, to next generation, you know, in a lot of ways, like, Deep Space Nine got much, you know, I think, much more complex and dirtier in many ways in good ways. That was always a struggle the young guys had with the bosses, because they felt like that they were like, This was Gene, you know, Gene Roddenberry's? You know, dictum, this is this is the story that we wanted to tell and how we wanted to how next generation was people were kind of perfect, and they had gotten past all of the terrible parts of human age and we were like, but that's where the fun is.

Alex Ferrari 14:47
You have no conflict. You have no no story.

Naren Shankar 14:49
That's that's, that is really the issue. And the first thing that I wrote the first script that I wrote with Ron was was the first duty which was about like, move the world. Keaton's character Wesley Crusher, like lying, you know, to protect his friends and we're like, he would never lie. And like, of course he would lie. And that was, he's a kid. Exactly, exactly. It's like, and that's how you view the world. And so, you know, those are the some extent that show was like, a bit like writing in a straight jack in some ways. In many other ways. It was a phenomenal training ground and a great way to learn the discipline of writing. And so I look back very fondly on those years. And it was a great staff. And I think it's very rare to this day, when you have so many, like all of us first timers, we've all gone on to do so many things. It doesn't always it doesn't always happen that way. And I think it was a special staff.

Alex Ferrari 15:46
And it was an anomaly, too. I mean, that was just a special place at a special time. When things like that happened. It was a wild, it was almost wild, wild west, like in like to bring in a group of first timers in a writer. That's not doesn't happen now does it?

Naren Shankar 16:02
It doesn't it doesn't. Because what happened was one was hired off of a spec script, Renee was hired off of a spec script, Brandon was an intern for the Television Academy. I was an intern through the Writers Guild. Again, no experience in the business. But part of it was also in a successful as next generation was it was also a backwater. It was like it was like, oh, Star Trek, it's just its own weird thing. I like coming off of that show. Agents wouldn't even want to read a Star Trek script. They wouldn't. It's like, Oh, can you do like a like a real show? It's like, that was kind of the attitude.

Alex Ferrari 16:35
Yeah, I do remember that. It was Yeah. It was like, Oh, that's a movie they do for the geeks. And that's before Geekdom was where the money was.

Naren Shankar 16:44
In it took it took like, I do remember, like, probably about 10 or 10 years later, or so after leaving next gen. Somebody told me Oh, they want people to come from the Star Trek school. Because they understood that, that that, you know, he's a sports metaphor. And that coaching tree was actually incredibly applicable to anything, which is what we always would say it's like, you know, in the context of a science fiction, in the context of Star Trek, we would do a legal show a murder mystery, epic drama. It's like, you know, our version of Shakespeare and war. It's like everything. It's like that science fiction was a superset of genres. It was never treated that way. And I think that the business actually became educated to it. And and now it's like, I mean, you know, here, you know,

Alex Ferrari 17:29
Here we are now. We have geek beyond geek beyond everything. No, there's no outskirts now. No, I told I told you before we started work before we started recording that you and I have a connection. So yeah, yeah. Okay. Tell me. Orlando 95.

Naren Shankar 17:46
Orlando. 95.

Alex Ferrari 17:48

Naren Shankar 17:50
Oh, my God. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 17:52
I was working downstairs, out on fortune hunter. For Fox.

Naren Shankar 17:58
Oh my god.

Alex Ferrari 18:00
Remember that? Do you remember I do remember that show I worked on I worked as a PA on an office PA on fortune hunter. And then on my side hustle. I worked on the other show that was right underneath your office, which was us, which was the sketch comedy show, syndicated show, and I was working. Yeah. So I was there during that season. I was there when I was there. In between the last season so was when Roy was his last Roy's last writers last season. And then Michael Ironside. So that's where I went to I went to Full Sail.

Naren Shankar 18:32
That's that's the that's the that is the third season of the show. That's the one year I was on. seaQuest fortune hunter was that was that Steve Aspersa show?

Alex Ferrari 18:40
No, that was Boris. Oh, God, the guy who did Swamp Thing was his big thing. He did swamp show Okay, then. Yeah. So fortune hunter he was it was fortune hunter was on for one season did 12 episodes. And then it got canceled. But it was on Fox it was I was so excited to just be working on a show that I can go on on Saturday night and just look like my name's My name is like, like, you know, and then

Naren Shankar 19:06
I never got down. I never got down to Orlando because we had no I never got down because we all the writers and posts were based in in Los Angeles right at Universal. Okay, yeah, yeah. And the bosses went down to Orlando but I never got to and I think I was supposed to but we got canceled like after after 13 or 12 episodes that season. I can't remember but yeah,

Alex Ferrari 19:30
Because I didn't know anything. I knew a couple of the guys up and I mean pas and stuff like that. But I was on the set of requests all the time and walking around and I'm crazy.

Naren Shankar 19:41
Crazy time man. It was bananas. Bananas.

Alex Ferrari 19:47
It was insane. I remember I remember working because I worked at MGM. And then I also am studios. I think for one of the shows and then they they set up at Universal and man like the kids the star or the kid star would like jump out of the tours would have to stop. And yeah, and then there's like Royce rider walking around him like, where am I? And this is our Lando I know, I know that is our that is our slight connection, sir.

Naren Shankar 20:16
God, I was sad actually, I never got to go down there because the show looked great. I mean, it had many, many, many problems on the page, but the physical production and the sets were beautiful. They were really fun.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
So the set that I worked on was right next door to the soundstage was right next door sequence and then UCC quest props all over the damn Yeah, I mean, there was just so many vehicles and stuff like that was so cool, man. But again, when you're starting out when you're starting out, like it was like the coolest thing ever. And it was the 90s

Naren Shankar 20:51
Well, it was you know, I mean, I do remember those days, like we would go down to we would go down to the bridge when it wasn't obviously in use and eat lunch down there on the enterprise. Because what was cool about the set would close up and for those days, I mean, it was like, you know, internally let the ceiling would come down. And so you can just sit on the bridge and like, you know, eat a sandwich. It's kind of cool.

Alex Ferrari 21:14
Speak to my Subway sandwich. These are the things that like you people don't like yeah, I was like eating lunch on the enterprise. Like, you know, you take those are the kinds of little things that no one really knows about. No one hears about, but that's what you're doing in the production when you're there. Oh, yeah, I used to sneak on I just sneak on the set of sequence. Yeah, of course, constantly, constantly on the weekends when nobody was there. I bring relatives in from out of town. And I would just walk in.

Naren Shankar 21:42
They have those those built in tombs for Darwin, which were for real. I mean, it's like, animatronic fishes like and it's like that is that was a beautifully designed set. It really was.

Alex Ferrari 21:53
It was it was pretty stunning. It was pretty it for its time. It was insane.

Naren Shankar 21:57
Oh, yeah, absolutely. It was insane.

Alex Ferrari 22:00
Now, so how many times so you've been working on set for for I mean, you've been working in television for many years now. Can you pinpoint one of the worst days of something going wrong? Like some crap, something the days you're losing light, something, something really bad happens? And in how did you overcome that day?

Naren Shankar 22:21
Well, the one that really kind of sticks out is I was doing a show for NBC called UC undercover. It was it was, you know, early 2000 was on for one season. So it was 2001. And so I had written it was basically about the US Marshal Service. And it had Odette Farah was the star of your Farmiga was that was kind of her first show. I mean, it's like so great look great production. Shane Salerno created it. It was his first show, as a show runner, and I was I was the number two brought in there. I had written a script about domestic terrorism, a couple of psychopathic brothers who will like

Alex Ferrari 23:10
I already I already know where you're going.

Naren Shankar 23:14
And and the script opened with a sarin gas attack at a football game in which like, you know, I had like 100 people die. And my wife, my wife would read my scripts, and she goes, That's too many. That's just ridiculous. It's like, there's no way that that could happen. So I write the script, we are in prep, and I'm in bed, and I get a call my phone rings at Shane. And he goes, tariffs just slammed into the World Trade Center. We're throwing out the script. We're shutting down to talk later. Oh. And, and, and it is it was like, that was a surreal moment. We went back to the office. Like two days later, a day later. The whole writing staff was like, why don't we do?

Alex Ferrari 24:03
Yeah. Anyone living during that time? No, you just knew.

Naren Shankar 24:07
What do we do? We're in an absolute days. We have no script. The director who was being Ken Fink, who I worked with, you know, for years on seaQuest. Phenomenal director. We had to drive him up to Vancouver because there's no planes. So he can we put them in a truck with a Teamster. And we drove them up to Vancouver, because we needed a director to prep a show, which we no longer had a script for. And there's this place in Vancouver that was called crease clinic. It was a it was an old old hospital from like the built in like the 40s or 50s. And it had become it closed down and it become like this place in Vancouver. You could turn it into anything. It could be a hospital, it could be a prison, it could be it could be whatever, you know, and so film shot. It was it was it was used for locations for a million things over the years. And so Shane goes, Okay, we're gonna we're gonna book that thing. Um, we're gonna make a prison riot episode. And we're like, okay, and so the whole staff and this show was, I just have to say was a was a messed up nightmare. It was like, it was like, every every episode was some various form of disaster, highly dysfunctional in many ways is like, it's like, you know, people quitting as I was, oh, it's one of it was a crazy experience. And I'm actually fond of che, it was like, it was a nutty experience. But this was like, the one time where everybody just pulled together because we just have to get it done. And so we broke a story. We like we, we each like, wrote an act, turned it around real fast sent the the acts one by one up to production, Ken was like, I'm cool. It's like, like, everybody just got their shit together. And the episode turned out great. It was like one of the best episodes of the show. And it was, it was a, it was a terrible, terrible moment. And I still have trouble. I've looked at that script, like once or twice, but it's hard to disconnect it from the experience of that times. And and yeah, it was, it was just that was like that. I still, the memories are very vivid. The memories are very vivid at that time.

Alex Ferrari 26:19
That's well, that's, that's a heck of a story, man. I mean, having to get a phone call Jesus, I can only imagine. Well, so. Alright, so you've been doing this again for a while. I've talked to so many so many writers at high levels in the business. One thing that always surprises me is that every single one of them deals with impostor syndrome. Is that something that you deal with still to this day? And were like, Oh, my God, they just I'm just an engineer. Why am I here? Or do I just kind of just go away as you get go through?

Naren Shankar 26:54
I can't I don't think it says we're like, you know? No, I don't. You know, I don't feel that way. I think I think there is a you know, I think what what definitely happens is, and maybe maybe impostor syndrome is a narrow way to define it. But it is like, it's like you go oh my god, I've been so successful. Do I deserve this? It's like, that's, that's, that's part of it. And that's and that that is much more a psychological thing about yourself. And if you're, if you look at yourself as a good person, or as a bad person, or whatever person or you're being too mean, or you're being intolerant, whatever it is, those are things that are very complicated. And I think that those speak to that ideas, like more like, do I deserve what I've been given? Because, because, you know, it is a look, this is a low percentage success business is there's no question about it. And I think, for me, it's like, I'm very open. And Frank about the fact that I think I just got lucky, you know, I had I had, I had the right, I had the right, I had the right friend, you know, who, who and he had the right friend. And you know, and it's just like, I kind of blundered into it. And, you know, by the way, I came out to LA like a year and a half later, I was on staff, you know, that's like, that's, that's ridiculous. Like, my wife would, you know, she was an independent producer for years, and she never quite got anything, you know, running, she seems so close. And it's like, she got you didn't pay your dues. And I like, I'm like, I kind of didn't I mean, I I suppose I could lie and say, Oh, look, I was in school for 10 years. It's like, that's not I didn't want to be a filmmaker. I didn't I didn't think that that was a thing. You know, it's like, so. So I think, to me, it's it's acknowledging the people who helped you, and, and being humble about the role that luck plays in these things, right. It's like, it's like it is you have to acknowledge that it's like, I think, I think, you know, this idea that, Oh, I'm successful, because I deserve it. It's like, well, it may be you have talents and skills, and again, but it is timing, luck, you know, being in the right place at the right time. It's like, if you're convincing yourself that you're special. It's like, I don't I don't think it's as simple as that. And so, I, you know, basically what I tried to do is acknowledge that I try to I try to be very attentive to the, to the notion that we are an apprenticeship based guild, it's like I take I take the idea of mentorship really seriously. And, you know, I like I like bringing writers into into the business giving people chances promoting from within, because those are all the things that you know, enabled me to get, you know, further. So, it's like, so I don't have impostor syndrome that way. I also feel like every single experience I have is a learning experience. It's like I and I, and I take this back to I did a lot of martial arts and I was in college and the first Time or since they came in to teach us. It's like he like, you know, plus that everybody's asking at the end of the classes like, here's like, and he said, he said, Remember how you feel this way you feel stupid, you feel like you don't know anything, you feel like you're bad. It's like he goes, keep that keep that idea. In your head. It's called fresh mind. It's like me, there's always more to learn. There's always things you don't know. And just, you know, keep that idea in the business. And it's like, then it's joyful, right? You're always learning, you're learning from other people, you're learning new skills. You don't ever have to be the person and you shouldn't be the person that says, oh, no, I know everything. I know how it absolutely has to be like, and so that's sort of how I approach it.

Alex Ferrari 30:45
And of course, you've never met anybody in Hollywood that acts that way. Of course. Never nobody, right? Yeah, no, never, never, never, never, ever.

Naren Shankar 30:56
There there's, there are There are meanings like, a couple of times, I dabbled in features that were so hilarious. Like, my first time I got to write a feature. It was like this won't even specifically give you the names. But it was like it was it was adapting a novel, which is like this thriller, sort of with a slight science fiction bent. And, and the producer had the book, the first thing he said was throw away the one science fiction thing that made the book specialist like what, and then and then he and then he proceeded to draw a graph for me about, about how the audience should feel at any moment in a thing. Because like, they got to be here. And then they got to be there. And there's like, and then you got to build up here. And I'm like, I was literally, just, there's one guy in the room. I knew I was like, I looked, I turned him and I was like, why is he talking? Like, I didn't even understand what was happening. And it's like this. I've been on staff for years at this point, like, What are you talking? It's like, so, so mechanical, and it was, I don't know, if it was like the Robert McKee thing. It was like you're saying, gotta have this here and kind of just do this here.

Alex Ferrari 31:56
And you might have read the hero's journey, and then just all of a sudden,

Naren Shankar 32:04
It's like, but it was so mechanical is like you must write a story this way. I'm like, must

Alex Ferrari 32:12
17 This happens on page 27. This happens like,

Naren Shankar 32:16
Like, why must it happen? Can we have some control over?

Alex Ferrari 32:21
We're the ones creating this. I don't know. That's, that's funny. That is funny. So you, you worked on another little show called CSI for? Small independent show just started out. You worked on that for a while? Eight years? Yeah, eight years on that. So I wanted to ask you, how do you approach because I know a lot of a lot of writers coming up? Don't know this. How did you How do you approach procedural storytelling for a procedural show like CSI, which has an overarching arc of a story for the characters, but there's a new body of the new death a new mystery every week, as opposed to like the expanse, which is much more of a narrative, you know, storytelling with a full arc without the individual, daily or weekly things? How do you approach that storytelling differently?

Naren Shankar 33:15
Well, I mean, you know, procedural, every show has its own sort of specific problem in one way or another. And with CSI, you know, the classic one, our mystery has a lot of has a lot of, you know, built in inherent structure to it. If the intention is to solve a crime, it's like, it naturally goes in a particular way. And CSI had those had those rhythms built in, right. It's like, you have to start with a crime, you have to have different theories of the crime, there has to be some resolution to the case. So in a sense, the kind of show that you're telling dictated that structure. Now, you can say that's formulaic. Yeah. I mean, to an extent but but it's also it's like, couldn't you say the same that any detective mystery novel is formulaic? Sure. Right.

Alex Ferrari 34:06
And it's and there's a crime, you got to figure it out. It's at the end of the day. That's Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes story is a Charlotte som story.

Naren Shankar 34:14
Here is a Sherlock Holmes story. Exactly. So So you have to embrace that to some extent. I mean, I was probably the most, you know, experimental, of the writers on the bosses and writers on that show, is because I was constantly looking for ways to break the format and to change things and make things because I felt that was, I felt that was something that you could do in a show, is that successful is that and I think that we were much more experimental than we needed to be, like, I think we were much more experimental than Law and Order was Law and Order was, was like a rhythm. Right? And so I tried to break those rhythms in a lot of different ways. Over the years and and but but again, you know, I could point to episodes of CSI that are like straight formula episodes of the show. that are phenomenal. You know, and I think that what I liked about that show was it was a different way to tell a mystery story. You know, I watched it first as a fan. I mean, it's like, and by the way, hilariously, I was working on a show when CSI came out, and as an anthology science fiction show and the other one of the other writers on the show goes, you just because of the way I thought or you know, like we would talk about so he does, you'd be perfect for that show for CSI and I go, I'd rather be dead than tell mystery stories. That's like, fucking hell, man. That's just a nightmare. You got to come up with a crime and you come on come up with a it's like, of course. years later, I'm on the show.

Alex Ferrari 35:45
And yeah, I mean, it is it is it is. I mean, thinking about as a writer, you just like, Man, how do you got to come up with a crime every week? And it can't just be like, Oh, someone got stabbed. It's got to be like, some crazy thing to make it interesting.

Naren Shankar 35:58
I think the way I approached it, and the thing I liked about it was, in the early years of the show, it was a very serious crime drama. It was done with incredible high style. I mean, that was that was really, you know, Jerry Bruckheimer. He wanted to look a particular way. And it was beautiful. I mean, it was like, and it was very, very striking on the technical side. And it really used, you know, like, almost like a fashion photography, sort of like a quality to it.

Alex Ferrari 36:24
And then we're in 90s, and 90s, to early 2000s. Style, Bruckheimer.

Naren Shankar 36:28
But you you look at it, it still looks beautiful, it has a look, you know, and I think the television so often didn't have a look that it was, it was so beautiful, just to watch. Right. And so that was part of its appeal. But also it was the inherent message of the show, which was, which was that, you know, expressed by by Billy Peterson character, so many times was like, you know, if you're smart, if you're methodical, if you don't let yourself get confused by lies, you know, just objectively approach the evidence and the facts in the case that you'll get to the truth. That that is a that to me, is the DNA of the show. And so it was, there's so many times when, you know, the show with this unique, unique approach told a mystery story and a crime story in a different way. Um, that's really what I what I liked about the show, as it got bigger and bigger and more successful. There was a pressure on it, I think, to become much more sensationalized, much more fetishized. I think the show in its later years, really, kind of grotesquely fetishized violence, it was, it was part of the thing that I didn't like, as I was towards the end of my time there. Because, you know, one of the, one of our consultants on the show is a criminalist, with the LA County Sheriff's Department said, you know, and that this line made it into the show, it's like she said, you know, we meet people on the worst day of their lives. It's like, you know, it's like, it's like, and, and what she was talking about was, was understanding and the psychological trauma and connection to loss that these crimes had and the show had that focus very early on, and it got further and further away from it, as the show went on, and I found that very disheartening. And, and there's like, there's, there's a, there's a beautiful episode from the second season of the show called Chaos Theory. And it's basically every act is like this girl who dies a college student dies, and, and they can't figure out what what's going on what has happened. Each act they follow Ay ay ay, ay promisingly lead to a dead end and then the next act is okay, let's look at something else. And at the end of it what they realize is it's just some crazy accident it's like she was she was trying to get a cab in the rain and she gets hit by a car knock literally into a dumpster. And and it's just a random occurrence it's just a tragedy and and Billy Peterson's character tells us to the parents and the parents go no, we refuse to accept that no way there's no way it could have been something like that. And they just leave angry and he doesn't understand he goes I thought the truth would actually make them feel better. And Martin burgers character says, you know, it's like, that's not what's happening here. You got to understand that that's a deep idea you know, and it's like it's a those are the things a show did early on that they that they did less than less of the show did less and less of later on. And so I think it kind of went away from my from I think it's true mission. But you know, it also did some great episodes later I mean, we did one of my favorites was it was an episode called killer. And it was the first episode shows like we revealed the murder at the beginning. No, you kill killed. One of the beginnings William Sadler did this part and can think directly this is a beautiful episode. It's not a it's not a who done it. It's a wide done it turned it turned it over. little bit on his head is that you develop the personality this person you understand what he did and why he did it over the course of the episode. And it's just, it's one of my favorites of the entire time. And then we did you know, we did kind of style breaking episodes as we ended up having a lot of lab technicians on the show who are great comic actors, while the Langham was Vasey. They were and they were fun. And they were being underused, they'd come on the show, because they were you know, they had but they were being under use. So I started these episodes called the lab rats episodes, which were once a season, we would turn the entire show over to the supporting characters and just do like a black comedy. And, and they became like one of my favorite things. It's like we introduced them in a season where we had like an ongoing arc about a killer who leaves perfect scale miniatures of crime scenes at crime scenes, which is probably my favorite season of the show. But the lab rats like make this incredible break in the case, like, like, in their, in their, you know, one little episode and then year by year, we would do other shows. And maybe the most fun was, was one call is I think it was called Yeah, it's called you kill me. Which is, which is the entire show is the lab rats discussing about how they would murder each other. How they would, how they would just murder people, and how they how, and it is it's just like hilarious. Like, like, you know, imaginary, dark, dark humor. And it's like, it's, I loved working in those guys that Liz VAs you and I are good friends now. And they were they were super fun. And yeah, so I you know, the show had lots of rhythms, I think. I think it became culturally more of a caricature, in some ways.

Alex Ferrari 41:56
A generation of, of women specifically really became CSI investigators, because of that show.

Naren Shankar 42:04
I mean, that's, that's one of the things I loved about it. It's like, when the show started, there were like five forensic programs around the country. And after and, you know, 10 years into it, there were like, like, 500. You know,

Alex Ferrari 42:15
I mean, it became a real thing. So the show did a lot of good. It did a lot a lot of good. For for the world. Without that. You can't say that, about many shows.

Naren Shankar 42:27
You know, I actually, I liked that. I feel like Star Trek was that way it had that it had that quality CSI was that way. I mean, especially with women, because again, I think it's like their disproportion. It was not a show in which you resolve conflicts with violence. He was writing thought, thought your way through that. And I And so many times, you know, people would come up like a mother and her 12 year old daughter's like, this is our favorite show. We watch it together. It's like, I know, I know. And I'd be like, that's got intense, but it is it is it is a you know, it's just an interesting observation is like they would always gravitate to the puzzle solving aspect of it.

Alex Ferrari 43:05
Now, obviously, you've worked in a lot of rooms over the years, there's this kind of unspoken rule or unspoken information about the politics of a, of a writers room. Can you talk a little bit about what the politics are in the writers room as far as a young writer walking into it? So they understand what's going on

Naren Shankar 43:27
Unspoken politics in the writers room? How do you how do you mean, could you elaborate on that,

Alex Ferrari 43:31
So just kind of like how you know, because I know that everyone, every every show runner runs differently, sometimes they they're in the rooms, and run the actual room, sometimes they have, you know, the second command runs the room, how to speak what not to do, don't try to you know, you when you're throwing out ideas, don't throw out the problem throughout the solution. These kind of ideas. I've picked this up just from interviewing showrunners so those kinds of those kinds of things that young writer might not understand about a writers room and listening to this will give them an idea of how they should approach being in a room not theirs. Some people are too quiet some people are too out there. You know, everyone there's I know there was one writer I had on the show that when he was your showrunner, but when he was a writer, he's like, Yeah, I just kept throwing out I solved the ideas for everything. And the showrunner is like Wow, your universe, everyone, everything gets all thrown away. So these are those little things. I just love to hear from you what your opinion is,

Naren Shankar 44:28
You know, every every room is different. Every everybody who runs a show runs room a little differently. I can only really tell you how the way I look at things and and also sort of describe what I think are the bad rooms that I've seen running. Right. Yeah, you know, I feel like there there are maybe the extremes are one in which everybody is trying to please the boss in which in which it is as, you know, step on everybody else to get your hand raised. And so you get noticed, some people run rooms that way. Some people are very absent, they let their second do something, and then they come in and they blow everything up and say, you're all stupid, and then they leave. It's like, that happens as well. It's like, I, I feel like I don't, I don't think it's really a good idea for show runners to be out of the room. It's like a lot of a lot of bad show runners, I think. They say, Well, I gotta go fix, I gotta go fix Episode Five, it's like a disaster, I gotta fix it in editing. The reason everybody hides out in editing and why it's a very bad sign, is because you don't have to deal with another person's opinion. You don't have to, you don't have to defend anything, really. Because all you said do that do that do that is pure control. And so it's a, it's a, it's a hiding out kind of a behavior. The best rooms that I have ever been in, in the way I try to conduct ours is, is, again, it's that best idea wins. Everybody has a voice, everybody gets to make a contribution, everybody needs to listen to everybody else. If an idea isn't strong enough, and it can't withstand an argument, then you need a better idea. And, and that is there's no hierarchy, everybody's voice is equal. I've taken notes from, you know, suggestions from our pas, you know, it's like, we're sitting there in the room, it doesn't matter to me, you know, it's like, my job is, is probably like a hand on the rudder, right? It's like, I have to guide it, I have to give it shape. Sometimes, if you know, if the question is, should the dress be red, or the dress be blue? If I like red, then the dress is red. That's an aesthetic, you know, that's an aesthetic decision. If I have an idea for a character and or a moment and somebody goes, that's just doesn't make any sense, this character would never do that. And if the argument is good, and change it, right is the answer. It's like, you have to be able, you have to have the courage to do that. And I think part of it, for me, it goes back to my, you know, my background in in hard science, because it's like, it's essentially peer review, right? You write a paper, you put it up, and then you sit back with your colleagues. And then you question the fundamentals of it, you question the foundation of it, is it you know, that's what that is, right. And so you have to have, I think you have to have that is like that kind of when everybody feels comfortable like that, they're going to be listened to that everybody can make a contribution. I think you get the best out of people that way. And I treat departments on the physical production side the same way. It's like these are these people are experts in what they do. It's like, I don't tell them how to make everything, I tell them what I'm looking for, but then let them go and be creative.

Alex Ferrari 47:53
You know, you don't micromanage you don't micromanage you,

Naren Shankar 47:57
There's an inevitable amount of micromanagement that happens because, because it's hierarchical, right? Everybody is responsible for a piece of it, every department is responsible for a piece of it. But the people who are responsible for the whole thing, it's basically on my shows, that's basically me, right? I am the one that that ultimately says, this is the shape of it, this is a story want to tell, this is the cut, this is the, the sound, this is the music, it's like, but you're gonna get a better thing. If everybody at every stage of that process gets to make the thing that they do really, really well. All you have to do is guide them, because you're just gonna get tremendous stuff out of people, I think that way. And that's how I prefer to do it.

Alex Ferrari 48:37
Now, is there a piece of advice you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career, if you can go back and tell yourself when you when you when you were sleeping on that couch? Is there something that you wish you would have known?

Naren Shankar 48:51
I, you know, I actually had the initial my formative experiences in the business were really positive ones, they really were Star Trek was a very positive place to learn good people, good stories, you know, a stable place for several years, you know, seaQuest for negative examples, you know, it's like, like, things that were very clear that you shouldn't do. You know, and but but at that point, I was I was confident enough in my own abilities, that I could understand those. The Outer Limits was my next gig, which I did for three years, the Showtime anthology show, which was a phenomenal training ground just to learn to learn almost every aspect of production because an anthology you're creating a new world, every building yet making it you know, and the range of shows you got to do were tremendous. I mean, because we did, you know, an old western and then a futuristic show that a spaceship show and then a contemporary show, and it's like it's like, all like one after another. And so the amount of The amount of learning you get for literally any kind of production problem was astonishing, you know. And so, you know, I just I think I just got lucky in that sense. I just got good experiences upfront. So I think and good mentors, you know, who were, you know, gave me a lot of opportunities, a lot of freedom.

Alex Ferrari 50:25
So no, no, how did you get involved with the expanse net? Because that's been doing that's been doing pretty well for you. Over the years. I just had Thomas on by the way, I just had Tom. He's great. He's like, Oh, my God, Thomas. Jane is just an amazing human being. He's sitting there with his pipe, clicking on the clicking on his pipe, he has skulls in the background. And I'm like, Thomas, the level of cool that you are, is just not it's natural to it's not it's not manufactured. And you can see it in expanse, too. You could see that cool. Just come right off the street. It's pretty amazing.

Naren Shankar 51:02
He was he was he was so he was such a delight to work with it. I think initially, he was, you know, he's a little guarded when you're getting to know him. And I think he was guarded about just sort of, like, attaching himself to this weird thing on the Sci Fi Channel. But, you know, he. He really I think Mark Fergus, who Mark Ferguson Hawk Osby wrote the pilot, Link Mark, he really connected with Mark, and just in sort of the love of the same kind of movies. And Tom is such a cinephile is, you know, oh, my god, like, hardcore. And then I think he started, he became, you know, he started trusting us when we were delivering on the things that we said we were going to do in a way that we were going to do and, and I think that by the end of it, he became really, he was really choked up, like, like, on his last days of, you know, leaving the show, and it was like, it was really, I think, I think he feels proud of the work that we did on the expanse.

Alex Ferrari 52:07
So how did you get involved expense,

Naren Shankar 52:08
I was like the last element I was. Because the books had been optioned by Alcon mark and Hawk had been attached to write the pilot. They, they had never done television before. So the pilot was sold to sci fi with an on air commitment. And so Alcon was a small studio done, you know, done some, you know, they did the blind side, but they'd done you know, features and, and they were getting a little bit more in that space. But they had never done television show before. And Sharon Hall, who's the president of Alcon at that time, I'd worked with her. She'd been at Sony for many years, we've done development together. And she thought I would be a good fit for this show. And so I just came in and met with with the guys and this was at the pilot stage. They just had a script, they didn't have the production wasn't up and running. And so they just needed somebody, you know, who, who could mount a show like this? And it was, I mean, I'll be to be honest. I had, I had been away from science fiction for a very long time, but 10 years almost. And I was not a fan of what, you know, the Sci Fi Channel was putting on because other than Battlestar Galactica, they had a pretty grim slate of things, and they would send me stuff I read, and I go, and so my agent sent me the script. And it's on the Sci Fi Channel, and I went, delete. And I just deleted it. The first time, I just didn't even read it. And they came back to me, like three weeks later, I said, Look, please read the script, they really want you. And this time, I scroll to the bottom, and I see that mark and Hawk had written Children of Men. And and which I loved, and I'm like, okay, all right. And I didn't know the books. And so I read the script. I was like, Are they really going to make this? It's like, because this is not like the thing that they had they this is not the kind of material that they had. They had embraced, you know, but it was a new regime. Bill McGoldrick had come in there and, and I met with the guys and we talked about the script, and I liked them, and they liked me. And then, you know, there we go,

Alex Ferrari 54:11
The rest of this industry

Naren Shankar 54:13
Six years later,

Alex Ferrari 54:15
Naren I'm going to ask you a couple questions. I asked all of my guests three questions. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Naren Shankar 54:23
It's tough. Realistically, it's a very difficult business to break into. One of the big changes in the business from when I started was, you don't have this regular broadcast TV machine, making a zillion episodes of a show. What you have are really big productions making way fewer episodes with much tighter staff. So the abilities to get into it are actually I think tougher. It's like because the pathways have changed. It's like you don't really have a freelance writing market like you did 2530 years ago. The ways into the biz dentists are becoming a writers assistant, which is a highly coveted job becoming an executive producers assistant, which is another pathway into the business. And so aspiring writers are always trying to find that way in. That's right. Because yeah, you can write scripts, you can get agents to read them, you can get put up to staff, you know, there's always that available. But that's a numbers game too, right? Because it's like, he's just a lot of people in the business. But getting that shot at being in a room really learning. It's just tough. I mean, it's like, so the key is, right, network and try to get one of those gigs, you know, take advantage of internships and fellowships that are all, you know, they're out there at the studios. Those are all really, really good programs and the gills, you know, and, and that's really, and that's really the trick, it's like, and you know, even if it's like, even if the job is a pas job that gets you in the writers room, it's like, take it, take it, take it and learn, you'll learn something, it's learned something. And if you show people something and a desire, it's like, hopefully, if you're on the right people, they'll give you those opportunities and give you a chance to take a step up. I mean, we promoted several writers, from writers assistants and, and EPSS. On the expanse, we did that on CSI. I mean, even into editorial director, writers, like we did a lot of homegrown internal production, I mean, internal promotion. I'm a big believer in that. And I think that's the way things should work.

Alex Ferrari 56:35
I'll tell I'll tell you what I mean, I worked as I learned more as a PA working in Orlando, than I did at film school, I would skip school to just go and be on the set and learn and being and being in the office and seeing things run. I just You just learned so much more than you do at a school because you're just seeing it happen. You're picking up things that are not in books, and the teachers generally don't talk about and like those nuances of stuff that that go on, on set. You just, you know, I remember the first day as a PA, they're like, a bunch of grips like you want to intern in the grip department, or go to the grip department first in the grips did a giant pile of cable that's like 15 miles long, untangle that for me. I learned I didn't want to be a grip.

Naren Shankar 57:18
And the guys, that's hilarious. You know, and when you're on a set, people, people will talk to you, they will they they're happy to share knowledge with you, everybody really does understand this sort of like inherent apprenticeship model. But, you know, you should never be afraid to ask questions. What's the worst that can happen? It's like, Stop bothering me. We'll talk later. And it's like, but I would be like on CSI, we had this amazing experience, you know, focus puller, and his name's Gary Mueller. And he had worked for ever, like he worked in a fifth plug in the 50s and 60s for like, you know, Billy Friedkin, and it's like, he was like, a grouchy perfectionist, but like seeing everything. And whenever I had a question on CSI ago, I could give her as this where he's like, I'll go to Gary and ask him and he told me and I remember was I had this question about like, lenses and lens systems and CSI was, was really interesting, because all of the effects were almost all of them were practical in camera effects. We didn't do any any post digital stuff, really. So we experimented a lot. And I said, this is work because I don't I don't quite understand it. He goes, he goes, would you like would you like me to take you to Panama vision, and just go look at the camera, and I'll teach you like, and he arranged for visit, we went on the weekend. And he said like he said all of his years working. None of the bosses had asked him these questions. And it's like, I'm like, How the fuck do you learn this? Like, how do you learn? It's like, there's so many people who are afraid of looking stupid, because they don't know something. Right? I say, I don't know how that works all the time. Or tell me how that works. And I know a lot. I've been doing this for a long time. It's like, but you got it, you got to take those opportunities. There are people who knows so much and their knowledge is so specialized. And filmmaking is such a weird combination of pure, creative and highly technical. It's like it's an unusual thing. And so, you know, I think a lot of reasons these days that like writer showrunners like what's happening a lot of times now you see pairings like have a writer showrunner. And then a producing director. It's like, you know, because there's a whole side of post production that they don't even that they're terrified of people like to edit. But when you start talking about sound mixing when you start talking about music and talking about color and VFX they just get no you got you do that. That's fine. You show me it's like, I feel like that's like that's, you know, a little bit like a director saying we're just gonna do half a movie. You know, it's like, the right it's like all of those things are part of the experiences like I I have had friends who like I remember I was I was I came into a meeting on some show, and I'm still doing posts on the expanse and, and I said, Sorry, it's like, you know, are mixed with nine hours yesterday. And they're like, what, nine hours. And I'm like, about normal. It's like a seven or nine hour mix is what I do. And it's like, I just go to playback and then just say, you know, give them a couple of notes and then elite, I'm like, you're missing out on a lot of shit. Because you learn you learn you sound sound is half of the way you perceive the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:31
You could also see mistakes if it's there any mistakes being made on set you now because if you're just listening to a match, you don't see the details. But like, Man, this boot is not getting it. Oh, man. It's like it's offer. Something's happened and the sound guys not doing his job, right? You're in the mix, you're in literally in the mix, literally,

Naren Shankar 1:00:47
Literally in the mix. So you know, I feel like, you know, that is a That's the deal. It's like, just gonna learn a lot doing that.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:58
What lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Naren Shankar 1:01:03
Okay, I'll limit it to the film industry, because there's probably many things I'm still learning. I think I personally have a tendency to, to take on projects or ideas that I probably shouldn't, because I want to prove that I can do it. And that, that that sometimes is not good. It's like, just to show somebody, oh, yeah, you think that's not adaptable? Fuck it, I'll do it. And then I'll beat my head against it forever, just to try to show somebody that it's not necessarily the best way to really do something, I would do that on shows a lot. And I think I would also I don't know, it's, there's a sort of like a Pruvit mentality, sometimes it's not healthy. And I think that maybe another aspect of that is, is I would, if something isn't working early in my career, I would force it, I would just try to ram my way through it and just just make it happen. I got good advice, saying, You know what, it's a creative thing. Maybe today isn't the day just step away from it and come back to it. It's like, you have to learn that too. It's like you have to learn when you're forcing, you have to learn when it's not being productive. And don't be afraid to just just let it take a step back and go for a walk or take a shower or go for a drive or something because your brain sometimes needs time to make connections between things. And so I'm think I'm much more comfortable doing that now than I was early in my career for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:48
And last question, what are three pilots that every screenwriters who listen read, or every television writer should read? More episodes or episodes of a show?

Naren Shankar 1:03:01
It changes, I would say that changes era by era, and, you know, genre by genre, like, like, what is a? Like, what's a great, you know, if you if you like crime shows, like crimes and cop shows, like, what's a great show to watch now, you could make, you could make a lot of different, you know, you could say the sopranos if you wanted to go back aways, you could say mayor of Easton, you know, if you so it's like, it's really that's very much of a moving target. Because there are, I used to collect like pilots, I thought were really, really terrific. The problem is, they may not be so terrific. When you go back a few years. You know, you're it's like it really does change.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:47
I mean, like the Breaking Bad pilots still. You're absolutely brilliant, even though it was so many years ago when that came out, but you just read it. Well, that's, that's remarkable.

Naren Shankar 1:03:57
They can they can they do last? I mean, you know, I think Game of Thrones is a terrific pilot.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
And men, bad men.

Naren Shankar 1:04:03
Yeah, Mad Men is a great pilot.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
Yeah, Mad Men. Sopranos? I mean, David chases. I mean, it's it's the firt the first one. Yeah, there's so many. There's so many. But just,

Naren Shankar 1:04:14
I mean, I used to keep, I used to keep the X Files. I love that. I think I think what it is for pilots, for me, it's like, if you can think of pilots, first episodes of shows that were tremendous. Inevitably, there are like, one or two moments that are so striking that you always remember them. It's like, you know, you like feel

Alex Ferrari 1:04:38
Like a guy with a gun in his underwear. You know, with a mess with

Naren Shankar 1:04:44
The very first image of Breaking Bad, right? It's like, but that's but that's what I mean. It's like I think those are the pilots that stick with you. It's like even you know, independent of era or style or anything like that. I think that I think that really is what it is.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:57
Naren man. It has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank You so much for coming on the show and sharing your sharing your knowledge and experience with with my tribe and hopefully somebody listening out there is terrified now and won't be in the business but or at least understands what they're getting into. Or you know, get a degree in engineering and applied physics.

Naren Shankar 1:05:20
You know, there are times you just what I really do go like, you know, man, really lucky and it is ridiculous that people pay me to tell stories and make cool shows for a living. It's like it is just a it is just, you know, pinch me and you know, I'll do it as long as I can because it's really fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
Man, it was a pleasure meeting you and thank you again for being on the show, brother. I appreciate you.

Naren Shankar 1:05:47
My pleasure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kessler 0:14
It looks amazing.

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

David Kessler 0:29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kessler 16:08
And her story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kessler 30:58
I didn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kessler 45:44
Oh, okay. Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kessler 57:59
It does also include romantically

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kessler 1:02:56
Social Network.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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