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BPS 251: How to Sell an Original Show to Hulu with James Lafferty & Stephen Colletti

Our guests this week are stars from the early 2000s teen drama television hit show, One Tree Hill, James Lafferty, and Stephen Colletti. The buzz the show had was undeniable, and if you were a fan of the show, then you would be glad to know that your favorite characters, Nathan Scott and Chase Adams have a new project together and they talk all about it this week’s episode. 

But first, a summary of our guests’ track records in the industry. Both James and Steven landed their first acting gigs in their late teens and have since expanded their skills to writing, producing, and directing. 

James, started out as a series regular on One Tree Hill in 2003, having appraised one of the lead roles of the show for which he was nominated four times by the Teen Choice Awards. Actor and television personality. Stephen joined as a regular after recurring his role as Chase Adams since the show’s premiere.

Half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott trade between kinship and rivalry both on the basketball court and in the hearts of their friends in the small, but not so quiet town of Tree Hill, North Carolina. Here’s a first look at the characters in its pilot episode:

Steven has consistently worked in film and television hosting MTV specials Beach House, Spring break and the VMAs backstage live among others. He’s made appearances on TV shows MTV reality television series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, VH1 2013 romance drama, Hit The Floor, and Taylor Swift’s White Horse music video.

Between 2009 to 2012, James began testing out the directing pond. He directed four episodes of the nine-season run of One Tree Hill and five episodes of The Royals, which he played another lead role on. In 2016, he briefly graced our screens in six episodes of Underground, the series, as Kyle Risdin.
With the country on the brink of the Civil War, the struggle for freedom is more dangerous than ever. Underground follows the story of American heroes and their moving journey to freedom.

The guys creatively reunited to create an original comedy television series, Everyone Is Doing Great that’s streaming on Hulu. They co-directed, produced, and wrote the show.  What was remarkable was that they sold an independently produced show to a major streamer, which never happens. We dive in on how they were able to do that. 

The seven episodes show follows Seth and Jeremy, two guys who enjoyed relative success from ‘Eternal’, a hit television vampire drama. Five years after their show has ended, they lean on each other as they struggle to reclaim their previous level of success and relevance, awkwardly navigating the perils of life and love amidst a humorously painful coming of age.  

I had lots of laughs with these two and can’t wait for you to listen.

Enjoy my conversation with James Lafferty & Stephen Colletti.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:24
I like to welcome to the show James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti How you guys doing?

James Lafferty 3:58
Fantastic.

Stephen Colletti 3:59
Thanks for having us, man

Alex Ferrari 4:01
Thank you for being on the show. Man. I heard we have we have some friends in common in Dinesh Nelms who were on my show a while ago promoting or will talking about their whole career. But at the time promoting fat man, which is obviously one of the best Christmas movies ever made. It in my audience was going crazy for that episode, because it is just just hilarious if anyone listening has not listened to go find that episode on the back catalogue because the boys were great. And then they reached out to me. They're like, Hey, I got these guys who did this insane thing. We're part of this project and they pitched it to me and I was like, well, I've never heard of that before. How the hell did these guys shoot an independent series that got picked up by a major streamer? Like I know they picked up indie films because my film was picked up. My first film was picked up by them for a license for a year back when they were doing that kind of stuff, but a show is unheard of. So we're gonna get into The weeds about how you guys did that, because I'm fascinated it's really, really want to know how the hell that happened. But before we get into it, how did each of you get into the business? We'll start with you, James.

James Lafferty 5:12
Yeah, so I started really young, I started doing extra work. Actually, when I was about six years old, my, my mom would bring my brother and I and from Riverside County to LA just to get on two sets, just to sort of expand our world a little bit. We didn't really know, you know, at a young age, what we want it to be, you know, obviously, we didn't, you know, we weren't like, theater kids or stage kids or anything like that. It was really just for a mom to, you know, help us understand that the world was bigger than a small town that we came from. And we just fell in love with it. Of course, I mean, you can't really take a kid to a film set and play around with the kids and get to experience that atmosphere and have them not catch the bug. And sure enough, we did. And so from from about 10 years old on I started auditioning. And from there, it was just like a steady progression of you know, working my first Mervyn's commercial at 12, to, you know, getting a guest spot on, you know, Picket Fences or something like that. And then, you know, just continuing on from there to reoccurring roles. And I basically, yeah, by the time I was a senior in high school, I had booked this little web team drama called One Tree Hill, which ended up becoming sort sort of hit, I guess, I made at least ran for a very long time. Until about 2011. And, yeah, that sort of takes that takes us up to, you know, I guess, when I was an adult, right, you know, that's sort of how I was my way and really,

Alex Ferrari 6:40
but how about you Stephen?

Stephen Colletti 6:42
Yeah, I was a little more unconventional, I, I kind of first started working the business in 2004. The working with MTV, I started out doing a reality show with them completely victim of circumstance out of nowhere, did this show land in my community and dropped my lap. But I was interested in in hosting and wanting to get in there in entertainment. And so, in fact, one thing I want to do was, was to be a vj. You know, watching Carson Daly growing up and doing that gig, I thought that was a pretty cool thing and wanted to pursue that. So I looked at MTV is like, Well, alright, I feel like these people can get me in over there. So what I'm doing the show called Laguna Beach, for a season two seasons. And then I started hosting for MTV. And then I did a little bit of acting growing up it you know, just just in school and stuff and enjoyed it. But didn't think it was gonna be something I'd take seriously. And the more I kind of got into hosting wasn't so excited about it found acting interesting, wanted to study it and did and so as I was hosting for MTV, I was working on on acting and studying and from there, I booked my first film something called it was actually wind up being havoc, too. It wasn't that wasn't it wasn't supposed to be the sequel originally. But that's what who today new line, I think it was, it's what they want. I'm selling it as called normal adolescent behavior. And in that film, actually worked with a girl named Hilary Burton, who worked on One Tree Hill, and I want about shooting for One Tree Hill and getting a part there. And then it was kind of set on working on the show with James for about five or six years.

Alex Ferrari 8:34
So you guys, so you guys are coming out this whole thing very unconventionally, because you're coming from the acting side. So you guys were on a hit show, for a good amount of time. You've been obviously you guys have been on sets a lot throughout your careers up to this point. And then what what made you guys get together and say, you know, we're going to take the power in our own hands and build our own content and try to sell that. So you essentially, stop asking permission to do what you love to do and start creating those opportunities for yourselves very, very Ben and Matt, goodwill hunting style in that way, so what what made you as actors decide to like, you know, is there something that caused you to do it? Or is it something that tickles your fancy or just like, you know, what we you really need to kind of get our own stuff going?

James Lafferty 9:22
Yeah, I think it was a mixture of things, as it always is, I guess, you know, it's, it's, it has a little something to do with, you know, coming off of a TV show and thinking things are going to be easy and actually not being that easy. It's you know, getting to a certain point in your life as an actor or I guess, as a professional in this business where you realize that things are cyclical, like you're going to have, you're going to have times that are you know, really good for a while you're gonna have a great cycle and then you're going to have a really dry cycle and then you're going to it's going to come back it's a sort of pendulum swing situation and you start to realize that at a, I guess around for us, it was around that 2526 27 age when One Tree Hill was ending, right? But then also, you know, I don't think you can be on a show for that long and not learn something, I mean, really have to not be,

Alex Ferrari 10:09
you have to be pretty dense and you have to be pretty.

James Lafferty 10:11
Yeah. And I think, you know, we, we were always paying very close attention, because we always knew that behind the camera was where we want to be eventually we just we knew that we would want to tell stories, you know, for me a big part of it was being able to step behind the camera and direct on One Tree Hill. And then I know, you know, Steven can speak to, you know, the fact that he was producing coming out of One Tree Hill and stuff. But um, you know, that's, that's sort of where I was coming from is like, I know, I want to tell stories. But you know, and I know, I'm gonna want to write, right, so I'm writing scripts, and these scripts are like high concept and very expensive. And this is obviously as you know, and your audience will know, these, these ideas are very hard to get made. So at a certain point, for me, it was like, Okay, what can I make, that can be made? You know, what can, what can we make that that can be made for a reasonable budget, and that we can actually shoot so that we can prove to people that we can tell stories, and hopefully, take that next step as storytellers not just people who are, you know, auditioning for jobs?

Alex Ferrari 11:13
How about you, Steven?

Stephen Colletti 11:16
Well, I think it's, I feel like it was always somewhere. Yeah, it was something in the back of my mind knowing that, you know, in this industry, especially just with technology, these days, what it affords you, you better be able to figure out stuff on your own, because, you know, I just, I know that where I stand in this industry, and I was not, you know, God's gift to the entertainment industry as an actor. And so I knew to do certain things that I wanted to do, you know, you're gonna have to create those opportunities for yourself. And so I, you know, it's just kind of been a steady evolution of, you know, trying different things, you know, realizing I had all my eggs in that inactive basket, when I was in my 20s. And realizing that the opportunities that were coming to me, were kind of out of my control, you know, you go audition for things, and something's you really, really want and it's almost like, the more you want something more, you want it not getting it, and then a job that you're like, yeah, I really don't care if I get this job, and it's like, you booked it, you know, you gotta get I gotta go take it, because I need a job. So I think that, you know, to really, as I got a little bit older, and a little more, Yeah, a little more edgy about the business realize, I, if you know, what I want to do, I'm gonna have to, you know, take the bull by the horns and try to figure out to do it on my own. Because, you know, that's not going to all just line up with landing the perfect audition at the best time and booking it and then Off you go, you know, it's just not, that does not happen every day or, you know, likely at all. So, you know, yeah, I think from there, you know, it's, it's been an evolution of certain projects that, you know, haven't gone very far. And, and just, you know, whether it be a little bit of writing a little bit of producing, but, you know, kind of learning is something from each thing. And then, you know, with this one, with, everyone's doing great kind of felt like, all the pieces started to, you know, fall into place where, okay could take, you know, what I've learned up to this point, and in trying to get stuff made, and go out there also to say, you know, partner up with somebody, you know, realizes I can't do stuff, you know, on my own, and, you know, you got to get good people around you to help you, you know, you know, fill in your weaknesses and get, you know, get things made.

Alex Ferrari 13:29
So, how did you guys come up with everyone is doing great.

James Lafferty 13:35
Yeah, it was, it was sort of out of necessity, I guess. You know, I think we had, we had lived enough life coming out of One Tree Hill to realize that we had lived a pretty absurd life in our 20s. And to have that amount of success at such a young age is completely it's absurd, it's, it's insane what happened, and we were insanely fortunate. And then to have, you know, some some years that weren't so successful, you know, to really humble you and to make you look back and go, Okay, I see a sort of like arc forming here, where, you know, we had a late coming of age, you know, and we had a late coming of age in this really crazy industry, where the hilarious things are happening all around us. And there's, you know, extraordinary, extraordinary things happening all around us that really make for great comedy. You know, and we've never, we've never felt sorry for ourselves throughout this whole process of, you know, auditioning and rejection and all this stuff. Like, I think, you know, we've always found the narrative that it's, you know, a really tough thing to do a little bit tiresome, because it's what we chose to do, right like nobody's gonna feel sorry for you because you just keep coming back for more and you know, you're always going to come back for more. So really, for us the the catharsis and all this was just a laugh at it. So get together to share our stories, and they'll be like, you're never gonna believe what happened at this audition today. Like you're never gonna believe what I saw this party or this person that I met or, and, and and just laugh at these things, and you You know, this is something that we really wanted to bring to a show that that lined up with our comedic sensibilities, right. Like, we knew that we wanted to make a show. That was up to the standards of the shows that we love to watch. We love shows like fleabag, you know, catastrophe. We love the trip with Steve Coogan and Rob bryden. Like, we love will that best show on HBO doll on em, things that are feel really naturalistic and feel really dry. And mind humor, a lot of out of a lot of like, awkward and cringy moments, to the punch lines. And we we just felt like we were like living in this world where all of a sudden, we could see, we could see this happening around us, we were sort of observing it. And so we decided to sort of, I guess, take that and, and try to create some characters that we could map on to these things, and onto this world and into these situations, and create a story around it that would also line up with our storytelling sensibilities, which is really we gravitate to stories about, you know, friends, families, and, you know, families basically, that full of people that are just there, they probably shouldn't be friends, but they have this shared experience, or they have this shared past, where they're sort of forced to continue to deal with each other. And whether or not they stick together is based on whether or not they love each other. Right. Like, those are the stories that we're onto. So it was just all these things as sort of confluence of things that came together to at this time to make us realize that we might have, you know, a story to tell here through everyone's doing great.

Alex Ferrari 16:30
Now, Stephen did teach your agents and managers and your friends around you say you guys are absolutely that this is not going to work. No one's ever, you know, done an independent show before and sold it anything major before me did that happen?

Stephen Colletti 16:44
You know, I got kind of the status quo from the the reps were, that's, that's really nice. You know, they're like, Okay, you go to your little bit, you're gonna be auditioning, right? You should still be sending you stuff. And I'm like, Yeah, no, of course, we please do. Like, okay, just making sure. But you know, I think that they hear that and the expectation on there. And it's like, oh, man, I got a nickel for every time I heard a client talk about something that they're making on their own and never seen it even myself, they probably have a few nickels for me, because I definitely have done it before. As you know, try to shake them down to help you, you know, get some traction on a script or, like get something, you know, get them to read something that you wrote. So, there, you know, there was that kind of like, you know, yeah, they're just playing along. It friends. It was, you know, there was we had some good support from friends at rooting us on like, you know, I think people in the industry were like, Fuck, yeah, man, like, go do it. You know. And I think that it also, you know, with the community of people that God around our show, when we were crowdfunding, I mean, that really helped lift us up and continue. have us continue to move forward on it was that, you know, people were on board and excited, they heard about the concept, they would just be looking at a log line and being like, you know, what, that seems interesting. I'd be into that. And we're like, yeah, like, I want to contribute to the show. Go on and do it. So I think it was, you know, for the most part, it was positive feedback, and to have like, our communities of family and friends, saying, you know, go for it is really cool, and definitely helped propel us to the finish line.

Alex Ferrari 18:22
So I find it fascinating. You said that the agents play the long because I actually, you know, earlier in my career was I had a full films, and I got a star attached. And it was, you know, she'd done TV, and she had done a few movies and things like that, and we go in, and what you're saying is exactly what the agents would do. They came in, they did this show, they sat around the conference table, like, okay, so you know, oh, yeah, we can go out to this person. And, yeah, we might know this person to try to kind of play along and I was so green. I'm like, Oh, my God, we're gonna get this movie made. This is amazing. And then, you know, nothing ever panned out. But they needed to play along to keep the client happy. So I'm so like, I didn't know that was a thing. And when you just said it, like, that makes all the sense to me. Because I've been in that room when we're like, oh, yeah, cuz she's the producer on this. And she wants to put this all together. I was like, No One No wonder nothing.

Stephen Colletti 19:14
You don't listen for us. You know, it's like they don't they know, the road. And it's enough. It's time. They don't have the time for that. They're like, Look, this is the bottom line game. I'm here with my clients for like, you know, like, I know if this person is getting started on a project, like this film is not going to be made next month in six months. And wow, if they make it in a year, that's incredible. So they're like, I don't I don't have time for something that's two years out.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
To get paid Now. Now. I need my 10% I need my 10% I need my 10% Yeah. So

Stephen Colletti 19:46
10% in 2024 Yeah, exactly. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 19:50
luck. Good luck. Yeah, exactly. Good luck to you, my friend. But you're still gonna go out. We could still send you out. Right. We could sit now we could still say yeah, I love that because we still need to make our money off. Right now so it's, it's fascinating.

James Lafferty 20:02
You're gonna be supportive 100% Oh, yeah. Just just means like, you know, saying like, yeah, sure we'll help out. And then we'll step in later.

Alex Ferrari 20:12
Yeah, we if you bring in 5 million, we can get the rest. up, bring 5 million and Will Smith to the table, we can get you. The rest of it. No problem. No problem. Yeah, that's, that's the way the game is played. So Alright, so guys, how did you put this this cell financed? I mean, because it doesn't look like it's like a you know, it's not Game of Thrones for sure. So I'm assuming the budget was, you know, indie. But how did you guys raise the budget?

James Lafferty 20:43
Yeah, well, it was, um, it was, I guess it was a sort of a tiered process, sort of just like the entire process was, you know, we, we didn't know that we were going to shoot our entire season independently. We started off with a pilot, and the pilot was self financed. And very naively, we thought that we would execute this pilot and the money be money, and they would sell it. And then somebody would be like, Oh, yeah, we want this to be a, you know, who the original or whatever. Yeah, that didn't happen. Didn't happen for a lot of reasons. You know, first of all, I think the pilot that we made was a pilot that we wanted to make, and we were really, really proud of it. But it was 2017. And, you know, a lot of the streamers that exist now didn't even exist back then. And a lot of the, you know, bigger ones. Now, we're just sort of booting up. And you know, they're different departments and sort of really defining what kind of things they want to do. And we just didn't anticipate the challenges of shopping around and independent TV show, we didn't realize just how kind of, I guess, unprecedented it was, it's just not something that happened, there was no template for selling it right. further than that, we didn't know that we even needed a sales agent, really, we didn't know the sales agent game, right? We were having our talent reps reach out to development people at these companies. And seeing if, like, you know, they would get it, you know, if they could push the ball forward. We weren't even we weren't considering the acquisitions departments and things like that. You know, we'll talk about this later about, you know, we didn't actually know how sort of nebulous that world was as well, and how many gatekeepers that there were and how relationship based it is. So we just didn't have any of these relationships or any of these connections. So once we realized we weren't going to sell the pilot. And that if we were going to produce the rest of the season episodes, two, three through eight, we were going to have to do it independently. We were we had always considered the crowdfunding route. But we didn't know for sure if we wanted to take that plunge. It was our last, it was really our last sort of final option, because we had heard that it's going to be the hardest thing you ever do. Yes, I've done it's over like, yeah, and you know, the gnomes brothers, who you had on in the past. Like they, they did it as well. And I watched them do and I watched them break their backs for the money they made for post on their first movie or one of their first movies. And, you know, they were they were encouraging us to do this as well, like the Noah's brothers had our backs on the crowdfunding front, they're like, you should do this, because it's going to help you retain creative control whatever money you can raise your budget, it's going to help you maintain that leverage, and that control over the project or for its life. And so yeah, I guess you know, once we had exhausted all options, we took that plunge, that crowdfunding plunge crowdfunded For how many days even 45 days?

Stephen Colletti 23:40
Yeah, at least 45? Not all July, June, July, and then we extended a little bit into August. So what's it been up to about three months?

Alex Ferrari 23:48
And what platform? Did you guys use Kickstarter, Indiegogo,

Stephen Colletti 23:50
Indiegogo.

Alex Ferrari 23:51
Right? And how much did you guys raise?

Stephen Colletti 23:54
we wind up raising about 270k. And that's after. Yeah, after fees. And we had to take some money for of course, for the perks and stuff like that, we were able to, to use about at least 200 210 215 in our budget. And then we had to bridge the gap a little bit to get to where we can, you know, still have enough to finish the season.

Alex Ferrari 24:18
That's amazing. But that's, that's a success man. Like you pull in over a quarter million on a on a platform for a television or streaming series. That's a pretty, it's a pretty good goal. I guess you tapped into a lot of your fans and things like that. To help with that.

Stephen Colletti 24:33
Yeah, no, I know, for sure.

James Lafferty 24:35
Yeah.

Stephen Colletti 24:36
To have people, you know, contribute for a you know, a show they haven't seen before, you know, this was not the reunion or these equal or something. So right, you know, people were having to take a leap of faith for us. And yeah, I think that was that. You know, we struggle a little bit out the gate, trying to get people on board for this, but it was, you know, Really, it was that community behind, you know, One Tree Hill that, you know, got involved and and wanted to see us, you know, where we wanted to support us and whatever our next venture was because they knew that maybe, you know, the reunion wasn't gonna be happening anytime soon. So yeah, incredible community of fans, they're been very loyal. And we're very grateful for that. Because without them, this doesn't happen. And it ultimately was, you know, about two weeks in we're like, we need some sort of kick, you know, we really need something to to boost the finances there, or at least the on the money coming in for the Indiegogo project. And we, we came up with the idea of, of doing some live watches, where we would invite some cast members from the show from our old show, once your Hill and and watch an episode. And, you know, it offered us a great opportunity for us to, you know, see some of our cast members that we hadn't seen for a while and kind of, to fill a little bit of that, that want for what the fans are looking for is they're trying to hear the news, and whether or not the show's gonna have a union or whatnot is like, well, they just want to see some of these people back together. And, you know, to get, you know, four or five of us sitting in a room chatting about the show, it was, you know, an experience that fans really enjoyed. And they came back, you know, four or five times as we did a few of them, and they wind up just being, you know, the most lucrative thing for us in our project. Yeah, raising up. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 26:25
mean, you leverage what you have. So, you know, if you've got a fan base, and I'm assuming, how did you get to that fan base? I mean, did you just hit the Facebook groups? I mean, I don't think you have an email list with a bunch of One Tree Hill fans. So like, how did you how did you reach out to these these communities and get them to, to watch and to contribute?

James Lafferty 26:43
Yeah, are following us on social media were a huge part of it. I mean, pretty much everybody that follows me is a One Tree Hill fan, unless they're my mom or my friend. So you know, that was that was that was really important is being able to connect with people through social media. That was what brought in, you know, I think our first wave of people, but I think another really important thing was that we were able to show these people that that just, you know, this first wave of people that we have a product that you're going to like, right, because the challenge with an arts project is that you can't really show them the content of the arts project, right? You can't really like have virtual screening for people on the movie you're trying to make. Fortunately, we were making a TV show and we had shot a pilot. And we were able to take this pilot around to some festivals that were really, really great, like at x festival is a television festival in Austin, that showcases all kinds of television. And you know, they they showcase a few independent pilots every year, they chose us for one of theirs. Series fest is an all Independent Television festival that they hold in Denver, Colorado. At the time, New York television festival was one. So there was just, there's a bunch of different festivals that we were able to hit and we were able to invite fans out, you know, people that knew about us from One Tree Hill, and invite them to the screenings, talk to them after these screenings, meet them after these screenings and get there first of all, creatively get their feedback, right? See if the show was actually funny to them. But then also they were able to see the first episode of the show. And then you know, tell other people on our Instagram feeds or on our Twitter feeds or you know, on the message board on Indiegogo like yes, this is a good show, you will like this show, you know, there's there's something here. So I think that that was a huge, huge asset to us being able to take out that sort of, you know, if this wasn't a TV show, you call it like a proof of concept, right? Wasn't TV shows a pilot. And it just it just the timing of that taking out those festivals, we in hindsight, we realized just how incredibly, you know valuable that was for us.

Alex Ferrari 28:47
And how many days did you shoot? Like how many total days? I mean, assuming you just sat and just just shot it all out in a row. Right? So how many days did you shoot eight episodes and each episodes? What 30 minutes? Less than that?

Stephen Colletti 29:00
proximately 30 Yeah, we got we got anywhere from 25 to 37 minutes. so thankful for the streaming services to be flexible. Right. Exactly three never to kill as many babies as we had expected. But yeah, we want up shooting over the course of about 35 days. eight episodes that's a lot and yeah, obviously block shooting everything getting locations wrapped up in was was you know key. Michelle Lange Who?

James Lafferty 29:31
those seven episodes right that we shot because we had already shot the pilot the year before and then we shot seven episodes, this seven additional episodes over that 35 day period.

Stephen Colletti 29:40
Thereafter, minus one is seven that is confirmed. This is why we make a great team. So we Yeah, and Michelle Lange who works with the nelmes brothers. She's married to Ian there they she you know was so clutch in getting ours. Schedule all dialed up and and and making sure that you know, we're maximizing our locations. And it was fluid to that schedule was changing constantly. And she did a good job matching mapping it out in the beginning. And we kind of had an idea of where we were going to be for the next 35 days from the jump, of course, but, you know, she was always kind of looking to adjusted, where can we make Where can we save a buck? And you know, having somebody like that on our team, just, you know, thinking about things that we are not even anywhere on this same universe and thinking about what that scheduling and how we can save some money. Because especially when we're doing our shoestring budget was key. So we it was it was hectic, but we we got it done. And you know, Michelle Lange was a big part of that.

Alex Ferrari 30:45
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So you guys have been you guys have been on onsets pretty much, almost all your life. At this point, you were like, really were on sets for a long time. And a couple and you've directed, you know, a few episodes here and there. How much did that play in in the success of what you guys we're doing it because obviously you knew what a professional quote unquote set was. But you knew that One Tree Hill set is definitely not going to be the all the bells and whistles that you're going to be using on this show. So how was that transition? Because you know, you're used to being on I've been on network sets, they're they're nice, they're plush. The craft, the craft is fantastic lunches, you know, lobster, you know, it's really it's really a nice scenario, depending on the budget of the show. But generally speaking, that work shows are really nice. So how was that transition from? Hey, I need something Oh, we have a department for that, too. We need something figure it out. Hmm.

James Lafferty 31:50
Yeah, I think it's a really good question. Because I think there are things that we that we learned, you know, from being on larger sets that helped us, and there were also things that totally blindsided us as well, right. You know, there was, I think that the general concept of time management really sinks in, when you work in television, you know, on whatever budget you're working on, like, you know, working on, whatever, whatever network TV show, you're still trying to shoot an ungodly amount of pages a day, no matter what, there's not enough time, you never have enough days to get the show to get the episode that you want to shoot. And as an actor, you sit around and you just watch people like run around like their hair's on fire, trying to make this impossible thing possible. So and you learn about time management really well, because you're always watching your clock, right. And so I think that's one thing that we were able to carry into, to everyone is doing great is his clock management, right is that time management is is making sure that, you know, we have contingency plans that we have this space in our schedule to shoot things that we might have missed, or that we're able to adapt, if you know, we didn't get this one thing at this location, what other location can we put it that we had seen enough of this sort of sleight of hand be played, you know, throughout our careers to be able to employ it ourselves, and obviously, with the help of our producing team, but then also, there's nothing that can compare you to, you know, or that can prepare you to for the, you know, first week of our shooting in Stevens actual apartment, and you know, the fact that there's going to be 35 crew and a two bedroom apartment, you know, wearing their work boots.

Alex Ferrari 33:27
And did you get from it? Did you get permission? Or are you did get permission? You didn't gorilla?

Stephen Colletti 33:32
Yeah, but you know, we, you stretch permission for a couple of people just for like, two days? Not necessarily. We won't say how many people were there. And we won't say For how many days but it didn't really work out to that

James Lafferty 33:49
when I quoted. And you know, you gotta like hand it to Stephen, who is you know, this is his apartment, he's producing, writing the show, he's directing one of the episodes that we're shooting at that location, and he's gonna be thinking about all these different things. And he's also thinking about the fact that like, this person today didn't wear social soft soled shoes. Yeah. So like, we might get kicked out, you know what I mean? Or he's worried about you know, getting Starbucks gift cards to all of his neighbors and making sure that they got them so that we've got you know, we're in the good graces of the building. You know, it's not a it's not a completely conducive mindset to creativity. Nothing can really prepare you for that nothing in our experiences on

Stephen Colletti 34:29
me right now. Seriously? Yeah, like you said,

Alex Ferrari 34:30
You started you're starting to see the twitching I could see the Twitch, you

Stephen Colletti 34:34
know, how we I don't know how we got through those those days. But yeah, I mean, I got sick in the middle of it as well.

Alex Ferrari 34:41
Oh, yeah.

Stephen Colletti 34:43
Anytime an apple box was just scraping across the floor. Mentally murdered that individual and then carried on with my scene.

Alex Ferrari 34:52
I'll tell you what, man like I've shot so much in my own places during my career like on my own house like my first my first like $50,000 I spent on my commercial demo reel back when I was doing commercials, which I shot on 35 and all that. I did it in my house, I'd like to two full shoots in my house like doing different areas, like in my living room, I'd set up a set. And I like because I had to. And that exact thing someone like a grip would just drag something along. You just like trying to direct it. And then you have the money. So this is basically exactly the only thing that you did that I didn't do is I was an act in it. Thank God. So I'm doing everything. I'm doing everything else. But I feel you man like you that Apple box kiss drags, oh, god,

Stephen Colletti 35:34
oh, we had a, I had this, this deck. That was great. Because you know, people can go have lunch out there and we can store gear out there. And but you know, we fired up breakfast there at like 615 in the morning.

James Lafferty 35:52
Oh my god, how did we get away with it?

Alex Ferrari 35:54
Starbucks Starbucks cards go a long way.

Stephen Colletti 35:57
Yeah, basically, you know, there was some supportive people, some supportive neighbors, but then there wasn't some supportive neighbors. And there was we did get a noise complaint, like on the first day, you know, there was a the manager who I'd spoke to how to talk to somebody else. And so they showed up and they were like, what are you doing? And I was like, you know, I talked to all that I Okay, all right, right on. But at first there I thought, you know, they had come to basically shut us down. So yeah, I mean, it's still Yeah, once

Alex Ferrari 36:34
he stressed out, he is stressing, it's over, Bro. Bro, it's over. It's over.

Stephen Colletti 36:38
It's felt like a mistake. Because after all this build up to get to this point of wanting to shoot the show. And it's our own. We're so excited. And we got our first couple days of shooting. And then all of a sudden, it's just back to back days, like in my apartment with one thing after another and I couldn't you know, once we got to the finish line, and we were like halfway through that last day there and I'm like, Okay, we got it now I know we're gonna get through this location. The shoot started for me but I couldn't tell you what happened on any of the scenes my characters department because I've my brain was just ping pong off the walls.

Alex Ferrari 37:15
And that's it they I mean for filmmakers listening now, man, until you're in the into you're in the weeds, or as they used to say like when you're in war, when you're in this shit. You really, really feel it because, man it's 1000 things going on at the same time. You've got money dealing with you've got your act, you You're acting, which is insanity to me. Like I can't even begin to begin to try to think about acting in a scene while doing all this stuff. It's it's brutal, man. But I think this is a comment that no one's ever asked this is a sentence has never been uttered in Hollywood. All I have is too much time and too much money to make this project like that. That's never been uttered in Hollywood since the days a fucking Edison. No one is ever said that.

James Lafferty 38:02
Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 38:03
That you know, it's it's insane. So

Stephen Colletti 38:05
we got another week. You sure you don't want to use it?

James Lafferty 38:08
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 38:11
Good. Do you want another month? I mean, we could just do another month if you want. Like, yeah, you've never you never hear that. It's insane.

Stephen Colletti 38:18
I mean, I go to Panama and get a shot on the beach. You don't want it? You don't

Alex Ferrari 38:22
want it. That's fine. We'll just green screen it. That's fine. Yeah, I can imagine the culture shock for you guys as being, you know, regular actors on a hit show. And never having to think about any of that. Like even when you were directing on the show, you still never had to think about that. You were just directing the show. And it's all your family and friends around. You know, you've been with these people forever. You don't think about all that other stuff. Really? I mean, time management. Yeah. But when everything's on your shoulders, I gotta believe that the culture shock must have been what at what moment? Did that hit? You guys? Like, was it day one? When you said on the on day one on the pilot even like, Did you just go? Oh, we're not in Kansas anymore. Like, what was that? I mean, I'm sure someone told you. It's like, it's like having kids. Someone could tell you you're gonna have kids. But it Oh, it's gonna be bad. You're gonna lose sleep until you have a kid you have no idea. It's like writing your face. So when was that moment? Yeah, guys.

James Lafferty 39:21
I think for me, it was when we were at Stephens apartment. And I don't know, this is probably the first time we've ever told the story might get crucified by our producers. But I just think it's too interesting. You know, we had at when we started shooting, we had about two thirds of our budget. And we had a contingency plan in place like we were starting in Stephens apartment. We're gonna shoot all this contained stuff. We knew that we could shoot a version of our season for two thirds of the budget, right? We just have to change a lot once we left Stephens department. And, and we were still waiting to see if financier was going to come on and cover that that final third. And we were getting to the point I was probably like four or five days in when it was really like a breaking point and Michelle laying had become set and like Sydney and Steven down and city and and Ashdown and Jaya Durango or other executive producer. And you know that like that was like the rest of the crew setting up a shot over at Stephens apartment and we are like down the hall and sort of around the corner and like a little outdoor lounge we can see across the gap to Stephens apartment, and it was nighttime. And Michelle is walking us through the fact that we might not get this money and could change a lot. And but everything's gonna be okay. I remember just having like a bit of like an out of body experience where I just sort of like, I just sort of went numb, and I just sort of left like I was sort of seeing the world from behind my eyes. And I was like, Oh, this is it. This is what they talk about.

Alex Ferrari 40:45
This is I'm dying. I'm dying. I'm dying.

James Lafferty 40:47
I don't mean to do much. And it's all on you. And yeah, something either really, really miraculous is going to happen, or this is going to be a horror story. You know what I mean? It's like, this is the moment that it hinges on. And thankfully something miraculous happened in that particular scenario. But that was a real. Yeah, that was a real moment. For me.

Alex Ferrari 41:08
It was it was like, you guys had a coming to Jesus conversation, like come to Jesus conversation is basically the set up is like this guy's Look, it's this is. And I've had, by the way, I've had those conversations with my first ad on projects, or my UPM on early, early early projects are like, Look, man, I know you've got 752 shots you want to do in four hours. I understand that. But this is the reality. You got four shots, let's do this. Yeah, see, we just say, Steve,

Stephen Colletti 41:38
I was gonna say, yeah, I think in I feel like, you know, James Nye, we've had this, like, you know, go get 'em attitude. So it was like, there's nothing that we can't handle, like, we could we will figure it out, you know, we'll figure out how we'll do this. Like, we're just not going to take no for an answer, blah, blah, like, just learn on the fly. That's why I like working with James. Like, he's resourceful. He gets it, he just shuts up and does the work, you know. And, you know, there was definitely times where like, Oh, you know, what we've Southern. So we've taken on too much. It's like, you just can't do this, like this isn't, there are people that have gone to school for this, or have trained to do this for a while. And some of the tasks like we just took for granted, like, for example, locations, like I was doing locations for a while, and then we got closer to shooting. And it was like, I missed a lot of locations that need to be actually locked. And then it was like, Well, those are kind of in the second half. So we'll start shooting, and now we're shooting and there's some locations in the back half that we're still trying to lock I'm trying to we're trying to negotiate like at every single location, it was not taking their you know, their their first offer, letting them know, like telling them the story, you know, we're crowdfunded, we're shoestring budget over here. So like, please, like, you know, what, what can you do to help us out, and it just there was, you know, you're just juggling those, and we actually had in the middle of the shoot to bring somebody on and say, Okay, this person is going to just handle locations, like stop worrying about you tried, you know, you got some good stuff, but like, it's starting to, you know, distract you from other things. So

James Lafferty 43:14
you can be driving from Northridge, down to down to Downey every day. like trying to, like putting the finishing touches on the script. It's just not.

Alex Ferrari 43:23
Yeah, and that's, that's one of the biggest mistake, first time filmmakers in the indie space do is they'd like, Oh, I can do all of this, or I could do this, I could Yeah. And they take so much on that you get nothing done. You have to bring you have to bring in people and you have to have help in one way, shape, or form. And sometimes it's it's educated help. Sometimes it's not educated help, like, you know, you get your, you get your brother, your buddy who wants to be in the business, like let's do location scouts. Sometimes it works out great, sometimes not so much.

James Lafferty 43:52
You know, I think the line is blurred these days as well with, you know, what you can learn and what you can't execute, right? Like you can learn, you can learn a lot like and this is this has been a blessing for us, you know, the fact that technology has come so far, the fact that our access to information is just so exponentially better than it was even 10 years ago, you know, but it also it gives you this false sense of security, it gives you this, you know, false sense of capability, really, I think, you know, we did learn to do a lot. And we did we were especially in post production, right? Once we got into the editing process, we were able to save ourselves a lot of coin just by doing things ourselves and learning to deal with things by ourselves. But the same time, we had to we had to recognize where we had to draw the line where like, you know, okay, we can we can keep banging our head against the wall with this thing that we just learned to do on YouTube three days ago, or we can sort of, you know, reach a point where we realize, Oh, this is what they pay people big bucks for, okay, let's go find somebody who knows what they're doing right before we, you know, you know, carve up our project more than we need to hear, you know, do something, you know, make some sort of fatal mistake, right?

Alex Ferrari 45:00
So you guys didn't shoot your own movie. You weren't a DPS as well.

James Lafferty 45:06
We did not Soderbergh it. Now

Alex Ferrari 45:07
he did. It is.I found out I honestly, within like a couple years ago, I found out that solder Berg was his own dp. And he'd always been his own dp, I had no idea because he changes his name on the credit.

Stephen Colletti 45:19
I didn't know that

Alex Ferrari 45:20
all of his and then you go back and like he did Ocean's 11. And che and I mean, Erin Brockovich, and like, he, he was a toy, you start thinking about it, like, and he was the writer, and he was, like, he's a freak of nature. He's like, an absolute freak of nature to do all of Yeah, very, very few very few guys can do. And trust me, I, my first feature I was the DP on. And mind you, I was already 20 years in. And I have been a colorist for 10 years. So I'm like, you know what, let me just get it down the line, I tried to sit it down the middle, expose it, I'll fix it in post, which is exactly what I did. But after after that, I was like, never again, never, ever, ever again. It's too much, man, it's too, it's too much. It's the takes a special brain to do all of that stuff.

Stephen Colletti 46:08
But I was just gonna say another thing we learned, like real quick was, I think was important to take, being able to understand like a pulse of your set, that I felt like I recognized as I'm sitting around on a set waiting for, you know, to act on certain acts, just the, you know, how, how quickly, like a dynamic can change, it's almost like people are, especially these long days, like people can get, you know, they get edgy, naturally, I totally understand it. And so it doesn't take much to set people off. And so to kind of, you know, be a little more aware of, of, you know, the treatment of people, especially for us, when you know, there's no room to go anywhere, we were crammed in an apartment, and we're crammed in whatever location, you know, all on top of each other that, you know, to try to, you know, respect people for the jobs that they're doing, give the attaboys and, and, you know, also, I guess, still try to provide some decent food because, you know, our, you know, we had them, there's no comfort for them whatsoever, and they're working completely full days. And, you know, I think Michelle Lange was, was key and saying, well, we're gonna, we're going to pay for a decent caterer, you know, we got to get some, we got to get them fed well, but, you know, just trying to just check in with with crew and, and have, like, you know, you create a cold, cordial relationship with everybody. And I think that also helps at the end of the day, when the going gets tough. And people either want to get the f out of there, which I understand or just so sick of like, This lack, like, we're missing a couple of resources, and you're having to wear an extra hat, you're not certainly getting paid for it, but like, you know, what, they're gonna step up because they believe in the people that are running this project. I think that that helped us a lot. And, you know, we also had young, we had a lot of young filmmakers, people that are just getting started in the business. And that was really crucial. Because while they're not getting paid, you know, big money, they're ready to hustle, you know, they're ready to, you know, to be on a set and make a film project, you know, so that was, you know, something that was also very vital to, you know, fill in the blanks of not having a comfortable set that you would get on a major network, you

James Lafferty 48:21
know, did you guys that we learn, oh, sorry, I was. I was just gonna say, um, that's something that we learned from the Nelms brothers as well. Being on set with the knowledge brothers, I learned very early on with them that like, the reason that their sets are so amazing, and people are so happy, it's because they realize that they're not being asked to do anything that the directors wouldn't do themselves, or wouldn't don't have the utmost respect for right? Like, these are guys that these are not directors that go to the directors trailer in between setups, and do whatever the hell they want to do. And they're like, these are guys who are they're on set every single, every single moment. They love the process, they truly love being that, and that is contagious. And that's what gets people through those long days and those long nights is, is knowing that the person at the top still really cares about this and really cares about, you know, really wants everybody else to care. And is is willing to put in the work just like they are. I just yeah, I mean, we learned that from that from them very early on. And just we tried to be those guys on set every day.

Alex Ferrari 49:23
Now, did you guys happen to feed your crew spinning wheels of death? Do you know what those are is that this is an old this is this is the best stuff comes from old DPS. So a buddy of mine who's like he's been in the business 4050 years, and he was DJing something I was directing. And it was a low budget situation. And we talked about lunch, and I said, Hey, do you guys you know, maybe we should just get some pizza. He's like do not bring out spinning wheels of death. Do not bring out just because that's what they're called because it just drags the crew, cheese and bread and it just slows everyone down. He goes, don't do it. Don't do it. And he also, he also always used to say every time he couldn't get something the way he wanted to say, I'm surrounded by assassins surrounded by everywhere I'd look surrounded by assassins, and I use that like constantly on a setlist surrounded by assassins. Goddamnit. But did you? Did you do the pizza thing at one point?

Stephen Colletti 50:20
We actually didn't do pizza.

Alex Ferrari 50:21
Good. That's a good producers

Stephen Colletti 50:24
producers shout out was a Spartan catering. James

James Lafferty 50:28
Spartan brothers. Yeah, but yeah,

Stephen Colletti 50:30
they were they were solid. They had good food. And, you know, we tried to make sure, yeah, you have you other options for, you know, people with with allergies or whatever, and just made sure we're on top of that, or, you know, there was a couple days where they might have forgotten or maybe those first days, you know, working through the kinks that there weren't enough of those meals. It was like, Let's go, you know, let's get this fixed right now, you know. And other than that, we kept them well caffeinated. That's for sure. This This started well, I know myself, but RDP was was a caffeine theme. And so we just made sure we got the Starbucks runs in the coffee going and, you know, thankfully, it was a small enough crew that were like our and this is something that James and I we just handled. We're like, you know what, just take our card and go. Let's get everyone whoever wants something from Starbucks or

Alex Ferrari 51:19
just go Yeah, it's the cheapest is the cheapest investment you can make in this film. I'll tell you a quick story. I come from Miami originally. So in Miami, onsets, there's a little old Cuban man, who's he's hired. It's always a little old Cuban man who walks around but two to three times a day with a tray full of these little thimbles of coffee called Puerto Rico's which is Cuban coffee or little. There's like this big and you look like that can't do anything. And I was just alone. I'm Cuban. So I was raised with this stuff. So I I see, you know, people who are not used to Cuban coffee, like oh, there's just a few of them. That's, that's so little. And they would chug like four or five of them at once. And within 15 minutes to just like she's like freaking freaking out and I like it we and all the all the people who are used to that coffee like let's let's watch let's see what happened to that act. That actor and you just see him just start freaking out like trying to do a scene. So Cuban coffee earlier, I

James Lafferty 52:15
love that. That's that sounds efficient.

Alex Ferrari 52:18
And there's a there's a little way he does it with the sugar and like, he he makes it all foam up. It's a it's an artistry thing. And it's just their little little thimbles man not even shot clock like symbols. That's how powerful and dense the human coffee is. Oh, he makes

Stephen Colletti 52:34
the card the Starbucks runs. And it is I think Starbucks you know, those are sure people that will shit on the coffee naturally, because it's not that great. But there's still a lot of people that are like, it's a desert to that right. A couple people. You get that dialed up for right after lunch? And yeah, you know, it's it's a little gift, that gift goes a long way. Those those anytime that the crew was feeling down, it was like, Alright, let's on the double with the the Starbucks runs in and then when someone would show up with them, you know, everyone perked up. And it was it was

James Lafferty 53:07
it was as much for us as it was. We needed it.

Alex Ferrari 53:11
You got to keep Yeah, you got to keep Yeah, keep the ball rolling. I mean, look, if you don't have money to pay them, the normal day rates, at minimum feed them well. And get them Yes, feed them over coffee. That's I mean, you could you could pay them nothing. Feed them. Well. Yeah, that's at minimum you have to do and that's going to be the best investment you can have in your projects. Without question. Sorry. So you finally get this whole thing together, guys, it's it's finished. It's done. You guys are feeling good about it. And you're like, Okay, now what? How the hell do you go out? How do you get hulu's interest in it? And like, you know, I'm sure you hit walls everywhere you went? Because like, this has never happened. No one's ever done this. How did you do it?

James Lafferty 53:54
Yeah, it was a series of unfortunate events, followed by one very fortunate event. One single very unfortunate event. Well, let's see we, we finished with it took us about eight months to finish the show, in post to you know, get all the episodes to where they needed to be. As we were doing that, we also we got to see, sorry, we got Episode Two across the finish line. And then we took Episode Two out to some of these festivals that had accepted us and you know, our pilot episode. We also use episodes one and two to shop really to take out in this sort of soft way. Right, like to take out some contacts or some you know, in rows that we had made. So we continued that festival circuit. We continue to take it out a bit but again, it was the same thing as with that pilot episode. We still didn't have a sales agent. We are still going to our talent agents to reach development executives. We are still running into walls and we couldn't get anybody to tell us what to do. You know, we there was no That whole side of the industry is so relationship based. And we didn't have the person with the insight or the or the relationships. Or if we could talk to somebody that didn't have the relationships, we had something that they didn't know what to do with. Because there was no template for it. They're like, You brought me a movie. If this was a movie, it would be one thing. There's a million ways you can go. But this is a TV show. And we don't know what to do with this right now. And so we got to I guess we finished the show sometime. And what was it mid mid 2019, Steven, something like that. Or maybe fall 2019, we started really getting to a place where you're happy with the show and felt like it was finished. Yep, yep. Yeah. And we're still taking it out. We finally realized that this whole sales thing is probably not going to happen for us. So we start getting ready to sell distribute, we were going to go through Amazon. We were getting our music finished, we were getting all our contracts in line. We were about two weeks away from hitting from hitting submit to Amazon's platform to

Alex Ferrari 56:07
but so for basically for s VOD, and T VOD, or just

James Lafferty 56:11
for for rentals. First, I think Yeah, to purchase for rented or buy a

Alex Ferrari 56:14
transit and transactional first. So, but you knew that I mean, your budget was,

Stephen Colletti 56:19
I mean, based on the numbers, you're saying your budget was well north of 250. So to generate that in transactional takes obscene amount of work, and luck, and magic from the film gods to make that work. So we're going we're taking that as we're gonna take the show on the road, like that, we're gonna do that. Now, we also got to go to what was successful for us and go fill some theaters, you know, like, tour around, make some stops, and do some parents kind of stuff just to leverage as much interest and bring in some income to try to get back our budget?

James Lafferty 56:56
Yeah, we came up with a pretty good game plan for that, you know, we did the numbers, and it seemed like we could get somewhere close based on you know, we've done fan conventions before for One Tree Hill, we knew that there was a certain amount of a built in audience for everyone is doing great itself anyways, you know, we felt good about our odds, really, we knew that it would be really, really tough. We knew that it would be basically like crowdfunding all over again. Fun, fun. Yeah. Just wanted to get the show out there. And we didn't know any other way to do it. And so yeah, that took us to, I think about january, february of 2020. And then, my brother, who was a producer on the show, as well, his name is Stuart, he just made a random phone call to a friend of his who is a producer who has a relationship with endeavor content. And so my brother sent this producer, our show our first couple episodes, the producer was like, Oh, this is interesting. I don't know. By the time he sent it to endeavor, this agent and endeavor had taken a look, and we were going into lockdown were blocked down wasn't far away. And this agent went, Okay, well, this is, you know, interesting. Like, he really is credit, like he really saw him himself in, in, in these weird ways. When we finally got on the phone to talk to him, he sort of pitched our show back to us in a way that nobody else really had, which was really cool. He seemed to just connect with it on on one level, but then on another level, he was like, you know, we don't know when people are gonna be making stuff again, there's gonna be a real hole in, you know, and buyer schedules, you know, come, you know, quarter three, quarter four, and, and, and this could be a possibility. So, endeavor content took it on. And then there was a list of about 17 different buyers that they were going to go out to with the show. And over the course of what, three or four months, each of those buyers passed, really, really painfully and slowly and slowly, and slowly and slowly and painfully. And yeah, we were worn down to the point where we were pretty much just like, you know, going to the park and laying down and staring at the sky waiting to die.

Alex Ferrari 59:04
Because there was no tour anymore. The tour was shut down. There's no tour. There's none of that stuff. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, man.

James Lafferty 59:11
And then we got the Yeah, we got the call from endeavour that said, Yeah, really wants to make an offer. And that's, that, that changed. That changed literally everything.

Alex Ferrari 59:21
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Wow, so is the same. It was literally the timing right place, right time, right product? Yeah. a year earlier. Maybe not so much. A year later, maybe not so much. But that moment in time, was the time and similar to my film, like at that moment in time, it worked like they would never buy a film like that today. So it just happened to be the right timing, man, that's, you know what, like, like I always say to people, look, luck has a bit to do with this whole thing that we do, there is luck. But the thing is, if you hadn't built that product, all the luck, and we're really willing to help you, you needed something to sell. So it just happened to work out.

Stephen Colletti 1:00:12
It's kind of like it's a create your own luck scenario, you know? And there's no, you everyone's looking for like the recipe, right? How do you do it? So how did you get your independent show to Hulu? Right, tell us the secret. And, but ultimately, there was a lot of hard work that then fell on chance, you know, and fell on a right place, right time opportunity, which you do hear all the time. I think that the way you get the hair at the end of the day, is, you know, you pay your dues, you work hard, you get, you know, you're trying to you're bringing people in to you bring in smart people around you keep you motivated, keep you pushing where, you know, you're overextending yourself. And I think that's when invites the opportunity for for maybe that luck to strike, you know, and it's no guarantee, but this is also what we sign up for. But, you know, had we tried to do these buyer screenings that didn't work well, had we tried to shake down our reps for months, slash years to, you know, get it to the right people, and never feel like we got the right shot. You know, have we not done all of that? Would we have gotten to this gotten to this moment of right place? right time? You know, I don't think so. It just, you know, there was no shortcuts. So, you know, you can you can help your fate, I think I'd like to I'd like to believe you know, I believe,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:33
no, there's, there's no, there's no question about it, man. There's absolutely no question. So when does this so you basically sold Hulu for domestic only. So this still has an international opportunity as well for sales.

James Lafferty 1:01:45
We're going to be in Australia, in the Nordics. And in Latin America courtesy of paramount plus, and their rollout overseas. Which is, which is really, really incredible. And another one of those another one of those things, it's like, you know, man, it's just, it's just, it's crazy, because, you know, we didn't get Hulu, then our show is never legitimized enough to get on, you know, Paramount plus for overseas, you know what I mean? It's like this domino effect of, of things of things happening. And, you know, obviously, it shows the power of getting on to, you know, a streamer like that. But we're just really grateful that we're going to get a reaction from other cultures as well, because, you know, we've seen to have gotten a really good feedback from our domestic audience. People are still finding the show, most people seem to like it. But you know, comedy is hard. When you take it when you export it, cultures find different things funny. We were actually really inspired by some Australian comedy, and Australian stories, storytelling in general British storytelling, so we feel like it will export nicely there, we hope. But we know non English speaking countries, it's really impossible for us to tell. And so yeah, we're kind of waiting on pins and needles to see how it does. And it's gonna be really exciting. We got a call from endeavour actually asking if we wanted to, if we wanted to have a say, in the voices for the Latin American market and the Portuguese market for dubbing and we both were like, I think we could be hands off with this. Yes, this is the one we're comfortable delegating.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:20
If I keep up I would.

James Lafferty 1:03:24
I gotta brush up on my Portuguese, right? No,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:28
no, dude, I used to do I used to do translation not translations, but versioning out for commercials from Latin America. I had to do 30 different versions because every country has their own Spanish. So you you can't you can't send you can't send a Puerto Rican vo guy to Mexico you can't send a Mexican guy to Argentina there's such a different and accents. And that's when I discovered that you just can't it's not one spouse can't send a Spaniard down to Mexico like it doesn't it doesn't translate well doesn't get accepted well, so that that that that's going to be a process for you guys down there. whoever's doing that with you as hands off of that it's going to be an interesting

James Lafferty 1:04:08
You're making me very glad that we said no state

Alex Ferrari 1:04:11
stay away. Stay out of it. Stay out of that, dude, just collect the checks or just take the check a gadget. That's great, man. Listen, it's in this is an inspiring story. I know that there's a lot of actors out there who you know, have maybe been on shows or has a following and are frustrated just like you guys were with, you know, having to go and hustle out jobs and asking for permission constantly. And I'm not saying you're still not doing that, obviously, because not the ages will get very upset. So you're still going out on jobs and stuff, but at least you have a little bit more, a little bit more control of your own destiny, where you're like, you know, we have a track record now. Now we can go out and do it on maybe a movie or or another series and maybe get hired to do be on that side of the fence and now you're building a different level of your career. Um, you know, what, what advice would you give any actors listening out there right now, because I know I have a few actors who listen, as well about trying to do something similar to what you guys are doing.

James Lafferty 1:05:13
Yeah, I think I think, you know, one thing that was easy to forget, the more serious the process got for us was that we started this thing as an experiment, a creative experiment, and we agree with each other that, you know, if that pilot episode sucked, then nobody would ever see it. And that would be okay. You know, we only spent as much money as we were comfortable losing on that pilot. And we went at it experimentally. And I think that gave us the freedom to be creative, as creative as we could possibly be to be uninhibited, and you know, and being creative. And it really helped us to just enjoy the process. And that was, that was extremely important in finding the tone of this thing, and determining what it really was, you know, and shooting it. And also, you know, getting in there and edit and making sure that we just had the time, and we were giving ourselves, we were giving ourselves the luxury of time to learn and taking the pressure off, right, as much as humanly possible. At least with that, that first episode. And I would say for you know, that's the advice that I would give to an actor that's going to go out and make their their first movie is like, Look, you won't get this right the very first time it, you might get it right, but you won't get it as right as you could, because you will be learning every step of the way. And that's okay, that doesn't actually mean that it won't be brilliant, like, it could be incredible, but you're going to see the mistakes in it, you know, the finished product, you will see the mistakes. And so don't worry about getting it exactly right all the way through, worry about setting out to tell the story that you want to tell. And by the end of it, you know, hopefully you will, you will have told it, I think you know, know the story that you want to tell. And also make the kind of thing that you would want to watch. And that's all you got to worry, that's all you got to worry about the first time around, you know, surround yourself with people that can worry about the other stuff for you and treat them with respect and pay them well if you can. But at the end, at the end of the day, just just try to make, just try to make the show or the movie that you would want to watch and, and see what happens. And you know, if you make mistakes, that's okay, you will learn from those mistakes, and you'll get you'll you'll get it right the next time.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:29
Have you seen? Yeah, I

Stephen Colletti 1:07:31
would, I would say, you know, check your ego at the door from the jump, you know, it's it's not, you're not the star of the show here, I think anybody can come on, and work for hopefully a decent meal. And that Starbucks coffee after lunch is now the star for you, you know, it's it's, I think getting those people around you that that are going to be able to, you know, help push you with this project, help get it to its finish line, and have it you know, the quality in a way. You know, I think that creating those relationships and supporting them wherever they need support is is very vital. So you know, this isn't about just work on your project here. You know, you offer your ass up to carry gear for them on another project or whatever it is, you know, I do that and get that experience in and create those relationships because this is not something we're not Steven Soderbergh over here. You're not going to be able to do everything on your own. You need a lot of help. And and so you know, people are going to work with people that they you know, believe in and that they enjoy working with, especially when the going gets tough, you know? So,

James Lafferty 1:08:41
yeah, you have a really good script supervisor. You're gonna be in front of in front of him behind the camera. As a really good script supervisor,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:51
a good a good first ad doesn't hurt either.

James Lafferty 1:08:54
Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:55
Yeah, definitely doesn't really yeah, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions. I asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

James Lafferty 1:09:07
True? Get off your button, do it? That was that was one that took me the longest to learn. Definitely, really? Yeah, definitely. I mean, coming from, look, as an actor, you are very single minded when you get to set your and that's the way it should be like you were there to take care of your job. And, and be present for the other people that are in the scene with you. You know, I worked in I worked as a director and television as well, which was incredible, which was one of the most like animating and eye opening things that ever happened to me because that's where I realized just how much of an ecosystem every single set is right? And how much every little component depends on the next one. That was a big eye opener for me, and it was a whole level a whole other level of working hard and and it was something that I enjoyed, but still You have that safety net, still there is a machine working to help you get everything done. You are not pulling the thing along, you are more of a facilitator. Right. But yeah, it wasn't until, you know, working with the Nelms brothers and Michelle Lange and Johnny Durango on their sets, that's when I realized the power. And the gratification that can come from just getting off your butt and doing something, you know, yourself pulling something yourself, together yourself how much you can learn how good you can get at what you want to do. You know, you want to tell stories, the best way to you want to tell stories this way, I think the best way to become a master at it is to is to, you know, try to pull something together yourself. That's what they they taught me. And it took me a while It took me a while to learn that I didn't meet me till I was like 25

Alex Ferrari 1:10:51
How about easy?

Stephen Colletti 1:10:53
Oh, man. There's a few things I figured out I'm still getting.But I thinkman,it's funny. Like, I do believe that. It's tricky that, like, once sustaining your own lane is is an important thing to know, like what you can't do. But the same time with this spirit, this project, it was like tried to do is figure out as much as possible. But I think that there was I still need to understand, like, knowing my, my boundaries, and and once I know what when I know what those are, like, just don't try to pretend like you know, anything else, you know, we're no further trying to, you know, take on something that you're like a wall, just figure it out. You know, I think it's okay to to seek out help or admit that you just don't know how to do something, you know, the sometimes we're fearful of, you know, feeling inept, at whatever, you know, at being able to finish a job. And so you know, you try to overextend yourself or try to say you got it, but, you know, and ultimately don't now you've set things back. So I think it's, it's understanding, you know, my boundaries, and I feel like I'm still, I'm still trying to figure that out. You know, like, you know, I can't say that I can do this when when I can't or you know, I'm just not everything I could figure out on my own. Right. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:18
and, and the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Stephen Colletti 1:12:23
Oh, gosh.

James Lafferty 1:12:25
Alex, I listened to your podcast and prepared myself. Because I never had the answer to this. You say? Thanks for the heads up. Yeah, I planned. I planned it this way. at Ferris Bueller's Day Off Nice, nice. And Silver Linings Playbook. Nice because I I feel like I learned something from each one of those films at the time in my life that I watched it. So it was like, you know, when I was a tadpole, and then when I was like, you know, pubescent and then as an adult? So there's something for me in each one of those stages. So God beat that, Stephen.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:06
Wow. Well, he just left it dangling in the wind there, brother. I'm sorry about that.

Stephen Colletti 1:13:10
I'm just gonna say. But we had, we had like, three VHS tapes in my house growing up. And one was like somebody had left a Blockbuster Video, which was predator over at our house,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:27
obviously one of the greatest action films of all time.

Stephen Colletti 1:13:31
And Forrest Gump, which I thought like, the scope of that movie was always something that just like stuck in my mind. And the way Yeah, the way the story is told the way we go throughout all these different parts of history, and that sat with me I think, of late. Well, obviously not of late, but it was actually James little brother introduced me to True Romance.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:56
Oh,

Stephen Colletti 1:13:58
by Tony Scott. And that is a that is a favorite of mine. Dude,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:03
I remember walking out because I'm a bit older than you guys. So I remember walking out of the theater, watching True Romance. And me and my friends just looked at each other, like what the hell was that? Like, we were just so shock.

Stephen Colletti 1:14:18
That's another movie that another feeling that I had there. I'll give you two other movies that for me going to the movies with like the experiences about kernel activity when that movie, like just the reaction in the theater was amazing. And then also, Interstellar was another one which was amazing going into the bathroom afterwards and just getting everyone's reaction just like oh, wow, like that was like it's that when it's kind of hard to step back and society. It's not just the glare of being back in the sunlight. It's like whoa, like where did I just got

Alex Ferrari 1:14:53
I missed that I missed do I miss going to the theaters man I miss go in and get all that experience. I just saw a picture of Nolan in Burbank, oh, yeah, is going going to that's the theater I go to. That's exactly that's the exact theater I go to. He's just sitting there with his wife and his friend just like that. We're gonna watch. I think it was watching the Snider cut there. I'm not sure what he was watching, but he was watching something there.

Stephen Colletti 1:15:15
I was honestly trying to Google that as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
I think he was watching. I think he was watching. I think it was Justice League the four hour cut of that at the theater. It's Yeah, man. No one is me. Jesus, there's only one of him running around right now. That's for sure. Listen, guys, thank you so much for for being on the show and being an inspiration to a lot of people out there hopefully, listening and maybe they'll pick up their, their, their, their, their chariot to take it to the finish line, and try to get something done. So I appreciate that man. And good luck to you guys. Keep going. I can't wait to see what else you guys do next.

James Lafferty 1:15:51
Thanks so much, man. Yeah, I appreciate appreciate your podcast too. Great work.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:55
Thank you, Man.

Stephen Colletti 1:15:55
Thank you, man. Keep hustling.

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BPS 250: Inside Action Film & TV Directing with the Legendary John Badham

Today on the show, we welcome back returning champion, the legendary director John Badham. If you didn’t already know, John has directed some of the most iconic films in history. From the decade-defining Saturday Night Fever to 80’s hits like War Games, Short Circuit, Stakeout to 90’s action classics like Bird on a Wire, Point of No Return, Nick of Time, and Drop Zone.

John’s second edition of his second book continues with more stories from filmmakers and actors working in TV, movies, and streaming content.

John Badham on Directing also includes sections detailing methods for working with action and suspense, hallmarks of Badham’s Filmography, as well as a 12-step “Director’s Checklist” for comprehensively analyzing any scene and how best to approach it with your actors.

Sit down and get ready to take a TON of notes on this epic conversation with John Badham.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 2:20
I like to welcome back to the show returning champion, John Badham, how you doing, John?

John Badham 3:45
Okay, I could be like Rocky. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 3:53
Last time you were on the show, the tribe really loved our interview. You know, we went deep into your history and how you got into the business and down your filmography a bit so can you for people who didn't listen to that first one, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? And I mean, you've you've been around the business a few years. So if you could just kind of talk a little bit about what you've done, and and who you are.

John Badham 4:17
Okay, all right. Well, I, I came out here in the middle 60s, into Los Angeles, from I was an escapee from the Yale drama school. And people said, what do you what do you have you directed? I'd say theater and they'd say, get out? Nobody, nobody liked the idea of theater. What's that? That's for weirdos. And so my first job was in the mailroom at Universal and delivering mail with my two degrees from Yale. There I was, but then everybody else in the mailroom was in the same boat. And the thought of you know, becoming a director at that point was just kind of ridiculous. Like, you're down at the bottom of the food chain, lower than whale poop. And, and you're, you're gonna be a director. Oh, lot's of luck. But, you know, I spent some time as a casting director at Universal later eventually train me for that. And then got involved with some producers who let me start directing and television that universal. And then my first movie was with James Earl Jones and Billy Dee Williams, and Richard Pryor called bingo long traveling all stars, which was about a negro baseball team back in the 1930s, when the black people, you know, could not play with white teams, and vice versa. But they could if they were barnstorming around the country. So that was kind of the history of that of those teams were the players were so fabulous. They were much better than the white players. But nobody knew it. That that movie actually in a, in a weird way. Got me Saturday Night Fever, which was, which was the next movie that I was able to do and and that tells its own story.

Alex Ferrari 6:20
We went in deep into how that entire phenomenon happened back in the day.

John Badham 6:27
So I was lucky to get to, you know, to make a lot of really good movies like wargames and blue thunder and short circuit, but a lot of people say they grew up with short circuit. Oh, is number five. How is Johnny five?

Alex Ferrari 6:44
Oh, my God, short circuit? Are you kidding me? When I such I was in? Fifth, if I remember correctly, is 8586 if I'm not mistaken around that time, right? That's right. So I was in fifth grade. So I was, I don't know, 10 910 years old, 1011 years old, something like that. And when I saw short circuit, it, my whole world changed. I was just like, I thought it was the coolest movie I've ever seen. I was so enthralled with Johnny, Johnny five. It was just so so so wonderful. And yeah, I mean, I grew up, you know, obviously, you've heard this 1000 times, I grew up on your films, point in our return drop zone, nick of time, or game Saturday Night Fever. I mean, I grew up watching a lot of the films, and it's so funny that your career started in television, then went into features, and then you've kind of gone back to television, and had and kind of been playing in that in that ballpark for a while.

John Badham 7:37
That's right. And and the business has been changing non stop ever since I started in the mailroom. You know, it's changed a bit, it's just so different in so many ways, you know, take hours to go through all the stuff as we change from film to digital in the studio system disappeared. And, you know, so many things now streaming has become such a big part of our lives. So that the difference between film and television has vanished. I mean, it's not there anymore. And in the middle of this terrible pandemic that we have, you know, the movie business has almost completely vanished and it shows up now in places we never thought like, our iPhone, we can we can stream the latest release of something.

Alex Ferrari 8:28
It's pretty, it's pretty insane how, you know, production is halted. And we could talk a little bit about like, just, I know, everyone's talking about trying to get back to work here in Hollywood. And there's, you know, there's TV shows waiting, and there's movies waiting and everything's everybody's waiting, but at the end of the day, nobody really knows how to really do it. And, and it's, there's so much like, like, right now as as we're recording this, we're still kind of in that first wave of the of the virus. And now it's starting to come back. And we're a few days away from July 4. So now everything's shutting down where things were opening up or shutting down. So I think in Hollywood was like, oh, we're gonna open back up well, now I don't know and what's going to happen, there's just so much uncertainty. And there is no blockbuster season. Like this is the first summer without blockbusters in the movie theaters since 1975. When they were invented by Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas.

John Badham 8:29
Let's try it since since jaws and Star Wars Yeah, they've they've gone away. There's gonna be a hell of an avalanche of blockbusters and all this is over

Alex Ferrari 9:37
I mean, I don't know everyone says it's coming out in the in the in the winter I'm like, but there's only so many slots. So many weekends you can put out it because they've pushed everything from the summer over the movies that are finished and done, are sitting on the shelf plus whatever was imposed that was going to go into this to the winter releases. So I you know, I know I've heard a few of them are just holding off till next summer. Not really Big ones, but some other smaller studio fair is waiting till next summer or it's that or lose or lose it. So it's like, okay, we could keep it and hold on to it on the books for for a year or we could release it and maybe lose our shirts. Yeah, so it's it's a crazy world.

John Badham 10:20
It's interesting that though the Disney movie about trolls

Alex Ferrari 10:24
Universal, yeah.

John Badham 10:26
Was that was universal? Ok, that's a universal troll. So okay, you're, I mean, apparently that did fabulously people were so desperate for something to watch

Alex Ferrari 10:38
But it's interesting. They bought it. Yeah, they paid 20 bucks a pop for it. It's streaming. But the difference is not trolls. It was at the moment it hit it was a family film. It was, you know, cost about 90 to $100 million. And they made about $100 million, plus whatever they're making now. It's a perfect kind of storm film. But I like to see that with a Marvel film. I'd like to see that with the next James Bond. I'd like to see that with, you know, Wonder Woman. Like let's these big 200 million plus dollar films. I'm curious to see what it does. I think there is potential for that world. I do think that look, if mike tyson fights back in the day, we're pulling three $400 million in in a night from pay per view. There is a potential for that, too, you know, for the next big Marvel, like imagine Avengers. If Avengers came out right now, at $20 a pop, I promise you that movie would probably make 150 $200 million this weekend. I just right? I think it would be it would be interesting. It will be the whole world is changing so rapidly. Nobody knows what's going on. It's such a unique place in in time, specifically for our industry. And you've been in our industry for a few a few a few years now. So you've seen things.

John Badham 11:57
Absolutely, absolutely seeing things change. But you got to keep up. I mean, you can't let you can't let things get ahead of you, or there's just no way of catching up.

Alex Ferrari 12:06
Yeah, and one thing I love about watching your career is that you have kept up you are working on, you know, really, as of as of this year, you've been working on television shows and you know, very, very hip and happening kind of fair out there. It's amazing to watch how you are continuingly you're an inspiration to all directors out there that you are you keep going and you keep making great work. You know, after these years, it's it's really an inspiration to watch you.

John Badham 12:41
Well, it's fun doing it. That's the that's the good part. If, if it can be fun doing it, then you're inspired to do more of it. I mean, just working on this show, ABC Family show called siren. You know, we're learning so much about how to do underwater photography and transforming normal human beings into mermaids and mermen. And having it absolutely believable, it doesn't look like they put on some dumb suit. You know, it's completely believable. And you think this is a miracle? We could we couldn't have even thought about doing this, like five years ago, or 10 years ago. And and it's so marvelous to see. You know, if we can imagine it, we can do it nowadays, which is quite quite something.

Alex Ferrari 13:32
Would you agree that that the the you already said that the line between television and films are starting to blur a bit. But I'm noticing just from my point of view that the technology that's happening in television right now is so exciting, specifically like in the Mandalorian, with the volume and all the things that they're doing, they're starting to create very high end looks and budget, look, you know, a production value at a very low cost. And I think that as this whole industry starts to shift as we are shifting right now, the $250 million plus film, you know, might become a little bit more extinct because it's just the financially with like, right now we have no movie theaters. So is there a business model that makes sense for $250 million plus film without a theatrical release? As we start shifting more towards streaming and moving towards that world? I feel that a lot of filmmaking is theirs. They're taking from television now as opposed to television taken from filmmaking, as far as Scott as far as cost is concerned, and quality, correct?

John Badham 14:38
Yeah, well, I mean, the Mandalorian is just like another almost quantum leap forward. It was strangely with history, way, going way back to the very beginning of film, where rear projection was was the standard of doing things, you know, and then it became outmoded and turned into blue screen, then sodium Green and green screen and all these different screens. But now there we are right back, because they invent these giant LED screens. So you get what you're seeing is what you get, you know, you, you have this marvelous stuff, and you probably don't have to move the camera around very much at all, because you just keep moving the background, changing, changing things around.

Alex Ferrari 15:25
And what I saw from the there's a behind the scenes series on Disney plus explaining the technology is now with the camera talks to the background. So as the camera moves in, in real space, the perspective changes only in the view of the camera. So you can see if you're just standing behind watching this whole thing, you just see the focus change, you see the perspective change. So it's like you're on a real location. It's it's mind blowing. It really is.

John Badham 15:52
Right? Absolutely. That's it. So YouTube video, isn't it that explains all of that.

Alex Ferrari 15:59
There's a couple, there's a couple. Yeah, there's a couple of that. And then there's a series on Disney plus, that explains the entire making of the Mandalorian as well. Right, which is which is wonderful. But So today, I wanted to talk about acting and dealing with actors and how you direct actors, because you have obviously such an experience with it. What are the major differences between directing actors? And specifically, but in general, direct and television streaming versus feature films? There's no difference. Okay, next question.

John Badham 16:31
There's no different, there's no difference you have, you have the same problems. In both in both places, you've got all kinds of stories, you know, there's no single kind of story in either field. And actors are coming in. And acting, directing actors 101, the first thing that you have to do with them in wherever is to make them feel comfortable, and make them feel relaxed. So many of our directors don't know how to do that. They they're so focused on the camera angles, the lighting, you know, the shooting, that they don't take the time to get, you know, this delicate, you know, nervous actor who's coming in baring his guts in front of everybody and needing to know that they've got somebody there that's got their back there front, you know, is there supporting him, you're the coach. And, and you're there for you're there for them. So that's, that's the very first thing that you have to do. And that's going to apply, wherever. I mean, I teach all of my, all of my students that the first thing they do when they get to the set in the morning, is they find the actor wherever they are, and talk to them about that day's work. Not something that takes very long at all is easy to do. But there's that actor sitting in the makeup chair or something just fretting and nervous about what today's scene is going to be like, especially the poor day players and the people who are there for just a short while. I mean, they need the most help at all. The guys who are the leads in the show, they're, they're pretty suave and savvy, and they know what's going on. But they still need direction, they still, you know, they still look at you at the end of tapes and go, how was it? How was it? When they look over and they see you just talking to the camera man, or the boom operator? Or the IT technician? They think well, he doesn't give a damn about us. And, and, and they, you know, they lose confidence and the morale goes down. So this is a huge part of it. It's it's, you know, it's like chapter one in the directing book. No, so people say oh, yeah, that's easy. That's easy. And then they forget and just don't do it. Just start talking to the camera or cool oh, and with.

Alex Ferrari 19:07
Right,

John Badham 19:07
There is no such thing as a five millimeter lens. Yeah, but what if there were?

Alex Ferrari 19:13
Exactly? Well, then what so what is that first conversation with an actor about his or her character look like? What what? How does that go when you are approaching? Not in television, but let's say in a feature film experience process. You're walking up to the actor for the first time talking to them about their character. How does that conversation go?

John Badham 19:32
How do you how do you see this guy? What do you what do you think about this character? And tell me about him. Oh, that's interesting. Now just for a moment, imagine that some god awful idea is coming out of the actor's mouth. Usually not they've they're bright. They're smart. You cast them, right? They're not going to come out and tell you crazy things though. Marlon Brando used to do it just to screw with you.

Alex Ferrari 19:59
Did you ever get a chance to

John Badham 20:00
Did you ever get a chance to work with Marlon Brando but my, my good friend Richard Donner no directed in the Superman. Yeah, sure. And john Frankenheimer, john Frank and I were got to direct him in the Island of Dr. Moreau. So I heard some, some stories and, and he just likes to mess with people just to see if the director knew anything, or just to entertain himself, you know, just get bored sitting around sets, being you know, one of the greatest actors in the world and being asked to do crap. So he just likes to mess with the directors. But, but if the actors coming to you, and and the idea that they're, they're putting forward is just awful. The, the way to come back to them is to say, not, that's a terrible idea, or that's not what we're going to do, it's to say, wow, I never thought of it that way. Tell me more. I want to hear more about this stuff. And you know, that the actors has spent some time thinking about their character and what they have, let them get a chance to get it out, let them get it out. If you don't let them get it out of their system, it's going to be in there just causing trouble. And, and whereas, once you know, you share ideas, and this goes down to even discussing how the scene is going to be blocked. You know, and how this moment is going to be, you know, you're you're always listening, you have to train your your listening genes, to, to be paying attention and not to be selling your own ideas. As much as giving the actor a chance to kind of catch up with you, and see what they've been thinking about. Because, gosh, guess what, they might actually have a good idea. And if they don't have a good idea, if they have a terrible idea, you can usually start to work around it. If you ignore it, it'll just come back and bite you. So, you know, bonding with your actors making a good relationship with them right off the bat. And and so on. Because so many so many actors just don't trust directors at all. They they've they've been met manhandled and ignored and directors are afraid of the hide in video village you know behind behind a bunch of displays and have the headphones on which never come off and and I've learned for Sidney Lumet you know who's who says in his book, after every take, after every take, I run over to every single actor in the in the take in the scene and give them you know, a little bit of a note or pat on the back, you know, a wink just something real quickly. He says we never lose any time. I should my movies in 30 days, you know, so it can't take any time to do it. But it definitely you know, lets the actor know that you're you're thinking about them you're watching them you know you're encouraging them and makes a big difference. You know, when I read that I said, Oh my God, that's going to take so much time but what the hell is it Sidney Lumet I should be listening right? I can try this this is a this is not Hi my uncle shorts this the crap director. So I started doing I going you know, this only takes a few seconds. This is really easy. And the actors really appreciate it. They appreciate it when you listen to them and take advantage of their process and and not be afraid of them.

Alex Ferrari 24:00
Very so. Let me ask you so in your career, you have worked with a couple of movie stars over the course of the of your career so how do you direct a Johnny Depp? Or you know a Wesley Snipes at the height of his career or you know, the are these you know, Christopher Walken, like how do you how do you direct movie stars like that?

John Badham 24:24
Well, you've got to sit and and have conversations with them Sydney Pollack. Talk to me about how he rehearses with with Redford or Streisand are so many of the stars that you know pitino and how does he work with them? And it's to spend, he says, I'll get you know, Redford up to my place for a weekend and we'll just sit and hang out and sort of talk about the character and so on. I don't necessarily get them together with the other actors, because I like that freshness of them. confronting each other, they're trained and so on. They're pretty good at it. But you know, I get there, I get their thoughts, I get us on the same page, I don't want to get to the set and find out that we see the character totally differently. Now, if we're on the same page for that, I'm, I'm just trying to help them maximize what they're doing. And give them give them encouragement and give them the room to play. That's really important. You know, we remember that we call actors players. And there's a good reason for that, you know, they need to be in a relaxed, playful state. And Anne Bancroft said to me, you know, what I like coming to the set here is nobody yells at me, before I've had a chance to show what I can do.

Alex Ferrari 25:56
And do I do recommend letting the the actor is general, not movie star and all that. But do you let them do you recommend just letting them go for a take or two, and see where they come up with? Because I found personally in my career that when I do that, I find there's magic there. And sometimes, and sometimes they go off off the rails, and that's where you're, but you pull them back in? But generally speaking, do you recommend letting them go for a bit and then honing them down to where you might want them?

John Badham 26:24
Absolute? Absolutely. I mean, when I'm staging, they, I get so much of their input coming back, I may say to somebody, okay, well come in from that door over there, and walk over to the desk, but that's all I'm gonna tell them. I mean, let them figure the rest out. Because so much of it is I'm relying on their instinct, as actors, and I have a plan in my back pocket. If everybody came in trunk hung over, you know, brain dead, I could block that scene, no problem. But I wouldn't get the advantage of their feedback. But so, so I come in, totally prepared, and also prepared to totally forget everything I prepared. And being willing to just say, That's okay, though, a better idea came up. It's alright. But if nobody's has an idea, I've thought through it enough so that I'm not blindsided. And the same goes for now, once they're performing the scene, and they're doing, they're doing the takes, let them go, let's see where they're going. Or if you didn't get a chance to do that, and then they were tied down to a certain way of doing it, you can absolutely freshen the scene up by saying, dude, completely the opposite. This is, you know, play this is a comedy instead of, instead of a tragedy, let's let's shake the scene up here, you know, or do something completely different that you'd like to do. You know, that we can't, I'll say there's no way we can screw this up, because we've got some good takes here. And, you know, so it's, it's not going to hurt if you can try anything that you like. And and sometimes, they say, Oh, great. Thank you so much. And it comes out exactly the same. But that's okay. They appreciate. That's true. They appreciate it, you know? Oh, was that better? Oh, yeah. Right. It was really good. Oh, so much better.

Alex Ferrari 28:31
So much. Better. Man. I'm glad we did that. Okay, let's move it on. Let's move on to the next setup.

John Badham 28:40
Don't don't publish what we just said here that we let the secret out of the bag. actors are gonna be pissed off forever. I know. I couldn't trust that son of a bitch.

Alex Ferrari 28:49
But you know what, I'll tell you what, what I when I'm editing. A lot of times, I just have clients behind me. And when I'm editing a movie and the like, Can you can you move it over for like five frames here if 10 frames there? And I'm like, sure. And I wouldn't do it. And I would play it back again, then like, Is that better? Like, Oh, yes. So much better? I'm like, I know. I know. All better to trick.

John Badham 29:09
Right. Right. Absolutely. One of the one of the best tricks ever.

Alex Ferrari 29:15
Now, um, how do you? How do you? How do why do directors get tested by the actors? Because a lot of times, depending on where the actor is emotionally, especially if they don't know you, you haven't built that relationship, build that relationship up. They'll test you like Mr. Brando. But that's an extreme case. But a lot of times I found in my career as well that actors will test you to see if you know what you're doing. What's your experience with that? And how do you deal with that?

John Badham 29:49
Well, hopefully, hopefully, you know enough about the script and the scenes that you're doing. That that you can be conversant with that, what you don't want that to happen is having them ask you questions that you don't know the answers to, because you haven't prepared and you're faking it all the way through and, and they're looking for somebody they can lean on and trust, who's going to give them a little feedback, you know, was that good, and has some sense of taste. So they're, they're constantly watching that, and I'm talking about more experienced actors, the beginning, actors tend to be much more malleable, because they don't know quite enough, and they don't know who to trust, but the experienced, experienced ones are going, my gonna pay any attention to this guy, or am I just gonna, I'm just gonna hang in there and do it, do it by myself. And, and that you don't, you don't know until you get involved with, with the actor and just see how they're how they're responding to you. And how you can can be helpful. Especially in television, you know, you cannot go and tell one of the leading actors, about their character they know about their character better than you'll ever know about their character, once you can tell them is, you know, here's, here's a slightly different way to approach this scene. Let's, let's, let's try to make your objective to, to sell the other character to persuade the other character, that you you want them to do something in particular, as opposed to the way you're doing it now, so you give them different verbs. And active verbs is one of the the real good tricks that you have to learn that an actor will say give me a verb give me a better verb sell, persuade is not working, how about seduce seduce? I can do Seuss. Okay, let me have it.

Alex Ferrari 31:58
Yes, I find that to be an issue with a lot of first time directors or younger directors or inexperienced directors where you're at, you write that a lot of times, they'll they'll try to like either, God forbid, give them a line reading, or like, try to be on the nose with kind of, like, try to like micromanage the performance. And that's very difficult for an actor to do. Whereas if you just say, instead of saying, okay, I want you to do this, and then I want you to do this with your words. And that way, you can't do that with an actor from my point of view. But you but what you just said is brilliant, just like, I want you to seduce him, or I want you to to seduce her in the way you're talking. And that changes the dynamic of the entire scene for the actor and for the scene in general. If Would you agree?

John Badham 32:47
Oh, yeah, yeah, I mean, what you're what you're trying to avoid, is what we call result directing. Yes. You're here, I want you to be better. I want you to be faster or funnier. All those god awful things? Or how about this one? Okay, let's do this with a lot of energy and give it a lot of heart. This guy doesn't know what the craps going on here. He doesn't have a clue. But you know, you give them a good verb, and they're going great, I can play that that'll be fun to play. That's another thing that you're looking for giving them goals that are fun to play, you know, that are interesting that way, but you don't want to be giving them result directions. Or, faster, funnier. Those kinds of those kinds of things. Mr. mismatch, you cry, can't you cry in the scene about buffering.

Alex Ferrari 33:47
I remember seeing a behind the scenes documentary of Star Wars where Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, they all said there was only two directions that George Lucas gave faster and more intense. Those are the only two things he said. Were their performances faster, more intense,

John Badham 34:07
Yeah, they said so you realize, okay, I guess we're pretty much in charge of ourselves here. Exactly. But he's and actors like that actors like Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, you know, are so good and so experienced that they can internalize those directions, and now give you something organic, you know, they're not just mechanically becoming a robotic of going faster, or speaking louder, or harder. I'm more intent says how's this, you know, which is totally on our on our granik and reads as fake?

Alex Ferrari 34:43
Right. And that's where those bad performances come in. Now, how do you give constructive notes on a performance, which I always find is kind of like a tightrope because you want to give them a direct, you don't want to walk up to the actor and go, that sucked. This is really how you really should go about it. Like how do you approach That conversation if they're completely off the reservation where you want them to go,

John Badham 35:05
You know what going up to them and trying an idea of where you'd like them to go. selling it as a pitch is always gonna is always going to work and you go up to a, to an actor and and you say, you know, it's interesting, you're trying to you know, I felt you're trying to persuade him here. But But what would it What would it be like if you're we're trying to seduce him? What would that be like? So, so notice I have not said when you tried that persuading stuff, it sucked. What I said was, what would happen if we tried it this way? How would it be if we did, you know, if, if we what would happen if you grab hold of her in the middle of the scene and just kiss her? You know, find find a moment that that might work? What would you would that work? You think? And the actor did? Yeah, yeah. Let me try it. Let me try it. So so we're not necessarily criticizing because that's not our business. Our businesses, were there playing with stuff, we're trying different things. And, and we're trying not to be judgmental about it. Because, you know, actors, no matter how tough they may act, they, you know, they're very sensitive people. And, and you don't want to be bullshitting them. So you're saying, okay, we're here. We're here in the playground, we're playing let's try it this way. What what would happen if, and and notice again, I'm not giving orders. I'm asking questions.

Alex Ferrari 36:49
That's great advice. That's really, really great advice. Which leads me to my next question, how do you relax a nervous actor? Because a nervous actors is like having a skittish cat on set. You need to relax them. How do you relax them?

John Badham 37:08
Boy, that's, that's tough. I think. I think sometimes, if you've got a slightly got a little bit of time, you know, to take a break and say, Hey, come on over with me over the craft service. You want you want some coffee? Or you know, you feel like some you know, a coke or something, and go over and just be talking to them about everything but the scene talking about how is your morning? You know, how did you how'd you get along? I heard you guys got a new dog. You know, I how's that going as the house trained yet? Isn't that the bitch when they poop all over your? No, your shoes in the dining room, you're having dinner. So you talk about everything except the scene. And first of all, it kind of helps them see that you're not freaking out about about it. Yeah, you have a chance I've taken actors out. And, you know, let's walk around the soundstage here, go outside, and, you know, take a take a breath of fresh air, and let's not talk about the scene. Let's go back in, you know, it takes a bit for them to relax to get all that stress out because it's building up like crazy inside. And if they're frustrated about what they're doing. I mean, you can you can always go up to the actor and say, Now, what, what are you playing here? What's, what's your goal? Here? What do you think is going on going on here? What What do you want out of this scene? You know, that's, that's always that's always something, you can go back to the beginning and say, you know, let's focus again on what the scenes that helped that that can be very, very helpful. Just to remind them of their, their goals and their objectives. And, and what the obstacle is. The obstacle is maybe the other character, you know, Dad, can I can I borrow the card? And I'm going, No, you had the car twice this week. You know, Dad becomes the obstacle. And, you know, how do you feel about it? Do you totally disrespect Dad? Or do you think dad is cool? And you're listened to him? Or you know, what do you feel about him? So so they these are kind of questions you can you can always be asking. Asking the actor, you know, what their goal is and what the obstacle is. And how would you solve this? How would you get dad to give you the keys you know, make him make Laugh Can you make your goal? let's let's let's see if we can get dad tickled and make him laugh. How about that?

Alex Ferrari 40:08
Now do you? Do you give that direction to one actor and not let the other actor know that it's coming?

John Badham 40:14
Oh, yeah, you can you absolutely you want to want to kind of keep them keep them fresh like that. Sometimes you can give them opposing things like Roseanne was famous, or giving actors opposing goals. And, and in one scene in a play called dark at the top of the stairs, the girlfriend of the boy who lives in the house comes in, and she's got a coat on and the mother of the boyfriend comes over and takes her coat and hangs it up for so because then because then goes to the mother and says, Now take the coat off and hang it up. And he goes to the girlfriend and says, Do not let her have the code.

Alex Ferrari 41:00
And, and action

John Badham 41:02
and action. And, and and what happens, you know, they don't know what each other what's going on with each other. But you know, one is thinking this little bit she's trying to screw with me goddamnit you know, and suddenly he gets a little bit of a hate relationship going. I mean, it's really tricky stuff to try that your it'll backfire on you like crazy. It used to backfire on Roseanne all the time. But you know, when it worked, it was fabulous. You know, you get these weird moments between actors.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
Right? And they're just like, let's, let's go. I got Yeah, that's actually really great. I mean, at the end of the day, we you want this an authentic, authentic performance, if you will. That is not acting. It's reacting in many ways.

John Badham 41:52
Right? Yeah, yeah. I mean, reacting. Gary Cooper used to say, I'm not a very good actor, but I'm a great listener. And so, so when you're when you're listening in a scene, you're not just standing there waiting for your cue line, and thinking okay, now what do I say? Okay, what do I do? know you got to be listening, actively listening. And, you know, finding a way that you're giving something back to the other, the other actor responding to them.

Alex Ferrari 42:27
Now, how do you deal with an overconfident actor, someone who thinks that they know everything and then they want to listen to you? And how do you deal with an overconfident actor?

John Badham 42:39
I guess it depends on on, on what they're what they're doing. You know, they overconfidence might be a cover up for a lack of confidence, you know, that they're, they're coming in. But you know, you got to give them room to hang themselves. And, you know, let them let them try. My experience with with Franklin jela in the Dracula film I did with him years ago, was when we got to doing on film, one scene that was almost a duplicate of what he had done on Broadway in the play of Dracula. He, he was acting suddenly at a scale that was bigger than Mount Rushmore. And right, and it just was not going to work on on film. And, and I, you know, I was trying to bring him down and, and get to a more manageable film scale. But he was just totally convinced that's the way it had to go. So eventually, I wound up saying to him, tell you what, when, when this film comes back from the London labs, we were in the south of in the south of England, in Cornwall, when it comes back, come to dailies and look at it with me. And if you like it, I'll shut up. I'll never say anything again. But if you don't like it, we have a chance we can redo this at some point. And so he shows up in dailies, and the scene comes up and he watches for, you know, a couple of minutes and I hear Oh, my dear God. And there you go. And, you know, he sees he sees that, that the kind of directing that was great on Broadway, was over the top on film. And, and so, several weeks later, when we were on a soundstage we had built, rebuilt the set, and we did it again. It's one of the best scenes in the movie. It's a big faceoff with Laurence Olivier, and the two of them are out acting each other all over the place, but in a way that works so powerfully on film. I mean, there's Olivier in his seven He's ill with cancer almost, you know, barely propped up. And he's, you know, out acting Langella like crazy. And, you know, Frank is realizing he's got to really step up to the mark here, because he's against, you know, a total master of film acting.

Alex Ferrari 45:21
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. How was how was it working with Laurence Olivier? I mean, that's not a sentence, I generally ask people.

John Badham 45:40
What are quite a cool experience, you know, that man knew more about acting and directing than I will ever know. And understood my problems. So even when we had a couple of little disagreements here and there, he would say, Well, I'm, I'm only doing this because I don't want to embarrass you in front of the crew. But I don't believe this is the right way to do it. And so I could, I could get the hint. And I'd say, Well, go ahead and do it the way you want to do it what you think is right. And because, you know, the, I said to him, you know, the first person I ever saw in the movies, was when I was five years old, and my mother took me to see Henry the fifth ranked it by, you know, who and story you know, right. So it's really tough for me, you know, to work with you and call you, Larry. When I really want to say, Yes, sir. Lord, Lord Olivier.

Alex Ferrari 46:41
How young were you? You were in your 20s or 30s? early in your career? I was in like, the late 30s. Well, were you Oh, really? You would have already been directing a bunch, but still is still Lawrence living? I mean, you could have been 15

John Badham 46:56
Exactly what a trip. What a trip and and, you know, such a amazing professional and I'm never a never a diva, you know, always totally there for for what Whoa, he needed to do. And physically physically, you know, he was always the bravest physical actor on the, on the English stage. And, and even in his 70s a bit frail. If there was a you know, Chase or running or things. He wanted to do it. That's awesome. He could do it. No, no, don't don't send my double in here. I can do it. I can do it.

Alex Ferrari 47:35
He was great. He was the Tom Cruise of his day. Yes. Oh, boy. Now, I wanted to throw a scenario at you, I was actually talking to a director the other day who called me about a problem they were having on set. And they're like, Look, I have, I'm directing, you know, a few million dollar movie. And my lead, just got off of a big studio project. And he's a young young actor, like, you know, probably in his early 20s. But he was like, the third banana, or the fourth banana in a big studio, big monster film, you know, with a very big movie star who will remain nameless, in that, in that, in that big studio movie, that movie star, he started to idolize how that movie star did everything. So they would he would like, whatever that movie star did. He started taking notes. And he started acting like that movie star on this one or $2 million film saying that he I can't, I'm never going to allow myself to be shot sitting down. Because this movie star doesn't allow that to happen. And he does. And this movie star doesn't do this. So I'm not going to do that. So he started doing all these things. But yet he's never done anything. He's not a movie star. Nobody knows who he is. But since he played the second or third banana in this suit, his ego was out of control. How do you deal with that? If this is your lead? And the reason for the financing of the film? How do you handle that situation? In your opinion? Wow. That's a that is a tough one. Mm hmm. And then by the way, they actually did they actually did really love the director. So there was a good relationship there. But yet he stood firm on certain things that he wouldn't do because this other movie star wouldn't do it. So there's that a little bit more information

John Badham 49:28
Wow, boy. That's a stumper how to, you know, how to best to deal with that. Because you've got somebody coming in, who believes his rights so desperately because he watched somebody use those techniques and and admired how they how they worked and and, and yet not taking into consideration that one person could get away with it. Because she was you know, movie starring the Laurence Olivier of his time. And, you know, could be difficult not that Olivier ever was. But, you know, now now now you've got this punk. That's the only way to classify it pretty much funk coming in, coming in like that. And, um, I don't I don't know,I thought I think you have to have some, some conversations in, in in the motorhome about, you know how, how we're gonna, how we're gonna deal with this, so that you don't have these conversations in public. That's at least one of the first things I would do. Because when you have them in public, people feel, you know, honor bound to maintain that position, and you know, to the death, and they haven't they have an audience. So when these things come up, in front in front of the crew, the first thing you got to do is, you know, get, get them out of there, and, and get them in a place where you can have the conversation and, and talk to them about, you know, tell me, you know, tell me why you think that you wouldn't get shot, sitting down? How does that work? You know, talk to me talk to me about that. And, and see if See if you can think out, you know, good, good argument, but, but definitely you you have to hear them out, that's for sure. You have to hear them out. It has to be in private, where you can you can listen to them, and and listen to their listen to their opinions. And then they may be willing to listen to you the problems that you have in allowing them to do this. You know why shooting them? Sitting down? is right, you know, is is not a good is not a good idea. And why you have to be standing up, I take it that's what they wanted to do

Alex Ferrari 52:17
The other way, he always wanted to be standing up, he never wanted to be shot and the position of not powerful or not heroic.

John Badham 52:24
Yeah, yeah, I got I got it. Yeah. Always, always doing that, Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 52:35
After the show's over, I'll tell you who the star he was emulating his. But, um, but even like, that's a difficult scenario. And that, by the way this director was, it was the second film that he had been doing. So he's still just getting off the ground himself. So he really didn't have a lot of, you know, experience to kind of fall back on or, or, you know, a filmography or anything that he could fall back on to just go Look, man, I've done this for a while, this is just the way it's gonna be.

John Badham 53:04
Well, yeah. And, and if you're, you know, one of one of our great directors, they, you know, they're, the intimidation factor precedes them, right, they don't have to do anything. But somebody more beginning and I can remember back to those days with me, where you're constantly having to prove yourself. And, you know, an arrogant or very strong minded actor is going to try to walk all over you. And that's that, that's really tough, tough to deal with, but listening, listening to them, and, you know, getting, getting them to be able to articulate their points of view, and so on is a start on how you're going to how you're going to do that.

Alex Ferrari 53:58
But do you? Do you feel that a lot of this is just fear and insecurity? I mean, when you have an actor who's doing that it's just coming from fear and insecurity, and if you can address that you might be able to break through? Right, right.

John Badham 54:11
Yeah, of course, of course, it is a very defensive thing is, you know, here's a way to get through my life. I've seen a guy who can do it a certain way, and is really cool when he does it this way. So I'm gonna emulate that. And now I have to defend that position at the same time, and I get very defensive about it. So the first bad thing I could do is come in and say no, no, no. You don't want to you don't want to do that. I I had, you may have heard me tell the story with worked with Goldie Hawn on a movie called bird on the wire.

Alex Ferrari 54:56
Sure. Mel Gibson in Berlin, Ben and Goldie Yeah.

John Badham 54:59
And there's scene where she and Mel Gibson when they were boyfriend and girlfriend years ago, riding on a roller coaster. And she thinks back to that, she tells me on the day that we're lining up the roller coaster shot. She hates roller coasters. You know, she's only been working with us on the picture for four months. Now she picks the day to tell me, she doesn't like roller coasters. And you know, she's done want to do it when we shoot something else that day. And I'm going well, this is half our day's work today. And so I was saying, Well tell me more about this. You know, why? Why are you afraid? And and how does this bother you? And I let her let her talk about it. And I said, one thing I think that the roller coaster does for us is it helps show the relationship between these when they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and then a relationship and how much fun they were having. So what would you think? What would you think about this, Goldie? What would you think if we took the roller coaster when it rolls into the station and stops? You know where that is? Right? Yes, I know. Well, what if we could back that rollercoaster up about 50 or 100 feet? And have you be in it and it just rolls into the station? And you just, you know act your ass off? Being delighted and gleeful. And and we can use that and and then otherwise, I can I can use your your photo double dawn and and and she can hide her face. And we'll get by with it. She said Well, I can do that. I can do it just do all 100 feet rolling. Absolutely. That's all we have to do. And she gets into there and we we get the cameras lined up and she's sitting in kind of Mel Gibson's lap in the front car, the roller coaster, start the cameras. It comes rolling in, boom, it's all done. And, and I'm running over while the guys are checking the cameras to make sure they rolled. And I hear Mel talking to her. And he's saying, Well, that was nothing. She said that's all there is. I mean that that was the thing. He said, yeah, it's no big deal. And I suddenly went, oh my god. Okay, quick. I I'm I motion to the camera guys. Get away from the camera. I roll the camera, roll the camera, and I waved to the guy who ran the rollercoaster start the roller coaster. Go go go. And it just took off with them in it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 57:39
I can't. I'm assuming you had a camera and they're covering it.

John Badham 57:42
Oh, yeah, we had we had two cameras on it, covering it. And it goes up and around. I'm going I am in such trouble if she didn't have like this. I am so screwed. I can't believe it. But I had to just go for it. And it comes rolling back around about two minutes later. And her eyes are as big as saucers. And, and she's laughing and cackling. And carrying on and to all that was great. I love that. Oh, thank god. Oh, thank god the camera roll. And I'm not fired.

Alex Ferrari 58:21
That could have turned that could have turned ugly very quickly.

John Badham 58:24
Yeah, I mean, sometimes you just have to call tricks out, you know, and take your opportunity and, and kind of trick people into it and hope to hell that it doesn't, you know, blow back on you.

Alex Ferrari 58:38
Yeah, there's that one scene that just reminded me of like, telling an actor one thing and doing another which is generally not something you want to do. But in the end scene of diehard when Hans Gruber is being dropped from the building that close up that like kind of iconic close up shot. The look on his face of fear is because the stunt guys like oh, we're gonna go on three. And it goes one and he let go and he wasn't expecting it. And that fear in his face was actual fear. Oh my gosh. And, but it was a great, that's why it looks so but you generally don't want to do that. Yeah. Now, what is how do you balance knowing what you want, but still being open to ideas? Cuz I find that a lot of directors when I work with them, they they come in guns a blur and I know everything bla bla bla bla bla. So you have to have a sense of confidence that you are control. But yet you still have to be open to ideas and collaboration because that's what the filmmaking process is. So what's your what's your take on that?

John Badham 59:50
My feeling is that you have to be prepared. You have to be as prepared as you possibly can. With answering every question and assuming that you have no help but yourself that that people just barely can do it. Now, as you as you approach the set, you have to say, wait a second, this dp, I hired the best dp I could find. And I find he hired the best grip and, and gaffer. And we've got these great makeup people, let's see what they bring us. Let's Let's be, let's be open to that and see how it works with with what I'm doing, so that we wind up with a blend. if nobody's got any ideas, I know exactly how to do it, that I think will work. But I really want to hear what the what the other people are doing. So I will, I will turn to camera operators, for example, as I'm staging a scene, usually, the default position of a camera operator, when the director staging a scene is over, sitting, checking their iPod, their iPhone for emails, you know, and saying if they've got a date that night with their girlfriend, but I say no, you guys have to stand over here. And watch me stage these scenes. And I'm going to ask you, when we finished, how we're going to shoot it, you're going to tell me? So, so be ready with an answer. So I make them I make them watch, and I make them contribute? Well, I think we could go over here. And we could do this. And I think we could do this. And so what we wind up with is maybe a blending of of ideas, or trying a couple of different approaches to things. But I really make people come in and collaborate with me. And they're used to working a lot in situations where they just sit back and wait to be told what to do, which is the worst use of creative people. You know, these, these people, you know, I'm a camera operator. But that means I got here because I've got a very creative sense of, you know, how to how to work with this piece of machinery. And, you know, I don't I don't want to be stuck into just a robotic operator of a piece of hardware, I want to be able to, you know, contribute an idea. So if they know that I'm open to it, they're going to be more open to so I get great suggestions that way.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:30
Now, I have to ask you, in your entire career, is there a scene is there a moment that you consider like this is this was just magic this was a made this was this is my favorite acting favorite scene that I directed? Very, like what is that thing in your filmography that you still can remember to this day?

John Badham 1:02:52
You know, you're gonna think this one's crazy. Go for it. We talked about short circuit. Yeah. Yeah. While a while ago, and I'm thinking I've got a scene in there where Allie Sheedy is dancing with number five. Yeah, I remember it. And, and they're going to how deep is your love. And, and here she is, with this huge, unwieldy robot, and they're turning each other around, the robot is dipping her. And then we're doing crazy stuff here. And the and the, the playback is going with the BGA seeing how deep is your love. I mean, it was just it was so magical, because it was so silly. And, and yet, it was the kind of thing you can do in movies that, you know, just as a sense of magic that this big screwed together TV proper movie prop of number five, you know, could actually be doing this, this wonderful romantic, dip and dance. There's that. So I remember standing there as we're going through the takes just completely almost crying.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:05
You're like, this is just a piece of machinery.

John Badham 1:04:08
It's just so much.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:10
And that's the one that sticks out out of all the film out of all the stuff you've done. That's the one that's like, you know what that dancing scene with Johnny five? That's awesome.

John Badham 1:04:21
I mean, there, I'm sure there. I'm sure there's plenty of others. But you know, the first one that pops up in your head is that you go Wow, well, that means something I guess.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:32
Yeah, you know, and I, I mean, obviously a movie like short circuit would never be in made in today's studio system. Most of the films in the past that you've directed would not be made in the studio system. And that's generally for any filmmaker. It's almost wouldn't be made in the student system. I mean, do you as a creator, who's been around for so long? I mean, do you find that it's kind of sad that there's there's no As much risk taking in films and think there is more in television, but in films like short circuit, steak out, you know, those kind of films, war games, these kind of films that would just not be made in today's world and another going back to reboot it, like Gremlins in The Goonies, and, and all of these would never get made in today's world. And I think we're a lesser society for it, I think we, we should be doing stuff like that in the studio system, what do you What's your feeling on it, seeing how it's changed so much?

John Badham 1:05:34
Well, I have to look forward to what we can be doing, going forward, and not not worrying about what we can't do anymore. And I am seeing, you know, this opening up of, of streaming, and, you know, television, video, and so on, where so many things are getting made, that have their own magic and their own special thing to them, that would not be would not be made in the theatrical system, because it's hard to get people off their butts. And out to the out to the theater, you know, the people that like to go the young people, because they want to get out of the house, they don't want to be stuck in the place. And, and older audiences tend to, you know, not not be so flexible about that. So, so we're paying attention that we're seeing, you know, so many places in not just the three networks, but now suddenly, all these different channels. Now we've got, we've got Netflix, and we've got Hulu, and we've got this, and Apple plus and Disney plus and Google Plus and, you know, ever everything is plus. So there's so many possible places that you can, you can take material now that it's possible to make that I don't I don't think they television would have made years ago. But now they're much more open to much, much more edgy stuff. You know, watching watching the two versions of Catherine the Great that have been on recently, you know, one that's a complete romp. And one that's very serious. I mean, I can't imagine those being made as a movie. Nowadays, though, back in, you know, back in the 70s, and so on. Yes, that would have made the serious version, I suppose.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:33
Right, exactly. Now, what are you up to next? What what are you working on now?

John Badham 1:07:40
Well, we're just, we're just getting a book ready to come out. About four or five years ago, we published, john batum on directing. Now. Now we're doing the second edition, which is so much more about surviving television, how directors can survive the land mines in the political minefield, that is television. It's such a different setup from direct feature films, where you may be toward the top of the food chain, you as the director, but now in the world of streaming your way down the food chain. It's really tough for for a director who finds themselves constantly about to be run over by so many people who are in charge here and there. And how do you survive this. Because if you don't survive, you know, you're going to lose the way you make your living. Not just not be able to do creative work. But you know, that's how you that's how you make your living. And then you have to re gear your brain to see how you can survive and navigate through these really troubled, difficult waters of working in streaming media.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:59
And that is where the majority I mean, there's a lot more opportunity in streaming and television than there is in feature work nowadays.

John Badham 1:09:07
Oh, that's wonder that's what's wonderful about it. I mean, instead of there just being 15, or 20, dramatic shows a week now there are hundreds of them. And I tell my students at Chapman that I know we all want to make feature films, but I bet that most of us are going to start making our living, you know, in in a smaller medium. Maybe we may be doing queries or music videos or things for YouTube, things like that. There's great respectability and doing all of that. And it's your work. So you don't want to turn up your nose because that's how you're going to you're you're going to survive and make a living as a director, you're going to be snobby about it. You may never work

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
Very true. Now, john, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

John Badham 1:10:09
Thank God we have the kind of equipment that we have, where people are shooting films on their iPhones. And I mean, it's amazing the quality that you can get on, on iPhones even of a couple of generations ago, and I'm saying what my students are shooting, when they're going out, no longer are they going over to the gold room, and getting, you know, some Sony prosumer camera, they're doing it on the iPhones and it's coming out really nicely. And if they get a little bit of good equipment, like decent microphones, then the quality just shoots up tremendously. Usually the, the part where we're, we're sound is involved gets gets the least respect. The visual always gets the strong respect. Anyway, the point being, you can make films that you can show to people, people that want to, you know, are entitled to say to you, let me see something you've done, let me look at you know, what's a what's a short film or a short reel that you have. And, and that you can do not having to be in film school, you can do it on your own. And and it's a much more entrepreneurial type of business, then then it used to be where when you were shooting 16 millimeter film, and stuff like that it was so bloody expensive, that only a few people could even afford to buy the film stock button. But nowadays, almost anybody can make a pretty decent looking film and give you a sense of this person knows how to tell the story. That's what we want to see. Can we tell a story? Not can we shoot a cool angle? Right? You know, not have we got a wacky lens here? But can they tell a story? Can they show us a character that that ultimately, ultimately is always going to be the most important thing. I mean, the thing that got Spielberg started, is the famous amblin film that he made. For next to no money, you looked at it, and you knew it had been made for 25 cents. But he told a story with characters that you're loved and, and your heart by the end. And that was all it took to get him going versus so many of the films that were being made by students at the time that you couldn't make heads or tails of.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:48
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? Never be sarcastic? I love to be sarcastic. It's so much fun to have, you get this silly idea. And you just say it. And then suddenly there's blowback, you're in such trouble. Wrong, you know, they didn't want to hear that. And it's one of my biggest faults. I've gotten in trouble more times from that. I keep lecturing myself, don't be sarcastic. That that's amazing. Now, what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to make your first film?

John Badham 1:13:41
Well, I had been I had been making episodic television and television movies for four or five years at that point. But there was always this feeling of like, now I'm stepping into the bigger leagues. Is it going to look like I'm just still shooting? Little our television show? Is it going to not have the scope? The size, the storytelling? That was a big worry that I had. And, you know, it's always it's always a worry, to, you know, are you going to tell the story well or not. And I think that every day even as I go to the set now, I'm driving to the set in the morning, I'm scared to death, that how it's going to go today, you know, is the same kind of work. Do I even know what I'm doing? You know, I'm constantly worried. And I tell myself you know if I weren't worried maybe I shouldn't even be going to work.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:47
Good, good advice. And three of your favorite films of all time.

John Badham 1:14:54
Wow. I don't know what what the third one would be but I know that No Country for Old Men is a constant favorite of mine, Citizen Kane, I can always watch. I can watch the Godfather till the cows come home. You know, that's I mean, I don't know what it is about it. But you know if it is on television, and I happen to flick past so well, I'd like to see, let me watch a minute or so of it later.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:32
You're in part to get up and I say, Francis, thank you, God bless you for making this film. And where can people find find you and buy the book?

John Badham 1:15:45
And and they can, they'll be able to buy it on Amazon easily. Or Michael we see productions, which is also sells the book. But Amazon is the quick place to go.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:02
And where's your other book that you have that which is fantastic as well, your book,

John Badham 1:16:06
The other book is, is called I'll be in my trailer. And, and it again talks about dealing dealing with actors and how how I managed to almost complete the last couple of weeks of Saturday Night Fever by getting into a stupid argument with john travolta that I didn't have to get into and, and he turns and looks at me and says, I'll be in my trailer and heads off to his trailer while we're standing on the Verrazano Bridge at two in the morning. And he's refusing to come out to shoot all because of, you know, something stupid that I did. And a lot of the book is, you know about what could I have done better? So I never had to have this problem in the first place. is not his fault.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:02
Right! Well, John, I recommend everyone pick up both your books, I'd love to first version of on directing. And I'm looking forward to reading the second one as well. It is always a pleasure having you on the show sir. I'm as you know, a very, very big fan of your work and and the continued work that you're doing with education at Chapman, and with through your book. So thank you again, so much for being on the show.

John Badham 1:17:23
So much fun to talk to you.

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BPS 249: The New Film Language of “ScreenLife” with Wanted Director Timur Bekmambetov

I have been a fan of today’s guest since I first saw his mind-blowing film, Night Watch years ago. Timur Bekmambetov is an established director, producer, and writer who has built a name for himself both in his home country, Russia, and here in the U.S., making films, music videos, and commercials. 

At first glance at his film, I became obsessed with Timur’s work and his filmmaking style.

He is the producer and director of Day Watch (2006), Wanted (2008), Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012), Profile ( 2021), and many many more.

Timur is a jack of all trades. His journey in the industry started with theater production design and soon he got the directing bug. While honing his directing skills, he took up producing which then led to movie production.  

One of my favorite of his films is the genre-bending Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie, James McCovey, and Morgan Freeman.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is an office worker whose life is going nowhere. After his estranged father is murdered, he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie), who recruits him into the Fraternity, a secret society of assassins that takes its orders from Fate itself. Fox and Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the Fraternity’s leader, teach Wesley to tap into dormant powers. Though he enjoys his newfound abilities, he begins to suspect that there is more to the Fraternity than meets the eye.

Abraham Lincoln is reinvented as a vampire-killing president in this Timur Bekmambetov-directed action picture starring Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, and Dominic Cooper. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author Seth Grahame-Smith adapts his own book for 20th Century Fox. Tim Burton produces alongside Bekmambetov and Jim Lemley.

Timur’s latest project is Profile. The film was initially released in Russia in 2018 and is set to be released in the US on May 14, 2021.

Based on Anna Erelle’s non-fiction book, In The Skin of a Jihadist, the film contextualizes our digital life and fears. It explores the role of digital spaces in the recruitment of young European Women by ISIS. British journalist, Amy Whittaker sets on this investigation by creating a Facebook profile under the alias of Melody Nelson along with a persona online of a woman who has recently converted to Islam. The results are thrilling and eye-opening.

Profile was shot in a new film language called Screenlife.

What is Screenlife?

Screenlife is a new format of visual content that has grown from independent projects to full-length, world-renowned films, documentaries, and TV shows. Its main idea is that everything that the viewer sees happens on the computer, tablet, or smartphone screen. All the events unfold directly on the screen of your device. Instead of a film set — there’s a desktop, instead of the protagonist’s actions — a cursor.

If you are involved in video production, cinema, or even video games, Screenlife is a new expressive environment for you, the potential of which is yet to be discovered. Before your eyes, there will be new tools to work with, such as the screen life recorder.

Bekmambetov produced the Screenlife film Unfriended, in which the action takes place on the screens of protagonists’ computers. With a budget of only $1 million, the movie raised $64 million at the box office worldwide. This new film language is extremely exciting. Timur and I discuss Screenlife, his visual style, his directing process, Hollywood politics, and much more.

Enjoy my conversation with Timur Bekmambetov.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show Timur Bekmambetov. Okay, um, hold on, I'm gonna get it Bekmambetov.

Timur Bekmambetov 1:40
Great.

Alex Ferrari 1:41
Yeah, I've been practicing for hours. Seymour, how you doing my friend, thank you so much for being on the show.

Timur Bekmambetov 1:48
Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Alex Ferrari 1:52
Um, I, I've been a fan of yours. Since nightwatch. I remember when nightwatch came out. And it my mind exploded. I couldn't I could not believe what I was watching. And I became obsessed with you and your work and your style and all that stuff, which we're gonna get into all of that in a minute. But first, how did you get started in the film business?

Timur Bekmambetov 2:14
I was. I was production designer, stage designer, in the theater production designer, then I couldn't find the right director to work with. And I decided to direct myself. Then I, of course, then I couldn't find the right producer to help me to produce the movies. And I started I became a producer it just now then I then five years ago, I A producing screen light movies. I couldn't find the right tools to make screen light movies, because a different type of filmmaking, no cameras, and then I became an IT whatever inventor inventing new technology for new language.

Alex Ferrari 3:04
That's fantastic. Yeah, though, and we'll talk about that. And your new film profile, which uses that kind of screen. Is it called screen life?

Timur Bekmambetov 3:09
Green life. Yeah. Screen life.

Alex Ferrari 3:11
So that whole new, it's just genre of filmmaking right now, which is basically a film that takes place on a screen completely. The whole thing takes place. Like if you're on a computer screen. And it's an it's a new brand new narrative story. technique is a really interesting way.

Timur Bekmambetov 3:30
Yeah, and I would like to correct you.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
Yes, please. It's

Timur Bekmambetov 3:32
not right. It's not a genre. It's a language. You can use this language to tell stories of any genre. Yeah, because we produce horror movies like unfriended detective stories like searching. And we produce Romeo and Juliet, the last year. It's a classical tragedy. And now we are finishing disaster sci fi movie about alien invasion. And it's with ice cube and Eva Longoria. And many, many other type of movies like musicals and comedies. And, and it's all screen live, because just new language. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:23
yeah, absolutely. You're absolutely right. Thank you for the correction. Because you're right. I mean, because now as you were saying that I'm like, ooh, an alien invasion. Like that would that would be kind of interesting. It was kind of like when you saw signs and and Shyamalan signs. It all took place inside basically an alien invasion. But all you saw was television. glimpses. Yeah. And it was all happening in that farmhouse, which kind of like okay, it's all happening on your screen and a giant alien invasion might be happening, which will be I'm can't wait to see that one. That'll be very interesting. Both so before.

Timur Bekmambetov 4:54
Yeah, but the difference is that the screen led with quite different Because before, it was just different ways to tell stories about physical space, we're really, but because now we live in two spaces at the same time and physical and digital. And in digital world in digital space, we spend so much time and so many important events of our life happening in digital space. That this is, this becomes the only way to understand who we are and where we go and what we looking for. And it's why it's why screen life is very, very contemporary and necessary.

Alex Ferrari 5:44
Yeah, it's really interesting as well, because you're absolutely right. Like, you know, when my children were born, my grandma, you know, the grandparents weren't in the room, they were being facetimed you know, you know, or we're off on vacation somewhere. If they can't be with us, we could show them or the kids, you know, they have seen during this quarantine for God's sakes. I mean, our you know, grandkid, the grandparents had been seeing the kids grow up this last year all through FaceTime, or through Skype or through something along those lines. And it is you're absolutely right, most of our life is on screens at this point, like a lot of our time is spent on screen and important in important moments. It's not just Facebook, and but that's part of it. But all those other things. It's you're absolutely right.

Timur Bekmambetov 6:27
Yes, it's so my, my my wedding. anniversary was in, in zoom. My in our interview is in zoom too, by the way, right Skype? And, and I don't know, and the robbing banks. Like, for example, robbing banks today. It's not about masks and guns. Because there is nothing to get, it's all about Yeah, about like a, like a, like a cracking code and, and stealing data. And even by the way, the aliens show that not to get some oil, whatever blood to get information. Because data is more important than is a data is a value,

Alex Ferrari 7:17
oh, massive value massive. the right amount of the right amount, the right kind of data is worth billions, if not trillions of dollars, if it's the right if it's the right kind of data. So it's we're in a weird world. And I've been going down deep the rabbit hole of cryptocurrencies and NF T's and blockchain and all of that information, AI and AI as well. A world is changing so rapidly, and I feel like

Timur Bekmambetov 7:46
good details. The story is a friend of mine, the banker, and he said that their data, allow them to tell that the woman is pregnant before she got the test. Because Because big data allows them help them to, to compare different activities. And the woman. She doesn't know yet. But banks already has this information.

Alex Ferrari 8:16
That is terrifying. That is air it is 1984. It's 1984

Timur Bekmambetov 8:22
is why profile is is thrilling, because it is about the the technology. It's not about ISIS. It's not about terrorists. It's about it's about the technology and how we'll leave in this new world where we have no idea who we are. where's where's my space? Where's your space? What's good with evil, okay, it's just totally different. Totally different reality.

Alex Ferrari 8:54
Yeah, absolutely. Now, I wanted to ask you when you came out with nightwatch, which I have to ask you How the hell did you make nightwatch for such a little amount of money? Because it's such a big budget looking film. It looks like 100 million 100 50 million? Well, today's money back in 2004 is money or when I think it was around that time when it was released. Yeah, it wasn't it would have been maybe an $80 million movie at that point. But I know it didn't cost that much.

Timur Bekmambetov 9:21
Yeah, it's it's all about ideas, the ideas the fresh ideas and about the creativity and freedom because what do you need to prove things with 50 partners and investors then you can you can make everything reasonable with a cost effective and enjoy and can you get enjoy the process? Because the many many movies were destroyed by Because of the very difficult process of the, of the producing, you know, because if it costs hundreds of million dollars, then you have 100 people scared to lose their jobs and lose their jobs. Jobs. Yeah. And, and this creates, like a creates the atmosphere of the, like a fear and, and no responsibility and like it and the screen life kind of a way out because when the moment movie called like a nightmare which was like 2 million or seven I don't know remember how much it gave us a freedom to be crazy to be creative to be to express yourself. And it's why it's green life is a future I think. So it's it's a language. Every filmmaker can make a movie with the cost of the like a writing book is the same, right? You need a pen and paper to write this you need the laptop and your talent.

Alex Ferrari 11:07
Now with nightwatch You know, when nightwatch came out, I saw it early on. And the visuals of it were so impactful. I mean, they were just something like stuff I've really never seen before. And I've I've been a cinephile, most of my life worked in video stores, and I've seen studied all the greats. But your style was so unique, you know? And then obviously when you did wanted and day watch that kind of you know, when wanted show up, and we'll talk about wanted in a minute, but it was just so visceral, the the the visual style of it. Who are your influences? And how did you kind of come up with this length? Because it's a language it is so specifically you like after, after you there was a lot of copycats that tried to do what you do. But people like you and Zack Schneider and, and even Michael Bay, Tony Scott, they have very specific kinds of language yours is very specific, how did you come up with it?

Timur Bekmambetov 12:00
I told you I was the production designer, with the background, being an artist being developing the new visual languages. And also, I like to experiment I like to I like to put things not upside down. But like, they just to put things right way because we live in a world of stereotypes. Because of the week caught with the culture means stereotypes means like rules. And sometimes you need to step back and just be little, little crazy little childish, little, naive little unresponsible just to flip things, you know, just to, to, to feel something, you know, because it's what I what I do, I'm my way to create the chaos and then to try to organize it all you need to destroy things, you need to challenge everything the story, the the aesthetics, the rules of the genre. And then when you messing it, then somehow it gives you gives your gives you the energy and the venue to organize and when you're organizing, trying to tell the story then it will be your way it will be your story, and not somebody else. story I've been I know also is based on my I grew up in the in the country with very talented filmmakers like Eisenstein, or like a coolie shop created the editing or like the the editing system. And as you Stein the poetry of cinema like and then we had a I watched a lot of art movies from the 70s and 60s 70s 80s from European European filmmakers like Fellini and to God and I don't know why it was so popular in Soviet Union. They all these are art movies from from from Italy, and France and, and then I of course a I was a I was a I was a disciple of Roger Corman. This is probably the easiest. That's amazing. Oh, who am I? Because I made a I made a first move with him.

Alex Ferrari 14:39
I you worked with Roger, really? I didn't know you work

Timur Bekmambetov 14:42
with Roger at the beginning. Yes, friend of mine, my mentor, love him. He's a he's a real filmmaker. He loves movies itself. And I think maybe it's an answer. I mean, maybe it's an answer. Maybe the movie I made like wanted is Roger Corman movie? Oh, B movie made B movie. Whatever.

Alex Ferrari 15:06
B movie made with a little bit of a little bit of higher budget.

Timur Bekmambetov 15:11
Yeah. Midnight, which is also Yeah, I made a movie for him with him spent a lot of time with him. He was in Russia. And we spent days talking about the, his his backstory, and then he gave me a lot he gets, he has a childish whatever, like he, he's in love with the cinema itself, you know, like, not specifically, like he's very, very educated very. He has very good taste. But at the same time, he's he he can, he has a sense of humor and lightness, you know, allowing his movies to be audience friendly, you know? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that's what I think this is what Who am I? I think it's it came from it's a mix between Fellini and Roger Corman. But, but it's not funny. It's so funny because I think he was official distributor of Fellini movies in the United States. Yes, he was. He has rights for all art movies. Yes. Art movies.

Alex Ferrari 16:27
Yeah, people think of Corman only as these kind of schlocky, you know, like straight b movies that he would pump out like and never lose a dime on. But he's, he's a very, very educated man. And very smart film producer is probably one of the most legendary film producers of all time. And he gave so many filmmakers his their start from Coppola to Scorsese, to Ron Howard to jack nicholson, and the list of James Cameron. I mean, it just goes on and on. So yeah, but I've never connected the two Fellini and Corbin in the same conversation. And if I wouldn't, that was not the answer I was looking for. That's not the answer. I expected. And I was like, Wow, that's a great answer. Because Roger Rogers are amazing. He's, he's,

Timur Bekmambetov 17:12
he's remarkable. You know, you know, you know, a friend of mine is here as a film festival in Russia a few weeks ago. It's a sci fi Film Festival. new one, and I called him and I said, Roger can do can you help people and be like, in jewelry? And like it is? Yeah, yeah. And he recorded this speech. And he said, unfortunately, cannot come because of the COVID. But he recorded the speech and he was in jury he gave his advisors and that's unbelievable. He's just, he has he has keep he's a man who knows? He has a freedom Yeah, he he's, he's not scared, you know? Oh, no,

Alex Ferrari 17:59
scared is not a word that I would imagine with with Roger Corman that for sure. That's not one of the words that I would associate with him at all. He's a legend a legend is definitely a word I would now when you when you go into pre production on a film, do you storyboard or do previous or do a combo of both, because it's very intense the visuals

Timur Bekmambetov 18:20
I do previous. And I love previous because it's only way to present my ideas to the Lego producer studio people because because sometimes, like for example, unwanted I had a I came with an idea that the Reds the James megaways should feed race with explosive materials to put the electronic flag like wires inside them to employ the factory of a fraternity of Morgan Freeman's team and the studio people were like looking at me like rats with explosive materials. What are you talking about? You know, sometimes I like new ideas very difficult to explain. It's why previous previous has helped to filmmakers to to explain what they think because storyboards is not enough.

Alex Ferrari 19:29
Now when when wanted hit Florida I mean hit Hollywood excuse me when I was in Florida. That's why I said that. When wanted hit Hollywood. It was like a bomb going off. I remember people around town and LA and everyone talking about wanton like this is the new way action films need to be made and it was it was very revolutionary. I mean, the last time something like that might have happened is maybe Top Gun when Tony Scott showed up, or Michael or one The Rock showed up or bad boy shut up with Michael Bay, there was a new visual language that was created by these artists. And when you showed up, everyone's like, oh god, this is the future of action movies. They all have to look like this. Of course, that's what Hollywood would say. But what was it like? Because I have to imagine that. I mean, you were the belle of the ball. You were that you were the very pretty girl that everybody wanted to dance with and date. So what was it like being in the center of that kind of hurricane that was wanted? Hit? I mean, I'm sure everybody wanted to talk to you. I'm sure you were taking meetings everywhere. What was that? Like?

Timur Bekmambetov 20:35
I didn't know what. I don't remember. Honestly,

Alex Ferrari 20:41
I lost it a year later. But yeah, watch it again. Yeah.

Timur Bekmambetov 20:45
Yeah. Just one second. Just one second. Yes, Gigi. Yeah, I, it was a, there was a time because I have two lives at the same time, because I have a Russian, my Russian team in the Russian project. And I have a project in the United States. And by the way, I shot two movies at the same time, secretly in Prague wanted in the Russian iron your fate, another Russian? Christmas curious, was it Christmas comedy. And it was done at the same time? and released all at the same time. And it was very different.

Alex Ferrari 21:29
Yes. I,

Timur Bekmambetov 21:30
I know, it helped me because I was not scared that there is there I will lose something. And I got the Russian Russian backlot helped me to feel independent. And, and, and experiment with with different forums. And, like being it myself, I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 22:02
Yeah. And when you were working also on wanted, I mean, was that the first time you really had like, giant mega stars, and you had Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. Was that intimidating at all? Or had you worked with other big actors like that? before? It was,

Timur Bekmambetov 22:15
it was it was fun. I mean, it was it was fun. It was, it was challenging, because, because of probably the language was was an issue. Especially with James because he had his Scottish accent and it's very difficult for me to understand. And, but it was fun because I, the all professionals, they all looking for old profession is very, especially Angelina, she's just absolutely focused, how to make things the best. And, and it's challenging, of course, it's not easy. Because she wants to surprise people. She wants to do something nobody done before. But especially this, this famous shot. Famous for me. When she kills herself. I wanted Oh, scratch and, and because she just said okay, I will I will be in the movie, but I want to kill myself. And then and and the studio said okay, this probably will never happen because we cannot we cannot like put the gun in her mouth. Nobody will watch this movie. And I and I spend like few days just trying to figure out how to find a way how to kill how she can kill herself cool way like some, like unusual somehow logically. For for the story, but cool. And then this was an idea. I came up with an idea that she will bend the bullet bullets of kill 19 people and kill herself at the same the same time. And then I sent her this storyboard. And and she said yes. And this is a perfect example. The Death Stars provokes you to do to surprise to push something. Yes. Yeah. To push. Yeah. They they you cannot just do something mediocre. And it's, it's, it's very, very important.

Alex Ferrari 24:30
And so yeah, when you're with with when you're worth when you're working with certain level of actors, and I've had the pleasure of working with really high calibre Oscar nominated actors in my career. When you when you walk into the room, everyone knows it and then they're always you've got to lift your level up to them and they're going to push you in challenging you is because it just have so much more experience than you do a lot of times that I mean a Morgan Freeman and an Angelina who'd like she's been on a set pretty much her entire life. Like she's gonna have ideas, and she's gonna push you and challenge you. But I was wondering like,

Timur Bekmambetov 25:05
with the light I, yes, I never had a, and never had a problem of learning something. Right? If people give these ideas, it's good for me and I am happy to hear. At the end of the days, of course, there is a political process how to keep things. organized, you know, but but, but because I made a lot of commercials in my last Congress of commercials, I remember how to play this political game with a lot of people having voice but, but I was happy that because I had a Chris Pratt and then unwanted and join in Morgan Freeman. Chris Pratt was a with a fat boy. Yeah, that's

Alex Ferrari 26:03
not the action started yesterday.

Timur Bekmambetov 26:05
Yeah. And, and I had a great team, and just everyone had an ideas and, and I was lucky, because it's great. They were all for me. But the tone was important for me to keep the tone and the style of the movies I like. And then they just helped me to do. And it was exciting.

Alex Ferrari 26:31
Now, when you were when you were, I started in commercials as well. So I know what you're talking about, of handling the client, and this and the production company agency and the agency and all of that stuff. That is really great training ground for working? Yes, it really is. Because it's a whole other level of politics. I feel it's a bit more political, then because you're you're serving multiple masters on a commercial set, as opposed to a Hollywood set what you are multiple masters.

Timur Bekmambetov 27:01
Do you know what I have, I had my own interpretation of Yeah, not serving masters, entertaining people. For me, when I made commercials. With all these people, the clients and agency and they our audience, as your audience in a year to entertain them, they need to they must be surprised, and confident and confident and surprised at the same time. It's exactly the same process you need just to make to create something which will change Margot Julian Julie Murphy will say, Oh, it's cool. Let's try you need to create ideas. entertaining, you know, and producer they should. And I really like really like when you have a good producer like Mark block who has worked with and you really like to do something to to entertain, you know, just to make them feel Wow, it's it's like little scared. But but you got because the new something new but but good producer the the the feel the audience and they can

Alex Ferrari 28:15
understand you as as a filmmaker, you should feel a little bit of fear when you're out there, you should feel like you're a little bit on the on the on the on the line and you might have you might have a safety net, you might not but when you're on the edge like that, that's where really fun stuff. Because when I do stuff I get I try to push myself and get scared. I'm like, I've never done that before. Let's let's just jump in and see what happens. As opposed to like Okay, here we go. Again, we're gonna do the same thing. I've done 1000 times. So and you imagine are constantly pushing yourself like shooting wanted and a romantic comedy at the same time, but two different

Timur Bekmambetov 28:51
stages and stages in frog don't you? And also because I never had a dream to work in Hollywood. I mean, it was not my It was not my like, even plan. It just happened itself.

Alex Ferrari 29:08
Like how did it

Timur Bekmambetov 29:11
I made it I made Roger Corman movie for fun, because it was like $300,000 budgets in Russia, and they're, like, very funny with the two playmate girls, but of course, he said he said to blame in girls to play women, gladiators in ancient Rome. This

Alex Ferrari 29:32
of course.

Timur Bekmambetov 29:34
And then and then then amazing night, then I was trained well to make nightwatch right and, and we made a nightwatch for fun with little money and there was like few millions but and then suddenly, I I made commercials where the commercials were very popular in Russia and I was kind of infected By this interesting feeling when you do something and next day on the street people

Alex Ferrari 30:10
the, the viral ness of it Yeah.

Timur Bekmambetov 30:12
Wireless. Yes. And it's, it gives you these like a drug you know, you cannot live without it. And, and then Roger Corman and then night, which I just played, like was crazy playing with my subconscious like ideas and, and my aesthetic goal preferences, whatever, and then suddenly became a hit. And then next morning, the next morning, I think at the release of the after the weekend, the next Monday who called me, Harvey Weinstein called me and said, and said, I, Hey, how you doing? Like my, my boys? Oh, you flew all the way to Moscow to sign the deal with you. You will be in my next movie, something like that. And as Oh, no, no, we're coming. He was Angeles. And then we had a long process of picking the partner. And finally it was Jim gianopolous. And Fox. Not a very

Alex Ferrari 31:16
good move. What good move at this point. Good move.

Timur Bekmambetov 31:22
Yes, I never I never had a problem with him. Yeah. We made a few movies. It was Apollo 18. We made it Yeah. horror movie and in with the last one was with the with Cumberbatch and the current war.

Alex Ferrari 31:43
Oh, yeah. The current one. That was great. I love that. Yeah.

Timur Bekmambetov 31:47
This this my I mean, it's why I'm set when mentioning it. I never had a dream to be a Hollywood director or producer. I just just happened and it was lucky. Whatever. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 32:04
Yeah. You kind of you kind of listen a lucky Yes. But you also it's not like someone you were just doing nothing and someone knocked on your door. Hey, do you want a Hollywood deal? You were doing stuff. And you made enough noise in Russia, where people were like, Hey, wait a minute. We want to do business with with tomorrow. We want to get into so yeah, there was that. But it wasn't like your goal. Like I need to get to Hollywood. No, it just happened to show up. But you were ready, though. It wasn't like you were just hanging out. And they're like, oh, let's give this kid a shot. You were a very established filmmaker at that point in the game. No, no, I

Timur Bekmambetov 32:33
did what I would what I love, like the the idea of the things I love and I never worked for hire and

Alex Ferrari 32:45
right you weren't, you weren't a hire, you weren't a paycheck director, you're gonna do the work that you want to do. And that's exactly what you've done. Which brings me to the next question. I have to ask you, Abraham vampire killer. How did this come into play? How does this even like when I heard it? I was like, This is ridiculous. And then I go, Oh, he's ultimate? Oh, well, well, then let's take a look.

Timur Bekmambetov 33:05
He said it's just it's a set step Grammys. He wrote this book. And, and I was, I was probably had the reputation of like a crazy person who can do crazy stuff. And they asked me to direct this. And it was fun. And I unfortunately, the link is too important for for American people. And I and it was very difficult for me to find the right tone, tone, because, and I was I was jumping from seriousness to insanity to Jiu Jitsu whatever. But it was different. It was quite it was it was experiment for me. Can we mix two things like she legend? Like the the basement of the of the whole American

Alex Ferrari 34:08
American philosophy? Yeah,

Timur Bekmambetov 34:11
and the Roger garment can come to mix it didn't exist. And we tried and we tried it's no but

Alex Ferrari 34:20
it's still a good movie. Still a fun movie. It still did well over I think it did well overall. Right? It did financially. Well. Did some Yeah, it did some business, no question. But it's like you're essentially for Americans, Abraham Lincoln's like Jesus. So it he has he has a very kind of Prophet, Messiah kind of energy. He's He's almost mythical. He's mythical.

Timur Bekmambetov 34:43
Yes. And yeah. And honestly, in the during the process, it changed me because I started as a like a, as a as a just playing with it with it with the image. And then little by little his whole story. his, his life and his what he had done. And suddenly, I understood it understood by making movie you know, right now this is not pre loaded.

Alex Ferrari 35:12
Yeah, it wasn't. In other words, yeah, you I was raised like that I was raised here. I was born here. So I know Abraham Lincoln, I've been taught that since I was a child for you, you just heard of the image and then slowly you you learn to respect him and respect his journey and you're like, Okay, how are we going to do this with the vampires now?

Timur Bekmambetov 35:31
He had very difficult choices in his life. He Oh, he, like, took responsibility. And, and, and it's in paid paid for for his choices.

Alex Ferrari 35:44
Right. And then of course, the vampire hunting was another thing.

Timur Bekmambetov 35:47
I By the way, by the way, I think the I think, I think, yeah, okay, this is different conversation. Because I, I think, okay, let's, let's

Alex Ferrari 36:03
move on. No problem, no problem. Let's keep. So let's talk about so let's talk about your new film profile. And I've had the pleasure of watching profile. And can you tell the audience a little bit about what profile is about

Timur Bekmambetov 36:16
the profile, it's about our digital life, it's about all our fears. Exploring the new new world we believe now, we never, it's not about the, it's not about ISIS, it's not about even the like, it's a trailer about our life in, in digital forms, you know, like, like, we, we spent more than half of our life today, half our day today, in stare, like, playing with a screen. We really like interacting with the screen like now. And, and, and we all feel feel like a deep feeling like we feel fear that we don't understand this world. We it's like everyday is like, like, you know, all four great horror movies. They are usually in like, a part like in very casual, right, like suburbia.

Alex Ferrari 37:26
suburbia.

Timur Bekmambetov 37:29
Yeah. And it's the same effect with with the, with the screen light with the, with the profile, we understand all the clicks, and zooms and, and swipes and, but we don't really understand what what is what's what's, what's the, what's be what is behind it, we don't understand why people are dead, but these accounts still active. And you can get suddenly a message from your friend who died year ago saying Happy birthday, because he just he just pulled the button send you messages every year. And it's me they did the the border between life and death doesn't exist in digital world. And, and also, you don't know where who controls your data, like you don't know who can call you, you you're not protected. You know, like we know the world's our door closed. Because there is a street there is like your house, and you have a gun to protect your house. But in interview, you don't have it. And suddenly you can understand that, for example, the fear of sending a wrong message to get

Alex Ferrari 38:57
you text the wrong person or email the wrong person something that was not

Timur Bekmambetov 39:00
often sometimes it's very sometimes very, very tragic. Because so many families fell apart so many people were were like, Yeah, because just you push the button. In we, we we know this world. We think we know this world. It's very real, very ordinary. But we understand that we don't have trust, we don't have we don't have trust, how to live in this world. You know, we don't know what's good, what's evil in this world. Like because cyberbullying like, like hating. And, and no, like a like security, you know, like safety. It's doesn't exist, you know? It's, it's, you know why? Because you can write any like rules and publish it and government can try to control it, but it doesn't work until people Until filmmakers or writers will write stories, emotional stories about our behavior in this world, and you will by watching this stories, you cry or you for your love, like smiling or you like a scared until you will processes emotionally. You don't understand what's good was evil. We don't have we don't have 10 commandments about digital world. No, no. We don't know what's the seven deadly sins? Like, what does it mean for digital world? For example, one of the deadly sins it's like, for example, it's like a, you're eating too much. You're like you're gluttony. And then yeah, and in digital world, it's a way of consuming so much data, so much information. That it's, it's a, it's destroying us status. We don't have. Yeah, we don't with stocks and or, or for example, we people chasing like, we want to be popular, get more likes, or no or whatever. This is also the one of the deadly sins, you know, I mean, screen life. It's a it's a language. First time, helping us to adopt digital space for for four hours for human beings to somehow to understand, to reflect, to express yourself to understand how to leave in this new reality. We, especially after the COVID we've all there.

Alex Ferrari 41:45
Now, do you guys in the movie, you were shooting some stuff? Like obviously, there's footage so there's like footage in the hotel rooms and footage out in, in, in, in Syria? and all that, did you? How did you shoot that? Like Did you give literally give it to people to walk around with? No,

Timur Bekmambetov 42:03
no, no. It was first time it was a we should have no real. She was in me like she was in, in a small house in Cockney in East London. And below the character he was in, in the Middle East. I sent actor to like 3000 miles away. And they really connected. And, and and this whole scene happened when he was playing soccer, right dusty Street. And so

Alex Ferrari 42:44
that was all real. So that was all real.

Timur Bekmambetov 42:46
Yeah, it was a real conversations, real Skype conversation between people in different parts of the world. And it was important because I understood that the the digital connections, scribes creating some kind of interesting bucks like a delays or like Like, for example, when we talk online, we a little louder. We don't really show that we're trying to force to break this wall. And just to connect. And this, it was very important for me to recreate this, this real environment of online communication. And it's it's really visible. And also what was new in this week? Because we're not we didn't have the cameras. Yeah, we shot everything by recording the screens. And and we invented the methods when we gave actors to real screens where they can really call each other and and we record recorded the screens and gave them the chance to play like like almost like a theater.

Alex Ferrari 44:00
And how long How long did it take to shoot this?

Timur Bekmambetov 44:03
Like 10 days? Because Because we shot 15 days, 15 pages per day, like 15 minutes per day.

Alex Ferrari 44:11
That's insane. That's amazing. No, it's it. After watching it. Like I was telling you earlier it was eerie. I felt like I was watching someone else's screen like I was voyeuristic. But I was watching it also on my computer so it was even weirder for me. So I wasn't watching it on a television screen. So it was a very unsettling at the beginning of it like for me it's like I hadn't seen a movie like this before. So at first I'm like, how am I getting into this but by towards the end I'm just like, get out of there. Get like you're completely sucked in. So it's it's remarkable but but listen to Mark, thank you so much for being on the show. Where can where can people be where can people watch us? When, when, when and where?

Timur Bekmambetov 44:54
I hope it will be in a week in a week years. Okay and And I really, really hope that screen light will will, will get the audience attention and, and this new language very, very well you know, every film festival where we send this movie we got exactly the same price, you know, which is audience Audience Award. The professionals never gave us a price.

Alex Ferrari 45:30
But the audience did. So that's a good that's that's a very, very good side. My friend, Roger Corman, Roger Corman would be very proud of user. friend, my friend, thank you so much for being on the show and continue pushing the envelope and get if you're a little bit scared. When you're making it. That means it's only going to be good for us. So thank you so much for doing what you do, my friend.

Timur Bekmambetov 45:50
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Alex.

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BPS 248: Producing Sundance Winning Indie Films with Jonathan Baker

Today on the show we have Sundance-winning producer Jonathan Baker. His new film Sylvie’s Love is the talk of Sundance 2020. Sylvie’s Love is an upcoming American drama film, written and directed by Eugene Ashe. It stars Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Regé-Jean Page, Aja Naomi King, and Eva Longoria. It will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2020.

Jonathan is a wealth of information. In the episode, I pick his brain on what it was like winning the audience award at Sundance, how the indie film market place is changing, and much more. His last Sundance-winning film was Crown Heights which was later sold to Amazon Studios.

In 1980, police in Brooklyn, N.Y., wrongfully charge Trinidadian immigrant Colin Warner with murder. Convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, Colin spends 20 years in prison while his friend Carl King fights for the young man’s freedom.


He made his directorial debut with the stoner comedy Manifest Destiny Down: Spacetime. Check out the trailer below.

In this absurdist satire, an awkward OCD physics genius and a hot ex-Catholic sorority girl wake up after blacking out Halloween night to discover they missed the evacuation of Earth. A mysterious agent pursues the feuding couple as they figure out how to work together to solve the recently entangled multi-verse and ultimately try to save humanity from AI.

Here’s a bit more info on today’s guest.

Jonathan Baker (JB) is an independent filmmaker, adjunct professor, and artistic coach. His company JB Productions, Inc. has many partnerships with artists JB develops and produces. He is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America.

JB worked at Sony Pictures Entertainment, first in television research, then at Screen Gems and TriStar Pictures as Marketing Manager. He marketed over forty major theatrical releases, of which ten films achieved #1 at the box-office status. He Co-Producer the documentaries Fang vs. Fiction (airing on AMC), The Real Exorcist (A & E), and Real Premonitions (A & E). Films of note include Closer (dir. Mike Nichols), Adaptation (dir. Spike Jonze), Big Fish (dir. Tim Burton), Boogeyman (#1 at the box office), Underworld (#1 at the box office), In The Cut (dir. Jane Campion), You Got Served (#1 at the box office), the Resident Evil franchise, and Exorcism of Emily Rose. While at TriStar, Lords of Dogtown (dir. Catherine Hardwicke), Oliver Twist (dir. Roman Polanski), Running with Scissors (dir. Ryan Murphy) and Silent Hill.

Johnathan’s new film The Banker starring Sam Jackson and Anthony Mackie comes out March 2020 on Apple TV+.

Two African American entrepreneurs in the 1950s hire a white man to pose as the head of their company while they posed as a janitor and a chauffeur and ran the business.

Enjoy my conversation with Jonathan Baker.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 2:48
I like to welcome the show, Jonathan Baker, man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Jonathan Baker 4:43
Good to see you, man. Good to see you.

Alex Ferrari 4:45
Good to see you too, man.

Jonathan Baker 4:46
Thank you for having me. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:47
Ofcourse, man, of course. So before we get into the movie you directed and your new Sundance movie that you've produced. How did you get into the business?

Jonathan Baker 4:58
Okay, good. Yeah. I I was dyslexic growing up. And so I was bullied as a kid quite a bit. And my mother discovered I could. I had like a habit of tapping on tables and stuff and rhythm. And so I became a musician, as I was learning how to read, and they kind of sponsored every curiosity I had in the performing arts. And so I went from like, drum lessons to trombone lessons to piano lessons to singing lessons to ballet, jazz tap, you know, I was on musical theater like I was the Glee kid before there was Glee.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
So you were so so you were super cool. That's what you're saying.

Jonathan Baker 5:37
I was the super nerd. I was the guy that everybody hated all the theater the fucking the. the jocks wanted to beat me up. You know, they were threatening me.

Alex Ferrari 5:47
Were you in a lot were you placed in a locker? Sir?

Jonathan Baker 5:50
I Dude, I was threatened so many times. Oh, me, too. I but I luckily had a good friend on the football team who actually defended me and he was like, my buffer. Ben, God bless his soul. He passed away whatever they are me. But um, yeah, so I had some heroes along the way, whatever. And at the end of the day, my mother passed away when I was 20. And I stopped performing. And I got into the business side, and I just became, I thought, okay, I'm just going to learn how the money works in the financing works. And just stay active that way until I kind of get over this crazy loss I had. And that that that that was it. I, you know, started right after going to University of Michigan School of Music for musical theater. I graduated and went to New York and just got a job on Wall Street to support myself started spending money on shows that I thought would be interesting place to produce, then left Wall Street to go to the nederlanders. And that was my first big entertainment break. Working for Jimmy Nederlander so.

Alex Ferrari 6:53
So you basically you got into the stable business of the music industry. And then you went into the stable business of stage and Broadway. And then you said, No, no, no, I need something more stable. Let's get into this.

Jonathan Baker 7:05
Yeah. Yeah, my as my dad says to me, my brother's a surgeon. My dad's like, well, john, you're a risk taker.So I'm like, Yeah, thanks Dad. Dan Baker.

Alex Ferrari 7:19
Yes, exactly. Alright, so let's talk about Sylvia's love, which is now as of this recording, is in the Sundance 2020 lineup. It is competition, right. Is it in competition?

Jonathan Baker 7:32
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 7:33
So it's in competition, which is a very small group. I mean, presently, what are we talking about? 20 films in competition. 30

Jonathan Baker 7:42
10 intermap, tenant dramatic competition.

Alex Ferrari 7:45
Yeah, it was tenant dramatic. So um, so you are like the one of the one of the one of the 1% that actually, yeah, the stats are really crazy. 15,014 15,000 Films 15,000.

Jonathan Baker 7:58
I look at this like, because I mean, I've been going to Sundance since 97. That was my first short film as an actor was in there. And it was an entirely different festival. Now. It's just I feel, I feel for the community of filmmakers who submit. It's such a tricky thing. And I just look at it and like, it's just it's a crazy, it's a crazy ride, you know, so, everybody, everybody who tries and submits should get a valor award. It's just, you know, you finished the movie. Everybody should get together and be in a stadium and have a rage at a party and be like, yes. But it's it's pretty amazing to be there. And actually, you know, kind of take the take the real right of it.

Alex Ferrari 8:36
So you know, it's funny that I heard Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez. I think even Linkletter all of them said that if they would submit slacker clerks or El Mariachi today, they would never get it. I know. It's a really, really different market. Yeah, it's really interesting. Yeah. So let's talk about Sylvia's love will tell us a little bit about the movie.

Jonathan Baker 8:59
Saudis Love is an amazing movie, and the fact that it's actually being made now. And it's, it's it's a very interesting sign of the times, in my opinion, as a producer, Nandi and I were attracted to the script, because it had so much jazz, and it was just a beautiful script that Eugene had written. And we we always look for things that are really sort of, not in the mainstream, that are really sort of side over to the side that nobody else is going to make this we should do it. And so the story is really what makes it relevant today because Tessa plays a young debutant African American girl growing up in Harlem and she wants she has a passion she wants to be a TV producer. So she's very she has She's like a modern girl and is sort of a bygone era and and with that she falls in love with sort of the wrong type of guy which Nandi and I really related to because we're both musical guys and It's he he plays a saxophone player. And so their relationship is really, really sort of this beautiful love story and test his character Sylvie really has to negotiate between her her ambition to be successful to be a woman, you know. And so she, she goes through this sort of process where she really makes some tough decisions in her dilemma between the love of her life clearly, and her career. And she has to reconcile those two things. And so she is a female breaking the glass ceiling story, which is what sort of made it was like, but this is a great story to make today. Because this is so fundamentally a part of the Zeitgeist, the culture, the you know, sort of the world that we live in. And yet it sort of operates because it's in the 19, late 50s, and early 60s, it's sort of beautiful in that it just, it's, it's just this time capsule, it's very classy, it's super romantic. And I think it really just plays it's whimsical, it's sweet, it's charming, it's heartfelt, it has certain moments that you really feel for these characters and what they're trying to do with their lives and how complicated sometimes it gets. And then ultimately, just kind of, you know, how it works itself out. So it's, it's pretty neat. It's been a, it's been a very special film, I've worked on a lot of different kinds of movies. And I tell you, I was talking to Eugene, last night Look, man, you know, this is a very special film, or I'm very proud of it. I think it's just, it's an honor to be a part of the team. And it's just great. It's great to see it sort of have a moment at Sundance, because it really doesn't feel like a Sundance movie. It feels very, you know, big comparatively to the kinds of things that Sundance tends to focus on. And that's, that's why I think it's getting sort of its own sort of buzz. You know,

Alex Ferrari 11:54
what, in your opinion, what are the films at Sundance focuses on, because that has changed dramatically over the years?

Jonathan Baker 12:01
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think I think when we did Crown Heights, like when I read that script tonight called Nanda said, this is the movie that we did make. I had been going as a buyer for Sony, I had gone as a filmmaker, I'd gone as a professor, and I've just I've seen it sort of move and shake and kind of zig and zag a lot. But, but Sundance really does something which I think is sort of unique and and to be revered, which is that it really focuses on an independent spirit. Like it focuses on truly unique filmmaking voices. And for that, it's sort of it can kind of go everywhere, but it has this counterculture to whatever you see as the mainstream box office. You know, Sundance is sort of leading the way in the independent space, so independent, that Sundance you know, so it's interesting to find, and to work on a movie that has what I you know, if I put on my old marketing studio brain, this is a, this is a bigger, you know, cross, if it is our house crossover, it's not even our house crossover, it feels like a more mainstream kind of studio movie. And I think the reason that it is there, and the reason that I think it got picked is because it tackles the more interesting sort of frame of what, what's happening with race and what's happening. And it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't go to the obvious. It's not about, you know, African Americans, sort of like being subjugated, like Crown Heights was, this is about classy, beautiful, intelligent African Americans living a beautiful life and figuring out how to make the best life for themselves right now, which is strangely independent. You know, to me, that's what makes it so Sundance he, it just doesn't look like a Sundance movie, because it's got this sort of a certain scope to it. But thematically, it's very Sundance. And so that's what I think is fascinating about the fact that it's there.

Alex Ferrari 14:01
Now, how did you attract such great talent? I mean, you have a great cast on this movie.

Jonathan Baker 14:06
Yeah, that's, that's interesting. I think that first and foremost, it's because it truly is a great script. It was it was a beautiful script. And then I think in terms of at least produce orally, as you know, it's just like, you climb up the ranks. And luckily for us, when when when Crown Heights got the audience Choice Award, there was this, okay, what do you guys gonna do next? And we looked around, we were like, you know, we had sort of a third and a fourth movie and focus, but but we weren't at that level. We needed to find something in sort of the middle range. And this movie, it was brought to us by an extraordinarily amazing woman, Gabrielle Glor, who, who's really connected, and UK Nash, who also has his own sort of legacy in the entertainment space, and then And then Nandi I think nominees, especially multi hyphenate and his ability to not only pick talent, identify the right kinds of people to go to carry bharden casting director exceptionally well respected and it just became sort of a could we go to first that can create the right old lineage for every other decision that focused on the Sylvie role, we had a couple of people in mind. And then it was, it became clear to us that there was something special happening with Tessa, not only because of her legacy at Sundance, but also because she was starting to kind of really get, you know, at a certain point where sort of her star power could hang a budget, like Sylvie and there was this, you know, I was a fan of her work in a couple of other things that were independent. But then with Westworld, and men in black, and I was at Sony, there was sort of a lot of, sort of, I don't know, there was a lot of synergy around her, we became friends with her because she she came out and started to sport Crown Heights in a certain way. And then, you know, there was this sort of, you know, I like to say there's this dating period where everyone kind of like, you know, investigates and everyone's sort of like talking to each other and try to are these people like and kind of go to war with, because that's what independent filmmaking is. And, and then in terms of what happened after that, Nandi was doing this beautiful play off Broadway and Tessa just showed up to see it. And I don't think that she really recognized. I mean, nobody really knows Nabis sort of talent. I mean, that's the hard part about moving from the NFL, to saying I want to be an actor, and I was just like, Look, dude, if you're gonna do this, we have to kind of do anything but ballers. So let's figure out this, this path over here. So it was really validating for I think her and other people to see Nandi on stage, being an actor, and really doing it the right way. Like, he's gonna go do an off Broadway play in at 99 seat theater in Union Square. I mean, this is an amazing thing. And that that really, I think, earned a lot of respect in the community. And for that, it was really, you know, after that, you know, test was like, I want to do this, and the team, everybody liked it. And we said, Look, here's what has to happen. Unfortunately, we have to kind of fit it in between these two, you know, megalithic sort of like spaces that I'm in the middle of. And so we kind of backed into that. Once we had, I think, Tessa and Nandi, then it became sort of a, sort of a, you know, kind of who's the perfect person or in my, in everybody's mind, and the team who's really, really the best person to play each role. And then it became just kind of reaching out to those people, one at a time. And, you know, there are a lot of characters in this movie, Nandi was inherently focused, while we were manufacturing the movie, I think he was the one really focused on casting most of the time and really making sure it was done meticulously, well, like he is, and it came into focus. One, one character at a time.

Alex Ferrari 18:04
It's great. Now, how do you how do you budget a story like this? That it is, you know, you know, hitting a smaller demo than, let's say, the Avengers? Yeah, in today's in today's world, which, yeah, it's harder, harder for the audience to find the films that filmmakers are making.

Jonathan Baker 18:21
Yeah, for me, you know, and one of the things that I kind of take my students through at Carnegie Mellon, where I teach, we, typically we use a lot of cops, where we're talking about other movies with the filmmaker, like, we spent a lot of time with Eugene, saying, what in this, what is the movie look like in your mind? You know, and what does the movie remind you of what other movies does it remind you of so we had some pretty interesting comps you know, like Carol and that kind of stuff, that kind of tapped tapped a certain sort of spot. And, and we were very committed to kind of really making it very authentic. So we, we just really invested in Eugene's vision for that. And that included shooting in on 16 millimeter, and, you know, really, just really putting a lot behind the locations. And the real look of the movie, it was extraordinarily mean. Everything that you see everything that we invested is on the screen. It's not in the actor salary. I'll tell you that much. And it was a labor of love.

Alex Ferrari 19:28
And it was shot on Super 16. Yeah, nice.

Jonathan Baker 19:32
Yeah, exactly. Quinn. The dp is such a wonderful guy. It I've never seen a movie graded so smoothly by harbor and Joe, but it was already in the dailies, like I've never seen a movie come out after being developed and look as good, as Sylvie did. And I was like, this is really something else.

Alex Ferrari 19:57
Like a dp who knows what they're doing. It's shocking. I mean, What are we going to what are we going to do in color? Not much, you know, it's really something. Yeah, we're always we're always so used to the raw like, flat look now that you like and you see some no lots no nothing. And now when you see like, that's what filmmaking wonderful. Oh, no, when I was like, What is this? What ever seen this for? I don't know. It's been years it's been I remember I've worked with DPS like that. You're just like, wow, you. You kind of know what you're doing. It's Yeah, it's refreshing. Oh, yeah.

Jonathan Baker 20:29
Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. And he, he and his entire team, were actually just really lovely people. Like, you know, it was nice

Alex Ferrari 20:37
in and I wanted to touch on that real quick that filmmakers a lot of times don't realize how important the team that you're putting together is, because you are you are going to a war with these people. And if you've got, if you've got, I mean, look, we all have egos, that's fine. But we have to keep them in check. And we have to, you know, put the movie first and all that kind of stuff. But there's, if you pick the wrong people, man, it destroys. It just it just destroys the right. So at any moment, like a film like the film I did, the one that I shot at Sundance, I had a very small crew, if anybody, including the cast, any one of them would have decided to give me attitude. Yeah, it's tough. So can you talk a little bit about the importance of building that team? Yeah, I

Jonathan Baker 21:22
think that we work with the one of the most complicated art forms humankind has ever come up with, you know, and the the amount of collaboration that goes into a movie is absolutely. It's like, I don't, you know, it's, it's, it's pretty amazing. And I sometimes look at I tried it, I tried it, you know, because I, you know, like you do you get people who want to do this kind of stuff. And they're like, Look, I'm writing a script. I'm like, let me try to be clear. We are not building a tree fort. We are building a skyscraper. There is a lot of physics that goes into that building, you know, and it looks, it doesn't look like that. You know, but it looks

Alex Ferrari 22:07
easy. It looks easy. Yeah. Yeah. It's like

Jonathan Baker 22:10
trying to create some metaphors for people to really get it. I come from a military background, my I'm a military brat, my, my, my, every single male in my entire family went into the military, except my brother and I, and after I started making movies is like, Oh, this makes a lot of sense. This is like going to war I might, you know, like, I mean, thankfully, nobody really, hopefully usually dies. But the the idea of the the system that it takes to support the filmmakers is absolutely jaw dropping. So every single key, every single person on the set, their energy, their flow, their intelligence, their creativity, it's all quite important, all the way down to the PA is I mean,

Alex Ferrari 22:52
it's the synergy. It's a synergy. Amazing synergy. I

Jonathan Baker 22:55
mean, it's absolutely great to see people working together. And of course, you know, by the time you're done with 30, some odd days or whatever how many days you're shooting, everybody is such a family. It's just unbelievable.

Alex Ferrari 23:06
I always I always equate it to being a carnival worker, because like a party because we are all carnies, we go off to a location, we put up our tents, and put up a tent, you do a show, you're really it's you and your team against wherever you're at, basically. So you're kind of like you're relying on each other, then you put the tent, then you put the tents down, you pack up and you go to the next town. But when the show is over, it's like, Oh, it's such relationships made on set are so intense that 20 years later, you can run somebody and go, doo, doo doo. Where have you been? And then you sit down and you have some drinks you like remember that time where the the giraffe got in the backseat? How did that happen? Yeah,

Jonathan Baker 23:54
everybody's got this. The stories are what actually make this business go? Because like, everything else, like what? What are you talking about? Like, oh, but you remember when this? Oh, that was great.

Alex Ferrari 24:04
It was very painful at the time. But now it's, it's hilarious. Exactly. Now you had you had a lot of success with crown Crown Heights, which we're going to talk about later in the show. But what you saw you saw that movie at Sundance or around around the time of Sundance. So what is the experience like of selling a film at the festival? Because we've all heard the stories of like SATA Bergen, you know, going to that little cafe or that little pizza joint and everybody just like making a deal on a napkin and all that. Yes, yes.

Jonathan Baker 24:36
Yes, it is very interesting. Yes. How is it like that? Well, first, first of all, what I like about Sundance is you are well, when I started telling my my Carnegie administrators, look, you know, don't do this. Don't do a networking event in LA, nobody will come. Go to Sundance, you know, like, go to Sundance, everybody's walking around like you just run To tensor, like, it's amazing. And so the idea that you sit in a cafe with the buyers, and you're hanging out with them is really actually the real deal. And I think that's what makes it so fun is that, you know, first of all, everyone's everyone loves movies, everyone's a cinephile, everyone's got lots of interesting sort of, like, you know, credibility, but taste and sort of the vibration is really quite, quite interesting. So, but selling the movies, at Sundance, I think, ultimately, is exactly what you you've heard, it is very much a market, it's very exciting. It's, it's really nerve racking, you get you, obviously, you showcase your movie, and then you get to kind of wait to see what happens. And people, the buyers, you know, kind of reach out to your rep and or reach out to you personally. And then you connect people, and then you say, and then there's just this sort of like middle Manning, that starts to facilitate the people who are dating each other, you know, and that everybody gets together and they meet, and they kind of talk about sort of what the plan is, or how would it work? And, you know, what, what would you do to support the movie, and you kind of try to understand exactly what the next level of partnership is going to be with that distributor? And then, once there is this sort of like, Okay, this feels like, we've gotten to know each other, and we're feeling good about it. And there's this negotiation that goes on. And I think that's where it gets really, really interesting. There are obviously lawyers and agents that help you work through those kind of particulars. I think that's really also that what comes up for a lot of independent filmmakers is, do I need an agent? Do I need that, like, Listen, focus on what you want to focus on? focus on making a movie, there's so much to do when you're manufacturing a movie, I don't mind and I think I like having other people to share, you know, the kind of responsibilities with the so the agents, the lawyers, they bring such a particularly valuable level of expertise. They know all the buyers, they see the mark, they're studying the market while you're, you're studying filmmaking. And, and that's really, really neat. You know, I've even coming up to Sylvia I've had, I've had an old student who's now buying for Sony call me. She's been out out of Carnegie Mellon for 10 years. And she's like, I'm tracking your movie. And I'm like, this, I'm having like, an amazing life moment here. Like, it's so interesting. The network plays out. Yeah, shout out to shout out to Lakshmi, but I think ultimately, you get into this sort of very surreal kind of flow. And then there's this, okay, you know, a lot of times it looks like this, you've got a couple of people kind of going up against each other. And you kind of pick the one that makes the most sense for what you're after. What is what is your bottom line? as a filmmaker? Do you want to make the money back? Or do you care more about a theatrical release? Or do you care about more about the personable kind of relationship with the people inside the company? And do you trust those people? And, you know, if you've made a movie, it's really much, it's your baby, it's growing up, it's going to college, you know, where do you want that child to go? And where do you think it's going to have the best chance to survive? You know, it's, it's a very, it's a really profound choice. And it comes with a lot of nerves. And then at some point, you, you, you know, it's very, like very much like Shark Tank, you eventually make a deal. And then you go, look, we love you guys. Like, yeah, we're gonna do this euphoric, like, you know, kind of, you know, next level kind of celebration, and then you're off to the next, you know, kind of game, which is, as you know, the NFL, like, you're moving from what is a really interesting, very intense microcosm of cinema, you know, Sundance, to what is the world stage, and then it's anybody's guess what's going to happen because the market is brutal up there.

Alex Ferrari 28:56
Now, I want to talk to you a little bit about that market. Because, you know, from, from my experience, and from my point of view, I've been watching and studying Sundance, for over the last 1520 years, if not, since the 90s. And what was once this kind of, like, you know, the, you know, Miramax, you know, buying things left and right, and Fox, searchlight and all of those, you know, Paramount Vantage, and all these kind of these little micro indie labels. The money was flowing heavily back in the day of but but the, and Sundance was a much more significant voice and kind of like spotlight for films, where in today's world, there's such a just avalanche of content that Sundance still has a light on it without question, and it's much better to be in Sundance than and not to be in Sundance. Yeah, but the marketplace I've noticed that there hasn't been as many deals made at Sundance films coming out of Sundance aren't being bought at the same rate. I mean, there was a year or two that Netflix was buying everything that Amazon was buying everything in the last year. Not that much. So yeah. What's your feeling about the marketplace? how it's changing? And how do you think it's gonna move forward? Because I, you know, I wrote a whole book about I feel how the markets moving forward, but from the Sundance experience from a producer of your statutes point of view, what do you think the marketplace is doing now? And where do you think it's going? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now, back to the show.

Jonathan Baker 30:34
I think that market works, I think, I think it really comes down to and, you know, we've said this, you know, at the studio level, where we're like, we're watching the box office, you know, kind of recede, and then it kind of goes up again, and then like, you know, kind of, it's all moving around, like, it's dynamic, I think the main thing is, if you make a good movie, people will buy it, if you if you if you create good content, the world wants good content. So it comes down, I think, usually the taste and your ability to execute something at a certain quality. And that kind of has a big part in it. And then obviously, with the streaming wars and the the sort of the real kind of boon, I think it's a boon in terms of economic muscle showing up. There's a lot of new buyers, and they're, they're very quick, sweetie, I love you. There's a lot of I think there's a world of opportunity for filmmakers, and I get people approaching me all the time say, oh, what's going to happen? Like, it's amazing what's happening. This is incredible. What's happening? Why is everybody so pessimistic? I always tell people is like, Look, the thing that you want to keep keep your eye on is the population of the of the world is 7.5 billion people. And it's only going up, unfortunately. And the penetration of the internet to those 7.5 billion people is only 30%. We've got a long, long way to go. And if the boom in the you know, the the boom in the internet, it reminds me of sort of TV and the the history of, of film, and people were so threatened by it until they figured out how to partner with each other. So we're in this really, you know, history repeating itself, kind of, I think phase of things, it will settle itself out, everybody's got to negotiate the right equilibrium. This is ultimately happening between the unions and everybody. But I think it's really, it's a really exciting time to be a content creator. And I just look at it and say, Look, at least from where I'm sitting. What I mean, I read a great script last night by a female filmmaker, named nothing Arizona, and I really hope she gets her, her her capital, I'm going to try to help her get this movie made. It's it's a good script. And I was just like, Great. Okay, cool. Like, Alright, we're alive. This is it? Because it's hard to write a good script. Yeah. Oh, yes. You know, it's like, it's just Okay, great. It's like diamond in the rough, like, Oh, great, she found great. Let's go, let's go. And so it's just crap, you know, I think you just got to focus on, if you're going to go to a streaming video, make a great streaming video, if you're going to go make a video game, make a fucking great video game, if you're gonna go make a movie, and you're going to be a part of that lineage. Let's make a great movie. And let's, let's move that ball down the field. They, they're all their own unique content. And I just I go back to that again, and again, again, just try to be good at what what it is that you're trying to do, the market will find you. Now you working within the studio system, you must have seen a lot of directors and had interaction with a lot of directors coming in and out through these kind of genre films through Screen Gems.

Alex Ferrari 33:58
What was what was like if you know you without calling anybody's name out what was the like the biggest mistakes or the biggest common things that you saw that made directors either fail or just get in their own way or something along those lines? And then on the opposite side, what was like, I mean, you just kind of set it with love and Wiseman but like, what was the other or the opposite? Like, this is this is how you do it. Right? And this is how you take advantage of something. So on the both sides.

Jonathan Baker 34:28
That's an interesting question. saw a lot of different kinds of directors come through a lot of different kinds of experience levels. The the better directors who, who, who were really experienced and knew how to navigate the system, we're used to the political dynamic, okay. And in a studio system, it's really interesting because it is a bit more democratic than I think people realize there's a lot of there's a lot of groupthink that goes into it and it is It is, it is usually up to one person, like it does have a pecking order and there is like the big boss, and they will say yes or no. But a lot of people what I like to say they don't like to go it alone, you know? So there is this sort of like, Well, what do you think? What do you think, and then you use a lot of research, and then you try to, you tried to get the best sense of what the right thing to do is. And so the filmmakers that I think were the most successful, at least in my perspective, in my mind, were the ones who were, we're ready to have that much input, we were ready to kind of Listen, and, and sort of democratically go with the flow to the point where they realized that it isn't, you know, and a tour like environment, it's, it's, you're answering to what I call public money, it is a very different kind of artistic process, you have a release state, it's, it's a, it's a process of deliverables, like it's a system, and you have to move on down the field, whether you like it or not, you have to finish that movie and hand it over. And that's, that's sort of the rhythm of that. And in terms of, you know, if the filmmakers sort of fought that, or they created a bit of a stew, then what happens is the the energy of the studio, and the people, they don't want to support the filmmaker, they don't want to put forth the film, and it is personal that way. And so you start to see the not only the economic muscle move into a different place that could be reallocated. It almost starts to feel like the the people who really have the, the mechanism to do or to not do they, they may not be able to get may not be able to get on the phone anymore with you, it's just kind of like they're personally over, they don't want to kind of like take that attitude or something like

Alex Ferrari 36:50
that. It's very passive aggressive is very passive aggressive in that way.

Jonathan Baker 36:54
It can be it can be aggressive, aggressive, it can be directly or as a as a, you know, as a filmmaker has a bit too much hubris or a bit of an attitude, or they think they know. And they really don't have the perspective, that a lot of the, I mean, I don't want to be rah rah, the executives, because some of them are really, really troubling, too. But a lot of the time when you're a filmmaker, you have and I'm saying this from being a filmmaker, so I don't want to show I've been through this on my own my own personally, you think you know, and the value sometimes of the executive ranks and the studio ranks is that I have, I have friends who have worked on over 400 films. I mean, they're not credited on IMDB. These are people who have extraordinary, extraordinary, extraordinarily valuable perspectives a lot of the time. And so it's, it's a balancing act. And I think that if you can go in with that level of respect, it tends to go a lot better for you.

Alex Ferrari 37:58
I mean, I've heard I've heard movies as studios doing this. I mean, it's legendary for some some big like, you know, Robert Altman, or I know kind of bro Kenneth Kenneth Bronner, where they literally they just literally just shut this, they just the movie goes to die, it gets released on a horrible weekend. And they get no, no PNA money, they don't market it, and they just literally go and kill it. And it happened, obviously to Orson Welles. And many of these big directors that happened, but I'd really never heard a firsthand, you know, account of it like, Well, you know, if they will, I mean, obviously, if it The movie is so big, if it's a $200 million movie, they can't do that. But on the older system, where movies were done for $20 million, or if they figured out we'll make our money, we're just not going to really push this guy.

Jonathan Baker 38:47
Yeah, it's, it's an interesting mix. Sometimes it's hard to actually know exactly what what's going on with those decisions, because you can't see through the economic or the deal. But what what I like to say, in terms of where the where the right equilibrium is, is, is you sort of like, you sort of want a studio to have skin in the game, so that they can't abandon the movie, right? The filmmaker, you want them to be invested because you want them to actually chase their their actual real investment. And then in terms of being able to get along, then there's actually the personal relationship which is executive to filmmaker or just person to person, like, how are people actually in or communicating with one another? How are they going with the sort of the schedule, the rhythm of it, and, and both of those things actually matter quite a bit. Quite interesting to see how they actually start to kind of seesaw with each other.

Alex Ferrari 39:43
The one thing that I you know, we've had many guests on the show, we talk a lot about many topics, but the one area that we really haven't touched upon, and I kind of talked about it every once in a while and it's it's kind of like an unspoken rule that is definitely not taught in film schools is the politics of not only In the studio system, the politics of a film set the politics of, of dealing with personalities dealing with egos. And if you're the director, which most people listening are either want to be directors or producers, or people in the position of power in these environment, these environments. That balancing act is as much of the equation is as the creative, because I've met creative directors, and I've met people who really are wonderful artists, or had no idea how to deal with personality, psychology, politics. And I was told by an agent, once he's like, what I'm looking for in a client, as a director, I need a filmmaker, I need a politician, and businessman. And those three aspects have to be that's if you look at all the big directors ever in history, three of them generally, combined. So do you have any tips for filmmakers on how to navigate the politics of a set and or the politics of the studio system?

Jonathan Baker 41:04
That's a great question. And that's a that's a very well framed setup. Because that couldn't be more true, is remarkable. It's remarkable, because in what we do, sometimes when I talk to my Carnegie Mellon students, I'm like, Listen, we're not we're not writing a song, you can't get up here and to sing a song You see, that's, that's, that's a,

Alex Ferrari 41:28
that's an artist, that's an art,

Jonathan Baker 41:30
that's a, that's a very specific kind of thing. There's no barrier of entry, there's no economic risk to singing a song to me, and I love that stuff, too. Like, trust me, it's great. But in terms of where we're going, we're going to a place where even to accomplish the smallest, you know, film, there's still an economic, you know, reality that we have to kind of understand. And so there's this business. Brain, I like to talk about it in terms of there's a hybrid, out here we are hybrids, we have to create a sense of the economics of scale, we have to create a sense of the creativity that balances that. So we talked about modeling, you know, what's the model, and how to how to kind of work within it. And each of those sort of bins have certain pressure points where the people who are going to be in there have certain demands on them. And it's often how they meaning how you navigate interpersonal relationships that matter the most. So I always say to people, you have to respect each other. And they're their ultimate, specify specific skill set that you bring to the table. This is because of this economic scale, it's the most collaborative thing that I've ever seen. It's so collaborative, that you have to look at everybody, as a teammate, as somebody who has more skill than you have, in a very specific thing that you frankly, don't want to know that much about. I'm not it, like I say, I can edit. But I can just, I can just get by, I don't want to be an editor, I want to be able to speak the grammar. But I very much need a fabulous dp and I very much need a fabulous executive, I very much need a fabulous producer and a fabulous line producer and amazing grip. I don't want to be a grip. I I'm cool. Just being over here. And and I'd like to tell a story. And I'm interested in exactly what everybody thinks of doing with that kernel. And that is sort of an organic, you know, thing that kind of grows out of that. So there's the sense of First and foremost, getting to the point where you're so humble, that you're the

Alex Ferrari 43:52
humblest. I mean, you're like the most humble ever.

Jonathan Baker 43:55
Yeah, I think you have to be and I think that I've certainly been worn down by life to the point where it's just like embarrassing. And I just, I, I I love what I get to do now I feel like I'm sort of a an inspirational story for people, which is why I really appreciate getting a chance to tell anybody about it. But I think past a certain point, anytime that my life has not gone, right, it's because I was either betraying who I was, who I personally was, or it was because I had some sort of hubris is I had some sort of attitude that I was better than somebody else or, or there's something about that. That kicked me in the head again, and and to this point now. It's just this sense of collaboration. And looking at people and picking the people that are going to be on the team with that sense of Can I trust that they have good taste, and that they are able to do that job better than than I could ever want to do and then let it let it ride from there.

Alex Ferrari 44:58
I mean, I think and I've said this multiple times in the show. But I think it's it's important to cast your crew as it is to cast your actors critically. I mean, it's absolutely critical because if you get a dp who needs 10 hours to light a corner, that's going to be a problem. And that corner might look fantastic. But there has to be a balance within their art form and how they do it. And then also, as a director, you need to be able to, you know, collaborate, but also at the end of the day, it has to be everything has to be filtered through you as a director, right? And dealing with these personalities dealing with these Eagles dealing with their own personal like everyone's got their own personal crap that they're coming in, like they're, they had a fight with their wife, they know they're getting a divorce, their kids are doing something or you know that they can't do it. They got a ticket that they like, there's 1000 things that that I never thought about in the creative filmmaking process. It's always like the shot that Scorsese did in Goodfellas when he did an unkind steadycam. Like, that's fantastic.

Jonathan Baker 46:03
Right? You're bringing up something with it's really funny. I just finished producing this movie or we're in the middle of finishing called Sylvie right now, but that that title is gonna change the stars Tessa Thompson and my producing partner in nom de asamoah and Eva Longoria. And it's this beautiful jazz era. Movie. And it's, we're, we're about to lock picture right now. And Declan Quinn is the DP. And he's sort of an iconic, you know, just like, old school dude. And he, he first of all, we shot Super 16. And he was, I mean, this movie looks better than most movies that I've ever seen. uncoloured and it looks fabulous. We haven't even gotten to the idea. And, but at the same time, we were shooting this movie in, in LA for New York. And it was just a big, big production. And we were moving pretty slow. But Declan is the nicest guy in the world. He couldn't have been more sweet. And, you know, I'm the producer on set, just trying to get this thing to move. Like that clip, Brother, please. Are we are we gonna be okay, we're gonna be okay. It's gonna be fine. gonna be fine. You know. And he had this just beautiful demeanor about him and everybody. Everybody just responded to him is just loving, moving through, like, Did we make our days like, barely every day, he was fine. But it was the way that he was able to do I was just like, this guy's got a skill.

Alex Ferrari 47:37
Yeah, as opposed as as opposed to many DPS that I know you and I've worked with, like, Get out of my face. You producer. Let me be the artists, you have no idea what you're talking about. I know how to light. You don't tell me how to do my job. I'll see the difference.

Jonathan Baker 47:50
No, he was really it was actually pretty, pretty awesome. And I think this is one of the special movies that we did a pickup shoot, like, I think two to three weekends ago. And it was like a reunion. Everybody came back as like, hugs, like, Hey, good to see you like, Oh, we've missed you. Your hair's longer. You look like you got some sun, you're like great, you know? Great. It was it was really just like, All right. All right. And a lot of that has to do with my producing partner. Nami is like, the most, you know, gentle, spirited, nicest, classiest guy on planet Earth, the guy is just an angel. So every place is super loving on, on set. So you know, you can get these great, great collaborations together. And then you could also go and have like a Whoa, what, you know, this is pretty intense every year. But I think it's definitely from the top down.

Alex Ferrari 48:38
And you do appreciate the the ladder when you deal with with. Let me tell you, when you have the other one, you're like, oh, man, it's true that once you find groups of people that you really do have a good working with. You try to build that team up again. And

Jonathan Baker 48:56
yeah, he tries, which is why I think with with some of these, you know, iconic filmmakers, you know, there's

Alex Ferrari 49:03
plenty of people. They're never nice word Ron Howard those guys.

Jonathan Baker 49:07
Why, why? Why, you know, try to fix something that's not broken. You know,

Alex Ferrari 49:11
without question. Now you've gotten a chance to work on a Sundance winning film called Crown Heights. Is that correct? That's right. That's right. What was that? Was that the first time you were at Sundance?

Jonathan Baker 49:23
Oh, gosh. That's funny. No, no. I went when I was acting. Yep. And my first short film that ever acted and went to Sundance in 1997. And that's free.

Alex Ferrari 49:34
That's that's preset sexualize a videotape. So it wasn't even. It was it was Sundance, but it wasn't Sundance yet. Right. Or not. I'm sorry. 89. I'm sorry. 8989. I'm sorry. That's Yeah, yeah, it was. It was already Sundance.

Jonathan Baker 49:46
Yeah, it became something it was already pretty, pretty interesting. I had no idea what I was doing. It was it was makeup. I was a theater kid. And this was the first short that I kind of acted in and it was was quirky. And I when I when we got And I don't think I realized what sort of like it meant, you know. And so we I went kind of died and experienced it as a as a college kid. And, and then since then I've, because I teach at Carnegie Mellon, a feature film economics course, I told my my awesome administrators, Dan Martin and Dan green there, I said, Listen, you should, you should take the kit, you should take the students to cart to Sundance every year because it's such a great melting pot. So we've been taking the class there for, I don't know, eight years or so. So I've been in at Sundance either with Sony as a buyer. I've been there as a filmmaker. I've been there as a professor. And now when I came back, ironically enough, when Crown Heights was there and won the Audience Award, that was my 20th anniversary of the short film. So to me, it was like this crazy Cinderella moment where I mean, Crown Heights in and of itself was a Cinderella story at that festival. But, but, but that was pretty, pretty awesome. I felt like I just won the Super Bowl. It was pretty, pretty crazy.

Alex Ferrari 51:10
And that movie went on to be sold to Amazon, if I'm not mistaken. Right?

Jonathan Baker 51:14
Yeah. Amazon picked it up at Sundance. And, yeah, it you know, it hit theaters at the fall in the fall after Sundance. So

Alex Ferrari 51:24
it I I've worked on a project that wasn't that one Sunday, I won a few awards at Sundance, and it is a pretty, it's pretty insane. It's a pretty magical, it's pretty magical. But but but do you but do you agree? I don't mean to cut you off. But the whole Sundance mythology, and every filmmaker in the world wants to go to Sundance and be in Sundance and everybody wants to God for when Sundance or when an award at Sundance would be insane. But do you feel that there is this lottery ticket mentality when it comes to filmmakers where they just like they put all their eggs in the Sundance basket, or they're like, this is the this is the only way this is going to happen? And I always say I, I've donated to Robert Redford retirement fund quite often on my end, it's a donation. It's a donation. It's a Sundance donation. I do it every time I have a project. It's a Sunday, it's a Sunday as donation. Because it's a lottery. It's a lottery ticket, isn't it? Yeah. What

Jonathan Baker 52:24
is it now? It's like the submissions are up like above 10,000. At

Alex Ferrari 52:28
last 2018 it was 18,200 and 118. films, including shorts were accepted. Yeah,

Jonathan Baker 52:37
it's, it's a well, this is I yeah, it's it's sort of this weird thing. I look at it now. And it just has to do with I say to my head, say this to people like we're in a content flood, you know, it has to do with has to do with our iPhones and I'm picking up my iPhone here. It's like, it's a great time to be a filmmaker. But it's also a very challenging time to because there's just so much content out there. And so even this movie that I releasing in Halloween, which is called spacetime Manifest Destiny on space time, this is a little scrappy movie that is really meant for streaming. I mean, it is a virally, you know, kind of we did I just wrote it to try to, you know, for these stars, these up and coming kids,

Alex Ferrari 53:22
what's the movie about? What's the movie about clicks? So that's pretty much about

Jonathan Baker 53:26
Sure, sure, sure. The movie is about these two co ads, a physics nerd and a hot sorority girl who wake up after Halloween. This blackout party night and they realize that they've missed the evacuation of earth. And they have to figure out what happened and you know, chaos ensues and it's it's a stoner comedy, it's really silly and it's, it's, it's just all sorts of quantum mechanics fun, and it spoofs all sorts of bullshit. It's it's boost the matrix and Back to the Future. And it's got every single scene is like a little nugget for cinephiles like you and I so, you know, nobody can take this movie. Seriously. That's not the goal. You know, it's really just have a couple drinks or a smoke and let it ride on a Halloween, you know, night party or something like that. And if you know my sales agent, when we first started the show, if he goes, Oh, you've got a cult classic on your hands. This will be fine. I'm like, Okay, yeah, it's, it's really just really just all sorts of fun. But I wrote it with this viral mentality in mind to just try to, you know, just look at like, you can do give me a little bit of money. Okay, fine. This is what we're gonna do. And it's a it's a, it's, we work in a world where, you know, there's no middle ground anymore. You either have stars, and you can do what we liked it on. The banker were we just like, Listen, without Samuel Jackson, this movie does not work. You know, it's like, the only way this works is if we have that guy. And it was a casting strategy. To do that,

Alex Ferrari 55:00
but But with that said with the cats just want to I don't mean attractive I want to touch on the casting. You know, Sam Jackson is obviously one of the biggest stars in the world. He's very, very recognizable. And he does do the 200 300 $400 million movies. And he'll also do a lower budget independent film he's he just wants to work in it's the kind of actor he is. But the days of a movie star opening a movie are gone. But yet, there are gone. So you know, Sam Jackson's not going to open a movie by himself at $200 million in The Avengers, he will. But at a certain budget range, it makes perfect sense. And that's more for international than it is for domestic or how does that work? in your in your eyes? With?

Jonathan Baker 55:47
Yeah, that's a great question. Well, when I started at the studio, we were at a 6040 split. So I worked in the domestic marketing environment. And so we had, we had sort of the greenlight final say, in a lot of movies, because we were the majority of the market. Now with it being more like 6040 it's it's much more of an international greenlight, And therein lies the migration into where we stand today. Then you then you add in the the the fact that DVDs have disappeared, and then streaming is not not making up nearly the difference. And so we have this really interesting, you know, kind of transition period that we're in, and somebody likes him. He he performs across the board. So it's a it's a carte blanche, you're getting your movie finance kind of thing. Other people don't necessarily have that punch, you know? So it's, it's a case by case experiment to kind of see where the the equilibrium is with, with the movie, the banker, we're good, like Apple picked it up. They're releasing it in December, they're putting it in a small theatrical like, we're, we're in good. It's awesome. That one, that's awesome, that that's actually great. And, and it's a very, very cool story. And Sam did it because of, you know, the story it said about, it's written and directed by a friend, George nolfi, who you might remember from, like oceans series and Adjustment Bureau. It's a true story about the first African American bankers who had posed as a chauffeur and a cleaning guy to, to kind of help a white front man that they had figured out to buy the banks. And so they would, they'd buy these banks, and they'd kind of That's awesome. It was It's a crazy caper his story, and it's, it just goes all the way to Congress. And that amazing, amazing film. So Matt, really well,

Alex Ferrari 57:47
So so with a movie like the banker, where you've got Sam Jackson, which basically is the driving force behind it, meaning audience wise, the audience that you're going to find for that, I mean, obviously, the niche audience is not going to be people interested in banking, you know, heist films. It's about people. Right? It's people who are interested in Sam Jackson, at this point,

Jonathan Baker 58:06
you better believe it? Yeah, exactly. So and getting that script, getting that script, finance was more of like, there were so many, so many different people who said, but it's a movie about banking, I said, it's a very smart script. And Georgia is an incredible writer. And it is a movie about banking. So the marketability is tough. So we had to kind of get over that and make it for the makeup or smart number, and get real cast, you know, to make it happen.

Alex Ferrari 58:29
So then, then your other movie that you just directed Manifest Destiny down space time, that yeah, it's the complete opposite where you, you're, you've actually developed the product, which is much more niche, which is a stoner comedy. And that is the that is the selling point of that film. Because there is no cast of any marketable cast murders. Correct. Do you think and and this is something I've been, you know, preaching from the top of the mountains for all filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers, but this obviously can work with within a higher budget range as well, is that the future there is such a dilution of content. There's just an insane I mean, the TV alone, I'm still catching up on HBO shows from like, the early 2000s. I just finished the wire for the I mean, I mean, it's a great show. So there's so much great content. The only way that a film, any film, even without major marketing muscle or major star power, yeah, it's gonna be niche. So the more niche you get, that's what's going to cut through all the noise. Does that make sense?

Jonathan Baker 59:37
Yeah, that's exactly the that was my approach to spacetime. It was to try and I think your your, your, your, your universal, really, I think get this, which was, you know, I had some talented clients of mine that were just here. I'm an artistic coach and I tried to develop develop talent. And then I had a financial come in and said, I have this much money. Can you make a movie? I said, Okay, cool. I'm gonna back into this. This is how much you've given me, no problem. I have these two people that that are kind of oil and water to begin with, which is comedy gold to me. And let's figure out a subject that kind of feels current. And then let's throw in as many crazies zinger one liners that feel viral. And let's make a movie. And that was it. And it's really designed to be laugh out loud, funny, which I think for people who have seen it, they do think it's really funny. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It's not intended to make sense. In fact, it's making fun at this current science, which makes no logical sense.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:48
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jonathan Baker 1:00:59
So that's that, sorry. It's also existential. So for people who don't really understand existential comedy, like Waiting for Godot. It's frustrating, you know, like they're like, is a roadtrip movie that goes nowhere,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:15
is a stoner roadtrip movie that goes no,

Jonathan Baker 1:01:17
yeah. Sorry, you're frustrated. That's the point. Our existence on planet earth with Trump is frustrating. That's kind

Alex Ferrari 1:01:26
of, but let me ask you this, though. So and this is where I find the smart producers and the and the artists, they sometimes don't meet. This movie, obviously. Sounds more experimental. It obviously it's obviously a little bit more experimental. It's absurd. It's really, you're really swinging for the fences on this. Meaning that you're like, we think we have an audience for it. We don't know why. Right. But the budget, I'm assuming, is a much smarter point, then the banker? You got it? Oh, yeah. Yeah, it's a fraction, a fraction. It's craft services. It's craft services, basically, the budget for craft services on the bank.

Jonathan Baker 1:02:08
It's not a joke. It's not a joke. I mean, this is a kind of you know exactly what you're saying it is. It's that scrappy. That's all it is. It's Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:17
but a lot of filmmakers will try to make Manifest Destiny down space time on a and they're going to go out for six years trying to raise $20 million, because that's their vision. And that's where we all fall, and then some and sometimes every once in a while someone gives the money. Right? We all see those movies like How did this get financed? What is this game? Why didn't they call me? Why didn't they give me the money? I would have done something with that cup. odd. Exactly. Exactly.

Jonathan Baker 1:02:50
Yeah, it's a very interesting thing to try to find the I say the word balance or equilibrium a lot, because it is that it's just sort of like, well, what are you going to do? I said, and I put my artistic hat on. And I said, Okay, I like to, I like creative challenges. I like to kind of make the most of the situation. And I do have, I do have something I'd like to say, and I can do it with this money I can do with this to me in this movie. Manifest Destiny now spacetime. It was really, really fun that this movie was really fun to do, because it was about quantum mechanics. And I didn't know anything about quantum mechanics during this movie. It's awesome. And that was so exciting. I am so grateful to have had an opportunity to make this movie because I learned so much. So and to that extent, like the movie is really just to be it's supposed to be a physics for Dummies. It's supposed to be for people like me who grew up and missed physics class. And it's it's supposed to be like, Hey, did you know there's something called entanglement? Like? What are you talking about? It's not just a love position six nano particles entangle. It's kind of an awesome thing. You know. So it's, it's, it's making fun of myself, frankly,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:10
that's awesome. That's it. But that's a great thing to be as an artist where you can go out and do that and create and do it, but you have to do it because it's such an expensive art form. You have to do it for a budget you have to do it for like, like you say, it's smart number, which I'm going to steal now. This I'm going to use that all the time. Now. You have to do it for a smart number. Because it's, it's, you know, like I did my movie, I went to Sundance and I shot a narrative you know, waiting for guffman meets Best of Show up our filmmakers at Sundance completely guerrilla. And we did it for three grand and and I did I shot the whole movie to narrative and but I can't do that for 20 million. I can't do that for a million. I can't I can't I can't take those kinds of risks.

Jonathan Baker 1:04:55
Exactly, exactly. But it was good. Yeah, risk. This is a good That risk is the big, big word. I feel. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:03
You mean? Like if someone would have given me 50 Grand 80 grand to do this? I'd be like, I don't know if this is that project. I mean, it's it. Yeah. This is perfectly designed for my audience. It's a perfect. Who's my audience for that people who are interested in Sundance filmmakers, my audience who knew who I am and what you know what I do? And that's and then maybe some people interested in the filmmaking process that that's Yeah, it's not a really lucrative monster. You know, it's not like a stoner comedy. There's a lot of people who want stoner comedies, but not a lot of people who want to watch this movie, but the $3,000 budget, right, I'll make 20 of those. Yes, yes,

Jonathan Baker 1:05:41
yes, yes, yes. No, you're absolutely right. And I think there's this you know, in terms of at least with you know, something with with my my stoner movie, there was something about it, that was such a particular balance of trying to get a get sort of a tone out. And at the same time, you are you are operating in this, like little tiny economic wiggle room where the concept was born out of the money, not the other way around. It was thought of

Alex Ferrari 1:06:18
as a shoot in the independent world. Yeah, yeah. And that. That was just, that was a fantastic challenge. It was just, it's crazy, you know, and the funny thing is that you have the experience of working with bigger budgets, you have the experience of working within the studio system. So you know, luxury. Yes, the luxurious Yes, their sushi, their sushi for lunch, and lobster tail, I got, yeah, I've, I've been on those sets. They're fantastic. But But I but I've also been, like, let's just grab that, that slice of pizza over there. And that's different for everybody. But it is, I find it at least as an artist, much more interesting to do a movie at such a ridiculously low budget, because I'm free to do whatever I want. And you're out there kind of on a tightrope without a net. And yeah, I as an artist, I love doing that. But I have to be responsible when you do that, again, 80 grand, not so much. three grand total, absolutely. Go take your risk.

Jonathan Baker 1:07:22
Yeah, totally. This, this is also an opportunity for me to return to performing because I play the agent in it. So I was going around the lens, and for that reason alone, like, I put my own money in it, you know, it's like, it's, it's like it's a it's a it's all in, you know, like, this is what you do, like, this is how we do this. And like, it's about the risk, and there's just, it's experimental, and it's fun. And that I'm not going to, you know, jump out of the office of when I was at Sony and jump into Sam Raimi, Spider Man, which was shooting at the studio stage across the street. Like, that's just not where I'm at, in my career. And I'm cool with that, you know, but, but it's pretty awesome to be able to walk around and see the scale, you know, to me, that's, that's kind of the most most fun about it. You know, it's just that that sense of the different resources that people people operate with?

Alex Ferrari 1:08:14
Yeah, okay. Yeah. You know, it's like I was talking to, there was an a director, friend of mine who was talking to was happened to be on set shadowing James Cameron. And on on the on the avatar set when the avatar was on. And he was there sitting there, and he's just talking him and then he started asking him like, indie questions, like questions like, like perspectives from an independent filmmaker. Sure. And James Cameron had no idea what he she couldn't grasp. Because he lives in his world. He lives in James Cameron's world, which is fine. We need we need a James Cameron out there. We need a Spielberg, we need to know and these guys who have these massive paint brushes and massive canvases because that's what we go the roads for. I say the same thing. It's exactly right. These are massive paint brushes and massive canvases and we want it that's why we go to cinema. You want that? That's good. But it was fascinating to me. Like if I like when I was on the streets of Sundance, and I was meeting producers in Brazil buddies of mine on set while I was shooting the movie, in the middle of the craziness of Sundance and they're like what do you do and I'm like I'm shooting a movie and you could see their face. Just go Yeah, yeah, you are you're doing you're like what Miguel? We're shooting right now in the confusion is so wonderful to see their faces. But it's fascinating. perspectives me like Peter Jackson on epsilon The Lord of the Rings. Oh man, can you I mean, this scope of these these guys. It's an army. It's an army. And also in a lot of people don't understand the pressure that is on the shoulders of these. These guys. Yeah, yeah $200 million on your shoulders. Yeah, you've got to be if that's a special kind of, you know, you don't have to just be an artist.

Jonathan Baker 1:10:09
I talked to my, my, my business partner nominee about this yesterday because we were talking about he's, he's an NFL star. And he's, he's moving over to acting, and he was he, he was one of the stars of Crown Heights. And we were producers on that film together. And then we've been producing content. And then we'll pick a couple pick a movie that he's going to star in very carefully. And we picked this next movie Sylvia's, the one with Tessa Thompson, I said, this is the perfect movie for him to star and because I like to, you know, when it comes to building star talent, you have to do it very particular, because people don't really understand the pressure that's on the star, they don't really understand what it's like for that person's face, to be plastered across the entire globe. And the level of our artistic integrity that it takes to build, you know, a star that can really open a movie or just that level of success, where the audience responds to the fact that they, they go to the movies, because they know that person makes good content. They go, there's, they're, they're loyal to that star, like Sandra Bullock I worked out in premonition and she's called Hughes evergreen, we call our evergreen, she'll, she'll open a movie, and the box office will sustain way beyond the norm, because Sandra Bullock just has the sense of, you know, this loyal following, you know, to create that level of value in the consumers mind to be of that much service to them, to be of service to the, to the, to the audience that you work for them. And to allow that to really be developed in a in a in a in a way that comes up from my partner and I because he has such a specific, classy taste. And this next movie is really quite classy. And then the next movie that we're planning to produce after that is is very special and will be more risky for him in terms of what he can do with his acting chops. But that sense of being able to just take baby steps and just grow organically the next from this, you know, this rung to the ladder to that rung, not that rung, don't go up there, you know, just just very, very mindful of the learning curve. And just the level of responsibility that you're taking on both economically artistically, those things are really interesting to me, you know, especially at my age, I just find it to be fascinating.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:41
I I've always found it very interesting to study Tom Cruise's career because he is just, he's one of those actors who exactly what you said to be of service to the audience. He, he does his own stunts, he does what he, regardless if you like them don't like them, but with all the stuff that he goes through, of course, as an artist, as an actor, as a businessman within the film industry, man he delivers man, those Mission Impossible movies like he's literally hanging from that airplane,

Jonathan Baker 1:13:11
like I just watched. I know I missed the last one. And I just watched it two weekends ago, and I was just like,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:18
if I need to lievable I just forget just like, it's just I can't I can't even I just can't even and the guys want 105 now How old is he like he's been drinking formaldehyde for years, you know, he bathes in in baby's blood. That's that's basically what I heard. I've heard that through the grapevine. That's how he states. Him and J. Lo, they have the same doctor. something going on there. Now, so I want to ask you, I'm gonna ask you a few questions that I asked all of my my guests. But one last question I want to ask you. Before we get to the final questions is, do you think that filmmakers moving forward, especially independent filmmakers, but even at filmmakers who aren't as independent? I mean, you do independent films like like space time, but you also do larger budget projects with larger stars as well? Right? Do you believe that filmmakers really need to start treating or start approaching filmmaking in an entrepreneurial spirit? and more of like a, like a, I coined the term film shoprunner. So it's kind of like, which is like looking at it, like how can I how can we recoup our money? How can we maybe generate other revenue streams from these films? How can we build our businesses, how build our portfolios, all that kind of stuff, even on even at the $5,000 movie level? Dude, if you did, if you did 20 movies at $5,000 a piece of each of those make $20,000 that's a business and people right so what's what's your point? What's

Jonathan Baker 1:14:52
what do you think? I, we live in a world where that's that's, that is front and center. Now. I mean, with the YouTube generation The influencers, the content creators, people like Gary Vee, I mean, these people are extraordinary. I'm very intrigued and fascinated by by, by that manifesting down space time isn't going to ever make its money back in terms of what was getting a streaming. But I've got these crazy, you know, t shirts and cups, where if people actually like it, they just go to the mall, and they can buy a T shirt that says, I'm not having sex with you again, fucker. You know, it's like, that's just funny, like sticky stuff. So there is this. There is this full service mentality that I think is filmmakers we have to have today. And it's just part of the way. And interestingly enough, historically, film is an entrepreneurial business. It always was. It's called

Alex Ferrari 1:15:49
Disney. It's called Disney. I mean, seriously.

Jonathan Baker 1:15:51
Yeah. It's just historically, it's a group of entrepreneurs that that left New York to form Hollywood, and ever, you know, it wasn't until vertical integration in the 60s that public money came in and everything kind of like kind of wackadoo. But look where we are now. I think fundamentally, it's still a great it's an exciting time to be a filmmaker, we have to continue to be entrepreneurial. You know, you brought up sex lies and videotapes, these are extraordinarily smart movies that are very, very creative and mitten in a mixing media like that one did, and finding just new ways to create really interesting stories. And I think it continues to go back to this a lot of people will say, like, well, it's so competitive, and it's competitive, because we still have to sharpen our pencils. Like, we need to be good storytellers. That's what we're that's what people are just looking for good stories. They're looking for good stories that are $300 million. Right? And they're looking for good stories that are like $8,000. Like, it's storytelling.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:50
Yeah. And I was I talked to a friend of mine at he works at Disney animation. And he was telling me, I'm like, how much how much did they make? He told us like he was telling me how much the animated movies were making they how they broke it down. Like they did the whole we made this much from this this like from merchandising from lesson that I think goes when it came to frozen. frozen meat a billion in box office. Yeah, but how much? How much do you think they made on the dresses? That's it? Just a little dresses that my daughter's bought? And every other little girl but how much do you think they made off just the dresses? Oh, it has to be a lot a billion dollars on the

Jonathan Baker 1:17:29
test and say Disney Disney makes 20 billion a year at least and doesn't it's like, the ratio is amazing. It's a toy company.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:39
You know? Oh, no, they're merchants. I mean, they are crazy. It's like George Lucas says the money is in the lunchbox, guys. I mean, it's, but they're entrepreneurs. This these an entrepreneurial I mean, they they're not about just making a movie. And then just selling that movie as a product. It's about 1000s of other ancillary. That's, that's why they're winning. Yeah. And boy, are they whether you like it or not, they're definitely winning. That's right. That's right. Am I real quick, you made a movie for Netflix as well. Right? But with Brie Larson.

Jonathan Baker 1:18:09
Oh, well, the Brie Larson movie was basmati blues. That's, that's, that's probably on its way into that. That distribution model now. It's, it's a musical with Donald seven, Sutherland and Tyne Daly and got that in Mumbai. That was quite quite a quite an amazing adventure.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:27
And you shut up and you produce that one as well. I co produced that. Yeah. Okay. And what was it like working with Netflix? I just love asking the producers who work with Netflix, I hear wonderful stories.

Jonathan Baker 1:18:38
Well, I have that that movie was made independently. And then it went into distribution through shout factory. And it's been, you know, handed over into, you know, the streaming environment. I haven't personally worked directly with Netflix, although I have some friends, some dear friends who are working at Netflix now. And I'm, you know, you know, it's just, it's an amazing. I mean, the evolution of that Comm. Company is is unbelievable.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:05
They changed the game, they changed the entire industry. Yeah, yeah. Whether you like it or not, they changed the

Jonathan Baker 1:19:12
way it's like, Yeah, what do you like it or not? Like, this is what's happening, you have to figure out what it means for everybody else, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
What do you think? Where do you think this is all gonna go? I mean, I mean, cuz I feel that the what we're going through now with the industry, the film industry is what music business went through five years ago.

Jonathan Baker 1:19:28
Yeah, that's exactly where my mind went to. And I've been thinking about that even coming up, you know, for manifestation now, spacetime. That was written at a time when Trump was not president. And that's the joke. It's actually it's sort of like a doomsday scenario about Trump if if Trump had one, this is what was going to happen. Sure, sure. And, and even just in the last five years, looking at sort of how that process has evolved. Today, it's it is the As you know, dilution of the flood itself, the value itself and how we monetize things. It's changed drastically. So I don't know, in terms of the what we might say is the correction in the marketplace, I think that it puts a lot of pressure on us storytellers to be even better at what we're what we're doing. It puts a lot of pressure on us to be defined a certain unique voice, and, and try to, you know, cultivate our own sort of our own fan base and develop ourselves in sort of our own way. And, you know, there's this amazing expanding global universe. And I think that's what gives me hope. A lot of people get very Doomsday about moviemaking. I said, Why, said that, the expansion of the internet, we're only at 30 30% penetration to the 7 billion people out there, you know, this is a, this isn't an upward economic picture, it really just depends on you know, where you're focusing your own integrity, and where you're focusing your own skills. And, and not limiting yourself, I think, more importantly, than anything, so, you know, like, for me, I've got projects that, you know, I'm working on with clients or collaborators that are really really inexpensive things, because who's to judge? It's not about the budget, you know, to me, you know, it's sort of like there was there used to be the sort of like, well, you're working on Spider Man, it's like, so you're working on Spider Man, I know what that's like, you know, that's, that's 5000 people all running around, and who's really in charge? You know, it's not this. So it's, it's sort of where, where you can find your own sort of peace of mind inside the, the the opportunities is more important than ever.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:51
And like in the film, and like in the music industry, you know, artists now, the money is not in publishing, it's not in radio plays. It's in concerts, touring, or t shirts. And then now they're even doing like autograph and photo ops, they're selling for VIP tickets, and they're just, right. It's the it's the new world. It's the new Rayleigh we live in. And I think filmmakers need to think that way moving forward.

Jonathan Baker 1:22:16
Yeah. It's a very, very complete entrepreneurial spirit. Without question.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:24
Yeah. So I'll ask you, if I ask you a few questions, ask all of my guests. What advice would what advice? Would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Jonathan Baker 1:22:32
Uhh filmmaker, I would say, focus on your writing skills. I think that, you know, it's interesting to me how important that skill is, and continues to be. And it's one of the fundamentals. And I often meet meet filmmakers and various types of, you know, crew and all that kind of stuff, who, who want to be writer directors or want to want to want to direct something. And I often just say, well, directors usually come in in a lot of different directions. But, but, but usually, there's like this writer, director, that becomes the real kind of voice that we're like, wow, how they get there. They wrote they wrote, they wrote that script. You know, there's something about that, that, I don't think that's going to change. So, focus on writing skills.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:23
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jonathan Baker 1:23:30
Oh, wow, that's really interesting. The lesson, I'm learning lessons every day. We all right, yeah. I think the lesson for me, it has to do with just usually with money, how to how to work with the amount of money that you have to, to do what it is that you're ultimately trying to do. And that comes down to being okay, working in baby steps. It's, it's so often that people like well, I want to do that. I said, Good. That's a big dream. How does that how does that start? It starts with you putting one foot in front of the other, and discipline. I come from a military family background. And I think discipline is one of the more fundamental things because it's in your control to have. Everybody can have discipline, you can have discipline right now. It's really just letting yourself kind of get into a mechanism and taking one step in front of the other like, like the banker jover tell who the lead producer. He's been developing and working on that film. I think it's for 20 years. That project has been in development since he was at Paramount. And that was for both of us. 1520 years ago, he picked that thing up. So these are these stories. These stories take a long time, you know, to come to life. And that's good. That's okay. You know Just take your time Be patient. And for me, I think that's been one of the harder ones to really come to peace with, you know, patients.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:09
What is the biggest fear you had to overcome when making your first? Your first film as a director?

Jonathan Baker 1:25:15
Yeah, that's judgment. You know, that sense of people we're going to not they're not going to like this. For me when i when i when i started directing because I'm such a musical theater nerd. Like musical theater, people get my sense of humor, Mel Brooks people do like I'm a weird, weird director, no questions, getting a sense of just that, that Zay zany, like, you know, tone that that is a place where you're just I go in knowing that a vast majority of the market is not going to like me. And that's, that's just that like, but those people who get at laugh and we share a smile, we share a wink, you know, so I'm pretty cool. I feel better about that now, and certainly with Manifest Destiny down spacetime. That's a departure into absurdist theater. It's absurd,

Alex Ferrari 1:26:07
Obviously.

Jonathan Baker 1:26:09
Yeah, it's nuts and so people who are like series might not go see Waiting for Godot and then then call me like, this is frustrating. This is this is like, you know, it's supposed to be challenging. And that's, that's okay. You know, so that's, that's an interesting question.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:25
Now, what are the what are your three favorite fears of excuses? Three fairy fears, three favorite films of all time.

Jonathan Baker 1:26:32
The producers great movie, Dr. Strangelove. And I would say you know, had to say about the original Star Wars like of course some something I mean, I just I'm such a john Williams fan. I miss I miss melodic musical themes in cinema today like if you're a composer out there melody melody Give me something give me something to like bring my spirits to. So yeah, that's those are those are those

Alex Ferrari 1:27:05
Now where can people find more more about what work you're doing and your films?

Jonathan Baker 1:27:11
Yeah, okay, so you are more than welcome to check out what I'm up to jbprodinc.com or Instagram JB studio LA is where I do a lot of my like coaching and that kind of thing. And then for Manifest Destiny down spacetime, you can find me on social media. spacetime is really the one to kind of search for but Manifest Destiny down is manifestdestinydown.com is the website and you can you can IMDb me whenever you want.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:43
Very cool. And you are Jonathan number five Johnson. Baker. Number five.

Jonathan Baker 1:27:47
Yeah, there are a lot of Jonathan Baker's out there. Number five. Everybody, I got to meet them all. I don't want to have like a john Baker club. Like, hey, let's all get together. Like let's all hang out. I think some of us actually look alike

Alex Ferrari 1:28:04
It's scary. It's it's quite scary, sir. Jonathan is it's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for coming on, man.

Jonathan Baker 1:28:11
Thanks. Yeah, this has been great. Thank you so much for your time.

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BPS 247: Writing an Epic and Impossible Sci-Fi Indie Film with Martin Villeneuve

Today on the show we have writer/director Martin Villeneuve. Martin is the filmmaker behind the impossibly epic Canadian sci-fi film Mars et Avril. Martin didn’t have the $100 million+ budget needed to produce a film of this epic size. He used his skills, hustle, and passion to bring the film to life.

Mars & Avril is probably the first Québécois film to be adapted from two graphic novels. It is set in a futuristic Montreal where humanity is preparing to set foot on the planet Mars. The charismatic musician Jacob plays on musical instruments inspired by the female form and designed by his best friend Arthur. Both men fall in love with Avril, a young photographer who has problems with her breathing.

This original cosmic fairy tale brings together the themes of art, spirituality, the world of inventions, and love; and it’s here that distinguished Canadian filmmaker Robert Lepage returns to the silver screen – as a hologram.

The film received 10 nominations including one for “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the Canadian Screen Awards, and toured in 20 festivals worldwide, starting with a World Premiere in Karlovy Vary. “Mars & Avril” has been described by io9 as

“one of the most beautiful, and immersive, sci-fi worlds ever put on film.”

His TEDTalk is an absolute must for any filmmaker who wants to get the filmmaking juices flowing. In this inspiring talk, he explains the various ways he overcame financial and logistical constraints to produce his unique and inventive vision of the future in Mars et Avril.

And I know you are all wondering, yes Martin is the younger brother of famed director Denis Villeneuve. It was a pleasure chatting with Martin. He is truly an inspiration.

Enjoy my conversation with Martin Villeneuve.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:05
I'd like to welcome to the show Martin Villeneuve how are you my friend?

Martin Villeneuve 4:48
I'm pretty good at you?

Alex Ferrari 4:49
I'm good as as good as we can be locked down and in COVID world and and in dealing with all the craziness that the world is doing but we're hanging in there and you know, as filmmakers You still talk about film?

Martin Villeneuve 5:01
That's right.

Alex Ferrari 5:03
So thank you for being on the show. You have a fairly incredible story about your, your film, Mars and April. But first, before we get into that, how did you get into the business in the first place?

Martin Villeneuve 5:16
Through writing and advertising, so two things that, you know, have similarities with cinema, but that are not filmmaking, per se, but that are school in itself. So I'm really a writer, first and foremost, I started off writing three graphic novels. Two of them were the inspiration for the feature film, Massey, aveline. They were photo novels. So while I was studying cinema, and graphic design, and working in advertising, I did those those books which, which, you know, kind of were successful in the sense that, you know, it was not a huge print, but they got good reviews and attracted some, some talent, I had the, you know, the privilege of working with such big names as Hobart Lopez, which was one of our top, you know, stage directors and actor and he accepted to, to play in my, in my, in my books at that time, there were books, and about came up with the idea of turning turning them into a feature film, because he thought that if we were to combine both graphic novels, it could could be, you know, the meat of the movie and the division behind it, everything was there to to make it a great sci fi movie.

Alex Ferrari 6:33
Now with with the with the graphic novels, did you self distribute them? Or did you have a district a publisher,

Martin Villeneuve 6:39
I did have a publisher, Lapis tech from Montreal, which is pretty much our best publisher here. In terms of graphic novels, it became quite big in the recent years, some of their graphic novels have been turned into into other feature films as well. And my friend, Nick Guzzi, is the publisher, so it's all family. You know, Montreal is quite a small place. You know, when people ask why, why? Why is it so creative in Montreal? That's one of the reasons you know, it's it's small, it's a small town, and everybody knows everyone.

Alex Ferrari 7:10
Fantastic. So then you so you, really, so you released these graphic novels, they do fairly well. And you decide to make a movie out of it, which I know a lot of people who make graphic novels would love to do a film about their graphic novel, especially a sci fi, epic, kind of what you've done. But you're but your budget on the film is still substantial. It's not a small, indie. It's not a small independent film, but it is regarding the scope of what you're trying to do.

Martin Villeneuve 7:41
That's correct. That's correct. It was 2.3 million Canadian. So a little bit short of 2 million US, which is which is

Alex Ferrari 7:51
How did you get ahead? If you don't want me? How did you raise that money?

Martin Villeneuve 7:56
It took a long time, I knocked in a lot of doors to to get it financed. Because obviously, it's you know, sci fi is not a thing in Quebec at all like it, it's probably the first true sci fi movie that was ever produced in Quebec, and it's not a sci fi in the tradition of, you know, the Star Trek and the likes, you know, it's it's has nothing to do with laser swords, or, you know, girls with big boobs, and you know, like the things we're used to associate with sci fi, I wanted to play with those codes, but in, in, hopefully a different way. So it appealed to a lot of people. But also, it's a very specific movie. So to finance it was was kind of a challenge I went to, so they can tell you film, which are Canadian funding agencies, and they welcome the project so that that onboard facilitated me going out to private sponsors, you know, and, and some private equity to, to to complete the financing. I was I started off with the movie with only half of the budget which which I don't recommend to anyone

Alex Ferrari 9:05
You launched you launched with half the budget.

Martin Villeneuve 9:08
I started off with one only 1.2 million, which was enough to get the movie shot, but not enough to finish to finish it. So after completing the editing, I had to refinance for the most difficult part of the process, which was getting those VFX made because there was 550 VFX shots in this movie, the Canadian record before that was like 125 shots so it was more like than five times what what had been done.

Alex Ferrari 9:40
What can you so so let's back up for a second. Can you tell us a little bit about the story because I know the story and I understand what the scope is but can you explain to the audience what I'm saying Mars Mars in April because I don't want to massacre because but what the store what the story is about what kind of scope it is and what you were really trying to achieve with this film.

Martin Villeneuve 10:02
It's a poetic story, you know, it's, it's about the myth of creation. You know,

Alex Ferrari 10:08
It's a small small small indie, very introspective. Got it.

Martin Villeneuve 10:12
Yeah. It said in futuristic Montreal, it's and it's a it's at the core is a love story. So the but it's not an usual love story in the sense that the the hero is 75 year old virgin Jasmine musician super popular that's that people associate with with some sort of charisma and a strong sense of seduction. And but the thing is he has never made love in his life has never met a true his true love. And this this Muse which has served as the model for one of his musical instruments, he falls in love with her. And she ends up on Mars. So it's a you know, like it's in he has to go getter where she originates, you know, which is the fantasy world that originates from, from music and from an internal world. So it's, it's, it seems like a complex pitch, but it's actually a very fairly easy story to get in as long as you accept those codes and are willing to go for the ride and in an immersive world that deals with music and creation and space and cosmos and our place in the universe and, and the language of creation. So, you know

Alex Ferrari 11:28
It's pretty, it sounds fairly ambitious.

Martin Villeneuve 11:31
It is it was an ambitious story, which I would never get into if it wasn't from developers, you know, my my, my friend, Robert, who plays a hologram, the movie, he's the guy with the holographic head, if you've seen my TED Talk, that was the highlight of my TED talk, you know, when I explain how I got to this part of that is a very, very busy man. And at first he was supposed to direct and produce the movie, and I was supposed to only write it, but you know, life being life, you know, like he had to shut down his cinema, company. And to back that was a while ago, that was back in 2007. He, he himself wasn't able to raise financing for his own movies, whereas he's our one our biggest creator, if not the biggest creator in Canada. So it tells you how hard it is to get financing from beginning agencies so so about shut down his company. And to make a long story short, he really encouraged me to continue on and he said, it's your baby, you should direct it. I'll help you. I'll play in the movie of our help you produce it? And yeah, the rest is history. I guess.

Alex Ferrari 12:35
So. So can you talk a little bit about that as far as how you got that because in, you know, in your world and your audience that you're trying to target, he's a very, very well known figure in in acting, and also in directing and filmmaking in general, up up in Canada. So he's extremely busy. So I'm sure every filmmaker out there wants an actor who's extremely busy, and can't, like, you know, do anything? How was your creative work around? Can you explain the process of the creative work around and how you were able to get him into your film in a very creative way?

Martin Villeneuve 13:10
Yeah, it was kind of a crazy thing. Because rabatt announced, announced me when I was finally ready to shoot the movie. He said, Nothing. Unfortunately, I am directing three operas, I'm doing a Cirque du Soleil show, I play in eight movies, I do all these things. Like, I can't do your movie, you know, like, and I was devastated. Because he was the reason he you know, like the he was the encouragement in the first place. So I was like, I cannot do this movie without your bed. And I woke up one morning, God knows how, how these ideas come to you, right? We never quite exactly know what I it's a mix of many, many things. But I said, What if we turn this character into a hologram? What if What if I capture is only his head, and somehow managed to turn that into a 3d object, this I can do in a very short amount of time, and then I can have on set another actor will play the body. And I can stick a bass head on somebody else's body, and that body was going to be unset that can use for, you know, the whole month that that's required for Principal photography, but at least I will have combat in my movie in a weird hybrid of virtual and real, right. And so I saw about one day at the airport, because he's always traveling. And by chance he was he was in the same plane and I got to pitch him the idea and I as I was pitching the idea, he said that's fantastic. But how are you going to do that? Because back in the days it had never been done, this is before Benjamin Button and all that stuff. So I drew remember drawing a circle with six cameras. So it's like basically pictures a silent or a green cylinder. And you you you punch six holes that are at 60 degrees. You No distance of each other, and you place a camera lens behind those six holes, and you place the subject in the middle. So what you end up having is a head that hides all the cameras to each other facing each other. And you're able to capture 60 degrees, so 360 degrees of that object, which is a head talking head, and you dress the person in green. And you end up having a hologram. At that point that I didn't have the technology to create the hologram that came another nightmare later for, for my VFX supervisor, but at least I had the device, which I, which I, I modeled in 3d and that I manufactured myself and that with the DLP and all we build that thing, and this is the very first thing we shot for the movie. So because of that I was super interested, as soon as I said those things, he said, Yeah, I mean, I'm in so now we had to do it, you know, so we build the machine, and about showed up, and it took three days to shoot all all his character for the movie. And the trick, because now of course, like if you shoot that first, that means you have a head, but you don't have the body language, but the head still needs to look real. In the movie, you know, with all the actors, which weren't there, he was in a totally 3d environment completely abstract, and, you know, it was a very experimental thing, but how that comes from theater, he comes from improvisation, and acting from nothing. So him he was like a fish in the in the water. And, you know, he was it wasn't his element he could create and manage to create, but he was like my thing I need to look at the right place. So fortunately, I had spent a year and a half way before that to drawing my whole movie. So I knew only I knew because of my drawings where you should be looking. So I was directing his look with the laser beam within the silencer and saying, you know, there's a character there, and I was playing the other characters, right. And, and, and about that all his character like that being the genius that he is, and being able to picture in his mind that six months, a year later, somebody else would would portray his body and that it would all need to look seamless, you know, in an ideal world, we would have done that in reverse, you know, we would have shot the movie, right the body, and then do about after to match whatever we had shot. But that's not how we did it, we did it. The other in the other direction.

Alex Ferrari 17:34
So you were really on the on the type rope here on this film, you were like you were just you were just jumping off and praying that there was a net somewhere that would appear when you needed it. Because as you just said, I've been imposed for 20 odd years, and I've done visual effects loop and all that stuff. So I understand everything you're talking about. But and I've done this too, by the way I went early on when I've shot my films, we'll figure it out in post, which is a horrible thing to say, if you're doing it, though, you can say it, but you kind of take the leap. And I've been at that place in my in a project where you're like, if this visual effect doesn't work, the whole film falls. Like,

Martin Villeneuve 18:15
That's correct, right. But you could, you could have said that in my movie about everything. I think fails, everything falls apart, if the music is not just right, everything falls apart, everything relied on people doing their very best. And it was my first feature on top of things. And I and I wrote directed and produced the whole thing. It was it was very abstract and difficult. We didn't have previous, you know, like people have now which means that, you know, if you look in the in the camera nowadays, you know, the director of big budget films is, is able to see what you know, a crude version of what it is it's going to be in the final movie, but me it was all in our head. So everybody had to rely on their imagination, which turned out to be great. And you know what, like, I always tried throughout this process of not seeing the obstacles as as you know, something that turned me down. I always tried to use those obstacles as a creative tool to make the movie better. Because in the end, one of the things that people remember the most is that holographic head, you know, which even Ryan Johnson did put in Star Wars episode eight, you know, like in the cantina sequence, you see it, you see a character that's that looks exactly like a Bella patch in my movie. And Kathleen Kennedy was there when I did my TED Talk. So I can't help but think that, you know, the data will not do to my movie it would be would be very hard to think that it's it's just a coincidence because it did exactly the same thing. So it's it's it's one of those things that people remember from the movie and it was born out of a problem. You know, I couldn't get my actor.

Alex Ferrari 19:59
Well, can you also tell them Buddy, how long you worked on this film? You haven't mentioned?

Martin Villeneuve 20:05
All of my 20s basically, it's seven years. Yeah. Well, you know, it took seven years to do the movie, which isn't that that longer than any movie, you know, all of my friends were filmmakers Do you know when the movie is over, people always think that it took a year or two to do. But most of the time, people will tell you, I started up this project like 10 years ago, you know. And, but the books before that took like, three, four years each. So, so in total, you know, like, it was like a decade, like I started in my early 20s. And it's in my early 30s, that the movie finally got out. So it was a long process, but always very interesting. And it was a big learning experience.

Alex Ferrari 20:49
So so you, you made a movie for about $2.3 million dollars, but generally it it looks like a 20 or $30 million film if not bigger.

Martin Villeneuve 21:01
And that's correct. That's, that's that's why in the first place, Chris Anderson invited me to Ted because he saw my movie on the on the big screen in Vancouver. And he approached me after because I had given a q&a. And he said, Hi, I'm Chris Anderson. And of course, I knew who he was, you know, he's the head guru. And he said, you know, how much did you say the budget was like 23 million? I said, No, no, it was 2.3 10% of what he thought. So he said, that's, that's absolutely incredible. He said, You have to come on the TED stage and tell us how he did it. Because he said it, it looks so much bigger than it is. So I think the ambitions that it's far from being a perfect film, but what I'm saying is the the ambition that fueled the project had legs, and a lot of people embraced it and gave it their all. And I had like amazing, amazing people working on the movie, like super talented people that chose to devote some of their talent and time to the movie. Whereas the there was very little money, you know, to pay them or to or to make.

Alex Ferrari 22:13
So what I found what I found in my, in my journeys, because I did, I've done some ambitious visual effects action films in my in my early career, and I have no money. So if this and I think you've, you've mentioned this in Ted and your TED Talk, where when you don't have money, you have to give something else. And I, when I was creating, I created a spectacle, I created an event I created a like, we're going to achieve something here that's bigger than we're going to try to do stuff that hasn't been done before. And we're gonna allow you to play and we're going to give you freedom, and that's the currency of an independent filmmaker with with this kind of project is where you're now challenging them to do something they haven't done before to stretch their, their, their, their wings out a bit. And I have guys who have worked on big giant, you know, Star Wars and bond and all these big movies. But when I call them, they're like, yeah, I want to do your project, because I'm really excited about doing something I haven't done before. Did you find that to be true? In your end?

Martin Villeneuve 23:16
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, this, this, I've always pitched this movie as being a lab. I told everybody who got involved that it would be a place of creation and experiment, and someplace where they could be. To go back to the to the aquarium analogy, you know, where there would be a big fish in a small aquarium, you know, because, you know, when I when I approached one of my childhood heroes, Hans Westgate, and he's a, he's a huge comic book artist from Belgium. And I grew up on his on his graphic novels, you know, they're huge for me. And he was a huge influence already. When I wrote my books. And when I approached him, he said, You know, my thing, you know, most of the time when Americans, American producers approached me, you know, he worked on the golden compasses, he worked on Mr. Nobody, you know, those big, big movies, he said, they, they steal my stuff, you know, they steal my work, and yes, there's a big paycheck at the end of the day, but I have no fun, you know, working like that on big productions because I don't feel that my voice makes a big difference in the end, you know, whereas he said on a smaller movie, like like yours, I can, I can explore I can experiment, I can develop a language and which he did so for four or five years. He and I drew Montreal in the future together, you know, like I come from the graphic world so for me to work with hospice Katyn for five years imagine it was no my dream come true.

Alex Ferrari 24:55
It's like working with Spielberg or Nolan or Fincher for like five years.

Martin Villeneuve 24:59
It Exactly, and it was like a ping pong game. And he would invite me to his place in Brussels and he would come to Montreal. And so it took a long time. So So time is is a currency, you know, when you don't have money, you must take time. That's one of the things I say in my TED Talk. And that cannot be more true for math average, because, you know, like the, for the composer, for instance, you know, I approached us an Oscar nominated composer, Whedon The triplets of Bellville, you know, he's our best Canadian composer. And he said, I'm interested, you know, but how much time do you have? You know, which is the first question that big creators are asking you? And I said, How much time do you need? And he said, Well, you're asking me to basically go back to Kepler's theory from the 17th century, and elaborate a new take on it, which is, which is something that just that holds as then and took years, you know, like, work for years on those things. He said, You don't have that luxury in cinema, you know, you have two months, normally, you know, and I said, Well, I can give you at least a year, it took a year and a half for him to do the music, but his beard would, would grow. Every time I would see By the way, his beard would grow longer and longer and longer. And you would then shave and he was like, trying to figure this out in the music one for Best Album of the Year. And candidate one a Felix for Best Album of the Year. So he did a fantastic job. And you know, the music and this movie was as important as the VFX. As important as the script. As important as the actors and the sets and all that stuff. It was a key component. So we had to get this right.

Alex Ferrari 26:37
So you. So that's, that's amazing. Because, again, when working with high end, people who normally get paid a lot of money, you have to give them freedom, you've got to give them creativity, creative freedom, collaboration at a level that you don't get normally. And to get an Oscar nominated composer to come on board to work on it. And then also having that amazing artists as well come on board, can you can you dig a little deeper into into how he and you created this world? Because I saw that you did a lot of matte paintings as basis and then from the basis then you animated elements in it. So you were doing old school matte paintings, but with some new new world effects, like, you know, water moving, or lights blinking or things like that, correct?

Martin Villeneuve 27:24
Yeah, so So basically, when when you do such a thing, it's like, it's like a puzzle, you know, like, you're a filmmaker, so you know what I'm talking about, like, you shoot one element, and you know that this element is going to fit in a bigger element, and that is bigger than men's will need this and that to make to make a final image that works. So you plan, you plan, all of that ahead, you know, so that when you come on set, it's pure execution. Because I only had 22 days, you know, to shoot this film, which is a huge, huge challenge for most people with 8090 days to shoot a movie like that. So you know, and I regret that a bit now, because I, you know, like, I wish I had more time, but when anyways, a lot of money. The problem. Now, I said, I said earlier that you need to give people more time, but the reality of cinema is that it costs so much when you get to shooting that the less time the better. So you have to be super prepared, like preparation is really the key. So I as I mentioned, I, I storyboarded, the 1200 storyboards, you know, like that I did myself as a few of my friends did help, but I, you know, I didn't have any money for that, that stage show I you know, the more you can do by yourself, the better it is because then again, you you have to picture the whole movie in your mind and get the whole thing in your mind. So that when you come to set, you know exactly what pieces of the puzzle you need to get for the final image to work. So when I worked with Westgate, then I came again, highly prepared, I had done my homeworks you know, like years of research and yeah, they asked me to come up with the concepts from for Montreal or the future. So it's, you know, when you when you come to a big designer like that, like I don't know, when when Sydney did the Blade Runner, you know, it's it's, it's it's not just Ridley Scott coming and say, here, design me, Los Angeles in 2049, or in 2019. It's, it's, it's much more complex than that. It requires the director to come with a lot of references. And yeah, if you can draw yourself that's even better, because you're talking abstraction, and the clearer it gets, the better it gets on the screen, you know, so I fortunately I can draw and I will use drawing as a tool as well. And I sat together and I had tons of references. And we would just look at stuff that that were real things will real projects, utopian projects that had been you conceived in the in the past for Montreal and that do exist like habitat 67, which is a beautiful piece by Moshe safdie. The biosphere by Buckminster Fuller was our thing from Expo 67. And we did contact Marcia Sadie and asked permission to to replicate his his beautiful construction, but make it 1000 times bigger. You know, and again, I took a risk, because, you know, like, I did create the model before I asked permission.

Alex Ferrari 30:32
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Martin Villeneuve 30:43
No, you know, no producer on the normal movie would do, but I knew he would say yes, you know, because I was working with with also escaped then. And because what we did was good. So why would he say no, you know, so at one point, when we when I had the super strong 3d model of his habitat, 67, I reached out to him to his team sent the pitch, and he wrote me a letter that he granted me permission to use it. Within 24 hours, I had the letter, but I didn't make a few insurance people worried. At some points, that will be because I would do that all the time. You know, like, it would drive people crazy. But, you know, like, sometimes you need to do those things. You need to provoke reality for reality to give back to you, you know, like, most people great comment. Well, sometimes people are afraid, you know, like, they're like, oh, what if he says no, but I was like, why would you say no, you know, like, Why Why are you telling me that? He will say no, of course, he will say yes, you know, like it. Same with, you know, the biosphere was was trickier because it's owned by Buckminster Fuller's succession, and it's, it's owned by bureaucrats. Now it's on viola, Canada. And I, I went to them a few years prior to shooting the movie. And I asked for a 3d schematics, like the original schematics of the biosphere. It was not 3d it was 2d, but I needed to put them in 3d to create to recreate the biosphere, and shoot whatever I had to shoot in green screen, and recreate that thing and place it that at the top of the tower, because password that drawn this beautiful, the cool tower, and you want it to place the bubble at the very top of it. So this was 3d. So I had to recreate that. And years later, I phoned back Aviva Canada, and I said, Come and see the shots, you know, come come in to prove the shots that we did of the movie. And when they saw the shots, they could not believe that they said, When did you shoot in the biosphere? Exactly. Remember you showing up and I said I didn't shoot that I recreated it. And I showed them the before and after with the green screen. And at the end, they just couldn't believe it that I had three bureaucrats there and they got out of the room and they were like, Oh my god, like Congrats, you know, and they were they were very proud. So what I mean by that is when you have something something great why wouldn't people embrace it? You know, like, it's too easy to think that people are going to say no, like it stops so many projects from getting made and I find it sad.

Alex Ferrari 33:13
Yeah, I mean it's the thing is that you have to take risks and sometimes specifically creatively what you were spending is not obscene amounts of money but time it was a lot of time to create so your currency was time there. So if they would have said no, you would have lost time, not millions of dollars. So you were taking risks. But you have to you have to take those risks especially when you have an ambitious project like that. I mean, I've I mean I just been there on my own project so I completely understand I took massive risks and started projects when they shouldn't have started and just like jumped and it's like there's something's gonna be there when I went when I take my foot off and go into the into the unknown and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't

Martin Villeneuve 33:58
Yeah, but the thing is though like it seems like a fluid process but it's not you face like you know like great great walls you know like sometimes you hit huge walls I had to remortgage my house twice It was a huge night nightmare to to refinance the movie some people had to jump in at the last minute and save save my ass sorry for the expression but again, you know like was was one of those people you know when the last very last minute you know like the you know, the bank was after me they were about to pull the plug and the movie and Bella bash came in and he said How much do you How much do you need to complete your financing and I said I'm still a quarter of a million short you know, it's still to 200 and

Alex Ferrari 34:43
It's a lot of money.

Martin Villeneuve 34:44
A lot of money it's the it's a house it's a you have to remortgage your house with which I had already done twice. So there was no way I could do that. So a buyer said, you know, like, I'm going to help you out and he sent me a check of his own money to complete the The financing so that there was some truly? Yeah, my path, you know, like because if it wasn't from him, we would have never finished a movie.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
Now there was another thing you TED Talk I'd love you to talk about. It's just another way. It's another example of how you approach this entire project because I know there's so many, you know, tribe members who are listening right now who have ambitious projects, but they're scared. They're scared because it's Oh, it's just too ambitious, or I don't know enough about this, or I don't know, I'm sure you learned a lot along the way. I'm sure you did not know everything. When you started the process? I'm assuming that's correct.

Martin Villeneuve 35:37
Oh, I know, I knew very little I, well, I had studied filmmaking and graphic design in university I have done numerous like music, videos, news,

Alex Ferrari 35:48
But nothing like this. But nothing

Martin Villeneuve 35:50
Nothing like this. Nothing prepares you to what if doing a feature film is it's probably the hardest, I wouldn't hesitate to say that's probably the hardest thing a creator can get involved in because it requires so many people, so many people, and you have to deal with so many different kinds of people and to get things right on every department and to keep your vision intact. and navigate with the the financial reality of it. You know, like, there's that thing. It's always that, you know, and especially for something like, like what I wanted to do, no one had done that before. So it's not like people could tell me Yeah, take that road and use those tools and go to these people, to these people to you know, there was no such thing. One thing we did have in Montreal that we still do have even better now is VFX. artists. Yeah, great, great, Vic VFX companies. And this I knew, and it was a time when I did this movie, where the effects companies were, you know, booming there was blooming in Montreal. Lots of great, great creative minds coming here to work on big productions, and companies that would be willing to help you if you're not on the right door, you know, because it's not always magical like that. But I went to the biggest, you know, facility we had in Montreal, because, you know, to make such a, you know, big, big number of VFX. But that little amount of money to go with it. You need a team that's going to, you know, you don't split it in 10 different VFX companies that would be killing the project, you need one strong team that takes six months and just do the thing banks like oh, yeah, so I showed my picture lock the people from the VFX. Company. It's called Mel's now, it was resolved Laval back in the days, and they looked at what I had done. They couldn't believe I had shot this for 1 million, you know, they were like, Wow, that's really, really well, well, we'll achieve and I had planned every shot. I knew exactly how it would be completed, you know, and I had my I had like 10,000 references, you know, like very well put together. Yeah, I had figured out everything. So they were like, Oh, good. And on top of things I had convinced Carlos Munson was just out of, you know, transformers and Avatar and those big big movies as a lead component compositor and he, he was in agreement with the direction of the project, and he wanted to contribute to add that, that card in my back pocket to help get everybody on board. And I got lucky, you know, like, there's a bit of luck. But I do think you create, when you create a movement, you know, there's an energy energy that's moving forward. People go with it, because, you know, like these companies, they're approached all the time to give freebies, but sometimes it's disorganized. It's not done yet. So what's gonna happen maybe, maybe I'm gonna get the money maybe I'm not, you know, like, it's, it's, it's a bit like me, it was it was very real, you know, and I had gathered that the, the one added another one roughly 1,000,001 point 2 million to complete the whole thing. They had to take the sound, they had to take the VFX they have to take the whole thing, but they didn't make money, but they didn't lose any you know, they kept their team because one of the challenges for big VFX companies is sometimes there's a hole. Yeah, you know, you lose it if there's a big us film, Harry Potter comes to town or you know, x star wars without shoot Star Wars. And then there was supposed to be another big movie, it's postponed for various reasons. So they have a drop of six months where they do advertising to keep their team and the team is like, Yeah, but we were promised our wares and we were working on Burger King. So you know, it's so so it you know, so so they're like, Okay, so we have this this great You know, creative thing. You know, it's, it's a very experimental object. It's fun, it's, it looks great. We can try stuff. We have Carlos Munson, we have all these great artists. So let's do, let's let's do it, you know, and so they, they embraced it. And they decided they put 60 VFX artists that worked full time for six months, which was very, very rewarding and fun. It was finally after the nightmare, because refinancing the movie took more than a year. So and, and I was alone working on that and left my full time job in advertising, I was just focusing on getting the thing finished. And after that, you know, kids desire, you know, after going through the desert, to finally get a lot, if I see the Oasis get to get to Mordor with the ring, you know.

Alex Ferrari 40:53
And just so everybody, so everybody understand, you know, what he was able to achieve was what I was able to achieve with his specific VFX team is like, what he's talking about is a 10, or $15 million deal. Like it 60 artists, I didn't expect 60, I didn't know I thought that we're gonna throw maybe five or 10 guys on it, and they worked on another part time on the side, you had 60 artists full time, for six months, that is a massive amount of manpower in the visual effects world. Massive it is, it's very expensive, it's not cheap to do something like that. So that you were able to pull that off for under a million bucks. And that's including music and, and and, and mastering and all that other stuff. Is is amazing. It really is amazing.

Martin Villeneuve 41:41
Yeah, I got I got a big gift, I will admit. But at the same time, the the owner of that company said that it was a very good investment. Because when I did my TED Talk, it got seen by millions of people. And normally when you go on the TED stage, you're not allowed to mention company names. Sure. I mentioned three companies when I, when I went on that stage, and didn't call it that, you know, it's still online. As I mentioned, some said a I mentioned visa global, which helped me with the VFX. And, you know, and all they got, I'm sure they got tons of press for it, they got a lot of press, and they got a lot of phone calls, and they made a lot of movies, and they made their money back, believe me. So it's, it's, you know, sometimes like those projects, the showcase, you know, they showcase what you're able to do. And truly, like, there are some really, really great VFX shots in this movie, you know, like, I'm very proud of some of the shots and some of them, you know, are very simple. But then again, you have to know where to invest your energy and your little money you have you need to invest. In other words, it's really rewarding, you know, because the problem is if you're too ambitious, and that you're doing something that involves, you know, crazy action sequences and the likes, you're not going to finish the movie. That's the that's the reality. Mine was the contained world, you know, it was those were not like overly complex VFX to achieve. It's the number is the number that was frightening 550 VFX shots to complete. This is the the volume that the

Alex Ferrari 43:20
Wasn't a transit is why it wasn't a transforming robot. Fighting robot.

Martin Villeneuve 43:26
No, it was not that that kind of thing. And it needed to be clever, and it needed to be well done. And so a lot of brains, but man was it was fun to see it happening. Finally, you know, when I when I got to that stage, it was the movie was was reaching its end at this point, you know, when it's, it's always a great joy after so many years, you know, wow, it's finally happening. It's kids getting put together.

Alex Ferrari 43:52
And they, I found that too, that a lot of times VFX specifically, they will do a project that they feel that they can they can showcase something or do something that they haven't been able to do before. And sometimes they'll do it for free. Sometimes they'll do it for for cost or for very, very cheap, because they see the value on the back end. And if you can provide them with press, which is something I've been able to do with my project since I started as a filmmaker, get attention. And then once you get a track record of that, like I promise you if the next movie you do, and you need a lot of visual effects are probably a line of companies who will want to work with you because of what you were able to achieve. So once you're able to build up that that credibility as well, then doors open a lot easier for you. Would you agree with that?

Martin Villeneuve 44:42
I wish it was the case. You know, I haven't shot the second feature film yet, but it's been eight years already, you know, so and it's not like I haven't been trying. What I what I do didn't notice is that everybody who has worked either as a cinematographer for, you know, the effects is like everybody was like key department of my movie got a lot of jobs, you know, they offered a lot of jobs. Me and Mike is it's a bit trickier because as a filmmaker, you're you create your own opportunities most of the time. And it's becomes a game of luck, you know, like you do pitches, you try to develop project you, you write things, you invest the same energy in every project. But it's it's, you know, it, luck needs to be on your side and timing. And, you know, like for a movie to all the components to be together and be able to allow you to do a second feature film is it's very complex. And to be honest, I didn't think it would be that hard. I thought after doing, you know, my first movie, it would get shown in more than 20 festivals worldwide, Dwight won awards at the I went to Ted, I was the first speaker from Quebec to get on that stage. Because you you know, and only the third filmmaker and the two others before me were JJ Abrams and James Cameron, you know, and James Cameron. So it I thought, Man, it's going to open doors for me. And it did it Did you know, it got me into into pitches, it got me into meetings that I would never have got gotten otherwise, it got me interview the number of times that I did numerous pitches and stuff like that. And I'm grateful for those opportunities. But for everything to stick together and allow you to make a second feature, it's super hard. And by the way, my brother Danny was directing Doom right now. Huge, huge, huge film. He was nine years without shooting before his second and third feature film in Quebec. Nobody would give him another chance. You know, so it's, it tells you how hard it is. And I mentioned about our bars, you know, like is probably our greatest mine creative mind from Canada, and he was not able to, and he did like six, seven feature film and they will never find in sim again. So so it's it's, it's incredibly hard. You know,

Alex Ferrari 47:12
I'm looking forward to see doing Actually, I seen some of the images, and I am super excited. I'm a fan of the Lynch version. I wish Lynch would have had free rein to see what he was really done back then. But I'm really curious to see what what your brother does with the film. It looks amazing. Yeah, Yeah, me too. Now, um, do you got the film distributed? Right. So how did you get did? Did you make your money back? all that?

Martin Villeneuve 47:40
I did? I did. But not thanks to the Canadian distributor who didn't believe in the movie too much. Like, when he started, Jackie, I think he did. Yeah, I think he didn't know what to make of it, because there was no such thing. And in Quebec, there, there has been there will never be again, because you know, you have to understand in Quebec reproduced comedies, or dramas that look towards the past, never towards the future, it's always about the past. And it's always the same stories. And I don't mind it, I think there's a place for that. But it's always that and nobody is looking at the future, which is what I wanted to do. And it was embraced by around the world, the US in Europe. You know, like, it's a niche kind of audience, but that could be found at a lot of places around the planet. So the movie did reaches its audience, which is very fortunate. Because that is a problem, as you know. And when I was invited to Ted, it became a huge, huge, huge platform, you know, like, something that I could never have dreamed of. And when I when I went to the Canadian distributor, to tell them the good news, you know, that I would be the first French Canadian first cubicweb to get on that stage. I could get millions of people to suddenly be aware of that movie. You know, what his reaction was what he said, what his Ted son, so so so so I said, Okay, let's, let's change the subject. So I kept my rights because I had I had the international rights, he had the Kenyan rights, but I should keep the Canadian rights, no problem. And I went to Ted and the next day after my TED talk, I had like 15 distributors like being like, you know, like wanting to buy the rights for you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 49:36
More than you make more than you made.

Martin Villeneuve 49:40
Yeah, exactly. So in the end of the day, it was an advantage because choosing your allies in the battle like that is crucial. And me I was I was like Indiana Jones making this up as I go you know, like I had no clue but some some accidents that were you know, it's a blessing in disguise is when I came back from that that At that meeting with the Canadian distributor, I was so discouraged. You know, I was like, Man, I'm offering him the biggest platform that the biggest stage on earth and it's free. And what I was asking him is to simply get an international distribution deal with Amazon and iTunes and the likes, so that if people in India, see my TED Talk, they click on the link underneath. And they, they, they can, they can say, I do in India, and if you're in the UK, and so, so on and so forth. And they didn't see it, which is now obvious. But that's back in 2013. So that that's what I did myself, but again, I had to do it myself. So I made those deals with all the international distributors, and the movie did make its money back within six months, you know, it's not like, it's not like the movie, like, made tons of profits, but it didn't make its money back, which is one of the few cases where this happens in Canada, you know, like, our movies very rarely make their money back. So I'm very proud because it's not only a creative success, but it's also you could say a commercial success, in a sense, just to make its money back. And I was, I was able to write a check. Because all my team, you know, the hundreds of people worked on movie, they had to reinvest, like 13% I think it was their salary to, for me to be able to complete it. So that deferred pay, I was able to pay back to all of my team members. And it was the first time some some technicians told me Oh, yeah, the first time I live, that I've worked on a movie and independent movie with a different band that I see my money back. So they, I had many people write to me and say, thank you so much. So, you know, like, it was overall a very, very positive experience. And I'm, you know, I'm, you know, it's, it's, it's what it is, you know, the movie is not perfect, but and some people will hate it. And some people think it's the greatest thing on earth. But, you know, it didn't leave anybody in different than it. It has a voice of its own, you know, like, it's been a while now, I don't I don't really identify to the movie anymore. But I can see that it's relevant. It's its place, and I'm glad it got me.

Alex Ferrari 52:12
No, it's your story on how you made it. And what you're able to do with it is is pretty remarkable. And an inspiration to everyone listening, honestly, because you can't be afraid to take risks. And but you took calculated risks, you know, you did have a base of knowledge to fall back on, you've been in, you know, you work been working as a professional in the advertising space, you are a graphic designer. So there were skills that were, as I say, tools in your toolbox that you walked into this project with, and you learned along the way, but you had a really good foundation to start off with. And then you learned as you went to take risks to take calculated risks. And I think that's something that you did.

Martin Villeneuve 52:51
Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. And then what I remember too, is is the the importance of network, you know, because every, you know, every, even in advertising, this is how I met Dr. liberati. From samsa, they will eventually helped me with the movie and, and Nobel eyepatch, who helped me with the movie and, and all these people, you know, I met by doing something else than cinema, which is also very important because sometimes we focus and we think like, it's cinema Cinema, so I there's a path that I need to take, but don't never underestimate the other paths, you know, the other path that you may take, because that may go a long way at one point, you know, you may find out that, you know, some some contacts you made. And in that sound company like a year a few years back may be very, very handy and helpful. And that, you know, people that you've met in the circ world suddenly will help you make you make your movie. And so so that, to me, is super important. And everything I've shot since Massey, I really have been because of my networks, you know, because I wasn't unfortunately able to get more money to shoot another feature, but I've done short films, and I got like the some of the best people in the industry wanting to shoot with me again, and you know, like, an experiment again and do other things. And so, so I'm still continuing in filmmaking and I have numerous, you know, feature films that are on the verge of

Alex Ferrari 54:23
Always on the verge, you know, that money that money's gonna drop any day now.

Martin Villeneuve 54:31
Well, yeah. But I am really hoping that next time we speak, I will be able to tell you about about the what it was to shoot the second feature

Alex Ferrari 54:42
Yeah, and what are you working on now?

Martin Villeneuve 54:45
I have like, six or seven projects, but I shot last fall before the crisis. I shot two sequels to a short film that I shot right after a massive avalanche which was kind of Little success in itself you know, it's called Imelda, and I play my own grandmother, which which may sound funny, but it's a character that I really really like and it's very simple form of filmmaking doesn't require a lot of money and I had a lot of fun doing the first one and I won the award for Best Actor from any all these artists which is the the only, you know, award you can win in acting for a short film in Quebec. So I you know, and people were like, what's happening after like, we want to see more of Imelda. So I know I shot two sequels and now I had the ballot badge for real he's not a hologram but he's cool starting to nail that too. I'm with about a patch and an email that three I'm with Jeanette Renault, which is a singer and actress Yeah. And so she sings in the in the third one and she plays my other grandmother. Family history, you know, my my Bella bash play plays my dad. So it's, you know, I use my family mythology as as a drama, which is very fun doing. I'm also working on a very elegant sci fi thriller called Joanna. Buy, you know, I this is a pitch I won for voltage pictures in Los Angeles last year. And if all goes well, we should be shooting in November, if not, you know, early 2021. If the fortunately the COVID crisis is over. It's about androids and we have a few actors at that show already. And financing is going well. So read it's a small budget, you know, it's 556 million US. I'm also working on a small drama. It's a dramedy called two pianos. And it's, it's a great great, great script, just two actors, two older actors, few few settings, very simple filmmaking but complex at the same times because everything relies on details. So this is also ready to shoot. I'm working on animated series called Red ketchup. It's based on a cult comic book series here in Quebec that I grew up with. It's a crazy FBI agent. That's that's feeding on drugs and it's completely stickability. worldly like it's like James Bond, but shut by Tarantino. You know, I would watch that. I want to watch that. That's why I want to do this this series. So this is looking good to

Alex Ferrari 57:41
You sound busy.

Martin Villeneuve 57:42
I am. The thing is, I've been I've been living out of writing you know, I this is why I could leave advertising because now producers, you know, pay me that's one of the great luxuries of of Massey Avril because it created another kind of network or suddenly like, I'm getting paid to develop projects. So Aquatica is something that I've been writing for years. Again, I'm teaming up with passwordstate. And it's it's an animated feature. So in the, you know, European tradition looks looks very nice. We did the test already. And finally, I'm working with another childhood heroes of mine, James v. Hart. Yes. Great script. You wrote Dracula, Dracula, Dracula. He wrote contact with Jodie Foster come back, of course, the. So, you know, like, he's amazing writing. Yeah, we're writing a big sci fi. Drama together called water Nova. And, yeah,we have an amazing script,

Alex Ferrari 58:47
Man, you are an absolute inspiration. You're an inspiration. Honestly, you you you personify the creative spirit. Because just to get your movie made in seven years, that takes a level of persistence. That's pretty remarkable. In the in the artistic world in general, but you are definitely an inspiration, my friend. I'm gonna ask you a few questions that I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Martin Villeneuve 59:21
The patient process Katyn told me many times, you know, from his experience in cinema, it's not about talent. It's about being patient and tenacious and pushing your ideas forward and always always believing that it's going to happen. Never give up. You know, it's the it's the clue, every every filmmaker that makes it. I had big dreams and they never gave up, you know,

Alex Ferrari 59:43
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Martin Villeneuve 59:49
The biggest lesson, I think, is not to get depressed by the fact that things aren't happening now. Because otherwise you know, you wouldn't Anything the problem with cinema is that it takes a long time. It's a long time in the making, it requires a lot of money a lot of people so don't get depressed if your projects don't take off right now. That's why I'm, I'm still believing in cinema. It's because you know, there's a timing for things and sometimes if you're too too early, things falls flat. If you're too late things have been done before you know, you need to hit that that string and that chord where it's just the right time to tell a story and stories want to live you know, believe me like Masada wanted to live beyond everybody was working on it. It's not used sometimes dictates those rules. It's, it's the project itself. So need to believe in that.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:47
You're essentially a vessel for the story to be born into this world, basically. And I feel the same way. A lot of times the story is much more powerful. And the message is much more powerful than you are. It's not about you. No, absolutely. Now I'm and three of your favorite films of all time.

Martin Villeneuve 1:01:05
Brazil, Brazilian, the first Blade Runner, yes. And the first Indiana Jones I would say probably. And of course everybody who knows me intimately know that I'm the biggest fan of Back to the Future on the planet. I know a lot of people will say that, but I am the biggest fan. You know, and

Alex Ferrari 1:01:27
I don't see a hoverboard anywhere. I don't see a hoverboard anywhere. Where is it?

Martin Villeneuve 1:01:31
Next time we speak. I'll show you my little collection. I got to meet the actors last year thanks to my girlfriend. She she introduced me to Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd and Thomas Wilson and James Tolkien and Lee Thompson. And it was in Orlando and it was probably one of the highlights the last gathering. Yeah, and I had kept all that because when I was a teenager, I replicated the time machine in my parents basement, of course. Yeah, and all those those letters that they would exchange and all that stuff for you know the letter from 1885 and 200 from 1955. And I back then it was a VHS so I had to pause the VHS on the TV and try to

Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
The tracking thing what the track with the tracking going like that.

Martin Villeneuve 1:02:16
Yeah, exactly. Right. And it was a poor VHS copy. Let me tell you, and I, my mother, thankfully had kept some of these items, so I could bring them with me. And they all signed it and it was like amazing.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:29
That must be amazing. Yeah, I'm a huge Back to the Future fan. And they were talking about was that they were talking about trying to reboot it. And again, I hope not though Gail the producer, what's his name is Robert on the bob bob Gale, Bob Gill. Bob Gill said not while I'm alive. Right? It's like it's not gonna have to kill him. Eventually he will die and I hope that his estate will not allow the sequels to happen or anything to happen. It's done. It's it's perfection as it is.

Martin Villeneuve 1:02:58
Yeah. And it's all about the actors, you know, you will never be able to never inworld it and even with with tons of money and VFX you will never be able to replicate the chemistry between Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd

Alex Ferrari 1:03:11
Enza Mecca NZ Mack is there and, and Spielberg has look at the Godfather around it. Like it is just it's just and

Martin Villeneuve 1:03:20
It's like any film, you know, it belongs to a time. You know, it's ironic that it's a movie about time, but it's really like about the moment where it was made in history and the influence it got and the writing of it and everything about it is great. And the age pretty well, you know, like and then that is a key for me. And movie that age ages well, like Brazil or Indiana Jones or all those classics like there's a reason why they're classics is because the the biggest, you know, thing that a film must do. It's not box office, it's not pleasing the fans. It's It's It's resisting time, you know, like, Is it still relevant in 50 years and 100 years?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:01
I mean, I can't I can't believe that, that, that when they shot back to the future that they shot like half the movie with Eric Stoltz as a guy, and then they just stopped. And they just like, yeah, we're gonna have to recast this and we're gonna shoot everything again. Like I can't even comprehend that in a studio project. But I think if it wasn't for someone like Spielberg backing Zemeckis at that time, because he, I mean, how much that cost that must have cost millions.

Martin Villeneuve 1:04:30
And it's not as a scenario that you would see nowadays. It's not any. It's not a movie that would be produced nowadays, and it makes no sense but that no, not by studios. And it saddens me sometimes to see that some of the best movies that were ever produced wouldn't get made today because people are afraid of risks and even Back to the Future back in the days was super hard to get off the ground and get through the script was refused 40 times

Alex Ferrari 1:04:55
Everybody. Yeah, Disney. So Disney said like there's incest like that. That's

Martin Villeneuve 1:05:02
Exactly that's another proof that you need to like the two creators were like no we're gonna get this menu Gail and the two Bob's, you know, they were fighting for it and they got it made. But I think it's an inspiration for for everyone you know that you need to fight and there is still plays for original voices. But what saddens me is nowadays, like it's all about sequels. It's all about collection, it makes that common grace and V that would that work 30 years ago, let's like, let's do a 98 Star Wars because, you know, and, you know, it's, I think there should there should definitely be room for that. I'm not saying those movies shouldn't get made. But please leave some room for the new because one of the things that cinema is proven is that it's the new original ideas that people are like, wow, I THIS I Like You know, this I'm excited about I back in the 80s we were surprised like movies

Alex Ferrari 1:05:57
Every every every weekend, there was something Ghostbusters Back to the Future Goonies Gremlins like Indiana Jones. It was just constant, constant originality, and they were taking risks. That Yeah, never in a million years get done today. Can you imagine Goonies today? Like this? No way. That's a Disney. That's like a Disney Plus, you know, three or $4 million movie if you're lucky.

Martin Villeneuve 1:06:26
Yeah, but but but people do Stranger Things. And they allude to those movies all the time, because they were good back in the days and they try to recapture this magic, which I understand. But you know, like, yeah, I wish there was more room for original and I stick to my ideas. You know, like, I want to make original films that people have never seen before. That's what drives me to do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:49
And to do it on a budget now because we don't have the the endless pocket book that the that are our ancestors, our cinematic ancestors had.

Martin Villeneuve 1:06:58
Yeah, no, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:00
And now working, where can people find you and your work?

Martin Villeneuve 1:07:05
I'm everywhere. I'm on Facebook, I'm on LinkedIn. I'm on IMDB, Vimeo, Martin Villeneuve and very easy to find. And I encourage you to see my TED talk if you haven't seen it yet, because that's what you know, I think it's a nice little introduction. 10 minutes, it's not long, you know, as every TED Talk is and then you can have a link to my my movie underneath. Thank God. And, you know, like, you can watch my shorts, you can Vimeo you can watch my advertising word. My name is demo reel. Everything is they're very easy to find.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:39
Fantastic. I'll put all of that in the show notes. Thank you, Martin. Thank you so much for being on the show. My friend. It's you are truly an inspiration. So thank you again for fighting the good fight. The creative fight and and keep and keep doing what you're doing my friend.

Martin Villeneuve 1:07:51
Oh, thank you so much, Alex, I appreciate it.

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BPS 246: The Wrong Kind of Women in Hollywood with Naomi McDougall Jones

Today on the show we have award-winning filmmaker, actress, author, speaker, women in film activist and force of nature Naomi McDougall Jones. Many of the IFH Tribe might remember Naomi from her first appearance on the show talking about her distribution adventures with her film Bite Me. You can listen to that episode here:Making Money Self Distributing Your Indie Film with Naomi McDougall Jones

Bite Me, is a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her. The film premiered at Cinequest, won Best Feature Film at VTXIFF, and then went on to the innovative, paradigm-shifting Joyful Vampire Tour of America in summer 2019, a 51-screening, 40-city, three-month, RV-fueled eventized tour that involved Joyful Vampire Balls, capes, a docu-series and a whole lot of joy. 

Naomi’s first book, The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood, is now available wherever books are sold in hardcover, audiobook, and e-book. It debuted as the #1 New Release on Amazon. It is a brutally honest look at the systemic exclusion of women in film—an industry with massive cultural influence—and how, in response, women are making space in cinema for their voices to be heard.

Naomi has been a vocal advocate for bringing gender parity to film, both on and off-screen. She has spoken at film festivals and conferences around the world and written extensively on this subject. Naomi’s TEDTalk on these issues and what to do about them, “What it’s Like to Be a Woman in Hollywood, has been viewed over a million times. 

Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Naomi McDougall Jones. 

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 2:09
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion Naomi McDougal Jones. How are you doing Naomi?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 4:16
I'm okay and the quarantine is off.

Alex Ferrari 4:20
Yes.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 4:21
Thank you for having me back. This is such a bright spot it feels it almost feels like life might be passing by normally

Alex Ferrari 4:26
I you know it's it's one of the things I wanted to do while while in quarantine. I told my audience, I'm going to keep putting out content I'm going to keep we'll you know, we'll talk a little bit about what's going on in the world. But I need to keep keep it normal. So there's some sort of something you can hold on to that makes you feel like it's something's normal because the show is a lot of people do listen to the show and it's part of their weekly routine. And if you take that away from it, it's just another thing that they don't have anymore, you know, or it's kind of it's another thing so it's making it my goal to kind of keep these Things Yeah, going Not that I have anything else to do obviously wrangle your eight year olds, yes, my my children Oh the miracles of life, aren't they? No, it just for everyone listening beforehand, I had a venting session with Naomi about the quarantine and, and what's going on here at the house. So it's just it's difficult anytime I do any interviews now it's like, oh, look an adult, I get to talk to an adult without a mask on. So that's always you never know. See your mouth move. Right? Instead of just like Bane from Batman was born into darkness. Sorry. Okay, so we brought you back on the show because you have a new book. But before we get into the new book, your last episode, which was about your self distribution, journeys, and adventures, he was one of the most downloaded episodes and in in the history of the show. And it was also put out in the entrepreneur podcast as well, and people loved your story and loves your documentary series about your truthful raw documentary series on indie film, hustle TV about your journey in your self distribution journeys. So can you give us an update? Because at the time you did that episode, you had just started getting numbers back from online from t VOD, and s VOD. And you seemed fairly depressed about that. I want to see how to continue with the raw truth. How how's it gone with bite me?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 6:32
Well, so the the T VOD numbers continue to be horrendous. I think we've made about 18 $100 so far. But from iTunes, Amazon and Google Play combined into VOD antibody we've made. I think 50 $500 from seed and spark because they're awesome. alone.

Alex Ferrari 6:53
Yeah, they pay. They pay ridiculous amounts further. Don't ask questions, just take the money, take the money. Take the money.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:04
And so I think overall, from the whole tour, plus t bot, and everything, and merchandise. From that whole episode of our journey we made about $54,000.

Alex Ferrari 7:16
That's including that's including the the trip around the country. And and so that's, that's all the money you've made for them

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:23
All the money we've made so far. But in a, in a surprise twist ending. So So part of the thing that had caused us to go on the tour in the first place, was the incredibly depressing conversations we were having with distributors the fall before we did the tour. And where they were just going like we love this movie, but we have no idea what to do with it. And you could just sort of feel the despondency wafting off of them. And we're like we we can't, this is not a good way to distribute this movie. So then we did the tour. And we collected all of this data about our audience. And we had all of these incredibly high click through numbers from our Facebook ads we have we had all of these people come out in costume we had, we had made this, like, audience reaction reel that we cut together. And so then we went back to distributors and sales agents off the back of the tour and knowing that we need to do try to recoup more money in other ways. And we and we had six offers within two weeks of going back to them a year later after the tours

Alex Ferrari 8:31
Is that with MGS? or just offers to take it?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 8:34
Umm offers to take it there weren't any MG's But out of that we got a sales agent. So out of that pool, we decided on the sales agent, Teres Linden cone from top level media, who seems to be like one of the only honest sales agents in existence. And we like really vetted her knowing what we knew by the end of the tour and like talk to old filmmakers that she distributed films with almost every single one of them said they'd bring their film back to her for their next film, and we're like, okay, so she took the film to Berlin to try to sell it internationally, which sort of melted into the Coronavirus, but seems to have a lot of offers in the pipeline. So we'll see. We'll have to have you back. Because I want to know where this goes actually in a support and an even bigger surprise twist. We've been invited to pitch the movie bite me as a TV series to a major network. Yes. So we're working on that pilot?

Alex Ferrari 9:37
That's awesome. Yeah, because I went with it. When I saw it. I was like this would make a great Netflix show or you know, a nice series. I mean, if it's limited, even if it's a limited series, because I don't think you could keep going with the same characters. It would have to be able to create an entire world around it and this kind of stuff, but it seems it seems like it could do very well for

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:00
Here's where people kept asking us if there was going to be a sequel. And I was like, No, like, what are you talking?

Alex Ferrari 10:05
I was like a sequel that When Harry Met Sally, like, there's like, I don't understand.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:10
But But I but I think what that means is that it was just characters in a world that people really wanted to spend more time in. So that seems to suggest that it would do you really well is a series

Alex Ferrari 10:19
And it is unique. It's a unique, it's a unique world. That's not a world that I've seen very much on screen before. And there's definitely a niche audience that's interested in that world. With so well, good. So it's, it's a long play, this movie is a long play. It's a lot. This is not a short Dine and dash kind of situation. As far as the cash is concerned, but it's a long play. And you you've learned a lot, what would you do differently? If you knew what you knew now? Would you have made the move that movie for that budget, knowing the world that we are in as far as no another Coronavirus, but just in general?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:58
Yeah. And I am not sure about the budget, I definitely I would have, I would have still done the tour. But I would have known how to do the tour more cheaply. Like if I if I had the information I know I have now I know how to do the budget version of the tour because I know what worked and what didn't. And we were just we had to like spend money and everything if we didn't know what would work and it didn't look like everything, like everything. And so I would do that. But I wouldn't put the film on T VOD during the tour because that didn't end up amounting to that much cash. And then would have tried to find a creative distributor who was willing to sort of parlay the tour into more deals like immediately after the tour.

Alex Ferrari 11:52
Yeah. Because I feel that that also could do very well because of the genre. Could do very well in physical media. Because the audience loves physical media, DVDs, even old VHS is and things like that. T shirts, hats, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, we do very well with that. It's Yeah, I always go back and like should I What would I have done differently? So it's always nice. It's nice to do a post mortem, no pun intended. Empire jokes are an endless but yeah, it's very interesting. And you and you've been so courageous to be so forthcoming in the the warts and all experience of the film and getting it out there. I'm really curious, please keep me updated on where it goes. If it gets sold internationally, we're in. Yeah, and because I was like, I sold my my, like, little micro budget film in five, four or five territories internationally, which easily covered the budget. And then some, I was just like, it does they do now in today's world? I don't know which

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 12:58
I know. That was the twist ending was going very well. And then Coronavirus happened. So who knows what's gonna happen?

Alex Ferrari 13:06
So that brings me to my next question. What do you think? Or how do you think this industry is going to move on? You know, after this massive change, because it's, you know, the industry will grow, it will continue to go it's never it's never gonna stop. It's it's very resilient. But the way it goes will be different. There is absolutely no question that things have never be back to the way it was a month or two ago. It just, it just won't. I'm curious, just to hear your perspective on where do you think the industry is going to move in, in general? Because I mean, I just saw an article right now that AMC might not open up again. Yeah. And, and you know, all these events are shutting down and not all shutting down. They're all gone. They're all shut down. Yeah, for and nobody knows what's gonna happen. But even the the experiment now, which people been wanting Hollywood to do for a long time, which is to go direct to T VOD. Instead of going theatrical or do a combination of the two day and day with some of these bigger titles, and they are doing it and people seem to be liking I don't know what the numbers are. I don't know what kind of revenue that's being generated. But it's a really interesting time.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 14:20
I mean, for sure, I feel pretty excited about it from the perspective that you and I talk about in your audience thinks about, which is that a moment like this is ripe for some kind of new model. And like, we've been trying to force a new model anyway. But now people's behaviors have shifted. I think, also the fact that everyone's becoming used to low fi production value, because they're watching Jimmy Fallon from his living room with all the lighting and they're watching, you know, like john oliver and

Alex Ferrari 14:56
Jimmy Kimmel, everybody. Yeah.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 14:57
And so I do want If it's going to kind of allow us to strip back to the essence of what matters about storytelling, and allow us to make films more cheaply, but maybe not in a way that doesn't pay people, but just like, like, does it matter if you have this insane production value? Or is it the story that matters and the character that matters? And

Alex Ferrari 15:22
And we've been we've been, we've been kind of going that direction, in general, because the studios are not doing those smaller budget films. And when I say smaller budget, 20 million, I mean, it's like, they're, they're, you know, Disney basically does all they do except for the occasional like, Queen of whatever that that the African just yeah, which was great. But they do that, like once in a blue moon, or they do the Disney nature movies, which don't really count. They're stuck basically, they don't count in the sense of in the scope of Disney World. But they're stuck to doing studio films. And when I say studio films, they're tentpole 100 million plus, don't even look at don't even talk to me. And unless it's 100 120 5 million, and there's an IP behind it, but that's where all the studios have gone already. So everything else is kind of gone lo fi but even then, look at television, I mean, look at Game of Thrones was 12 million an episode or something, right?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 16:18
Yeah. Like, I don't know that that's sustainable long term, either, particularly now that you know, there's Disney plus and all like the the propagation of platforms, I don't know that any one platform is gonna be able to spend that much money on shows anymore.

Alex Ferrari 16:40
That's the key to that's the thing, because when you you pay for a ticket to a movie, you're you bet you make a product you sell that you sell the access to that product. And that was the studio system for you know, over almost 100 years. And there was a revenue stream from that and then you can just from that one revenue stream, then you can go to home video, then you can break down the cable, there's different windows to generate revenue from that thing, where now that the windows would be closed in the sense that like onward, which was a Pixar Disney movie, which was great, by the way, so that's not likely yesterday or two days ago with my kids that went straight to Disney plus, like they did the the experimental t VOD theatrical for like two weeks. And they just said screw it. We're putting it on. I was I was shocked. I was honestly shocked. I did not expect that to go to Disney plus likely that was related to the Coronavirus. No. Well, of course, yeah, it was. Yeah, it was because it was being forced to go to the Coronavirus because of the Coronavirus. So it was shocking. And it did some money in the box of it. But it wasn't in the box office for a long time. So it was it was really interesting. So I'm curious to see where Wonder Woman is going to show up where Black Widow is going to show up, where james bond is going to show up? These movies that are finished in the can ready to rock. But they're like, do we release it? Right? We don't know how long are you gonna wait? I mean, that's the point like how long are you going to sit with 100 $200 million product on your shelf? Like it's weird, like, if you do release it? Like, is it a write off? Because Are you going to generate $400 million? You can't. So that the new model is instead of windowing, you basically have the one window which is your own platform. And it really is not about getting to a certain extent, look, look what happened to Netflix, they got 150 million of us here. There is some growth here in the United States, but not a lot. So that means you're basically now funneling money in just to keep the engine going not to acquire not to grow.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 18:40
And from what I understand about their business model, that's why they're a little screwed right now because I think they've always borrowed against future growth in order to pay for the content right now. And like, they're quickly approaching the point where every human on the planet who will ever have a Netflix subscription already has a Netflix subscription. So then what do they do? It's gonna crater

Alex Ferrari 19:00
it's gonna create exactly so I've been saying this for a long time to that, that this this golden age or this buying spree that everyone's spending all this obscene amounts of money on content. It's gonna it's it's, they can't it can't it's not sustainable. It's a bubble. It's a bubble within our industry, it's going to pop

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 19:18
well, and it's going to pop because it relies on foreign markets, buying our movies, which already even in China, they're starting to go like, wait a minute, why are we watching all these movies about white people? Think our own movies about ourselves and see those movies. And that's going to like the more and more that these audiences become sophisticated and watching these movies, it's going to happen all over the place.

Alex Ferrari 19:42
Right? And there's only the few studio movies that will will penetrate like, you know, like the Disney movies and the universals and all the big the big tentpole things. And if you notice all those big temple films all of a sudden have more Asian actors in it. Right? We have more of this. I mean, it's not. There's like the ones that this is not that not my movie. This is like the mag that big shark movie. It was so the end of that big it was like the it was like basically jaws every every, like 10 years they put out a new job. Yeah, but it's like a dinosaur version of jaws was like disrupting the whole movie was like, like two or three Chinese characters. It was a Chinese company that was setting up the whole thing, but Jason Statham who was in it, but it was just like so blatantly kowtowing to the Chinese market, it was just like,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 20:27
wow, because because domestic audiences hate their stuff now. So like, they're like, and they know that and they don't care because they're making a billion dollars per movie overseas. But it's it's, as you say, it's not sustainable. But this is where I see there's such an opportunity, correct, independent film. And and the problem is that we haven't figured out the distribution revenue model and it keeps changing. And now there's Coronavirus. But But if we could solve that mechanism for revenue and distribution, we should be able to step in and fill that void that Hollywood has left for grown up movies in the United States.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
Yeah, I do. I do agree with you. 100%. I do think that I mean, we were saying earlier, Rome is burning. And some people don't even realize that like, hey, it's hot in here What's going on? While a lot of us are like, dude, do you not see that Rome is burning, and when I say Rome, it's Hollywood. So it's slowly starting to started to shake and certain things are starting to fall. And within a bit before this is all said and done, there will be a lot of casualties. Some of the studios will be acquired or or gotten acquired no one, they're never gonna go away. Right? There'll be acquired by some of their libraries will be acquired by somebody else. But in the rubble is when the great new movements come out, then great new opportunities come out. And I mean, it was in 2008 2009 when Netflix started streaming. And, you know, look what happened then you know, it there's a lot of things that are going to be changing in the coming weeks and months. I was just such an unknown. Like we literally have no idea no fucking I nobody has any idea. In our we're gonna have a summer season. Like, am I gonna go to the theater? I doubt it. Even if everyone says, Hey, we're good. coronas taking care of, here's the vaccine. Here's some treatments. It's all good. Now just go down to your local CVS and get this little shot, you'll be good to go. You're good as rain. Even with all of that, if that was all said there's still going to be kind of this hangover. Yeah, that's left over. And I'm not going to go to the theaters this this. You know, I have kids so I rarely went to the theaters anyway. Right? Because the cost and that's a whole other conversation of how the movie theater industry has basically been abusing us for the last year. It's ridiculous pricing. And now it's people are like, Oh, really well, you know, you really weren't that good to us that but we're good. Now we have these home systems. We don't need to do this.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 23:04
It's a shame. You were overcharging us and making shit content for the last 10 years. Like why why are we coming out for you when we might get Coronavirus? Exactly so

Alex Ferrari 23:15
it This might be the first summer since summer blockbusters became a thing in the 70s that we might not have a summer blockbusters Did you I just read that the only pulse left in the theatrical box office is drive ins. Maybe drivings will come back driving or the sale silver lining here is the only place that people are going to go watch movies is driving. I just saw a whole article about it like because there's the week before it was like zero and made like the whole box office made nothing. Then some drive ins opened up again. And now people are going to drive ins and people were like we I want to I want to go out I want to go but I'll be in my car with my with my dad or my family. Genius. So now drive ins are becoming a thing and that I was like again, isn't that insane? It's like like vinyl is become a thing, though. Because vinyl now is outselling CDs for the first time since the 80s. Yeah, that's true. The vinyls outsell CDs now. For the first time since the 80s. So now drive ins Can you imagine drivers are coming back? Maybe a track? Who knows it's coming back.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 24:24
We're just going backward. We're just going back. The other thing I think so we for my third feature, we're we're looking at an opportunity to turn it into a radio drama during quarantine. First, with the idea of kind of like creating a pre existing IP thing and building audience and testing the idea and all these things. I think that might become a viable model to

Alex Ferrari 24:56
be. Yeah, well, I mean, the whole the whole you know A radio drama is huge and has become a thing. I know a lot of authors who write fiction created their own podcasts to talk about their fiction. And sometimes they'll actually write for them and then sell their books on there. So it's kind of like using the film intrapreneur model, like in the sense of creating content to sell ancillary product lines or services or things like that. You have to start thinking outside the box, period. I mean, that's the only way you're gonna move forward, if you think and I said, I did a podcast about side hustles, for filmmakers and screenwriters in the Corona, the era. And I said, Look, if you guys believe that in three months, it's going to go back to where it was in January, you're out of your mind. You've got to think differently. And I'm still talking to directors and writers and people in the industry, who who are, well, this is fine. If it were good to where everything's business as usual. It's a little bit of a downturn, it's kind of like the writer's strike everything kind of shut down. Like no, guys, no, no, this this is not this is going to really change and, and I don't know if it's delusions, or they're just denying it to themselves, like they just don't like they don't want to believe it.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 26:13
I don't think they want to believe it. Because you and I outside of the system were like ready for this moment where like, we've been preparing, we have the information, like where do we sign up for building the new model? But like if you've invested Oh, no, your whole career in a system that may just have collapsed under your feet that is going to take some time to adjust to

Alex Ferrari 26:33
it that psychologically it's going to take a minute to adjust it. There's no question. I feel like I feel like we're, we're Rocky and rocky one who've been kind of like training around and someone's gonna just kind of like, hey, Apollo just said you want a shot at the title. Like it's kind of like, and Apollo happens to be the Hollywood system. And we're just like, let's do this. Let's let's get in. We have to take them down Coronavirus did it for us. He's weakened, he's shaking, his knees are shaking, we could take them out. And look guys, we joke Look, there's there's hundreds of 1000s if not millions of people who are affected by this in our small industry. And, you know, it's gonna it's gonna change things, there's so many lives that are who are reliant on the industry on the system. Like every, like every business everywhere. But regardless of that, you're going to have to, you know, whether you like it or not, you're gonna have to change like Mike Tyson said, The Great, incomparable mike tyson said, we all have, everyone's got a plan to get punched in the face. And, and we just kept on when we you and meet you. And I've been taking punches for quite some time. We're just like, this, this is just a normal this is I mean, it's harder, it's stronger, it's different. But we've been being punched all day, as far as our industries.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 27:57
I've been thinking a lot about the analogy of forest fires as a natural part of the cycle of a forest. And the fact that at a certain point in growth in a forest, the sum of the trees basically get too big, and nothing can grow underneath them. And so in the natural cycle of things, a forest fire will happen, and it will take down those bigger trees. And after that happens, it's is the only time that new trees really stand a chance of getting any sunlight and being able to grow. And I feel like we're This is that moment. And like, yes, there's destruction, and there's pain, and there's suffering, and I don't want to minimize that. But it's also this unbelievable opportunity for growth. I'm going to steal that

Alex Ferrari 28:42
110% because I when you said it, I knew exactly where you're going with it. And it's a great analogy. Because and I think that's I think that's the, in a lot of ways. There's a lot of industries like that. There's a lot of industries that are fat, and bloated and leveraged. And they just kept, you know, doing their thing and thinking that the good times when it's like it's sort of like the roaring 20s again, it's like it's a great gas. Everything's gonna be great forever. And, and now all of a sudden, the guys were the ones outside the party. We've been knocking on the window for a while and the party's been going great. It's up and now the party's down. And now they're coming out like where do we go? Oh, there's these guys that couldn't get to the party. Let's see what they can do. They've been building a boat. And we're in the succeed guys. We're Bye bye. All right, we've gone off on a tangent a little bit. But I think it was important to kind of talk I'd love to I wanted to hear your opinion about it. And, and this kind of brings us into your new book called the wrong kind of woman. So first of all, tell us a little bit about what this book is right? Because obviously it's about an evil woman who is hurting a man obviously to

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 29:52
take all the men's jobs obviously. The book is called the wrong kind of women in some Are revolution to dismantle the gods of Hollywood. So actually, our last conversation was a perfect segue into this discussion. So the book is about the fact that if you've watched primarily mainstream us movies in your lifetime, 95% of all of those films you have ever seen were directed by men, and overwhelmingly white men. 80 to 90% of all of the leading characters that you've ever seen on screen were men, and overwhelmingly white men. And 55% of the time that you've seen a woman on screen, she was naked or scantily clad. And that has been true for most of the history of cinema and is still true, which is pretty mind boggling when you consider that women are now 50% of film school graduates. So like, somewhere between women graduating films, what 50% and only 5% of them directing studio films, a lot of careers are getting bled out. So the book is, is a look at the how that's happening. How is it possible that that is still true in 2020? What are the mechanisms by which those careers are being bled out? What is the impact that that's having on the brains of the people who are watching our content that that, that our contents coming almost exclusively from this monolithic the white male perspective, and it's not that it's a bad perspective, it's just that it's one perspective out of a whole new perspective, that is currently controlling 95% of our content? And, and then the book is about solutions, like, Okay, what do we actually do about this? Because we've had 7000 panels and discussions and the studios have sent out press release, after press release, saying, look, we've solved our woman problem, and they never have and it's like, Okay, how do we actually fix this?

Alex Ferrari 31:50
Yeah, there's, um, you know, being a, I'm a Latino man, and have been all my life. I didn't, I didn't choose that. Now. I was born that and, you know, for I remember, growing up when I was in the commercial business, I was doing commercial directing. And I worked in Miami, which was, you know, obviously a very Latino area. And there's a lot of, you know, South American clients and things like that. I was told that I couldn't put Spanish commercials on my reel, because I would lose out for anything domestic. That's how ignorant it was, you know, this is before Gizmodo, Toro, Robert Rodriguez, you know, just on the Latino side, and of course, there spike and, and john Singleton all the other great directors of color. But I still I never forgot that I never forgot. It was like, Oh, it's just like, Why? Why can't I you know, I'm not less of a director because I understand Spanish, or just because they're Spanish character or Spanish speaking people on the screen does not mean that I cannot direct English speaking. Right.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 33:04
It's an insane and i would i would question whether that would be that different today, even with those that you cited?

Alex Ferrari 33:12
It is it isn't it is, is not? To a certain extent, if you are because you have to understand, especially in the commercial world, but even in Hollywood, it a little less than Hollywood, but worn in the commercial world. They want to put you in a box, you're the the tabletop guy, you're the dialogue guy, you're the comedy guy, you're the this director, that director and you heard me say guy, every time I said that, right? You've heard me say God, I never once met a female commercial director ever. In my, in my whole journey as an editor as a director, working with 1000s of clients. In the course of my career. I never once met a female commercial director, I worked with many female feature directors and television people, but never, never in the commercial world. And never in the music video world either. Not that they're not I just never ran into them. So it was and there aren't that many for sure. They're just not and it's such a boys club. It was essentially a you know, Anglo Anglo boys club, that it took a while for, you know Latinos to break through and African Americans to break through and Asians to break through like, it's, it's, it's a difficult thing. And I can only imagine for women because, you know, from my perspective, I was raised by a woman, obviously, single, single mom, single mom, and I have only daughters, and I basically have no testosterone in my life. especially nowadays. I talked to a guy in a house with three, locked in a house with three women and think I always tell him like if we get a pet. It's a boy, I need some sort of some sort of testicles. I can't take this anymore. And I can only imagine what's gonna be like it's when they're teenagers, and I don't want to think about these things. Not to think about it these days, not these days. Exactly. So, you know, I, I've always, I've always saw the problem. And I was dealing with my own problems of just trying to break through as a Latino director. But when I saw it when I saw your book, and I saw your TED Talk, by the way, this was Twitch, which was fantastic. It was shocking, but it wasn't shocking at all. Like, the numbers that you just threw out, are, are just ridiculous. They're I mean, that's the thing. It's like, it's so unreasonable. Like, it's not like it's like a 40 7030. Like, it's not like slightly, it's like, 5% it's like, it's stupid. It's stupid.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 35:39
And just, it's stupid. And and like, just to put it in perspective. White men are about 30% of the US population. Which means that the rest of us are 70%. population. And again, it's not that it's a bad perspective, it's not that it's an invalid perspective, it's 100%, valid 30% of the time, it's just that it's taking up 95% of this, of the content and the space.

Alex Ferrari 36:05
Yeah. Without without question, and I think I mean, I do have I have to say, there has been some change in the in the recent years ever since the the me to movement, I have seen change. It's not nearly enough, in all scopes of life. It's got scopes of the job market, but I have seen more like when I watch television, I always watch who directed it. And I always want to see and I have been seeing more female directors.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 36:29
Yes, but but can I get at least bad news? Sure, go ahead. Okay, so yes, and and this, this is sort of this danger point that we're in because we had me too, we had all of the articles we wrote, you know, Weinstein, all this. And, and one of the things that we are seeing that is real changes, there are more diverse characters on screen. So we are seeing more stories about characters who aren't white men, which is good. The problem is that the numbers behind the cameras are the people telling the stories are changing, almost not at all. And the reason that you feel like you're seeing more female directors is because there's been such an explosion of series content, that there is just more of it overall. So it is there are more women directing more shows, but the percentages have not changed, barely at all.

Alex Ferrari 37:25
Guys, there's just more opportunity. Basically, there's more opportunity in the scope of all the opportunity to draw.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 37:32
Like, there's more opportunity for you if you are seeking it out. Or if you tend to like that kind of content to find content, but in the in the scope of what everyone is watching, it is still the same percentage. And I feel that

Alex Ferrari 37:48
Yeah, that makes that makes perfect sense. And, look, I remember when, you know, one of my heroes growing up, Robert Rodriguez showed up and he snuck in the door like he was he's completely snuck in. He was like the first major Latino director working with major budgets doing doing what he was doing. And I always tell people, regardless if you like his movies or not, you got to respect them Africa, how he does what he did, and how he continues to do it. And then get mo and Alfonso and and what's his name? Oh, God. The other one. There's three of them. Yes, interactive. They all they all came in and they just won every Oscar ever. I

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 38:30
know. But okay, but this is super interesting. So you're right. But they are all from foreign countries. For this,

Alex Ferrari 38:37
they're not domestic. This

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 38:38
is super interesting, because in this whole, like, it was awesome. The parasite one, love the director. He's amazing. so great that it won. But a lot of the Hollywood press was like, see diversity is soft, but actually look at the last 10 Best Director Oscars, nine of them went to foreign male directors, which is really interesting, because, of course, they've they've never given that the best dressed director asked her to an African American of either gender and only ever once given it to a woman, which was Kathryn Bigelow. So so it brings up this sort of disturbing implication that the Academy is more willing to see greatness, and empathize with the stories of men who live on the other side of the world than with the women in the people of color beside them.

Alex Ferrari 39:36
Yeah, and that you're absolutely right. I've actually when I was when I was still chasing the, the Hollywood dream years ago, I was like, maybe I should make a feature in Spanish. And, and and just, you know, submit it to some festivals as a foreign film.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 39:51
You'd have to like pretend that you were from Spain or some are threatened by

Alex Ferrari 39:55
it. It's weird. It's a weird it's a weird thing, but look, this is the This is a system that is been in place since since Edison started this whole thing, you know, or the Lumiere brothers. Technically, we're actually somebody

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:08
almost. But did you know that during the silent film era, there were more women, directors, writers, studio heads, then at any time, so

Alex Ferrari 40:20
when did it switch? And why did the switch?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:22
So it switched when talkies came around, because before that, it was considered basically an eccentric hobby. like nobody really thought there was an industry there. Sure. And the and the men were sort of away fighting World War One. And they were like, yeah, whatever, that's fine if the women are doing this, and there were actually more women, and they were getting paid better than the men were in Hollywood. And then when the talkies came around, and everyone was like, Oh, shit, this is going to be a real thing. Wall Street came in. And you can see in contemporaneous documents, they said to the guys, they were like, okay, we'll invest in this. We'll build it into an industry. But you've got to get the women out, first of all, because they don't know how to run business, obviously. And second of all, because they're making these really radical films about abortion and cross dressing and lesbian ism, and we're talking

Alex Ferrari 41:10
about like the 30s, Jesus, yes.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:13
radicals, they were making films that were sparking riots, they were getting, they were shutting down theaters. And so the Wall Street guys were like, we're gonna have a real problem in society, if women around the country keep watching these movies, and start getting all these ideas about what their lives should be, like. So, so. So after an era where there were actually more women than men in these key positions in the industry, by 1945, they had so completely evicted, the women that only one half of 1% of all films were directed by women between 1945 and 1979. One half of 1%, Wall Street strikes again.

Alex Ferrari 41:53
Yes. Well, then this, this makes absolute perfect sense. I didn't know that. I had no idea about that. That's, it's, it's, you know, I've been I've been talking about the sizzle on the steak that Hollywood has been selling people for the longest time, the Hollywood dream. Can you talk a little bit about the Hollywood dream that you were sold, and we were sold together? Yeah. And, and the ambitions to make it in the business. And because I mean, from my perspective, I was sold. You know, when I went to film school, every every student was going to go to Hollywood, and every student was going to be a studio director. If they wanted to go into the directing side. And you were you it was, it's just, it's just you're just wait in line, when Spielberg is not working, you could jump in. And that was, that was kind of the story they sold, because that's how you got those kids in the door. Because if you told the kids, hey, this is really tough. And I came up in the 90s, which was a lot different than it is today, as far as opportunity. And as far as competition as far as anything. If you told them the truth, they would never have a full classroom, because it's like, Who would want to jump into something insane like that? So well. So for I want, that's my perspective. As a Latino man. I would love to hear your perspective as a female filmmaker. What what was what what was the story that they sold you to even think that you could even do anything in business,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 43:21
one thing that they definitely never said was, Hey, your percentage is gonna go down from 50% and film school to 5% of directing studio films, like there was never any discussion about the gender, the gender disparity about what we would run into, about the sexism we would be up against which I, I have been, since the book came out, really pushing it to film school professors. And Dean's saying, like, well, you are doing a good service.

Alex Ferrari 43:51
I wish I hope I wish like I would love them to have my foot my book, The rise of the film entrepreneur, but it completely shatters what they're selling.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 43:59
Well, I guess we've got to start our own film school, then. That's another conversation. Another conversation, but but the point being like, so so I interviewed over 100 women and mostly women, but some men also for this book, and, and ask them about their experiences to like, what did you expect leaving film school or acting school or whatever? And then what happened? And yeah, like I watched the Oscars every year from the time I was six years old in my pajamas. And there was like, I bought the myth, hook, line and sinker. And I never occurred to me that it wasn't a meritocracy, right, which was idiotic and naive, but, but I certainly never occurred to me that unless you were a white man, you basically had no transport like a ridiculously small chance.

Alex Ferrari 44:52
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now, back to the show.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 45:03
And so what I, what I noticed in interviewing all these women for the book is that basically everybody goes through the same cycle, they, they go to film school, like raring to go, confident in their voice as a storyteller, film school slowly starts eroding that, right, because all of the films that are taught are, here is what great cinema is. And it's all buy in about white dudes. And so it's like, slowly, this messaging begins that your perspective doesn't matter that films that resonate with you aren't great. And then, and then you get out into the industry, you face all of this sexism, all of this racism. And you, you think, but you don't compute that, that's what it is, because nobody ever told you that that would happen. So then you go through this 10 year period of blaming yourself, trying to make yourself into something that they will pick, shaving pieces off of yourself. And then eventually, maybe getting to the point of understanding what you're up against, actually, and then maybe, maybe maybe, beginning to think about finding ways around it. But But if you could just, you could just, like, have them read my book, or a book or something and be like, Hey, here's the deal. This is so unfair, but this is what's true. Here's what you're gonna face, here are the things people are going to say to you. And here are some tools to think about how to get around it, you would save them decades of despair. right up front.

Alex Ferrari 46:28
This is what this is basically, my my mission in life. With what I do, yeah, it's what I try.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:37
But it's but but but it's interesting how those two conversations tie together. Like this isn't unrelated from what we were talking about in the first half of the episode, because it's all the same myth, right? Like, it's also the myth that you have to wait for the system to choose you. Well, if you're waiting for the system to choose you, and you are not a white man, you are going to be waiting a very, very, very long time, and probably never have a career. So the the necessity of building new systems and finding ways around and being a film intrapreneur for people who are not white men is even more important.

Alex Ferrari 47:14
Without without question, I was mentoring. A friend of mine has a daughter here in in LA and she just got out of film school. And you know, she was a fan of mine and everything's like, do you mind talking to her? I'm like, do you really want me to talk to her? You just want me to talk to her? And she's like, No, no, no, give her the real truth. I'm like, Okay. And I sat her down. And she was the bright eyed and bushy tail. This is right before she got into before she hit the streets, if you will, yeah. She's, she's been in the business now about six, seven months. So you could do the shine is off that. She's She's already been beaten, like she was out on location working in production in our department. And then the director ran off with the money. And they're all left out there with no money to pay the bills, and they like have to drive home. And she's like he took turns out other job like this is she's already she's already going through the wringer a bit. And I told her when I sat down with her, and I told her, I'm gonna be really, really frank and honest with you. And I don't want you to take this the wrong way. But I would rather you hear this from me, then go through pain. Whether you like it or not, unfortunately, you are going to have to be about 100 to 200% better at your job to match up with a man at the same job who's 300% less than you? That's the starting point. And it's unfortunate. But yeah, it's the reality of, and I've seen it on my sets, which I try to always do. And I'm like, why is this dude here? She's much better, or that other dudes much better? Like, why are you here. So on my sets, I always try to make it as you know, I try to employ as best I can, whoever, whoever I can, but, and she was just like her eyes open up. I'm like, I want you to understand. And I go and by the way, that's not this industry. That's basically the world, unfortunately. And I look at this because I have two daughters. And I'm going to have that same conversation with them when they're of age and going to go, guys, this is what it is. But yeah, doesn't mean that there's other ways of going around it, but

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 49:26
right, well, that's what I want to say is that so? So what I had, I'd been an activist in the women and film space for a while before writing this book. So I kind of thought, you know, I I knew I knew what there was to say but but I did these 100 interviews, I pulled 1000s of pages of data and research and scholarly papers and sort of laid that all and like really looked at the whole situation. And there were a number of things that really knocked even meet my knees all over again researching this book, and one of them is that I was looking at this Oscar data right so only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director Oscar in 92 years of the Oscars, and only three of them have been in the last 25 years. So,

Alex Ferrari 50:10
I mean, I laugh, but it's not funny, but it's just like, it's ridiculous. It's absurd. Oh,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 50:15
it's Sophia Cappella, Kathryn Bigelow and Greta gerwig. And so then I was thinking, Okay, well, like how did they do it? Right? Were they was it just that they were 1,000% better than everybody else? Like, like, what is the thing that they have in common? How did they actually manage to do that? Well, they're all white, straight sis. able bodied women for one thing, but then I was looking at I was like, okay, but what's the real connector is that every single one of them is either the daughter or the romantic partner of a man who had already been nominated for an Oscar by the time they were nominated for an Oscar.

Alex Ferrari 50:52
Yeah, yeah, I just when you said that I connected the dots. I know. Each person is like, yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 50:59
Francis Ford Coppola. Healthcare is a living icon. That's good. James Cameron,

Alex Ferrari 51:03
another living icon, Cameron,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:05
Kathryn Bigelow and Greta gerwig know about back. Now, these are all very incredibly talented women also, right? I'm not taking over, of course,

Alex Ferrari 51:12
of course.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:13
But what that means is that, in the last 25 years, if you have been incredibly talented and ambitious, and white straight says able bodied have all of the privilege, but you are not also directly related to a man who has already been nominated for an Oscar, it is not more difficult for you to reach that peak in your career, it has been literally impossible. And so that is the thing that I want women to understand is that if you play by their rules, you will lose.

Alex Ferrari 51:45
Of course, you're stacked against you,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:46
of course, because they're big against you. Like it's not, because I think there's a feeling sometimes like well, but if I just keep my head down, and I don't say anything, and I don't complain, like yes, it's only 5%. But I could be one of the 5%. So a lot of what I want people to understand is there is no woman who has or person of color who has ever had the career they would have if they were a white man, there's nobody. And so then the only option, the only reasonable option is to invent something else.

Alex Ferrari 52:13
So what you're trying to say is just pay the minimum do on your credit card, and everything will be fine, right? You don't have to pay off, just pay the minimum payment. And it'll all work out. equivalence, for advice for like, exactly, just charge it up to the top, or pay your minimum. That's what they say. And if you play by that rule those rules, you'll be okay. You'll be fine. It's the equivalent of it. I actually, I knew a couple of crew members from Point Break. And I was talking to him about like, what was it like, you know, we're working with Katherine and this and that, and, and they were telling me, frankly, like she had the roughest time ever On Point Break. Because James wasn't there every day. James was off doing what James does. But James produced that. And if he wouldn't have produced it, she wouldn't have gotten the opportunity. That's it regarding kathryn bigelow is probably one of the best action directors of all time, or there's no question. And there's that she should be directing a lot more than she has even now.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 53:14
Right? Even now, nobody's had the career sheet that man would have, like if kathryn bigelow had testicles, like, what is the career she would be? She'd

Alex Ferrari 53:24
be Michael Bay, she'd be Michael Bay, Ridley Scott, there's no question about it. Because she's, you mean, look at Point Break, and you look at that just just Point Break, and then you look a strange days and stranger days and other action movies that she did in her career. She's She's remarried, she's better than most men that I've seen. They're much better than most of the big Hollywood directing men that I've seen. But she was having a really, really, really rough time. There was no respect, and this was like, 90, so they shot that in like 89. So you could only imagine a female director on an action movie on a studio production. If it wasn't James. I mean, honestly, without James Cameron signing on, she just wouldn't have done it. Right. And then also james cameron did the next movie with her. So James Cameron basically opened the door. She was done. He was Donnie Brasco. He was like right she's a good fella. They said what it was and then it's Coppola did the same thing for Sophia. Again not taking anything away from their talents but it didn't hurt to get it got them in the door.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 54:26
And it was impossible without that is my point like you can be as talented as kathryn bigelow and if James Cameron as a white man doesn't say like hey, she's she's okay. Oh backer, backer, then you still won't have that career

Alex Ferrari 54:42
without question and I didn't know all three of them. I'd never thought of it. That was bananas, all three of them. And in the scope of thing. No, Batman is a fantastic filmmaker, but he doesn't have the push or pull in town that James Cameron Did you know at all but you And then it's still something and it's, it's fascinating. It's fast. And that's why I like someone like Robert Rodriguez, he snuck in the door. And the person who let him in was his agent who happened to be the most powerful directing agent in Hollywood and brought this 23 year old and he's the one that said, Guys, guys, you gotta check this out. Hey, guys. And then I think he also brought in Singleton. A though and then that started that whole ball rolling. There's always someone if you're going to play this game, you need someone to get you out the door and open that door for you. It's you have to do something so astronomical, so revolutionary, to get the notice of the system outside of this kind of, you know, Donnie Brasco world,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 55:47
but then also win the lottery, like you also win the lottery. Why would you like don't play that game?

Alex Ferrari 55:55
So that's what I've been, I've been preaching for the longest time because I chased that I chased that dragon for 20 years, trying to make my first feature, I'm like, Oh, I'm gonna do this. I played all the games I shot I shot my feature, I shot my short, I had a business proposal had the ppm I did an animated short up, you know, the pre order, sort of, like I created this entire IP. And I went out to town I met a bunch of people had actresses, attacks, actors. And my and of course, for whatever reason, most I think every single one of my films has had a female lead in it. I don't know why. But every single movie I've made, including my two features, have a female lead and it wasn't it was unconscious. I always just said, well, that's just more interesting. Because you spend your life surrounded by women is probably if we're gonna go deep into this Mr. Floyd on this, right? No, but but it's so I mean, I've I created this whole EPA, and I remember I still remember going into these meetings with these guys. And they looked at this this action short that I directed and this Japanese animated prequel, I had a comic book, I had all this stuff that I created for it. And they looked at me like Yeah, can we make the lead a guy cuz just can't make a female actions? Did the females can't, you know, Helm an action movie? And this was 2011 1213. Yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 57:13
no, no, in 2011 and 12. When I was trying to make my first film, which was about two women, heaven forfend. Everybody, with no explosions

Alex Ferrari 57:23
with every meeting, we went with no explosions,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 57:25
no exposure. Right. So it's not just the female action problems, or sort of the woman, the woman problem in general, that every single meeting we went into, they'd say, Well, you can't make a phone back to women who would watch that. Like, I don't know, the 51% of the population that is women. And men, maybe, unlike some men, presumably,

Alex Ferrari 57:49
I actually. So my last film I made was called on the corner of ego and desire, which was a film about filmmakers trying to sell their movie at the Sundance Film Festival. While the festival is going on. I completely gorilla the entire movie. And I know we've all seen the great movies about making movies, you know, the player and living in oblivion and all this stuff. But I had never seen a female director in the lead writer, and I've never seen it. So I decided to make my director who happens to be her name is Sophia. Sonia Hara. I know her so Sonia. Sonia is a great she was she was amazing. In the park. Yeah, she's a psychotic in the movie like you want to. You want to wring her neck sometimes with the things she said it's a character. And I'm like, Oh, my God, you're a genius. But that movie wouldn't be the same if I would have put, which originally was going to be a male. But when I saw Sonia, I'm like, Oh, no, you're you're you're the director. I have to have you as director because it's so much more interesting. And I was like, I'd never seen it. I just thought about like, I'd never seen a female director portrayed on cinema, period. I think in the I don't know if in the history of cinema Has there ever been a female director, there might be I've never seen it, and definitely not out of the Hollywood system. Even in the olden days, there was never because that was just not a thing. So when women might start getting ideas that they could be dangerous, that's a very dangerous thing you don't want. You don't want the women in the ethnics. Getting ideas above their station. And again, I want to be very clear, and I think you've been clear about this as well. There's nothing wrong with being a white male. And there's nothing wrong with white male films. There's nothing wrong with a male perspective. There's nothing wrong with a female perspective and nothing wrong with a Latino or Asian perspective. I mean, crazy, crazy rich Asians. That's a fairly Asian perspective. And it was a huge, huge monsters hit. It's fine. It's just trying to balance it all out a bit more to kind of represent society.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 59:50
Right. That's my point. Like it's, it's so unreasonable. Now it's so like the fact that 30% is taking up 95% of Have the jobs and the content creation, just like at a very basic level makes no sense.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:05
And I lost my train of thoughts on second. So do you find that the system in general, is built to be kind of predatory? In the sense he didn't even, even slow down? Definitely. I mean, I've women, to women and to, to women specifically, but to newcomers in general, like it's about, it's about eating them up and spitting them out and just absorb, like, kind of like almost leeching off of whatever talent or skill to have. And for you to kind of break through that and actually make a name for yourself in the business is, is a miracle. For a woman. It's just like, basically the Second Coming.

I mean, as I can, I can literally count on one, one or two hands, how many Latino directors of name recognition there are in our industry? With one hand, I could do Asian with one or two hands, I could do African American with women? Definitely one. You know, that's that seems to be a problem is, I mean, I'm just saying that seems to be a problem. And again, I'm nothing against the the, you know, white males, but we don't live in an account in a country or specifically in the US. That is 70% white male, you know, and like,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:01:30
well, and like your life is would you wait, man, your lives would be better? Also? With no

Alex Ferrari 1:01:39
perspective? Absolutely.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:01:40
I guarantee like, a the content would be more interesting. So that would be better. And be like part of what makes our industry so toxic is this is that it's all of the people are the same too. And they've whipped up this sort of like penis war toxic masculinity tornado that lies at the core of our industry. And like, it doesn't have to be this awful people.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
I'm sorry, stories. Can we can we just back that up for a second? Did you just say penis tornado that,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:02:12
I think I said penis word toxic masculinity tornado.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:17
But let's go back to the penis tornado. I think that is and I think that's a sequel to shark NATO. I'm thinking it could be peanuts, NATO. And this should be directed by a woman. I'm just saying, Let's throw that out there right now. anyone listening? Take it, it's free, no IP, free it make millions to go make millions with it, let us know, give us a special thanks. Though, the other thing I was gonna say. And again, I'm going to go back to my daughter's with this is this is the system. This is the realities of the system. And what I was saying before, when I, when I was chasing my own dream of being, you know, doing my own feature and stuff like that I'm playing by the system by the rules of the system, they have to do this, this, this and this, and I did everything right, and still couldn't break through. I just said to myself, I'm tired of playing by their rules, I'm going to create my own rules, and I'm going to do my own thing. And the second I made that switch in my mind, my entire world changed. And I became much more free as not only an artist, but as a businessman and, and being able to provide for my family and being able to express myself as an artist and to cast whoever the hell I wanted to cast. And, you know, I keep my budgets really low to do what I want to do to have more freedom to do that. But I would tell my girls growing up, I would say, if you don't like the rules of the gate of the sandbox you're trying to play in, then go play in another sandbox or better yet, go build your own sandbox, and play your own game. And I promise you, the kids at the other sandbox will eventually start knocking on the door. And if they don't, it doesn't matter. Because you're having a better sandbox, you're you're going to be doing your thing. And that's exactly what's happened with me in my career where I started to build my own sandbox and now people from that other sandbox have been knocking and Okay, how can we do this? Hey, can we can do that. And that's I think that's the goal. I think that's the only way to do it. Because you know, maybe you and I are both a little bit a little too much shrapnel in us from the business you know and and we just know the realities of the business. I'm curious to see what's going to happen again at the end of this whole thing with the with this and see what because if if things were tough when things were good, meaning like if things were tougher, people of color and women when money was plentiful, when all that tightens down. Oh yeah. I don't see a lot of opportunity in the system. For those stories. They're gonna they're gonna just go straight down to what they know. Yeah, we're gonna do another john Claude Van Damme meets Steven Seagal meets Mike Tyson. And that's going to be sold in that Yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:04:56
right and they're gonna go Yeah, and all those these conversations we've been having since meet And ask her So why didn't like Yeah, but like now, now we need to get down to the real business and like, we don't have space for those conversations anymore. And like, we just need to get back to the white dudes. But But again, like I said at the beginning, this is our moment like, they're weak, right? They've been hit. They they are, they're the Hydra, they're absolutely going to double down on their old thing, but their old thing doesn't work anymore anyway. And like, well, this is the this is the opportunity for something else

Alex Ferrari 1:05:35
I want I want to there's a moment in our history in the film industry that this happened. This has happened a few times, but very not like this, but where there's a weakness in the system. It happened in the 70s when they the Hollywood system had no idea what to do, didn't had no idea how to make useful films. They saw a movie called Easy Rider show up and just blow them out of the water while they're making. Finland's dancing, whatever made it you know, thing that Coppola did, he directed this thing and did like 97 it was like, and no one went to go see it or, or Heaven's Gate are these kind of movies. And and they were like, what do we do? Well, let's, let's let these kids in. And because of that moment, that window of opportunity we've got, you know, again, some of the great Cinema of them in the 70s is amazing cinema. So Spielberg, Scorsese, melius, you know, Coppola, all those kind of guys. They got opportunities that would have never, ever gotten in the system, like Spielberg would have never been able to walk in to the 40s. In the 50s. It just, he wouldn't have been given that opportunity would have been very difficult for him. And I know these are all still white males. But we're talking about that time in history. Yeah, but that but that opened up an opportunity for that. And then it happened again, in the 90s. The Sundance generation, the Tarantino's the Robert Rodriguez is the Spike Lee's that Don Singleton's original link letters of the world. And that group was that small window, right? To get those opportunities. Then there was another window with commercial directors, when the features in the bays and the anti fluke was came in, as well. But you can notice every single time I've said any of these movements, there's no women. No women being spoken about that would be radical. I mean, we're talking about these people of color. So there's some there's some movement, progressively more of those words. Yeah, we get we're getting there. But, but this is going to be that for a for God knows what else, you know, I mean, I always, always tell him, like, you know, imagine Fast and Furious. It was, if it was, you know, the Dirty Dozen, it'd be pretty boring. Meaning that like, it was just like, dude, yeah, you know, that's one of the things that make that film. So well, that whole franchise, so well received, it's that there's such a multicultural. Yeah. And, and, and everything is in there. Moving out? I don't know. It's a very, it's a very tough topic to talk about. And I really am glad that you came on. First of all, I'm so glad you wrote this book. And I want to ask you, what do you what is your hope for this book? What is your hope that this book does for people?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:08:17
Well, so it's, again, it's only been out about a month and a half. And already, I feel like a lot of the things that I'm most wanting to accomplish with it, I've heard are happening. So one, one thing is I'm getting a lot of emails from women, some of them, you know, from high school, all the way up to have been in the industry for three decades writing and saying, like, Oh, I didn't understand what we were dealing with before. And now I do. And I'm never gonna approach my career the same way again. So that's, so that's exciting, right? So it's like, it's like breaking them out of the matrix. I've gotten a lot of emails from from white men who have said, Hey, I didn't, I didn't understand. Like, I kind of got it. But I didn't really know. And like, now you gave me tools to actually be part of the solution. And I'm now like, I'm going to change my behavior going forward. But I have actually gotten a huge response from film schools, we'll see if they if they program it. But so far, there's been a really excited response about the idea of using it as a tool and film schools, and one of the major streaming networks that I can't name, read the book and bought a copy for every member of their content staff to help them understand how they were contributing to this problem. So that's

Alex Ferrari 1:09:41
That's very so look, it's it's books have a very amazing power. There, you know, I've been, I've written a couple books and books will go to places you will not even know about, and yeah, it will affect people in ways that you will never know. never see it. I mean, just the same way as I read, I read a couple books a week, and I try to absorb. And they, I mean, they've changed my life, they've changed my perspective that changed the way I think about things. And when you write a book, and you have that effect on other people, yes, it's, it's pretty amazing. It's it's pretty amazing experience. I got a, I had a school call me up and like we'd like to buy in bulk. I'm like bulk. Okay. Let me set that right up for you. Now, how many of you want and you know, it's like, I guess we're selling in bulk now. So, you know, there were, there were people that were excited about my latest book. And, and I've seen the reviews and the people come back to you, like you said, they come back to you with these things. Like you've changed the way I think about making movies and moving forward. And it's, it's very gratifying. It's very gratifying,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:10:50
So gratifying. And it's, it's so exciting. And I think, like what I would say, to people who are like, well, maybe I'll read this book, maybe I won't. Like, you don't understand. Like, even if you've read articles, and you know, the numbers, and you've listened to this interview, and like, you kind of have a vague understanding, this is a problem. The thing that you can do in a book that you can't really do in any other format is pulling together 100 interviews, pulling together 1000s of pages of data, overlaying the human stories with the numbers and the percentages. And everybody who's read the book has said, like, I didn't really know until I sat down and read this cover to cover and like, saw the scope of it, and like actually understood, so and I think once you do, you can't ever move forward or watch film The same way ever again.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:43
Oh, no, I mean, without question, without question, you look at you like the perspective of what, and I grew up in the, the the 80s, essentially 80s and 90s, you know, coming up, and all I saw was what you said, you know, movies made by basically white males. That's why when she's got to have it showed up, everyone was like, what, what? What is this, you know, or even better? Hollywood shuffle. You remember? How do you remember Hollywood shuffle?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:12:13
No, I think I'm, I missed that slightly.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:17
So Robert, so just to I want Robert on the set. Robert Townsend. You know, remember Robert Townsend, the actor. Okay, so Robert Townsend. So Robert Townsend was so upset about all the parts he was going out for in Hollywood, that he was just like, you know, he was the gang member. He was the this, you know, he was the drug dealer. He was the drug addict. He was like, you know, the butler. He was like those, he was so redeemed. So he's like, you know what, I'm gonna make a movie about that. And he made Hollywood shuffle, which was, it was made in 1987. It was the it was the first time To my knowledge, filmmakers, at least at a grand scale film, a filmmaker, put everything on his credit cards. So he spent he spent like 30 $40,000 $50,000 on his credit cards, and made this movie on film back in the day, you know, he made the whole thing, and then went on to gross like 10 $15 million. And it was all about how, like, how there was a white acting coach telling a black actor How to Talk black. It's hilarious. like, Nah, man, you see, you got to do it. Like the more bait like and he's like, and you see that and the black actress speaking very well. It's really okay. I'm from Juilliard. And it was just so brilliantly the satire was fantastic. And how he did it. So when these kind of films showed up, people were just like, oh, mariachi showed up, and Desperado, showed up on Robert Rodriguez aside, it's, it was amazing. And I was remembering, well, even Sofia Coppola with Virgin Suicides like that was just like, how it's just so it's jarring. It's like you don't know until you know it's you see it, you don't

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:13:59
realize you're in the matrix until you I had a 60 year old 60 year old African American woman come up to me after a talk. And she said to she said, when I watched Queen sugar, she said that is the first time in my whole life that I ever saw my family and myself on screen. And she said in that moment, I suddenly realized that that is what white men experience every time they watch a movie. She was 60 years old.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:30
Wow. Yeah. And that's shameful. It is without without question. And you know, whether you love them or not Tyler Perry, what he's been able to do, you know, with his with his work. He's he saw like, no one saw themselves up there. And I'd argue to say that Latinos are still struggling with that. There's not a lot of there's not a lot of, you know, there is more. There is more we a we had JLo JLo and Shakira on the Superbowl. What more do we want? I mean, seriously, I

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:14:57
know staff complaint. I mean, come on. It's I had an older white gentleman on Twitter the other day, said he, I had made reference to the fact that women are half of the population. And so he first corrected me and said women are actually 51% of the population. And also, it's getting very exhausting listening to women complain all the time. Not as exhausting as it is to have to complain all the time.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:28
So I'm going to ask you one last question. What would advice would you give a female filmmaker wanting to break into this business today? Before you step out of the door, I say the same thing to you.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:15:49
And also read Alex's book, too. It is your civic, moral and ethical responsibility to make sure that you find a way to tell your stories and get them out to audiences who desperately need to see them and want to see them. And if the system works for you, great, but never, ever allow them to determine your worth. Because you have to understand that the system is fundamentally not set up to recognize your worth or your voice. So if it does not work for you, and they do not give you value, you have to make your own and you have to find ways around and tip it please, please find a way to tell your stories, because we need them.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:31
I can't set it better myself. That is a great way to end the show. Can you tell everybody where they can find your book?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:16:39
Absolutely the wrong kind of women inside our revolution to dismantle the gods of Hollywood is available in hardcover, audio book and ebook wherever books are sold.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:49
Um, it's such a great title. That's such a just in your face title. I love it. I love it.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:16:55
I have this Oscar on the cover. You that's a real benefit of buying the hardcover is that you get to have this book on your shelf with a decapitated Oscar.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:07
Naomi and and then where can people watch bite me on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play at the moment at the moment and hopefully other places coming soon. Yeah. Naomi, thank you so much for taking time out of your quarantine to to speak.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:28
Thank you for having me back.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:30
Yes, and thank you for doing the the work you're doing and hopefully this episode will shine some light on it and open some minds and help help some filmmakers regardless of of race or gender to be able to tell stories that they want to tell within the system or preferably without outside the system. I just more fun being outside the party. I just

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:53
Very bad party.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:55
Thanks again.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:56
Thank you.

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BPS 244: Billion-Dollar Comedy Screenwriting with Herschel Weingrod

This successful American screenwriter of comedies, many of which are remakes or adaptations of novels (i.e., “Brewster’s Millions” 1985, “Pure Luck” 1991), had worked in collaboration with Timothy Harris. The Wisconsin-born Herschel A. Weingrod and his British-born partner have generally met with commercial approval for their efforts like “Twins” (1988) and “Kindergarten Cop” (1990), both of which benefited from headliner Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Falling Down” (1993), which they co-produced, also became a box-office success, but their only real critical success to date has been “Trading Places” (1983), which paired Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

He has written and co-written a number of Hollywood blockbusters including Space Jam with fellow writer Timothy Harris.

Enjoy my conversation with Herschel Weingrod.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Herschel Weingrod 0:00
A lot of people say right what you know. Wrong. What did Shakespeare know about Verona? or something's rotten in Denmark? You think he spent a lot of time in Denmark? Or The Merchant of Venice? Was he like, did some research? I don't think so. No, don't write what you know about right what you care about.

Alex Ferrari 0:25
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, Herschel Weingrod. How you doin Herschel?

Herschel Weingrod 0:40
Thank you very much. I'm doing well.

Alex Ferrari 0:42
Thank you so much. I appreciate you coming on the show my friend I was telling you before you single handedly covered a lot of my childhood favorites in films as a screenwriter, and as a producer, all through the 80s and 90s. So I first of all, thank you. And we'll talk about those films as we continue our conversation. But man, you you were you were hitting them out of the park pretty heavily.

Herschel Weingrod 1:07
Yeah. My writing partner, Tim Harris and I, we had a really nice, long run

Alex Ferrari 1:14
Without without question. So my first goal for my first question to you is, how did you get started in this business? And why in God's green earth did you want to get into this business?

Herschel Weingrod 1:23
Yeah, well, actually, it's kind of a negative goal, because wanting to be a screenwriter is like wanting to be a co pilot. Because you don't really get to fly the plane.

Alex Ferrari 1:37
But it's really great. And now I've never heard that analogy and many, many conversations I've never heard. That's a beautiful analogy.

Herschel Weingrod 1:43
You can use it whenever you want. So as an undergraduate, I actually majored in European history. And then around my senior year, I realized, Oh, what am I going to do with this degree? Rome the stacks of some historical library and write some historical books and teach Oh, yeah, I could be a professor great, really exciting. So actually, around my junior year, I, I began to take as many film courses as I could, this was at University of Wisconsin Madison. And then they didn't offer a lot, but they offered me some and then I started to apply to film schools, for F for postgraduate work. And I, it's a long story, but I was accepted at the London Film School in England. Nice. So I didn't know anybody there, of course. So I go there and my instructors are. Mike Lee,

Alex Ferrari 2:55
You have read my mind. I was like I said, Mike Lee,

Herschel Weingrod 2:57
Mike Lee, Charles Creighton, who did Fish Called Wanda and all those great Ealing comedies. Clive Donner who did What's New Pussycat. Guy, Hamilton, who did two of the first three Bond films with Sean Connery. And I had I had all these great instructors. So that's that was a great school because it's basically a trade school, you had to learn how to do everything. It's not an academic school where you were you were you had to write exams you had to actually perform, you had to learn how to operate the camera, load the camera, be a producer, cut sound, cut film, do everything. So then what you do is then you try to focus on whatever makes you happiest, whatever you think you're really good at. So I actually wanted to be a DP. But there's no apprenticeship program for becoming a cinematographer in Los Angeles. The ASC doesn't have like a Oh,

Alex Ferrari 4:01
It's not a standard one. It's a unofficial one that you have a lot of along the way,

Herschel Weingrod 4:07
Right. So after I, so I was in London for about three, three and a half years and then I came to I came to Los Angeles, and I realized that the only way I could get in was to write my way in to the film industry. So I was writing, I was trying to write mysteries, thrillers, film noir, all the movies that I that I like to see, okay. You know, Chinatown ish, Three Days of the Condor ish stories like that. So I, I was really fortunate because I had a neighbor who worked at British law and EMI, and they were making the deer hunter, the driver and convoy and all those movies while I was working there. So what I would go on a Monday morning to their office and I pick up a stack of scripts and manuscripts and novels and plays. And by the following Monday, I would have to write complete coverage on all of them. Now, of course, I'm 24 years old, all I want to do is get through the week, so I could go enjoy the weekend. But every once in a while I'm reading something that regardless of what the subject matter was, the writer has gotten me to want to turn the page and see what happens next. So I'm thinking, Ah, if I can learn how to do that, because you see, that's called the craft of screenwriting. Because if you're an aspiring writer, a first time writer, you have to get your script by a reader like me, at a well educated 2425 year old, who just wants to get through the batch of scripts and get to the freakin weekend. So, learning how to do transitions learning how to set things up without I mean, this is before all those rules and all those books before. Before Syd field and and certainly all those other guys save the cat and all that stuff. Right? Well, all those guys with the the inciting incident in the mid second act climax and this has to happen on page X, Y and Z. No, no, I, I actually learned that. That Every story needs to find its own way to be told otherwise. Otherwise, we wouldn't have we would never have a Charlie Kaufman.

Alex Ferrari 7:05
Well, I mean, you're talking about someone on the outside outskirts of Italy,

Herschel Weingrod 7:13
Right! But I mean, all of those all those. All those rules are rules how to write the next blockbuster? Which, as a first time writer, you're you're you're not gonna get to write any of the mission impossibles

Alex Ferrari 7:27
No. Herschel stopped that you need to tell me you're not going to get the next Marvel movie coming right out of school or no. Go to school.

Herschel Weingrod 7:37
I've never even gotten a hint of a Marvel movie assignment. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 7:43
Because not even a shorts that even an episode of one of the shows

Herschel Weingrod 7:47
Because because those aren't written they're actually manufactured nobody comes out that's a damn what a great script that was.

Alex Ferrari 7:56
The only one if I'm if I may. I may is Winter Soldier, which was as close to if you remember Winter Soldier, Captain America's went to so that was like an espionage film. It was like it was probably one of the best written out of all Yeah, but you but you're right. Like you don't go like holy cow. That's you get an Oscar this year. Like it's not it's not, you know, it's what it is.

Herschel Weingrod 8:21
That a subtext was so strong I could tell. I could tell right away.

Alex Ferrari 8:26
But look, but that's but they don't, but they put that to popcorn movies. And that's what they're supposed to do. And they're fond and all that

Herschel Weingrod 8:33
Those are all those are all guilty pleasures, which actually make the industry a lot of money and keep it going so that more interesting films might eventually get made. So I unless I mean, I was I was basically working in the studio system and nobody would make those movies today. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 8:53
Oh, no, anything in the 70s would get made today. The Godfather, would it get financed by it's no. Nothing, nothing in the 70s 80s and 90s. Other than Batman.

Herschel Weingrod 9:07
Okay, so So look, look. No Hal Ashby movie, whatever get made. No, no being there? No, no Scorsese's No. Sidney Lumet. No One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on my day, so you can forget all those. Oh, and those were those were brilliant studio films. Five, five easy pieces

Alex Ferrari 9:31
Forget it, but that was but that was those were the times that those movies were made. And yeah, and we're still in there still going back and mining those old IPs to remake them. Of course back up because that's when they were when you were free to be creative. But now it's just such a corporate machine that I mean, look right now you pull Marvel movies out of the theaters in 2022. Other than Top Gun right and and possibly avatar Well, more than likely avatar when it comes out later this year. There's no theatrical, there's just nothing. Like, great. There's just not no one's going to the theaters to go see a romantic comedy anymore. And it's just, it's just very, very like pretty woman today would not be a theatrical release, it'd be a Netflix film.

Herschel Weingrod 10:21
Well, actually, what do you think you'd have to Okay, so they tried to do a Broadway adaptation. The problem is, you see, you can't you, you, you, you can't have a hooker with a heart of gold at the center of a movie or a play because women won't stand for it anymore. Today, today, today, they won't know. They won't.

Alex Ferrari 10:48
But but for whatever reason, in 91, I think what was the 91? It was a Disney movie.

Herschel Weingrod 11:01
Well, that's true. Gary Marshall.

Alex Ferrari 11:03
It was a touchstone film. Yeah. And you but Gary just handled that. So absolutely beautifully. It was just remarkable. But you look, go back and look at and go, Hmm, that's not going to fly today. But I know, a lot of things wouldn't fly today. Most things in the 80s and 90s wouldn't fly today.

Herschel Weingrod 11:22
I agree. I agree.

Alex Ferrari 11:24
No, but that's where great, great cinema, you know, a lot of the Great Cinema, the 70s 80s and 90s was because we still had filmmakers running the studios. That's what they were. And they were making small movies. You know, they were making $20 million movies. They're making $30 million movies. Now that's craft services.

Herschel Weingrod 11:44
Now that's the dedicated COVID supervise,

Alex Ferrari 11:48
Pretty much pretty much Yeah, that's exactly what that is. It's it's the world has changed so much. Which brings me to your to your your filmography, which is it's such a wonderful. There's so much love in those films that you made. And you wrote, starting with Trading Places, which was a little young, young guy, comedian. How old was he like 22 or 33? He was let's say he was a kid. And trading places would never get me today. Oh, Nana million. You could still try to throw Kevin Hart in the rock in there. It's still not. It's just

Herschel Weingrod 12:29
Because I mean, we actually had a note from Paramount then, which would be the note today, which is, wait a minute. Why is he pretending to be a Vietnam to be a crippled, legless Vietnam? I mean, is he you know, like that Adam Sandler guy was trying to get money so his grandma can be put in the home or his sister can get an iron lung. So they asked us, and we said, No. The the audience doesn't care what happened before the movie started. They only care about what happens next. So it doesn't matter why he's doing it. That's not what his character is about.

Alex Ferrari 13:13
The thing that I find so beautiful about trading places and for it for all the youngins. Look at listening right now, Google Trading Places Google Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd and Google that please. And then you'll have a reference point. But what I love about trading places was it was not only it wasn't I don't know if it was Eddie's was that his first? Second? There was one thing something else right was that was

Herschel Weingrod 13:39
The one he did with Nick Knowles. Walter 48 hours Excuse me. 48 hours came out first,

Alex Ferrari 13:44
First, right, but then Trading Places came out and then that was where Eddie just,

Herschel Weingrod 13:47
And then it's number one, number one, Leo's cop and all those things.

Alex Ferrari 13:50
Number one, number one, number one Number one, like I think nine movies straight. He was number one every time he came out, but what I love about trading places is that and this is something that was so so much more done than than it is now in writing films is that there's such a social commentary. That's right in trading places. That is It's subtle but yet slightly heavy handed in certain places, which I love. And but at the end it's hidden behind all the comedy of the genius of Dan accurate and and Eddie Murphy. And and Jamie Lee Curtis and everything. Yeah, I mean, the casting was fantastic. Oh, the casting was fantastic. That

Herschel Weingrod 14:31
Al Franken.

Alex Ferrari 14:33
Oh God,

Herschel Weingrod 14:34
Jesus. It was just such Jim Belushi.

Alex Ferrari 14:36
It was amazing. What a Grammy what an amazing cast. But I wasn't wanting to ask you since you worked and you have worked with a lot of amazing improvisers over the years. Sure How much of that script was Eddie just being Eddie and how much it was you guys writing?

Herschel Weingrod 14:56
I would say that 90 90% of what's on the screen, at least, was on the page. Now what but, but what was but what was great was You see, this is unheard of. They had a week of rehearsal.

Alex Ferrari 15:14
Just one week of

Herschel Weingrod 15:16
Rehearsal like it's a play.

Alex Ferrari 15:18
Oh, like, oh, they

Herschel Weingrod 15:20
Actual separate from pre production. I mean, they had a week of rehearsals. So Eddie, Eddie and Danny and Jamie Lee and all those characters. They're like, running lines, and then they're riffing and, and they came up with stuff that just made me and my partner look better. Right. And you just, I mean, we didn't write the line where he says, when they when the Duke brothers bail him out, and he gets in the in the limo, and they're doing the intros and he says, Billy Ray Valentine Capricorns. But we, but we did right? Karate man bruise on inside.

Alex Ferrari 16:09
Karate man was on the, I mean, it's me. There's so many quotable things, you know, looking good. Feeling good. Like it was last. All that there's a T shirts, like I've seen T shirts without this to this day. I still teachers saying that?

Herschel Weingrod 16:25
Well, okay, so here's this. Here's this early woke thing. So we wrote the line about when he when he brings office, all of his friends back to have a party, and they're dancing, and all of a sudden he realizes he's becoming middle class and very possessive of his new possessions. And he's saying, who put their cool out on my Persian carpet. So, okay, so So, what? People don't understand this kind of cultural context that cool menthol cigarettes were marketed primarily at black people. Yeah, in fact, most of the people who smoke cools were black people. And so black people get that joke. And white people of a certain age get the joke as well. But Paramount said, No, you can't put that thing in about the cools. No, that's no, that's that's stereotype bla bla bla bla bla. Well, seriously. So that's when we shot that scene, and he put it right back in anyway. And it was fun. And I stayed in and it stayed in, of course.

Alex Ferrari 17:37
God, I mean, when you when you did you go on set with with John and Eddie and everybody. Were you on set? Are you on set? So what was it like being on the set watching? Eddie, you could just see a superstar being born or literally, how did how did you? How does what was that? Like?

Herschel Weingrod 17:58
I could tell. Okay, let me do a little backtrack on. We had pitched trading places. We had completely worked out scene for scene basically, with lines, we could, we could pitch it in 15 to 18 minutes. And we went to the Head of Production at Warner Brothers at the time because we had something else that we brewing over there. Maybe it had been optioned, maybe it was gonna get made, they liked us. So we go into the head of production, and we pitch training places. And he says it's funny, but if I can't get Richard Pryor, who can I cast? And we said, Eddie Murphy in trading. Then on Saturday night, why this kids a genius? And he said, I don't think he's going to be a movie star.

Alex Ferrari 18:47
Of course, of course, you always hear that, you know, he's like, Oh, kid.

Herschel Weingrod 18:53
We went to paramount to have a meeting with these producers about they were pitching us the worst idea of for TV series ever. White bigot moves into a house that's haunted by a black ghost.

Alex Ferrari 19:08
Oh my God, that's horrible. Oh, no,

Herschel Weingrod 19:10
I just I look at my partner. And we said should we should we pitch them trading place if they want to? White Black story. So we pitch them trading places and they ran upstairs? They got us a deal to write it.

Alex Ferrari 19:24
Well, oh, this was on a pitch still.

Herschel Weingrod 19:27
Just as Yeah, this was okay. And then what happened was we were on the set of 48 hours. We actually saw that famous scene where in that bar where Eddie says on your white. I'm your worst nightmare.

Alex Ferrari 19:49
Yeah, maybe a new sheriff in town, right?

Herschel Weingrod 19:51
Yeah. And the N word with a badge. I'm your worst nightmare that was and then we've met them brief flea and then we hear this laughter in his trailer because he's reading Trading Places.

Alex Ferrari 20:07
Yeah. Yeah, everyone's got an impression of the golden lamp.

Herschel Weingrod 20:11
So he got it right away loved it. And you know, Dan Ackroyd was great because because he's such a generous actor that he didn't mind being an a hole for the for the first two thirds of the movie, always very, he's very smug. He's very unsympathetic. And only later he kind of turns in as a heart.

Alex Ferrari 20:39
Right. I mean, and he played it beautifully. Just so So, so beautifully. So I said, 20 places comes out. It's a mega hit, you know? And yeah, basically, and it's a huge hit at that for the time. How does the town treat you after that? I always love asking that question. What was how did what? How did the town treat you? You're like the belle of the ball all of a sudden.

Herschel Weingrod 21:04
We suddenly got a lot more offers than we had before putting calls coming in is what you're saying. We have a lot of we had a lot of meetings.

Alex Ferrari 21:12
Oh, you did the water bottle tool back then. They didn't have water bottles. They bought water bottles as much back then. But you know what I mean. But then you made then afterwards another call. I mean, a classic film that I watched as a kid. It's Brewster's millions.

Herschel Weingrod 21:25
Yeah, we did that. Next. Right with Richard with

Alex Ferrari 21:27
Richard Pryor. Yeah, exactly. What a beautifully high concept. Film, like it's just so you get it in one sentence. Correct. That you saw the sentence essentially, guy with it, but he had to spend it all on 30. Like, it's just you have to win. You see, you win, you win a million dollars, but in order to get $100 million, you got to spend a million dollars. It was so brilliant. And then Richard Pryor and Jackie, it was Jackie Gleason. Right. What? Who was is that was Jackie Gleason was his co star who was his co star. John Candy junk. Oh, no, not No, not yet. Not his partner. Who was the Wasn't there a bad guy? Who was the bad I haven't seen that movie in years. Who was the bad guy? Because I know John Candy was like his buddy. Wasn't a Gleason. I swear to God, I thought it was pleasing. Maybe in another universe.

Herschel Weingrod 22:18
The bad guys were oh, what's his name? was trying to kind of was trying to sabotage him because he kind of because he kind of wasn't Jackie girlfriend away.

Alex Ferrari 22:31
It was John. Yeah, but John Candy. So you have John Candy Richard Pryor. And then that becomes a huge because now Richard is taking off as well. And

Herschel Weingrod 22:43
Well, what was what was really great about that was, I don't want to I don't want this to be like stir crazy. Or Silver Streak, or my stand up. I don't want I don't want anything about racing it at all. I don't want it to be racial in the slightest. I don't want anyone to mention race, and I don't. So don't feel like you have to like, get out, get out my dialog or make me street or all I am is a guy who just wanted a pitch in the big leagues against the Yankees. Yes, it existed. That's great.

Alex Ferrari 23:19
You know, the thing about that movie is it is the dream, you are tapping into the dream of so many people who doesn't want to win the lottery, you know, or a version of the lotto and inheritance of some sort. They, and then and then you're forced, like, spend it all? Yes. It's such an amazing, it's kind of like, we all wish we could eat anything we want to eat and not gain any weight. Like it's extreme. Right? But not many people get the opportunity. Like I really have to eat all the all the pizza.

Herschel Weingrod 23:53
What was really, really fun was doing a bit of research to find ways creatively where he could spend a fortune and have nothing to show for it like mailing right mailing a million dollar stamp. Such a brilliant now that was that's actually a real stamp the inverted Jenny, you can look it up here. It's a real stamp. And then the guy who comes in and says, I'm going to tow an iceberg from the North Pole. And he has this great and then there's then when he runs for mayor, as none of the above vote for none of the above. Well, that was inspired. I was reading about these nuns in San Francisco banded together and they ran for political office they said vote none of the above and you end

Alex Ferrari 24:49
Ohh wow. Oh my god of God. That's that's

Herschel Weingrod 24:53
even that scene where there's train tracks running through the outside. Field. Yeah, I found that there was there was a minor league baseball field in Mexico where that actually happened every single day.

Alex Ferrari 25:12
Some of the stuff in that movie I remember like it's all coming back, like I saw it when I was fun, so much fun. And it was uncapable 1000 times movies that you just kept watching again and again and again. And again, I'll ask you the same question. What's it like working with Richard Pryor being on set with a legend a genius?

Herschel Weingrod 25:30
Oh, it's great. I mean, I mean, he was kind of he was kind of in the middle of all kinds of all kinds of other stuff. So, but he was very kind. He was very professional. He's very funny. He was on time he didn't have he didn't have this huge entourage. He didn't act like, like a big shot in storm off to his trailer.

Alex Ferrari 25:59
That's amazing. Now, another film in the 80s that you worked on, which is, again, as high concept as you get is twins.

Herschel Weingrod 26:09
Yes, of course,

Alex Ferrari 26:10
Which is? I mean, did you come up with that idea? Did you get brought into it? Or she brought into it?

Herschel Weingrod 26:17
Yeah. It was a rewrite.

Alex Ferrari 26:19
It was a rewrite. It was a rewrite deal. Because at that, I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito are twins go!

Herschel Weingrod 26:26
Well, well, Ivan Reitman, right. Okay, I have this script written by these two English guys. It's a really good premise. I really want it, I really want to get it to Arnold and Danny, but I only have one shot. So I need it to be executed better, and tailored for them better, so that I could send it to them, and try to get them on board. And I only have one shot. So do you guys have any ideas we're reading, it was called the experiment written by these two English guys who have actually became really good friends of my writing partner. Anyway, so we're reading it and we come back and we say, you know, we can do X, Y, and Z. But basically, we can solve the one big problem. He said, What's that? He said, they have to be looking for their mommy. If they're not looking for their mommy, you don't have a story. That's the heart. That's the heart of the story. Okay, they're separated at birth, they don't know anything about anything. And then they find out about this experiment. And you know, once a genius and once the, you know, the bottom of the gene pool allegedly. And, and this light bulb goes, I mean, okay, and then they they have all these things in common and they bond and they find this thing but but then, but then after that, it's not about it's not about that MacGuffin, that's in Danny DeVito trunk that has to do with some crime that I never figured out what that was, what it's about is it's about mommy, we have to find our mother.

Alex Ferrari 28:16
And you're absolutely absolutely right. It is about it's about mommy. And again. I mean, that was a massive hit. I don't remember that in the video store. We had like 20 copies of it. It was massive it massively poster.

Herschel Weingrod 28:31
The post

Alex Ferrari 28:35
But you talking about the biggest movie star in the world at the time, Arnold? Well, yeah, with Danny DeVito, who was a star in his own right with Ivan Reitman as the director who no slouch on his own but from what I also heard the story you tell me if it's true I'm sure it is but that the studio really didn't have a lot of confidence in the movie. And that Arnold Ivan and Danny cut a deal for a percentage of the back end which brought in an absurd like they the studio lost hundreds of

Herschel Weingrod 29:12
They worked for scale plus 10 Arnold Yes. Because the studio didn't think that people would see Arnold, Tim and a comedy and they they weren't really confident and so and actually when we heard that Ivan Arnold and Danny were were going to work for scale and just take a nice piece of the gross we said we'll do that and the studio said NO NO NO NO NO NO NO Well, writer no we can't writers writer

Alex Ferrari 29:48
That sets precedents we can't do something like that. By the way, from what I understand the studio head after everything, I forgot But then I mean, the numbers were pretty astronomical. As far as what the what they got the three. It was pretty astronomical. And the studio had afterwards basically almost lost the job. I think he's like, it's what it's like, you know, signing over the the sequel rights and merchandising for Star Wars like it's, well, it's one of those things, but then they opened that door and they slammed it shut and it never happened again. No, because it was a massive cut. It wasn't like a little bit of the back and wasn't like Tom Cruise back end or Jack Nicholson on Batman. Back end. It's so massive chocolate 50%.

Herschel Weingrod 30:37
So it was basically it was basically first dollar gross.

Alex Ferrari 30:42
On top of that. It wasn't even that it was gross. And that Oh, yeah. A lot of money.

Herschel Weingrod 30:46
Yeah, that was gross.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
So much money they made off that. But I'm good for them. And then of course you follow that up with another classic Mr. Kindergarten Cop, which is another insanely high concept. Arnold's a kindergarten teacher go.

Herschel Weingrod 31:02
Yeah, yes.

Alex Ferrari 31:04
He's an undercover cop kindergarten teacher.

Herschel Weingrod 31:06
Go. That was gonna be right to that was a relate to,

Alex Ferrari 31:09
And I've been brought you guys in for that rewrite? Yeah. I have to ask, What's it like working with Ivan man, you know, you know, God rest his soul. He was just this amazing talent over the years. I mean, let's not even talk about Ghostbusters, and everything else he's done. Well, yeah, but I'm being but what was it like cuz you collaborated with multiple films? What was it like collaborating with what,

Herschel Weingrod 31:30
You know? Ivan had a very sentimental streak, which you kind of see in his films. And he and he, he also had a tendency to have, you know, multiple and earned endings. So, or multi earned multiple endings. So So what was nice about him was, you could talk him out of something interesting, you know if you know so, so he was willing to listen and collaborate. And if you could convince him that your idea would play a little better than what he had in mind. He'd say, Okay, go ahead and try it.

Alex Ferrari 32:18
So we did. That's a good collaborator. Yeah. Oh, yeah. He was great about that. That's a very good collaborator. And then, of course,

Herschel Weingrod 32:26
I mean, I mean, actually, I think he was a much better producer than he was a director. I think his son's a better director, pure and simple. But, but Ivan knew where the jokes were done, Ivan, and Ivan knew how to how to how to make a movie that would that would be very successful and very accessible at the same time. And all of his movies have heart if you will. They're all out there ultimately, very heartwarming. They're not they're not cynical. Right up. They're not I mean, even I mean, Dave is a wonderful film, by the way,

Alex Ferrari 33:06
Dave, is that it really is a matt probably on his on his filmography, one of the masterpieces that he created Dave is a wonderful film. It is it really really is Jr. was another fun one.

Herschel Weingrod 33:18
Actually, we passed on Jr.

Alex Ferrari 33:19
You said I can't write a pregnant Arnold.

Herschel Weingrod 33:23
No. I mean, we said, look, if people didn't take an audience would accept Arnold and a comedy. How do you think men and women will think of if Arnold is a pregnant guy? His male fans will hate it and women fans will just be horrified. So that we said no.

Alex Ferrari 33:48
So that bad movie gets financed today by the studio. You think that what you think that movie gets financed today by the studios, of course.

Herschel Weingrod 33:59
Curiously, when, when Arnold was making true True Lies for cameras. He he demanded that Cameron, bring us in to do a dialogue polish for him. Get those guys who wrote twins a Kindergarten Cop? I want them to write my lines. rewrite my lines. Now.

Alex Ferrari 34:23
How did that work out? Did you do that? Did you do?

Herschel Weingrod 34:26
It was fun. I mean, I mean, it was it was uncredited, but we got to work with Cameron and all those people again.

Alex Ferrari 34:36
How do you work with Cameron as a writer? Because he's our he's one of the greatest screenwriters of his day.

Herschel Weingrod 34:46
No, I mean, he was fine. He was he was fine. He was I mean, he he had he had that plane he had mockups of that plane and his office and he's showing guess all of us all a great technical stuff and

Alex Ferrari 35:02
You're there for jokes, and you're there for jokes?

Herschel Weingrod 35:04
Yeah, we're just we're just there to do a polish and he used a lot of it. He didn't use you know some of that. We just you know, we were on it for like a few weeks. It was fun.

Alex Ferrari 35:14
Oh my god, that was fun. I don't like a movie.

Herschel Weingrod 35:16
Oh, and of course, we knew Jamie Lee and right and I knew I knew Jim a little bit because I knew Linda Hamilton because I because okay, this this is six degrees from trading places. So the got one of the guys who was a location scout on Trading Places was in Philadelphia and he became Linda Hamilton's assistant on Beauty and the Beast.

Alex Ferrari 35:44
So it was so old town

Herschel Weingrod 35:46
He and I became friends and then I and then I met Linda and then I have been friends with Ron Perlman ever since.

Alex Ferrari 35:56
To small, small, small business.

Herschel Weingrod 35:58
I love to work with Ronnie Ronnie Ron Perlman is great. Well, Ron oh boy is oh, boy is one of my favorites.

Alex Ferrari 36:05
And we'll get voted with L boys is just I mean, it's a mad that those are masterpiece films. On a sidenote with Kindergarten Cop. I did get to direct when I was directing a film, Mr. Richard Tyson.

Herschel Weingrod 36:18
Oh, I love Richard

Alex Ferrari 36:20
Richard is amazing. And he still tells me to this day goes I still have it. I still have adults your age come up to me and go or not your age. Maybe younger than you will come up to me. I'm like you grew into my childhood. He was hair scary. He won't because it's not a monster. That's just a dad whose wants his kid and the mother and oh my god. Oh, my mom was much worse.

Herschel Weingrod 36:51
Do you is really scary.

Alex Ferrari 36:52
Oh, she sounds like like, Oh God, I feel like she had like it was given that kid mooch Johnson Syndrome. Like I mean, it was like, you could tell there's just such a. But yeah, Richard played that part. So well.

Herschel Weingrod 37:04
It's just from either Alabama or Louisiana, right?

Alex Ferrari 37:09
Yeah, he's out there. Yeah. And he? He did I think what his before that was three o'clock high

Herschel Weingrod 37:18
I like that.

Alex Ferrari 37:19
Yeah. Those days of those movies. And then but he's like, No, it's Kindergarten Cop to this day. I walk around and people go you because kindergarten cops one of those movies that everybody's seen. Or it's been, you know, my kids saw it the other day for the first time. And they and they were terrified by it. I'm like, No, I work with Richard. He's a nice guy. I know. But he's doing the way to taking the baby. Why is he taking the kid like it was an actor. It's an actor. I don't God don't even get me started when I had to explain to them it at that penny wise was actually an actor. And we had to like show him like I was getting made up. Oh, they were tariff there. So there was I wanted to ask you since you've worked with so many amazing collaborators, is there any lesson that sticks out over the years that you learn from any of the collaborators you've worked with? Whether director actor or other writers, lessons about writing lessons about storytelling lessons, lessons about the business,

Herschel Weingrod 38:19
I had a really long and happy collaboration with my writing partner. And one of the reasons for that was we were friends and close friends long before we ever started working together. And actually we saw the world the same way. Which is to say the same things made us laugh the same things made us sad. The same things made us angry. Okay, we have the exact same worldview. We'd like the same books. We like the same music. We'd like the same girls. We'd like to save everything. We met by accident. I was in film school in London. She was at Cambridge University. She was a published novelist while at Cambridge, obviously, not bad. And we met we met by accident in a little village in the south of Crete, where I had gone for a week or two with my English girlfriend, just to get away from the bad weather in England wanted to go to the furthest southern for this point in Europe in September where it might be still warm. So we go to this village in the south of Crete, called myrtos. On the Libyan Sea right across from North Africa there's no hotels. There's no motels you walk into a post office or some Taverna when you get off the bus and you try to have your crew can book You saying in Greek? Does anyone have a room for lead, and then suddenly somebody will come around and rent you have room in their, in a house for $50 a week and, and she went through and breakfast she said, I'll throw in breakfast. You speak to me in English, I'll speak to you in Greek, we'll both learn each other's languages. So I'm wandering around there and I walk into this little, little bar, and there's some long haired looking hippie there. It's Tim Harris, he's there with his English girlfriend. Were both Americans living in England in London, basically. And then we became friends. And then, and then we wound up back in Los Angeles, because he was actually born here. And then his novels where we're all mysteries and thrillers all just like, all of the scripts that I was writing. Exactly the same. So how did this happen? So one of his books got options. And and we're waiting around to see if we get a deal to write the script. And he said, I have this girlfriend. She works for this law firm, near the airport. All the lawyers are female. They only represent female clients who are getting divorced and suspect that their husbands are hiding their assets. So he says, I got this great idea. So you take that concept, and then you have them hire a male Private Eye to rat out his own gender by finding the hidden assets of other guys. Now, that's a funny idea. It is, and they made it. It's a really bad movie. Is it really? It was a really okay, that that was actually our first film. It's called Oh, yeah. Cheaper to keep her. Yeah. So the producer was this guy who did one of those early. Gabe Kaplan movies.

Alex Ferrari 42:23
Oh, God, Jesus. Wow. You're going back eight Kaplan? Yeah, yeah. Holy cow. So Jesus,

Herschel Weingrod 42:30
He was this he was this clothing guy from from, you know, Dallas or something. And he was sending the script around agencies and wait, he was offered George Segal and Candice Bergen.

Alex Ferrari 42:50
That would have been interesting for our scripts.

Herschel Weingrod 42:53
And he said, No, Matt Davis until the Felcher.

Alex Ferrari 42:58
So he became huge in the business. This guy and you became huge in the business is running colleague,

Herschel Weingrod 43:05
Matt Davis and Tova felt you anyway. So the good news is, oh, any hire a British director named Ken Anakin did world war two movies he had a 10 year for like, us, us dialogue, Americans dialogue.

Alex Ferrari 43:25
So it's just a win win win all around. Yeah.

Herschel Weingrod 43:28
So anyway, before this movie comes out, of course. It's in the trades. It's been announced. These guys wrote this comedy script. It's really funny. It's going around, it's getting made. And all of a sudden, we're getting meetings and getting awkward because now we're comedy guys.

Alex Ferrari 43:46
They have to put you in a box. Exactly what. Which brings me to my next question. Have you produced another film in the 90s that I absolutely love, which is so off your filmography? far,

Herschel Weingrod 44:00
I'm so proud of them. I mean

Alex Ferrari 44:02
It's falling down with Michael Douglas. The I remember being so that trailer was so brilliant. I remember going to the theater opening night and watching that and I was just blown away. It was a Joel Schumacher. Film. And yeah, can you imagine that film today getting released by its Do you imagine

Herschel Weingrod 44:26
It's actually pressured. It's it's, it's angry. It's angry white guy.

Alex Ferrari 44:32
It's the angry white guy. He's completely but he's like, angry.

Herschel Weingrod 44:36
He's a Trumpist. He's,

Alex Ferrari 44:38
He's angry. It is such a it's such a brilliant film. And Michael Douglas played it. It's like, why can't I have breakfast? Yeah, it's, it's terrible. It's 1005 We stopped breakfast. It's right there. Just put some eggs on what's wrong with you people?

Herschel Weingrod 44:55
I don't want to be your friend Rick. I just want some breakfast.

Alex Ferrari 44:59
Are those so how did you get involved with the film like that being, you know, the comedy guys?

Herschel Weingrod 45:05
Okay, so we had this, we had an office universal, we had a deal at Universal. We had a, we had, we had a write a certain number of films a year for a couple of years. So we would bring them ideas, they bring us ideas, when we go to work, we choose to both find things that we want to do or that they want to do, and we'll do it. So they also gave us a little, you know, housekeeping, producer thing, first look, you know, production deal, which also entailed they, they hired an assistant for us who's going around town reading scripts that, you know, from the smaller agencies, right. So, you know, every weekend he fief he finds a couple of scripts and we go home, take them off, take them home to read them. And he gave us falling down. And I'm reading it. And I said, God dammit, I wish I would have written this is so good. Now I have to get it made. And Tim agreed with me. And we went into Universal. And they said no. And then we said, Okay, we went to Warner Brothers. And they told us at Warner Brothers that Arnold Coulson had been trying to get it made. He had options that originally. Apparently the option had expired, but he was going to renew it because he couldn't get it made as a feature. He's check this out. He was trying to set it up at HBO, which was a warner company with Brian Denny. Michael tacos.

Alex Ferrari 46:58
I mean, not bad. I mean, I'm not I'm not angry at it. I mean, it's a different film. Yeah. But Brian Denny, he could have pulled off a version of that fill out

Herschel Weingrod 47:10
Exactly. Peter Boyle. No, no. But Joe and Joe

Alex Ferrari 47:17
Of course, but I think he would have done something with it. Yeah, it would have been, but it's not Michael Douglas. No.

Herschel Weingrod 47:24
Okay. So so we go and talk we meet a couple of younger producers up and coming people at Warner's. Lisa Hanson and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Both became gigantic producers. I was gonna say names, and they were really, they really love falling down. And they they began to send it out to all these Ailis directors, Peter Weir and guys like that. And nobody wanted to do it. Nobody wanted to. Finally they got it to see AAA and CAA represented Michael Douglas and Joel Schumacher and some other people in the cast, not Robert Duvall, but uh, you know, they basically packaged it. So Joel, I think was the godfather of Bruce Berman's. One of Bruce Bruce Berman's children and Bruce was head of production at Warner's. So he brings Joel and Joel wants to do it. And Joe had never done anything like this before

Alex Ferrari 48:35
The DC cab. I remember I remember. Flatliners I liked I love Lila I love DC cab. Okay.

Herschel Weingrod 48:47
DC cab and then you know Mr. thing that he did younger

Alex Ferrari 48:53
What is the vampire when he did. Oh god.

Herschel Weingrod 48:55
Wasn't there a young vampire thing? He did? I don't know. I mean, but you see, Joe's films

Alex Ferrari 49:03
Lost boys. What am I Yeah, another classic lost boys.

Herschel Weingrod 49:07
I mean, Joe, Joe was very stylish surfaces. He had a really, really good I mean, Joel was a window dresser at Henry Bendel's in New York. I know before before he got into movies, right anyway,

Alex Ferrari 49:24
But falling down. That was one thing I remember from falling down is the color grading on that the color timing on that film was gorgeous that that red orangey la you can smell the the the air that talks in that LA

Herschel Weingrod 49:38
That first scene on the Harbor Freeway was the honking and the that's all that's like right up. You know, Fellini? It is

Alex Ferrari 49:49
It is you're right! You're absolutely right. It was it was it's a brilliant but well now I know the story. Because I was going through filmography I'm like, get the hell How did these guys

Herschel Weingrod 49:59
Okay so But unfortunately, Warner said, but you see, okay, look, you guys can produce it, but Arnold Copeland still has to be on board because you see, he had it first. But more importantly, he's just finished the film for us that we're releasing next year that we think is going to be really successful. So we don't want to offend him. It's called the fugitive,

Alex Ferrari 50:25
Fugitive. And you know, I write, I knew where you're going.

Herschel Weingrod 50:29
So, okay, so they so they partner us up with Arnold. The late Arnold Copas. Yes. And we're in charge of okay, there are some notes from the studio and friend from Joel about revisions, which, which we then give to the writer who's, who's really smart guy, Evie bro Smith. He was an actor before that. And a playwright. And he actually executed them even better than what we could have imagined. But then we give that version to Arnold. Arnold sends it out a title page, only his name is on it as the producer who wish she continued to do all the way through the production all the way through the credits. He had the credits shot produced by Arnold Coulson, and then there's the next card says personal Weingarten to me the hair. It doesn't say produced by

Alex Ferrari 51:42
You just had your names on it, but no credit.

Herschel Weingrod 51:45
Okay, so then.

Alex Ferrari 51:48
So Hollywood

Herschel Weingrod 51:49
All the way through, he's trying to cut us out. You see. I mean, we weren't on that sentence. But I mean, he was on the set every day but I mean, anyway, so he mix up. So I get on the okay we we get a big time lawyer who deals with who has deals with Warner Brothers name will go unnamed. Our law firm at the time. And we get we get we get Warner Brothers on the phone. About going to have to reshoot the credits because contractually, it says we have a separate card that says produced by Well, they say we have a policy. We don't have separate producer cards for every single producer. And I said, Well, Mark, you should look at your film Glengarry Glen Ross sometime right? Because there are separate cards for every single producer on that. I love the movie by the way, I love it. So if you did it not too long ago, you can do it again. So they have to reshoot the credits but once again now it says produced by Arnold Cobo soon the next card says and Hershey

Alex Ferrari 53:11
But if you still didn't get it produced

Herschel Weingrod 53:13
But and but but listen to this so But Joe was so upset that he had to go back in and reshoot the credits he said I don't understand you guys your credit is right before mine I said yeah. Joe but your says directed by one of your car just came up and said Joel Schumacher. What craft services maybe it's craft services. I'm learning by using a written by Produced by and then Josha market. Well, what did that guy do? Doesn't say he was pissed. My another late late Joel Schumacher. I've worked with a lot of people were no longer here but just

Alex Ferrari 53:53
So you could talk you could talk all sorts of smack it's great. No. Gleason ball. Paul Gleason for training places and Breakfast Club. Oh, good, Lord. Now I have a very serious question for you about one of your other projects. How could you write dialogue for Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Michael Jordan all in one script? That's a skill set, sir.

Herschel Weingrod 54:21
Okay, so had a watch about 20 years of Looney Tune cartoons. Let's Aiden's just to get the ear right about about how each of these characters speak and, and, and how they behave. Right? You know, I mean, you I mean, I've a pretty good year. I mean, I thought I thought putting that and all that kind of stuff. I can do that. I can I can do Daffy and I can do bugs. Porky Pig and

Alex Ferrari 54:52
By the way before you continue, we're talking about space jam the original that's what for anybody listening like what is yeah, it's the movie space. champ very big hit with a little known basketball player named Michael Jordan. Yeah, so

Herschel Weingrod 55:07
Warner Brothers, they actually have a looney tune Police Department. Where if if you're going to, to have any, if you're going to use any Looney Tunes characters they're going to read, they'll say, no, no, he'd never say that. Fox would never say that bugs. I'll never do that. And I had, I had to point out well, actually, in this in this cartoon he did, he did say, the research. Yeah, I had to do some research. But there's a lot of fun. That was also a rewrite. And we didn't have an ending until Michael Jordan decided to retire from minor league baseball and go back to the NBA. And all of a sudden, all of our problems were solved.

Alex Ferrari 55:56
Right! Because he exactly. So he helped you with the ending, essentially

Herschel Weingrod 55:59
Ofcourse, he wrote it for us.

Alex Ferrari 56:03
And that was another massive. I mean, that was a pretty massive hit for Warner Brothers. Very, very massive hit, and I argue, is a little bit better than the remake. That's just my personal opinion. I was forced to watch the remake with my children. Okay, if I was during the pandemic when they came out, so to be fair, but the thing about you also with that movie was directed by another legendary director, Mr. Joe pitka. Now, before we continue, yes, I have 100 Joe pika stories that I love.

Herschel Weingrod 56:38
I love I love him.

Alex Ferrari 56:40
If you can say any of any Joe pitka story, publicly,

Herschel Weingrod 56:44
Oh, that Well, that's

Alex Ferrari 56:46
We could sit we could talk about it offline, or over a drink at the entrepreneur festival. But is there anything you can say publicly, because Joe is an infamous director, who was one of the most talented commercial directors, arguably, in history up there with Ridley Scott and me and David Fincher and those kinds of I mean,

Herschel Weingrod 57:08
He had he had a reputation when he worked on commercials of having a temper and a little bit to ban verbally abusing people. And he's and he's like, six, eight and Polish guy from Pittsburgh with a

Alex Ferrari 57:28
Very large, imposing,

Herschel Weingrod 57:31
Large imposing, man. That's right.

Alex Ferrari 57:33
And he was I mean, I was working with when I got started in the business as a director, I came up as a director, as a commercial director and the commercial business. Oh, so I just heard in the we're talking about the mid 90s, to late 90s, early 2000s. Joe pitka. is I mean, it was great. He Oh, so did he work? Was it a little bit different in the, in the feature film? Well, I didn't hear anything about Wow, he worked in the feature.

Herschel Weingrod 57:59
Nothing. I mean, nothing bad happened at all. I mean, he's, he's a teddy bear.

Alex Ferrari 58:04
And he really, it was just a client he didn't like,

Herschel Weingrod 58:08
And he was great as well. I mean, okay, I can say something nice. Later on. He and his wife, they're like, they open this this incredible, I think French restaurant. It's like a gourmet chef. His wife is right. And he says huge gourmet of French food. I mean, high end Michelin star stuff back in the day.

Alex Ferrari 58:32
And he was brought on because he did the I think he did the commercial versions of it was in there the commercial? Well, you see Bugs Bunny, and

Herschel Weingrod 58:39
That it came out of some McDonald's commercials, I think with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Right. And maybe it was Coca Cola. It was something like that. And And those were so popular that all of a sudden, look, Warner's had not made a feature with the Looney Tunes, and I don't know, 40 years, right? Since World War two problems, one of those propaganda features.

Alex Ferrari 59:04
And they brought Joe and that's in that's such a classic studio thing. Like who did the commercials. Let's get him to do the feature because he had never done a feature before. He never directed a feature before Perez. So it was just but he did like every Superbowl commercial. Like he was the biggest commercial director in the world.

Herschel Weingrod 59:20
I mean, okay, so, here's a really good story. So when they brought us on, okay, so Michael, Michael Jordan's agent, David Falk was was was one of the big movers of this project. And he represented a lot of other great NBA players. So anyway, they, they come to us and they said, Okay, so we love your script. We'd love your rewrite, but okay, so casting so who do you want to be the Monstars? What's your wish list? They said, Well, Charles Barkley is done. How about Patrick Ewing? On Muggsy Bogues he's short funny. Done. Shawn Bradley seven six called the stick the big, skinny white guy from BYU. Yeah, you're gonna have him okay, so who's Michael play? Yeah. Who's Who's Michael playing golf with net? You know when he like falls down the hall I said, Bill Murray and Larry Bird, John. Watch.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:29
By the way, it's so funny. I'm literally in the middle of watching last dance again. Because I just love that documentary. It's Oh, yeah. Amazing. And watching those guys. Like as we're talking all those guys are fresh in my mind because they see them on the Dream Team. And oh, yeah. And I just saw the new documented the redeem team on Netflix, which is all about when we lost the the Olympics and then the year after Kobe went back with with the other ones and wanted again and what they had to do. But it's yeah, those guys were just, it was a different time. It was just such a different time.

Herschel Weingrod 1:01:03
I was we actually went to that golf course it was in Lake Arrowhead. When they shot that scene. It was really fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:10
Oh, so you're talking about and

Herschel Weingrod 1:01:13
Improvising Bill Murray was a great improviser is a great improviser. Because because he actually wrote the line. Okay, so when, you know, he's trying to hit up Michael and saying, Look, you think I can, you know, I can dribble and I can't jump that great. But like I could, I could shoot? I mean, do you think there's any chance I can make it in the NBA and Michael Jordan says notice, and Bill says it's because I'm white, right? Whereas whites, Larry's not quite. There. He's clear. Bill Murray made that it was great. What a great line. Larry's not white make very clear here

Alex Ferrari 1:02:01
Is translucent. herself. I could keep talking to you for hours, but I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Herschel Weingrod 1:02:17
I keep a little posted on my desk. It goes something like this. Inspiration is for amateurs. Sit down, shut up and get to work.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:31
It's a good piece of advice,

Herschel Weingrod 1:02:32
You know? Well, the other one is, a lot of people say write what you know. Wrong. What did Shakespeare know about Verona? or something's rotten in Denmark? You think he spent a lot of time in Denmark? Or The Merchant of Venice? Was he like? did some research? I don't think so. No, don't write what you know about right what you care about.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:00
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Herschel Weingrod 1:03:03
Vertigo. Cuckoo's Nest. Yeah. Dog Day Afternoon.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:13
I mean, you can't go wrong with any of those my friend does are all those are all good ones to have on the list without question.

Herschel Weingrod 1:03:19
I mean, I have.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:21
I mean, I mean, hundreds of hundreds. But yeah, those are the three that come up today. And you and so one other thing. You and I are both going to be at the little little film festival that could the Austin film festival here in Austin coming up in the in the month. I love your story. You told me off air. Can you tell me how you got involved with the Austin Film Festival all those years ago?

Herschel Weingrod 1:03:43
Well, I was reading about how there's this Film Festival in Austin. It's the only one that's devoted to screenwriting. So I thought, well, I'd like to go and be a part of that at least watch it. So I found the name of the founder. And she's actually still running. Barbara Morgan. She's fantastic. And I wrote her and I introduced myself and I said, Look, your your festival sounds fantastic. I'm very supportive. I'd like to volunteer my services. off, I'll fly myself out and put myself up and if you want to put me on some panels or something, I'd like to be involved and see what it's like. And she said, okay, and that was about 2003. And I've been going ever since we can't get ready, because they cover a little breaks. They keep asking me back.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
They can't get rid of you.

Herschel Weingrod 1:04:44
Oh, they have good. Listen, there's a barbecue pit in the airport. So how bad could it be? Right there. And that's not even Austin's best, but it's pretty good.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:56
It's from what I hear. It's one of the best barbecue is out here. Oh, questions? Yeah, I mean, there's worse places to go is what you're saying.

Herschel Weingrod 1:05:07
The other thing that's great about Austin is it's like nowhere in Texas. Nowhere Texas. You're in Berkeley.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:16
Exactly. People like oh, you move to Texas. I go, No, no, no, no, I moved to Austin. Completely different world. It's like,

Herschel Weingrod 1:05:23
I mean, yeah, I mean, you're there. So but I mean, other people don't know. I mean, you walk into a local Gift Store, even in the airport that had some of the T shirts say Keep Austin weird.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:36
Absolutely. And that and something about the bats and it's a hippie. It's like, we're all the crazy creative artists of the last 50 years. 60 years in Texas, all gravitated to the it is Berkeley it is it is San Francisco. San Francisco.

Herschel Weingrod 1:05:55
Yes. Berkeley. It's, it's an arbor back in the day, I suppose once upon a time.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:02
I mean, it for anybody who's ever been to Miami. It's a little bit different than Gainesville, or the rest of the rest of Florida is a general statement. Miami slightly different. Yeah. Well,

Herschel Weingrod 1:06:12
I mean, you don't see a lot of rednecks in in Austin.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:17
That much. No, no, no, go

Herschel Weingrod 1:06:20
You have to go out to the hill country. I suppose you got to

Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
No farther. Further, further, further, further further. But listen, it's been a pleasure talking to you and I look forward to catching up with you here in Austin when you come to the Austin Film Festival and thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of so many amazing films that have helped shaped my my youth my friend so I appreciate you so much, man.

Herschel Weingrod 1:06:47
Thank you, my friend. I enjoyed it.

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BPS 243: Blair Witch Project: Creating an Indie Film Phenomenon with Eduardo Sanchez

Today’s guest Eduardo Sanchez goes back to the late 90’s and shares his experience on what it was like to be in the center of The Blair Witch Project hurricane. What it was like being on the cover of Time Magazine and how did it feel to be the toast of Hollywood…for a period of time.

We also discuss the aftermath, how his career grew post Blair Witch and crazy stories of Hollyweird.

Who hasn’t heard of the now legendary indie film rags to riches tale of  The Blair Witch Project? Every film student from Los Angeles to Mumbai heard the story of how two young film students spent $27,000 (mostly from friends, family and credit cards) to make a little indie horror film that ended up grossing $250 million worldwide.

Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick shot The Blair Witch Project in a new way which would later be called “found footage.” Without The Blair Witch Project, there is no Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism.

The marketing of The Blair Witch Project was equally as important as the film itself. Just watch the FAKE documentary that helped fuel the belief that the Blair Witch Curse was real and that the kids in the movie were dead.

Just BRILLIANT marketing!

Enjoy my conversation with Eduardo Sanchez.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:25
I'd like to welcome to the show, Eduardo Sanchez. Thanks so much for being on the show, man.

Eduardo Sanchez 4:47
Hey, thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:48
It's it's an absolute thrill to speak to another cubano director doing stuff and, man.

Eduardo Sanchez 4:55
That's right. There are too many of us

Alex Ferrari 4:57
That were like unicorns. When I was just talking about Joe Menendez, who was on the show a while ago, you know, I'm like, Oh, so you're the other Cuban director.

Eduardo Sanchez 5:08
But I'm the taller one.

Alex Ferrari 5:10
Yeah, exactly. So, man, so I wanted to get get started. Now, what made you want to start making movies in the first place?

Eduardo Sanchez 5:18
Um, you know, I mean, it really, you know, I've always had an interest in films like my dad, you know, he was, we were, I was born in Cuba too. But when we came here to this country, he never learned English, so, and he loved going to the movies. So he would take me to these movies. And he was sometimes he would, you know, I would help translate. But just his kind of, you know, love for the movies, and also, and just the excitement of going with him and all that stuff. And then we would watch movies. You know, he used to love James Bond movies, we, you know, just watching those some of the best childhood memories I have. So, and I guess his my dad's enthusiasm, really, you know, kind of, you know, made me aware of it, at least. And then, I guess when Star Wars came out, I was like, 888 years old. Yeah. And, you know, that we, you know, it was like this all encompassing kind of thing that, you know, not only was it a great movie, and you know, it was, you know, the toys and all the you know, stuff about space, and, you know, God, it just blew my mind. And it kind of open up to the idea of like, wow, these people actually make movies, and it got me really interested in at least and how they made movies, especially special effects. You know, I like, you know, read every article I could find about special effects, and, you know, just behind the scenes stuff, I love to see behind the scenes. So, you know, there was definitely, you know, this, you know, huge interest from me as far as, like, just trying to figure out how they made films. And, and that really, I mean, you know, I grew up in, you know, a suburb of DC and Takoma Park, which is, you know, about the furthest place away from the film business. You know, and so I, to me, it wasn't really this kind of, you know, I was too young to realize that it could have been that it could be a career, you know, but so too, but for me, it was just based, it was just like, this hobby, like this thing that I was really interested in, and then later on, you know, in high school that I kind of make the change of like, hey, well, you know, I can actually, you know, make a living, you know, doing some of this stuff, you know, so But yeah, man, it was, it was at a pretty young age that I kind of, you know, definitely connected with cinema,

Alex Ferrari 7:37
And that in 90 in the 90s, there wasn't, you know, for a lot of people listening, they don't understand, like in the 90s, there was no, it wasn't cool to be the director yet, like the rock and roll the rock and roll star director kind of like the Tarantino's and the Rodriguez of the world had just started coming up, but there was still not a lot of information about me.

Eduardo Sanchez 7:58
Oh, yeah, no, no, there was really nothing. There's nothing I mean, yeah. And also, you know, back in those days, you know, you know, to make a movie, there was no video, you know, video video was just for news and for TV and for soap operas, you know, so right, no, no respectable filmmaker would have made film on the films on video. So that meant that you had to least go to 16 millimeter,

Alex Ferrari 8:19
Right, which was expensive is all

Eduardo Sanchez 8:21
Which was super expensive, you know, so it really was there really was this like, kind of gatekeeper financial gatekeeper, keeping people from making, you know, the, these these films I made, it didn't stop me, I made a movie, a feature when I was like, 19 years old on VHS

Alex Ferrari 8:38
Nice, what was the name of it?

Eduardo Sanchez 8:40
It was called videowall. Okay. And it was just like, you know, just kind of like a, like a PG 13. You know, guys get into, to kind of trouble that they can't handle these kind of college age guys get into trouble that they can't handle. You know, when, you know, it was kind of funny, and it's cool, some cool action sequences, I put all my friends and I put my mom in it.

Alex Ferrari 9:05
Did you shot it on VHS man.

Eduardo Sanchez 9:10
It was an exercise. It was like, you know, can we shoot a feature? You know, can we do a feature? And so, you know, and you know, it's a fun fail. I mean, I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody, but you know, I know how it is, man. It's like it's a huge learning experience. Just just to get through it, you know, just to be able to you know, and then you realize how much work a feature is I mean, it's amazing amount of work. And you know, so so you know, luckily it didn't scare me away from from filmmaking, but yeah, man. It's definitely you know, the, the the arrived, you know, there wasn't anything I mean, like Spike Lee.

Alex Ferrari 9:51
Yeah, yeah, she's got to have it.

Eduardo Sanchez 9:53
She Yes. She's got to have it. And then Robert came after that. And then reservoirs Yes, Steven Soderbergh. And then slacker. Yeah, yeah. Kevin Smith.

Alex Ferrari 10:04
The whole that was a whole generation of like the when indie film became like indie film, there was really not a lot of indie film. I get far this back I can go as Hollywood shuffle with. Yes. Yeah. He made it all his credit cards. Yeah, yeah. Well, there's there was Yeah, I mean, there was always film but like, you know the independent film as we know it today.

Eduardo Sanchez 10:23
Yeah, yeah. No, there wasn't anything where like people were like going out and like mortgaging their homes to make film. Yeah, you know, and. And Sundance. That wasn't Sundance yet. You know, it wasn't the festival

Alex Ferrari 10:36
Sex Lies and Videotape was what put it on the map, I think. Yeah, that was the first year I heard about it was at night.

Eduardo Sanchez 10:41
Yeah, that's the first Yeah, that's the first time and then soon thereafter clerks and well, she's got to have it, I guess went through it. Yeah. Well, yeah, man. It was, you know, yeah. And so yeah, I mean, me as a kid, I didn't have you know, me, I knew Spielberg and George Lucas. But to me, those guys were gods, you know, there was like, Scorsese, as well, as a young age I, you know, as a little kid, you know, Spielberg and Lucas were like, the ones that I you know, that I recognized, you know, what I mean? Those were those were the big guys. And then yeah, later on, you know, you know, Scorsese, and you know, you get into all and then you know, I got into Spike Lee, like, in a major way. Yeah, do the right thing.

Alex Ferrari 11:25
It's just, it's a masterpiece.

Eduardo Sanchez 11:27
It's a man, it's a masterpiece, you know, I was talking to somebody else about it the other day about it, like, just, you know, I haven't seen it in a long time. And I've been kind of saving it. I'm like, I'm gonna check it out against him. But yeah, it's just one of those movies that you just, like change the way, you know, for, for for I was like, I guess, you know, I don't 19 or 20 or something when I saw when I came out. So just for somebody who had been, you know, raised on, you know, 80s, you know, Spielberg and George Lucas, and, you know, Joe, Dante and you know, the Spielberg kind of, you know, wave that an actor, right is Meccas and really, really great films, but you know, you know, and so as a teenager, you know, the last thing you want to do is, you know, watch a movie that has any kind of social commentary. You know, blatant social commentary, then, so I wanted to see do the right thing. And I came out and I was just like, you know, I was kind of angry and just confused. And I kept thinking about the movie. And I was actually kind of angry at like, Spike Lee, and you know, this, and I was really challenged everything that, you know, that I had a bit that I had, that had gone into my film education up until then, but then I embraced it. And I just fell in love with him. And I just, you know, you know, and I really aspired to be kind of a spike lee, you know, kind of filmmaker, but we all do, man. We all want to Yeah, we all want to be Spielberg. I want to be, yeah, you all go through these little phases where you're like, I want to be this I want to be that person, you know, whatever. But you hopefully slowly, you know, find your own voice. You know

Alex Ferrari 13:06
Now you you went to UCF, which was literally down the street from my college and I think we were probably were you in Orlando in the early like in the mid 90s.

Eduardo Sanchez 13:17
I was I was in Orlando, like early 90s. And then like, I moved back to Orlando in early 98.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
Okay, so we just missed each other. I graduated in 96. From full sail. Right Right, right. Yeah, we missed each other right you left right before I came back it was Orlando was an interesting time that around that that around those years? Because it was going to be the next Hollywood Do you if you remember correctly, with universal and everybody was like you gotta stay man don't go down in Miami. Hollywood's over man Orlando's where it's at.

Eduardo Sanchez 13:56
Like, I mean, you know, I plot I found UCF somewhere I don't know where the hell I found UCF in, in high school or something. And for some reason, I just, I liked the school. And then when it finally came time to go to, you know, from my community college to you know, I wanted to go to film school. UCF was offering this program and you know, and I just I loved the amount of equipment they had. And I like their, their, you know, the way they had, you know, they had, you know, figured out how they're going to do the classes I just liked, you know all about it. And I got I got into the film school. And yeah, and part of it was like, oh, man, Orlando is gonna be the next Hollywood ease. up, man, so you know, and so so, you know, in my, you know, in my brain, I thought I was gonna be like, you know, in turning on movie sets and shit. And, you know, lo and behold, we're like, oh, where the hell are the movies and where are the sets and this and that, you know, and it never happened, you know fortunately,

Alex Ferrari 15:00
Yeah, I was I was there when I was there. I was I was interning on some TV shows at Universal I did get that much. Right, which was amazing. But like everybody was like, Oh, it's the next. The next big thing and I worked at Nickelodeon too for a little while Nickelodeon and then

Eduardo Sanchez 15:18
Yeah, you know, and I, the only we, you know, and then Disney like we had the routing class I think at Disney

Alex Ferrari 15:26
MGM. Yeah. At the MGM. Yeah.

Eduardo Sanchez 15:28
Yeah. Yeah. Disney. Exactly. Disney MGM and you know, but that's about as close as we gotten. Yeah. And they did let us like both, I guess universal? I think Disney do they let us shoot? Yeah. Yeah, on the back lots and stuff. So you know, it was cool having that, you know, there. But you know, the thing is that, you know, those parks are, you know, they're amusement parks. And they were never Yeah, and they were studios, you know, very much down on the list. So

Alex Ferrari 15:56
Make more money. They make more money selling popcorn and T shirts, and they will making a movie. Absolutely. Absolutely. So

Eduardo Sanchez 16:01
I should Yeah, but But yeah, it was a it was a cool time. And you're right, it was a really exciting time because there was this supposedly, we were gonna be like on the, you know, on the cutting edge, the cutting edge of this new way who?

Alex Ferrari 16:15
God it just it gives me just gives me chills in the back of my head. Just even thinking about all of that. I fell for that trap for about a year and a half. After that. I was like, I'm out of here. I gotta go back down to Miami. And and yeah, get some work.

Eduardo Sanchez 16:28
Yeah. Yeah, I've been it. Yeah, I finished film school. And then I headed back and and that's, you know, that's around the time that we started thinking about doing Blair Witch and spray. Yeah. And it was.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
So how did you come up with the idea for Blair Witch man?

Eduardo Sanchez 16:42
It was it was but it was it came from like, you know, Dan Myrick, and me, you know, we came up with the idea together and we went to film, we went to UCF together and that we had just, I don't know, a couple of weeks before we had just seen like the, and I say, I don't know, I never remember the damn name of the movie, but it was like the Freddy. It was the Nightmare on Elm Street movie with Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold in it.

Alex Ferrari 17:11
Oh, God. Yeah. Oh, Jesus. Yeah, I forgot that. She She devil.

Eduardo Sanchez 17:18
No, no, no, no, it was it was a nightmare on elm street movie. It was like Freddy's dead or Freddy. Seriously, so. And you know, and I love the original Nightmare on Elm Street, you know? And I was like, Wow, man, you know, what the, you know, what's the hell's what's happened to like skit, you know, legitimately scary horror movies and, and Dan and I started talking about, you know, what, scared us as kids, and we read it a bunch of, you know, VHS, you know, movies of, you know, programs that really, that kind of scared us as kids. And we were just kind of going back and seeing that any, does any of this stuff still scare us? You know, and we kind of zoned you know, honed in on a particular genre, you know, the, the, the kind of pseudo documentary genre where, you know, like, like the show in search of the TV show in search, which was that that was, that was their sweet spot, you know, and a lot of movies like, you know, legend of Boggy Creek, which was, you know, documentary reenactments, like it was, and those movies and that TV program, you know, just really scared the crap out us out of us when we were kids, and then we watch them again. And they still kind of scared the crap out. You know, there's something about the, you know, the idea that the real deal, right, so we so, you know, then I was started talking about, you know, could you do something? And this was early 90s, we were at UCF. And could you do something that, you know, could you update that? You know, could you do a fake, you know, a documentary and you know, and we were thinking like, who could you release it as being real? Or could you at least fool people, or at least, people would go into the movie theater thinking that it's, you know, or at least pretending that it's real, you know, like, just that, you know, it wasn't about like scamming people or anything but it just so so that was the idea. And the initial idea was just like these filmmakers go out, you know, into some wooded area because that, you know, that's the cheapest place to shoot horror movies, of course, and

Alex Ferrari 19:20
No permits no permit. Yeah,

Eduardo Sanchez 19:21
Exactly. And there's in that these filmmakers are, you know, are following up on and then they disappear and then the, their footage is found, you know, years later,

Alex Ferrari 19:32
So for me, it was the concept his belly,

Eduardo Sanchez 19:35
And that was just that was just the, you know, kind of the initial thing and, and we walked away from it for a few years, we had other things to you know, we Dan and I were finishing up school and we had our, you know, own films that we were doing and all this stuff and then you know, we circled back on it a few years after film school and decided to, you know, to do it again.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
How did you get them added to get the money for Blair witch?

Eduardo Sanchez 19:56
You know, it's it was a A lot of like, kind of credit card stuff.

Alex Ferrari 20:03
Because it was like, What? 27 grand if I remember quickly?

Eduardo Sanchez 20:05
Yeah, it was like, it was like, yeah, it was like, you know? I don't know for sure. But somewhere around that he had 20,000 25,000 for the initial but was the initial budget.

Did you shoot it and you shot it all video? We shot at high eight and we shot at 16 millimeter, mostly high. Right. And did you cut it? nonlinear? Did you do flat? Yeah, we cut it on yanar Media went 100 to 100 Oh, ouch.

Yeah, we, we cut it, we started cutting it an avid it's too expensive. And then we Yeah, it was over media 100. And then, you know, and you know, I mean, his job, his job, right.

Alex Ferrari 20:47
And so you so you just kind of grabbed a bunch of money together. And then once you got the credit cards and all that, because I'm assuming you pitch this to some people, and they said they were to give you money. But of course they never showed

Eduardo Sanchez 20:58
Yeah, yeah, we did this, this investment, you know, real, like this little video that goes like 10 minutes and kind of explain. And it was really well done really creepy and set up the story. And we were like, Oh my god, people are gonna start giving us money. And, and you know how it is no, buddy. I mean, it's just, it's just really weird, man. And I offered it to people that I know had money. You know, like, I'm like, dude, you got you know, just, and unfortunately, nobody really bid

Alex Ferrari 21:29
Or fortunately for you.

Eduardo Sanchez 21:31
Yeah, yeah. Well, yeah. And then and then. And then we just kind of, we lucked out and got the attention of john Pearson. Yeah. And Johnson, he's helped us. Yeah, yeah. And he helped us with his show. splitscreen he helped us get the rest of the money for the budget for the budget. And then we shot it, you know, we just, you know, we shot it in, you know, 10 days, 10 or 12 days and, and then edited it for about a year.

Alex Ferrari 22:03
That's amazing. Yeah, that's, that's amazing. And they said, Now you've got a final product, you've got this little movie that you have no way in your wildest dreams thinks anything major is going to happen with it. If I'm correct, right. You just kind of made? What will you expect?

Eduardo Sanchez 22:18
Yeah. I mean, you know, you know, look, it was one of the we didn't we expect that as much from this movie, as we expected for many other the other movies we had made and failed, you know? Sure. I mean, you know, when you make you know, that's the whole thing with people are like, Oh, you know, these movies? This movie sucks. What are my Yeah, but you know, that movie that sucks. The most of the people involved in that movie probably thought that they were making a really great film. Like, there's very few people out there that I've know, that are like making movies for money. You know what I mean? Like, they're, you know, so for us, it was just like, every other independent film, like, Oh, this is gonna be the one and you know, whatever. And, anyway, we knew we had a good idea. We knew that, like, people were definitely, you know, very interested in it, when we told them when we pitched them, and kind of, you know, you could tell they were, you know, there was enthusiasm there. But we had, you know, we had no idea. We had no idea even, even when we shot them, even we finished a movie and brought it, you know, back to Orlando and started watching the footage, we were like, really nice. I've never I remember talking to Dan or somebody like, you know, walking back from from one of the because we know we shot like for 10 days continuously, like the actors were out there the whole time. They slept out there, we we brought them food, we brought them fresh batteries, we brought them tapes, you know, whatever the hell they needed. To really, like keep them lost in those woods. And I remember one time coming back, I get three in the morning after doing something with the actors, you know, dropping something off or scaring them or whatever, I don't know. And I was like, you know, we're either like creating like, a really like scary and cool film, or it's gonna be like, the stupidest comedy of, you know, like, it was just like a joke. Like these people thought that giving cameras to the actors was, was a good idea. But it made like, it just had disaster written. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 24:13
Yeah, it doesn't it doesn't read well on a pitch.

Eduardo Sanchez 24:16
It does not it does not, you know, and so. So but that's the funny thing, man. Like, when when we finally got our agents, you know, after the movie came out, our agents were, you know, right before Sundance, we got our agents are agents where I was like, you know, we were talking about how the movie was really hard to, you know, get off the ground and this and that. And I and, you know, one of them was like, now if I would have I would have looked at it. I'm like, Dude, seriously, you would have from a complete unknown about a movie where the actors go out into the woods and shoot their movie on high eight, you would have you would have forwarded that to two other studios. Right? You were right. It was a totally, you know, it was a total Like, oh, I took it was kind of the reaction like, Oh, it's a cool idea. I'm not sure how the hell you're gonna pull it off. But if it cool like so and you know, and luckily, we know all the pieces fell into place and we you know, we came up with something good.

Alex Ferrari 25:13
Now can you talk a little bit about the process of actually making it because I know a lot of people talk about, you know, the success and all this kind of stuff. But what was the actual directorial process in your heads? Like, did you give the cameras to the actors? You put them out there in the forest? Did you guys pretend to be like the witch or leave things for them? Like, did they not? It was like, completely? Like, they had no idea what was happening that

Eduardo Sanchez 25:37
Yeah, well, I mean, we, we tried to keep them, you know, as out of the loop as possible, like we tried to keep, like, any kind of contact with them at a very, very minimal level, as we would like, if there was a problem, you know, we could, they could address it, but it wasn't something where we had, you know, we brought them out of the woods unless they got hurt, you know, there was always a plan for if anybody got hurt, how we would address that. But it was mostly just keeping them isolated. So anybody, like, whenever anybody had any kind of duty that, that brought them close to the act, there's the number one rule was don't talk to the actors, unless you absolutely have to, like, if they try to talk to you just say, I can't talk to you, man, you know. And so, so yeah, so our thing was just basically, you know, set up the whole, because it was like a 24 hour play, you know, good 24 hour play. So our whole thing as the filmmakers, and as the directors, was, basically just build this world around the three actors, you know, and try to make it as convincing as possible and try to make it as isolating as possible. So we would give them, you know, we knew the story, and we knew where it was going to end. But they didn't know, you know, besides what they kind of learned or kind of, you know, took out of like, the auditions, because we auditioned, you know, with a couple of scenes that, you know, quite similar from the movie, so, they kind of had some clues as far as what was going to happen. And, but they didn't know, you know, who was going to die, and, you know, it was, you know, they just didn't know, it was basically, you know, minute by minute kind of, you know, information only given on a need to know, basis, you know,

Alex Ferrari 27:19
Right, and the energy, you can see the energy and the actors, like it's, it's, you can't recreate you can't act that,

Eduardo Sanchez 27:25
No, you and you and that's the whole thing is like, our whole thing was like if we cast the right people, which, you know, we spent a lot of time casting the right people. And we give, you know, and we do our job enough of like, actually building this world around them and kind of, you know, and keeping them off balance, you know, we we realize, okay, they're going to be able to, they're going to go to places where most actors can go, you know, just can't, you know, be where you're, you know, in that mentality of like, like, like Mike Williams said, you know, like, he goes, you can, like, recreate the idea of, like, you know, you as an actor waking up to little kids playing outside your tent in the middle of the night in the middle of the woods when you're lost, you know, I mean, like, you're saying, like, the wreck that you can prepare for that, that's not something they teach you

Alex Ferrari 28:15
In acting class

Eduardo Sanchez 28:16
No. So, you know, and you know, and the actors were really, I mean, you know, everybody, they knew what they had gotten themselves into, and that's what I think, you know, why I think the actors even though you know, every, you know, they got, you know, I never thought I there, you know, they didn't really get enough credit, man, I mean, definitely, it was the Blair Blair, which was definitely like a team effort. But the actors I think, took the took the idea of like, you know, which was a risk kind of a risky thing like an improv movie where you don't know you know, you're not you're making up the lines as you go and you don't even know where the hell The story is, you know, you don't know where it's going and you're getting these little directing notes you know, two or 305 or four or five times a day. But other than that, you know, you there's you can't ask them direct or any any you can't, you can't get any clarification you just got to make out you know, you got to read the notes and try to figure it out and try to you know, make it happen for yourself and I think that is what really kind of created this you know, pretty incredible opportunity and they knew they were you know, they they were really like courageous and they knew that they were doing something special I think that's what kind of you know, got them through the you know, all the hardships of just having to you know sleep in the woods for so long and she's 10 days yeah and then that Bay then you know, not you know, saying like all this you know, all this stuff that happens when you're you know, out in the woods so you know, yeah, but after a while man you could definitely tell the bit you know, they had they definitely It was a lot easier for them to go into different places into these far kind of, you know, reaching places that other actors would have to really kind of would it would be tough for them to get to.

Alex Ferrari 29:53
So it's almost like a Daniel Day Lewis style of acting role because they completely engulf themselves into it. And then you as a director, were almost like Kubrick where you wore down the actor to the point where they stopped acting because they were there.

Eduardo Sanchez 30:09
Yeah. Kind of Yeah. I mean, Dan and I were never, you know, abusive, of course, and we never abusive and also we, you know, we didn't I mean, I mean, Kubrick, you know, worked on a different level, you know, yeah, of course, of course, rasa was just, but yeah, we never, we never really tied it to that kind of thing. But for us, it was just like, how do you get? How do you make this look like, it's completely real, because that was our big thing. Like, we want this footage to look like they like it's 100% authentic. And so for us, it was just, you know, keeping it safe for the actors, but also, you know, pushing them to, you know, to the very limits of what, you know, would be considered safe, you know, reasonably reasonable to take them to a place. Yeah, I mean, they were never in danger. I mean, there was, there was always, you know, somebody, you know, within, you know, on a hike away from or the there was always, you know, we were always in contact with them.

Alex Ferrari 31:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Well, you watching them, or you,

Eduardo Sanchez 31:18
We tried watching them, but it kind of, you know, it was you couldn't hear them anyway, you know, like, the sound doesn't really travel too far in the woods. So, you, we were, you know, you we like Dan tagged them for, like the, I think the first couple days, and then we kind of, you know, there was so many other things that you had to get ready. And, you know, you couldn't we couldn't have a director out there, you know, kind of following them the whole time. And then our whole thing was, like, even if you're looking at even if they do something wrong, what are you going to do, like, go and correct it? Like, you know, you can't this is, this is not that kind of movie, and I mean, like you, you know, you got to hope that they're gonna bring you stuff. That's, you know, that's a lot that encompasses a lot more than the notes you're giving them, you know, what I mean? Like, you're so So for us, it was more like, yeah, the, the observing kind of, you know, fell, you know, very quickly out of favor

Alex Ferrari 32:13
Is a very ballsy you know, it's a very ballsy move as a creative as a director to to do this, like, you know, regardless of what because access and all this stuff, but just as a filmmaker like you, you, you've let go of a lot of things that directors generally hold on to, you know, like, complete control of the image, complete control of the actors. You guys kind of did this experiment this moment. Blair, which was almost an experimental film very much so because there was nothing at all like it out.

Eduardo Sanchez 32:40
Yeah, it was, Well, yeah, we and yeah, and we definitely knew that it was an experimental film, you know, and, and, you know, and, and that's kind of why, you know, we, you know, we just had this this kind of obsession with, you know, nothing in the movie, being able to give you a clue that it wasn't real, you know, what I mean? Like, oh, yeah, so, so anything, anything that kind of, you know, lighting nighttime, you know, with with a, you know, with a 12k up on a hill, that, you know, you know, soundtrack music, you know, name actors, you know, any of that everything was basically bait, you know, just making the most authentic thing possible. And, but yeah, it was very much an experiment, we had no idea, you know, what we were going to come out with, I mean, we thought we're gonna have some interesting, you know, footage, right, we had no idea we were going to be able to, you know, we were going to have this, you know, feature film that, you know, kind of, you know, blew everybody you know, that did what it did, you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:44
Now what now I want to go into the marketing of this film, because it was I anytime I ever did any lectures, or any spoke of anything, right, did any post about marketing, I always use Blair Witch as an example, because it's honestly, and I've said this many times, it's honestly probably one of the best marketed independent films of all time, because of this insanely genius guerilla marketing campaign that you guys did. Can you talk about how that came about? Because that you were thinking about the marketing of this film while making it and filmmakers generally don't do that. So how did that come about? Who came up with it? Who fed the beast? How that

Eduardo Sanchez 34:26
You know, it was, you know, I'm not sure how I mean, we, you know, look, as an indie filmmaker, you're always thinking you know, at least if you're smart, you're always thinking about you know, how the hell am I going to sell this film you know, saying so, there's always a little bit of kind of, you know, even just choosing the material, you know, sometimes you you immediately start looking for things that will set you apart from you know, the rest of the of the herd, you know, but for Blair Witch it was it came about as a you know, very much a you know, just just Very much pragmatic approach to marketing, like we had, you know, we were editing the film, we were, you know, we were shooting some other stuff, because we were shooting some stuff that we're going to add later on for the film that ended up on the cutting room floor. So we were, you know, we were busy, we were doing stuff. And we showed the our, we had a segment on a show called split screen, which I mentioned earlier, the john Pearson show that played on Bravo and his discussion board on his site. And this is, you know, obviously, before YouTube before, you know, Facebook, his discussion board kind of blew up, like, there was a lot of attention about Blair Witch about this segment, like, Is it real, and this or, you know, I, you know, whatever, and people were, like, already throwing theories around. And as, like filmmakers who had never experienced anything like that, it was just really exciting. We were like, holy shit, there's people talking about our movie, other than our friends that are, you know, parents, right. So we, you know, we were, like, you know, we had no money, so we will do a website. And luckily, I had, you know, some some web building experience from a previous job. And so I just took it upon myself to, to build this website. And, you know, everybody, everybody helped, but I was the only one of the, the main guys that didn't have a girlfriend at the time. So I like saying, Oh, I had a lot more time. Yeah, and they did. So I would edit, I would edit a late night, you know, into the early the early morning, and then I would go home, and I would come home. And while Dan edited. I would just work on the website. And, and it was very much like, we meet you know, it was it was great, because we immediately had fans, because, you know, we immediately linked to the splitscreen discussion boards, and all those a lot of those people came over to the site. And it really became this, like, you know, you know, very, for me, especially because I was like the one that was interacting mostly with, you know, with on the day to day basis with, with everybody that came to the site, it was very much like, you know, it gave me a lot of energy, you know, gave me a lot of enthusiasm for what, for what we were doing. And you know, because back in that, at that time, you know, we were completely broke, we had absolutely no money, we were like, you know, literally like having our, you know, water cut out. And then you know, our electricity cut out the next month, I mean, just just really like just living on on pennies. And, and there wasn't much, you know, and there wasn't much, you know, reason to celebrate, you know, there wasn't like, but these people loving what I was putting up there. And I you know, I didn't, you know, you didn't want to put you want to give anything away. But I just put enough stuff up there. And, you know, and also it was just a no subject matter. You know, it was the idea that, that it's just a Blair Witch just has just had a really interesting marketing Hawk, you know, I mean, it was a it's a, it's a fake documentary, you know, I mean, you know, so there's so much material and so many things that somebody kind of fun things that we that we did. And so and, you know, so by the time we went to Sundance, you know, we had, we had a mailing list that I would like, do this thing called Hacker News. And we, I would, you know, over like, a once a week, I would like kind of just send out a newsletter kind of updating people on what was going on with the movie and, and then you know, and it was fun. The Sundance and as we sold the movie, and you know, all this stuff was just a really exciting time. But we had like, 10,000 people on that list going into Sundance, and this was like, 90 in early 99.

Alex Ferrari 38:56
That's actually pretty fascinating, because you were doing crowd sourcing. You were creating a following back in 99. With email list, like, that's very advanced stuff back then.

Eduardo Sanchez 39:08
Well, it was I mean, and it was just, it was just the only tool we have at our disposal. Right, right. You know, I mean, and so we made the most of it. And then what the marketing what really pushed the marketing to the next level was that artists and they were just, they were like the perfect movie company to bid to buy Blair Witch like they. There was a guy over there named john Hagerman and the marketing department and there's a woman named Emma Jones and they really got the movie they like they really understood the movie. Even before I mean a lot. Even better sometimes. Then we got our own movie, you know what I mean? And they're and they're the ones if I don't if I'm not mistaken, they're they're the ones that kind of pushed. That kind of said Are we are the total artists and like we have to go we have to buy this. We have to get this move. You have to buy this movie. So but so once we got, you know, once they we got the deal and we started working with them, they were just, you know, they love the website, they were like they pulled it down and they're like we're gonna rerelease the website in chunks, you know, as we get closer to the release date, and they were like you had, you know, you want to do something on, you know, on sci fi channel, we have a slot that we could do like an hour show. And we were like, well, let's do a, let's do a documentary about the, you know, about the legend of The Blair Witch. And they were like, hell yeah, let's do that. So, they gave us money to do that. And, you know, we did that as we delivered the movie, you know, it's crazy. And you know, and then they, you know, and then they were like, well, we're gonna do a book, you know, based on like, a detective, you know, the journals of a detective that looked into the case. And we were like, yeah, and, you know, we collaborated with this writer named da stern on that, which in this mood, this book called The Blair Witch dossier, which is still one of my favorite kind of Blair, witch related pieces of media. And, you know, and they hooked us up with oni press, and they didn't, you know, comic books, and you know, and so they were very, very, like, into the idea of, like, you know, putting, you know, of, you know, marketing, not in a direct way, you know, what I mean? And then, you know, obvious and then and then the trailers like, you know, they, we really realized, we realized that they really knew the movie when they started sending us the trailers. And we were like, yeah, that's exactly you got, that's exactly the way it needs to be done, you know. So, you know, it was just, it was the perfect, you know, you know, kind of combination of, you know, filmmakers that knew, you know, enough of what about what they had created to help, you know, to be a part of it, and a studio that was willing to let you know, the filmmakers and the marketing department, you know, you know, work, you know, hand in hand to release the movie,

Alex Ferrari 42:01
It never happens, it never happens.

Eduardo Sanchez 42:03
Now, it never, you know, and it was always these, there's always these, you know, every time you sell a movie, you're like, Oh, yeah, this is gonna be great, we're gonna do this and that, and then you're like, the, you know, they won't return your call after about a week. So, you know, but you know, it. So it was just it was, you know, Blair, which created an energy that, you know, it's hard to, it's hard to come, you know, come up with that energy in, you know, especially in film, you know, I mean, because it's just something people that people had never seen anything like this, you know, I mean, and I think that they really like love the idea of like trying to put you know, to push something new out there, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:40
In the studio's are generally not known for that.

Eduardo Sanchez 42:43
Now, studios, you know, that they are the opposite of that, you know, and you know, you want something that is, you know, is safe and can reach a maximum audience and easy to understand, you know, it's the, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:58
So so the movie, the movie now gets released. So can you take me through your journey? It's, you know, I know it's a long journey, but for the movie gets released, it blows up beyond anyone's imagination, and continues to blow up. How How did you like how, what was it like, for you as a filmmaker going through that process? Because I mean, that's a that's a that's a dream of all filmmakers. We all want to make a movie that has the success of a Blair Witch Project. Oh, yeah. So what was it like what was it like at the very beginning opening weekend? You're like, Get the hell out of here.

Eduardo Sanchez 43:33
I mean, it was a bunch of Get the hell out of me day and it continues to be a Get the hell out of me like this. Like me talking to you is like, you know, there's still people that want to talk about you know, Blair Witch. So I mean, look, man, it's been it was you know, and I Blair Witch has been nothing but a blessing to me, you know, I'm saying and when we you know, like every other filmmaker, you know, independent filmmaker, you know, you hope your movie, you know, and then you know, and this is people I think people that you know, weren't around at the early days don't realize that Blair Witch was not only like the most, at the time, like the most, you know, the biggest indie film ever, but at that, at that level of like, somebody making a movie for like, 50,000 bucks. there had never been anything close to it, man. I mean, you know, like, I mean, I you have clerks and mariachi brothers, McFarlane, like these really micro budget move, maybe, you know, she's got to have his general budget. Sure. None of those movies had even, you know, broken. I mean, I think El Mariachi did 3 million or 4 million, right? You know, that was for us. That was the dream Holy shit. If we can have El Mariachi, we're a clerks and we can have our movie in the in the theaters. You know, I you know, so so once, you know, we saw that, you know, artists that we you know, once we realize, you know, we saw we got into Sundance, and then that was the first kind of like, okay, Something, something cool is happening, you know. And then once you know, we all our shows were sold out immediately. And they, you know, we got in the sun, you know, we our first show the movie sells out and you know ourselves like that night, you know, like that morning, we made the deal with artists in and after just one showing, and then, you know, the buzz around Sundance, you know, it was just, you know, it seemed like it was everywhere and, and then you know, you would come home and we you know, we're still broke, you know, because we, we, you don't get the money until you deliver the movie, which is many months down the road. Sure. So we're still broke, and they're still, you know, cutting our electricity and stuff off. But now we have, there's a there's a goal, oh, if we do these things we get you know, our advance, right? And, you know, and then like I said, they they're artists and starts talking about marketing, and they offer us this thing of like, Can you do a doc, you know, this,

Alex Ferrari 45:57
Put the money

Eduardo Sanchez 45:58
By five, we'll give you this much money. We also want to, you know, redo the ending, you know, when I think about maybe, you know, making a new ending, so we were like, yeah, as long as you pay us, we'll go down and reshoot some endings, whatever. And then, you know, you know, you start people started kind of people started coming, you know, just people that we'd kind of film school with, and, you know, we're calling us and saying, Hey, your, your movies, like, you're gonna send your movies tracking, like, up there with all the all the Hollywood movies, like, that's, that's never happens to an indie movie, like, you know, something weird is happening. And then you see you get, you know, we started getting all these kind of clues that, you know, that this thing was going to be, you know, a little bigger than, you know, that than we thought, but at the same time, you're like, Wow, this is great, you know, and then, but then once you know, you know, after that first when we, you know, we that first weekend, or the first week, we opened in the Angelika and, you know, like, the, the movies like sold out for like a week in advance, right. And you see the lines around the block, just, you know, going in to get the, you know, get some good seats, and, and then it opens up and it has this, you know, crazy per screen average, and then it, you know, just all this stuff, and then then, you know, and then the artists and told us that somebody from Ronnie harlands movie, because we remember reading deep, deep blue sea. That's shark shark movie. Yeah. Well, LL Cool. J. Yeah, that was like, that was the big kind of, you know, really hard sharks thriller that was coming out that and one of the guys from ours and told us that the studio, I don't know what studio was called artists and said, Hey, you guys know that you're gonna release your movie on the same day as our movie. Like, you're gonna get squashed? Like, you know, do you understand what you're doing? and artists, like, we understand what we're doing. So once the movie or the movie comes out, and you know, makes like, you know, 26 or something, 27 $28 It's insane. And then the next weekend and makes, you know, almost the same. And, you know, it just, it's, yeah, it's insane, man, it's crazy. And then the week, you know, like, the week previous, you know, we are one of those weeks. I'm not sure exactly when it came out. But you know, we're, you know, Dan and I are on the cover of Time Magazine, like you go to you go to your, your grocery store, you're you're on the frickin you're on all the damn, you know, registers, man. I mean, and it looks like one of those things that you do it, you know, and at the beach, you know? Like, looks that way. Yeah. It looks so fake. Looks so fake. And then you know, you, you know, and then just, you know, Saturday live parodies you and then you know, everybody parodies. Yes, Chris Rock, you know, on the MTV Music Awards, he did like the whole Blair Witch thing. Right? You know, it's just, it's just surreal Dude, it's just surreal. And like, when Dan and I were doing the, you know, the tour, we were like, all over the United States and then up in Canada. You know, we were we read, we were like, Dude, this is, this is never gonna happen. This is, you know, we got to enjoy this. I remember even talking.

Alex Ferrari 49:22
That's great that you actually

Eduardo Sanchez 49:24
You had that site that Oh, absolutely, man, because it was just so out of control. And, you know, like, we were like, all of a sudden we were like, hanging out with you know, you know, we were at the end of Independent Spirit Awards, and we were seeing Quinn, Tarantino and David Lynch and sure it was saying that the Weinstein's are there and, you know, you're we go to can and, you know, we meet Ben Affleck and there, Darren Aronofsky and I sit down and chat and yeah, you know, you don't say like you're in this other world, and you're the one whole time you're like, I don't you know, and even now I still feel like there's no I really love going through the whole Blair Witch thing. And it's like I said, it's nothing but a blessing. But like, I don't know, if I could if I could, like I've often thought about, like, Can I do the, you know, the a list director thing where you, you know, you spit, you know, the amount of work and the amount of press and all that stuff like, to me, it's like, I don't know, you know, I like it was pleasurable because it was something that I always thought that okay, this is not going to be the way it is. This is a, this is a special one off, it's a one off and then I can go and do my you know, whatever the hell I can find, you know, my little corner of the film world hopefully after this. But it's Oh, it you know, so it was just this huge, these crazy events that just kept happening, you know, meeting Roger Ebert.

Alex Ferrari 50:53
He said he was so he I met him, I he reviewed one of my films, and he is he was such an amazing soul.

Eduardo Sanchez 51:01
So yes, like still, like, you know, even after all those years, like he still was like a super film. Yes, yes. Yeah. So but yeah, and you know, and I, you know, and I, I grew up, you know, let's watching him men that enjoy this guy, you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:17
He's from our generation. No question.

Eduardo Sanchez 51:19
Yeah, man. And so to meet him was crazy. And you know, so all these things that were just surreal, you know, surreal. And it was like a dream that I had never dared really dream about, like I you know, I definitely dreamed about being a filmmaker and having a little bit of a success and this and that, but it was a dream that I didn't even know really existed, you know what I mean? And it was just one of these things that, you know, would caught everybody by surprise, and, you know, including us.

Alex Ferrari 51:46
So there. So you've gone through this insanely out of body experience. And, and it's insane. It's insane. That the stories but one thing I wanted to talk to ask you about is you're talking about the press and the world coming at you guys left, you know, I mean, I can only imagine what kind of you know, everybody wants to jump on your bandwagon. Everybody wants a piece of you. Yeah, everybody wants to dissect who did what on the movie, all this kind of crazy stuff. Can you talk a little bit about how Hollywood themselves treated you like what was the? Because I want the I want the listeners to kind of understand what happens when you get thrown into this kind of machine. And what what what the agents were saying what the studio I'm sure you did the water bottle tour 15 times over. You met every studio executive, every big producer, you met every big actor. What was that? That part? The behind the scenes part by not the stuff in the front of the camera, but that by the back corners of Hollywood? How did that work?

Eduardo Sanchez 52:45
Um, you know, it was I mean, it was it was fine. I mean, you know, there was definitely very much I mean, I mean, for us, it was it was a special kind of my agents call it the victory lap. Right. And, you know, it was a very much a different kind of victory lap because people didn't know what we had done. They didn't understand what we had done. And for good reason. And they also had no idea if we could write in direct the normal film, like, there was very much like, Okay, did you guys have a script? You guys know what a script looks like? Alright, so there was definitely some people that, you know, I just, it was a lot of bad attitudes people, like just kind of haters, you know? Yeah. And people yeah, or people who just there's a lot of people who just kind of wanted to see that we that Dan, and I maybe didn't float on, you know, like that we were just regular guys who happen to have made this crazy experimental movie that somehow made you know, this much money, you know what I mean? Because there's, there's, there's a level of like, who the what the what the hell is Who is this guy? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 53:57
Anomaly the anomaly factor.

Eduardo Sanchez 53:58
Yeah, the anomaly. I think there's a little bit of like a freak show, like, Oh, I want to I want to meet, I want to sit next to that. I want to stand next to the Blair Witch guys. And there still is that, you know, but now for me, it's like very much like, you know, I love it. I mean, I just love the idea that people are still kind of excited that I made you know, about this movie that I made, you know, 20 years ago. Right. So, you know, so and I understand that because, you know, you know, if, especially in the filmmaking side, because I meet a lot of people who were like, we're inspired by the movie, you know, just the idea of like, shit, anybody can can do so and I, you know, so when they meet me, they're like, oh, man, you know, I love to hear those stories of like, Oh, my God, man, you know that everybody has a Blair Witch story and I love to hear him, you know. But, you know, hollywood was, you know, it's a tough thing, man because you you know, for me and Dan and I guess I can only talk speaks you know about me, but I think Dan and I were both going through the same thing was the idea of like, okay, we you know, we made this movie, but, you know, we don't you know, We have ideas for other movies. But, you know, this is not going to happen again. Like, we can't do another Blair Witch, you know, I mean, like, there's not, you know, this is not going to happen, you know? And, and also, we Dan and I were not, you know, we never considered ourselves horror filmmakers like we didn't have, I think a lot of filmmakers that go into the horror genre have like, have been trying to make horror movies their whole lives and have you know, have a whole backlog of horror ideas. And all and Dan and I just didn't have that. I mean, Dan had a really good thriller kind of horror idea. But, you know, and otherwise, you know, we didn't we didn't have we weren't horror filmmakers, like we weren't like guys who had like 10 scripts ready to go. So the time after Blair Witch, we didn't have another horror script. And actually, Dan and I wanted to make a comedy. So you could you can imagine the talks that our agents had with us about, you know,

Alex Ferrari 55:58
Complaint, which got to make it a comedy.

Eduardo Sanchez 56:00
Yeah, like, that was that was our state of mind. And, and the thing about him is that he and looking back on it, you know, I'm like, that was kind of a dumb thing to do, but you have to understand is that we had, we were, you know, Blair Witch was bringing in a lot of money to us. I mean, and a lot of, you know, as most of the time you know, when filmmakers, you know, get their film, their first film sold, I mean, even like, like, I was talking to Darren Aronofsky after time at Cannes, you know, he had just done pie with artists and, and the movie had, you know, had made some money, but he still owed the money, like, he was still broke, like, he was just so you know, that's, and he that was a very successful independent film, you know, so, we were in a very special situation where we had made our first independent film, our first, you know, the IEEE released independent film, and we had made a ton of money, so we didn't have to make another movie, and we didn't have to make and most importantly, we didn't have to make the movie that we didn't want to make. Right. And so Hollywood, you know, our agents send us like, you know, pretty much every horror script that has been in development, you know, that had been in development in the previous three or four years they sent to us, you know, that so. And we read films that we're about to get, you know, they're about to go into production, but needed directors like we got offered that extra cyst prequal. With a movie that had to be made, remade, had to be made twice, and still didn't fix all the problems that had, right. And we read the script, and we were like, Look, we are, you know, without extra, the extra CES, there wouldn't be a Blair Witch. I mean, it's our, you know, both dynamize, our favorite horror movie of all time, of course, and we would love nothing more than to jump into the exorcist world. But this script, we have to rewrite the script. And they were like, No, no, we, you know, we're gonna, we're on, we're already on location, we start shooting in like, a month and a half. We were like, Hey, you know, how in the world are we going to show up to set and be able to do anything that we want to do? I mean, yeah, we would have gotten paid a ton of money. Yeah. But, you know, there were, it was obvious that they all they wanted was like, from the creators of The Blair Witch Project on top of the poster, you know? So, so, you know, so that's kind of, you know, and also, we, we stayed in Orlando for a while, you know, we, we didn't immediately move to LA and kind of start our sense of kind of becoming, you know, becoming a member of the club, you know, what I mean? And

Alex Ferrari 58:43
It was Hollywood east, I mean, to you,

Eduardo Sanchez 58:45
Yeah. Oh, wait, waiting for Spielberg. He made some promises. But, you know, that the So, so that was the situation, man. And, and it, you know, it, you know, we didn't, we had like, a lot of really great opportunities, but nothing. I feel that like, you know, we had, like, as far as I'm concerned, I know, Dan is the same way as like, we had always made films, from our hearts, you know, like we had poured everything into and getting, getting accustomed to, like, not doing that on every job is something that we that I at least I took me a while to learn, right? That you know, you can still do really good work and still do your best work, but you don't dedicate the love that you dedicate to something, you know, to a film that you write and direct and, you know, finance and all, you know, do all the work for you know. And you and also man, you know, there was we were you know, I was 30 years old and chi man was I guess you know the mid 30s and we We were all, you know, it, there was a certain, you know, arrogance as far as like, you know, we're invincible and we're going to be able to make movies for the rest of our lives. You know?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:10
Yeah, I was gonna ask you like, what was the effect on you as a person with this kind of success and fame because it never ends well, when this kind of when this kind of worldwide success, fame, you're the best, you're awesome. This never ends well, and I'm surprised that you're still alive. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You know what I'm saying? Like, how did it? How did it?

Eduardo Sanchez 1:00:48
Absolutely did? I mean? Yeah, I mean, I often tell people like, if, you know, because when we went, you know, the boiler, which was made by these, you know, five guys mostly, you know, these five, there's, you know, a really important guys on the, on the, on the edges of that, that did a lot of important work, but hacks in the company that made Blair which was five guys who kind of like, lived, and, you know, breathe in a Blair Witch for a couple of years, you know, and we, we just, if it hadn't been all five of us, I think there was a chance, like, if it had been just one of us, you know, like this, oh, my God is ready directors come out of nowhere and made this Blair Witch and whatever. There was definitely, you know, things could have gone badly, really, like really badly, really fast. You know, I mean, right. And I think that, you know, even though we've made a lot of mistakes, and, you know, we took, we didn't take advantage of some opportunities that, you know, looking back on it, we're like, yeah, we should have maybe done that. You know, at the same time, we all kept each other down. And I mean, like, you know, we were our motto was, like, if you see me getting hired, knock me down.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:57
You know, that's crazy. You had a support group?

Eduardo Sanchez 1:01:59
Yeah, absolutely, man. And it's also support, not really a support group was a group that was going to tell you to, you know, to not to, you know, you're gonna slap in the back of the head and tell you to, you know, but you know, fuck off if you started acting like an idiot, you know, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:12
like, Well, guess what family does basically exactly like, knock you down.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:02:16
Oh, sure. Like, yeah, your brother Larry. You know, Blair was director right here, dude, you know, take out the garbage. Yeah, exactly. So, but yeah, so so that really kept us grounded. And I think, you know, the idea that we tried, you know, as long as possible to make it work, you know, out of Orlando. Also, yeah, also helped us out. And but you know, but because, man, the thing about it is that, when you have, you know, like, la was the only place that I was recognized, like when I was when I when I went there, and that's because the only people that knew who I looked were other filmmakers that were trying to do exactly what I was doing. So, you know, you just meet a lot of people who you know, and that's just and that's just the way LA is, man. I mean, I'm not saying that, you know, everybody's like this, and I know that, you know, you do everybody does the scramble no matter what, the hustle, just the hustle. You got to do the hustle, man. It's just a different levels, you know? Yeah, but I just got tired of being tried to be hustled to all the time, you know, like it like, every time I went there, you went to a party. And I'm like,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:22
I can only imagine Oh, my god,

Eduardo Sanchez 1:03:24
It was just too much man. And so my whole thing was like, you know, I don't mind. I mean, I hate driving around la but I think la You know, there's, it's a great town, it has a lot of thing, great things to offer. But as a human being like, to me, I was like, man, if I end up in LA, there's gonna be some, there's gonna be some trouble like, either I'm gonna end up like, as you know, like the biggest sleaze ball frickin cocaine snorting, you know, sleazy, you know, x filmmaker, or, you know, or, you know, things might go, but things might go, right. But I just felt that there was so much danger of like, just going down the wrong path. And like, and really, for me, like taking myself too seriously, man. Because I think that's, that's the big, you know, and I'm not saying that you can't take your work, you know, you have to take your work seriously, you know, a lot of money on the line, it's a business. But there's a lot of people out there who like, are just just take themselves and their films a little too seriously, man, and it's like, there's, you know, there's, you know, at the end of the day, the, you know, the people working to try to cure aids or to try to find those are the, those are the dudes that should be, you know, you know, believing their own shit, you know, I mean, because they really are making a difference, you know, I mean, and I just, you know, and I know that, you know, film is an art form, and I really do, you know, you know, respect. There's so many filmmakers out there, you know, that, you know, you got to respect their abilities, but I think that the certain point where you're like, Dude, it's a movie. This is NPV rates are moving on at the same thing on the set, like sometimes people get so I'm like, dude, we're just making an episode of some show or we're just doing a movie. This is our, this is not gonna cost anybody their lives or their freedom or, you know what I mean? So, yeah, so I think that's one of the main reasons that I stayed out of La just to kind of I don't know, just keep myself grounded and keep myself you know, keep myself the same person that I've tried know, try to always be my look into my life, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:33
And the funny thing is that you went you were back in Orlando waiting for it to become Hollywood east. But little did you know you were Hollywood east. You were the you were the big you were. You were the big fish in the in the small pond. And

Eduardo Sanchez 1:05:46
You're like, Oh, we were we were? Yeah, we were like, pretty much the only fish. Oh, yeah, we were I mean, we had we had our offices. I don't know we I guess you were gone by them. But we had our offices in at Disney MGM? Oh, yeah. We did Blair which gave us like offices, and we were on the tour. Sometimes, sometimes we would come out of our thing, because the train would go walk around. And sometimes we just like, act like we're doing stupid, like, What are you? What are you doing out here and I couldn't believe we just left and to the left is the offices of the haxon films. We just made a movie called The Blair Witch Project. It was just so funny to be a part of that man. And then mostly what we did at Disney was just sneak into the park and ride you know, rock and roller coaster.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:37
That's all I did. Dude. That's all I did. When I worked at Disney. Man. I knew all the inside. Like I would go right through where the commissary was, like from the park. So I'd come in through the back go through the commissary, and I bring my family out. I just walk them right out. This is way before 2000. This was before 911

Eduardo Sanchez 1:06:52
It was before 911 Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah. A part of being on the backlog was the fact Yeah, you could go and you know, take go into this to go into the bar. Oh, yeah. It was really exciting. You know.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:05
So you've done a lot. You've been doing a lot of television directing. In recent years, what is the big difference between directing episodic television versus doing feature films for the audience?

Eduardo Sanchez 1:07:16
The episodic First of all, it's shorter. I mean, you know, you like coming from an indie world where you like, you know, your, your, you're, you're pregnant, and then you give birth and you make this do you watch this, this Mom, this kid of yours grow up? literally years, you're making sure you know, I'm in a film, TV is, you know, you're basically worked for three weeks, and then you do edit notes. And then you're done. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:44
It's, it's a quick,

Eduardo Sanchez 1:07:45
It's a quickie, man. And, and, you know, you, you, so you have to kind of go in with your, you know, you've already, you know, running, you know, your feet already moving, because, you know, then the whole thing is just to get on that train and like, not slow it down. You know, I mean, the trains, the train of the season has already been moving, you know, like I did. The first supernatural episode I did, I think was like, number 238. I was like, Alright, so they've done pretty well. But it's not like, you know, and that's, that's a different thing. That's a different, you know, like, as a feature director, the feature director is especially indie, like, the director is like, the chief, like the frickin creative, like, you know, because that's the way it is, there has to be one or two people that are like, you know, because, you know, you just have to be that we got to be quick, and you got to be, you know, got a movie and television, like I was saying, the trains already been moving, you just get on and you lead, you know, you drive the train for a little while, then you get off and let the other guy drive. And the homemade, the big thing is like, to learn how the, how it runs the learn what, you know, what kind of show it is, you know, you know, try to get as much information I mean, watch as many of the episodes as you can, if you haven't watched the show, you know, for supernatural, it was like, I just watched, I just try to watch as many as like, I watched the whole first season, and then I watched, you know, like, just look for, like, the most important shows of all the seasons, and I tried to catch up as much as possible, but there's no way you're gonna be able to see that many episodes but but you know, you get in there and you just you just try it, you figure out where you know what Pete what the crew needs, you know, sometimes the actors need more attention. Sometimes the DP is, you know, automatic, you know, how it is, sometimes they're they're big, give you, you know, sometimes a dp. I mean, and that's the thing about episodic is that, really, if you really, if you really, if it really came to it, you as a director could just sit there and let you know that the crew knows what they're doing that the actors know, their characters, the DP knows how they're, you know, they've been shooting this this show for years now or whatever. So you really can sit back and just watch them, you know, watch them work. And so you have to figure out like, how Much sitting back do I need to do because there's different shows, some shows are, you know, are very much like we need, you know, we need shot sheets and they're very much directed a pendant and other shows are more just kind of, you know, make definitely supervise and try to you know, bring your vision and your you know, your blocking and all that stuff. But the show already has a look and is already fully cast. So it's not like you're gonna be able to come in there and do anything. Dramatic traffic, your traffic. Yeah, basically. But I love it, man. I mean, I really do. You know, like, I didn't know how, you know, if I was gonna like it the idea of like, not being in control and not, you know, not being, you know, the one that that has to have all the answers all the time. But I really enjoy I really love you know, meeting crew, the crew and like, like, for me, I don't know how you feel. But like crew, the crew is the crew like, yeah, you're saying like, I mean, it doesn't matter. I mean, I haven't worked extensively in LA. But even, you know, from where I worked in LA, like the crews are just, you know, if you treat them with respect, oh, yeah, they're gonna love you, man. Because they are really doing the hard work, you know, absolutely. whose work their asses off. So if you go in and you show that you're respectful to their time, where you're not, you're not making them sit around, you're not making them have a late day for no frickin reason. Or you're trying you have a plan and you're trying to make everything you know, you're trying to make decisions as quickly as possible. They appreciate that. And so I you know, I get along really well with the crews and and so far man knock on wood, every show I've done I've been invited back to so

Alex Ferrari 1:11:36
That's a that's a big that's a big sign right there.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:11:38
That's a big yeah, it's a big, you know, so hopefully I'm, you know, something, I'm doing something right. But for me, like right now, for me and my partner, Greg, it's, we're, our big thing is to try to is to get our own TV show going. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:51
And now there's so many there's 500 of them on on their streaming, Oh, man.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:11:55
And also, and also, you know, in the horror genre is really hot right now on television, you know, so we just pitched the show a couple of weeks ago, and we're getting another one ready, we're going to be getting another one ready, like next month, and we're just going to keep doing it, we almost had to show it at stars. Last year, that unfortunately was supposed to shoot in Cuba. It would have been great. And then Castro died. And then Trump was elected. And, you know, things have changed that a little complicated. Now, as far as shooting in Cuba. We were working with Alejandro blue has who's another Cuban Sure. Another director. And we were I mean, we you know, we were in love with the show stars was in love with the show. And but but so we're determined to kind of get our own show going. And, you know, and really dive into that, you know, I mean, because the you know, and still, you know, keep a, you know, a toe or whatever in the indie world I have, you know, three or four movies that are, you know, that are in various places and development being written or about to be pitched or you know, so I'm always doing you know, going to try to keep doing features because I really do love making films, but I do love television and it really does make you a much better director man just you know, see it just Yeah, I just you get you get a he just exercises those muscles of like, you know, getting things get in there, block it rehearse and then you know, figure out where you're gonna shoot it from and just start you know, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:25
And go Yeah, you're not gonna sit there for weeks and weeks and weeks. You go.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:13:29
No, it's made me much faster and and I look forward to it every time.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:35
So what makes a great Scary Movie man.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:13:40
That's a great question. I mean, to me, it's always about you know, character to a certain extent. I mean, obviously, you know, it always helps to have good characters but for me, it's like you know, show me you got to show me something new you know what I mean? And that and that new can because because you know, it really is you know, horror films you know, the really kind of the ones that really have made a mark really kind of do advanced things like they always bring in new techniques and because really a horror movie is just and and every movie is basically a trick you know, you're tricking the audience into believing that this is real right and horror movies are you know, in comedies you know, yet the you know, make people laugh which is awesome, which is a challenge but in movies it's the I think it's the big and horror movies The biggest challenge because you have to scare people and once people are scared of I've seen you know have been scared in one way that wears out the more you use it, you know, like you're saying like the cat jumping out at the camera worked, you know, the first couple of times, it was used, but now you have to do you have to you know, even the way you formulate your jumpscares You have to come up with new stuff, you know. So for me, it's about, you know, a good horror film takes me to a, into a makes me feel vulnerable in a new in a new way or, or or creeps me out in a new way or shows me something that or makes them lets me hear something or feel something scary that I haven't felt often or, you know, or the last film I the last horror film I saw didn't make me feel you know, so whether it's camera, you know movement or just, you know the way the tone technique, technique lighting, you know, whether it's a really good monster, whether it's a really good jumpscare whether it's really good, you know, mythology, whether it's up imagery, you know, sound, there's so many ways to do it, you know, but, you know, it's, it's every time it's, you know, it's a difficult process, because you do have to kind of, you know, especially now like the horror audiences are so savvy that they know every trick, you know, and, and so you have to kind of stay one step ahead of them and know, but for me, man, it's like, if it scares me, I feel that, like, there's a good chance that it'll scare, you know, at least some other people you know, so that's kind of a, you know, I approach my phones, but it's not hard to scare me, man. Like, I really, like, there's a reason why I never considered myself a horror filmmaker, is because, you know, I don't I don't really enjoy watching horror movies like effective ones, you know, like, I don't like, you know, people, you know, I don't like they don't particularly like, you know, seeing people in misery. I mean, like, so, so for me, like, you know, learning to be a horror filmmaker, which is really what I've had to do after Blair, which has been really a very educational experience. And also, it's made me really, you know, look up to the people that that do it repeatedly, you know, do it well. And, you know, and also my horror films, is a filmmaker, it's a little, it's a little dangerous, at least for me, because, like, you really get into these dark places in your mind that are not really, you know, not really the normal thing that that a human being should be, should be thinking about 24 hours a day is for months on end, or how kids can be, you know, how ways to kill people or, you know, it's not, it's not a good place to be. And even and that's why, you know, I know, you know, the idea of making a, you know, a comedy after Blair, which is actually very funny, right. But first, me and Dan, like, it was a form of therapy that we really needed after living in this really dark Blair Witch world for three years, you know, God,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:51
I can only imagine

Eduardo Sanchez 1:17:51
Psychologically what that does do. Yeah, man. So and, you know, so we, you know, for us, it was just like, you know, the attempt of to make a comedy was just somewhere to just like, go on a completely different direction, release all this, you know, negative energy, and then come back and, you know, back crash to the horror genre.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:10
So I have a few more questions that I asked all my guests if you have if you still got some time. Yeah. All right. Cool. So first of all, who are some of your favorite directors and why?

Eduardo Sanchez 1:18:23
He, I mean, there's so many of them. But there's a couple. Yeah, yeah. Spike Lee, we talked about, you know, like, really, you know, just made me angry and then made me love him more than anybody. And then, you know, Spielberg, you know, because just certain magic in Spielberg that nobody else can really capture for some reason. And then Stanley Kubrick, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:18:47
I'm a huge Kubrick, you know, everybody loves Kubrick. I mean, you gotta love Kubrick, man, the shining Dude, that's just shy just still freaks me out. It's like, it gets in your bones that Muller

Eduardo Sanchez 1:18:59
Yeah, yeah. Like he had this. You had an ability to like, really put something on on the cellular way that that a lot of most other filmmakers Couldn't you know what I mean, there was just something about his films that like any idea, like a shining and, you know, little metal metal jacket in 2001. And there's so many, like, just kind of an all over the place. You know, he made films about all kinds of different things. He

Alex Ferrari 1:19:26
Jumped genres, that's for sure.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:19:28
Yeah. And, but yeah, and then you know, Scorsese, like when I you know, discovered taxi driver, I was, you know, I don't know how many times I watched it, but you know, it's just such a dark and creepy and just weird and like, it's just so cool. You know, ride I was stuck a little ride of a movie, you know, just crazy man. And, you know, so you know, but there's so many. There's, there's hundreds of them. There's hundreds. There's so many. You know, I mean Hitchcock, of course, Yeah, and you know, and for me, like, you know, composers, I think are like for me, like film music. I was a big fan of film music also around Star Wars. And I think the power of like, like the great composers are, I think part of the magic of Spielberg is john Williams, for sure. I mean, absolutely. But yeah, man, that that those are, those are the three or four top like my guys that I always go back to.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:30
Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to start out in the business today?

Eduardo Sanchez 1:20:36
It depends on what you want to do. Like, if you want to, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:39
He wants to be a filmmaker,

Eduardo Sanchez 1:20:41
You gotta you got to make your a movie, man, you got to make a movie, you know, you. I mean, there, you know, you can, there's, there's so many ways, different ways to do it. But you I mean, first of all, the might, the big thing is to prove to show not only other people, but yourself that you can make a movie because, you know, there's very few people that are gonna let you that are going to give you millions of dollars to without you, you know, without ever seeing any of your of your material, you know, of your work. So, just do do, you know, make films as much as possible, just get what, you know, even if you're shooting with your iPhone, I mean, you know, I shot a movie on on VHS, and then I shot a movie on a high eight that ended up in the movie theater. So yeah, iPhone is like a was what would have been a dream to have in those days, you know, so, yeah. And also for me, like, it's very important to, like, if you want to make your mark as like a director is to like, you can be influenced by directors, and you can be like, obviously, inspired by certain movies, but you really got, especially your early work, you really got to try to find your own voice, you know, like, even if it's a no and write about and shoot films about things that you know, you know, that you've experienced, or that you can, you know, that you that you are that, that make you that are unique to you, you know, I mean, like I see, and even, you know, you know, even me early on, you know, like, you know, it's just hard to not want to be to do some Steven Spielberg stuff, you know, I mean, people that you admire, or like, you know, James Bond, like, I love James Bond movies, for the idea of like, oh, man, I'd love to make a joke, you know, doing like a James Bond movie, but like, for me, it's like, you got to find something that is going to give you is going to set you apart from everybody else. And now like, you know, when, you know, when I was younger, you know, the problem was just make just getting the equipment to make the film was the stumbling here was the was the gatekeeper, as we talked about earlier. Now, the gatekeeper is you can, it's easy to make a movie, I mean, relatively easy to make a movie, you know, the equipment is everywhere, you can edit on your computer, you know, things that, you know, we never had, when we were younger. But the idea is now you have to break through, you have to there's, there's 1000s of these low budget features being made every year. So you've got to, like, break through, not only above them, but you've got to make break through into into the, you know, into the, into the area where professional filmmakers are working. So the more unique you are, even if it's a really small story, it'll go a lot longer a lot, you know, a lot longer a lot, a lot more, you know, give you a lot more, you know, juice to do something, you know, unique, even if it's small. And then if you if you have, you know, like, you know, you you see you see these stories of these young young guys that have made these like little special effects movies, and then they get these huge country or these huge movies. And I mean, that's another way to do it. You know, it really, there's very, very few of those examples out there. But you know, there's, there's some people who have made these really incredible, short films, and, but they're rare. They are rare. They're super rare. So and even those films, like you have to, there's a certain level of competence that you have to show or else

Alex Ferrari 1:24:07
District 9

Eduardo Sanchez 1:24:09
Yeah, or even the guy who did controversy. controvert right. He did, like, short, kind of, so so. So I think that, you know, the, the, that they're, like I said, there's many ways of doing it, you know, if you're a writer, you know, write a script, there's still you know, even though specs, the spec market is is very limited. There's still people you know, at least people will refer to a good script, people will read it, you know, people will, you know, know, so there's many ways to do it. But you know, you just got to go out there and do it. I made a lot of people, a lot of filmmakers, you know, all my life, who are always, you know, they're like, Oh, I want to do this feature, but I'm trying to get you know, an actor. I'm trying to get john Cusack. I'm like, dude, you're not gonna get john USAC Alright, I am saying like, you might Yeah, you I can tell you right now. Yeah, you might, you might also win the lottery too, you know, you never know. But, you know, once you go down that road that everybody else is going down, including filmmakers that with a much better better track record than you, you know, you've your, your, your, you know, your odds are, are, are totally, you know, not in your favor. So the idea is like, just go ahead and do it yourself and just try to, you know, try to come up with something that you haven't seen before, or do it in a way that you haven't seen before. You know, I mean, it's not about like, an original story, you know, because, you know, as long as well done, and it's like coming at it from a different point of view. I think people that's what people want to see, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:42
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? It's deep, it's deep.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:25:50
That's a deep one. You know, I mean, I guess, I guess it's, you know, when really, I learned it a lot. I learned the big thing on Blair Witch, as far as like, you know, filmmaking was concerned is the idea that, like, you know, there's, there's this very kind of dark for most people, it's dark to other people, you know, they, they, they love it, but the idea that, like, felt, you know, like, we were talking about, like, the idea of like, this superstar director, you know, I mean, like, that's something that really, you know, that was something that, like, I really love the idea of that and it still creeps in sometimes, you know, you just want to be this, you know, your ego kind of wants this, you know, adulation, you know, I mean. And that leads to as early early in my career is the idea that you have to control everything that you have to, you know, write the movie and directed and edited and lighted and, you know, uh, you know, better than everybody but Blair Witch especially taught me that, that, you know, it is, it's the ultimate collaborative art form, you know, and you really have to, you know, you have to choose your, your people carefully, and that and that not only your actors, but the people, you know, who are on your crew. You know, like, and the whole idea is that is releasing this, this need to control everything, and letting and letting the your crew and your actors make, make a better movie with you, or make a better TV show along with you instead of for you, you know what I mean? And, and in life, I think it's the same way, like the idea that like, you know, you can't control you, the only person you can control is yourself, you know, what I mean? And, you know, so I think as a filmmaker, like, the idea of like, you know, a lot of times like, you have an idea and then somebody else comes in, it could be you know, your partner, your writing partner, your directing partner, or it can come from a PA, but the, the ability to recognize a better idea and not have your ego you know, you know, destroy it or not, you know, not give it a chance to like grow. That's to me was the was like, the big the biggest lesson that I've learned is the idea of like, you know, in filmmaking is, you know, it is about your vision, and it's about you know, putting ideas, whatever, but it's also like if you put that your film in your project will be much better if you bring talented people around you and you treat them with respect and you treat them like true partners, right? Whether it's an actor or anybody else, you know, I mean, I mean obviously there's times for collaboration and there's times for not you know, for collaboration especially on the set you know, but the idea that like an A good a good idea can come from anybody and not to feel this like it didn't come from me so I'm not going to use it you know what I mean? Like that's me like it's still something that I still you know fight with you know, I still battle with that you know what i mean but so so you know, putting the work above you know, the the the end product above any kind of you know demand yeah be any kind of demand your ego you know, wants and I'm saying so, that's like a, that's a big thing for me.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:23
And one last question, and is arguably the hardest one three of your favorite films of all time.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:29:29
Wow. Well do the right thing. We already discussed that Blade Runner.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:35
Oh, such an amazing film. Can't wait for that. I'm looking forward to the sequel about you.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:29:39
Yeah, man. I mean, I mean, the the the trailer, honestly is not looking great to me. Okay, spot. I'm gonna be there, you know. Yeah. I know. I think it's gonna be better than the trailer. I hope it is.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:57
It's hard. It's hard to come back. It's it's hard. To make a secret

Eduardo Sanchez 1:30:01
You know you can't have been Blade Runner was just this you know and just like you know like again like Ridley Scott another really Scott's another one of my favorite filmmakers was like just like the magic he caught in the idea that like they let him do that I guess because you know Harrison Ford was like I guess you know he was right after the radar Raiders but I guess Raiders had I don't know how successful Raiders was while they were shooting Blade Runner

Alex Ferrari 1:30:26
Star Wars and Raiders both

Eduardo Sanchez 1:30:28
Yeah, but just yeah, just the idea that they let him do make that movie you know what I mean? Because it's just such a union that I love that Ben Jealous score. just just just so many cool things about it. And then the third one I've come up with, you know, something out of the Ord like Notting Hill

Alex Ferrari 1:30:52
I do love Notting Hill it's I watch it the other day with my wife

Eduardo Sanchez 1:30:55
It's my favorite like romantic comedy like it because it's like the ultimate like dream like a normal guy hooking up with a beautiful movie star you know, and, and it's just the whole British thing. And it's a really fun movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:10
Yeah, that in love actually are two of my favorites.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:31:13
Save. The Love Actually is like you know, there's that still has this. I think Notting Hill is like a little less, you know, on the cheeseball side, but love actually is like a definitely like a yearly thing for me and my wife.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:26
Yeah, Chris was gonna watch it. Yeah, it's just one of those films man. Man Listen, and why the man thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to the tribe and share your your your journey, your experience and your knowledge with us, man, I truly appreciate you taking all this time. And I've taken up more time than I expected to. But thank you so much for being so generous.

Eduardo Sanchez 1:31:47
I appreciate being on and and a good discussion, man. Thank you.

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BPS 242: How to Build a Profitable Horror Film with Stephen Follows

Today on the show we have returning champion Stephen Follows. In this Halloween themed episode, we dive into Stephen’s opus, The Horror Report. The report was created by using data on every horror film ever made, a data-driven dive into everything from development, production, and distribution to recoupment and profitability.

Stephen Follows is an established data researcher in the film industry whose work has been featured in the New York Times, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Evening Standard, Newsweek, The News Statesman, AV Club, and Indiewire.

He acted as an industry consultant and guest on the BBC Radio 4 series The Business of Film, which was topped the iTunes podcast chart, and has consulted for a wide variety of clients, including the Smithsonian in Washington. He has been commissioned to write reports for key film industry bodies and his most recent study, looking at gender inequity in the UK film industry and was launched on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ program.

Stephen has taught at major film schools, normal business schools, and minor primary schools. His lessons range established topics from Producing at MA and BA level, online video and the business of film producing to more adventurous topics such as measuring the unmeasurable, advanced creative thinking and the psychology of film producing. He has taught at the National Film and Television School (NFTS), Met Film School, NYU, Filmbase, and on behalf of the BFI, the BBC, and the British Council.

Stephen has produced over 100 short films and two features. Past clients range from computer game giants, technology giants, and sporting giants but sadly no actual giants. He’s shot people in love, in the air, on the beach, and on fire (although not at the same time) across over a dozen different countries in locations ranging from the Circle Line to the Arctic Circle.

Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Stephen Follows.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 1:22
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Stephen Follows How you doing, brother?

Steven Follows 3:01
I'm good. Thank you. I didn't realize I'd won. So

Alex Ferrari 3:03
You've won

Steven Follows 3:04
I'm the champion.

Alex Ferrari 3:05
You are a returning champion, because you were on the show once before a very popular episode about what was the best? It was like the report on independent filmmaking basically correct.

Steven Follows 3:18
Yeah, that particular one was about we had access to 12,000 unproduced scripts, mostly unproduced scripts, and we were analyzing them for because we also had the scores from readers as well. So what do readers think a good script looks like? And we went through in lots of different different areas of detail.

Alex Ferrari 3:33
It was insane. And like I was saying, before we got on the show is even I mean, I'm such a fan of what you do, because I just can't do it and, and it's just an insane amount of research that you put into these reports. That is, it is awe inspiring, honestly, it really is. So that's why I had to have you back on the show because you know, when I first discovered you I've known about you for a long time but when you jumped on the show we were going to talk about the independent film screenwriting and report but then I when I went back to your site I noticed like wait a minute, what is this and there was a horror report on every horror movie ever made. And I'm like, What is this and when I had you I'm like listen you're coming back on the show cuz we need to talk about this whole report because this is such a valuable information on arguably one of the most popular genres in all of independent filmmaking without question and it's so much good information there's I wanted to dig deep into what you discovered in that horror report but again, thank you for the work you do man because you what you do nobody else on the planet does.

Steven Follows 4:40
Yeah, well that that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing. It just means it's a unique thing. Exactly. The fact that you didn't find the report till he went back there for another reason just goes to show how poor I am at Marv. Yes, yeah, I can do the research and put it out there. But that's that's about it. But one thing I did want to say before we kick off properly is just to thank you as well because you're Your community are awesome. I had so many great questions and comments and notes and stuff people sent me they can contact me via my contact page, you go straight on my website go straight to me. And a lot of people said, Hey, I heard you on the podcast. And there was some really intelligent questions. There was some really useful ideas and thoughts and just a lovely group of people. So yeah, keep that up. And thanks so much for having me on.

Alex Ferrari 5:23
Oh, I appreciate that. The tribe is awesome, without question, and that that specific episode, which I will link in the show notes was exploded, people went crazy for it, it really kind of went a little viral. And it was downloaded, I think, easily 10s of 1000s of times. So it was it was done. It reached a lot of a lot of people because people are curious. And it's such a unique angle on what makes an independent film. Good. Well, let's, let's look at the numbers.

Steven Follows 5:54
Yeah, yeah, it's so it's so weird. It's unusual in the sense that I have friends who either successful in other businesses as investors or, or just run other businesses and other walks of life. And every now and then they hear something about the film industry. And they're like, what, how is that possible? How is that sustainable? And I'm like, it's not, but we just keep doing it. And it's kind of like the wily coyote running off the cliff, no one looked down, nobody, an independent film looked down. If one of you does, we're all screwed

Alex Ferrari 6:23
It's you know, and it's very true that and that's one of the reasons why I launched filmtrepreneur is because I wanted to give people some sort of blueprint on actually how to build a sustainable business around it and to think differently about independent films. And I really hope today's episode helps in that way, by looking at the horror genre, as you know, not only as a genre, but as a product, and then how you can kind of position yourself to kind of be in the best place to to actually be profitable.

Steven Follows 6:55
Absolutely. And it's one of those things that a lot of independent filmmakers see horror, as a good way in and for a few reasons, you know, a lot of filmmakers enjoy watching horror films. But also horror films can be made on quite low budgets, and also in the audience are much more willing to go with lower budgets, in fact, arguably, lower budgets can be really beneficial, because horror is about what you don't see. Whereas some of these really expensive genres. It's much more about what you do see, and so you can't do Lord of the Rings in your back garden. But you can do a horror film you can do in your shed, you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:30
Actually, I would love to see Lord of the Rings in the back garden. I mean, I think that anyone listening out there, if you can do that, and in a miniature standpoint, I think it'd be genius.

Steven Follows 7:39
Given where we are with YouTube nowadays, I'm sure it's been done and people are already linking in the show notes.

Alex Ferrari 7:45
Exactly. So for anybody who doesn't know you and your work, sir, can you tell the audience a little bit about you and what you do?

Steven Follows 7:54
Yeah, I'm a film, data stats person. It's not really a job. That's why it's hard to describe.

Alex Ferrari 8:00
You're the only one if you're the only one I love.

Steven Follows 8:03
Yeah. Yeah. So my name is my job title. And no. So I, I actually run a production company in London. And we make we videos and do sort of various bits of marketing stuff for charities in the in London. And that's my day job. And then kind of part time hobby thing that goes out control has been, I've always been really keen on teaching and sharing knowledge and understanding how things work, and sort of slightly a quirk of fate and then keeping going. I have a blog that's been running now for about six years, that looks each week, I look at a different topic within the film industry. And I try and find the data that could reveal what's going on. And sometimes it's data that we all know, but it's a different spin on it. And sometimes, and the most interesting ones are when I'm doing my own primary research, or there's new areas that we haven't thought about. So, for example, I just published an article looking at weather first time directors are a financial risk compared to more experienced directors.

Alex Ferrari 8:57
Yeah, I actually saw that I saw that fly through my feed. So and what's the what's the answer, sir?

Steven Follows 9:04
Yeah, they're slightly more risky, but only not by very much, and certainly not by the amount the industry says. And I think that a lot of what I find, actually reflects that truth, which is, most stereotypes most cliches most urban myths have. Industry myths have some germ or idea or seed of not of truth in them, but they're blown all our proportion and to the detriment of many people. And what that causes is that you end up with disenfranchising all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. So I think what I like is to is to go back and have a look at the data and say, well, Is this true? And so to what extent and if so, why, you know, what is it about that, that makes first time directors more experience, more of a risk or less of a risk and, and where as well because we talk about the film industry, if it's what is if it's one thing, but you can't lump in a small film in a, you know, Hobbs insure type movie, you can't lump in different genres, different audiences, and also different platforms. So there's so many different ways of cutting up what we do. And we call it one industry that you always have to get under the surface. There's no one truth that's going to work for all films in all places.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
Yeah, that's the one thing I find. So I've in my tenure over 20 odd years in the business that I've found, so just irritating. Is that hole, that kind of those the industry myths, like, I remember a time where I was out there pitching a female lead action movie. And all I heard was, oh, they don't make money. They don't make money. They don't make money. And now they're making money. You know, it's like, it's like, ridiculous, or there was no Latino, you know, Latino, or people of color, don't direct it. They just get their movies don't do well, like how ridiculous is that? And yet, the last five out of six best Oscar winners were were Latinos.

Steven Follows 10:57
Yeah. Directors. Yeah, something something could have been true. And absolutely. might be true for good reason. No, it might be true. Just because the enough you measure enough things, you're going to get some bizarre correlations, you know, you flip a coin enough, you're going to get 20 heads in a row. That doesn't mean it's a biased coin. And so for example, pirate movies didn't work. Everyone knew pirate movies failed, until they were the biggest thing ever. And

Alex Ferrari 11:20
Swords and sandals, swords and sandals movies as well.

Steven Follows 11:23
Exactly. It's all cyclical like that. And so yeah, it's one of those things that I'm really interested in trying to understand why these industry, myths and systems are the way they are so that we can all work out what to learn from them, because we can't just follow the facts, because first of all, the facts aren't clear, in all cases. And then second of all, we're in this because we love it. And I often say I often talk about this, because I think anyone who succeeds in film could have a far better career and far easier time and better working hours more certainty, if they weren't in almost any other field. And yeah, we all love this, we're all slightly mad, and that's great. But given that you're being mad doesn't mean you have to be crazy about it. You know, like, if you're gonna go off and make a film and put far too much time and energy into it. That doesn't mean you just do it any way you want, do the smart way. Because you're much more likely to achieve the goals that you set out for yourself and say are important. And I think that's what data can do. He can't tell you what to do. But it can say given that you want to do X, what's the smart way of doing x?

Alex Ferrari 12:24
Right. And again, and that's what I that's what I love about your work is that you're able to look at your you're basically having filmmakers look at the film industry differently, you're out, you're thinking outside the box a little bit, and you're going at it through data like this, like, Look, there's no argument here. This is the data. And this is what the data says, I don't care what anybody else says, I don't care what the myths are. This is what the data says, and this kind of movies doing this money in this how much is done over the last 500 years, or excuse me for a few hours, or so on. And, and, and you're thinking about it differently. And that's what I hope filmstrip runners do is they start thinking about filmmaking, as a completely different beast than what they were taught in school, or what the industry even tells them is the reality.

Steven Follows 13:10
And and also, the thing is two things to say about that as well, which I totally agree. One is that even if someone says to you, this isn't going to make money, or these things don't normally work or it's a bigger risk than something else, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You know, what you do with that information is up to you. Like all I'm doing is saying this has been the case and you should follow your heart, you should do what you know is right. And the second thing to say is that if we only did what worked before we'd never have any innovation would never have anything different. And God knows in the creative fields, you can reinvent anything, you know, you can have films that are hugely derivative that are very successful, you can have original films that are very bad. There's nothing to say that because it hasn't happened. It won't happen in the future. The key is to understand why the trends are the way they are, and then feed that into your own machine in your head about what here's what I care about. This is what I know, this is what I can do differently and then make informed choices for yourself.

Alex Ferrari 14:03
Right I mean, horror films that I've been extremely successful like paranormal activity, or Blair Witch, which are the two that everyone uses constantly. As a reference point, I like look all horror movies make this money? No, they don't. But, but on paper, both those films sound horrific. And I don't mean that in a good way. They sound like absolute failures on paper. Like if you would have come to me and told me Hey, I'm going to make a movie about you know, shot really low budge this this or this back then everybody traditional thinking would have said absolutely not, that's never going to work and it's never gonna make any money. You're never gonna see this in the theater. But yet, it's there. They're two of the most successful films of all time in the genre for a reason

Steven Follows 14:49
Totally, totally. And this is a survivorship bias there as well. You know, found footage films, so there's quite a lot of the made because they're so cheap to make. So it's not surprising that one of the most successful films will be found footage film doesn't mean it's not an important part of it, it just means if you have 10,000 of any type of film made, one or two of them are going to be wildly successful. Whereas if you're setting out to make the 10 1000s and first film, do you have a better chance than if you made a different type of film? And maybe this other type of film doesn't have any of these outliers that give you really sexy numbers, but you know, three quarters of the make money? What's, what's your risk profile? What do you want to do? Do you want to shoot for the moon? and buy a lottery ticket? Or do you want to do something consistently and safely? And they're all valid answers? As I said, everything we're doing is stupid. So there's no such thing as like, Oh, you shouldn't have done that. It's like, No, no, no, no, no, we've all run away to join the circus is just you know, what, how we live in that circus. And what we do is totally up to our own passion and interest.

Alex Ferrari 15:48
No, with without great, I love that, like, you know, buy a lottery ticket. I think most independent filmmakers do buy a lottery ticket every time, every single time out there just like, well, this is going to be I'm going to get into Sundance and this is going to make it and boom, boom, boom, and I'm off and running, where you and I both know that that's not the way this business runs. And there is no other business. And I've said this multiple times, there is no other business in the world that I know of that will spend 300,000 $500,000 on a product, and yet, do not have a plan to market and sell that product or recoup its investment. A solid plan is my man.

Steven Follows 16:29
No, you're totally right. And also, each of these films is a prototype, you know, the most derivative film is still somewhat of a prototype, maybe not, maybe maybe the 20th version of something maybe less of a prototype, but fundamentally what business spends all this massive amount of money on prototypes without distribution without marketing plans, distribution plans, and then has to go back to the drawing board. Again, we're almost all businesses, if you look at the opposite, which is drug companies where they spend a fortune to make the first pill, and then they can churn them out for next to nothing and recoup their r&d costs. You know, we have the first half of that and not the second half. Because you have a successful film, especially indie film, well done. What's next? Oh, yeah, I'm gonna rip off all this up, start again.

Alex Ferrari 17:09
Exactly. Now, are you familiar with the blue ocean? Red ocean theory? No, no, no, I'm not. So there's a book called Blue Ocean red ocean. And the concept is in this is for entrepreneurs, but I, as a film intrapreneur, I'm actually applying it to filmmaking. And I think this when you said 10,001, of this kind of genre film, like, let's say, the found footage film, when paranormal activity. And actually, when Blair Witch showed up, they were the first one of the first if not the first, to be in that ocean, that ocean where we would call a blue ocean, which is an ocean that has plenty of fish in it, no competition, because nobody is there. While the red ocean would be, let's say, a slasher film, where there's tons of movies being made or ghost movie, tons of movies in that space are being made. So there's a lot that you know, there's hundreds of those movies bumped out a year. So there's a lot more competition for that audience for that customer. Because they are, you know, that's why there's blood in the water, because it's just like, it's a feeding frenzy. There. So there is a lot of fish, but there's also a lot of competition, and everyone's just killing each other trying to get to that to those customers, where if you go with a blue ocean strategy, you build a product that is going to be a little riskier, possibly. But if you do it more intelligently using data, like we're going to talk about you right, you're you're able to, to, to, to shave off the risk as much. And also, if it hits, you're alone. So that's why like when Paranormal Activity showed up, there was nothing like it before it but also the risk of it was nothing It cost $27,000. So why not try to do something in the blue ocean? Because if it does pop, great. And if it doesn't pop, you still have lost? You know, if you keep keep that overhead low, you're able to still recoup that money faster. Does that make any sense?

Steven Follows 19:04
Yeah, totally. And I think also you have to remember, if you're thinking purely about horror, you need to think about what is it that people want from low budget horror, they want something I've never seen before. And so if you're just iterating on what someone else has done, okay, if you truly made it a little bit better, but fundamentally, if you're just iterating you need to have another edge. You know, you need to have stars, you need to have distribution, you need to have something or maybe the fourth film in a series, okay, fine. But otherwise, if you really want to succeed you need some sort of clever hook that is something that just gets in people's brains and go ha you know, like things like the purge or saw such great simple ideas that can be expressed in a sentence or two, or Blair Witch or paranormal, which is about the the uncomfortable experience of, I don't know what's going to happen. I literally don't know what's going to happen because I have no template for this. Arguably hora is the one that's most open to that. And the least would be sort of family films, anything with children who everybody wants to know what's going to happen. All right, everybody, you need to note that the parent thing to note that the kids aren't gonna be scared at all. So you can't even have tension for very long. Because for kids, that's an age and that's terrifying. So, arguably, in horror, you should be going for the thing that no one else is doing. And you should do it wholly, originally and unusually, because that's likely to insulate you or help you at least in getting to break out from the crowd of horror films.

Alex Ferrari 20:22
Right? And I remember, you know, I always I always tell people to sub niche, you know, the film intrapreneur should sub niche and just niche down. So if you're going to be in horror, that's a niche. Then you go, Okay, what kind of horror movie you're gonna I'm gonna make a slasher film. Okay. Okay, that's, that's a niche. But then there's still a lot of competition in there. So like, why don't you try to make an 80s slasher film? Well, that's a little bit smaller genre, which will open up to a lot of other people, but there's a group of people or of that niche, who want to see ad style horror, and then generate and do a film in that genre. If that's so again, you're just bettering your chances of reaching an audience, especially on a low budget horror movie, and especially if you're going to try to market it and sell it yourself. Does that make sense?

Steven Follows 21:09
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a there's a business concept called category of one, which is this idea that you need to create a new type of thing. So I think the the iconic example everyone gives is light beers, where Miller light created it, you know, you just go it didn't exist, and now it does. And actually, it's better to be number one in a new marketplace than it is to be 20th. Or even say yes, in an existing one. So if you, I mean, that's one of the things that really worked, one of the many things that worked with Shaun of the Dead was the advertise itself as a zom rom com, zombie romantic comedy. And of course, there have been other other films in the past that have used those elements. But it had that unique kind of No, no, honestly, it's all three genres. And it's sold itself very well now. So I'm not saying invented the category, but it's certainly more iconic than its zombie film, or it's a rom com with zombies, you know? So, I think yeah, it's especially important with horror, because I mean, how I got how I got into this, I mean, I don't particularly watch that many horror films. I don't, I don't mind horror films. There's just an eye there are some I really like things like Cabin in the Woods really, really interesting to me. But I'm just in and of itself, being scared or having that tension isn't, isn't my jam. That isn't what I want. But what really got me into it was I was doing research looking at how successful films were based around their critics and audience scores. So what a film critics think of a movie and how likely is it to make money? And what do film audiences as measured? I think, by the IMDb score, the audience score, what does that well, how was the connection between that and profitability, I was using models that actually work out how much money in dollars and cents each movie is likely to have made, which it might be a bit tricky film to film. But overall, it's pretty accurate, and correlating it with these things. And I discovered that most genres, in fact, all but one, there's a pretty strong correlation between how good a movie is and how much money it makes, right? Horror has almost none. Like it has a correlation. But like, I can't remember the numbers, but like the, for most genres, it was sort of its measured on a scale of one to minus two minus one where one would be an exact correlation, but a movie is the more money it makes, minus one would be the reverse. So the more money the more money it makes, the worse tends to be. And anything below about naught point two or and or above naught point minus to naught point minus two tends to be insignificant statistically. And it is about naught point two for horror films. And it's like, point 8.9. For every other genre. It's like a world of difference. And so it's so

Alex Ferrari 23:39
Interesting that I've thought about it. I mean, as you're saying, It's obvious, but yet, I've really never sat down and go, you know, a horror is the only genre that if, if it's a bad movie, it could still make a lot of money. And actually, sometimes the worst the movie, the the more money it makes it hence shark NATO's entire world.

Steven Follows 24:00
Exactly. But the key thing is that on average, across all movies, it doesn't matter. It just of every single genre, it matters to some degree and to a large degree, but the horror, it's kind of irrelevant. And I used to purge a moment ago, right, which is, everybody agrees it's a bad movie. Like, I know, this isn't this isn't my subjective opinion. It's like, you look at the reviews from from critics. And they're like, yeah, it's not very good. Critics don't like horror films generally. But okay, so let's move to audiences. Audiences generally give it middling reviews, like it's, there's some people out there will love it. But when you compare it to movies that get across the board, great scores and things. It's, it's nowhere close.

Alex Ferrari 24:36
How many are there? How many are there? There's like three or four of them?

Steven Follows 24:39
I don't know. I haven't kept up. Okay. Like,

Alex Ferrari 24:42
I know, there's at least three.

Steven Follows 24:44
I think there'll be another one by the time we finished the recording. Like, of course, why not? I don't mean that in any kind of, I'm not being pejorative here, right? Like if that's what people want. So people aren't going to it for quality. But then if you look at I'm sure if you did this analysis With the quality of the food of a restaurant, and how successful it is, you would find certain things like McDonald's, where even if you really like it, no one is saying this is great quality. They're saying, Yeah, I like this. But there are other factors going on. And in that case, it might be the marketing, it might be the convenience, obviously, price plays a big part in that. And so it get when I was doing this analysis between critics ratings and profitability, I was thinking, Okay, well, if, if it doesn't matter if it's any good, if everyone agrees, it doesn't matter, what does matter. And I that just kind of stuck in my brain for a while, and I just couldn't get it out. And I couldn't stop thinking about well, it's not like there'll be one answer, you know, but there's got to be patterns. And arguably, if the horror audience don't care how much your film costs, I mean, obviously, they do to some degree, but of all genres, they care the least. And if they don't care if it's any good, then maybe they're being a bit more. Maybe that what their intentions are easier to read as to what they do want from a horror film. And so that just took me down the path of saying, Okay, well, obviously, you have to start with how many horror films are there? And what type are they and you have to categorize them, and all sorts of things. And then I just sort of kind of grew. And it got to the point where I had completed research on most, if not all parts of the film value chain. So right, from development of films, what types they are adaptations and titles of movies, through to financing. And obviously, the whole production process and post production and also marketing, distribution, and all the different windows of release, and festivals and things. By the end, I sort of hadn't realized, like, I'd sort of done all of that. And yeah, so then in the end, I put it together as a report, that's a couple of 100 pages. And it's available on pay what you want, it's a minimum of a pound, which is about $1. Now, will be about half $1 in a few weeks, a few cents after Brexit. But yeah, to pay what you want model and I just thought, you know what that's especially with horror, like, Can you imagine selling a report per $1,000? And like, the only people that are by it would be studios and the actual people who need this who are going to change what they're doing. independent filmmakers, and yeah, so that's awesome. Yeah, it's been a really interesting journey. And I

Alex Ferrari 27:20
want to know, what is the genre in what is the horror genre that is the most successful you know, as far as box office return, or just return on investment? The sub genre in the horse like parent? Yeah,

Steven Follows 27:32
well, thanks. Well, let's let's you know, let's start by talking about what is horror because, um, you know, I was expecting some subjective complicated questions I wasn't expecting my first question would be what's a horror film? And I think I even went to read it and said, Hey, guys, what's a horror film? And everyone went, Oh, my God, you can't you know, who knows? And everyone argues and, and there's films like Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing, where I looked at maybe 20 different film listing sites on about half said it was a horror half a horror film at all. Well, half of them say it is

Alex Ferrari 28:07
insane. It's a it's a it's a it's an action. It's like a thriller, an action thriller. And even a thriller is kind of like a just a popcorn action film that happens to have some monsters in it. There's nothing really scary in it. If I remember correctly. I remember it being a horrible movie. That I do remember, what about I Am Legend? Oh, that's a rough one may see now that one is a hybrid of an action horror film. I feel so that is a heart.

Steven Follows 28:34
Yeah, my, basically when I did the research, so this may be not true for the last couple of years. But my understanding was, that's the most expensive horror film ever made. No, everyone agrees is our But anyway, so working out what a horror film was was wasn't the easiest. But then, as we talked about, that wasn't enough. I had to sub classify I had to work out within that what types of films are out there. So through all sorts of different methods, which I'm happy to talk about, but aren't really that important. I ended up coming up with six different subcategories of horror, which overlap so there are films that do more than one so we had found footage killer, paranormal, gore and disturbing that's one psychological and then monsters and it's interesting because you you see very clear patterns with budget so found footage movies tends to be the most of them are on the lowest budget whereas monster movies and Perhaps unsurprisingly, because you need to pay for the monster tends to be more expensive. And what that does is that also somewhat leads the profitability answer so found footage, movies, I calculate that about four out of five had made made a profit with one very, very important caveat, one important caveat which is about to disappoint every diner independent film I know exactly what it I know exactly what is going to be the got into thesis like it gets into theaters if it's in theaters, then four out of five of those find footage films, and they make a profit of some kind.

Alex Ferrari 30:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Well, let me But let me ask you a question. How much does the Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity activity skew those numbers?

Steven Follows 30:27
Well, it's a good question. So I've tried to account for that. And what I'm looking for is is, in some cases, averages, some cases, medians. It's not just those films, but at the same time, and and those films by the way, just as a data analysis thing are really annoying, because they do skew numbers, man,

Alex Ferrari 30:44
because they're they're anomalies. They're both anomalous.

Steven Follows 30:46
Well, see, that's the question, right? So is it it's like saying, What's the return on buying a lottery ticket, if you just exclude all the lottery winners? Because they're the unusual ones, then you haven't got a true summary of the market? So both including and excluding them was complicated. I can't remember how I accounted for this, but I definitely didn't just average all of them. Because that will tell you that's right. I looked at how many them? That's right, I looked at how many of them were likely to have made money. And how many of them were likely to have made a small amount of profit or a small loss, small loss or a lightly a big loss. And so those two would have just counted for two, you know, one each, it wouldn't have been. Okay, so paranormal Paranormal Activity made 20,000% of its budget back. And that just skews the numbers. But we shouldn't necessarily exclude them. You know, if if, if it is a lottery winner, then to some degree, it is out there as a prize. One thing that actually I wanted to say is something that you said earlier on, which I think is what you said was absolutely right. And I think there's one extra note to make on it. You said, If independent filmmakers want to make a buy a lottery ticket, then that's fine. Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And in fact, arguably, that's the essence of being an artist and a filmmaker. But the key is, do they sell it as a lottery ticket?

Alex Ferrari 32:05
No, they don't. They never do. They never do.

Steven Follows 32:08
They never that's the bit where you fool down. It's not making the movie that will make any money. That's fine. That's all, you know, good luck, promising that it will make the paranormal activity that will

Alex Ferrari 32:19
listen every single film business plan you have ever seen that has it's a horror movie, Blair Witch paranormal activity are in the models. Am I wrong? Every single one.

Steven Follows 32:30
I I've seen them a disproportionate number of low budget ones, and ones that weren't made. But and I've seen them in almost all of them. But if I were an investor, or and I do occasionally advise investors, who are people I know friends or friends or whatever. And if there's someone says I'm making a horror film, and I turned to their comps, and they have five comps, and two of them are those ones, I just close the report and say there's no point investing, because they're not being honest. It doesn't mean don't mention them, but put them in a separate box going by, you know, here are the 510 comps that we think are relevant. By the way, there is a secret special lottery also involved in this could be this. Exactly. And it's not untrue. You know, it's just that you can't make that out to be that every day. And the thing is the investors know that. And they actually if you're honest with them, they don't they're not, they're not really investing with you to make money. Because people who want to make money don't invest in film. They're doing it because they want to have a really good ride or they want if they feel like the movie should be made, or they believe in you. And they want to have the best investment that's possible, given those conditions. But if it's purely about profit, I mean, no one in the right mind says, oh, you're only interested in profit. I know film, you know, it's it's not that

Alex Ferrari 33:40
it's there's there. It's such an unknown quantity when you're making a film and actually trying to regenerate revenue to to it because it's such an expensive art form. In general, it's one of the most expensive art forms on the planet. If you have to, you have to generate an ROI on your film. And it is very difficult to quantify it. Because there's too many variables in it. Like if you make a widget, you take the widget to market and you sell the widget for 999. And the widget costs you 250 and you have a marketing plan and you put it out into the marketplace. And there you go. And that that's the widget films aren't widgets, films are massive conglomerations of widgets being moved, and then there's outside forces constantly shaping it. And let's not even talk about egos, and drama, and politics, and distribution. I mean, there's so many variables. Again, that's why I feel that a film entrepreneur method or model is a little bit more stable, because you look at it as multiple revenue streams and multiple things that you can do off of one movie and a lot of times the movie doesn't even have to make money for you to be able to generate money because you're building a business around the movie. But that's a whole other conversation. Yeah, I agree with you.

Steven Follows 35:03
So yeah, it's one of those things where it's, it's rich and poor. So a feast and famine. So if you're, if you're found footage, film makes it into theaters, which, and I don't just mean one theater that your cousin owns. I mean, like, it's got a distributor, it's got a release, it's got marketing, then actually, you're probably onto a good chance of making the original budget back. Obviously, that's heavily skewed by the fact that you probably spent less to make it the most, you know, most of the films but still profits or profit. But the the number of horror films is going through the roof. And actually, the percentage of horror films that actually make it into theaters is declining quite considerably. Expect and that's especially considering the fact that more and more films are being released in theaters every year. We're on sort of seven 800 in the US and eight 900 a year in the UK, which is bonkers, just completely mad. We're coming up to like 2020 a week 20 new movies every week. And really what we're talking about is that the 50 top grossing movies of all of each year account for 75% of the box office, both in America and Britain. So really, that's the top movie each week. So Hobson shore comes out this week plus 19 other movies he never heard of next week, another whole 20 and helps the shore is still out.

Alex Ferrari 36:14
And then the new and the new whatever studio movie that wants to come, you know, the Avengers or something like that comes out. Yeah, exactly. It's insane. Also, what is the most profitable sub genre? Apparently,

Steven Follows 36:28
it was found footage, so found footage was the most profitable, but also that's sort of the type of horror film. There's also you could look at them as sort of genres as well like hybrid genres like horror, comedy, or horror, action. And interestingly, horror, comedy and horror romance where the marginally the most profitable, especially but marginally. But again, if you look at the other end of the spectrum, horror, fantasy and horror action with the least but they're the most expensive, so it's so hard.

Alex Ferrari 36:55
Well, it's a horror romance, which is is very rare. They're rare. They're not a lot of them out there. So that I mean, horror comedies and horror romances are rare, but generally, and there is that myth in the industry that horror comedies make no money. That Yeah,

Steven Follows 37:11
proportionately they do, but I tell you why. And it comes down to one thing, that horror. It's just two letters long. And it's it's something that horror filmmakers almost never think about. And yet, when when you think about it, you're like, actually, that makes complete sense. I'm deliberately trailing it here. Can you guess what it is? I don't see. Let us look. TV, the TV. So if you make some blood splattered, horrific film, and fine, how many TV channels can that be broadcast on? conversely, if you make a horror comedy, that's a bit more comedy than horror. It's going to be on more TV channels, it's going to be on more slots, it's going to be able to travel more. So I'm not saying do that I'm not giving any specific advice. But it's definitely if you're looking for longevity if you're looking for a long tail of income. If you're looking for more territories and things like that television is a big factor and television has a very particular type of horror film at once. And it may not be what horror fans want as well as I go through this may be sort of sacrilegious to horror fans who are like no this is watering stuff down and whatever. And maybe that's right, maybe it is.

Alex Ferrari 38:27
I mean, like you're right, but a horror romance and a horror comedy by its nature is a watered down version of horror movies. Not a straight up slasher you know, it's a little bit funny and stuff. It's it could still be gory, but it's a completely different animal. So it's kind of watering it down and jet like that's why Shaun of the Dead is is probably one of the more successful was I think it's probably the most successful horror comedy of all time, if I'm not mistaken.

Steven Follows 38:52
Yeah, I mean, I can't remember top of my head, but it certainly sounds credible to me. Yeah, absolutely. It could be. It certainly did incredible numbers. And it's also brilliant film is. So yeah, so you look at certain kinds of films do well, on television. So for example, monster movies don't tend to do as well as psychological movies. And that maybe that's because monster movies are slightly more gory, and slightly more scary, and you and you kind of don't want to go. I mean, if you're just thinking about television, you don't want to go too scary when it comes to blood and gore. And crucially, you really don't want to have a lot of sex and nudity. So again, I can't explain the methods but just go with it. For now. I managed to categorize most of the movies to how much sort of sex and nudity they had in them on a scale of one to 10. And once you get to, like, I don't know, six or seven, you're getting far fewer broadcasts on television. You know, the ideal spot was sort of three, four or five, six out of 10. So obviously it needs to deliver something you don't want to make it completely sanitized. But the same time if it's if it's got, you know, Quite hardcore nudity or sex, and it's going to propose certain channels and certain times on other channels. And so if you're thinking this purely from a financial point of view, and you think you know what the actual is unlikely, and also, maybe I'll make much money, and I'll have high costs, but television is where I'm going to get to, then you need to make sure that you're not breaking the rules and making it something that television just can't show.

Alex Ferrari 40:24
What I find what I find so wonderful about this conversation is that we're looking at a horror movie as a product. And at Where can we distribute this widget to as many places as humanly possible to return on to get an ROI, to make money to generate revenue. And by doing this, I mean, look, art is one thing, and business is another thing. But like I say, all the time, the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. So there's a reason for that. And by thinking about your film as like, Okay, well, I want to be able to make as much money as I can with this. So what genre of horror what, where can I go? How much nudity Can I have in it, and it could be like, you know what I want to I want to focus on this super niche audience that I'm going to self distribute, and they want to see a lot of nudity and a lot of Gore. And that's what that's the angle. I'm going to understanding, though, that this blocks out all these other potential revenue streams. Yeah, exactly. You have to walk into it, knowing that and not to be oops, what do you mean, I spent a half a million dollars on a blood fez, and I can't reach her and I can't get any ROI, I can't, I can't get any money back. Because the audience that I focused on, can't generate the kind of revenue that this budget needs to generate in order for it to be a successful film. So there's always that balancing, it's always that Balancing Act

Steven Follows 41:47
Of and I think, you know, an artist amongst the things that artists does is that they deal with compromises, you know, or they deal with what's being presented to them. So here's your location. Here's your line to dialogue, how are you going to turn this into something that's uniquely yours? So why is it Tarantino different from Wes Anderson, it's not just the situations they're in. It's also how they respond to them. And so there is a real opportunity and need for artists and filmmakers to be artists to bring their artists selves to the business side of things and say, okay, exactly as you laid out, here are two things I want to do. I want to have this this level of nudity for this audience over this purpose. But actually, there's this other business reason not to, okay, compromise way, hit up, actually, I'm going to make sure I do one of them really well, because it doesn't matter which but if I water it down, it won't work. Or actually, no, there is a middle ground or I can do both versions, or whatever it will be.

Alex Ferrari 42:38
Or Amber, I didn't interrupt you, but or you could just or you could just drop the budget from 500,000 to 50,000. And do whatever the heck you want. Because that audience that you're focusing on, can generate potentially has that that has the potential to generate the revenue for you to make your money back and actually be a profitable film at half a million dollars. Being a hardcore slasher film. With Dino, it's going to be with a lot of nudity, you're just cutting off a lot of revenue streams. So it's all about what you want to do and what you want the end game to be for your film, you could go you could do whatever you want, you can do a middle ground, like you said, or you can change the game. You know, it's like if I'm going to spend half a million, I'm going to have to do X, XY and Z in order to get that money back. Unless it's daddy's money. And then don't worry about fun.

Steven Follows 43:26
Yeah, but true. But although you can't make a career out of that, and this dad does that rich. And I think that's the thing is,

Alex Ferrari 43:32
there's only a few daddy's that rich.

Steven Follows 43:35
I think that's I've seen filmmakers who've managed to sort of basically skip the first step, they've been managed to jump in at a higher level. And, okay, on the one hand, they've managed to get further faster, great, but they're not ready for that, you know, let's say that we could skip it so that you could you could be one of the I don't know, 10 people who, however many are on the track for the Olympic gold medal 100 meters, we're not going to win, you're going to look like an idiot, and you're going to pull a muscle. And yes, if you, you practice and you earn your way up there, and you get there through grit. And obviously, you still need money, you still need support, you know, in the in the analogy of training, you know, there are certain sports like rowing or ice skating where you need money and you need support needs to be driven to these things and whatever. But at the end of the day, if you're earning your way forward, then you'll be prepared. When you're in the final, you will have earned it and you'll be able to be there year on year on year. If you've bought your way in. I mean, I'm sure you can pay enough to race Usain Bolt. I'm sure there is a price. But that doesn't mean you're when it doesn't mean you can do it again.

Alex Ferrari 44:32
No, there's no question and I've seen I mean working in post production for as many years as I have. I've seen so many filmmakers who got their first movie was a $5 million movie, but they had never set foot on set on a set before and you like you Why would you do it? Why would you go up to the plate and face down a major league pitcher and try to swing the bat when you have never picked a bat before it's just lunacy, it's more ego than anything else. It's sustainable. It was kinda like doing it. You couldn't you basically you have one jot. So I promise you, if you get a $5 million budget for your first film, and it dies, I promise you, nobody else is going to give you money. And because you didn't hustle your way up there, and you just kind of skipped the line, you don't have anything to, you don't have any foundation to kind of land on. In other words, the armor that you put on from hustling and grinding, year after year in this business, that's what helps you with stay with Stan blows like that. But if you just skip the line, and just go, Hey, guys, I'm here the first brisk when that comes, you're done. Because that makes

Steven Follows 45:54
it totally, and you're going to feel awful that you're going to feel like a cheat, you're going to feel like you don't know what you're doing, like you're a fraud. And the real truth is everyone feels like that constantly. And you're never gonna feel like, Oh, I know what I'm doing. But at least in your case, it will be slightly true. And it feels really, it just sucks. It really sucks. Whereas if you earn your way there and someone and you have a failure, or something's unfair, or just someone's unfair to you, you'll be much stronger to be able to shake it off. Like you said, you have to earn your armor, you know, because then it's yours and it fits you. And it's like a shell rather than just buying someone else's because it won't fit and it won't last.

Alex Ferrari 46:28
I mean, at this point in the game, I have rhinoceros hide. You know, I've got shrapnel left and right. I mean it that but you know, trust me, I wish I would have not had to go through all of this. But it's who I am. And it makes me so resilient to so many. You know poundings that this business gives you day in and day out. And, you know, everyone listening, if you do have an awkward, like I tell people all the time, like if someone gave me a million dollars, right now to make a movie, I would tell them, I'll go look, it was a blanket, it was a blank check, here's a million dollars that you can make whatever movie you want. I wouldn't make 10 movies, I would make 10 $100,000 movies. Because on a business standpoint, and on a creative standpoint, I can I can diversify my portfolio. And the chances of one of those movies hitting or making enough money to cover all of them is better. Or if each one of them makes $125,000, which is a lot less to make a million dollars off of one. Guess what? You're profitable fail? You made money. Does that make sense? Yeah, totally. But

Steven Follows 47:34
let me ask you this. Let's say that someone gave you the million dollars, and they didn't mention movies. Would you as Alex, how much of if any of that money would you actually spend on movies?

Alex Ferrari 47:47
You know, luckily, you know what, but this is my business. So like, even if I yeah, like if I had a million dollars, going to take some of that money and build out other parts of my indie film, hustle, business.

Steven Follows 47:57
That's not movies, that's business investment. That's that's reinvesting in a presumably successful business don't count. Like, often someone gives you just inherit a million dollars, tax free all taxes paid. How much do you as Alex actually put into making a movie yourself?

Alex Ferrari 48:15
I would I would make some I would make a movie or two, there's no question. I would do that. Because I mean, I I make movies all the time. And if I had the money, and the money was not an issue, you know, my first two films were made for under $10,000 each, and they were fairly, and they were fairly successful for at that budget range without question. So if I had $100,000, I would probably make a couple a couple films, I would make a tooth, I would make 250 $1,000 movies? Absolutely. And I'll make it I would do it without question. Would I invest the entire million in the only a million? No, that's stupid. That's that second million, right? Well, that's the second I would, I would slowly I would slowly, I will take 10 or 20% of that money and make movies and see what happens. Why not? But you've got 80% sitting somewhere in in bonds, or gold or whatever else you whatever people do with money. Yeah, film, whatever, whatever. Yeah, whatever rich people do with money. We have no idea what that

Steven Follows 49:14
they don't come to us for obvious reasons. The old saying about the film industry is that a way to make a small fortune in the film industry is to start with a large fortune. And I think that's what you need to do. You know, I think of it as golf money, you know, money that people spend playing golf. No one says, What's my ROI on my ROI on golf? What's my ROI on going to the opera? They go? Yeah, that was fun. And yet you're offering them something fun and they might make some money? Who knows?

Alex Ferrari 49:39
So it's all it's all about how you look at it. Like I like I've said before with, you know, with being a film entrepreneur, there is a way to make money and make multiple revenue streams off of a film or multiple films. Because there's been many many case studies of people doing it. It's just think differently about how if you're looking at the movie to be your main revenue, Gen. Raider, it could be a part of that revenue stream. But it doesn't have to be you don't have to put all the pressure on it if you're smart. I mean, look, it's George Lucas said it very clearly. The money's in the lunchbox, idiots. You know, like, it's true. like they've made much more money licensing Star Wars than any money they made in the box off. Have they made money in the box office? Of course. But do you know, I always always use this example. My friend works at Disney. And I asked them like, how much did frozen? Like what? What's going on with like the back end of frozen? And he's like, dude, do you know the dresses, that that little girls were just the dresses, just the dresses that you buy for like 10 or $15. At the Disney Store or wherever. They've made a billion dollars off of that off of the dresses alone, not the lunchboxes not anything else, that cartoon, just the dresses. And by the way, frozen also made a billion dollars as a revenue stream from the film itself. But they make so much more money. While they gross, the gross 2 billion whether

Steven Follows 51:08
I mean, I'm sure that the margin on those dresses is 99%, once they're in the shop, whereas with movies, it's like,

Alex Ferrari 51:14
but again, using the movie as a marketing strategy to sell other product lines and sell other and create other revenue streams. It's a business. Look, it's the Hollywood's been doing it since Star Wars basically, before Star Wars, you know it, no one really did it. But Star Wars kind of started that genre. And now basically everybody every studio, that is part of their marketing plan. So why can't you use that for independent filmmaking as well? Well, totally. And

Steven Follows 51:40
that also goes back to what you were saying before because hora has amongst the lowest marketing rates. merchandising rates, yes. Also has absolutely the lowest amount of money made from airlines and soundtracks and things like that. And so we were talking before about horror being the most profitable. Well, yeah, but we're not measuring merchandising, we're not measuring soundtracks, you know. And so, yeah, it's amplifying your risk. And then all of these risks are fine to take if you know what you're taking, but is to think about what it would be and what you're putting, you're buying, you're putting even more pressure on this on this lottery ticket, because, okay, sure, if you water it down, or you make it more television friendly, maybe it's got a longer tail. But if it doesn't, the core long term value of a horror film might be its franchise ability, it might be the idea of making 23456 others, or is the opening weekend and the homerun, for the first or the VOD sale that you do for the first five years, something like that. That might be a small number of deals that might be able to be astronomically large for you. But after that, there's less whereas if you invent the next frozen example, I always think of when I think of what frozen is for independent film is once Have you seen once? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 52:54
yeah, that was an independent musician.

Steven Follows 52:56
Yeah, yeah. It's like, I don't know. 15 years ago, Irish film beautiful, really low budget musical. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend

Alex Ferrari 53:03
it. It was Oscar nominated. Yeah.

Steven Follows 53:05
Yeah, it did so well. And it deserves to. It's not the perfect movie. It's just really good. And especially considering the budget. And it's a musical like, who does low budget musical? And I don't have a numbers for it. But I'd certainly remember when I was in New York A few years ago, there was a Broadway show of it. And it was also at least a few soundtracks that were being advertised on the subway. And so that's from an independent movie, like, and they own the songs. And so the song revenue would have been more than the box office should take that they took, I'm sure. And so it's okay. It's easier to make a franchise if you're Disney. But it doesn't mean it's impossible.

Alex Ferrari 53:39
Oh, no, I've got tons of case studies, tons of case studies of filmmakers making more money off of ancillary products than they do off the movie themselves and built and built entire empires around a film a documentary, or a feature or a group of feature films. Oh, god, there's, there is a lot of there are a lot of examples out there. But just people don't think this way. They just it's not taught. It's not taught at all.

Steven Follows 54:06
Well, it's not appreciated, you know, people don't. Because we are all people that run away during the circus, the most sensible among us, is like if I give you an example. So years and years ago, I was I was going out with a lawyer. And I was I was chatting to her about what I'd done that day. And I had actually been running a training course with a filmmaker over here called Chris Jones. And Chris Jones is the gorilla filmmakers handbook and really interesting guy, he runs the London screenwriters festival. And he and I had been running a course together during the day. And the setup of the course was that I was the sort of producer II type giving the sensible answers. And Chris was the more kind of dream big filmmaker, and it's a reflection of our real selves. And Chris, and I've got a nice dynamic and we get on well, so actually, it worked out well. And I was having a date that evening with a lawyer and she said, What have you been up to? And I was like, Oh, well, I'm running this course. And, and I'm, you know, and I described what I just said, and the central one and she almost spat out her food and she was like, What? And she was asked like, what do you? What are you confused by? And she's like, you're the sensible one. And I'm like, Yeah, she's, I mean, you. You're crazy. You're like the wacky one in my world, like, and I was like, no, hold on, we should talk about this. Because in my world, I'm the boring one. I'm the one that you are everyone towards. Like, there aren't many people on the other end of me who are going No, no Stephens not going into enough detail. You know, like, if this isn't making people on the other side, and her I was the craziest, she could imagine, like, not in a kind of interpersonal way, like, Hello, I'm Stephen. But just more like, you just teaching filmmakers and you don't know what you're doing. And they don't know what they're doing. And they're just paying for cause and you're just running a cause. And they're just making things without business plans. And like, it was just like, being the most sensible person in the circus still means it still makes you a circus performer. That's awesome. She couldn't believe it.

Alex Ferrari 55:53
And you're still a carny, sir. You're still a car?

Steven Follows 55:55
Yeah, exactly. And I love that, by the way, I don't, you know, that's where it was good for her as well. Like, you know, the most wacky lawyer is nowhere near the most boring filmmaker, and that's okay. Everyone's chosen the race, they want to run it and where they are in it. And I think that, that we have to remember that because film industry likes to pretend that nothing is knowable. It loves that William Goldman quote that no one knows anything. But they forget the other half of that conversation, which is about no one person in the motion picture industry knows exactly what's going to work out, you know, it's a every time it's a guess, out of the gate, and hopefully an educated guess. And so that it speaks partly to the fact that the team effort, but also to the fact that it's not unknowable, it's just not entirely predictable, there has to be an educated guess. But to have an educated guess, you've got to be educated in some way. You've got to go out and find facts, but then you've got to choose what to do.

Alex Ferrari 56:49
But the thing is this, but you know, many businesses are educated guesses, you know, like, you know, Facebook, Google Apple, like, you know, when you make a product, you don't know what the revenue is going to come back, you might have, you know, ideas, you might have numbers or statistics of what it could be. It's just as a little bit more stable. But you know, when Apple put out the iPod, or the iPhone, they might have had a guess of what it was going to be, but they had no idea. They didn't know exactly the number. So there is always in business in general, you don't know exact numbers every time almost, almost, it's very rare that you do have that kind of information you do, then you can then you're an Oracle.

Steven Follows 57:30
Yeah, well, I think also, the filmmakers forget that. Because we we struggle to get control, we get struggle to get control of the creative parts of the whether it gets funded, whether it gets made where they get seen, we try and win every battle. And we try and see every battle as a reflection of our expression, or our freedom, freedom, our artistic self. And actually, there are some battles that you should be really keen to lose, or at least not care where they go. So a good example for me is the poster, where filmmakers see it as the extension of the film. And actually, it's a piece of marketing materials, like the person that invents the next kick out or mass, but it doesn't get to design the label. And it doesn't matter what the label looks like, as long as it honestly sells the product, and people end up eating your product. And so as long as people go and see your film, and it hasn't been mis sold, you shouldn't be in charge of the poster at all. You should get someone who knows about posters, right? I see. So many filmmakers are like, No, no, I want to put all this on who I want to design it or whatever. Or like no, no, that's to the word they use. But like it's to marketing to commercial, and you're like, you want to lose that battle. You want the trailers without selling the

Alex Ferrari 58:37
same thing. Seen filmmakers try to edit their own trailers. I'm like get a professional trailer editor who knows how to sell your your kind of movie that knows how to do promos who knows how to

Steven Follows 58:51
Sell your movie, they're not trying to secretly destroy your vision. Best they don't care about your vision.

Alex Ferrari 58:56
It's the art is the art and the ego. It's the art in the ego at this point. Totally.

Steven Follows 59:00
And actually, you know, it's there are a few fringe cases where it gets really kind of like almost philosophically complicated, like if the movie is being mis sold. Like if the poster is fundamentally different. Did you mean most?

Alex Ferrari 59:12
Most Hollywood movies Got it?

Steven Follows 59:14
Yeah, exactly. In comparison to most movies, or like the trailer, like I remember, I won't say who but I have a friend who was involved somewhere along this process. And he was telling me about the the process of editing The King's Speech trailer. And the King's speech itself is got a beautiful grade. It's because it's a historic film. It's slightly more muted colors. And I can't do justice to describe it, but it's a very particular kind of color, but it's muted. When they did the trailer, they regretted the film. And the argument from the trailer point of view was, well, it's gonna play amongst loads of other trailers and it's gonna look dull, it's not gonna work in this format. And obviously the director was less than pleased and in the end got it from what I understand locked out of the edit suite for the trailer and there is a fringe case where at Because I can see both sides, I can see the market is saying, we're only trying to sell your movie and the filmmaker going No, no, no, this is misrepresenting it. This is my movie you're messing with. But in all other cases, let the marketeers do their job, because they're only trying to sell your movie. And you just works in a 90 minute, like emotion experience is not what's going to work on a one sheet. It's a different thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:24
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You know, and I love people who will always use David Fincher or Stanley Kubrick as examples of directors that have complete control of all the marketing. And I always like to point out like, Oh, you mean, David Fincher, the guy who's been in commercials for 20 odd years? You mean that guy's literally an expert at selling things? Did you mean that you mean the guy that guy the guy who basically reinvented commercial directing, in many ways? That that guy? Yeah, you know what? I'm gonna let him design a punch. I'm gonna let me Fincher could do your poster. Oh, yeah. Oh, you mean? Are you Stanley Kubrick? Oh, you mean one of the greatest geniuses that ever walked the filmmaking landscape? That guy? Oh, him. Yeah, let let him understand that. Yeah.

Steven Follows 1:01:20
He's outliers again, isn't it?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:22
And they point out outliers, but that's the thing and then it's the lottery ticket is either a lottery ticket mentality where people think you know, I'm gonna make a horror movie paranormal made $200 billion. I'm making a horror movie. It's a horror movie, I'm gonna make money. Or it's outliers like that, that they'll point to someone like David Fincher or Steven Spielberg, or James Cameron. I'm like, dude, you're talking about giants. You're talking about one out of 10 million people. Like, you know, I always like to use the example of James Cameron. Because when James Cameron went to go make Avatar The first avatar. I asked people like who else in the world could have done avatar? And, and people are like, What do you mean? Like, oh, Steven Spielberg? Like, no, no, no, no, wait a minute, who else could walk into Fox Studios, say I need $500 million, I'm going to take the first 100 million to develop new technology that does not exist about a franchise that has not, it's not a pre pre existing franchise. So we're going to start something from scratch. And we're going to doesn't really have any major star power in it, we'll have some faces of people we recognize, but it's not star power at all. And we're going to, we're kind of going to just kind of roll with it and see what we come up with.

Steven Follows 1:02:34
But I need to find, so we're gonna release it in a format that most theaters don't.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
Exactly, exactly. And we're gonna release it in a format. And we're going to in a format that in most theaters at this point don't have who else on the planet, um, being gone is I want you to answer the question. Who else? What other filmmaker on the planet at that time? Who would you who would have been able to make that film? Who would have done that check? You know, the answer is everyone who's listening to this game? I could have done that. Yeah. Even if it was easy. Cash, I didn't have to live in LA, like, Avengers end game. I could have done that. I'm like, wouldn't have run the damn craft service table. Are you kidding me? Like the guy. Let's not get into this because we'll go drink. Like we are. We are Dreamers. And we have and I talk heavily about ego. We, you know, and how ego is probably the biggest enemy of art, and what we do as filmmakers, because I've dealt with it all of my life. And it's gotten me into lots and lots of trouble over the years. And that is exactly what you just said, like I could have done that. That's complete and total ego. You know, unless it's maybe Chris Nolan sitting in the corner, saying, well, I could have done that. Well, I don't know if Chris Nolan. 10 of 20 years ago, however long 10 years 12 years it doesn't work with Christopher Nolan. Time doesn't apply. That's true. Obviously. We're in we're in Chris Nolan world. You're absolutely yeah. But you know, but there are but there wasn't anybody else in the world like so imagine being James Cameron when you're like, you know what, I'm literally the only human being on the planet who could do this. That seriously like

Steven Follows 1:04:20
the has a whole career together, doesn't it? You know, he's made on every level. He I mean, the Terminator is a movie that was made for nothing and made a fortune and built a franchise. And then the other end of the spectrum, Titanic being the most expensive film of its time, and making the most money like everything between the two.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:37
I mean, look, and look, look right now. Disney had to fudge the numbers of Avengers end game just to barely crack what avatar did 10 years or 11 years ago.

Steven Follows 1:04:50
Hmm.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:50
You know, like, I can't wait to see these three, three or four new avatar films he's gonna have. But anyway, let's get back on let's get back on

Steven Follows 1:04:58
Yeah Let's talk briefly about posters actually because I am bringing it up before I am. I'm posters are really interesting because you know, every movie is got a few maybe, but certainly you got one head headline poster. And they contain so much information like if we were, if we were studying semiotics or whatever we'd be like, Oh my god, there's so much this single image is telling you about the movie titles, star, tone, color, action, all this stuff. And but actually, there are many different types of poster. And so I thought I'd measure this, I thought it'd be really interesting. I didn't do it for all horror films ever. You'll be disappointed to hear 20 years

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
Well, no, slacking.

Steven Follows 1:05:34
I know. Exactly. You know that there was certainly a day where I'm like, I'm gonna do it. I didn't. Um, the reason I gave him the end to myself, was this that movie posters since Photoshop have changed. And so it was not you're not comparing the same thing? So I know if I believe that, but I

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
Sure why not. It's very irrational, sir.

Steven Follows 1:05:54
So yeah, I looked at them. And I did it a few different ways I didn't. Because this was three years ago, if I were doing this all over today, I would probably try and do some clever kind of AI based recognizing objects. I'm not quite sure if they're good enough yet to do it when movie posters because movie posters have multiple elements going on. But the way I did this was by showing them to load and other people on the Amazon Mechanical Turk, saying what's in this, you know, and then a lot of them, I checked myself as well. And it took time to build systems. But it came down to about eight different things that tend to seem to be on posters, whether it's a large face or a silhouette of a person or a scared woman, scared man is not on there. By the way, there's a strong leader, but it tends to be men and women, men or women, whereas there's no scare man trope. But one thing I did want to mention, which I just I was just a little tidbit that I really enjoyed. So I was building this system trying to get all this reliable data for these different posters and and learn the various stuff on posters is subjective. And sometimes data can be wrong. So I showed each poster to a number of people and then I could look for, you know, I don't know, I can't remember how many people I showed it to. But let's say five out of six people said that this is school building. On one side, it's a shed? Well, first of all, we know it's a building. And second of all, it's probably a shed, probably a school building. So but there was one question I asked when I knew there was a human on the cover on the poster, I asked them whether they thought it was the hero or the villain, because it doesn't matter if they're right or wrong, because films can have plot twists. It just matters whether you're selling it as this is the victim's experience, or the here is or here is the threat. And there was one film that every time I showed it to people got confusing answers, the data was just all over the place. And when I was doing it, I wasn't looking at the names of the films. I was using the names of the posters, and they had obviously I could look them up, but it wasn't what it was. And I was like, What is this poster that keeps confusing everyone? And it was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And it basically no one knows if it's the hero, the villain? Because it's both right. It was kind of funny, but but almost in every other movie, you could tell whether it's supposed to be the hero or the villain.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:01
Now what kind of what kind of poster? It does the best that did you do some sort of correlation where this kind of poster helped make, you know, in correlation with box office returns? Well, it's

Steven Follows 1:08:12
tricky. There aren't enough films that you could do all of that, because you'd need to do a bit of regression analysis because there aren't that many films out there. I mean, there are lots but they're, you know, we're talking I can't remember 10,000 or so. But then once you take down the ones just to the ones who have reasonable profitability stats, and then you split them by sub genre, and then you split them by poster tropes. You there's not enough there to be reliable really, because you know that some posters I did, I did look at the correlations between the types of tropes that you have and the type of movies. So certain types of horror films are more likely to have, what one type or another because that was relevant in and that was interesting, but I couldn't do it for profitability. So for example, horror comedies are more likely to have the lineup of people

Alex Ferrari 1:08:59
yeah, 345 zombie land,

Steven Follows 1:09:01
right. Exactly. Yeah. Whereas romances have a large face on them. A large face was quite popular. And so yeah, you know, horror action films very rarely have a scared woman on the cover. Whereas it's quite a big thing for like dramas and stuff like that. So they all have different kinds of things. Mostly, it's about faces, it's about eyes, being frightened, you know, that kind of stuff. And you sometimes you can combine tropes, but they tend to look quite busy and quite complicated. Whereas what you really want is to have one simple just like, this is what this poster is about, you know, it's about seeing an eye or a skull, or is a hand or a hat,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
or something like

Steven Follows 1:09:44
that. Exactly, yeah. Or a building and largely it comes down to are you telling on the poster? Are you telling the story of the victim or victims, or are you telling the story of the threat and in some cases, it would be like if it's a movie About a cabin in red. It's the cabin,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:03
right? It's Friday. It's Friday. Right?

Steven Follows 1:10:05
Exactly, yeah. Or if it's about some unknown thing, then you could have the victim. Like there being the person who's terrified. And sometimes it's about the hero or heroine, you know, like a lot the Resident Evil films or world wars, he has the kind of Hero Pose,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:22
you know, the poster that just comes to mind. I think it's one of the more brilliant horror film posters of all time is Jaws, because it shows the threat and the victim, but the victim doesn't know the threats there. So it's a tense, you have a tension filled poster. So you're actually creating suspense with in the image of the poster, which the entire movie is a masterclass in suspense. So it's, it doesn't take a lot. It's a very simple concept that that one concept alone and talking about posters and marketing, the one thing we haven't talked about, which is something very unique to the horror genre, is star power. It's not needed. It's not a needed thing in horror films. And I'd love to hear what your thoughts are in your data on if you have a movie star of some sort, versus nobodies, or no name actors, and how that how that helps or hurts box office?

Steven Follows 1:11:15
Yeah, that's a good question. So I'd say that you write of all genres, it's one of the ones that matters the least even to something like animation, because you got to get the parents in, if you want to call that genre, but you know, family animated films, you still need some famous, quite often, it certainly helps. Whereas your horror, your hero or your your famous thing is the concept. It is the idea like the purge, or saw or whatever. That said, you might want to put a star in it for almost insurance purposes. And what I mean by that is, it might make you feel more confident. Maybe it motivates behavior a bit. No one's pretending that it is about those stars, but those stars might tip people over the edge and allow people to be more confident. And also, if you look at the way movies are sold nowadays, having somebody who's an eloquent marketeer for the movie, be the star look at the rock does. Our Tom Cruise those Pete they sell their movies like they are selling movies. And so arguably having a star that can go on Late Night? who is an expert at, you know, saying how much they loved the script. And that's why they got involved in their character is particularly interesting, whatever, that might really help. So

Alex Ferrari 1:12:32
are someone with a large following, or someone with a large social media following or

Steven Follows 1:12:35
something like that? Exactly. Although obviously depends what their following is like, I think if they're not fans like Kardashian, I'm not sure. Like, I think that was what they were trying to do with Paris Hilton. Yeah, you read my stuff? Yeah. Yeah. So I don't think it's nearly as important as it used to be. So I don't think it's nearly as important as it is for other genres. But it still can help. And also it might be that that's what gets it greenlit. So maybe that it does a different job.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:02
But But unlike but unlike other genres, I mean, look, anytime you could put a star in a movie, do it. That's just a general general rule of thumb, if you have if you have the potential of putting a movie star or some recognizable face or bankable name in a movie, do it, why wouldn't you but it doesn't, it making of that movie is not necessary, it's not necessary. Like if you make an action movie, to go international, you definitely need some sort of bankable star in it to make to really hedge your bets. Same thing with comedy. Same thing with drama. Family is a little bit different. You can maybe get away with family as but but also if you're trying to sell back to lifetime, some of the old you know some older TV actors, you know, Dean Kane or things like that people who, but they're recognizable faces in that genre. And they've established themselves in that genre. But horror is one of those that you don't need it, obviously, because some of the most successful horror movies of all time, don't have movie stars in them like paranormal activity.

Steven Follows 1:14:01
And because the if you think about I mean, I don't know what the right term for it is. But what's the thing about your movie? So the thing about hobbies, ensure the movie that just come out? Is the rock or state and that's what it's about, well, action. That's the thing. With drama, that's just one loads of awards, its quality, its experience, you know, whatever. For horror films, it's the concept of the film, that will trump almost any star. Yes. I mean, I there I mean, I Am Legend, and what was he maybe they're different. But almost every other horror film with famous names. It's about the concept more than it is the names.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:35
Yeah, but World War Z. But World War Z can't be made without Brad Pitt. Like there's nothing to justify a budget of that size for a zombie horror movie. It's not going to work

Steven Follows 1:14:43
Correctly, but it's doing a different thing, isn't it? So two ends up getting it greenlit it's a kind of insurance. It makes everyone feel confident. And I'm sure it does. Hell if I don't. I mean, obviously, unless you pick the wrong star. I don't think it's putting people off but it's not having the transformative effect that it does in other genres. And it's interesting you talk about Family films because family films are extensively you imagine they don't need any stars because it's kids and no one's famous to a kid. But it's the parents who drive them there and who decide Oh, yeah, that I've heard that name or, you know, think about Mr. Popper's Penguins with Jim Carrey or anything with Steve Martin or Eugene Levy, or Eddie Murphy to some degree. This is not about the audience. This is about the audience chauffeurs

Alex Ferrari 1:15:24
At a certain at a certain budget level, but like if you're dealing in the half a million dollar or below Yeah, world, then it does it. Yeah, of course, when you're when you're talking about 15 2030 $40 million. Yes, absolutely. But at a million dollar or below budget, if you're selling it to lifetime or haulmark, you know, and also selling it overseas, you know, Dean Cain has a lot of juice there, you know, or those kinds of you know, or the million of, you know, x Melrose Place, or Beverly Hills, 90210 stars who are made a career out of making those kind of films, then that makes a lot more sense. And they're much more affordable as well, then a bigger star. I was gonna ask you, we talked about this a little earlier. But I think this is something unique to the horror genre is those ancillary products, those t shirts, and, and hats, and mugs and action figures and things like that. The horror genre is a unique genre, because there, that audience that niche wants those products, they go after those products, they buy those products in larger quantities than people who just consume a drama or a comedy. You know, for you to buy a T shirt about a comedy, it's got to be pretty epic. But a horror fan will buy a horror t shirt if it's got a cool image on it. And it doesn't have to be as big of a deal as the other genres are. So there is a lot of potential for generation of ancillary product lines within the horror genre because they like to buy things and also, arguably, to physical media is a much bigger selling point for horror genre for horror audiences than it is for other for other genres because horror audiences love to collect, they'd love to have the physical blu ray DVDs or even VHS.

Steven Follows 1:17:18
Yeah, I mean, yeah, you're right. And you're definitely right. There are other genres where it's far less successful. But I would say that we're still operating on a very small level now niche making, uh, yeah, exactly. If you're making a very low budget film, actually, that's fine. If you look at how creators on YouTube or musicians how they can survive by a comment what there was some number that was out there, like, if they sell one t shirt, a year and a concert every two years, they'll make money or they have a Patreon with a certain number of

Alex Ferrari 1:17:46
it's 1000. If you have 1000 true fans is that article by a guy who was a co founder of Wired Magazine, if you have 1000. Yeah, if you have 1000 true fans, and they each pay you $10 a month, you you make a living as an artist,

Steven Follows 1:18:04
as elute Lee and I think that that can work on the on the lowest level, that doesn't scale very well. But that's not necessarily a problem. Because what was the point at scale, if you're making content you want to make with an audience who love what you do, and you're paying, giving, giving yourself a good income as a person, it doesn't matter if you're not making $30 million movies, because, you know, you might be able to give you more scale, but it's going to give you other problems. And that's something I always tell people all the time is like if you're able to do what you love, make a living doing it and provide a service or be of service to an audience that wants to consume your content, and you're able to make a living. I mean, isn't that the dream? Like, you don't need to live in the Hollywood Hills, you don't need to buy into the the story that Hollywood sells so beautiful, they're really good at selling the sizzle, but they're not real good at selling that steak. And they know that it's not it's not good, but in the sense that you know, who doesn't want to live in Hollywood, everyone who lives in Hollywood, like everyone, they have to be like, they are not happy. You don't want their dream like this, this fantasy that they're selling you they don't like and they're the ones selling it. Well, going back to what you're saying about licensing and stuff like that. Yeah, I think this is something that bizarrely I think scales better on a smaller level. Yes. So if you are making that tiny little film, relatively speaking, I don't wish to diminish it. But you know, like a small thing for hardcore fans. Actually, all this ancillary income is your business like film is the thing. But on a larger scale, it's the other way around. So I won't I can't say what film this is. But there is a horror. I've spoke to a lot of producers of various different levels for this. And one of them gave me some details about their horror film. So this is a Hollywood horror film that was budgeted between about 25 and 50 million and being deliberately vague so people can't meet overlap last sort of 510 years and the real income that they'd got a Maltese over the 10 years that they thought the film would take the the highest amount of money they got from licensing was some Video Game spent $100,000. And then after that there was a novelization they got about $80,000 clothing was about 60,000 figurines like scale figures about 45,000. And then comic books about 35. Toys. Next, then posters publishing, the calendar brought in under 10, grand, and the collectibles are under 10 grand. So that's not nothing. But that's a big movie. And that's combined, not half a million dollars for the entire movie. And obviously, that's going to be cut up by by all the other people that are involved. And so it's not that that's not money, good money, it's just that it's not good money for that film. Whereas if you can manage to get that same kind of involvement, but your core film is unbelievably cheap, and the 100,000 bucks,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:46
yeah, it's 100,000.

Steven Follows 1:20:47
The number of people you're splitting it by is tiny. And you're doing very nicely.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:53
It's all about how you position and how you set up your project and how you set up the business that you're starting to create as as a film trip earner, you have to think about it as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. So all those numbers sound fantastic, but not for a 25 million to $50 million movie, it sounds like chump change. But Exactly.

Steven Follows 1:21:11
So I did an average I got a load of movies, I can't remember how many It was about 20 odd Hollywood horror horror movies every 10 year period. And the average of them, they got about the grossed about 40 million box office internationally. That's kind of like crossing the movies 47 from home entertainment, which would be a bit less nowadays, because that was DVD and stuff like that. But television was about 35 million, but merchandising was a quarter of a million. So that's what 1% of the box office gross. And that's not nothing. But when you look at $100,000 movie, it's not going to be 1%, it's going to be a lot higher, especially if you build it with that in mind. If you say to your audience, look, I'm going to blog about this, I'm going to share this, everyone who supports me, and we'll get along this journey. Oh, one thing, I just want to remember this, this is something that someone told me a while ago, which I thought was really smart. If you're doing a crowdfunding campaign for a movie. and in this situation you would be because $100,000 for the big, small, committed audience, you don't need to go anywhere else for the money. The one thing you should never give away as a reward is the movie. Everything else but the movie, because what will happen is, as long as you're giving them good stuff that they're happy with, whether it's t shirts or experiences or behind the scenes, whatever it is, if you don't give them the movie, but you say to them a few weeks before it comes out on iTunes, hey, it's coming out in two weeks, it would mean the world to me, if you want to buy it that you buy in the opening weekend. Yeah, see, what happens is if you can get it in the top 10 of the sub genre, whatever, it will do massively more business in the in the coming week. So you're kind of gaming the algorithm, not gaming it because obviously algorithms get clever and clever. But it is it does have a big weekend on iTunes. Whereas if you given it away, you're most committed fans who've proven they'll spend money for you can't buy won't buy.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:01
I mean, it literally just happened to me with this podcast with the film shoprunner podcast. I literally just launched it a few weeks ago. And I focused all of my energies to everybody to come out and like Hey, guys, go check out my my podcast, you know, subscribe, do all you know and leave me reviews and all that stuff. And because I did that I showed up on new and noteworthy which is a top 20 new podcasts of all of my of all of iTunes for TV and film. So that elevates me to a higher level same thing would happen with the film with an with iTunes or Apple, Apple TV or whatever they're calling it now. Where if you're able to generate all those pre sales, even if you do in two months before all those pre sales count on day one. And if you're able to just run up to the top of the of the charts, then all of the people who don't know who the heck you are just looked at the top 10 and like, oh, Who's this guy? Boom, you've got more sales? So absolutely, without question.

Steven Follows 1:24:01
So there's loads more in this horror report. And, you know, it took about a year to do on are not cheap. But how many pages time 200 and something. Also I had it down as well. You know, like, I'm not known for brevity, but certainly there were bits where I was like is getting a bit long. Wow. Wow. You know, what, where's the natural point to stop? Like, once you've gone to the ages, where do you stop?

Alex Ferrari 1:24:25
There's, there's no question. And you could just keep going, like I just asked him like, Well, how about if you made posters? And what what posters are for box office and like, you could just go Yeah, you can go forever, because they're very interesting info. Very, very informative, interesting. information without question. And then also did you find that because I kind of I saw this in the report, I want you to touch on it. Did you find that horror films are consumed more on physical media than there are on s VOD, or theatrical, theatrical and physical media versus just s VOD.

Steven Follows 1:24:59
Yeah, so this is something that Bruce Nash and I found in a project we did for the American Film market. So Bruce Nash is the genius behind the numbers, which is like a rival to Box Office Mojo. And it's really good, really accurate. And Bruce is a really nice guy. And he does a lot of work in this area, he does a lot of comp analysis and stuff. So he's really switched on to the financial side of the industry. And he and I have been working together for the last three or four years doing articles every summer for the American Film market. And that's where the first time directors article came from. And we did this week, he's got all sorts of data on sales across different platforms. Obviously, he's got box office for theatrical but he's also got home At home entertainment on different formats, rental, and also iTunes and other like VUDU and things like that. So we, we thought, okay, let's, let's see what's going on there. And the every way we looked at it, every way that we crunched the numbers, we discovered that horror is doing unbelievably poorly on iTunes, and on sort of s word. And I. It's tricky, because as as always, VOD is such a black box that we just don't know. And it's so frustrating in so many different ways. But I wonder whether because it used to do so well on on VHS, but it was also a time where it was kind of forbidden, slightly, not literally banned. Obviously. There was some but you know, fundamentally, it was something that you were kind of ashamed of watching. And nowadays, it's absolutely not. And people are quite proud of horror and happy with horror and things. And I wonder how the medium is changing the audience patterns, and an example I'd give you is in a different field. But the rise of the Kindle, and the success of 50 Shades of Grey are not unconnected, because it's the WHO THE who's going to sit on a train, or a bus reading what everyone knows is a pornographic novel about a woman being slowly beaten up by a rich man. like no one's going to read that. They shouldn't read it for other reasons. It's it's a

Alex Ferrari 1:27:03
horribly poorly written and don't get me started on the Twilight,

Steven Follows 1:27:06
you know, the bad thing to the nice lady, anyway? Well, I've just bought the plot for many of you. But the thing is, if you read it on your Kindle, no one knows what you're reading, other than constantly licking your lips or whatever. But like it's, and I think that had 50 Shades of Grey come out 10 years prior to that, it wouldn't have done nearly as well. And so those things have come together, that's your forbidden thing. And I think the reverse is happening, or for horror, in the sense that getting the VHS and renting it or buying it was actually sort of a badge of honor. And it was sort of slightly under the not quite under the counter, but it was private, it was personal. And it was for you and your friends or whatever. Whereas nowadays, the way people are around horror and the way the formats have changed, and things like that horror doesn't seem to do nearly as well. I don't think people have lost their ability to be scared. I don't think people don't want to watch horror. It's just it's difficult to measure how the medium changes the message.

Alex Ferrari 1:28:03
Well, yeah, I mean, it's kind of like with porn. I mean, you know, porn was in a theater before and a lot of people didn't consume porn because they didn't want to go into a theater. And then the second it came out on VHS and home movies, and all of a sudden an explosion happened in the pornographic industry. And I think you're right, it is a reverse for horror films, and s VOD, at this point.

Steven Follows 1:28:22
Yeah, the box office figures for porn through the floor. Yeah, like, Yeah, I don't think anyone's interest in porn has waned as a society. And I think that's kind of important to remember. So I mean, but it's, it's staggering me small horror on on iTunes. And it's, it's actually if you look at it, I don't think iTunes doesn't have sort of a big horror section. It doesn't really do horror.

Alex Ferrari 1:28:46
And Amazon either Amazon doesn't. Emma has has a lot of horror films, too. But it's different. It's just yeah. And also,

Steven Follows 1:28:53
we don't know how much it is down to Apple, you know, I'm sure Apple have quite restrictive about what kinds of apps you can create. And you can't, you know, you can't legally get an app that is pornographic or too horrific, or whatever, on your iPhone, whereas I'm sure you can on Android. And also you can via a browser. And so I don't know how much of this is a subjective decision that is being influenced by sort of being pushing them down or not promoting them. I don't know how much the medium is changing it. And I don't know whether people are actually getting their horror elsewhere. And certainly, watching a horror film on a VHS was probably quite scary. Whereas now with 4k tallies, and all this sort of, I wonder whether that changes, it actually makes the theater a scarier place to watch it. I don't know I all Bruce and I could come to was the sort of we're absolutely confident that horror is doing far poorer on video on demand than it was doing on VHS and DVD. And as to why and what that means and things I don't know. And also, I don't know. I don't know how much Netflix is paying for horror, but I would imagine it's low. Because it's, it feels niche and the sense that so I'm not a massive fan of romantic comedies, I don't mind them, but I'm not a massive fan, but I'm not actively against them. Whereas there are a lot of people who are actively against horror, whether it's because they've got children or because they're nervous, or whatever it will be. So when you're buying content for Netflix, or Amazon Prime or whatever, maybe you're not thinking what do people love? You may be thinking, what do people not, hey,

Alex Ferrari 1:30:27
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Right and, and that's in but also now there's like shutter and a couple of other s VOD platforms that are completely dedicated to horror films because it is such a niche kind of thing. And, and why not show every single kind of horror film that you like, is gross and net gross, but as gory as you want, or as much nudity as you want. And this is what we do. So shutter is kind of like the Netflix for horror films. At this point, I've talked to so many filmmakers who are trying to get deals with with with shutter just trying to get their film on as far because they're they actually paying and they actually make money with their with their horror film. So the whole the whole landscape of s VOD is is so champion now we got Disney plus coming Apple TVs throwing their hat in the ring. You know, it's getting it's getting out of hand. There's I even have a streaming service for God's sakes. Oh, I haven't got one yet. I have to pick one up. You got to pick one. I mean, it's the coolest thing. Everyone's got one. You know, maybe

Steven Follows 1:31:38
I have got one. Maybe I didn't realize it. I should just do. But yeah, I think on the landscape, you're right, it was it was easier when there was only one or two platforms, and you could get all your movies there. But as a consumer, that's not good in the long term. You know, we want to have competing services that we that evolve and compete for our dollars, you know, that's in the big picture, that's good. Whether it will work out that way, I don't know. And certainly I don't look forward to rather than paying 999 for Netflix, I now paying 999 to 10 different companies, that doesn't interest me. But you know, cable was a lot more expensive, you know, that

Alex Ferrari 1:32:16
we're getting to that. But we are getting to that point where it's now getting almost equal because Disney plus is coming out. So I have kids I'm getting Disney plus and also they have Marvel and Star Wars and, and in all the other brands that they own everything. So that's a good, it seems like a good ROI for the money because you're gonna have access to and also they have Fox two for cut six, they own everything. So they have all of these things. Netflix is a good value. And then if you're a horror fan, you know, shutters a great value for them. But it's starting to get to the point where like, you know, I think they just closed down DC Universe. So that was a whole streaming service dedicated to just the DC Universe, which I had no idea that I

Steven Follows 1:32:55
didn't even know existed, I would have actively avoided it. But it turns out I passively avoid

Alex Ferrari 1:33:00
you passively avoided it. But the point is that that just closed down. And I'm like I don't know what that that and now Warner Brothers is coming out with their own streaming service at Paramount, I think is thinking about doing something as well universal. It's got one universals component in the in the work. So like, at a certain point, you're like, I'm not gonna pay for all this guys. You know, like, I'm just not well,

Steven Follows 1:33:20
are you though? Because the thing is that what what the interesting thing is one of the reasons that Netflix had such a poor when their earnings statement came out a week or two ago, and there was a big drop in their stock price. One of the reasons was that it looks like they're evolving from being what was effectively an essential service for many people like it was okay, you need to have this because there are movies, and they're now becoming hit driven. They need a stranger things. And that's the the HBO model, HBO needs Game of Thrones. And if you look at the unsubscribe rates, actually, someone did this. If you look at Google Trends, for the phrase, unsubscribe HBO, and correlate it with when Game of Thrones finished, we have massive, of course. So that's a more risky mission, because you're going from just needing to have content No, we're not content to needing to have particularly good content. But as a consumer, I kind of want that I want them to chase after my dollars and Amazon just announced that as well. They're going to try and be more focused and it may produce you know, lowest common denominator big movies, but it might also produce stuff that people actually want to watch.

Alex Ferrari 1:34:24
I mean, look at the movie Irishmen. Stacy's new film just came out. It's coming out soon on Netflix. I mean, it's I think Netflix is here to stay until Apple buys them. But it's it's an interesting landscape. It's gonna be very interesting moving forward as an independent filmmaker and, and getting your movies out there. And horror for sure. is going to be interesting to see how this landscape continues but it is Hoare unlike any other genre is very, very unique in the sense that it like you say it they're willing to give chances to to film More than other genres it doesn't matter about budget doesn't matter about stars they want to buy product they want to consume they want to consume the in view these things on physical media. You know, they're they're very in a small microcosm their own little world horror films and horror fans. And I mean I've been Have you ever been to a horror convention?

Steven Follows 1:35:24
No, I don't think I don't like horror films. I can't imagine I

Alex Ferrari 1:35:26
was the my first my first short film I did. A lot of people thought it was a horror film, but it was just an action film in a really creepy place. And but a lot of horror fans loved it, because it was such a creepy, you know, vibe. So I just went along with it. I'm like, Okay, cool. It's a horror film. Why not? So I would go to horror conventions, where I would, and I was introduced, and I would sell my DVD there, I would sell my wares there, I would sell my other ancillary products. And I did that a handful of times when I first starting out, and I saw what horror conventions were like, and it's, it's, they're very passionate. It's kind of like, you know, hardcore comic book fans. They're very affectionate.

Steven Follows 1:36:08
That's so funny. That's such an Alec story. Because I thought you're gonna go Yeah, I went to this convention. And the interesting being a consumer, and I'm wandering around out and you're like, yeah, I went to this convention, and I was selling things. And I had a stand and I made a course you did? Yeah, of course, I

Alex Ferrari 1:36:21
did. So I have to stay on brand, sir, I have to. So I want to ask you, I want to ask you, what's the biggest thing you learned by putting this whole report together?

Steven Follows 1:36:32
That's a good question. I think I learned that there's a lot more under the surface than people give credit for. So I think there were so many topics where I was like, Wow, there are patterns, but there are complexities to it. And I hadn't heard other people talking about them. And I'm not willing to I'm not suggesting I you know, found things no one else has. But certainly I you would have thought it would this many films being made with the internet being what it is, a lot of this stuff would already be well known, discussed and incorporated into the work. And it's absolutely not. And so I was kind of the big picture was just how filmmakers aren't really paying attention in this sort of rational, smart way to achieving what they define as their goals. And so I was kind of surprised. It almost looks to me, like, given the amount of data we already have horror film should have been figured out a lot more than they are the way that Disney seems to have figured out how to make money. They horror filmmakers don't seem to be they either don't notice or they're not caring, I can't tell.

Alex Ferrari 1:37:31
I think Well, I think filmmaker, independent filmmakers in general don't, a lot of times don't care. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I just think that's just something that's not in their mind. It's so difficult in their mind to get a movie made, let alone thinking about how to market sell it or make money with it is almost something afterthought. And they think of the art and they don't think of the business. And I think horror has a it's a it's a law, it's still a little bit of a wild, wild west, you know, out of all the genres, which is nice, because like, yeah,

Steven Follows 1:38:03
it's it's for the fans. And yeah, it's something where your interpretation is really important. It's not like Disney, where you just need your avatar, you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right money and the right history. Actually, it's a lot more open than almost any other genre.

Alex Ferrari 1:38:16
Yeah. And, and you can have a lot of fun with it. I mean, Spielberg started off his career, making horror movies, you know, with from Jaws, and then working on Poltergeist and those kinds of films, those kind of seminal films. You know, you have a lot of fun scaring people. I mean, you can really have a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be super gory, or a lot of nudity. That's one genre, but paranormal, like, you know, paranormal ghost stories, Jesus, that's scary as hell. You know, there's so many different kinds of sub genres within the Horde that you as an independent filmmaker can just have a lot a lot of fun with. And now I have to ask you this, what the heck's next for you, man? What's the next big Opus you're working on? Well, I can't, I can't talk about it, I can't talk about it. And then

Steven Follows 1:39:05
I can't, I don't know. And now I'm trying to, I'm trying to work out how it's gonna I can be useful to the film community, because I've been writing these articles every week. And I intend to keep doing it, I really enjoy it. But I feel like there's another thing that I should be doing to be helpful in some way, and I can't work out what it is. So this report when I was doing it, I thought, this might be a really interesting way I can help where it's a pay what you want model, meaning that most people won't pay or pay the minimum, which is a pound, some will pay more. And if that makes sense, economically, then I can keep doing that for different genres and things like that. It has done well but not well enough for that to be the obvious thing to do. So it's not going to be in this sort of long form. And I also wonder whether a 200 page report as a PDF is the way people want to engage with this. So I'm thinking of running some live courses and doing some other ways to allow people to engage with The information and if anyone has any suggestions or anything, please let me know. I've got an event in New York, in on the 20 somethings of October, when I find the date, it's a Saturday. It's a team, I'm teaming up with NYU and their production lab to do a one day event around independent film and stuff like that. By the time this comes out, I will know a lot more like the exact date just can't remember. And I will tell Alex, and I'm sure he'll put it in the show notes or push it out there. And if you're, if you're interested, want to hear about hearing more go onto my site, which is Steven follows comm and sign up for the mailing list or drop me a line and say, Hey, what's the latest? And yeah, if you've got any ideas for what I should do next, or whether it's a study for the blog, or whether it's a format thing, you know, do more reports, or do more live courses, talk to me about it, because I'm thinking out, I'm going to keep doing the blog, but I haven't figured out what the next big thing is. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:40:58
I think Core i think coursework and workshops would be a really good way to to interact with this information, because a 200 page report is a lot to digest, but sitting down for two or three hours. And and listening to a workshop or taking a course about this kind of stuff makes a lot more sense, I think, as to why I would want to consume this stuff. Because for me to sit down and read a 200 page report is is rough for me. But I still love it.

Steven Follows 1:41:27
Yeah, no, I totally understand. I mean, as I was saying, I do a lot of stuff with we have done a lot of stuff with Chris Jones. And he wrote the gorilla filmmakers Handbook, which is this huge, like the second edition sort of Bible size. And then the third edition was Bible width, Bible depth, a bit wider and taller. And he also runs gorilla filmmakers master classes. And I said to him, once, who these different people who are reading the book, or they're the same people or what and he said, Yeah, people want to, it's a mix. People want to engage with information differently. And I totally understand that. And I thought about that. And I thought about how I've gone on courses where I could have just read about something or I bought a book or I could have googled it because I want it in a different way. And I want a different level of depth. So if you as as a as a listener listening to this thinking, you know what, that's that's exactly right. I don't want it in this form. Drop me, drop me a mail, tell me how you do want it. Because ultimately, what I'm trying to do is help filmmakers, and I'm trying to help people make their film by whatever, whatever they decide is important. You know, this, this story, this genre, this way of doing it, I don't mind, but I want to support that. But I, I'm still working out how to get it out of my head into theirs. And

Alex Ferrari 1:42:40
Now I have a few questions. I asked all of my film entrepreneur guests, what advice would you give a film to produce starting a project?

Steven Follows 1:42:50
I think know why you're doing it. So you can make films for all sorts of different reasons. And I think, amongst the top reasons to be making it for fun, you're making it for experience, you're making it for exposure, you're making it for money. Or there's something else that you just you know, there's you making it for the art, let's say, of those five reasons, each of them have different next steps, and they have wildly different endpoints. And I think you have to know why you're making it. Because then if you're offered a load of money to do something you don't want to do, you'll know whether to take the money or not. Or you know, what your expectation should be and how you should pitch it to collaborators and investors and whoever. So I think know why you're doing it really sit down and think about it and work out what the number one priority is. Because I think you can probably achieve that. But only if you know what it is and you're willing to put it ahead of other goals.

Alex Ferrari 1:43:42
Now, what is the biggest lesson you've learned from building your company, your own company, your own businesses?

Steven Follows 1:43:49
You can't do anything by yourself, or you can but it's exhausting and hard to do. Tell me about anything? Yeah, I know you need a team. And, and I am very, very lucky that my I used to have a company that I ran by myself and I now co run it with a business partner. And honestly, we wish there were three of us as a trio, because it would be that, you know, they had in particular that third person had experiences we don't that would be great. And I think that learning, learning to delegate, learning to be vulnerable and open it up and also to attract interesting people who you think can add something new. It's, it's not a natural skill, because you presumably have started to do everything yourself because you can't find somebody else, which means you end up producing your own movies, even though you want to direct star, right, whatever. And you've got to learn to let go of some of that control and allow other people do it badly, maybe but badly, but not as well as you would, because that allows you to focus on other things. And I think that's a really hard lesson to learn. And if you can do it, you can achieve so much more, have more fun and also it's nice to be with other people. And especially when the world doesn't understand what you're doing, and your parents don't understand what you're doing. Your partners have a business plan. It goes, Yeah, no, I know. I know, that failed. But it was still very good, wasn't it? And you're like, God, thank you.

Alex Ferrari 1:45:05
You get me. Yes. cellmates. I love it. That's a great, that's great. Now, what did you learn from your biggest business failure?

Steven Follows 1:45:22
What worries me is I haven't learned it, whatever it is. I think that in our industry, there is a massive amount of delusion that needs to go on. And in a good way, I mean, maybe I should find a different word other than delusion, but you know, self belief or, or not listening to the facts. And that is great. And that should carry on. However, there are some realities that you know, are going to happen, you know, you know, you've got that invoice and to pay in three weeks is and you've got no income, face up to it now, you know, talk to people go to that person and say, Look, I know it's not due yet, but I don't have the money. What can we do? How can I figure it out? rather than waiting and putting your head in the sand? And I think those two things, believing in yourself and also facing up to reality, feel like they run completely counter, but I don't think they actually do if you managed to get them done, right. And I think about being honest, and trying to face up to this inevitable thing. Or at least, maybe it's not inevitable, but it's likely actually dealing with it now is usually much better than dealing with it later. If you go to someone who's expecting, I mean, like, if you're expect if you're owed some money, and way before it's overdue, the person comes to you and says, Look, I know you're going to hate me for this, but I'm struggling. Can you give me a bit of leeway? Or can I pay you in installments? You're not gonna like it, but you're going to be much more up for it. Whereas if you're expecting a big payment on Thursday, and Thursday comes and nothing happens. And then Friday hams, nothing happens Monday, nothing happens. You're already angry. And then they go oh, yeah, by the way, I don't have the money. You've your expectations has completely changed. So I think, acknowledging when these bad things, which sometimes happen are inevitable and facing up to them sooner rather than just ignoring them. They never go away.

Alex Ferrari 1:47:03
Never, never, never. Now, in your opinion, what is the definition of a film? shoprunner? Well, I mean, if we're being pedantic about this, it's not a real world. It is. It is a real word, sir. I i've trademarked and coined it, sir. So yes,

Steven Follows 1:47:20
Yes. You can't trademark a word. That's not how words work you can verify? proves you.

Alex Ferrari 1:47:31
Okay, an entrepreneurial filmmaker, sir. What is the definition of an archer video filmmaker, you son of

Steven Follows 1:47:41
Okay, all jokes aside, I genuinely think that there's real value in realizing that you're an artist in a business world, or at least that there's compromises to be made between them. And producers of all the jobs are the ones that have to sit with one foot in art and one foot in commerce. And if you as a independent filmmaker, or as someone who is producing your own film content, if you don't have a producer that will do all that for you, and let you be a sheltered artist, which by the way no one has, then you've got to fess up to some of it in the same way that you know how to pay taxes or know how to pay your rent, or you know how the washing machine works. Because not because you want to but because the alternative is pretty crappy, and you're not protecting yourself. So I think even if you feel like business isn't what you choose to do, you are stepping up and saying, Yeah, I get that this is something that's necessary. So I think it's about maturity. I think it's about seriousness. And I think it's about protecting the artist inside you to actually live in continue to make a long term career in something you love, rather than trying to ignore things and do it once and burn it. So yeah, I think it's, it's a real admirable place for an artist and filmmaker to be to realize, you know what, this is something that's important to the world and important to the longevity of what I want to do.

Alex Ferrari 1:48:57
That's awesome. Now, Steven, this has been an epic, epic conversation as we both knew it would be. We're an hour and 45 minutes in already, I think. I can't believe it's so short. I know. I know. We keep talking forever. You're one of those guests that I could just sit down and we just like, honestly, like the first 30 minutes, I didn't ask one question. It was all just literally like, I have a list of questions. I was gonna ask that one question was asked I think in the first 30 minutes of our conversation, because we were just riffing so we should do a podcast together like you know, the Steven and Alec show.

Steven Follows 1:49:31
What you if you want to if you want that write in email, Alex, not me. The one that would do all the marketing anyway. Yeah, right in let's let's get that going.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:43
Stephen, man, thank you, again, so much for being so straightforward. And for all the great work you're doing for the film community, man, I really appreciate it. And thanks for dropping the knowledge bombs on the tribe today.

Steven Follows 1:49:53
Oh, it's my pleasure. And thank you so much for all the work you do and also inviting me on because this is something that I'm really passionate about talking about, and it's really Nice to know that through you, I can reach all sorts of other filmmakers who be able to use these insights and findings for on their own films. That's really exciting. That's why I do what I do.

Alex Ferrari 1:50:09
Thank you, brother.

Steven Follows 1:50:10
All the best. Bye! Bye!

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BPS 241: Tales of a Hollywood Blockbuster Leading Man with Guy Pearce

Guy Edward Pearce was born 5 October, 1967 in Cambridgeshire, England, UK to Margaret Anne and Stuart Graham Pearce. His father was born in Auckland, New Zealand, to English and Scottish parents, while Guy’s mother is English. Pearce and his family initially traveled to Australia for two years, after his father was offered the position of Chief test pilot for the Australian Government. Guy was just 3-years-old. After deciding to stay in Australia and settling in the Victorian city of Geelong, Guy’s father was killed 5 years later in an aircraft test flight, leaving Guy’s mother, a schoolteacher, to care for him and his older sister, Tracy.

Having little interest in subjects at school like math or science, Guy favored art, drama and music. He joined local theatre groups at a young age and appeared in such productions as “The King and I”, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Wizard of Oz”. In 1985, just two days after his final high school exam, Guy started a four-year stint as “Mike Young” on the popular Aussie soap Neighbours (1985). At age 20, Guy appeared in his first film, Heaven Tonight (1990), then, after a string of appearances in film, television and on the stage, he won the role of an outrageous drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994).

Most recently, he has amazed film critics and audiences, alike, with his magnificent performances in L.A. Confidential (1997), Memento (2000), The Proposition (2005), Factory Girl (2006), The Hurt Locker (2008), The King’s Speech (2010) and the HBO mini-series, Mildred Pierce (2011). Next to acting, Guy has had a life-long passion for music and songwriting.

Guy likes to keep his private life very private. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, which is also where he married his childhood sweetheart, Kate Mestitz in March 1997.

His latest film The Infernal Machine is a psychological thriller feature film, written and directed by Andrew Hunt. The film released on September 23, 2022.

Bruce Cogburn, a reclusive and controversial author of the famed book “The Infernal Machine,” is drawn out of hiding when he begins to receive endless letters from an obsessive fan. What ensues is a dangerous labyrinth as Bruce searches for the person behind the cryptic messages, forcing him to confront his past and ultimately reveal the truth behind the book.

Please enjoy my amazing conversation with Guy Pearce.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:32
I'd like to welcome to the show Guy Pearce. How you doing Guy?

Guy Pearce 0:46
I'm very good, mate. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:48
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. I'm so excited to have you on the show, man, because you've done so many movies that have touched my heart in so many ways. And I'll just tell you my quick Pricilla story. I was in film school. And I went to see Priscilla in the theater. And it blew my mind off. So I was just like, I was just like, first time I'd ever seen anything like that. I was like, what 20 something. And I was just oh my god. So I wanted to thank you for that first of all.

Guy Pearce 1:17
Well, thank you, I appreciate it. And it's funny, because that's the film that it's sort of the gift that keeps on giving, you know, it really, it just came at the right time. Obviously, it was released in 94. And it obviously came at the right time. And we've had such wonderful, you know, people sort of, you know, commenting throughout these previous 25 years about what that film was meant to them for all sorts of different reasons. So it was a real honor to be part of it. You know, as a as an actor, you just take on something because it feels good. But then of course you don't realize whether it's going to be part of the Zeitgeist or bit Just get lost in the wash. And obviously Priscilla has, has stood the test of time and as touched a lot of hearts like yours.

Alex Ferrari 1:57
I cannot trust me a film like that does not get lost in the wash. It's just it just it just it's it's yelling at you to like No, you need to watch me.

Guy Pearce 2:06
It's it's a fairly noisy, it's a fairly noisy starting up.

Alex Ferrari 2:11
And then and Terrence and Hugo I mean, I mean, they got there to prefer all three of your performances was so magical. But I want before we even get started, I wanted to ask you about your performance. And that because you were so fearless in you threw yourself into that character so beautifully. And in a time where it wasn't nearly as accepted. It could have it could have pigeon holed you. It could have been like, oh, there's that dude that did Priscilla, I don't want to cast them kind of thing. So you just like, No, I want to do this story. How did you like how did you get the, as they say, in my culture cojones.

Guy Pearce 2:48
Well, a couple of a couple of things. I think I'd been doing a lot of theater since I was a kid, you know, and variety of plays and musicals and all sorts of stuff. And so I was quite used to going from one crazy character to another crazy character, whether you're playing the King of England, or whether you're playing the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, or what, you know, whatever it happens to be. And so the idea of doing things that were vastly outside of my own personal experience was something I was always excited about. And something that I I never felt that I suppose on some level, I was quite an anxious kid. And and on many levels, getting to play these characters that were so vastly different to me was a real chance to break free from the confines of the anxious kid that I was, you know, so So there was that. And the other part of it was that I'd been on a television show in Australia called neighbors for four years. And I played this very sort of just straight sort of suburban kid, obviously going through the ups and downs that we see in soap television. And, and I'd struggled a little bit after I left that show because lots of I was pigeon holed in Australia where lots of people went, Yeah, we didn't really want to cast him in our movie because he's the guy from that show. And then Priscilla came along. And Stephen, Stephen, our director, when nothing would be funnier than to take the guy from that show and put him in a dress. And I was like, yes, yes. So in a way, I was breaking free from the show. And to me, I didn't feel like I was necessarily doing anything brave in taking on the role in Priscilla. I was just getting to kind of break some shackles. I mean, in line with what your what you'd said. I mean, you know, obviously my first film in America was LA Confidential. And a lot of people said to me, how on earth did Curtis Hanson cast you after seeing Priscilla? Well, the answer was Curtis never saw Priscilla and he didn't want to see it. Because he kept being told, you know, you know what, guys like him Priscilla is short. This is the guy who want to play a 50s FA Cup. So I was I was I was really lucky that thankfully Curtis didn't go to the Cinerama dome for the opening of Priscilla in 1994. And you know, otherwise, you'd have wiped off the slate I reckon.

Alex Ferrari 5:06
And I'm assuming it's kind of like when a comedian wants to do drama, they want to kind of break through the shackles like Robin Williams or Jim Carrey, that that to break through the perception of what people aren't in your world. You were the guy from neighbors and you need to break so it definitely broke that bolt.

Guy Pearce 5:21
Well, and I wasn't I wasn't even necessarily looking to break the shackles. It's just that that film came along, and I was offered it and as soon as I read it, and it wasn't even so much about trying to break the shackles, honestly, it was this that I was so moved by the script, and I just saw some beautiful, I could apply that character. And I just genuinely just went straight into it like I do with any other job that I take on. You know, it's because I respond to a script and I respond to a character and go, Oh, yeah, I can see what I could do with this. The same as when I was doing plays and musicals when I was a kid going, Yes, I could take on playing Julius Caesar, of course. It's that same kind of childlike use of your imagination that enables me to keep doing what I do, I suppose. And there's plenty of films and scripts that I read and go, No, I just can't see myself or it's, I don't quite believe it, or I'm not quite sure that I could do this successfully. So you know, there's plenty of things that I say no to. But when I find something to say yes to it's a great feeling.

Alex Ferrari 6:23
And with Priscilla, I mean, I'm assuming that that was the movie that kind of broke you out of the Australian market, in a way because it was an international success.

Guy Pearce 6:32
Absolutely. Particularly in America. I mean, the TV show neighbors was really big in England and in Europe. So lots of people there knew us from that show. But Priscilla went to America and we went to America with it, it actually went to Cannes first, and I couldn't go because I was on another TV show in Australia. And I couldn't go but it had a huge success. And Ken lots of publicity surrounding it. Then when it got released in America a few months later, I then did get to go went to the opening. And that enabled me to get an agent in America and then start auditioning for things there. And, you know, within a year, because at the end of 95, I landed the role in or I auditioned for LA Confidential, and at the start of 96, I got the role. And then we filmed it in sort of May of 2006. So so really within a year, so that it there's some very clear sort of steps that thankfully, were laid out in front of me, that meant that I was then able to start working in the States. And the beauty was really, you know, Curtis might not have seen Priscilla but lots of other people had. And then they saw LA Confidential and so that on some level, established a kind of a, what was wonderful for me, which was right, you're a versatile, you want to be a versatile actor. Yes, absolutely. And so people on one hand, we're going how can that guy from Priscilla be that same guy from LA Confidential. So I felt really fortunate that that that paved the kind of paved the way for future work, you know,

Alex Ferrari 8:01
Now, when you were first starting out, and this is something that I mean, actors have to deal with, I think almost more so than any other creative in our industry is the nose and the rejection constantly. And I'm assuming when you first started, I'm assuming in the first audition, you walked into like you come in? Yes. Let's just give you the part. Yeah. How much money do you want, you could add all the money you want. I'm assuming this is not the normal route that you went at the beginning?

Guy Pearce 8:26
No. And when I got really lucky, the thing was, you know, as I said, I've done lots I've done theater for about 10 years from when I was sort of eight till I was 18. And in that whole time in different theatre companies in the town that I was growing up in, and in the whole time, it was made very clear to me that this is a tough industry, most of the time you're out of work, you know, you really it's competitive and good luck. And, and I never really had tickets on myself, I never really thought I was anything special. You know, I have a sister with an intellectual disability. So I'm very aware growing up that the world is unfair. And and I thought I just I just really enjoyed what I was doing. I really got something out of being in the theater but and I would look at those incredible actors that I would see on screen like Brando and Pacino. And then of course, in later years, Gary Oldman, and Russell Crowe and all these incredible actors and think they're so incredible to me, but I don't I know I'm not them. And any job that I get is a bonus. Any any work that I get is just I'm really grateful for I have an enormous amount of gratitude. Of course, over the years, I've gone okay, well, I must have something that I offer and there must be something believable about what I'm doing because I keep getting work, you know. And so I yeah, I suppose I just always, I've just always been really grateful for the shifts and changes and you know, when neighbors came along, it was just an incredible lucky break because I was finishing high school, talking to my drama, my high school drama teacher about going to Neider, which was the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the big Theatre School in Sydney, which I did audition for, I didn't get in and I got down to like the last three on the day. And they basically said, You're a bit young and go away, have some life experience and come back. And right around the same time, I'd done an audition for neighbors, and they offered me a six week roll. And then a couple of days later, they turned that into a year before it even started. So this all sort of happened really quickly. So I was going, but all those things that people said about not ever getting any what Okay, so I realized I was extremely lucky that that happened, you kno